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Posts Tagged ‘Rob Belcham’

Well, it’s been about two weeks since the move to Toronto and I’m pleased to report we have more or less settled in.  We’ve met quite a few very nice people in that short time – also, a number of weirdoes.  But I suppose that’s to be expected. Toronto is a bigger city.  Also, unlike Vancouver, Akemi and I can’t simply live as recluses.  Necessity forces us to go out, encounter others and, in some instances, interact with them.  The fact that I’ll strike up a conversation with just about anybody helps (or hurts depending on the relative sanity of my impromptu conversation partner).

Jelly and Lulu, best of buds.

Jelly and Lulu, best of buds.

The dogs have also settled into a nice little routine that includes four daily visits to the local dog park where Jelly leaves her stroller to get in her short walks, Bubba does his best to avoid contact with other dogs, and Lulu stubbornly refuses to return home until she has visited the dog run where she too ignores the other pooches in favor of begging their owners for attention.

Dressed for the weather - Jelly in her Anna Suit ensemble

Dressed for the weather – Jelly in her Anna Suit ensemble

I do miss Darlene and the gang at The Book Warehouse in Toronto.  I’ve checked out  a couple of the local book stores and have left underwhelmed.  The sole exception is Bakka-Phoenix Books (84 Harbord Street), a terrific shop specializing in genre fiction.  I spent a good half hour chatting with the staff while Akemi sat patiently by, endlessly perusing an illustrated Miyazaki book.

After you!

After you!

Even though I vowed to stick to digital versions while here in Toronto, I couldn’t help myself and picked up a selection made up of staff member Leah’s recommendations and some titles that caught my eye:

Familiar with any of the above books?

Familiar with any of the above books?

Presently reading Norman Lear’s Even This I Get to Experience.  Just finished – and loved – the first volume of Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga, recommended to me by Prodigy Pictures Development Wunderkind Nat Cooper.  I swung by The Silver Snail and picked up volumes 2 and 3 yesterday.  And also brought home a bunch of other comic books and graphic novels Natalie sent me home with on Friday, among them Buzzkill by Donny Cates that I thought was pretty darn terrific as well. Speaking of comic book, it looks like it’ll be trade paperbacks only moving forward as Marvel has apparently wrapped up (canceled?) the only two single issue series I was collecting: The Thunderbolts and the awesome Superior Foes of Spiderman.  😦

The eating, meanwhile, has been good.  WAY to good.  Some of the highlights –

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The crispy prawn rice rolls at Luckee in the Soho Met.  I don’t even like rice rolls but thought these were great.  I’m not a huge fan of some of the entrees, but their dim sum menu items are uniformly great.

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The sautéed sweetbreads at Le Neuf Cafe (9 Clarence Square) which, by the way, makes the best desserts in town – everything from salted caramel eclairs to their tiny chouquettes that Akemi has become addicted to and now picks up on almost a daily basis.

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Wahlburgers (A Mark Wahlberg burger joint, 46 Blue Jays Way) opened her recently and I checked out their promising-sounding Thanksgiving Burger.  The patty was flavorful but the stuffing and roasted butternut squash were decidedly not.  The side of sweet potato tots (Actually made from yams.  For some reason, people in Toronto don’t know the difference between a yam and a sweet potato) was disquietingly sweet.  Everyone else in line ordered the signature Our Burger. Maybe I’ll order that next time.  Or just go Burger’s Priest which I’ve been meaning to do.

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After stocking up at the St. Lawrence Market this morning, we returned home where I made myself a bacon sandwich using two types of bacon (back bacon and peameal), Bourgogne cheese, and micro greens.

Tonight, we head out to a special event dinner at a local Italian eatery that is hosting a special guest chef from Vancouver: none other than our buddy Chef Robert Belcham (Fuel, Refuel, Fat Dragon, Camapagnolo, Campagnolo Roma).  I will, of course, report back.

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What’s cookin’?

Last night, I had THE perfect meal.  And, by “perfect”, I mean perfect for me.  And no wonder given that my dinner was planned and prepared by Chef Rob Belcham.  No one knows my culinary likes and dislikes, leanings and particulars better than Rob and the gang from Campagnolo/Campagnolo Roma/Fat Dragon.

Fellow owner Tom Doughty texted me earlier this week to let me know they had some very special pork in and would I be interested in having dinner at Campagnolo?  Would I!

Chef Rob Belcham, the master of ceremonies on this night.

So, last night, Akemi and I showed up at Campagnolo where we were greeted by Chef Belcham who had that glint in his eye, the look of someone who was about to spring a surprise.  As it turned out, several them over the course of our meal.  No menus for us on this night.  But I wasn’t worried.  We were in infinitely capable hands.

First up, the corn soup.  Not just any corn soup.  This is THE corn soup, the corn soup they used to serve at Refuel, available only during peak season.  The corn is pressed through a cheesecloth, several times to achieve its thick, rich consistency.  My favorite soup of all time.

It was served chilled with melon and a touch of chili.  I told Akemi that, back in the day, when it was on the menu at the old location, I used to have two bowls – one to start the meal and one to end it.  It’s that good.

The salad included sungolds from Stoney Paradise, the sweetest tomatoes you’ll ever eat (contrasted with the slightly tarter heirloom), along with some fresh basil, mozzarella, and a little something from the charcuterie. 

We were presented with the piece de resistance, the star of the evening: The Pork Belly Rack

Bar Director Giovanni Giardino heard I was a fan of the Moscow Mule and asked me if I wanted to try his take on the classic.

Instead of ginger beer, he uses a ginger syrup that packs quite the wicked throat punch.  

It is accompanied by the same concentrated syrup with overproof.  One single drop will blow away your tastebuds.

The rack was served with polenta, peas, radish…it was unbelievable.  The meat was tasty and melt-in-your-mouth tender, the skin crisp and delicious.  Unforgettable.  

Then, it was time for dessert and I was presented with…

Another serving of corn soup, this one topped with peaches and dill.  Just like old times!

For Akemi, a fabulous butterscotch trifle.

What a great dinner.  Thoroughly satisfied, we – WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!  Onto our second round of desserts –

Akemi loves cheesecake and this mascarpone cheesecake with fresh cherries didn’t disappoint.  Even I was a fan!

“Didn’t think we would let you go without some chocolate, did you?”asked Chef Belcham.  Corn soup, sungold tomatoes, crispy pork, more corn soup, AND a chocolate dessert!  Valhrona Chocolate Pudding with Nutella cream and crushed hazelnuts.  Best Dessert Ever!

I don’t eat out as much as I used to but the dinner made me wistful for the good old days at Fuel/Refuel – and, quite frankly, eager to come back to Campagnolo to sample the incredible-looking pastas and pizzas that passed our table over the course of the evening.

The meal was nothing short of perfection.  A huge thanks to Rob, Tom, and the rest of the gang!

CAMPAGNOLO RESTAURANT

CAMPAGNOLO ROMA

FAT DRAGON BAR-B-Q

Hey, Cos & Effect (Cos & Effect) kicked off on Friday and continues through the weekend.  Akemi and I dropped by this afternoon and I snapped a few pics – which I’ll be posting as part of tomorrow’s blog entry.  Here’s a sneak peek:

Captain Jack says: “A con? I love cons. Drinks all around!”

Carl’s faves: The ladies of Final Fantasy

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