July 15, 2013

Toronto Zoo and a Summerlicious Dinner

The Toronto Zoo is the largest zoo in Canada. Go Canada! They recently acquired two giant pandas on loan from China: Er Shun and Da Mao. The pandas arrived in Toronto in March after a special Fed Ex flight (that cost the government a special amount of money) and now close to 14,000 people a day line up to see them at the zoo. 

I will save you a lot of time by showing pictures of them here, as the line to see the pandas--on a nice day in mid-July when school is out, you know, not a big deal--was 2 1/2 hours long! Yes, we waited outside, in the heat to see two animals at the zoo. We didn't really have time to see a lot of the other animals, as we, along with thousands of other people, had the same idea for a nice summer outing. 

It wasn't a bust though. I'm glad I saw the pandas, even if it was tiring standing in line. The point was to spend a nice afternoon in Toronto after picking Mike up from the train station from his placement up north. Since going to the Singapore Zoo last summer, we've discovered it's alright to go to the zoo even if you're not a child. It's not weird, right? Like going to Disneyland with no children weird? There was a lot of people there--of all ages--to experience the Giant Panda (and giant line) Experience. 

We saw a few other animals and then called it a day and went for a Summerlicious dinner at Pangea Restaurant in Yorkville. Summerlicious is Toronto's city-wide culinary celebration where you can enjoy a three-course meal at participating restaurants for $25, $35 or $45. For some Toronto restaurant prices, those are amazing deals. I had a tough time choosing which restaurant to try and based on the menu selection and reviews chose Pangea Restaurant. Although it is in Yorkville, it is upscale without being stuffy or uncomfortable. I actually really like the atmosphere and simple, cozy decor. 

For my appetizer, I ordered asparagus and 65 degree poached egg with grapefruit emulsion. The dish doesn't look like much food, but this was actually my favourite course. A few pieces of asparagus, a poached egg and a tangy and creamy grapefruit sauce was refreshing and not too filling to start the meal. 

Mike ordered the tomato ginger soup, which was again, simple, but well executed. Just because it's a fancier restaurant, doesn't mean the food has to be flashy and pretentious. I like simple, well made food with good ingredients. That is what all good food should be like. 

We both ordered the flat iron steak with a ragout of summer vegetables, mushrooms and a veal reduction. Pangea prides itself on its devotion to simplicity and nature with its regional cuisine and local, fresh ingredients. They also have an impressive wine and loose leaf tea selection even if it is a little pricey for a pot of tea. When in Rome...

For dessert, I had the raspberry semifreddo with raspberry compote, lime caramel and white chocolate shavings and a shortbread cookie; however, I wish I had ordered the strawberry shortcake with marinated strawberries, hot milk cake, lemon whipped cream and meringue. Wow. I normally find strawberry shortcake a little too "cakey." This one was highlighted with a lemon-flavoured cream and a light and fluffy cake, as well as crispy meringues. My dessert was pretty good. I can't help getting food envy when someone orders something just a little bit better than mine. 

We had a little stroll through Yorkville after dinner and headed back home. Summer is such a good time to try things, like re-living childhood experiences at the zoo or splurging on a nice downtown restaurant. Summer is also the time to relax, enjoy and let adventures take flight. I hope I can fit in enough adventures in the six or so weeks we have left. 

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