Monday, August 4, 2008

Weekend restaurant rundown

Yesterday we went to Kingston with my sister and brother-in-law for an afternoon of shopping and a fix of wood oven pizza. It's the August long weekend here, so Chris and I had the day off today and wanted to get out of town for a little while. We arrived there around lunchtime and went in search of sustenance. Our first stop, the Pan Chancho bakery, was immediately vetoed due to price hikes ($14.95 for a box lunch? Over five bucks for a tiny container of tzatziki? Not bloody likely) so up Princess St. we sauntered, eventually finding refuge in Windmills Cafe, a place we've walked by dozens of times but never eaten at.

We thoroughly enjoyed our quick and reasonably priced lunch - sandwiches with salad or soup for all four of us. J and D had the ham and brie on a sesame kaiser bun with honey mustard - yummy, if my one bite was any indication. Chris pronounced his BLT very impressive - crisp bacon, fresh veggies, multigrain bread, not too heavy on the mayo - and his cup of minestrone was "spectacular", in his words. My California wrap had the usual suspects - avocado, fresh salsa, Jack cheese, greens - and a nice touch in the miso dressing on the greens. The salad alongside it was huge, springy and only slightly overdressed - but the dressing was so yummy I couldn't complain too much.

Dinner was a more leisurely affair, after a few hours of shopping for used CDs and hippie clothing in the student-oriented stores along Princess. We arrived at Wooden Heads shortly after the stores closed, and unfortunately were seated next to a group that included several unruly toddlers, though they headed home after about 30 minutes. (I have nothing against children in restaurants, but not if their parents are letting them scream, play on the floor in between tables, and wander around.) Once the calm was restored we settled in for a truly lovely meal. Chris and I decided to split a Caesar salad for starters, and ordered the "huge" because we were certain that's what we had ordered last time. Not so much. This was truly enormous, enough for us to eat our fill and offer plenty to J & D as well. It's a bacon-free Caesar, but the lettuce was impeccably fresh and crunchy, the dressing was sharp and creamy and it comes well-dusted with shards of fresh grated Romano cheese. Impressive in its simplicity, really. J & D split a phyllo-wrapped parcel of baked brie with pecans and cinnamon surrounded by a drizzle of fruit coulis. Also very delicious, judging from my one bite.

All four of us ordered pizzas for our main courses - I went with my tried-and-true favourite, the Nordico: pomodoro sauce, fontina cheese, grilled chicken, sweet onions and roasted red peppers. Divine, from first to last bite. Chris also enjoyed a standby, the Marco Polo, with pomodoro sauce, lemon chicken, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella. Dylan tried something new, the Polpette, with sliced huge spicy meatballs and mushrooms as well as cheese and sauce. Jenn twisted an old favourite, the Nonna Mela, by adding tomato sauce to the combination of apple butter, cheddar, blackened chicken, roasted garlic and sweet onions. Everyone was extremely happy with their choices.

We declined dessert in favour of heading down the street a ways to the White Mountain ice cream parlour, where we scored chocolate ice cream in house-made waffle cones which we enjoyed while sitting in the waterfront park looking out at Lake Ontario, and watching two girls who had a big calico cat on a leash. The cat was behaving marvelously well.

As if that wasn't enough eating out for one weekend, today I met up with my friend K for a long-overdue patio lunch at Memories restaurant down in the Byward Market. As a nod to the old days when i was freelancing and we used to meet for lunch regularly, we split a 1/2 litre of sangria (it's not all that boozy there, honestly, I think it's 50% orange juice) and ordered salads and cake. Hers was their apple, romaine and pecan salad with a creamy dressing - she said it was good, but not as good as it used to be. (I think they used to put white cheddar cheese in it, come to think of it, but I could be wrong.) Mine was the basil-crusted goat cheese salad - a ridiculously small disk of goat cheese dusted in dried basil, over mixed greens, cucumber matchsticks, tomato wedges and a very nice herbal vinaigrette. Laughable cheese portion aside (and it was good goat cheese, I should add) it was a lovely lunch. Both salads came with lightly toasted pumpernickel bread on the side.

The point of the salads was to save room for cake, which we did: K had the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake and I had the chocolate oblivion. Both were tasty, but neither rocked my universe the way their carrot cake, key lime pie, pecan pie or chocolate peanut butter pie have for me in the past. I'll stick to those in the future (though the only one of those they had today was the chocolate peanut butter pie, probably due to it being a Monday). I think their strengths skew towards pie, these days. K and I both agreed we could have baked better versions of our respective cakes. In fact, I have done so, recently, and actually, the chocolate cake my friend P made for Chris's birthday was better than what i had today, too. For a restaurant that prides itself on its house-made desserts, that seems a shame.

Ah well. Next time we decided we'll try out one of the seemingly myriad new restaurants that have popped up in the Market recently. And we had a blast drinking our sangria and gossiping away madly for two hours on the blissfully shaded patio. It was a nice way to spend part of a holiday Monday.

No comments: