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Terroni, Mitzi's, Four Seasons etc.

Friday, we had dinner at Terroni, a three-part local chain of pizza and now pasta too. It was crowded. The three times we've gone there since its recent renovation, it's been a Friday or Saturday. The line crowds together against the shelves of imported pastas, oils, mostarda, and bowls. A hopeful man behind us asks if anything's available at the bar. When something is, the first group of two in the line takes it. By the time we're at the front, the line stretches out the door.

Terroni does good salads, tasty and simple. Good Italian food is all about the quality of the ingredients. C. had his quasi-usual, the San Giorgio pizza, thin crust, light, with large, translucent slices of spicy sausage on top. I had the garganelli, a pasta variant I'd not heard of before Terroni, rigatoni-length pasta curled into tubes rather than extruded. The sauce is decent, nothing exciting, but Terroni is good about cooking their pasta to perfection. The texture is right.

Saturday was brunch at Mitzi's with saffronjan. They do good orange juice, a sad rarity among Toronto bruncheries, and is reasonable quantities. More to the point, though, I keep going back for the addictive pancake, practically deep-fried in butter, thick with oatmeal, meltingly good with its usual maple syrup and whipped cream. The toppings and sauces on all their food vary from week to week; only once has a topping disappointed me. Grape jelly and dried apple slices just don't do it for me.

Saturday night we ate at home, a veggie-rich sauce tossed with pesto and pasta. No, I don't get tired of eating pasta, especially when it's good. My thanks to whoever brought the spare Kitling Ridge white for Thanksgiving - it was a tasty, fairly dry wine. (And while we're on the subject of eating at home, tonight C. made a pleasant egg, potato, and zucchini curry. He made the curry powder from scratch, although he greatly lamented our current lack of coriander. Next time.)

A light lunch on Sunday was imperative. C. turned down my offer of soup, and asked for muffins instead. The Joy of Cooking's muffin recipe is good, but it's very limited. As soon as the warmth of oven-freshness has faded, they lose their pleasantness. I should try other recipes. The light lunch was necessary because we were off to the Four Seasons Hotel for afternoon tea, a feast in its own right.

Nearly two months ago, double0hilly and I went to tea at the Four Seasons. It was delicious. A few weeks later, she asked if I'd ever write it up here. "I will!" I swore, but kept postponing it, for no good reason. So here you go... two teas' worth of review:

Afternoon Tea is comfort food. When done in style, it can be extravagant comfort food. That's what tea at the Four Seasons is. The surroundings are tasteful and comfortable, despite being just off of the hotel's main lobby. The service is diligent, but not overbearing. Full linens, silver-shining strainers, china: it's Afternoon Tea with capital letters, and that sense of completion extends to the eats and drinks as well.

Both times we were there, double0hilly and I ordered the Relaxing Tea, an herbal blend which includes mint, camomile, catnip, among other herbs. It's a very smooth tea, no bitterness to it at all. I'm fairly sure it was more finely ground this time than last - I don't remember quite so much of the leaves making it through the tea strainer last time. C. ordered the classic English Breakfast, which he said was slightly weak, even when well-brewed. None of us had mishaps with the tea strainer this time. Last time, I forgot to use the strainer once, and my eating companion rather easily spilled the teapot. The secret is to pour decisively.

The substantial offering of nibbles comes in three layers on a plate rack. On top were a variety of finger-sandwiches, including traditional cucumber sandwiches. Their three-layers-of-bread-thickness made them awkward to eat with fingers. We gave up and opted for knives and forks. Happily, the other finger-sandwiches really were: old cheddar with chutney; slender slices of roast beef twisted into flowers on a delicate bed of mixed apple slivers and horseradish; and smoked salmon and cream cheese on pumpernickel.

I didn't try many of the tartlets and cakelets either time. Elegant and small, they arrived in a sampling variety, raspberry and chocolate layers, strawberry and custard, caramel, key lime pie. Their tastes were slightly dull after the beauty of presentation. The crust on the custard and on the key lime tartlets was dispropotionately thick compared to the filling: they would have benefited from a slighter, flakier crust. C. reports that the caramel confection wasn't any more interesting.

The scones, however, were quite good, especially because they were served with clotted cream, and a good-quality, richly flavored raspberry or strawberry preserve.* High fat content certainly can make dairy tastier.** The scones themselves were smooth-battered, clearly produced for smooth cutting, with no pretence to home-cooked sconey roughness which many have. Also, while perfectly decent, the scones were primarily designed to highlight the flavors of their toppings.

With pleasant service, frequent water-refills, and a grey, rainy day awaiting us outside, we were in no hurry to leave.

* The jams were made by Greaves, from Niagara-on-the-Lake. They're available mail-order, at their retail outlet in Niagara, or from a handful of high-end in-town supermarkets, including the Avenue Road Pusateri's, and Bruno's, the nearest one of which is at 1560 Yonge St.

** Yogurt with fat in it is remarkably hard to find in my local grocery stores these days, but it tastes so much better than low-fat or fat-free yogurt, plus I like the texture much better. Where would I go to buy clotted cream in town, anyways?


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 24th, 2004 08:08 pm (UTC)
Our local Loblaws actually carries clotted cream, for some inexplicable but greatly appreciated reason. If you ever want me to bring you a pot on the way to school, I will gladly. They even have one laced with booze!

Oct. 24th, 2004 08:32 pm (UTC)
With an offer like that, how can I not learn how to bake scones?

Thank you for the lovely offer. I'll keep you posted should clotted cream requirements arise.
Oct. 24th, 2004 08:27 pm (UTC)
Mmmm... I really enjoyed reading this report! I'm very much tempted to try it out too. :)
Oct. 24th, 2004 08:31 pm (UTC)
Tea at the Four Seasons is a lovely, lovely treat once is a while. But be warned - it is $26/person. At least the servings are substantial enough to be a real meal, however delicate it looks. And they're open for afternoon tea 7 days a week. (If you need afternoon school-day sanctuary, they're open 2:30-5 for tea.)
Oct. 24th, 2004 09:03 pm (UTC)
I've always been amused by the restaurant name "Terroni." In Italy, that's a slur used by northern Italians of southerners. You'll find 'Terroni' included in graffiti catalogues of undesirable elements throughout Italy.

Perhaps it's a 'joke immunity' thing.
Oct. 25th, 2004 08:38 am (UTC)
Occasionally regional or ethnic slurs can be taken on as a badge of pride and identity. For their sake, I hope that's what they've done.
Oct. 25th, 2004 04:23 am (UTC)
geni and I used to just beat up our own double cream, not quite the same but the closest one gets to clotted cream at my home town!
Oct. 25th, 2004 08:35 am (UTC)
If only Canadian grocery stores stocked double cream, I could do so! The dairy selection on this side of the ocean just isn't up to that on the other.
Oct. 25th, 2004 09:20 am (UTC)
oh yeah, well here i'd use double cream *sheepish face* Geni and I used heavy cream, sorry :P
Oct. 25th, 2004 08:08 am (UTC)
Royal York
Hi S., your Toronto-events anonymous poster again :-)

I wonder how this afternoon tea compares with the (Fairmount) Royal York's afternoon tea? Every tried that one?

(I hope the link works! If not start here [http://www.fairmont.com/royalyork/] then click on "dining" then "afternoon tea")
Oct. 25th, 2004 08:34 am (UTC)
Re: Royal York
I haven't tried it, but the various reviews of it scattered around the 'net certainly look enticing. I especially like the idea of a full-time dedicated tea sommelier. Other than wine, I wonder what other drinks can boast sommeliers devoted to their service?

There are a number of other restaurants dedicated to British-style afternoon teas around town, the Windsor Arms among them. (Apparently, hotels are more given to this style of tea than other Toronto venues.) I think I could handle going out for tea every other week or so. Given a few months of unhurried tea-drinking and finger-sandwich-nibbling, I think I could review every major afternoon tea place in town - and that sounds like a great deal of fun to me.

Again, thank you for the suggestion!
Oct. 25th, 2004 08:32 am (UTC)
The Liberty Mediteranee type yogurt has 8% milk fat and should be easy to find. The plum and walnut flavour is wonderful.
Oct. 25th, 2004 08:44 am (UTC)
That sounds delicious. I don't remember seeing it at any of the convenient-if-inadequate local grocery stores I've been shopping at lately. The company's website has a form to fill in for finding the closest merchant selling them. I've done so, and hopefully will hear back soon!
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 26th, 2004 08:44 am (UTC)
I would love to.

And then, if you're up to it, maybe the Windsor Hotel. There can't be that many places that do a full cream tea in this city... it wouldn't be too hard to try all of them.
Oct. 26th, 2004 06:10 am (UTC)
fatty yogurt :)`
Try Total yogurt from Greece (http://www.fage.gr/page/default.asp?id=413&la=2). I buy it at Trader Joe's here in the US, although it's been off the shelves due to some sort of importing issue lately so I'm not sure if that affects Canada too. Anyway, it's so decadent and fatty it's almost like yogurt-flavored whipped cream or something. So good with some nuts and honey or just by itself.
Oct. 26th, 2004 08:45 am (UTC)
Re: fatty yogurt :)`
Thank you for reminding me. I'll have a look around and see if it's available here.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )