Tag Archives: dinner

Niagara Falls by Andrea Baptista

Weekend Trips from NYC: Toronto and Niagara Falls

How about a trip to Canada?

Ryan and I just took a quick trip up to Niagara Falls and Toronto.  He had never been to Canada so I tried to throw together a few things I loved about my road trips as a kid.

We took a straight shot drive up to Niagara Falls for about 6.5 hours from New York City on a Friday night.  We just missed the falls lit up, so definitely check the schedule and plan accordingly.

The Sheraton on the Falls Hotel is a great deal–we paid ~$90 for the most basic room and were upgraded to a high floor with a great view of the falls with Starwood Gold status.

In the morning this is what we woke to:

Niagara Falls

After a quick drive and walk along the falls to see them from different vantage points on the Canadian side (arguably the better view), we drove up to Toronto.

Our first stop is a New York Times favorite–Lai Wah Heen.  First picked up by FloFab in 1997 and reappearing many-a-times, the restaurant claims many dim sum hearts as people’s favorite Cantonese stop in Toronto.  Everything was spot on and came out piping hot (often an issue with dim sum in North America and the popular cart style service).  Make sure to order these cute pig shaped glutinous rice meat fritters with garlic ears:

Glutinous Rice Fritters from Lai Wah Heen by Andrea Baptista
After dim sum and driving around Downtown to see the CN Tower, we struggled with what to do.  As a kid all I did in Toronto was visit family, see Blue Jays vs. Yankees games, go Chinese goods shopping and eat Chinese food.  Not to discount how awesome the Chinese shopping and food is, but I could understand the lack of appeal for someone in Toronto for the first time, and January isn’t exactly baseball season.   Luckily, Ryan had a great idea: hockey.

With the Toronto Maple Leafs out of town, we were left with a minor league Toronto Marlies game. It was actually a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it!

Same day online tickets are limited–by the time we decided to go, they were no longer for sale. Luckily Ryan wasn’t dissuaded and we walked up the ticket counter at Ricoh Coliseum with a bunch of well-garbed fans (and an unpleasant scalper who tried to sell us tickets for 20 CAD).  Turns out there aren’t many levels at the stadium–just the 100s and the ~5 row lower level by the ice so all the seats are great. Our tickets in Row G of section 101 face value was 37.50 CAD, but a lovely woman approached on the ticket line to give them to us for free (so nice!).  The stadium capacity was 7.8k and our crowd was at 7.5k so even for a rivals game, I’m sure there were plenty of last minute seats left.

The local crowd was great and really into the game–this furry guy, Duke, teasing a fan from the opposing team helped too:
Duke at a Toronto Marlies Game

That night we ate some awesome Cantonese style casual food and checked into the Sheraton Parkway Hotel.  A no frills decent Sheraton with a really low rate at ~$90, the hotel is right in the center of really great Cantonese food!  We woke up and went to eat amazing rice noodles and congee at Sam’s then started our trek back.
Sam's Congee Delight by Andrea Baptista

On the way back to New York we stopped at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, home of the original Buffalo wings.

All in all, a great quick trip!  If we had flip flopped and did Toronto first then Niagara we would have made it back in time for the last tour at 1:30 of the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin D. Martin House and seen the falls at night, but there’s always next time!

 

Sheraton on the Falls
SPG Category 4
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel & Suites
SPG Category 3
Richmond Hill, Ontario

Lai Wah Heen (takes reservations and pre-orders)
Metropolitan Hotel Toronto
108 Chestnut St
Toronto, ON M5G 1R3
+1 416-977-9899

Sam’s Congee Delight (no reservations)
4390 Steeles Ave E
Markham, ON L3R 9V7

See my explanation for staying in Starwood from my last post.

41 grados

41 Grados – Meal of a Lifetime

As someone who travels for food and books reservations before flights, whenever I tell my friends about my time at 41 Grados they pause a bit before asking more.  REALLY?  THAT GOOD?  I’VE NEVER HEARD OF IT! 41 Grados was started by the Adria brothers.  Ferran Adria started El Bulli and many of the techniques used in El Bulli serve as the foundation of 41 Grados. If you missed out on the infamous El Bulli olive, you can get it at 41 Grados and Tickets, the tapas bar that the Adrias opened (and in DC with Jose Andres).

Getting Reservations Both Tickets and 41 Grados are relatively difficult reservations so you’ll have to book a month in advance.  In both of my early Winter trips, 41 Grados would book up 2-3 weeks prior, but Tickets would book up instantly on the day reservations are released online.  Of course, you should always check back for cancellations, but you’re less likely to see that at 41 Grados because there is a 50 Euro deposit.

The Experience Incredible.  Albert and Ferran created an “experience” for lucky diners–inclusive of moving projected images and music as the Albert takes you around the world with food.  Depending how die hard you are–you’ll probably want the first seating’s courses;  If you sit through the the later seating, your dishes won’t line up with the music though I doubt anyone would have really noticed unless they asked! Likely you’ll sit there asking what items on the plate you can eat or not eat because all the food is presented in such a bizarre or fun way.  This probably goes without saying, but not only does every dish have a perfect presentation, it all was delicious!  I nearly forgot to note the cocktails that come with the tasting–frankly, I wonder why all cocktails aren’t as beautiful or wild as the ones at 41 Grados! Whether it is edible “leaves” and “pearls” or the perfectly branded ice cubes, you will probably leave impressed and excited about eating in a way you’ve never felt before. Go now! Nom.

 

Tamago at Sushi Nakazawa

Sushi Nakazawa

I’m not sure if NY’s supposedly best sushi restaurant is actually the best. Everything is GREAT. Nakazawa, the man himself, has an incredible personality, fish is freshly sourced from our two coasts and Japan, and service is spot-on.  However, I still prefer Sushi Yasuda which certainly isn’t as hard of a reservation–you’ll need luck getting a reservation at Nakazawa now that they have four stars from the NY Times.

The whole sushi bar is seated at the same time, and omakase service mostly starts together.  If one person is very late, likely the whole service will be a little behind (that was me, whoops!).

Here are some photos:

www.sushinakazawa.com/?

 23 Commerce St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 924-2212

 

 

SD: Black Hills Burger and Bun

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During our stay in Custer, SD, the closest hotel/motel town to Mount Rushmore, we were on the hunt for food (as always). We didn’t have terribly high expectations given our obnoxious NYer attitudes, but this spot was a real shocker! There was a lot of simple charm with fantastic service and lovely local art (like above).

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I’d say it’s my second burger only to the Gramercy Tavern burger, and for a NY point of reference it was better than Five Napkin and Shake Shack! I ordered the double stack, one beef, one buffalo, which tasted a bit more flavorful but not too remarkable.

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The price point fell right into the middle also–at a lovely $10 for a double burger (sans bun because I’m transitioning into paleo **cough cough** ignore those fries).

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The desserts are all homemade, and this was also one of the best pies I’ve ever had. Perfectly sweet coconut custard and a bit of a sweet/salty crust, oh man I want more!

The cute wall outside

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Black Hills Burger and Bun
29 N 5th St
605-673-3411

Brother Jimmy’s UWS

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I had a fabulous time eating overpriced mediocre food and drinking super sugary mixed drinks.  Let’s be blunt, you don’t really go to Brother Jimmy’s to eat good food or find fine cocktails.  My friend and I ordered the Swamp Water (a strange sugary cocktail of well liquor and juice) that comes in a fantastic 64 oz. fish bowl filled with a plastic crocodile and neon straws.  By far the highlight of the meal, despite how disgusting it truly was.

Of course we were extra courageous after the fish bowl to starting using flash…haha.

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Oh and we also ordered the Jimmy’s Pig Pick to share.  Hush puppies were dry, along with all the meat.  I wouldn’t recommend the food and definitely wouldn’t expect more than a (almost cheap) bro bar.  They are all over the city, but in the future I think I’m going to just stick to beer and I suggest you do too.  Pick up some Fette Sau or Hill Country instead.

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