I like trilogies. There's something very neat about them. A proper beginning, middle and end, yet each part can stand on its own. Which is why this is the final episode of my Toronto trilogy. I know I know, it doesn't have quite the following as say, Lord Of The Rings, but it's still my best epic yet! (ok, it's my only epic, but you'll indulge me, won't you dear readers?)
My last few days in Toronto were pretty eventful, gastronomically speaking that is. There was the lazy weekend morning, when Mommy dearest made sauteed chicken liver (kaleji) and parathas for brunch. I love the way she makes it, with just the right amount of heat and spices, and sauteed till tender and creamy. Then you wrap a hot, buttery bit of paratha around it and pop it in to your happy mouth. Lick fingers and repeat! This is one of those dishes Mom makes that I have a feeling I won't ever be able to replicate. *sigh* ... another one to add to the already long-enough list.
I also got lucky enough to get one or two sunny days during my trip, so off I went to explore some interesting corners of Toronto. Turns out there are lot more fascinating old buildings in Toronto than just the ones at my old U of T campus. You're thinking I should know this already, since I went to school in that city, but the fact is that when you're a college student, your entire world consists of your home or dorm, your friends' home or dorm, the library and the buildings where you have your classes (and the neighborhood club or bar, but let's keep that between us!). So I fell for Toronto in a whole new way this time around, getting excited about all the things I had never noticed before.
Let me tell you about this one place that really made me jump up and down with glee ... Smoke's Poutinerie, weeeeeeeeeeee! That's right all you non-Canadians; a real, honest-to-goodness poutinerie (pronounced poo-teen-nery). What's a poutinerie, you ask? A place that specializes in making poutine of course! Poutine is an artery-clogging concoction, made of fries, cheese curds and hot gravy (what's not to love?!), that originated in Quebec and has since been embraced by the masses in Toronto. I think even fast food joints there serve poutine. So even though Smoke's offers all kinds fancy versions of poutine, I knew that my first taste of this phenomenon (after many years) would have to be the original, the real deal. The place was packed when I went (on a weekday, during the lunch hour) - I only got standing room. All kinds of people were lining up, right from the young investment bankers to families with kids. And the portions were more than adequate. My order was pretty good, although I wanted the fries to be crispier, but I still highly recommend it because the gravy and cheese curds were exactly what I wanted!
If you're worried about my health at this point (you should be, the other day I had brains, now poutine; somebody stop me!), rest assured that I did walk a LOT in Toronto. After that heavy lunch, I strolled over to this charming little nook of the city called Kensington Market. It's a vibrant, diverse, colorful area, filled with stores selling kooky accessories, vintage clothing, and other quirky goods.
Conveniently, Toronto's Chinatown is located right next to Kensington Market, so I happily made my way there, taking in the fascinating sights and smells.
And thanks to Robyn (who is The Girl Who Ate Everything), I knew exactly where to go for my Chinese bakery fix. Ding Dong Pastries (321 Spadina Ave) is one GREAT bakery. The variety of carb-y goodness, both savory and sweet, was enough to make my eyes light up. Delicate egg custard tarts, plump pineapple buns (tee hee), chicken buns, chestnut buns (surprisingly good), coconut balls (har dee har har) and much more.
I managed to squeeze in one last sight-seeing trip to St. Lawrence Market. It's a covered, very large, very organized farmers' market, filled with fantastic produce, meat, fish, cheese and all kinds of other goodies. Grab something from the many sandwich stands, ethic eateries or bakery kiosks, then walk around taking in the rich food landscape around you.
Lookie here, a Long Island export! North Fork rep-re-SENT!
Mmmmmmmmmm, genuine honeycomb!
Gosh, did I not have anything healthy to eat the whole time I was in Toronto?! Oh wait, there was this one thing ...
Fresh squeezed carrot, orange, apple, blackberry juice ... thanks to my sister-in-law for providing me the only beneficial nutrients I got during that whole week!
So what did we learn from my trials and tribulations in the Great White North (aside from the fact that I eat like a horse)? Well folks, I personally learnt that Toronto is more fun and fascinating than I'd previously given it credit for. Next time, I'll delve a lot deeper. Of course there will be a next time - my parents live there! And to be honest with you, spending fun evenings with them, swapping family stories, playing with Jordan and sharing laughs was the real highlight of my trip.