On the outskirts of Toronto lies a stunning agricultural building designed by Fumihiko Maki. The Aga Khan Museum opened its door in 2014, and features historical artifacts from Muslim ancient civilizations. To the right of the entrance of the museum is Diwan; a beautifully-designed restaurant headed by celebrity chef, Mark McEwan. We were invited to return to taste their new summer menu inspired by tempting flavors from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, North Africa, and Turkey. Diwan is open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm.



Diwan's decor evokes the luxury of a 19th century private Syrian home, and its menu draws inspiration from Middle Eastern cuisine. Additionally, the 65-seat restaurant is filled with natural lighting, giving it a bright, contemporary and modern ambiance, allowing guests a great view of the adjacent Ismaili Centre. Chef McEwan and his team have created a menu with their take on Pan-Islamic cuisine that includes starters like advice spiced calamari and halloumi salad, and entrees like lamb kofta meatballs, and harissa glazed salmon.

We started off the summer menu tasting with some mocktails from their wide range of drink options. We enjoyed it on the patio, which is now open for lunch. The patio has an incredible view of the beautifully landscaped Aga Khan Park designed by landscape architect, Vladimir Djurovic.



** PLEASE NOTE THAT THE PORTIONS BELOW ARE SAMPLE-SIZE **

Advieh Spiced Calamari ($14) - with Aleppo Aioli 



Lamb Kofta ($14) - lamb meatballs, corn, and coconut curry with naan 


Photo Credit: Fred.BK

Grilled Octopus with Chickpea Salad
 ($17) - with Moroccan olives, stewed sweet peppers, and Aleppo aioli


Chicken Jalfrezi ($20) - tomato-based curry studded with peppers and onion, basmati rice, cashews, yogurt, and naan 


Borani-E-Bademjan ($11) - yogurt and eggplant dip in filo shell, onion, garlic, tumeric, cumin, dill, mint, lemon


My two favorite dishes from Diwan were the Advieh Spiced Calamari and Chicken Jalfrezi. The calamari was lightly coated in batter and well-spiced. The poutine on the other hand was full of flavors as the tomato-based curry was fragrant.

The Aga Khan Museum houses the Aga Khan family collection of roughly 1,000 rare objects and paintings from the 8th to the 20th century. Occasionally, they do have some temporary exhibitions that showcase arts from Muslim lands. After the tasting, we had the opportunity to tour the Aga Khan Museum's temporary exhibit, Syrian Symphony: New Compositions in Sight and Sound. It's on display until August 13, 2017, and it offers an immersive and interactive response from the artists to the current situation in Syria. I was completely immersed in the music and it provided a lot of insights into the conflict of the Syrian people. I highly recommend making a visit before it's gone. 



Photo Credit: Janey (foodrealm)

Photo Credit: Janey (foodrealm)

Photo Credit: Janey (foodrealm)

Photo Credit: Janey (foodrealm)

Photo Credit: Janey (foodrealm)

Photo Credit: Janey (foodrealm)

Address: 77 Wynford Dr, Toronto, ON M3C 1K1

HOURS:

Monday: Closed
(except holiday Mondays)
Tuesday: 10 am–6 pm
Wednesday: 10 am–8 pm
Thursday–Sunday: 10 am–6 pm

COST:

General Admission*
Friends: Free
Adults: $20
Seniors (65+): $15
Students:* $12

Social Media:

Facebook || Instagram || Twitter || Website 

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Summer Menu Tasting at Diwan

by on Friday, July 28, 2017
On the outskirts of Toronto lies a stunning agricultural building designed by Fumihiko Maki. The  Aga Khan Museum  opened its door in 2014,...
A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of visiting Holts Café for lunch. It's a trendy cafe on the mezzanine level of one of Yorkville's institutions, Holt Renfrew. The cafe was an elongated bright space with a red and light grey color scheme. It's an ideal setting for a casual lunch, business lunch, dates, or mid-afternoon shopping break. Holts Café's menu features a locally-inspired menu with a variety of signature dishes including the chopped salad and Holts burger.

I started off with a drink from their mocktails selection; the Mango Mule ($7) - peaches and cream syrup, lime juice, mango juice, ginger syrup, Angostura bitters, soda. It was a sweet and refreshing non-alcoholic beverage. 


We got the Grilled Jerk Shrimp ($14) containing jalapeño pineapple salsa as an appetizer. I was told that it only had a slight kick due to some regular clienteles complaining about the heat level. The jerk shrimp along with the sweet and juicy pineapple was a fantastic combo.  


The Fragrant Steamed Mussels ($13) - peppers, thyme, oregano, garlic, shallots, white wine was another stand-out appetizer.  The seafood delicacy come together with the help of white wine and various spices to create a lovely aromatic smell. The broth itself was light and savory, and there was a generous helping of mussels (big enough to share between two people). 


One of Holts Café's most recommended salad was the Chopped Salad ($19) - avocado, cucumber, peppers, chickpeas, sweet corn, red cabbage, romaine lettuce, French vinaigrette. The salad was a decent option, but there wasn't enough French vinaigrette, so it tasted too light to me. 


I opted for the Pickerel ($27) as my main, and it was a perfectly cooked dish. The fish was lightly seasoned and complemented the creamy Jerusalem artichoke and French beans. It was also topped with some shaved fennel, which didn't really seem to add or detract from the taste. Lastly, the pickerel was pan-seared, which resulted in a beautiful crust that added to the texture of the fish. A simply light main course!
 


For the main course, J got the Steak Frites ($27) - 8 oz petite tender, hand cut fries, wild mushroom ragoût, red wine jus.


Desserts has always been one of my favorite things, so I was looking forward to trying the Strawberry Shortcake ($10). It was made with shortcake biscuit, pastry cream, strawberry compote, crème Anglaise, Chantilly cream. It was literally a platter of sugar, which probably doesn't suit everyone's palette. It was very sweet, which I liked. However, I think that they could add a few more strawberries to balance out the sweetness of the shortcake biscuits.


The Chocolate Mousse ($10) - fresh raspberry, feuilletine hazelnut crust, coulis gracefully sat in a pool of coulis made from puréed fruits. It was definitely an airy and rich dessert.  


Brewed Coffee ($4.25)


Overall, our lunch at the Holts Café at Holt Renfrew Toronto was a very pleasant dining experience. Despite it being near 75% capacity, I noticed that all diners were being attended to appropriately, which I am not surprised considering the brand namesake. Furthermore, our server (Joe) was attentive and personable.

If you do come for lunch, they are are extremely limited parking spaces in the Yorkville area. So I'd recommend either using public transportation, Uber, or taking a taxi. However, if you do plan on driving, Holt Renfrew does offer valet parking for $25.

Address: 50 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON, M4W 1A1

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Holts Café at Holt Renfrew Toronto

by on Wednesday, July 26, 2017
A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of visiting  Holts Café  for lunch. It's a trendy cafe on the mezzanine level of one of Yor...
 This summer, Flavor Your Life sponsored a press event to raise awareness of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Europe in Canada. The event was held on June 20, 2017 at Aria Ristorante in Toronto. Thirty bloggers and journalists enjoyed a delicious menu of foods that the chef carefully prepared to showcase different varieties of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Europe. The event aimed to debunk misconceptions around Extra Virgin Olive Oil and inspire the press to educate consumers on this liquid gold.


 What is extra virgin olive oil?

To make sure Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Europe is delicious and healthy, it has to meet certain standards.

The olives — called “drupes” — may be harvested at any time in their ripening process, and there are flavorful reasons for harvesting at certain times. But to be Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the extraction must take place without heat or chemicals, guaranteeing freshness and purity.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil must be low in acid — below 0.8%. Over-processing and careless handling (especially exposure to heat and light) can result in higher acid and lackluster flavor.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil must have a low peroxide content, which assures minimal exposure to oxygen. 

Most importantly, Extra Virgin Olive Oil must taste good. That’s why every batch is carefully considered by a panel of expert tasters. They only apply the official Extra Virgin designation to oils that meet the exacting standards set forth by law, and by tradition over many centuries.




How can I use extra virgin olive oil?

It may start with just a drizzle of a flavor, but olive oil will soon become an obsession. There’s nothing else in your kitchen quite as versatile.

Drizzle on food — whether over a prepared dish or simple sliced vegetables —  to add a rich mouth feel and robust flavor, and balance acid.

Drizzle onto hot foods to release an oil’s aromatic qualities, turning a meal into a multi-sensory experience.

Make a dressing for salads or other dishes. Olive oil accentuates the aromas and flavors of fresh herbs and ground spices.

Preserve roasted and grilled vegetables for days by submerging in olive oil and storing in a cool place; they’ll last even longer if frozen.

Fry unafraid; olive oil has a high smoke point, and can even handle deep frying.

Use it instead of butter, and not just on bread. Try it IN bread, and cakes, and muffins, and even oatmeal.

Pair oils just as you would wine, adding robust oils to complement hearty or spicy dishes, and lighter oils for milder preparations.

Think outside of the Mediterranean. Olive oil can liven up a ceviche, handle an Asian stir fry, and embolden the humblest pea soup.

Olive oil makes a very nice moisturizer for dry skin, as well, but we’ve known that for millennia.




 Take-home Recipes

At the end of the event, Flavor Your Life distributed a gift bag, including recipe cards and informational literature.

Spiralized Zucchini “Pasta” With Peas, Pancetta and Ricotta (serves 4)

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ lb pancetta, diced
4 large zucchini, spiralized
¼ tsp sea salt
Pinch of fresh cracked pepper
½ C frozen peas, thawed
¼ C ricotta cheese, crumbled
Fresh basil

Instructions:

1) Heat a large skillet on high heat. Add 1 Tbsp of the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook for 5-7 minutes, until crisp. Add the zucchini noodles and sauté for 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Stir in the rest of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2) Remove from heat and stir in the thawed peas.
3) Divide between serving dishes and top with crumbled ricotta cheese and a sprig of fresh basil.


 Flavor Your Life's Social Media:

http://flavor-your-life.com/

Disclaimer: The products provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Flavor Your Life Oil Blending Event

by on Thursday, July 20, 2017
 This summer, Flavor Your Life sponsored a press event to raise awareness of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Europe in Canada. The event was h...
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend a private tasting at Origination Noodle House in Markham (North Scarborough, South Markham). This is their second location as the original one is located in downtown Chinatown. The restaurant specializes in cuisine from the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.

Walking into the restaurant, it looked really colorful and cozy. The walls are clad in ceramic plates, and diners are greeted with hanging bright lights. Its refined designs has strong Yunnan inspirations, as several decorative pieces and items were brought over from the city.


Our group of 7 started off with some drinks; passion fruit soda and lime soda. The drinks were served in plastic bags, which is reminiscent of the night markets in China. Not the best for the environment, but the drinks themselves were refreshing and sweet.


In addition to noodles, Origination Noodle House has a pretty good selection of appetizers. Out of all the ones we sampled, my favorite was the Deep Fried Squid Balls ($6.50). I enjoyed its chewy  texture and the flavoring was on point.



I am actually not a fan of Marinated Pork Hock ($6.90), so I didn't really like this dish.



We opted for the Cucumber Salad ($6.90) - with soy and sesame sauce as our vegetable appetizer. Cucumbers add a lot of crunch and refreshing flavor to many salads such as this one. The large chunks of cucumbers were covered with shredded carrots, drizzled with peanut butter sauce, and topped off with peanuts.



The Chilled Shredded Chicken ($5.50) - Chinese vinegar, green onion and tofu slices was simple, but it was the perfect appetizer for summer. However, there should be a little more pieces of chicken and less of the tofu slices.


One of their specialties is the Origination Yunnan Rice Noodle, which is their version of the "Crossing The Bridge" noodles. No MSG is added and it's made completely from scratch.  They have a few soup options, but my go-to soup will always be the Tom Yum Goong ($11.90) - rice noodle with coconut milk, lemongrass, bass, fermin serrano ham, pork, black fungus and tofu skin. The soup base had a nice spicy kick to it without being overwhelming, and no additives. Additionally, the portion was very generous, and one bowl could easily feed two people. You can also customizes your noodles with the complimentary cart carrying an array of spices and sauces.





The Tofu Rice Noodle ($8.90) - tofu, pickle, and minced pork was a rather bold dish with a lot of flavors. It came with a lot of vegetables and tofu. Make sure to mix it well before you enjoy the dish.



Another favorite of mine was the Yunnan Style Fried Rice Noodle (beef) ($11.90). Rice noodle is a staple in Yunnan cuisine, and this dish was relatively vibrant in flavor.





Chilled Rice Noodle ($9.50) - with chicken with cucumber, carrots, chicken and minced pork


For dessert, I got the Bubble Lu ($3.20). It had a pleasant coconut flavor (from the coconut milk), and was pretty sweet. I find that the Asian palette towards desserts is that they like subtle sweetness. So, some people might find this dessert too overly sweet.


Red Bean Yogurt ($4.20)



Overall, Origination Noodle House is a pretty solid restaurant as it's affordable, portions are generous, and their food was good that I'd come back again.

Address: 633-661 Silver Star Blvd, Scarborough, ON, M1V 5N1

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Origination Noodle House

by on Wednesday, July 19, 2017
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend a private tasting at  Origination Noodle House  in Markham (North Scarborough, South Markham...
One of the hottest beer festival is back! Toronto's Festival of Beer presented by the Beer Store will be taking place July 28 to July 30. Tickets for the much anticipated event are sold out for both Friday and Saturday. However, you can still purchase ticket for Sunday's event at https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1263171.

Toronto’s Festival of Beer:

Date: Friday, July 28 to Sunday, July 30
Hours: July 28 (4:30 pm - 11:00 pm , July 29 (1:30 pm- 8:00 pm), July 30 (1:30 pm - 8:00 pm)
Location: Bandshell Park - Exhibition Place at 100 Princes' Blvd, Toronto, ON M6K 3C3
Website: http://www.beerfestival.ca/


Get Social:

 Toronto's longest running summer beer event returns to Bandshell Park @ Exhibition Place, with a great roster of chefs, food purveyors, and of course ... BEER!!

This Year's Food Purveyors:

Campagnolo
Chimney Stax
Fidel Gastro’s
Heirloom Farm to Truck
Hot Bunzz Street Cuisine
Jack Links
Mangia & Bevi
Meltwich Food Co.
Ontario Corn Roasters
Oyster Boy
Queen Margherita Pizza
Smoke’s Poutinerie
South St. Burger Company
Ted's World Famous BBQ
The Pie Commission
Tiny Tom Donuts

See you there!

 

I had the pleasure of returning to Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria to check out their new Spring/Summer menu a couple of weeks ago. The menu features two new pizzas and the return of a seasonal favorite. We opted to return to the Bloor Street West location, which opened its doors in 2012 and has become a local spot in the Annex. Famosa is best known for its authentic Neapolitan style cuisine, which makes no apology for their creative menu of fusion pizzas. Dean (the owner) runs two locations with his brother, and he is very passionate about the trade. He explained in details about the journey that they embarked on to bring us this delicate taste of Naples menu that we were able to sample.



We started dinner off with the Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque - roasted Campania tomato soup topped with feta cheese, and served with flatbread. This was one of the highlights of the evening. The bisque was rich with flavor, as the tomatoes hail from Pompeii, Italy. The body of these tomatoes taste stronger, sweeter, and have less acidity in them due to the growing conditions of the volcanic ash that makes up the significant content of the soil. With some added crushed peppers, and Parmesan cheese, the aroma of the bisque was brought to its greatest. 



Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria offers a limited menu of seasonal pizzas, which changes every season. The first new pizza that we got to try was the Prawn Pesto ($16.95) - fior-di-latte, seasoned ricotta, sautéed prawns, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, pistachio pesto, lemon wedge. In a departure from the standard pizza toppings, the new pizza is topped off with sautéed prawns, which remarkably makes a very delicious pizza.  Out of the three new pizzas on the menu, I'd say that this one was my favorite.


The Mattina ($16.95) - parmesan crema, sautéed leeks, pancetta,  prosciutto crisps, Grana Padano, Italian parsley,  topped with a fried egg, was the second new pizza on the menu. I didn't like this one as much, but J really liked it.


We were quite stuffed from the two pizzas, but the owner (Dean) graciously brought out a third one for us to try. The third pizza was a returning favorite, the Don Andreas ($16.95) - crème fraîche, fior-di-latte mozzarella, roasted chicken, corn and chipotle salsa, avocado, cilantro, lime wedge, side of Valentina hot sauce. I could definitely see why it was a favorite among patrons. All of the toppings just came together well, and it was one tasty pizza.


Dean has some leeway when it comes to their drinks menu, and tries to be creative with the ingredients. We opted for the non-alcoholic options, which was the Strawberries Mocktail (comes with one free re-frill).



If you're craving pizzas with some creativity and fusion, then make sure you try out Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria They do also have standard pizzas like the margherita pizza and pepperoni topped ones if you want safer choices.



Address: 386 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1X4

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.