Location: 856 Weber Street North, Waterloo
The apple fritters at The Fritter Co. in St. Jacobs Market are popular. I’ve been hearing about them for years, so when I recently found myself in St. Jacobs, checking them out was a must.
The first challenge: actually finding the place in the surprisingly massive St. Jacobs Market compound, which encompasses several enormous buildings and a seemingly endless outdoor market. I’m not sure where the largest farmers’ market in the world is, but I have to imagine this one is in the top 10.
The second challenge: mustering up the patience to stand in the gigantic, slow-moving line, which wound up taking about half an hour.
Maybe after all of that, no fritter could have lived up to my sky-high expectations, but the apple fritter here was… not very good? This place is universally beloved, and sorry everybody, but I don’t get it.
The fritter is interesting, I’ll give it that — each one features a full apple ring that’s the approximate thickness of a finger. And I did enjoy the contrast between the very tart apple slice and the sweetness of the sugary exterior. But the crisp apple slice also seems to impact the pastry itself, which was slightly undercooked around the middle in both of the fritters I tried.
Otherwise, the very pancake-like pastry was fine, I guess? And the whole thing was certainly not unpleasant to eat (the fact that they serve them piping hot from the fryer helps), but was it worth the epic half hour line-up? Absolutely not. If you’re coming from Toronto, save yourself the time and just go to San Remo or Dipped Donuts. You’re welcome.
Location: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
The chicken tan tan ramen at Momofuku is a taste explosion. Its flavour is so incredibly assertive that it seems like it should be overbearing, but it’s not. It’s so good.
The broth is zesty and creamy and rich, with a roasty sesame flavour and a mild nuttiness (not to mention a bit of a spicy kick) that’s fairly irresistible. It’s absolutely not subtle, but it totally works.
It’s topped with a green onions, a whole bunch of tasty ground chicken, and a silky sous vide egg that basically just melts into the soup and makes it even richer. Add the chewy noodles into the mix, and you’ve got a seriously tasty bowl.
I also tried the fried brussels sprouts (“fish sauce, yuzu, chili, mint”), which are nice and crispy and feature a great balance of flavours — the fish sauce is the first thing you notice, but it’s also sweet and zippy in a way that’s really satisfying. Brussels sprouts tends to be a divisive vegetable, but I dare anyone to try this and deny that it’s delicious.
Location: 6039 Erin Mills Parkway, Mississauga
This is gong to be a short one, but I couldn’t not write a post about the recently-opened second location of Nani’s Gelato, deep in the wilds of Mississauga.
It’s slightly larger than the downtown location, though still not big enough for any seating — dashing my dreams of a full, sit-down Nani’s sundae experience.
(This is somewhat unrelated to the topic at hand, but what’s the deal with every Toronto ice cream joint being a grab-and-go experience? Where are all the sundae bars? And yes, I know that Demetres exists, but I’m dreaming about a place that serves ice cream on par with Nani’s or Bang Bang that also has a menu of elaborate sundaes. Someone make this happen please.)
Aside from the sad lack of anything even resembling a sundae, the gelato at the new location is as great as ever. On this particular visit I got Kit Kat Cookie Monster and Double Chocolate Nutella, and they were both rich, creamy, and delicious. The Nutella flavour, in particular, has a very intense chocolately richness and is thoroughly delightful.
Location: 821 Gerrard Street East, Toronto
Madame Levant is a brunch spot with an interesting gimmick; most of the menu consists of brunch classics “with a Levantine twist.”
Actually, maybe using the word “gimmick” to describe what they’re serving here is unfair. Based on the two dishes I tried, Madame Levant manages to combine brunch standbys and Middle Eastern ingredients in a way that feels completely organic.
First up was the Halawa Pancakes, which the menu describes as “GF flour blend pancakes served with orange blossom tahini maple syrup & topped with pistachios and ward (dried flower petals).”
Halawa — a sweet, tahini-based dessert — and pancakes turn out to be a great combo, and the floral notes you get from the orange blossom and flower petals complements it perfectly. I feel like I need all of my maple syrup to be infused with tahini from now on; it adds a richness and a mildly nutty flavour that really amps up its deliciousness.
The pancakes are gluten free, but aside from a slightly denser texture than the norm, they’re very good.
I also tried the Sujuk Scrambled: “beef sausages finished with pomegranate molasses, 3 soft scrambled eggs, with a side of hummus, pita, & olives.”
This one’s pretty basic, but when you’re dealing with good ingredients that are well prepared, sometimes simpler is better. The sausage is tasty and the eggs are nicely creamy. Hummus and eggs aren’t a combination that I would have thought of, but it works. Nothing here knocked my socks off, but it’s a solid dish.
Caramel Sundae at Tom’s Dairy Freeze
Hey, gotta take advantage of Tom’s while they’re around (they’re closed all winter). On this particular visit I got a twist with hot caramel sauce, and yeah it’s as tasty as ever.
Cherry Milkjam at Bang Bang
I’ve found Bang Bang to be a bit hit-or-miss lately, but when they’re good, they’re still really good. This particular flavour is actually a “twist” of sorts — it combines cherry ice cream with dulce de leche, and yeah that’s a great combo. The cherry is a bit sour on its own, but mixing it with the sweet richness of the dulce de leche tempers its tartness and is thoroughly delicious.
Fried Chicken Sandwich at Rudy
I’ve already written about the fried chicken sandwich at Rudy (A.K.A. the Valentino), so I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but it’s still nothing particularly special. It wasn’t overcooked this time, so it had that going for it, but it was almost aggressively middling. If I you had told me it was a fried chicken sandwich from a fast food chain like Wendy’s or A&W, I would have believed you. And Rudy’s is expanding quite a bit; I guess they’re becoming a fast food chain themselves, so… it is what it is. [shrug]