Our international travel has been a bit more limited this year but we were recently lucky enough to spend a few days in Toronto (#inthesix) celebrating a wonderful wedding between two old friends from our graduate school days.
I'd been to Toronto many years ago and I had terrible (and mistaken) recollections of it being a miserable, gray, rainy and freezing place. This time, however, the city welcomed us with brilliant spring weather which made it ideal for walking around and exploring different food options in the city.
Some of my favorites:
Late night cocktails at Drake One Fifty
Not to be confused with the related but geographically separate Drake Hotel across town, Drake One Fifty is an awesome bar/lounge in heart of the Financial District with an expansive booze selection and nice late-night happy hour deals. Going to Canada as an American is (as of now, anyways) already a bit of a steal since the dollar is strong but I always appreciate a bargain. The film crew for Vin Diesel's XXX 3 was actually filming b-roll on the street right by the bar so we had a great time throwing back some Pimm's Cups and watching them film various car scenes and resetting them over (and over, and over) again. However, there were unfortunately no Vin Diesel sightings to report.
More Toronto highlights after the jump!
For me and my fellow DC city dwellers, it's been a strangely long winter followed by two weeks (and counting) of rain. Despite the terrible weather, the mercury has been creeping steadily upwards which can only mean one thing: DC's famous Two Weeks of Spring is finally here, before it inevitably turns into the Deepest, Most Humid of Summers.
Unfortunately for my wallet but fortunately for my mouth, the cold winter weather didn't really deter me from hitting up local restaurants. That being said, I was excited to check out how some DC restaurants have been updating their menus to reflect the spring produce that's now available. Here are a few examples of spring dishes that I've enjoyed recently:
Duck larb dumplings from Bangkok Joe's
Georgetown staple Bangkok Joe's recently opened up again to the public following a complete refurbishment and luckily the menu has remained as apologetically adventurous as before. This is not your typical white person friendly pad thai with crushed peanuts type of place (though I suspect you can still get this if you really want). I also love the fact that they have a dumpling bar which doles out a whole bunch of really interesting options, including their duck larb dumplings stuffed with duck, Thai basil and crispy fried shallots.
For more of my favorite spring dishes, click to read more!
I really, really, really didn't want to like this restaurant, in the same way that I really, really, really don't like (or trust) "hype" for the next new big restaurant or bar or speakeasy or taco truck or grilled cheese stand or pupusa store, etc. The clip of new restaurants opening here in DC just about keeps pace with how often luxury condos get built, and that's saying something - it's all very hard to keep track of, and frankly, hard to stay excited about.
From the start, I was already annoyed at Pineapple and Pearls (P&P from now on). Owned and operated by the same guy (Aaron Silverman, uber-talented chef, great tattoos, one of Food and Wine's 2016 Best New Chefs) that makes people wait hours for some (albeit DELICIOUS) pork and lychee salad at Rose's Luxury? Check. The hype began when construction had barely started on the restaurant space in Barracks Row, including breathless articles on Eater DC, Washington Post, Washington City Paper, DCist, and so on and so on and so on? Check. And most controversially of all, requiring you to pre-pay for your (very expensive) prix-fix meal in advance through their booking system? Check, I said, as I considered snipping up my credit cards once and for all.
Shortly after arrival, it appeared that my skepticism was warranted. I'd booked two seats at the chef's counter and the party ahead of us - including one tall, very talkative gentleman with an equally jaunty ~*man bun*~ - were running 45 minutes behind and wouldn't vacate their seats, despite the meal already being over. Maybe one of the bad things about not actually having physical bills people have to pay for in your restaurant is that people then feel like the meal is never really over. In any case, the greeting staff at P&P were incredibly gracious and apologetic as I downed my second "welcome cocktail" (complete with a maraschino cherry covered in gold leaf).
Finally, Man Bun and his Man Friends departed and it was our turn to sit down at the chef's counter and my annoyance/skepticism/hangriness strangely evaporated almost immediately. And it might have something to do with the truly incredible food that, especially when expertly paired up with really, really excellent and unexpected wine choices, made this one of the best meals I have ever had in my life.
I'm certain the P&P team will be switching up the menu fairly frequently but here are some of the highlights from a blurry delicious haze of a night after the jump (hover over for captions):
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.