Category Toronto

French Affair: Cluny Bistro

My husband and I splurged on a romantic dinner at Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie, a glamorous French restaurant in Toronto’s Historic Distillery District. Cluny’s luxuriously detailed, expansive interior will sweep you off your feet. I should have taken photos but my man was my focus that night.

While the menu includes classic, casual French bistro dishes, it is more adventurous than our beloved Montreal bistro, L’Express. Like L’Express, Cluny is the kind of place you could show up at any time and enjoy something from the menu (though L’Express is open far later, until 3:00 am). Cluny’s boulangerie opens at 8:00 am. The dining room serves lunch, weekend brunch, and dinner. The menu offers a fantastic selection of small plates to snack on or to add to a meal: from Beef Bourguignon Poutine to various tartines, to Baked Sauvagine for Two (baked cheese stuffed with truffle paste and sautéed wild mushrooms – a favourite of our waitress).

This is definitely the place to indulge. Freshly baked baguette (from Cluny’s in-house boulangerie) and cultured organic Quebec butter, for starters. Take a cue from Mireille Guiliano’s passion for oysters and champagne (French Women Don’t Get Fat): a glass of bubbly Crémant d’Alsace and Kusshi oysters is the way to a girl’s heart!

Crisp Sesame Baked Asparagus Frites were phenomenal finger food; the spicy yogurt dipping sauce wasn’t even required. Roasted Cauliflower & Hazelnut Salad with fine herbs and pomegranate vinaigrette was healthy and refreshing.


On a previous visit, a friend and I shared the Tuna Tartare Niçoise (with egg, French beans, Niçoise olives, roe, and a decadent aioli).

Grilled Chicken & Marrakesh Carrot Salad is a luscious, Moroccan-inspired mélange of carrots, chickpeas, dates, cilantro, pistachios, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, and lime.

My husband is a big fan of steak frites – specifically the French-style, flavour-packed cut of meat called “bavette”. Fibrous and chewy, it is hard to prepare properly. Cluny’s version (hanger steak) was possibly the best he has ever tasted: tender and flavourful. And the frites were perfect: thin, crisp, and lightly spiced.

Our Quebec-City-raised waitress was attentive, informed, and very patient with my French (which improved with the flow of the wine). I can’t wait for spring time in Paris…I’d love to go back for brunch on their outdoor terrace!

Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie
35 Tank House Lane
The Historic Distillery District
55 Mill Street. Toronto

Telephone: 416.203.2632

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Toronto Trip: Dim Sum at Susur Lee’s Luckee

Susur Lee’s Chinese food restaurant, Luckee, is a jewel. From the moment you enter the door, thoughtful details – from décor to Nouvelle Chinoise delicacies – stir you sensually.

Enter from Toronto’s SoHo Metropolitan Hotel through the sultry bar, accented with ultra-feminine hits of lipstick red, sumptuous velvet, and a stunning, floor-to-ceiling canvas.


Asian motifs are repeated throughout the décor – in the delightful butterfly and lantern decals at the street entrance, in the beautiful floor tiles, and a flashy neon sign. Even the intricate pillars are pretty. Juxtaposed against modern wooden tables and chairs, sleek black tile, and dark wood floors and panelling, the décor is an embrace of masculine and feminine, modern and traditional.


Catch a glimpse through the open kitchen of the hidden gems soon to be revealed at your table.

Steamed Long Xia Gow are plump, supple dumplings filled with luxurious lobster and asparagus, and garnished with green onion. Siu Mai (steamed chicken and shrimp dumplings) are crowned with scallop and black truffle.


Steamed Long Xia Gow and Siu Mai

Leave the delicate Xiao Long Bao (steamed pork soup dumplings) in your bowl when you tear into them; a delicious broth of tender, shredded pork will cascade out.

One of the things I love about dim sum is the dipping sauces. Luckee serves a variety of exquisite, housemade sauces. Crispy, caramelized Chicken Pot Stickers (stuffed with chicken, chives, and cabbage) are served with black vinegar ginger dip. Soya dip is laced with fresh, hot chili peppers. Chef Susur Lee’s Sriracha and Chinese mustard have different flavours of heat. A bright, ginger and green onion pesto adds a whole new, fresh dimension.


Chicken Pot Stickers and Salt and Pepper Spiced Squid

There’s a bounty of seafood delicacies to choose from, like Salt & Pepper Spiced Squid. Hong Kong Style Steamed Whole Sea Bass is so tender and sweet, garnished with julienned red pepper, leeks, and ginger, and dressed at the table with sweet soya juice.


Hong Kong Style Steamed Whole Sea Bass and Spicy Soya Bean Crumble Shrimp

Succulent Spicy Soya Bean Crumble Shrimp sit on top of crisp cucumber slices in a gorgeous puddle of sweet and tangy kaffir lime and Thai basil glaze.

Service is informative and attentive. As much as I enjoy the typical, cheap dim sum dives, the pleasures of our dim sum brunch at Luckee left us feeling utterly pampered. A must-try stop on your next trip into T Dot.

Luckee Restaurant and Bar
328 Wellington Street West
Toronto, Ontario

Telephone: 416-935-0400


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My #GuiltyPleasure: Duck Leg Confit from Di Liso’s Fine Meats

Di Liso’s Fine Meats has the best legs in town – duck leg confit, that is! Tender, moist, meaty duck legs are rich and flavourful; the crispy skin my #guiltypleasure. Chef-prepared for this butcher. Priced in range with other duck leg confit available in the burbs but Di Liso’s quality makes the drive to St. Lawrence Market absolutely worth the trip. Definitely my go-to-guys for duck leg confit in our region. Can’t wait to try their duck sous-vide, chocolate and caramel pork tenderloin, and Mennonite-prepared stuffed boneless chicken legs.


Left photo credit: Angela Mondou

Confit is a traditional French method of preparing duck: legs are covered in duck fat and cooked slowly at low temperatures to tenderize while retaining flavour and moisture.  All you have to do is warm up the prepared duck confit under the broiler until skin is crispy and meat is hot. Here is how I served it for my girlfriends on our fabulous weekend getaway: on a bed of greens, with fresh fig, tiny dabs of fig goat cheese, and fig vinegar (all available at the market). High in fat but during an active weekend of night snowshoeing, dancing until 2:00 am, and yoga in the morning I figured we girls deserved a treat! Such a satisfying indulgence and so easy and special for entertaining.

To avoid the crowds at the market, get there very early on a Saturday morning or just after morning traffic on a Friday. If you look for it, you can find public parking dirt cheap within two blocks of the market – if I tell you where I’d have to kill you after. 😉

Di Liso’s Fine Meats
91 Front Street East
Toronto, ON
M5E 1C4
(St. Lawrence Market)

Contact info, map, website, and hours here:

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Stocking Up For Christmas: Cheese Boutique

One stop at Cheese Boutique and all stocked up with gourmet treats for the holidays!


Christmas is the perfect time to indulge in fine cheese. So easy for entertaining, so luxurious. I asked the experts at Cheese Boutique to describe three cheeses they might like to serve on their own cheeseboard this Christmas.



Brebiou: a sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque region of France. Very ripe due to its 4 months of wet aging. Quite mild with a nice finish.


Glengarry Celtic Blue

Glengarry Celtic Blue: a soft, creamy cow’s milk blue with a mild, buttery flavour. Produced in Glengarry, Ontario by award-winning Glengarry Fine Cheese.


Majestic Henry

Majestic Henry: A pasteurized cow’s milk cheese, aged in barley and Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Developed by Cheese Boutique co-owner Afrim Pristine in conglomeration with Samuel Adams. Made in Quebec exclusively for Cheese Boutique. Aged 6 months in-house. Named after Afrim Pristine’s dog (the rind resembles his coat).

Go for the glorious cheeses and come back with so much more. Cheese Boutique is brimming with gourmet goodies from around the world. Cole’s Great British Christmas Pudding from England, Kirriemuir Gingerbread with Candied Orange from Scotland, JCQ Almond Filled Pastry Ring from Holland, and DiGennaro Marrons Glacés from Italy are just some of the special Christmas treats.

Cheese Boutique has the widest variety of marzipan I have ever seen. There are marzipan chocolates, fruits and ladybugs…


Marzipan ladybugs and fruit.

and adorable, little marzipan pigs.


Traditional marzipan pigs.

I am smitten with these beautiful marzipan squares from luxury Belgian chocolatier Neuhaus. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!


Beautiful Neuhaus marzipan squares.

You’ll find great gourmet stocking stuffers, hostess gifts, and special delicacies to make your Christmas extraordinary.

Merry Christmas!

Cheese Boutique
45 Ripley Avenue
Toronto, ON
M6S 3P2
Telephone:  416-762-6292
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Passion & Splendour: Sloane Tea Company

What makes my labours on this blog so rewarding are the exceptional people I discover. Perhaps the most inspirational is the poised and passionate Hoda Paripoush, founder and director of Sloane Tea Company. A Toronto-based alliance of boutique fine tea merchants, certified Tea Sommeliers, and culinary experts, Sloane Tea Company represents a guild of small-batch, premier tea gardens throughout the world.


Sloane Tea’s Founder & Director Hoda Paripoush

Hoda’s passion for tea is rooted in her childhood. Of Persian descent but born in India, she was raised in a family of tea lovers, who come from a land of tea gardens and perfumed flower blossoms. After her family immigrated to Brockville, a very young Hoda experimented in her mother’s kitchen, blending her tea with aromatics within her reach (orange blossom water, ginger, rose water or cardamom).

As a creative and ambitious young adult, Hoda studied perfumery in Grasse, France (the world’s perfume capital) and became a certified Tea Sommelier. Hoda now travels the world in search of the finest teas, individually sourcing them directly from point-of-origin. In the process, Hoda has built genuine, close-knit, and exclusive relationships with the world’s most esteemed artisanal tea gardens. Hoda brings these splendid loose leaf teas back to Canada. Using her perfumery expertise and exotic ingredients (such as herbs, flowers, and real fruit pieces), Hoda and her team of certified Tea Sommeliers and culinary experts blend some of the leaves into ambrosial teas with fragrant top, heart, and base notes that linger and enchant; others are offered unblended, straight, pure, and stunning. Hoda insists on perfection every step of the way, from crop to cup.

Sloane Tea selections are categorized by taste (citrus, sweet, fresh, spicy, floral, or creamy) or by type (white, green, oolong, black, herbal, and iced). Estate Reserve teas are rare, limited production, hand-rolled artisan teas from premier estates. Each tea is packaged in gorgeous tins with designs inspired from something meaningful on Hoda’s travels: a vintage Japanese kimono was the inspiration for one design.


I could pick a different Sloane tea to delight my every mood. My top favourites include the unblended, medium-bodied Estate Reserve Darjeeling 2nd Flush black tea, revered as the “champagne of teas”. Its designation of origin, highly prized tea leaves are plucked between May and July on the award-winning Jungpana Estate in Darjeeling (Sloane has the exclusive North American rights). I find it slightly brisk and incredibly refreshing.

Both my husband and I are enamoured with the silky Signature Blend Oolong Crème and its fragrant, buttery sweetness that reminds me of a hint of dulce de leche. Hoda shared a wonderful legend about this tea:

 “This signature oolong from the Wuyi Mountains in China is said to have come about when the moon fell in love with a comet. The comet passed her by, as comets will do. The moon cried milky tears which chilled the tea fields, withering the leaves and giving them a delicate creaminess.”

Hoda says Oolong Crème is also remarkably refreshing steeped as an iced tea. Scroll to the end of my post for Hoda’s Iced Tea Brewing Instructions.


Sloane’s most popular tea, Heavenly Cream, is a medium-bodied, smooth and creamy, long leaf Ceylon black tea blended with hints of bergamot and vanilla. It’s especially rich with a splash of whole milk.

The Shop For All Reasons recently invited Hoda to present her teas at Tea 101, second in a series of informative tasting seminars from some of The Shop For All Reasons’ outstanding suppliers. Hoda taught us how to taste tea (called cupping by the industry): taste with your nose first, inhaling the fragrance, and then sharply slurp the tea into your mouth, sucking in oxygen and rolling the tea along your tongue to reach all of your taste buds. We compared the exquisite notes between six of Sloane’s delicious teas.


I learned so much about tea. Black, oolong, green, and white teas are derived from the same plant, Camellia sinensis; the differences between them are the result of different levels of oxidation. More importantly, they need to be brewed using different temperatures of water; the easiest and most precise method is to use the Breville IQ Kettle (a variable temperature control kettle). Brewing instructions are on the bottom of each Sloane tin.

The Shop For All Reasons has apothecary jar testers (taste with your nose) of each of the teas in Sloane’s line. Drop in and marvel over the fragrant differences between each tea.


A luxurious Mother’s Day gift for the tea lover, Sloane Tea will transport Mom to an estate of old-world luxury (Downton Abbey’s Carson not included). And the tins are so elegant I am willing to bet she’ll find another use for them once they are empty.


Hoda’s Iced Tea Brewing Instructions (to make 1 litre/quart)

  1. Boil 2 cups of water and pour over 7 tsp. (approximately 14g) of tea, in a heat-safe pitcher.
  2. Steep for 12 min and then fill with 2 cups of cold water.
  3. Remove tea leaves (Sloane Sachet) from pitcher.
  4. Garnish with fresh mint, blueberries, or citrus slices.

Where to buy, how to make the perfect cup of tea, and more on Sloane’s website:

Follow Hoda on Twitter and Facebook for information on upcoming Sloane Tea tasting events. Laura from Laura Slack Chocolates and Hoda will be conducting a Tea & Truffle Pairing at the Toronto Botanical Gardens on May 11th.



For upcoming supplier seminars at The Shop For All Reasons, visit their website or sign up for their newsletter.

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