Annona Restaurant

What I love about Winterlicious is that it’s a chance to try new restaurants across the city that you might never otherwise had the opportunity to.  Dining through a custom three course meal makes you feel like a king… a king that’s getting great value!

This year I headed to the Park-Hyatt’s Annona, for a meal that almost looked too pretty to eat – the key word being almost. We started off at the hotel’s rooftop bar with breathtaking views of the city and moved down to the restaurant for a delicious meal.

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Here is the run down:

Appetizer

FullSizeRender (9)Grilled Crab Cake

While crab cakes aren’t usually my go-to, this one set the bar pretty high for any others I consume in the future. It had a super crispy outside filled with loads of succulent crab meat, balanced with a fresh slaw and sweet-acidy balsamic.

 

 

 

 

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Grilled Arctic Char

So pretty much whenever I see this fish on a menu, I feel like I need to get it. It has an undeniably moist and buttery texture, complimented by perfectly crispy skin.  This fish was accompanied by a parsnip puree and curry cream sauce along with steamed white asparagus and roasted beets.

 

 

FullSizeRender (11)Surf & Turf

I would almost describe this main as decadent. With rich, bold flavours, it was truly a treat to eat. A grilled  beef medallion, golden shrimp, and seared scallops topped with a peppercorn jus, red pepper beurre blanc and a side of lobster mash and roasted vegetables.

 

 

 

 

Dessert 

FullSizeRender (12)Warm Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

No meal is complete without a sweet ending. There is just something about warm chocolate oozing out of a moist cake.  This, combined with a caramelized hazelnut ice cream to cool it all off.

I had to get in one more picture of the melting chocolate because that’s just a thing of beauty.

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7 Numbers

FullSizeRender (61)There are lots of places out there that claim to be authentically Italian. But how many places do you know where there is literally an Italian nonna cooking your meal for you. I’m definitely not an expert in authentically Italian cuisine, but without sounding too much like Guy Fieri, 7 Numbers was “The Real Deal”.

Walking into their Eglinton location, you are greeted to an open style kitchen with chef Rosa front and centre cooking up a delicious Italian storm. The space is small and cozy but still with a distinctly elegant feel.  The menu changes daily, so you know that the ingredients are fresh.

Appetizer

Calamari 

Battered and fried for a savory crispy bite.

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Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad With Roasted Red Peppers 

When you treat ingredients with integrity, there’s really no reason to fuss with them. Peppery arugula dressed with olive oil and crumbled fresh goat cheese over a whole slice of charred red pepper. This salad let the ingredients speak for themselves.

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Main

A lot of restaurants make it seem like in order for a dish to be outstanding it must therefore be insanely expensive. Not here. For the amount of food and flavour we got, the price was definitely right.

Veal Lasanga 

This reminded me of the lasagna my grandma makes- there was something about it that made it feel homey and comforting. You can tell the veal had been cooking in the sauce for hours to develop a rich meaty, tomatoy flavour.

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Lamb Shank 

So I’m just putting this out there- I could never be a vegetarian. There’s just something about eating a piece of meat right off that bone that is an experience in it of itself. This lamb literally fell right off the bone with a touch of a fork. The meat was incredibly tender and packed with hours of slow roasted goodness.

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Dessert 

Espresso Panna Cotta with Chocolate Gansch 

In my opinion, no meal is complete until you have desert. This velvety and creamy panna cotta topped with a thin layer of rich chocolate ganash and a crisp biscotti for dipping was the perfect sweet way to end an amazing meal.

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Check them out for yourself!

www.sevennumbers.com/

@7_Numbers

K & B Sushi, All The Dumplings Were Eaten (All of Them)

Every once in a while, I get this almost animalistic urge to go rampaging through a sushi buffet. Since this is a blog and you might not know me personally, here’s a fun fact: I have a love/hate/more love relationship with sushi. Soon as someone even recommends that we get sushi, I’m already half way there in stretchy pants.

And the sushi? It always has to be all you can eat, it’s the best way to go. I’ve been to an insane amount of all you can eat sushi places around the city, but not many of them have been as fancy as K+B Sushi.

Note: They do have an all you can eat menu, but are also a fancy restaurant with individual pricing.

My background is not in architecture, but god damn that is one beautifully designed building. It looks like a venue that the crew of the Normandy from Mass Effect would go to for space sushi (vague video game reference ftw). Even when you walk inside you can tell that the design of this restaurant is definitely a priority.

After being seated, we were given the now standard iPad menu system to order from which as a tech nut, I always get a little giddy over. The menu itself is pretty comprehensive with a little something for everyone. But then it happened, I saw those two words that brought a manly tear to my eyes: “Dumpling Menu”. We all know about my love affair with dumplings, I even made my own and talked about it a while back.

After pressing all the buttons on the iPad menu, we awaited the arrival of all our food, and it was well worth the wait.

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The quality of the food was top notch, the presentation was clean and beautiful and again, the dumplings. So many dumplings, I’m pretty sure I ate my body weight in dumplings.

I was pretty damn happy about the sushi and the service here, and so were my friends. If you’re in Etobicoke or Oakville, or possess the ability to get there, check them out.

For more on their menu, check them out on their main website.

 

 

Summerlicious: Cluny Bistro

Summerlicious is one of my fav times of the year. Three course set meals from over 200 Toronto restaurants. The new foodie experiences to be had are endless! This year I kicked off my Summerlicious experience with dinner in the Distillery District’s Cluny Bistro.

 

Usually I do a little blurb about the restaurant but I think this “recipe” from their website sums up what they’re all about pretty perfectly.

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Now onto the food, because their delicious Summerlicious creations need to be talked about.

Appetizer

SPINACH AND BUFFALO RICOTTA SALAD with quinoa, wheat berry, quince dressing

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So basically, whenever you see a dish with Buffalo Ricotta on a menu you should probably get it. Bites of this creamy and decadent cheese were sprinkled throughout the salad among fresh spinach leaves and contrasted with a unique textural bite from the quinoa and a delicious sweetness from the quince fruit dressing. Way to start Summerlicious off right!

Entree 

BRAISED SHORT RIB “BURGER” with celery root remoulade, tomato, thin cut fries

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You’re probably thinking, “oh a burger, how interesting can that be?” Think again! I’m just going to come right out and say it, this might have been the all time best burger of life. What made it special was the braised short rib patty that they created. You could tell this meat had been basting and roasting for hours, to the point where it just fell right off the bone. Combine that, with an insanely fluffy bun, fresh tomato to cut all that richness and you’re not so typical topping of a French style celery root mayonnaise, and you get one bite of awesomness.

Dessert 

FRENCH APRICOT GALETTE  with yuzu caramel and black sesame ice cream

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This was a really intriguing dessert. A galette is a typical French thin flaky pastry, but this was no typical French dessert. They spun this classic it’s head by incorporating Asian flavours like a black sesame ice cream, and yuzu ( citrus style fruit from East Asia). These mash of cultures came together to make a dessert with a perfect balance of flavours with the sweet apricotes, citrusy caramel, somewhat savoury ice cream and textures ranging from smooth and crunchy to hot and cold.

Here’s a quick look at Cluny’s stunning space and some more delicious food that was eaten:

 

Check out Cluny for yourself and have your own French bistro experience: clunybistro.com, @clunydistillery

Take a look at all the Summerlicious offerings to get your eat on this summer

The Chef Upstairs

Ever wonder what it might be like to go behind the scenes in the kitchen of your favourite restaurant or sit on the slide lines in the Food Network’s Chopped kitchen. I got a chance to do all of that and more during my cooking class at The Chef Upstairs.

Providing a unique experience to their guests, The Chef Upstairs’ cooking class offers an intimate dining experience where participants get to assist fabulous chef’s prepare delectable menus. You get the chance to learn new skills and techniques and eat some pretty delicious food!

The chef for our class, Deji Oduwole, brought amazing charisma and passion for food that was infectious. This former CFL player, turned classically French trained chef, with a flare for West African flavours, elevated our cooking experience to the next level.

Here’s a look into the fabulous three course meal that we experienced:

Appetizer: Grilled Pizza

We definitely put our mark on this course with guidance from Chef Deji, getting the chance to roll out the pizza dough, make a roasted red pepper sauce, slice fresh mozzarella, and top with a fragrant basil garlic oil. A restaurant inspired dish that we now know how to make at home!

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Entree: Tea-smoked Salmon with Citrus Cucumber Relish and Jasmine Rice Pilaf

Prepping for this entree we got some one-on -one lessons on how to perfectly segment an orange and slice and dice cucumbers into neat geometric cubes. I got the amazingly exciting chance to blow-torch the salmon skin which was later double baked, adding a crunchfyingly crispy element to the dish.

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Chef Deji took the reigns with the other aspects of the dish, preparing an in-kitchen smoker for the salmon which had been marinating in a mixture of soy, ginger, orange, sugar and red pepper flakes and building flavours like caramelized onions, and Thai coconut milk for an amazingly fluffy rice pilaf.

 

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Dessert: Mixed Berry Coolie with Home-made Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

Chef Deji worked his magic for this course, cooking down a mixture of berries with sugar and balsamic, teaching us his secrets for making caramel from scratch, and grilling fresh apricots sprinkled with cinnamon. The result was a tart and acidy burst from the berry mixture combined with sweet comfort flavours of ice cream and an epic caramel sauce to drizzle on top.

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To experience this foodie haven  book a class for your self!

thechefupstairs.com

 

 

 

Taste of Toronto

Taste of Toronto, an action packed foodie festival, was back for it’s second year showcasing over 50 of the city’s top chefs and restaurants. Some recurring restaurants from last year took part as well as new additions like Morimoto Toronto and Masterchef Canada collaboration, R+D. Along with these culinary heavyweights were a slew of sampling stations from over 70 artisan producers and premium brands which made for a spectacular day of eating.

With the opportunity to try dishes from some of Toronto’s most talked about restaurants, demonstrations from critically claimed chefs, and plenty of wine and beer tastings, this four day outdoor extravaganza located at the historic Fort York site could said to be the foodie event of the summer.

Eating my way through the day, these were some of my favourite dishes:

Restaurant: Barque

Dish: Competition chicken thigh with Cuban corn

Thoughts: Barque knows barbecue and this knowledge definitely shined through with a perfected cooked chicken thigh that brought amazing levels of smoky bbq flavour from their expert sweet and savory rub/sauce.

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Restaurant: The Drake

Dish: East coast lobster roll with avocado and jalapeno

Thoughts: A delicious fluffy roll, hearty chunks of fresh lobster mixed with light and creamy avocado and topped with a spicy kick from the jalapeno- basically everything one hopes for from a good lobster roll.

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Restaurant: The Harbord Room

Dish: Grilled summer squash with Za’atar, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, Macedonian Feta, fresh herbs and picked red onions

Thoughts: This was right up there as one of my favourite dishes of the day, squashing anyone’s idea that salads are boring. Despite the lengthly list of ingredients, they all married together perfectly for one cohesive bite of bold summer flavours.

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Restaurant: Patria

Dish: Paella Patria with Bay scallops, shrimp, muscles, local pickerel, snap peas and saffron

Thoughts: This is a dish that you can tell was made with love and hours of flavours built into it. In every bite you got delicious chunks of fresh seafood with a bed of rice that took on the aroma of saffron, garlic and tomatoes. The giant steal pan they prepare it in is also pretty impressive.

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Restaurant: Richmond Station

Dish: Funnel cake with vanilla ice cream and stewed fruit

Thoughts: What you would normally think of as a carnival treat, Chef Carl Heinrich and his team at Richmond station elevated to Top Chef level. The crispy, doughy funnel cake, with sweet vanilla ice cream and bursts of cooked fruit worked as an amazing bite to end our eating for the day!

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Until next year Taste of Toronto!

Gusto 101

After a week of keeping  Passover, a Jewish holiday where you can’t eat bread, I was quite excited to have an amazing doughy bread filled meal. I’ve also been wanting to try Gusto 101 for quite some time, but it’s just too damn awesome so it’s always busy and hard to get reservation.  As a result, this restaurant visit was a perfect marriage to fill all of my wants and desires.

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Gusto, literally meaning “tasty” in Italian, is located at 101 Portland Street in the heart of the Fashion District along the hub of foodie filled trendy restaurants on King West. The place has a casual yet impeccability classy feel. It’s like those people you meet who are incredibly cool without even trying.

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What’s cool about the space is that it’s an abandoned, industrial auto body shop turned into an Italian Trattoria. The top floor has a beautiful skylight roof, and with the sun shining through it finally felt like spring!

“It’s industrial, but somehow warm and romantic.”

Moving onto the food, ohh the food. The way they describe is “classic tastes from Southern Italy with some twists”. Owned by Janet Zuccarini, who also happens to be the owner of Trattoria Nervosa in Yorkville since 1996, Gusto has a state of the art European kitchen,  a house-made wine on tap, and a great team of wait staff and hostesses so you know this place is gonna be good.

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For our dinner, we started off with  the Polipo, grilled octopus, chimichurri, olive tapenade, piquillo pepper purée, lemon potatoes, and fried capers.

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The octopus had an amazing charred flavour which comes from their Tuscan grill that adds a special deliciousness from the distinct smokey wood fire. And P.S. does that not look like a work of art!

Then it was onto the pizza and pasta. I know what you’re thinking, ugh another Italian place with some pasta and pizza, but you would be wrong. Executing what may seem like simple dishes effortlessly is something than cannot be accomplished by many.

Mafalde ai Funghi

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The waitress told us that this was one of the most popular pastas- and after tasting it I understood why. Perfectly cooked pasta with an array of portobello, porcini, and oyster mushrooms all came together with a mouthwatering truffle cream sauce.

Spinaci

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For me the level of deliciousness in a pizza is quite heavily dependent on the dough. Its got to be thin enough so you can get the full flavour of the toppings but still have a good chew and texture. That is a exactly what this dough was, and topped off with spinach, buffalo mozzarella, pecorino, a dollop of  fresh ricotta, and roasted garlic, I was in pizza heaven.

Gusto 101 is definitely a must-try spot in T.O

Check them out on Twitter and Facebook and make sure to visit them for yourself!

 

Little Sister- Indonesian Food Bar

“We are “LITTLE SISTER” a casual Indonesian Food Bar with an unpretentious laid back atmosphere located Mid town Toronto.”

This small laid back spot at Yonge and Davisville is serving up some awesome Indonesian food snack style. Their sharing style menu gives you the opportunity to try almost every dish and experience new and spicy flavorful combos.

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The  space has a cool boisterous vibe with an open style kitchen towards the back, and a cool mix of intimate banquet seating and a two large communal tables. There is a kind of rustic meets eclectic feel with the menus printed on cardboard squares, bold printed wall paper and quirky retro lights.

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Now onto the food. The beauty of a sharing style menu is that you get to have a little taste of everything. Never having eaten Indonesian food I wasn’t sure what to expect and didn’t recognize any of the dishes on the menu but big, bold spicy flavours is definitely what I got.

First up was the shrimp lettuce wrap. Crunchy fresh lettuce filled with tender shrimp, pickled cucumber, crispy shallots and topped with the chili sambal sauce.

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Then onto what they call, Satay Ayam, chicken skewers with a creamy peanut sauce.

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My favourite dish of the night was the Ayam Panngang , sweet chili grilled chicken on top of a crunchy slaw of bean sprouts, green onion and cilantro. You could taste the layers of the flavour building that they created getting nodes of spicy and sweet in every bite.

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Runner up was the fried cauliflower salad that had a range of complex flavours and textures. There was crunch coming from the puffed rice and crispy cooked shallots and a brightness from the green onions.

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And just because we wanted a little something extra, we got the Pangsit, crunchy wontons filled with beef and a chili lime sauce on the side.

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Check out their website and follow them on Twitter Instagram  and Facebook for more!

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If you’re convinced visit them in person!

Kaiju, The Japanese Curry Our City Needs

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Here’s a bit of a quick background on myself, I’ve actually been to Japan. In the summer of 2013, I spent nearly two weeks in the amazing country and ate quite a lot. I mean, “A LOT”. Imagine every hangover movie, but substituted with food instead.

Of all the things I ate there, I never even dreamed of something called “Japanese curry” even existed, until my co-worker mentioned it. We made our way towards The Shops at Aura to the lower food court, where lo and behold, there it was.

 

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I approached it (slowly, since it might be a dream or exhaustion from work) and checked out the menu. From a wide variety of dishes like crispy pepper chicken, eggplant with minced pork and Malaysian Fried Sambal Udon, everything looked great so far. And then I saw it.

“Japanese curry”

Looking at the Japanese  curry menu, they had a variety of katsu and shrimp pairings with the curry, but the curry itself is what intrigued me. Here’s a little explanation, directly from their website (yes, we’re going to have a little lesson today):

“Japanese Curry was introduced to Japan more than a hundred years ago by the British. Unlike the curries of India, Thailand, and other curry-loving countries, Japanese curry is thicker, milder, sweeter and has more of a “gravy-like” consistency. Today, it is one of Japan’s most popular comfort foods.

Kaiju Japanese Curry is an authentic homemade blend of over 14 different ingredients including fresh fruits and vegetables, and various spices. Kaiju Japanese curry is slow cooked for up to two days resulting in a deliciously rich, comforting sauce that balances fragrant spices with sweet and savory flavours.”

After making the decision to order the pork katsu (and a side of chicken katsu because the more the merrier), i sat down with the pork (and chicken) katsu with Japanese curry.

(note: this is not my order but my co-workers I…well I ate my order before I could take pictures)

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After absolutely demolishing the entire container, I was more than satisfied not only in terms of being really full, but also the unique flavour of Japanese curry. They even have a “Kaiju poutine” which substitutes Japanese curry for standard gravy.

If you’re around the area (or in the city/province/country/planet/solar system) I strongly suggest trying it out (if you haven’t already and I’ve just been under a rock this whole time.

You can check out more from their website, and give them a follow on Twitter and Instagram for more on this awesome new find.

Also, here’s a handy map so you can get there faster.

Montreal Foodie Adventures: Garde Manger

IMG_2923 (1)Eating is a pretty amazing activity regardless of where it takes place. But, when you can eat and experience the genius food conceptions of a widely acclaimed Food Network chef and restaurateur it’s a whole different story.

Garde Manger, located in the beautiful area of Old Montreal, is owned and operated by Chef Chuck Hughes. As a television personality starring on Food Network shows such as Chuck’s Day Off, Chuck’s Eat Street, a resident judge on Chopped Canada, and a champion on Iron Chef, this dude definitely knows his stuff.

His restaurant is packed on any given day with eager foodies raring to try his amazing food and restaurant experience. It’s a hot spot, with reservations required to be booked a month in advance.

The Food

Sharing style comfort food elevated times a thousand. That’s what Garde Manger does. They embrace decadent and rich flavours that will blow your taste buds out of the water. The menu changes daily, listed in both French and English on chalkboards.

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The Vibe

Nestled in the historic area of Old Montreal, this famous spot might be challenging to find as it doesn’t even have a sign. Once you walk in there is a distinct rustic feel, with large wooden beams, and exposed brick. There are a few tables throughout the space dressed with white table clothes and then an array of bar seating (which provides a really unique dining experience- you get to chat with the bartenders and servers who are extremely friendly and helpful). The space feels casual and cozy but refined at the same time.

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The Dish

We needed to review the chalkboard for quite some time before actually deciding what to order. Here’s what we ended up choosing:

To start, a basket of fresh assorted bread with a delicious cream cheese and roasted red pepper dip (bread is and always will be my weakness).

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Lobster Poutine

Poutine is a quintessential Montreal food. This , however was not your average run of the mill poutine. Generous chucks of perfectly cooked lobster, sit on top of a mixture of crunchy fries and melty cheese curds. Then topped with a gravy made from a reduction of lobster stock which gives it a deep rich flavour.

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Gnocchi, braised beef cheeks, aspiration, hazelnut mushroom crackers

House-made gnocchi with a hearty robust braised beef sauce, fresh zingy pops from the aspiration (also known as brocolini), and an interesting crunch from the hazelnut mushroom crackers- this dish sang together perfectly.

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Hanger steak, smashed celery root, radicchio and bone marrow sauce

A whirlwind of flavours coming together atop perfectly cooked pieces of steak. There was a sweetness from the chipolini onions, bitterness from the radicchio and, body and texture from the celery root which all came together as a very composed plate.

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Ice Cream Sandwiches with Salted Caramel Sauce

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that dessert might have been my favourite part. These are not the typical ice cream sandwiches you think of getting from an ice cream truck in the summer- they’re quite the opposite actually.

House-made vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two perfectly rectangular brownie squares accompanied by a warm salted caramel sauce. Dunking in each bite was a heavenly moment to savour.

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Next time you’re in Montreal Chuck Hughes’ Garde Manger is a must try!

More pretty (i.e delicious) pictures: