As I mentioned yesterday, K and I visited Canada once again, this time to Niagara Falls/Toronto.
The falls were breathtaking, although I doubt that words or photographs can do their majestic beauty justice.
"The poetry of the earth is never dead." -John Keats
Serious awe, however, was broken when the wind and water blew us up like big blue blobs.
Eventually we deboarded the Maid of the Mist to grab a quick bite to eat before contining on to Toronto. I had a wrap with roasted vegetables and a side salad. It was mediocre and overpriced but views of this...
made it all the more worth it. Incredible.We walked until we stumbled upon the Second Life. A comedy club was just what the doctor ordered, right?! K and I were happy to find that it was free improv night too, so even though we walked in late, we were able to be seated right away. And then the lights came on. We only heard the punch line. Yep, everything seemed to be going in our favor.. Defeated, we walked up to King Street, our one last hope for Canadian fun to be had. This popular block is known for it's chic restaurants, bars, and clubs but nothing sparked our attention.
Three hours later, we had made it into Toronto, stopped at our hotel, rested up, got ready, and were on our way to dinner and drinks. We began, as planned, at Fazooli's. K had been raving about it all week, many drinks were on special that night, but it was overall, devastating. Neither of us could finish our disgusting beverages nor our horrific appetizers. We quickly paid the bill, left most of our order, and went on our way to a nearby pub. Much to my dismay, we were carded, and I, of course, had forgotten to bring my license with me. Feeling more optimistic than ever (sarcasm) we moved on.
Suddenly, a man's voice called out as we passed him: "Why don't you ladies come in so I can buy you a drink?" Great, we thought, not only is this night a complete bust but now we're being hit on by a creep. "No, really," he continued, "we just opened our restaurant and we're trying to drive in customers." Oh, well, in that case :) K and I turned around and strolled right on into serendipity at
Flabbergasted, we ordered the pizza funghi. K and I could not believe how beyond wonderful our night had become! And following our order, it got even better when we were served a not-yet-on-the-bar-menu appetizer courtesy of the kitchen. It was, according to the bartender, "their twist on chips and dip," but it was oh so much more. The small fried balls of the tater-sort were hardly over-salted but bursting with crunchy flavor, and the fantastic cream sauce was complete perfection.
It was at some point in these glorious moments that I shared my food blogging identity with our new friend, and before I knew it, was then introduced to their executive chef, Christopher Palik. After chatting for a bit, he offered to give K and I a personal tour of the restaurant, an offer we surely could not refuse.
He walked us into their main dining room (we had been sitting at the bar) which was decorated seamlessly with white and black accents against the natural wood tables and gorgeous exposed brick walls. Lights, both white and colored, added a warm and welcoming touch to the sophisticated atmosphere.
From there we entered the immaculate kitchen. Christopher explained how consciously he had designed the location of the different food prep locations and how he had chosen he staff. Over the three weeks since the restaurant had been established they'd worked diligently, making sure to take advantage of the slow but steady customer flow in order to become acclimated with their new atmosphere, system, and coworkers.
He also motioned us towards their beautiful pizza oven that he had chosen from Italy. Although we did not order from their regular dinner menu, K and I learned that their food is a modern twist to traditional favorites. Items that I found especially intriguing include the roasted golden beets and goat cheese appetizer with pistachios and pomegranate, fettuccine with pesto pasta with green and yellow string beans, cannellini truffled honey. It all most definitely brings a whole new meaning to "holy yum."
Downstairs, Christopher showed us where they make their pastas, and breads, and pastries. It was amazing to see the area so clean and organized when it was surely bustling with noise and movement that very morning. Perhaps most impressive however, is not their culinary creations, but their food philosophy: everything on their menu is created daily from the freshest and highest-quality ingredients. I believe there was also a mention of local food? Either way, I was so impressed with his, and thus, the restaurant's values.
Health, is, of course, a primary concern of mine when it comes to nourishment but I also highly value pleasure. Knowing that the magnificent foods I had already eaten and would soon eat were made with such care and thought made the experience that much more enjoyable.
Before heading back upstairs to our cooling pizza, Christopher also showed us their growing wine cellar. We were blown away! Each bottle behind the glass doors was chosen by their staff sommelier from all of the major wine regions around the world. "The great thing here," he told us, "is that even the best wines are affordable." Plus, they would need to purchase at least double what they already have to fill the space. I can't recall ever hearing anything so great.
Afterwards, we were welcomed back to our seats with this delightful creation. The superbly crisp, thin-crusted white pizza was topped with roasted mushrooms, thyme, and fontina cheese. I know that I often rave about good food, but my friends, let me just tell you that this entire pie was out of this world, better than nearly any other Italian-style pizza I have ever had outside of Italy. I would assume that the oil was truffle, and when paired with the other pure ingredients, to say that it was divine would be an understatement.
The entire Paese staff truly brought generosity to another level. During the time that they had so graciously filled (and re-filled) our wine glasses, served us a complete meal, and explained the ins and outs of the entire culinary and service creation, we got a real taste of their genuine goodness. The restaurant business is a tough one, it requires talent and perseverance and, in my opinion, character. I can't imagine that this ristorante is going to be anything but ridiculously successful.
As a small token of our gratitude, K and I ordered the flourless triple chocolate torta with white chocolate mousse and hazelnuts in a better-than-Nutella sauce. It was, unsurprisingly at this point, absolutely outstanding and gloriously light. We could not have been anymore satisfied and comfortable and pleased.
Our experience at Paese Ristorante was phenomenal. I am so very thankful to Tony, Christopher, and all for the opportunity to have it and am anxiously awaiting our next visit. If you're ever in the area, I recommend it wholeheartedly, and a million times over. And when you do go, please let me know all about it.
It truly was "a kitchen away from home" complete with family, friends, laughter, and love.