I used to love Felix & Norton. Their Unionville location was in a plaza right across from where I went to high school, so cookies were a regular occurrence. I remember them being some of the best store-bought cookies around: lightly crispy and chewy, with a really great buttery flavour and high-quality chocolate chunks.
So when I saw unbaked Felix & Norton cookies in the freezer section at a local Loblaws, I couldn’t get them in my cart fast enough.
And it’s not a bad deal: nine bucks for a 500 gram bag, which works out to about 20 cookies. I got Menage a Trois, which features cookies with white, milk, and dark chocolate chunks.
Alas, these weren’t the Felix & Norton cookies I remembered. The chunks were more like tiny chocolate fragments, and barely added any chocolate flavour at all. The cookies were just blandly sweet. They were also insanely greasy, and yet had almost zero buttery flavour.
They weren’t the worst things ever, I guess — they were certainly better than something like Chips Ahoy, but they’re not even close to being in the same league as what you can get at the store.
If you were lucky enough to try Caplansky’s at its original digs in the Monarch Tavern, then you’ll know that it was truly something special. One of the things that made their smoked meat stand out was its intensely smoky flavour. This was greatly diminished once they moved to their permanent location and had to start making the meat in greater quantities (and of course, in a sad turn of events, Caplansky’s is now gone altogether).
Well, it looks like Torontonians craving that unique smokiness now have somewhere to go, because Rose and Sons was recently transformed into an old-school deli, and they’re serving up pastrami with a distinctively smoky flavour.
It’s actually quite good — I got the hot pastrami sandwich, and my only real complaint is that the meat should have been a bit fattier (they called it medium, but it was much closer to lean).
That’s an easy fix, though: I’ll ask for it fatty the next time I go, because there’s definitely going to be a next time. It’s a great sandwich, with perfectly thick slices of tender, smoky, nicely spiced pastrami.
I also tried the potato and onion knish, which didn’t fare quite as well. I think this might have been the second or third knish I’ve had in my entire life, so it’s possible that I’m just not a fan — but this was dry pastry encasing bland, crumbly potatoes with a slightly oniony flavour. It desperately needed a gravy or some kind of sauce, or really anything to give it just a little bit of moisture (not to mention flavour). I didn’t care for it.
Assembly Chef’s Hall is Toronto’s first food hall — it’s basically like a food court, if food courts were amazing.
There’s a bunch of interesting restaurants here, though I was homing in on the burger from Resto Boemo, which I wanted to review for my burger blog. But then I saw that Cherry Street Bar-B-Que was serving lamb shoulder as part of a St. Patrick’s Day special, and it was game over. I love southern-style barbecue, and I love lamb. Barbecued lamb? Hell yes.
It comes served on chunky mashed potatoes, and is topped with a generous amount of their Murphy’s Stout BBQ sauce, which was amazing. It was extremely untraditional — it wasn’t nearly as sweet or as acidic as you’d expect, with a rich, tomatoey flavour that’s rounded out by the stout, which adds notes of chocolate and coffee. It sounds odd, but it worked incredibly well with the lamb. I should have asked if I could buy a bottle.
And that lamb was quite tasty, though like pretty much every barbecue place in the GTA, it had almost zero smokey flavour. But in this case I didn’t even particularly mind — the amazing flavour of the lamb was front-and-centre, and it’s hard to complain too much about that. It was tender while still retaining some texture, with some really tasty bark, and just enough fat to keep things interesting, but not enough to overwhelm.
Location: 545 King Street West, Toronto
I love Porchetta and Co. Their porchetta sandwich? Classic. Best porchetta in the city. Their fried chicken sandwiches? Usually delicious! Their Nashville hot chicken sandwich? Uh…
Hey, they can’t all be winners. And it wasn’t all bad. The fried chicken itself was superlative, as usual: perfectly-cooked chicken with a crispy, crunchy, tasty exterior. It’s good stuff.
Nashville hot chicken is a notoriously spicy dish that involves a post-cooking dunk into spice-infused oil to give the chicken additional flavour and heat. It’s typically sprinkled with more spices, just to kick up the heat factor. Porchetta and Co. appear to have remembered the oil — the sandwich was absolutely dripping with it — but forgotten the spices. The oily coating on the chicken was bland, and worse, it wasn’t spicy. At all. The spice level here never registered beyond a mild tingle. WTF?
The other components of the sandwich — lettuce, mayo, pickles, plain white bread — were fine, though the sugary-sweet pickles were a bit overpowering.
Location: 609 King Street West, Toronto
I tried Wvrst once, around when it first opened. It was good, but nothing about it really jumped out at me, so I never felt particularly compelled to go back.
Well, I just found myself back there, and clearly I was wrong about the place, because the sausage I ate was probably one of the best that I’ve ever had.
They have an intimidatingly long list of sausages on their menu. I got the Kaas: “pork/beef/parrano cheese/light smoke.” You can either get it on a bun or as currywurst. I went with a bun, and had it topped with sauteed onions and jalapenos.
Oh man, that sausage. The texture was absolutely perfect. To me, the meat in a sausage needs to retain some of its essential meatiness; it shouldn’t have been ground into oblivion. It should still be sausagey, of course, but the texture should be more rustic than a hot dog. Wvrst absolutely nails this.
And the flavour was great: meaty and smoky, not overly salty, and with surprisingly generous pockets of gooey, melty cheese. I was actually pretty blown away by how good it was.
I got the duck fat fries on the side, and they were just as good. You could pick from a bunch of dipping sauces; I went with the Wvrst sauce (rule of thumb: if something on the menu is named after the restaurant, you should probably be ordering that thing). It was tangy and delicious, and complimented the fries perfectly.