My Sweet Marie

Archive for the ‘Restaurant Reviews’ Category

My sweetie and I celebrate every anniversary, some years it’s a simple picnic in the living room, some years it’s order in, and this year we went all out and took a fabulous trip to Europe and topped it off with a lovely dinner at The Springs Restaurant, right here in London, On. We both strongly feel that every anniversary should be celebrated in some way, as marriage is something you have to work at, as are all relationships. They don’t just happen, you need to spend time together! Ok enough preaching, back to the review!

We all dine for different reasons, sometime we simply want a quick bite, or maybe we feel like Thai tonight or maybe we are celebrating a special anniversary, say our 35th and want a nice spot with atmosphere, great service, nice food that is presented like a chef took the time to be sure the plate was perfect! Well BINGO we hit the nail on the head this year!

The Springs Restaurant’s décor is warm and inviting, it has great atmosphere where the tables are spaced out enough that you don’t have to hear the neighbor’s conversation, or lack of, the lighting was just light enough to read the menu but dim enough to set the mood and the piano player was heard but not intrusive or too loud!

The service was impeccable, maybe the best in London! Ron, our server was ever so gracious. He knew that I was a gluten/dairy-free diner, as I had called ahead, and went over the entire menu with me! He went from dish to dish, explained which would be a wise choice, which he could make gluten-free and which ones to avoid. (Which was few, most items they were able to modify) Speaking for all gluten/dairy free diners I have to say that this is so appreciated! I actually was once called a Gluten-tard by a restaurant owner  and was horrified, not to mention would never go back there again! This was NOT the case at the Springs, they went way over and above to make me feel like a welcomed guest!

Now let’s get down to the brass tacks, the food! This has to be the nicest food I have seen in London in a long time! How have I not eaten here before? I started with the Baked Goat Cheese, it was beautifully crisp, served piping hot with a tomato/caper and olive tapenade and gluten-free toasts! It’s normally served up with a crostini but let me tell you, to have good gluten-free bread served in a restaurant, that is top drawer stuff!

Denis, my sweetie, started with the Crab Cakes and I couldn’t sample so I will have to go by his oohs and aahs to assume they were delicious. He noted the spicy chili sauce they were served with, and did everything but lick the plate clean! Apparently they were tasty!

I then had the Salmon which was served on a bed of wild rice and surrounded by roasted vegetables! The salmon was tender, fresh and tasty, the presentation and sauce were lovely and the vegetables al dente, perfect in my eyes! Denis had the Venison, a first for him and raved about the sauce! I did get a bite of the meat and he dipped it in the sauce which I believe was a chocolate pomegranate sauce. It was so tender, really lovely. It was served with a mashed potato as well, again not a speck left on his plate!

Dessert is always a difficult one for me in restaurants. They often will have gluten-free cake or brownies but often have dairy in them. In that case I order myself a Spanish coffee as to me, that’s a big treat! I should have asked for decaf tho! Denis had the Crème Brule and thought it was pretty darn good, the presentation again was great, you can tell the staff take the time to make things pretty!

So to summarize, service was prompt, dishes picked up as soon as we were done, attentive and respectful. Food and presentation get top marks from me and the atmosphere was romantic to us as well. If you have been on the fence on whether to try this place out or not, what is stopping you?

I should mention the Springs is totally accessible for those that need that option. Pricing is on par with fine dining as it should be. They are not buying food pre-fab, this is all in house prepared food with much thought and planning to the marrying of tastes, presentations and service. This is not a restaurant where your server is going to pull up a chair, put his elbows on your table and say “Hey, what’s up?” . You will be treated as guests and treated well!

To the owners of The Springs, I say Bravo, great job and to Chef Andrew Wolwicz, my compliments! I thank you, hand to heart, for your extra effort in making our 35th anniversary special by going out of your way for my food intolerances and making me feel comfortable and relaxed.

Yours in dining,

Sweet Marie

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While in Playa Del Carmen this year we had a few new finds and one of my favorites’ was the Little Tea Pot. Denis and I both very much enjoy a pot of tea, we share a pot most evenings, so when we found this spot only a block away from where we were staying, BONUS!

Denis really enjoys dessert when we are out to dinner but rarely do I get to because of my allergies. So this one evening my dear sweet hubby says let’s go check out that tea place and see if perhaps they’d have a treat for you! We walked in and beside their huge selection of teas, I mean huge, they had cupcakes, cookies and all kinds of things but I did not spot anything I could have. Then Denis says, hey Marie, can’t you have those macarons? By golly, I thought I’d gone to heaven! They were definitely gluten-free so I got myself an order of them.

That night the flavor of the macarons was blueberry and I was the happiest girl in the world! Not only did I have a great relaxing day at the beach, but a great dinner out at Pantenegra and then macarons! I mean, come on, how much can a girl take in one day?

So we went a few more times, just to keep them in business you know, not because I am greedy or anything! I tried the chocolate with peanut butter filling, there was lemon one day and I do believe I had strawberry on another occasion! I had to do a lot of walking to earn the points for macarons!

Because they were so good, I ordered a bunch to take home for the grand-kids. I have to say, they liked them just as much as I did. I had met with Karla the baker and she was more then gracious and created recipes that were dairy and gluten-free. I was most impressed when I picked them up and she had bagged them with little green ribbon and all.

My dear sweet husband gave Karla a generous tip as he told her that she had made my trip special, with her macarons. He wasn’t lying, that just made my trip when I was able to have a sweet that was homemade, pretty and delicious and gluten-free! They are reasonably priced and so very tasty. She makes different flavors always and you best get there early to be sure to get some!

If and when you are in Playa Del Carmen, be sure to stop into The Little Teapot on 5th avenue at 28th Caille. You will be very glad you did and while you’re at it, try the cherry tea, it is so very delish. Denis will tell you that the Irish whiskey Black tea was his favorite though. Maybe you just need to find out what your fave will be!

Happy sipping!

Sweet Marie

Recently my dear hubby Denis and I were in Playa Del Carmen again.  When we go to Playa we usually rent a condo and do some of our own cooking but usually go out for dinner every night. We are on holidays after all! So, this year we heard of a place in town that serves up the best chicken and it was run by French/Parisienne people, called La Brocherie. This I had to check out. So one day while out on one of our adventures, we found it and stopped in.

We walked in and we were greeted with “Bonjour”, I thought it was a trick so I replied with “Bonjour, comment ca va?” Well, not only did they reply but we proceeded to have a French conversation! I could not believe my ears or eyes! What an amazing thing to be in another country of Spanish decent, but to find French speaking people! I loved that!

So we sat down and Arlette began to explain that their chicken is done in the French traditional way. They marinate it overnight in a certain way, then in the morning they stuff herbs under the skin and cook it slowly on the rotisserie. Let me just tell you, it is worth a flight to Mexico to have this chicken, it is so moist and tasty, truly delicious! I ordered the 1/2 chicken dinner so that I could take home leftovers, and that I did! The 1/2 chicken dinner was only 80 pesos which to me was very worth the dish, that translates to $8.00 Canadian! It came with rice and I think vegetables, to be honest I’ve lost track but I know for sure the rice was very tasty.

While eating our lunch, I read on their menu board that on Wednesdays they do beef bourgignone. I said to Denis, if their beef is half as good as this chicken, we need to come back on Wednesday! So we talked to Arlette about it and she explained the process of the dish and we booked a reservation for Wednesday.

We were greeted by Fabian who sat us at our reserved table and served us a lovely beverage! When the dish came, you could smell it coming, I kid you not. There was a big piece of beef in the middle of the plate, with a few potatoes and carrots, all sitting in this delicious beef gravy/sauce. I’m telling you, it was scrumptious! I cannot think of a word big enough to explain how delicious it was, tender, smooth beef in a perfectly flavored sauce. There was a hint of wine in it, very little salt, perhaps a bit of pepper and likely garlic, absolutely prize winning beef bourgignone. You don’t need to go to Paris for this dish, simply get yourself to Playa Del Carmen!

Let me just tell you that Fabian, the owner/chef is incredibly gifted in the kitchen! The Beef Bourgignon was far superior to any I have ever had. I have made this dish myself countless times but never did it taste like this.

While we were dining, Denis and I were chatting away and I said, Denis listen to our ‘neighbors’, we were surrounded by people speaking French! It was incredible, here we are in Mexico and the language I was hearing was French! Apparently word is out in the French Canadian community that Le Brocherie is the place to go on Wednesday nights! And why wouldn’t it, for $12 you get a top notch dinner and the friendliest service in town!

For the record, Fabian and his wife are the owners of the establishment, Fabian being the master chef with his delicious menu dishes and great recipes. Arlette is Fabian’s mother and is the hostess with a very bubbly personality and warmest of  greetings. She had never met us before, yet spent time talking with us and giving us great tips on what to do and see in Paris for our next holiday.

Fabian and Arlette, I wish you much luck in the future in Playa, I know you’ve only been open less then a year but we’d never know it by your dishes. Keep up the good service, the delicious food and the very reasonable prices and people will continue to come and frequent your establishment!

My dear readers, if you find yourself anywhere close to Playa Del Carmen, you need to head over to La Brocherie on 15th Avenue between 4th and 6th streets.

sweetest greetings,

Sweet Marie

Being a gluten and dairy intolerant diner sometimes makes a dining experience intimidating for the diner and the server! This week I had two dining experiences, one was great, one was frightful! Let me tell you about the great one!

Kel’s in Sarnia is in a strip mall on Christina street North. From the outside you wouldn’t expect too much, but take my word for it, go in there! It’s an old Timmie’s unit so not real fancy on the outside but they’ve made it quite cozy on the inside. Go in there today and tomorrow and tell your friends to go in, and their friends and so on and so on! They are a breakfast and lunch spot that is a little known secret in town. I should say secret weapon! You need to check them out!

Their food is made to order and it’s all delicious. You won’t find any processed chicken fingers here or any processed food, Kelly will make sure of that and I’m pretty sure Bev would back him up! I had the good luck of stopping in on chicken finger day and I asked the server if they’d make them gluten-free, and Kelly the chef agreed to, just like that. They make gluten and/or dairy exceptions whenever possible and with notice they can even make their waffles gluten-free.  You see, they’d need to really clean the waffle iron, not to mention whip up a batch of gluten-free batter! But they’ll do it, just let them know you’re coming and that you need them to be gluten-free.

Speaking of waffles, they make them homemade, not a batter mix, and they have a different one every week! Last week was lemon meringue waffles, week before was carrot cake waffles, and I know they’ve done black forest waffles and so on. I haven’t had them but I’ve seen them and the faces of the lucky diners on the receiving end, pretty sure the smiles meant they were very tasty!

They do an a la carte breakfast where you can choose the sides you want, want all meat and no eggs? Ok, you can do that. Want all eggs and no meat, yep can do that do! If you’re a person that needs to not make decisions first thing in the morning, just tell your server you want bacon, eggs and home fries, they can do that too! It’s not rocket science but we just don’t see this done much so for some people it may be intimidating to order a la carte, but have no fear, you’ll be glad you did!

While I was there, I heard one fella tell Maria, the server, that those were the best eggs benny that he had ever had. No big surprise when you have a homemade English muffin and a homemade hollandaise, not from a tin! That’s right, homemade and they’ll even do gluten-free English muffins.(notice is appreciated by them for the g.f. muffins)

So back to my chicken fingers, they came with a homemade smoked apple bbq sauce, crispy, gluten-free and 100% yummy! That’s my technical term there, yummy! They were accompanied by a huge helping of sweet potato chips to boot! Honestly, sometimes dining out can be a bit of a nightmare for me so on most days I pack a lunch but on Thursday I was so happy that I did not!

At Kel’s you will find the prices reasonable, the service friendly and the food outstanding! Please go out and support your local restaurateurs today, the chains will survive a day or two without you!

Check them out on Facebook, just type in Kel’s Sarnia and you will get to see pics and more info!

Bon Appetit!

Sweet Marie

If you are lucky enough to get to Playa Del Carmen then I highly suggest you march straight over to Pantanegra restaurant for a lovely dinner! We were in Playa Del Carmen for 2 weeks and only found it on our second to last night there, what a shame! I would have eaten there far more often.

Pantanegra is a Spanish restaurant influenced by the Valencia region. They have been open for just a month now but you will see they are busy most nights. They are open for lunch, closed for an hour or so and then re-open at 7 for dinner. This gives them time to clean, re-stock and prep for dinner. The restaurant offers much wanted shade by day, outdoor dining and indoor when needed. The food is beautiful, so very tasty and the wine is worth going back for! We dealt mostly with Jaime who is Spanish but has very good English. I’m sure that is a big help in a tourist town where many of their guests are English speaking.

On our first night there we tentatively walked up the restaurant which is located on calle 26, close to 10th Ave. It was evening, the white lights twinkled, and then I noticed the candles in the big tree, that’s what got my eye! If someone is crazy enough to put a candle in a tree then by golly, I have to eat there! Frankly there was no signage so I had no idea what kind of food we would get but I like living on the edge!

Jaime came right over and offered us a wine list and I asked him what red he recommended, he brought over a lovely red from Spain and it was perfect. We sipped our wine and he quickly brought over an ‘amuse-bouche’ of pork tenderloin on toast points with a light bruschetta. I can’t have the toast but I did take a piece of the pork as I justified to myself, surely the tomato would stop the bread from touching the meat! I had to try it, it was just so pretty looking. The meat was absolutely melt in your mouth good. My husband who had the whole experience of bruschetta/bread and pork said it was a fabulous combination.The fact that I had never seen this combination before gave me the impression that this place was going to be good.

They like to serve their meals tapas style so they bring one dish out at a time and you share that dish. I love that idea. We really enjoyed our first dish of beef tenderloin in a white wine sauce, served with pine nuts. Again, a combination that was out of this world where your mouth is dancing when the food hits it! I loved it.

Next came our Paella which was a mixed chicken and seafood paella dish that was just so wonderful. We thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t leave a crumb for the birds or anybody for that matter! It had great flavor, I’m thinking there was saffron in there, a great mix of seafood and it was sizzling when it arrived at our table. What fun to share a dish like that.

Jaime tried to get us to do dessert but truly it is rare for me to find a dessert in a restaurant that is gluten-free and dairy free.  This is beside the fact that we were stuffed! So Jaime insisted he’d bring us a liquid dessert. sure enough moments later he showed up with sherry on ice and it was brilliant. I have not really ever been a fan but it was so refreshing and just the right touch to finish off a meal. I was very impressed and left a very happy camper.

With just one more dinner left to have in Playa Del Carmen we had to decide where to have a dinner, a big decision for me. Food is a huge part of my travelling experience. Having eaten at so many wonderful places while in Playa, there was not a doubt when I said to Denis, let’s hit Pantenegra again! And so we did.

On this our last night, Jaime brought over a beautifully presented dish of roasted veggies with goat cheese. You have to picture a plate that is drizzled with a brown sauce, then in the center a round stack of roasted eggplant, then topped with roasted red peppers and topped with melted goat cheese. It was absolutely wonderful in flavor and presentation!

We followed that by a calamari dish that was so good I wanted to lick the plate, but I’m thinking that might have been frowned upon! Because the paella was so good, we had another one of those and it was just as good as the night before! I have to say this is the best paella I have ever had so you must go and try it!

In my opinion is this were a restaurant in my home town, I’d visit it as often as possible. The chef is very talented, the service staff friendly, the atmosphere is warm, elegant and yet fun and an experience to just be a part of it! Please visit Jaime when you are in town and tell him Sweet Marie sent you!

Sweetest dining,

Sweet Marie

Denis and I don’t get out to dinner very often. The reasons are two-fold, one I love to cook therefore I usually do and secondly, my allergies make it a bit of a pain  to go out and not feel cheated! Having said that, we almost always go out for our anniversary and this year we chose Bertoldi’s. My friends; I am here to tell you that if you are gluten-intolerant, Bertoldi’s is the place in London to eat! They have a separate menu just for the gluten-intolerant folks, I did like that.

Bertoldi’s is an Italian  restaurant that strives to make the food from scratch. They make their own sauces, breads and even their homemade pasta is made from scratch. The owners will tell you that they like to cook the way their Italian grand-parents did, using fresh ingredients and making fresh food daily. This is a refreshing way to dine as most restaurants today bring in frozen, prepared dishes and warm them in the oven, drop them on a clean plate and call it a meal! Not at Bertoldi’s, everything is fresh and so very yummy! Nope, they did not, are not paying me to say this, I just enjoyed my meal this much.

We started off with a lovely bottle of cabernet while we perused our menus, oh the options! I’m telling you it was a delight to have a gluten-free menu and I didn’t have to ask the servers a million questions. I decided on the ensalada Cortina, a salad of arugula, roasted yellow and red beets and goat’s cheese, can you say delicious, it was! Denis had the Minestrone soup to start and he liked that too. I couldn’t describe it as I did not have a taste, but they can even do this gluten-free. I believe they don’t add the pasta till before service which allows the option of gluten-free.

With the salad came this lovely basket of homemade bread and a balsamic/olive oil dip. Denis said the bread was really good and my only wish was they had a gluten-free bread of some kind. I do know that this is a tall order in a restaurant  that likes to make everything homemade and they’d have to have separate trays just for gluten-free baking, so in short, a bit of a nightmare but I would have loved to have that bread/dip last night. Sorry, I sound like I’m whining, don’t I? I wonder if they’d consider some day to get fresh bread in from Organic’s Bakery on Wellington and serve that? Just a thought.

For our dinners, I went with the shrimp picante pasta, it was gluten-free penne with shrimps, chile peppers, spinach, tomatoes in a lemon preserve sauce. The first plate they served me was the non gluten-free option which I recognized right away to be not gluten-free before even having a taste. I asked our server if he was sure it was gluten-free and he took one look and said, “You know what, let me check”. He quickly came back and said lucky I had asked and said a new one would be right up. It did come quickly and when it did, the pasta was cooked perfectly, served piping hot and just spicy enough. The shrimp were nice and crunchy, cooked to perfection. I am so glad I had him check! This just serves as a good reminder to be on your toes when out to eat, I have to say they were more then accommodating to fix the mess up and that little glitch did not ruin my impression of the restaurant one bit.

Denis meanwhile got his lasagna which was layers of goodness. He was being so polite and insisting on waiting till I finally told him to eat it before it got cold! He did start, slowly nibbled on it while I waited on mine. It had layers of pasta, ricotta, Romano cheese, a cream sauce and a meat sauce, oh my, it did look good. He seemed to enjoy it a whole lot more once my meal came though.

All through dinner, we reminisced about the different places we’ve dined at for our anniversary and we both agreed this one definitely is in the top 3! We’ve eaten at some pretty nice places over the 33 years! When we go out for a nice dinner, we like there to be a nice atmosphere, delicious food, great service and nice wines. Bertoldi’s has all of that and having Absolutely David for our server made it all the better, we affectionately called him that as his reply to every request was “absolutely!”.

Denis, of course must have dessert, especially on a special occasion, so he had the tiramisu which he assures me was delicious. I  had a Spanish coffee for my dessert! I think I could have had a gelato, but with the cold rain, I decided on the coffee sans the whipped cream. Oh how I miss real whipped cream!

All in all, I would most definitely recommend Bertoldi’s to anyone, but most especially to those with gluten allergies. What a treat to dine without worries. Check them out at http://www.bertoldis.ca

 

Bon Appetit!

 

As you may know, the Ya-Ya’s are celebrating their 50th birthdays this year and finally on Friday, Paulette, Anita and I went to Annabelle’s for lunch to have just one more celebration to commemorate the milestone! Monday is Paulette’s official birthday but scheduling required us to do it on Friday!

Let me just tell you that Paulette chose Annabelle’s because they have a few gluten-free options, which I didn’t know about! Paulette had gone online and found the menu and had corresponded with the owner to get the scoop! She tells me that they were very quick in responding and very helpful when she told them of my allergies. I don’t know about you, but I am VERY grateful when this happens.

So after much perusing of the tea menu, we decided on each a different tea! I went for cherry (surprise,surprise), Anita went for an apricot tea and Paulette went for Pumpkin spice…again…surprise,surprise! Just the night before she was sipping a creamy pumpkin drink! The teas arrived and after Anita and Paulette figured out they had each other’s teas, they made a switch and all was well! We chose to giggle over that little boo-boo and didn’t even mention it to the server!

Lunch was an even harder choice! Knowing we wouldn’t be back here for a while as we are all of out-of-town, it was a tough decision. The menu is an amazing array of choices! They have tasty soups,salads and sandwiches, exactly what should be at a tea room! Of course they have quiche but that’s so not gluten or dairy free! I did see a few go by and they looked and smelled wonderful!

I finally decided on the reuben on gluten-free bread served with a house salad with apple maple dressing! It was absolutely delicious!  I was in heaven! Paulette went for the homemade burger on rye bread, serve with kettle chips and salad! Anita went for the Londoner, and what a lunch it was! It looked awesome, a salmon sandwich served with salad and soup! I think they could make that a half sandwich and still the diner would be full! Have a look at their menu at www.annabellestearoom.com . You’ll be wanting to take a drive real soon!

I also have to write about the decorating here, the attention to detail is simply amazing!  My sister Monique, who is an interior designer would love it! I’ve never been to England, but Annabelle’s is exactly how I would picture an English tea room to look! Antiques are everywhere, arranged in beautiful arrangements, hung on the wall, displayed so very uniquely! Check out the pictures online.

So, for your next sister’s luncheon, girlfriend day or just a night out with the hubby, I seriously suggest going to Annabelle’s in Kingsville,Ontario. We drove from London for the lunch and was well worth the trip! While you’re in Kingsville, stop in at Cindy’s gift store, a fun and unique shop to browse in! We did and picked up a few gifts for Christmas!

Happy dining,

Sweet Marie