Thursday, October 3, 2013

2 Fried Eggs on top, please

I'd watched a Food TV programme on deli's and included was Caplansky's in Toronto, on College Street near Kensington Market, so I had to try it out for myself.  Mind you I decided for some reason to go in the evening rather than daytime but wasn't going to be deterred as apparently their smoked meat hash was the bees knees.

It isn't an imposing building or that neat really either.  Its sort of long and thin with a bar at the back (that I missed until I saw someone else slurping on a beer) and the counter taking up most of one side behind which was a sweaty young guy, not the guy that's on the website, carving up large chunks of meat with aplomb.

It was pretty busy as being a deli its not a place to break the bank as most of the customers appeared young, college types no doubt from one of the universities that dot the city and surrounds.

I ordered chicken soup with matzo balls and the smoked meat hash -- "We do it differently here so we can't really call it corned beef or pastrami although its closest in flavour to corned beef" said the waitress.

The chicken soup was just great and the matzo balls really nice and doughy.  Call them what you will, they're only a different type of dumpling but they taste really nice in that soup I can tell you.  Real comfort food.  Had I been sick, I'd have felt better already.

The hash came after quite a long wait -- "We ran out of one of the ingredients so had to do up a fresh batch" was the reason.

Now I consider myself not quite an expert but definitely a devotee of hash.  I will always eat it if its on a menu so I was looking forward to it coming as it did with a couple of fried eggs on top.

This last I think is the perfect accompaniment to any meal.  If you like the meal, add 2 fried eggs on top and that will elevate it to all new heights.  One word of warning though, it doesn't work that well on top of a chicken curry, but that aside there's precious little that fried eggs won't enhance.

It worked well here though as the hash was yummy.  So yummy that I bought a pound of the smoked meat to take home with me.

Caplansky's Delicatessen
356 College Street

Tel: 416 500 3852


I like the TV food programme Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives because I like the presenter, Guy Fieri, and the no nonsense way he digs into the food.  Also the places he frequents aren't fancy fine dining by any means, just simple no nonsense fooderies which won't break the bank.  Any time I see a place triple-D frequents, I make a note so I can try it myself.  Hence my visit to Hey Meatball in Toronto a couple of days ago.

The TV programme made it look like the place was big and jammed with people all of who could give 5 minutes on any food items major ingredients.  I can't do this very well.  To me its just yummy or not.  How it gets to that point escapes me in the main so don't expect much in the way of detailed analysis of this ingredient or that technique.  Just yummy or not.  OK?

Its on College Street in the Little Italy district and I did expect it to look slicker than it was.  It actually looks a bit like an old launderette from the 1980's -- pretty bare and white.  What gave it away was the big red Hey sign out front.  I missed the small clapboard sign on the pavement and wandered in.

"Hi, man," screamed out one of the guys from the back.

Notice I didn't say 'the kitchen' because there wasn't one.  Simply an L-shaped counter behind which were a couple of sweaty looking cool dudes, one of whom had called out to me.  No table service.  You order at the counter.

It was also empty.

Mind you it was around 1.45 pm so after the lunch rush but if it was that good you'd expect there to be someone there most if not all of the time.

"What's your name, buddy?"  Now I'm English so reserve comes naturally to me.  This was a shock but I did confess my name was Mark.

"Whaddya want Marky-Mark?"

I hate it when people call me that.  My mum called me Marky when I was in my thirties and it was agony.  This wasn't going well.  But I persevered and asked what was good.

"Meatballs are good."  Well of course they are, or rather have to be.  This is a meatball shop for goodness sake.  If they were rubbish you wouldn't be in business.

I asked for spaghetti and meatballs as that was what Guy Fieri had on DDD along with a side salad and home made soda.  I asked which was nicest.

"They're all nice of course.  Mind you lime is probably my favourite," which rounded out the meal.

I sat myself down and few minutes later Marky-Mark's salad appeared soon followed by the spag + meatballs and soda.

The salad was half a lettuce chopped into 4 parts with blue cheese dressing and bacon bits drizzled over the top and was really nice.  The lime soda was great and the spaghetti and meatballs simply awesome.

It wasn't a big bowl to be sure but it was really hefty so very filling indeed.

I asked the guy about the TV show and he was vague about it.  "That was months ago now.  Yeah, they came in with about 20 guys and pretty much filled the shop.  They hung around for hours too filming all over the place.  Our customers couldn't get in.  The guys seemed OK to talk to."  Not really that informative then!

Mind you he did offer that business was so good they're opening another store out East, presumably near the Beaches in eastern Toronto.

Pretty good for $20!  You go here for the food not the decor!

Hey Meatball
719 College Street

Tel: 416 546 1483

The Walrus and the Carpenter

My home town Southend is many things, none of which are genteel or refined.  It has an edge to it.  Lots of cheeky chappies and kiss me quick hats.  But things have started to change including on the culinary front.  Mainly for the better too.

A short while ago, my brother Jan suggested we go to a newish restaurant called Toulouse on the western esplanade on the Southend sea front, just down from the pier.  They'd converted the former public toilets into a restaurant so this I just had to see.  Typical Southend indeed!

Former public loos
They did a pretty good job too as the restaurant was sleek and nice with no evidence of its former history either!  Mind you the Southend sense of humour remains.  The following is a note on the menu for patrons.

Following advice from the Food Standard Agency we feel it our duty to warn you, that by consuming raw seafood, there is 1 in 1000 chance of it causing a tummy upset. We also advise not to eat oysters and drink spirits as it can also cause a tummy upset.

Did that deter us? Not in the slightest!

On the menu were Maldon Oysters yet again!!  And of course we just had to have them by the dozen this time.  Jan is a big fan and Viv helped me out too.  The waiter asked if he could produce just one big tray but knowing my brother, I asked him to keep the orders separate as Jan's counting is notoriously patchy at times.

The evening was splendid and the restaurant did a great job of keeping all happy!

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?"
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.
Thanks of course to Lewis Carroll for the magnificent inspiration!

Toulouse Restaurant
Western Esplanade
Essex SS0 8FE

Tel: 01702 333731

Billions of Blistering Blue Barnacles

Viv and I were looking for dining inspiration in Canterbury a short while ago and thought of the Tin Tin restaurant in St. Dunstan's Street just around the corner in fact.  We couldn't remember the name of the restaurant just the pictures of Tin Tin they had all around the restaurant.  It was Belgian themed of couse so had loads of different mussels and Belgian beers.

It was gone.

This made us scratch heads a bit for in its place was another restaurant called Chapman's which was a fish restaurant pure and simple.  It was also full so we walked on, then decided we should stroll in and have a drink at the bar whilst a table freed up.

It smelled nice inside anyway.

Also a table freed up quickly so our bottle of white wine accompanied us fairly quickly to the table.

The menu was small and fish focused.  My eyes of course lit up at the prospect of more Maldon oysters with a whole plaice to follow.  Viv chose beetroot marinated salmon as an appetizer with the seafood platter to follow.

And boy was it all just yummy too!

So what happened to Tin Tin then, who are Chapman's and most importantly what happened to all the Tin Tin pictures?

Apparently the Tin Tin restaurant got into financial trouble and couldn't pay their bills and being a Belgian mussel shop a large part of the outstanding was to their fish providers, namely Chapman's of Sevenoaks -- a big fish distributor.

So rather than get paid in cold hard cash, Chapman's took the restaurant.  How willingly they took it was not disclosed but suffice to say this is their only restaurant -- I nearly said their 'sole' restaurant before realising how bad a pun that would have been!

As for the Tin Tin pictures, sadly they have all gone.  Many went to a local kindergarten where one hopes they are appreciated in the full and proper way.  A couple went to the waitress we asked who says they are in her young daughter's bedroom and a much revered part too.  That's nice.  Captain Haddock would be pleased.

Chapman's Seafood Bar and Brasserie
89-90 St. Dunstan's Street

Tel: 01227-780749