Newfoundland Day 2: Newfoundlasian food and Getting Screeched-In without Dustin Diamond

People in Newfoundland move at their own pace.  Case and point was Coffee Matters, a little coffee house located kiddy (or maybe I should say Quidi) corner from the Sheraton.  During lunch, I went and ordered a quartet of coffees to avoid the hotel brew. They ranked as medium on the difficulty scale (eg. soy milk, double espresso shot). They took an extraordinary amount of time but were pretty decent in the end.

Once the meeting was over, another hike ensued.  This one was significantly longer but not as steep as the Signal Hill hike the day before. The weather however, was significantly worse than day one, coming in at 8 degrees Celsius without the wind chill in mid-June.  I persevered and experienced a pleasant combination of  inclines, declines and long stretches of land peppered with man made steps, bridges and rock paths.  That said, I did often wonder what would happen if someone sustained a significant ankle sprain given there is not a road to be found for a number of kilometres.  The journey ended at the eastern most part in North America which makes for another bucket list check mark. I even have the picture to prove it.

Eastern Most Point In North America
Eastern Most Point In North America

Again, a good hike calls for a good beer and some of the locals brought us to the Duke of Duckworth, one of the oldest drinking holes in St John’s. With the beer came a few orders of nachos ($15) and the famous cod nuggets and chips ($11.59).  The nachos were good. The fish and chips was amazing.  Both were golden brown and pub-delicious.  I found the staff a bit grumpy but copious amounts of deep fried goodness and cold beer made up for it.

Dinner that night was at Basho. Best described as a sushi joint that took a wrong turn in Albuquerque and ended up in St. John’s, it was initially the joint project of a father and son team which I can best describe as Newfoundlasian.  The son (who I met) runs the show.  We had a set menu  but a sushi sampler was waiting at the table when we sat.  It was good sushi but a little lackluster.  There were no fun sauces or concoction  but it served the purpose. Shortly after another platter arrived filled with a more North American deep fried chips and calamari.   Note that this was before the menu appetizers even arrived.

Basho Appetizer Platter
Basho Appetizer Platter

There was a choice of apps that ranged from more sushi rolls to tempura vegetables to a unique surf and turf featuring steak, scallops and onion rings in a tower formation. It was the size of an entree and was ingeniously an odd version of classic land and sea.  Both the meat and scallop were cooked to perfection.  It was a really enjoyable starter…if you call it that.

Basho Surf and Turf
Basho Surf and Turf

I was a little afraid of the entree after the monstrosity that was the appetizer.  I was hoping for the halibut promised on the menu but I heard rumours that the shipment was diverted to another in a bidding war so they made a last minute substitution with cod.  This dish was a bit of a mess in a Jackson Pollack sort of way. I think the halibut would have held up better among the other ingredients and things could have been a little more seasoned but it was a befitting offering in the end.

More Cod....
More Cod….

I was almost full to capacity but tasted each element of the dessert platter.  There was chocolate and green tea ice cream which were ok but the stand out dessert was the cheesecake.  It probably made the least sense in relation to the loose theme of the restaurant but was the best component  hands down.

Basho Dessert Platter
Basho Dessert Platter

The night ended with a late night screech-in ceremony at Christian’s (which didn’t involve a washed up child star, a bar altercation or a knife).  For $20 you have the right to become an honorary Newfoundlander. I was a little fearful at first given the first thing I saw was a large man dressed in a slicker and carrying a paddle. My mind wandered to some sort of sadistic, seashore sodomy but when he started speaking, it turned out he was one of the best emcees ever (at least according to the locals who have seen a number of these ceremonies in the past).  Essentially, participants  have their names read aloud, eat bologna, kiss a cod, take a shot of screech, try and say “Deed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!”. Then you are presented with your certificate and quickly rush to wash the taste of screech, fish and bologna out of your mouth with copious amounts of beer.

Certificate of Screeching-In
Certificate of Screeching-In

On a final note, I got the airport and had some time to kill, so I went to the restaurant and finished off the trip with some questionable  local blueberry wine while resisting the urge to order something off the glutin free menu. God, I love this place.

Glutin Free Menu
Glutin Free Menu

My Take

A busy second day in Newfoundland involved hiking, drinking, cod, cod and more cod.  It started with a traditional fish and chips at one of the most established pubs in the city, continued with a oddish Asian-Newfoundland fusion meal and ended with making out with a fish.  The phrase “Deed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw” which translates to “Yes indeed, my friend, long may your big sail (i.e. jib) draw wind” makes total sense now.  The combination of gale forces winds of the Newfoundland cliffs, my big sail (partially the result of too much deep fried cod), the island’s geographical similarity to my hometown of Sudbury  and an honorary Newfie status makes this ol’ cock feel at home.

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Review:Toronto:Baldwin Village:Kekou Gelato House

I stumbled upon this quiet gelato house while on a stroll along Baldwin Street in Toronto.  It’s hard to find anything online about Kekou other than a humble website which appears hidden among the relics of the Little Video Shop reviews during  a google search. Gone are the copies of John Hughes and Die Hard movies but the gelato remains..this time infused with Asian flavours synonymous with  the Baldwin Street experience.   Take, for example, the variety posted on their website:

Ginger Milk
Peanut Sesame
Black Sesame
Jasmine Tea
Vanilla Lotus Seed
Green Bean Coconut
Vietnamese Coffee
Red Bean White Chocolate
Lemon Chrysanthemum
Guava Plum Salt
Spicy Mango

The last five are dairy free. I’m unsure if all  (dairy or non) are available all the time but the variety was great when I popped in. Sampling is available, so I tasted the durian, intrigued by whether the stinky fruit would translate into an icy treat. It worked.  In the end, I opted for Spicy Mango and Strawberry-Lychee together in a small cup for  $3.75.  The mango  was creamy despite no dairy (I have a friend of mine who swears no dairy will do wonders for my skin).  It had an ever so subtle spicy kick.  The strawberry-lychee was icy good, well balanced and refreshing.

Strawberry-Lychee and Spicy Mango Gelato $3.25
Strawberry-Lychee and Spicy Mango Gelato $3.25

The store itself is as humble as the website. Hand-written tags and an old school ice cream parlour sign hang in contrast within the otherwise pristine and modern decor. I’d like to witness the Effe Vertical mixer in action in their open kitchen but it was dormant during my visit.

My Take

In a city where the gelato juggernauts seem to reside in midtown, the resurrection of the cold treat is a welcome addition to Baldwin street, this time with an Asian flavour twist.  It’s a quiet recluse and although I can’t walk out with a copy of the Accidental Spy (great ice cream scene by the way) , it might end up a quiet little spot I hit during my regular jaunts up and down University Avenue and if the heat happens to make me a little smelly, I’ll just blame the durian.

Kekou Gelato House on Urbanspoon

Review:Toronto:Queen West:Banh Mi Boys

In many ways, the Toronto lunch melee has become as competitive as the dinner one.  As opposed to the drawn-out, cocktail promoting, upselling strategies of the evening scene, the lunch philosophy is a bit different…quick, fresh and cheap. There are a few main events on the midday fight card; the burger battle, the ramen rivalry, the sushi skirmish  and the burrito brawl.  I plan to tackle each of these battles separately but first there is a  need to discuss Banh Mi Boys, a popular lunch spot that beats by its own drum, offering real fusion  flavours unique to this Queen West take out joint.   I tried a variety of offerings including the Banh Mi (sandwich), tacos, steamed Bao (buns) and even a few fries.


The Banh Mi sandwich threw me into blissful confusion.  A baguette topped with delicious tofu (yes those words can co-exist) and topped with a signature mix of pickled carrots, cukes and cilantro jilted my gustatory system with an offering of French, Mexican and Asian flavors.  The bread was surprisingly delicious, with a texture competitive with other gourmet sandwich offerings spattered throughout town.  It was comforting yet edgy but quite satisfying and at a decent price point of $5.49.

Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich
Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich


Kimchi fries….hmmmm.  An interesting concept providing you like kimchi..and fries.  Supplemented with mayo (maybe a bit too much) and green onions, this $5.99 dish (although it is quite a sizable portion) is a definite deviation from standard poutine offered at almost every food truck, gastropub burger joint within a 15 km radius.  Kimchi is one of those “in moderation” type foods I could only take these fries in a small dose.  The mayo offered a creamy texture and rich flavor but the fact that the  meltiness of the cheese and heat of steaming gravy was missing  left me just a little sad.

Kimchi Fries
Kimchi Fries

The $3.99 taco was also unorthodox, moving away from the traditional mexican corn or wheat shell toward a thicker, stretchier chapati-type cortex surrounding, in this case, a southern type pulled pork filling and topped with the right amount of kimchi, crunchy cabbage and those incredible pickled carrots.

Tacos and Steamed Bun with Jicama Salad
Tacos and Steamed Bun with Jicama Salad


Even a decent braised beef cheek and the magical carrot elixir couldn’t save the bao (see above) which tasted as if it might have been steamed a while ago. It lacked the melt-in-your-mouth-wonder-bread-dipped-in-a-bit-of-sugar taste I associate with a perfect steamed bun. Sigh.

My Take

I applaud Banh Mi Boys’ understanding of fusion cuisine to mean more than adding salsa to pizza and calling it Mexican-Italian.  This is one of the more unique lunches you can score along the busy Queen street corridor, mixing flavours and concepts together create a tantalizing smorgasbord of pungent, sweet and savory gusto surrounded by world examples of starchy staples at a decent price.  Currently, Banh Mi Boys stands alone but given it’s apparent success and unique concept,  there will no doubt be other contenders throwing their culinary aprons in the ring attempting to attract those not interested in burritos, burgers or one of the other ubiquitous main events peppering every downtown street corner. I can taste the jalapeno, panko-coated bologna calzones already.

Mulling Moment- Please Comment!


Banh Mi Boys on Urbanspoon

Napa Cabbage Slaw

Napa cabbage is a mild, subtle cabbage that works great in a slaw.  It has a bit of Calcium, Potassium and Vitamin A as well as some trace minerals. This slaw is light, so pairing with a heavy steak is ideal.  The dressing is the same used to season sushi rice, so it has a bit of an Asian flare.

This recipe comes from Epicurious (originally from Bon Appetite). I modified it slightly since I did not have red jalapenos so I used green jalapenos and added some sweet red bell peppers for colour and texture.


2 tsp of ginger

I clove of garlic, pressed

3 tbsp of seasoned rice vinegar

3 tbsp of sugar

1-2 jalapenos (depending on taste)

5 cups of napa cabbage (shredded or chopped)

1/2 medium red bell pepper (julienned)

3/4 cup of chopped green onions


Stir sugar and vinegar in a small sauce pan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.Add jalapenos and ginger to the dressing and let sit.

In a medium bowl, mix cabbage,1/2 cup of onions and peppers.

Pour vinegar mixture over cabbage, mix and let stand for at least 30 min. Use remaining onions as a garnish.