As I’ve said before, I’m a creature of habit. I like what I know. I realize how boring that makes me sound, but it’s the truth. I’m a planner, a list-maker, a neurotic weirdo who wears the same perfume for years on end and the kind of person who equates the risk of trying anything “new” with jumping head-first out of a plane. So you can imagine the dread that goes through my mind when I have to move across the country for a job, even if it’s only for a few months, especially without my trusty steed (meaning husband– wait, what’s a steed again?). It’s downright nerve-wracking.
But lucky for me, my new cast on my new show that has yet to be named (it’s about actors/musicians/dancers struggling to make it in Hollywood– and all name suggestions are most welcome at this point, ‘cuz Motel California just ain’t gonna cut it) are all pretty fabulous. And pretty pretty. But I digress. They love to eat, and most importantly, they don’t make fun of me for geeking out and taking pictures of food for you people, or at least not to my face, which is kinder. In fact, our favorite thing to do on our off nights (there’s been a lot of those, too– did I say how much I love this new job?!) is to go for walks in our new Toronto neighbourhood and find great restaurants.
And Toronto is positively riddled with them. I don’t know if I just didn’t have the time to eat out a lot the last time I was here (filming Warehouse 13 with Sean Maher, who was eating a lot of salads at the time due to his purple spandex super tight superhero costume he had to wear– did I say how much I loved THAT job?!), but oh man, is this city a little culinary mecca! The thing I love the most about Toronto is its lack of chains. As much as I adore my hometown of Vancouver, it’s rather overrun with various chain restaurants with beautiful black mini skirt-clad servers doling out their versions of spicy chicken appetizers and cheeseburger sliders. Enough already. I feel like hidden around every bend in Toronto is yet another gem of a boutique restaurant waiting to be discovered, and bikini scenes be damned, I’m having a blast eating my way through this city.
My latest obsession is Buca, a swank little place tucked in the basement off an alleyway in King West that my lovely new best friend and costar Chelan Simmons and I found. The thing I adore the most about Chelan (besides everything) is that she’s a girl who isn’t afraid to eat. She’ll try almost anything once, and when she finds something she loves, it becomes an irrational infatuation. And after that first night at Buca, the love of Chelan’s life became the duck egg yolk pizza. Thin crust baked until bubbly and crispy, smeared with sticky egg yolk, and topped with tangy magical Italian cheeses I’ve never even heard of and a generous shaving of fresh black truffle…. It’s a wow. And all Chelan could talk about for the following week and a half.
So when my husband finally did come for a visit, we figured Buca was a must-do while he was in town. Word’s out that Buca’s chef doesn’t eff around, so it’s tough to get a reservation there, but they do accept walk-ins, especially if you’re willing to wait. And who wouldn’t be cool with waiting? They serve alcohol! And it’s worth it! (The food and the wait. And the buzz.)
Here’s my only teeny-tiny problem with Buca: it’s the kind of place that’s trained its servers to talk your ear off about the menu. As in, “how it works”, portion sizes, the definition of “buffalo mozzarella” and other inanities that just simply don’t really have to be explained if you’re a grown human who’s eaten at restaurants before. To make matters worse, our server was so eager-beaver about his menu training that he took his schpeel to new condescending levels and completely dropped the ball on the most important thing a waiter can and should be able to do: assess his customers and read his table. If we don’t look like we want to hear the dissertation, or we’re deep in conversation (which we were), or the lady looks like she needs a topper on her wine (which I always do), then maybe cut it short. It doesn’t help that us being a table full of actors means we’re a table full of experts on how to wait tables. But hey: you can’t say the guy wasn’t passionate about that menu.
Which on closer observation, with true fear now percolating in my empty stomach, I saw was missing that duck egg yolk pizza. Buca prides itself on having an ever-changing menu reflecting what’s fresh and in season, which part of me loves and the creature-of-habit neurotic in me absolutely hates. Plus, I was pretty sure Chelan was going to cry real tears, judging by the way she was gripping my leg and frantically whispering, “They don’t have it they don’t have it!” in my ear like a crackhead looking for her pipe. Thank god our server clued in to the fact that a meltdown was imminent and, after a pow-pow with chef, determined that the duck egg yolk pizza could indeed be whipped up if that’s what our hearts so desired. Whew.
We started off with a pretty little plate of salmon crudo (Italian for sashimi), served with fennel shavings and a little dill in a beautiful and simple olive oil and vinegar emulsion.
To pair with our other beloved pizza, we chose a tomato, burrata cheese and basil pizza, which was so mindblowingly delicious, I’d even go so far as to proclaim it better than that duck egg yolk piece of heaven. Even better, all of their pizzas come with kitchen shears so you can cut your own slices up, which always makes pizza eating more fun. And then you can trim your bangs!
Next up, we tried a summery and light lobster orecchiette, which are little ear-shaped pasta shells, made in-house of course. And our final fabulous course was a luscious pancetta and pea risotto, which was so salty-sweet and rich and amazing, it became my second must-do at Buca and the new love of Chelan’s life.
The only downer at the end of that delectable meal was not having room for dessert. Good thing Buca’s just around the corner.
Not such a good thing for those bikini scenes.