SUMMERLICIOUS 2019: Sweet Sicilian pizza pie @ Piano Piano

Now, I gotta take my trucker hat off to Piano Piano — where some places only give you 3-4 choices for Summerlicious, this place gives you a full menu, including pizza, pasta, meat and fish — not to mention six different starters and five different desserts to choose from! It’s hard to pick a favourite from so much great grub, but when it came to the apps, I knew I had to go with the garlic cheese bread. Dude, this is body by garlic cheese bread!!!

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Now, when I went with the garlic cheese bread, I figured I’d be getting a couple of garlic toasts — not a full freakin’ pizza! You’ve got mozza, you’ve got parma, rosemary and oregano all on a thin, chewy crust that even comes with its own scissors! Man, if I knew I’d be eating this much garlic bread, I wouldn’t have ordered a pizza as the main course:

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Now, this Sweet Sicilian was a little more on the savoury side, with fennel sausage, red onions, basil, oregano and flor di latte. The cheese wasn’t evenly spread out, so you just got these big mouthfuls here and there…not that I’m complaining. And yes, I did eat two full pizzas — and I still had room for a whole lotta dessert:

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Don’t let that giant glass plate fool ya — this chocolate layer cake was freakin’ huge! This dessert was supposed to be for two people, and it could probably feed a family of four, but once I showed them my Flavourtown citizenship, they knew it would be just a light snack for me. You’ve got all kinds of chocolate, including chocolate chunks and chocolate icing, some caramel sauce, and then a waffle cone full of vanilla ice cream — that’s at least two scoops, right there:

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But hey, even though that was the most chocolate I’ve shoved down my cakehole since that one time, at Wildfire Steakhouse, you KNOW I ate the whole thing, o solo mio, bro!!!

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SUMMERLICIOUS 2019: Tacos & burgers & churros… Yeah bro!

So, we’re hanging out at Craft Beer Market, where they’re serving up a few of my favourite things for Summerlicious — we’re talking tacos, we’re talking ’bout burgers, we’re talking churros for dessert…and oh yeah, craft beer!!!

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These cubano street tacos come two to an order, but you could almost stuff all of this into one double-shell taco. (I didn’t, though.) You’ve got pulled pork, fried onions, cilantro and a citrusy mustard mojo — shut the back door, bro!

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For the main event, we’re going Classic Burger — two beef patties, pickles, lettuce, tomato, special sauce… Of course, I paid a buck fiddy to add bacon, cuz the first rule of Flavourtown is always add bacon!!!

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Now, for dessert we’re talking churros, sprinkled with icing sugar and sprayed with an imperial-stout infused Nutella. But you KNOW that’s not the only alcohol heading straight down my beerhole, bro!!!

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This Shaggin’ Wagon IPA from Stray Dog is like a boogie van in Flavourtown! It’s got a nice citrus kick, but not too hoppy at 55 IBU…and it kinda sneaks up on you at 6.4%.

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This Electric Unicorn White IPA is basically my spirit animal…if my spirit animal was a beer. It’s surprisingly smooth for 75 IBUs, and at 6.5%, it’s also not for wimps!!!

SUMMERLICIOUS 2019: East Coast meets Far East @ Aviv

So, we’re hanging out at Aviv, this funky little joint on Dupont, right next to the Psycho Therapy Training Centre. Gimme gimme shock treatment, bro!!! Now, this place mixes Italian with Middle Eastern, with some crazy dishes that will blow your mind…like these PEI mussels with kimchi, gochujang and Chinese sausage:

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OK, now let’s break it down. The mussels are nicely steamed, you’ve got a bit of kick from the jalapeno, a little funk from the sausage, some crunchy bean sprouts…but what makes it is the kimchi. That’s some killer kimchi, dude!!!

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Now, for the main event, we’ve got some tender pork tenderloin swimming in a mango-lime sauce, with sweet potatoes, collard greens and french fries. OK, so the fries aren’t normally part of this dish, but this is body by french fried potaters, bro!!!

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Sadly, their desserts were so small that I had to eat two of them. The lemon cheesecake was pretty tasty, but as for the flourless chocolate cake…let’s just say it needs flour!!!

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I washed this all down with a Moroccan Brown Ale from Spearhead Brewing, which they’ve got on tap. Just look at that creamy head — mmm, creamy head…

SUMMERLICIOUS 2019: $33 steak dinner @ The Oakwood Hardware

So, we’re hanging out at The Oakwood Hardware, this funky neighbourhood joint just a few bus stops away from Eglinton West. I had never been to, or even heard of this place before, but their Summerlicious menu looked pretty legit — we’re talking steak and shrimp, and shrimp and steak, all for just 33 bucks, bro!!!

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But first, let’s talk about these green chili corn fritters. Dem deep-fried dough boys are back with corn, a little green onion, with some tangy jalapeno crema on top — I could slam, like, 22 of these…but we still gotta save room for the main course:

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OK, first of all the steak is cooked perfectly — a nice medium rare. You’ve got three decent-sized shrimp on top, a little chimichurri, some tasty fries and a few veggies on the side, for added colour, I guess. This definitely hit the spot. But of course, because this is Summerlicious, you gotta have room for dessert!!!

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Now dessert is where they definitely kick it up a notch. In the back you’ve got what they’re calling Strawberry Fields — it’s a scoop of strawberry cheesecake ice cream, a whole lotta matcha and a strawberry ice cream float, with cotton candy around the rim. That dish is so outta bounds…if you like strawberries. But me, I had to go with the black forest doughnuts:

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Dude, this has gotta be the best dessert I’ve had all month — I’ve still got a few Summerlicious dishes to go, though. The doughnuts are baked like a cake, and then you’ve got a lotta chocolate sauce, sour cherries and some whipped cream on top… You could put this on a flip-flop, and it would still taste good!!!

 

SUMMERLICIOUS 2019: Big, beefy burger @ Batch

Now, I’m no stranger to paying 38 bucks for a burger, so when I saw that Batch was serving up its signature Batch burger, plus two other courses, for just 23 dollars, I was all over that like beef on a bun, bro! Their Summerlicious menu starts off with apps like salad, tomato soup, peas on toast…or these fishy flavour nuggets in Flavourtown, fried squid:

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This I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-calamari comes served on a bed of basil and a smoked tartar sauce, and the breading’s got a bit of a kick. They were quite tasty, but aren’t calamari supposed to be round?

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Now, me and this burger are a match made in Flavourtown Heaven, aka Austin, Texas. Patty is nice and thick, cooked to not-quite medium, and topped with swiss cheese, pickles and a bit of lettuce — the meat to veggie ratio on this bun is just the way I like it. And then you’ve got a great big pile of some of the thickest fries I’ve even seen — these are like three-bite French fries, bro!!!

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Now, you know the first rule of Summerlicious is “Always save room for dessert,” and I’m definitely gonna go with the most chocolatey thing on the menu:

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This chocolate tart was packed with dark-chocolate richness and some hazelnut crunch, but I don’t really get the frozen orange stuff on top. (Mine was a little pulpy.) Still, I gotta say, it totally satisfied my sweet tooth!!!

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Of course, because Batch is a craft brewpub, you KNOW I’m not gonna order a Coors Light, bro! This Creemore Springs Boundless IPA was a nice balance of hops and citrus, with just a little bit of sweetness at the end. Maybe they couldda poured some of this on that chocolate tart instead…

SUMMERLICIOUS 2019: Fancy duck confit @ Bymark

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — Summerlicious has come back to Toronto, bro! You know I’m a fan of eating three funky dishes for the price of one…an appetizer, main course and dessert, all for a set price between 23 and 53 bucks. This year, we’re starting off at the high end at Bymark, this funky little Mark McEwan joint in the Financial District. For Summerlicious, they’re rolling out stuff you won’t find on the menu, like these fried green tomatoes with crispy pork belly:

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You know what I say — anything deep-fried has gotta be delicious, and these fried green tomatoes were no exception. The crispy pork belly lived up to its crispiness, and then you’ve got a little freshness from the sour cream, and a nice corn salsa… Not a bad way to get things started!

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Dude, this duck definitely didn’t suck! Nice and roasted, kinda like chicken, with more veggies than I ate all of last month! I mean, they even managed to make Brussels sprouts taste good, and they’re like the Axis of Evil in Flavourtown!!!

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I probably couldn’t tell you the last time I ate a profiterole — what is that, French or something? But when you stuff it with a chocolate stout ice cream, I’m all in. You could put that on a sandale de plage, and it would still taste good!!!

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Now, unlike some fancy-schmancy places, that have like 72 wines and 3 beers to choose from, Bymark actually has a pretty big beer list — and it’s not all Molson, either. I went with a Ball’s Falls Session IPA from Bench Brewing Company, which has some hoppy goodness, but is much more crushable than your average IPA, at just 4.5%. Dude, I could probably crush, like, 17 of these…

Maybe pigs can’t fly, but they still got wings…

So, we’re hanging out at Mackies Southern BBQ, this cozy little family-run joint on the ground floor of a house, across the street from a hospital in Frederick, Maryland. This place is known as one of the best BBQ joints in town, but alongside your standard BBQ dishes like beef brisket, pulled pork and ribs, they’re also funking it up with the likes of BBQ nachos, crab cakes and these three little pigs of Flavourtown, the Texas Hog Wild Pork Wings:

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Now, these meaty monstrosities come slathered in a BBQ sauce with a nice little kick, and then there’s a side of garlic parm to cool things off. It’s kinda like a cross between a rib and a drumstick, minus the Wet-Naps. And speaking of sides, you get three wings and two sides for just 16 bucks, bro! Me, I went with mac ‘n cheese and potato salad:

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The mack daddy was nice ‘n hot, you can tell it wasn’t just sitting around somewhere. A good amount of cheesiness, creamy texture, and a few bites of pepper, for that extra kick.

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Potato salad also tasted nice and fresh, not too much mayo — you don’t even need to add raisins, bro!

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Now, unfortunately you can’t get beer here, but a nice cold glass of homemade lemonade sure hits the spot!!!