MICHELIN STARS

Last night I was watching Three Stars, a documentary on Netflix following restaurants around the world that have earned the coveted three Michelin star rating. While watching the show, especially seeing how the rating system was received with an icy welcome in Japan, I thought back to my own experiences so far with the Michelin star system. To date I’ve been to 3 Michelin rated restaurants and thus far have enjoyed each meal and will continue to look for restaurants that have received stars when I’m travelling. I’ve also had outstanding meals at non star restaurants and currently there are no Michelin star restaurants in Canada.

My strategy is to look for tasting menus or lunches to make the dining experience more affordable. It’s been working so far and I do love researching new restaurants.

Dovetail – 1 Star – NYC, USA
Visited: July 2011

Michelin Stars
  • Sunday dinner, 3 course set menu: $58, regular dinner, 4 course set menu: $88
    • I was lucky enough to be able to make a reservation for Sunday night and it worked with when I was in NYC
    • Dovetail also offers a Chef Tasting menu for each night with an option for wine pairings
  • Dovetail is located right by Central Park and is a perfect stop after an afternoon of wandering through nature if you’re doing the tourist thing.
  • Presentation was beautiful, rich and hearty flavours

Arbutus – 1 Star – London, UK
Visited: August 2011

Michelin Stars
  • Pre-theatre dinner, 2 courses £18.95, 3 courses £20.95
  • Located in the theatre district, this was the perfect location to grab dinner before watching Les Miserables while in London
  • The restaurant offered a relaxed and intimate feel
  • A great value option for London, their sister restaurant Wild Honey is also a great choice with a 3 course lunch menu for £29 and dinner entrees ranging from £12 to £35

Le Bristol Restaurant – 3 Star – Paris, France
Visited: September 2011

Michelin Stars
  • Summer lunch set €85, including drinks, tax, coffee, came to €140
  • Situated in Le Bristol hotel, our lunch spanned a good 3 hours, had over 10 courses (including cheese, petite fours and amuse bouches and special bread for certain course) and is still the best meal I’ve ever had.
  • The service was impeccable, honestly they put up with three excited, giggling Asian girls who wanted to take pictures of everything with a level of class and friendliness that was exceptional.
  • The food was too die for. This meal made me realize I didn’t dislike cheese, a belief that I had held for all my life, and opened up my palate to appreciate a whole new set of flavours.
  • The technique of each dish was also mind boggling. One of the entries was squid, cut to mimic grains of rice and cooked like a risotto. That dish still haunts me today.
  • It was an experience that made me fall even more in love with food and is one of the reasons why this blog exists.
  • After a lot of Googling, I’m not sure if the lunch menu at Le Bristol is still available or not, which would be sad. I had an amazing experience and would have highly recommended the meal to anyone looking for a “affordable” Michelin Star experience in Paris

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WINTER BLUES

Without fail, every year February is a hard month to get through. It’s the shortest month but somehow feels the longest. I must have been a tortoise or bear in a previous life because all I want to do is hibernate. My entire being slows down and motivation is at an all time low.

It’s understandable, it’s the end of a long winter, it’s downtime after the holidays and it’s still cold and dreary. It’s hard to wake up in the mornings and it’s annoying to still have to wear two pairs of pants! I’m also not a winter sport person. So instead, I catch up on anime, video games, TV shows and root into my couch for far too long. Spring cleaning is around the corner, but until then the vacuum can stay int he closet for one more day.

I have hope though. It’s not dark when I leave work anymore, my cat’s starting to shed his winter coat and the calender tells me it’s almost March.

In the meantime, I’ll get through this by drinking a little more coffee, eating a little more chocolate and exercising a little more for endorphins. Next year though, I’m booking a vacation somewhere warm.

TIME MANAGEMENT 101

I’ve always had an agenda, starting from the school issued planners to my current colour coded Google Calendar version. I still prefer to plan with a pen and paper but the easy access and sharing of a digital calendar is slowly winning me over. The past week has been overwhelming with trying to fit in Winterlicious, family commitments, laundry, grocery shopping, poutine week and blogging. It really showed this Monday when I forgot about a morning meeting and lunch plans. Oops.

It’s always worrisome to start a week looking forward to the weekend for free time to catch up on life. My coping method has always been to compulsively schedule my day, which usually takes up more time than I can afford but it’s a calming process. Once I have a plan, with buffer built in, I know what’s possible and what I have to cut. Last week, I ended up cancelling a Winterlicious reservation because I knew I was trying to squeeze in too many things.

I still over extend myself and fill my calendar back to back. I’m still learning my limitations and how to say no to family and friends without feeling guilty.

I know I can do everything, but for the sake of sanity and sleep, I should plan for 80%. To do this I try to follow these steps:

  • Put everything into the calendar and keep it up to date
  • Figure out your priorities for the week
  • Make sure there’s white space in the calendar, that’s precious downtime!
  • Account for travel/prep time for events
  • Don’t worry about the Curse of the Blitz

My priorities this week:

  1. Finish up Winterlicious blog posts
  2. Get 8 hours of sleep
  3. Spend some quality couch time with my kitty watching the Olympics
Couch Potato Cat

Couch Potato Cat

 

TORONTO RAMEN, WHO’S THE BEST?

Japanese Ramen in Toronto became an emerging trend with the arrival of Kenzo and has continued to thrive with a slew of new restaurants opening the past few years. Today, the downtown core has to offer a plentiful variety of choices when one is craving a hot bowl of noodles.

My love of ramen started with a package of Mr. Noodles when I was in elementary school. I always drank all of the broth (yes, salt, I know!) and of course ate the noodles raw, crushed, and shaken with the seasoning. As my family moved around Canada and eventually settled in Toronto, suddenly I had access to so many more brands and types of instant noodles. Nong Shim, Nissin, kimchi flavour, udon noodles; needless to say I was a happy girl. The cup noodle has a special place in my heart for it’s convenience and ability to brighten my lunch in a compact package but I’ll always love cooking instant noodles and adding my poached egg. During my two trips to Japan, my diet consisted of sashimi and ramen and for once I didn’t get odd looks for drinking all my broth!

xiaoEats at the Cup Noodle Museum in Japan

xiaoEats at the Cup Noodle Museum in Japan

What I look for in a bowl of ramen are three things:

  1. The noodles – are they chewy? has a good texture? not doughy and not over done?
  2. The broth – is it rich? how much fat is there? is it bland? and even for me, is it too salty?
  3. The toppings – what’s included? is there an egg? how’s the meat cooked? garlic paste? bamboo? seaweed? is there a good portion and balance?

Based on these criteria, here’s my ranking of Toronto Ramen shops (as of Jan. 30th 2014)

  1. Sansotei – 5.0 $ @ 179 Dundas St W
  2. Santouka – 4.5 $ @ 91 Dundas St E
  3. Niwatei Ramen – 4.5 $ @ 3160 Steeles Ave E
  4. Kinton Ramen – 3.5 $ @ 51 Baldwin St
  5. Ramen Raijin – 3.5 $ @ 3 Gerrard St E
  6. Touhenboku Ramen – 3.5 $ @ 261 Queen St W
  7. Ryoji Ramen – 3.5 $$ @ 690 College St
  8. Kenzo – 3.5 $ @ 4860 Yonge St
Toronto Ramen, Who’s the Best?

Still to come:

  1. Momofuku Noodle Bar
  2. Ryus Noodle Bar
  3. Ramen Isshin