Woodenheads Gourmet Pizza (Kingston)

I love eating thin rustic Neapolitan pizza. My favourite one in Toronto has always been Pizzeria Libretto on Ossington. On my first dinner in Kingston, my friend Cynthia highly recommended Woodenheads Gourmet Pizza, since she and her family loved this place and it’s also one of the most popular restaurants in the area.

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Woodenheads Gourmet Pizza (Twitter: @Woodenheads) is located at Kingston’s waterfront, close to the Kingston City Hall. It’s where all the actions and events are happening during summer weekends. Atmosphere is young and vibrant, good for families and dates. Tables are quite close together so noise level can be high at times. Reservations are highly recommended especially if you want to visit this place during weekends.

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Woodenheads offers a two page menu with lots of options. First page lists dishes such as tapas, appetizers, salads, and focaccia breads. The next page is an extensive selection of gourmet pizzas based on sauces – tomato, white, or green, or in between. There is also the “Jack’s Choice” for customers to build their own pizza.

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If that’s not enough, they also offer a daily special menu up on the wall.

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daily special

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Customers can watch their pizzas being prepared fresh and cooked in the wood fire oven in an open kitchen.

We decided to each get our own pizza for dinner. I had a hard time deciding what I should get while studying the menu, while Cynthia and her family, who were regular customers, had quickly picked out their favourite toppings.

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Citta (pomodoro sauce, brie, caramelized onion, prosciutto, fresh basil)

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Jack’s Choice (tomato sauce, mozzarella, artichoke hearts and portabello mushrooms)

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Another Jack’s Choice with blackened chicken

I finally decided upon one of the popular choices, Citta, on the menu and I really liked it! The sweetness of brie and caramelized onion really stood out, while prosciutto gave slight saltiness to the pizza but not overpowering. Crust was a bit thicker than I would usually prefer, but it was light and soft. I had not tried the other pizzas but heard great things from my friend. We weren’t big eaters so we ended up bringing the leftovers to the beach the next day. Surprisingly they still tasted good even when they were left inside a cooler!

Woodenheads definitely deserves to be one of the best pizza places in Kingston. I would say it’s even one of the best pizza places I have been so far in Ontario! I would definitely recommend anyone to come and visit this awesome restaurant while in Kingston. :)

Wooden Heads Gourmet Pizza on Urbanspoon

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Harper’s Burger Bar (Kingston)

Last week I was on my road trip to visit my childhood friend, Cynthia, who moved to Kingston a couple of years ago. As much as I kept telling her I would visit, I could never find a perfect summer weekend to drive up there. Finally I picked up my car key and off to visit this little old city.

Kingston is indeed quite small and cozy. People seem to enjoy their lives more than those in Toronto. To my surprise this city also houses some tasty local food joints. Harper’s Burger Bar is definitely one of them!

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Harper’s Burger Bar (Twitter: @HarpersBurgers), a sister restaurant to Le Chien Noir Bistro, Atomica Gourmet Pizza and Wine Bar and Dianne’s Fishbar, competes with several burger joints such as the Works Burger and Five Guys Burger, which also base its home in Kingston downtown. It has a casual and friendly atmosphere, with 4 flat screen TV’s showing various shows at the same time and a huge menu written on the wall at the back. We went for our late lunch on that day so it was fairly quiet. At prime time it is often packed with students and families.

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When I first looked at the menu, I was a bit overwhelmed by its choices. There were so many styles to choose from ~ patty, bun, sauce, condiment, sides. There was also a BYOB (build your own burger) option for those who want to have total control of their tastes. Our friendly server suggested me a couple of the most popular choices, and I ended up picking a beef burger on a whole wheat bun in “Umami” style – brie, balsamic candied onions, soya glazed mushrooms, white truffle aioli.

Umami Burger – brie, balsamic candied onions, soya glazed mushrooms, white truffle aioli

“Umami” Burger with fries – brie, balsamic candied onions, soya glazed mushrooms, white truffle aioli

The burger came out very hot, and it was so delicious! I really liked the fresh ingredients as well as the sweetness in the candied onions and white truffle aioli. The 6-oz burger was juicy and it was definitely much bigger than it looked. It was so thick that it was pretty messy to eat.

Too bad I was already full after finishing the burger so I couldn’t try their shakes and floats (OMG, boozy floats too!) There was also a long cocktail, beer and wine list which I hope I would come back to try next time when I visit Kingston again. :)

Bravo, Harper’s!

Harper's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

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El Catrin

Last week I was invited to a media preview dinner at El Catrin (Twitter: @elcatrinca), a new Mexican restaurant located in the trendy Toronto’s Distillery District area. I must admit my Mexican dining experiences were only limited to tacos and burritos prior to this dinner, so I was very excited to try out some creative and modern Mexican dishes.

El Catrin welcome drink

El Catrin welcome drink

vibrant dining scene

vibrant dining scene

El Catrin replaced the old Boiler House location, and was transformed into an energetic and modern space with striking design by Mung Leung Interior Design firm. When I first entered the restaurant, I was blown away by the jaw-dropping gorgeous design and artwork. The wall mural was huge – it was forty-foot long and twenty-two foot high!  It was so bright and colorful that kept my eyes wandering for a long time. The mood was mysterious yet energetic and fun.

impressive wall mural

impressive wall mural

wall mural

wall mural

Various decorations and artwork throughout the restaurant were brought in directly from Mexico as well. Kudos to the design team!

Mexican artwork

Mexican artwork

stone chamber

stone chamber

wall decoration

wall decoration

Executive Chef Olivier Le Calvez (Twitter: @ChefLeCalvez), a native Mexican, brought over his twenty-four years of experiences in French Mexican cuisine to this new restaurant. We were delighted to try out Chef Olivier’s seven-sampling courses and dessert with cocktail drink pairings in that evening.

Executive Chef Olivier Le Calvez

Executive Chef Olivier Le Calvez

1st course
Guacamole en la Mesa ~ avocado, tomato, red onion, fresh cilantro, serrano chili
Nueces Picante ~ glazed pecans, peanuts and walnuts rubbed with a blend of three Mexican chilies
cocktail pairing: Traditional Margarita Milagro Blanco, triple sec, agave nectar, citrus

three different chili as condiment

three different chili as condiment

Guacamole en la Mesa

Guacamole en la Mesa

Traditional Margarita

Traditional Margarita

I enjoyed the guacamole mashed with a mortar and pestle right in front of me. It’s very fresh and tasty.

2nd course
Ceviche de Atun ~ fresh tuna, lime juice, olive oil, watermelon, chive and habanero mignonette
Vuelve a la Vida El Catrin ~ east coast oyster with a ceviche of shrimp, octopus, bay scallops, red onion, cucumber, jicama and acapulco cocktail sauce
cocktail pairing: Pepino Diablo Milagro Blanco, muddled cucumber, Serrano peppers, agave nectar, citrus, Tajin rim (cucumber drink)

Ceviche de Atun

Ceviche de Atun

Vuelve a la Vida El Catrin

Vuelve a la Vida El Catrin

Pepino Diablo

Pepino Diablo

This was my favourite course. Tuna was very fresh, and the added watermelon helped reduce the heat from habanero peppers and added extra sweetness to the fish. Oyster and seafood ceviche was another hit. I also loved the freshness of this cucumber drink. Cucumber flavour was very pronounced ~ perfect for a hot summer afternoon! The rim was seasoned with Tajin powder, a very popular seasoning in Mexico. It is widely used in various Mexican dishes.

3rd course
Tacos al Pastor ~ corn tortilla filled with shaved pork marinated with axiote with pineapple, fresh cilantro and chopped onion
cocktail pairing: Fuego Sandia ~Tromba Blanco, St. Germaine, Agua Sandia, lemon juice, Tajin rim

Tacos al Pastor

Tacos al Pastor

Fuego Sandia

Fuego Sandia

Shaved pork mixed with pineapple cilantro marinate was fragrant. The salty and spicy rim of the watermelon drink balanced out the sweetness perfectly.

4th course
Tostada de Higado de Pato ~ hot seared foie gras, el Catrin made tostada, mezcal mango syrup, poblano and red onion relish
cocktail pairing: Hibisco RosaMilagro Blanco, Patron Citronage, hibiscus syrup, rosewater, citrus (hibiscus rosewater drink)

Tostada de Higado de Pato

Tostada de Higado de Pato

Hibisco Rosa

Hibisco Rosa

I liked the idea of foie gras pairing with sweet mango and onion relish, unfortunately I found my foie gras a little bit too pungent. Would prefer adding more heat to get some kick.

5th course
Ensalda de Nopal ~ cactus salad, onion, tomato, fresh cilantro, radish with tequila lemon vinaigrette
cocktail pairing: Mojito Reposado Milagro Reposado, agave nectar, muddled mint, fresh lime, soda

Ensalda de Nopal

Ensalda de Nopal

Mojito Reposado

Mojito Reposado

It was my first time eating cactus in my life! Cactus has a crisp texture and tangy vegetal taste, yet it’s also a bit slimy.  Chef Olivier added a very nice vinaigrette to bring out the freshness of cactus salad. I enjoyed it a lot. It was very unique. Be sure to order this dish next time!

6th course
Camarones al Ajillo ~ jumbo shrimp sauteed with guajillo, garlic, lime juice, white wine, over red rice, black bean puree and guacamole
cocktail pairing: Zarzamora Jaral del Barrio Joven, Patron Citronage, muddled blackberries, cilantro, citrus (blackberry and cilantro lemonade)

Camarones al Ajillo

Camarones al Ajillo

Zarzamora

Zarzamora

I liked this dish a lot. The shrimp was big and crunchy, while black bean puree was smooth and red rice strong in flavour. I could almost relate this to some Chinese styled dishes. Excellent!

7th course
Costilla Corta en Mole Negro ~ beef short rib braised 24 hours with black mole sauce, sweet potato puree, sautéed sugar snap peas
cocktail pairing: Mayahuel Milagro Reposado, Jagermiester, agave nectar, fresh lemon juice, ginger beer

Costilla Corta en Mole Negro

Costilla Corta en Mole Negro

Mayahuel

Mayahuel

Beef rib was very tender and juicy. However I found this dish a bit salty for my liking.

Dessert
Churros ~ cajeta, chocolate and strawberry mousse
Barra de Choclat ~ double smoked and spiced hazelnut crunch chocolate bar
cocktail pairing: Agua de Coco Patron café, Amarula, coconut water, lemon (with cinnamon stick and caramelized sugar tortilla chip)

Churros with Barra de Choclat

Churros with Barra de Choclat

Agua de Coco

Agua de Coco

As you can probably tell by the photos, the sampling dishes and drinks were quite big in size. I had to keep reminding myself throughout the courses not to finish every dish in order to save room for the next. By the time I had dessert I was literally full. How could a meal be completed without dessert?! I ended up squeezing out my reserved 10% room in my belly to enjoy them.

For those who haven’t tried churro before, it is a deep fried dough pastry snack often referred to as a Spanish doughnut. The dipping sauce that came with churros was a great compliment. I just wished the dipping sauce be thicker for coating. The double smoked and spiced hazelnut crunch chocolate bar was brilliant. I was told the smokiness came from the hazelnut cream being prepared in a smoker. The spiciness gave a mild kick to the chocolate. This delicious dessert made it worth the extra fullness in my tummy. :)

separate dining area on the second floor

separate dining area on the second floor

50 ft long bar

50 ft long bar

tequila bottles sitting on old whisky racks from the Distillery

tequila bottles sitting on old whisky racks from the Distillery

I noticed the fully lit up gorgeous outdoor patio on my way out. It was an enormous area – 5000 sq. ft. – centered around a huge fire pit, perfectly enough to host various parties and events for groups. I’m sure it would be extra nice to gather around the fire pit with cocktail drinks when the weather gets cooler at night.

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El Catrin is a great addition to the Distillery District. Go visit its impressive decor, try out some delicious Mexican dishes and enjoy some amazing cocktails with friends! :)

Note: The meal was complimentary but my review remained unbiased.

El Catrin Destileria on Urbanspoon

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