Yesterday, my husband, Mark, and I celebrated our 3 year wedding anniversary and the 7 year anniversary of our first date. Normally we are on the beach, alone, on South Padre Island. This year it wasn’t possible, so instead we decided to celebrate the day by spending it in Toronto. We skipped work, closed up the Boutique and took off in the car for the short drive over the border.
We drove up in the early afternoon and headed first to the St. Lawrence Market. I have wanted to go for a long time and we decided this would be the perfect day to check it out. It is located in the center of the historic Old Town Toronto, very close to the current downtown area. It has been named one of the 25 best markets in the world, by Food & Wine magazine. It was spectacular, there are three buildings in the complex that make it up, but the South Market, which we visited, is open Tuesday-Saturday. It had over 50 vendors, selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, baked goods, dairy and so much more. I would love to go up on a Saturday for the Farmers’ Market that is held in the North Market, weekly. On Sundays, over 80 antique dealers fill the North Market displaying their wares from dawn until 5pm.
We didn’t buy a whole lot, as I didn’t know what the laws were concerning bringing food over the border, I need to look into that for next time. We did decide to grab lunch while we were at the market, and I am glad we did. It was phenomenal. I found a small takeout cafe called Cruda Cafe, (“cruda” is Spanish for “raw), which specialized in raw and vegan delights. I was so excited to see mentions of gluten-free, and to speak with the owner, Claudia, who assured me there was no gluten in any of their dishes. I ordered the Wild Mushroom Burger. It was a dense and beautiful smoky, wild mushroom and pecan patty served between two thick slices of tomato and topped with shredded carrots, beets and a fresh guacamole (made right in front of me), all on top of a few leafs of the most green Boston Lettuce I have ever seen. This isn’t your typical burger, you cannot pick it up, it is a fork and knife kind of dish. It was fantastic. I couldn’t get over all of the flavors and how wonderfully they went together with each bite. I also ordered a “Clean” juice. It was made completely fresh, while I waited, with apple, carrot, lemon & ginger.
Mark grabbed a Chicken Parmesan sandwich from Mustachio, he was in heaven eating that. Afterwards, he grabbed an Americano from Everyday Gourmet, a cute little cafe and retail store on the lower level, where they roast and sell their fresh coffee beans, daily. And of course, no meal for Mark would be complete without a sweet, so he grabbed a cupcake from Future Bakery on the upper level. I bought a small tasting of chocolate from Aren’t We Sweet, a chocolate and candy shop. The chocolate was a dark chocolate featuring local hemp and topped with sea salt. Unlike anything I have ever tried, earthy and almost a bit spicy. So good.
After our lunch we walked around the market a bit more and then headed over to the Queen St. West neighborhood to window shop. I did buy a couple inexpensive items at H&M to try to outfit my new shape, since all of my clothes are too big now, a great problem to have, but a problem none the less. Ah retail therapy, it always fixes what is ailing.
We had 8:30pm reservations at Splendido on Harbord Street for dinner, so we headed there from Queen St. I read a lot of reviews when I was looking for the perfect restaurant for us to dine at and Splendido continually ranked as one of Toronto’s top fine dining restaurants. The cuisine can be classified as Modern or Eclectic European and they are known for their commitment to fresh, seasonal dishes made with locally sourced foods from family farms. I loved seeing a menu where all of the main dishes had the farm listed where the meat or fish was supplied from. The ambiance in the restaurant was perfect and it was one of the biggest restaurants I have ever been to, in Toronto. The service was great from the minute we walked in.
I started off with a cocktail and since I haven’t been drinking much at all these days I wanted something special. I went with the Anjou Sky, which was Absolut Pear Vodka, Navan Vanilla Cognac, Pear Nectar and Fresh Thyme. Wow, it was completely refreshing and hit the spot. It had a wonderful spring-time aroma and it went down easy. We decided since we hadn’t been out for a nice dinner in a very long time that we would really enjoy ourselves. We started with the Oysters 3 Bays 3 Ways. There were six oysters, two were served with horseradish, two with truffle chili mignonette and the last two with cucumber wasabi. The truffle chili mignonette was far and away our favorite, it had a subtle spice to it and it complimented the oyster perfectly. We also had the Spring Vegetable Salad, which was a mix of Spring greens and vegetables with a spinach puree underneath, a walnut emulsion and a light and tart cider vinaigrette. One of the best salads I have ever had. The perfect size too. Just a few bites.
For our main courses, Mark ordered the Beef Striploin that came with a smoked brisket raviolo and a sweet onion puree. The beef came from George’s Farm in Ontario. That was one of the tastiest and most perfectly cooked cuts of meat I have ever tried. Perfectly tender with a light crust on the outside. I didn’t get to taste the raviolo as that isn’t gluten-free, but the dollop of sweet onion puree was delicious. Mark said the “baby food” was his least favorite part (he is a textural eater), I thought it was great. After a brief description from our server, I went with the Suckling Pig, which came from Nathan’s Farm, in Ontario. It was very slow roasted pork that was so tender and tasty, it had a melt in your mouth, slow cooked taste like no pork I have every eaten. It is served pulled from the bones atop a spiced sweet potato puree, with a roasted shallot and a single spear of white asparagus. The only part I wasn’t crazy about was the two small bites of cracklings on top, that has never been a flavor I enjoy, though Mark loved it. I had a glass of the Pascal Marchand 2006 Bourgogne Rouge ‘Avalon’ Pinot Noir with my meal and it was an impressive, lighter, muted red that had hints of cherry and earth. Perfect with the roast pork. The portions on the entrees were perfectly sized for foods with such rich flavors, we finished them feeling perfectly content and not engorged.
Speaking of not feeling engorged, we opted for dessert, which I almost never do. Mark went with the ice cream sandwich which was Brioche ice cream sandwiched between two Lindt chocolate biscuits. It was a small 3 or 4 bite delight, he loved it. I went with the Rice Pudding which had a white chocolate passion fruit sauce and a tropical fruit salad on top. There were also a couple of bits of caramelized rice cereal on top. Growing up with traditional Greek style rice pudding, this was completely different, but out of this world delicious. A light and fresh finish to the meal. After we finished eating, they brought out an adorable piece of pastry that said “Happy Anniversary” and a card from the chef, Victor Barry, the manager, Carlo Catallo and our server, Steve. A very thoughtful touch and a nice way to finish a fabulous meal.
Overall, this has to be the nicest meal I have ever had at a restaurant, the service was impeccable, the ambiance was welcoming, romantic and perfect for celebrating our special occasion and of course (if you cannot gather) the food was superb. Another thing worth mentioning about Splendido, is that our server Steve, knew the dishes and ingredients well enough to know what had gluten and what did not, they were able to alter my entree and dessert to make sure that it was gluten-free, I love that assurance. I would have liked to take photos of each course, but I left my camera in the car and decided it was far more important to just enjoy the meal. Instead I shot a photo on my iPhone at the start of my meal and at the end. You’ll just have to go to Splendido to experience the rest yourself.