Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Speak Easy 21 - A New Resto-Bar Hotspot in the Financial District

Every time I walked by the Scotia Plaza and saw the SpeakEasy 21 “Opening Soon” sign, I always wondered when it will open. Finally! This place is now open for business. Let me tell you, the financial district, especially in this Bay/Adelaide area really need a hotspot like Speak Easy 21 to provide the great food, a patio spot and a conveniently location for the Bay Street people. I still miss the large patio space from the South of Temperance, sadly, which now turns into a multi-floored business complex.

I got invited on Media Tasting Day to check out this new spot. Honestly, beforehand, I was very much curious about the utilization of the space because from the outside looking in, it doesn’t look like it can hold up anyone. But in reality, they got to give props to the designing team because they utilize this space with perfection. This place is in good size, it has a nice long bar area, a number of dining tables with high stool chairs. The place is spacious. The designing team also blends a modern element of 1920s speakeasies using lacquered woods, brushed aluminium, plush leather and raw steel in the restaurant.

There were two ways to enter this restaurant. The main entrance is facing north side of the Scotia Plaza building (when you are walking outside in the summer) or the indoor entrance inside the Scotia Plaza (great for the winter season when you want to use the Toronto Path). The friendly, smiling staff greeted me and guided me to the media tasting area. It’s always nice to see some of my old media friends again or meeting new people.

Speak Easy 21 offers great food, cocktail selections, live music that will cater to many people. I think having live music will be a KEY component as many busy people wants a place to relax after a long day of work.

The SpeakEasy 21 cocktail includes fresh juices cold –pressed in house, generous pours of quality spirits and a selection of classic and unique recipes. I highly recommend the “Billionaire” and “Adelaide”, they were really generous pour and really great taste.

Some of the features that are cleverly and thoughtfully considered by the designing team are the phone station where you can check your phone at the door, where it will be charged in an individual cubby while you can enjoy libations and conversations. And if you want to make a call and close out a business deal while sipping a cocktail? You can slip into the 1920s hotel-style phone booths that are audio proof, which is nice and quiet for you to talk.

Having live music at this place really builds up the positive vibe and just helps loosen everyone up. Speak Easy 21 features live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a DJ on Saturday evenings. And best thing yet, there is NO cover charge. I really like how they roll!

For more information, click here.

21 Adelaide Street West
Toronto, ON
M5H 1N1

(416) 601 - 0210

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Check out the photos that I took at Speak Easy 21 Media Tasting Day below.

One of many freshly made cocktails at Speak Easy 21
Live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a DJ on Saturday night.

Lively but spacious space for people to chill and have a relaxing time!

Audio proof 1920s hotel-style phone booths

Generous pours of quality spirits and a selection of classic and unique recipes.

Whitefish tacos

Freshly made sandwiches

Nice view out the window of Bay/Adelaide, can't wait to check out its 3500 square feet of patio space in summer!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

College Street Bar

Last Thursday, I got an exclusive media invite to check out this College Street Bar, located at 574 College Street, which is in the heart of the Little Italy and full of live vibrant music along the streets. I was invited because College Street Bar was the night to be, an evening that featured comfort foods, that was created by Executive Chef, Joe Friday and Dan Gunam. As well, signature and long lists of hand-crafted cocktails that were created by two of Canada's top mixology experts, Gavin MacMillan and Micahel Birdsey.

So, this College Street Bar has been in the area and in the business for 23 years, they simply want to spice up the food items and invite the media to the launch of its newest menu creation.

The moment I arrive, I was greeted by lovely and ever smiley hostess. I could see candle lights dimmed the room. The place was vibrant and you could hear live music at the back of the room. Along the mid-section of the room, you could see the mixologists interacted with the patrons, starting great conversations, all while preparing the signature cocktails.

I got to taste some of its signature cocktails. In particular, I highly recommended the "The College Street Car" and "Friends with Benefits". Yuppp!!!! Just by hearing these cocktail names, it sure fire you up! The mixologist took some time to prepare each drink but let me tell you, but the precision of the amount of each ingredient being mixed into the drink was worth the wait. Watching the fire flames on the final touches of the College Street Car was a just a treat to watch!

If you want to know the ingredients and other signature College Street Bar has to offer, click this link here.

I thank Evolution PR and their lovely ladies for the invitation. They are always hard working and pleasant to coordinate things, making my media coverage so much easier and allowing me to enjoy a wonderful night as well.

If you want to know visit the College Street Bar, click here.

College Street Bar
574 College Street
Toronto, Ontario M6G 1B3

"College Street Bar" Cocktail

"Friends with Benefits" cocktail

Mixologist working hard to prepare the College Street Bar's signature cocktails

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Byblos Toronto - Eastern Mediterranean Cuisine

This past Thursday, my crew and myself got invited to attend the media preview of this newest restaurant in the heart of Toronto Entertainment District called "Byblos". This newest restaurant official grand opening will be on Monday, March 17. It spans on two floors of the iconic STORYS Building, which is a spot I love dearly, especially during Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

When I first heard the word "Byblos", I was curious. That's an interesting name. So, I decided to google the origin of this name.Byblos is a Mediterranean city in the Mount Lebanon Governorate of Lebanon. How fitting is this name as Byblos represents a marriage of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine with strong influences from both traditional and local ingredients, using time-honored classic cooking techniques and modern methods. With Toronto being a city full of diverse communities, having a restaurant such as Byblos is a great way to explore our senses and taste buds, taking on a journey, on some of the most authentic Eastern Mediterranean Food dishes that this restaurant has to offer.

The place feels very well at home, it feels cozy, comfy decor and beautiful ambiance across the restaurant. In particular, I really love the tall bay windows around the entire restaurant, allowing natural sunlight radiating into the room. The open kitchen and bar areas were awesome as well. We got to see the chef at work, making delicious food items such as beef tartare (see photo below). Lots of unique spice and flavours are injected into these meals, giving it an unique, creative flavours to the food items that I had never tasted before.

One thing I need to emphasis during your visit to Byblos. Make sure you check out their great list of cocktails! I repeat! You got to order their specialty cocktails! There are a variety of drinks and each and everyone of them tasted great. I love cocktail with chai tea ingredient or blueberry fruit punch (see photo below). I been to many places that offered cocktails but nothing like Byblos though. At Byblos, I felt every cocktail has it's own unique flavour and taste, the presentation looks great and the taste have special ingredient/spice that gives our taste buds a nice "kicker", making it just super SPECIAL!

Just as its press media release indicated, "Executive Chef Stuart Cameron (Weslodge and Patria) has created dishes that showcase the regionally-specific spices and flavours of the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard to craft a menu that will be a true coastal and cultural mosaic, served family style in a convivial atmosphere." I concur and I assure you (coming from a guy who loves to travel and trying new food dishes), Byblos will be one of the newest hot spots and most buzzed place in the city and come TIFF, this place will be super packed. I just hope I will stand a chance to access this wonderful restaurant comes TIFF (LOL).

Byblos Grand Opening comes this Monday, March 17.

For more information:

Address: 11 Duncan Street, Toronto, ON, M5H 3G6

Phone: 647-660-0909



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Check out the beautiful photos below during Byblos Toronto Media Preview!
Special shoutout to Ink Entertainment for the kind invitation!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Atera Restaurant - New York City (2 Michelin Stars)

I was invited by several number of fashion designers to attend their fashion shows during New York Fashion Week. For me, it's all about enjoying life, having a lifestyle that fits my life. I wanted to utilize my time during my stay in New York City and I decided to search for some nice restaurants that are highly rated by the Michelin Food Guide. I came across this restaurant called Atera. Not only it received a good 2-stars Michelin rating, but I also got attracted by its tasting menu and open concept kitchen food preparation setup. 

This 18-seat restaurant situated in SoHo is operated by rising Michelin Star chef Matthew Lightner. He has worked under the tutelage of Rene from Noma in Denmark which is regarded as the best restaurant in the world and integrates natural ingredients, foraging, and presentation in his 20+ course tasting menu.

In this issue of my MoVernie vs Food blog, we will explore all the amazing dishes of food that I got to taste via this journey of the photos that I took. Stay tuned for an in-depth experience at the Atera restaurant at a later publication.

Very inconspicuous exterior to the restaurant. This isn't even the main entrance, which is through a side door with no signage.
Two Michelin star restaurant for a restaurant on the rise.
The staff at Atera greeted us, put our jackets in the closet & then guided us downstairs to the lounge for a drink before we head up to the main dining kitchen and dining area.

Special Atera Cocktail
"C" shaped wrap around bar that sits 13 out of the 18 seats in this restaurant.
One of many utensils provided to us matching each food item we are being served.
Duck heart, seaweed salad in broth
Edible flowers on top of the beets on a rock
Test tubes filled with broth for one of the dumpling dishes
Monkfish Liver encrusted in green apple slices with brown butter
Caviar as an optional dish. We didn`t order it but it was nice to see how it was being prepared for others who order this extra dish.

Smoked Trout glazed in pork fat 

Amaranth toast with smoked roe and tartar sauce

Sous chef preparing one of the more intricate dishes in the tasting menu 

Razor clam, garlic, and almond.
It takes 10 minutes of intricate layering with tweezers to create this dish
Teamwork preparing the same dish to the entire groups of patrons

Dumpling of chicken and shrimp with the broth from the test tube.
Geoduck on air baguette of mushroom that crumbles delicately in your mouth with a glaze of lardo. One of my favourite dishes in terms of flavour and texture

Sliced diver scallop over scallop mousse
Maine lobster tail served with onion gel and chamomile matricaria recutila. The gel ties this dish together really well and one of my favourites.
Lobster roll with yeast meringue, another one of my favourites. The lobster plays the roll of savoury in this case and meringue is scrumptous. The meat never pushes out as you eat it.
In-house baked bread & In-house butter
Thinly sliced cuttlefish over creme fraiche and wheatberry with pork fat glaze. One of two dishes I disliked even though I love cuttlefish.

Sous chef preparing for main course
Amazing in-house baked bread and roasted duck for final courses
Pig's blood flatbread with bone marrow and vinegar. Very savoury.
Hushpuppy with smoked yolk and pickled corn. The other dish I wasn't crazy about, the filling was to sour.
Cape May Salt oyster with salt-baked turnip and rice
Foie gras cooked on the rare side with turnip dumpling and mugwort atremisia vulgaris. I am normally not a fan of foie gras, but this was amazing. The texture was similar to an oyster.
Roasted duck, pickles, duck jus and fennel. Easily the best presentation of the night, resembling duck foot prints
Duck Chip with duck heart.
Taste of citrus sorbet: mandarin, blood orange, grapefruit, lime
Chef Matthew Lightner experimenting with a new dish. He takes a hot coal and presses against a raw fish, and slices it tataki style.
Yogurt, marshmellow, brown butter
Cheesecake - winnimere ice cream
Sheep Sorrel - rumex acetosella
Sweet potato doughnut, sugar, citrus curd
Chocolate truffle pretzels and walnuts

Chemex pour over coffee measured to the exact weight and temperature.
The coffee filtration

Thank you Atera Restaurant for a wonderful evening. Stay tuned for my in-depth food reviews on my tasting experience at Atera!

For more information about Atera Restaurant, click here for its website.