Thursday, 31 May 2012


Spacco literally means a long narrow opening, and if you do happen to venture down the long corridor just off Yonge street that’s just what you’ll find. Greeting you is its 7 pool tables ($18/hr), decent lounge décor, a wood burning oven for their pizzas and a giant Italian dominated menu. The huge courtyard patio is a draw during warmer months, and there’s plenty of room in the dining room and bar for those not into billiards. They feature a DJ and dancing on weekends, although there’s no official dance floor.

A Yonge and Eglinton institution, Spacco has been around for ages. People feeling too lazy to go downtown often wind up here for drinks and pool. With a couple beers on tap (Mill Street Organic, Coors light, etc) and the standard bar rail, most people will find something to suit them. There was no official ‘bar menu’ so it’s likely best to stick to the classics here and save your trendy cocktail cravings for south of Bloor.

Saving pool for later, we were tempted by the standard pub fare classic, the battered calamari ($13). Crispy battered and flash fried, these chewy rings came in a bountiful portion, we didn’t even finish half of it. Sided with massive lemon wedge and a ramekin of caper aioli for dipping, the variations in texture were well balanced. The batter was well seasoned to boot with obvious flakes of spicy black pepper.

The Beet Salad ($13) was a lovely blend of red and gold beets sitting atop a mound of baby spinach and accompanied by a sliced chicken breast, then finished off with a generous helping of creamy goat cheese.  The white balsamic dressing played nicely with the rich goat cheese, and took the edge off the baby spinach that can sometimes taste bitter.

While we were off to a good start, the Porcini mushroom risotto ($19) missed its mark. Chock full of field and porcini mushrooms, the risotto was oozy and cooked well enough; too bad it was literally swimming in olive oil. The fresh rosemary garnish promised on the menu was conspicuously absent, replaced by a smattering of parmesan cheese.

The Tutto Carne pizza ($16) was a meat-lovers fantasy; pepperoni, Italian sausage, pancetta and cappicollo liberally spread over a mozzarella and tomato sauce. Cooked in a wood oven, I was hoping for more charred pieces and bubbly crust, it definitely could have used a few more minutes getting fired up, resulting in some doughy crust.

While the food occasionally left something to be desired (hello rosemary!), on the whole Spacco is a decent alternative to the standard pub fare, and the patio alone is worth checking out this summer.

Spacco Restaurant and Bar is located at 2415 Yonge St.

Spacco takes reservations and has event planning available for larger parties.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Deq Patio opening at Ritz Carlton

Deq kicked off patio seaon in high style with the launch of their new courtyard patio at the Ritz Carlton Toronto.

Guests were treated to stylish performances in many musical varieties, opera, Dj and saxophone mingled together at the Bacardi Rum sponsored event, with bartenders muddling mint for their signature mojitos at blistering speeds. Garnished with sugar cane, the cocktails were the perfect complement to the sweltering temperatures.

Deq patio features it's own freshly planted mint and herb garden flanked by two bars and loads of plush seating. Dj's will be spinning almost nightly here, making it a sophisticated yet playful choice for the adult set looking to avoid the King West mayhem.

Deq is located in The Ritz Carlton 181 Wellington Street West.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Menchies Fro-Yo

I took the wee ones to Menchies at Yonge by Lawrence the other day. With the warm weather here, and all the buzz circulating about this American import, I needed to know the truth. Does Menchies compare to Pinkberry? What about my Canadian go-to Yogen-Fruz? Summer is around the corner and I NEED to know, where do I safely spend my frozen yogurt bucks?

A simple enough concept- Menchies does the whole lazy 'do it yourself' mantra. Enter, get a one-size fits all cup and select a flavour from the frozen wall of upgraded slurpee machines, then toss on some 'toppings' and weigh in.

Simple enough, right? Well sure, unless you take into account the flavour options. We tried Pina Coloda (topped with fresh pineapple), Mango (topped with sprinkles) and Strawberry (topped with fresh gummie bears and when I wasn't looking sprinkles too). There are two topping 'bars', one with the candy-type options (sprinkles, gummy worms/bears, marshmallows, chocolate chips, lucky charms, well, you get the idea) or the healthier toppings, which were largely fruit based. Dairy free options are available as well, so no lactose, no problem.

We weighed in after getting our cups in order (also upgradeable to waffle cups), which came to almost a full pound of yogurt. Before settling in (ample seating is much appreciated) to the modern and spacious neon surroundings the helpful cashier gave my kiddos stickers, tattoos and the little fold up cars that they are currently giving out. I'm all for corporate branding, but the tattoos were in the garbage before we hit the sidewalk.

Taste test wise, I gotta say, I prefer the Yogen. The texture is just strange, maybe it's the low-fatness of it all, but it tasted gritty. The Pina Coloda was absent of the coconut/pineapple mash up that you come to expect, and that was WITH the addition of actual pineapple. The strawberry was much the same, pink blandness melting as fast as my hopes for a frozen yogurt alternative to Yogen-Fruz.

All in all, very kid friendly. The peace and quiet from them eating their low fat, high sugar combos was worth the expense. For my caloric intake, I'll save it for the fruz!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Cafe du Monde- New Orleans

Café du Monde is a mandatory stop on any New Orleans trip, so we buckled on a Saturday morning and lined up like sheep for the ‘best beignets’ in NOLA.  The line moved quickly, shockingly, since there’s no hostess or staff assisting you. It’s best to push yourself through and grab the first (dirty) table.

While wait staff mostly grunt at you, the menu is your choice of beignets, or more beignets, and of course, the popular chicory coffee. Having heard so many glorious things about square patches of deep fried dough, expectations were high. So was my blood sugar. With three to an order, I ate maybe 1/3 of my beignet, leaving the other 2 to my pal. Sage advice from a friend who had eaten there before ‘Don’t wear black, or you’ll look like a coke fiend after’. Well said LP. They were absolutely covered in fluffy icing sugar.

So do you absolutely HAVE to go to Café du Monde? No. There is another place in the French Quarter that serves up beignets, shockingly called Café Beignet. I did not get the opportunity to sample these ones for comparison, but there’s always next time.

Café du Monde is located at 800 Decatur Street.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Cowbell- New Orleans

While visiting friends in Central City, they eagerly suggested we eat at Cowbell. With its kitschy décor and chuggable ‘adult’ pops Cowbell was a delicious alternative to the gumbos that I’d been mass eating since I got there.

We shared a portion of the mac n’ cheese ($6, which is usually a side for the ribeye). It was heavenly, so cheesy with crunchy little tiny breadcrumbs and parmesan dusting on top. The sauce is a delicate balance of gruyere, aged white cheddar in a heavily reduced cream sauce. Shallots, thyme and peppers increase the adult quotient and allow the dish to stand on its own two feet, although a whole portion of just these tasty tubes would likely guarantee a blissful carb induced nap.

Up next, under direct pressure from my table mates I ordered the Cowbell Natural Beef Burger ($10.95 + $2) topped with apple wood smoked bacon and a fresh farm egg. I was impressed. Although the fries were a titch soggy, the burger commanded my full attention anyhow. The egg was pleasantly runny, ensuring it was a 10-paper-napkin-meal. Fresh thick tomatoes, rings of red onions and crispy lettuce upped the nutritional value, but the cholesterol crescendo took over. I did not finish the burger and every time a hunger pang hits I’m reminded of what could have been.  
Chef Brack May and his partner in business and life Krista Pendergraft-May run the ship so if you’re in the Central City part of New Orleans drop in, and come hungry. This place rocks. Also, go by the Maple Leaf bar down the street and let me know if it’s a good time. Place was so rammed I couldn’t be bothered!

Cowbell is located at 8801 Oak Street ring ‘em at 504-298-8689.