Dineout recaps: Joy of Eating Meetup.com dinners

Once upon a time, I joined Meetup.com. It was back in 2005 and for a Vancouver blogger meet-up group. So it was with a bit of awe that I reactivated my profile to join Joy of Eating, a Toronto foodie group that is co-organized by a friend of NPY. He wouldn’t approve of and I wouldn’t trust some other random foodie group. I’m impressed by how many meet-ups this group organizes and realize that with the number of the registered members, you need the high frequency of meet-ups to give members opportunities to participate; this is especially true when, to keep the events intimate, only about eight members will be able to RSVP and attend a given event.

Sometimes I think I may as well hang a sign declaring my attitude at the outset of every event, “I’m only here for the food!” But the conversation is usually fun and enhances the experiences. The group, when I do manage to get on the confirmed list, gives me an opportunity to dine out at places I wouldn’t normally get to and the automatic “large group” means you can see and potentially sample, a lot of dishes in one go. Besides lack of funds for as much dining out as I would like and not being able to RSVP to everything I would like due to timing and demand, I also pass on some events due to their location and tend to only go where I can go by subway or walking.

The group has grown so big; it is, afterall, easy to sign up to Meetup.com groups and I think I’m the only Joy of Eating member part of only one foodie meet-up group. I wouldn’t want to be an organizer dealing with no-shows, paying for reservations and making sure there is enough for the bill, doing the math under duress and then appealing for money (or putting in my own) when the amount is short. Given what they do, I’m really grateful for their initiative and organization!

Boiler House

I was introduced to the idea of having brunch at Boiler House by a friend but it would be a long while (if ever) that she and I would go so I jumped on this Joy of Eating meet-up. I didn’t get on the attendees’ list but rather the RSVP until a few days before the event when confirmed people re-evaluated their schedules and dropped out.

Upon kindly requesting it, we were seated outdoors as it was a mild and warmly sunny Sunday afternoon. The interior is a bit like a cozy warehouse with high ceilings and industrial-feel concrete floors. The brunch layout was on the long the bar counter and long tables end-to-end parallel to the bar counter. As promised, a live jazz band was providing entertainment from a second floor of the establishment.

I didn’t quite know what food to expect and the selection was quiet nice and appropriate for the price point. My favourite items were the prime rib, a “knish”, fresh waffles and select desserts. Boiler House is a place I would recommend for all-you-can-eat brunch for its solid food, good environment and great location in Distillery District, a nice Toronto package.

 

 

Copacabana Brazilian Steak House [Yelp]

One kind of dining I haven’t really ventured to try with friends is the all-you-can-eat meat fest of a Brazilian steak house so I was all over this Joy of Eating meet-up and got onto the confirmed list on the first try. Samba in Vancouver is the restaurant that has had me curious for years but its entrance (is it underground?) and particularly the reviews were kind of horrifying. Copacabana’s dinner was a great deal more expensive (about twice Samba’s $24 pricetag) and a friend with particular tastes had dined successfully at the related Niagara location. It’s a one-time experience anyhow.

I didn’t take too many photos of my plates because there would be a great deal of overlap. I found the chicken breast were often not good and all the other meats very good, with different flavours and juice was still locked in. One meat, I never really caught its name so it may have been the top sirloin, was really talked up by the server as the best they offered and we should have loaded up when he came early as we never saw him again. It was not so much meat that you couldn’t handle the flow and had to turn over your stop/go card in defeat.

The salad bar was interesting, it had a lot of marinated offerings and differed from a typical salad bar.

My favourite part, funny me, was the hot cheese balls that flanked my meal at the beginning and end. They were pungent and warm with a slightly crisp exterior and cheesy, eggy and smooth center. I couldn’t turn them down when they came and ordered a couple more as my dessert while the group was noshing on the roasted pineapple!

 

Rodney’s Oyster House

Rodney’s Oyster House has a location in Yaletown in Vancouver and I’ve wanted to try it out for years. This Joy of Eating meet-up offered an opportunity for me to try it in Toronto and eventually compare-and-contrast, haha.

The restaurant, as you could expect, was not fancy. In fact, when you first step in, you walk through a closed fish shop and that has an eerie feel, then you arrive at the dining room that feels like being inside a wooden ship’s hull.

Apparently the homemade iced tea was very good and with a kick of ginger that I would not appreciate. My standing line at these events (if anyone should be so nosy to ask, but I believe it personally) is that I’ve come for the food and don’t want to waste my appetite and calories on a drink.

Perusing the menu, I tried to keep in mind the “oyster house” aspect and ordered a oyster chowder over the clam chowder others ordered and one pan-fried oyster. I did not partake in the group (of three) eating raw oysters since I have not yet developed a taste for it. Of course I enjoyed a pan-fried oyster very much and the chowder was also nice to start and was hearty. My main, a dish of 8 large Fundy scallops, was very pleasing. Each scallop was a perfectly cooked mini-steak and it topped some of my favourite (but normal) sauteed vegetables.

 

Dangerous Dan’s Diner

The burger wars are on in Toronto, it seems, and I hadn’t heard of Dangerous Dan’s before until a new Joy of Eating series “Culinary Indie Restaurants” came about introduced this meet-up. Apparently, some people are afraid to try this place because of the crazy-sounding house creations such as “The Coronary Burger Special” and “Collosal Colon Clogger Combo”, 16- to 24-oz. of burger with crazy fatty toppings! There were normal 8-oz. creations I stuck to.

The diner was kind of cute with very comfortable booth seating provided by old car back seats and entirely mismatching. There were also two-tops lining the counter made from car captain chairs. The decor was cheeky as they seem to have amassed cow figurines and wrote insolent quotes. The cashier carried on the attitude and that did not please me. He was clearly displeased with his job and/or patrons and/or us. No, it wasn’t just us as I heard him complaining loudly later. Perhaps he thought he was being funny but it was awkward.

I had evaluated the menu online and thought I would get the Big Shroom with assorted mushrooms and fried kale, despite the teriyaki sauce. But the more current paper menu indicated kale was switched to spinach now so I got–Halifax represent!–new creation, Big Zorba with feta, tzatziki, onion, tomato and two slices of gyros. My burger was a bit charred but it was still juicy. The fetas was good–not overly salty and slightly creamy. The tatziki was practically non-existent although I could I see the dill flecks in my feta. I kind of inhaled the burger and it was big but not sickening and we sat after eating our burgers, swapping dining stories until I started getting really full.

But a bunch of foodies couldn’t entirely pass on dessert so we split three. Now I have officially tried Deep Fried Mars bar and I don’t understand the appeal. I don’t eat original Mars bar which could be the problem and it becomes goopy fudge when fried. Tasty Wang is nothing particularly new except in its cheeky name: deep fried banana in beer-batter with two “balls” of ice cream. It was good as deep-fried battered bananas usually are. I seconded the nomination to order Cookie Cow Pie which was pan-fried cookie batter with ice cream. The cookie dough became quite molten and was super sweet and several people thought it was one of the better desserts.

 

 

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