Cheers to a New Year!

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Happy New Year, everyone!  It’s been a whirlwind of a year with so many highs and lows.  I am so looking forward to the new year and my heart gets all warm and fuzzy just thinking about all the things I want to do, all the things I want to see, and all the things I want to eat! 😀  Although there were wonderful, happy memories from 2010 like celebrating the first anniversary with the love of my life and getting to meet some of my sweet online friends in the flesh for the first time, I am more than ready to move on and put 2010 in a time capsule.  Cherish and take away the good, leave behind the bad.  Every year is a growth year and I come out of it learning more, loving more, and more determined than ever to enjoy life more fully.

I know I’m not the only one who loves making lists and I’m constantly making new ones for places I want to try, places I want to go back to, new ideas for layouts…it’s never ending!  Here’s my own personal list of all the foodie stuff I’m looking forward to in 2011!

  1. Winterlicious in January/February and Summerlicious in July!  Pft, like I would miss a price fixe fest, c’mon!
  2. Hitting up as many cupcakeries as possible.  In the back of my mind is the voice of my mother who mutters about things like diabetes and rotting teeth.  I swear I’m not that bad!
  3. Fresh Wednesdays at Nathan Phillips Square and all farmer’s markets.  Ahh, just think of all the fresh fruits, vegetables, and bread!
  4. Tasty Thursdays at Nathan Phillips Square.  $5 lunches, I will be there.  Again.  And again.
  5. Baking cookies from my favourite foodie murder mysteries by Joanne Fluke.
  6. More Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives marathons on The Food Network.  My brother and I just kill ourselves with hunger watching this.
  7. Tea!  Upcoming collections from David’s Tea and enjoying more afternoon tea lunches.  Pinkies up!
  8. Trying new things.  Always.  And enjoying every eating moment with friends, family, and my honey, Richard.

Cheers to a bright new year!

The Open Window Bakery – My Testament to Eating and Shopping Just About Anywhere!

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What better way to celebrate the blog’s one month birthday than with sweets! 😀  Can you believe that it’s already been a month since my very first post on Ate by Ate?  27 posts later (hey, not bad at all, I only missed 3 days!), I am feeling more excited and inspired than ever and I am so, so happy that I have this blog to share with you guys. 

And what I’m sharing with you all today are bakery goods from The Open Window Bakery, located inside the little mini mall at Don Mills and Steeles, just off Highway 404.  The Shops on Steeles and 404 in North York (technically, they say it’s located in Thornhill because it’s just north of the 416/905 boundary, but really, I consider it in North York) is far from what you would call a shopping mecca.  But!  I tell this to people all the time: I will, can, and do shop anywhere.  And that includes noshing.  I don’t care how small the mall is.  I don’t care how “dumpy” it may appear.  I find something worthwhile everywhere I go and that includes sweet treats and good eats.  And if you’re wondering, yes, I have come out of this little mall with loot.  I bought a take-out menu organizer from the Sears Outlet store (I kid you not!  This thing is awesome!) and there are Pillsbury Doughboy lip balms with my name on them waiting for me at that Shoppers Drug Mart location.  When I say I can shop anywhere, I don’t lie.  Hmph.

The Open Window Bakery is a place I really grew to love this past fall simply because I was around it so often!  My brother (who attends the Seneca Newnham campus at Finch) had a lonely Friday morning class each week during the fall semester.  We didn’t have a lot of time to travel far, so my parents and I thought, “eh, what the heck, let’s check out the little mini mall at Steeles and Don Mills”.  We figured we’d grab a small bite and wander around a bit and what began as somewhat of a “last resort” turned into a fun weekly excursion and I’m so very happy that I stumbled on this bakery!  The people who work here were so sweet to us and the goodies are yummy!  I am still dying to try their chocolate petit fours (I know!  What kind of a sweet tooth doesn’t lunge at them right from the get go??  I totally fail), but I love their jam dab cookies, oh my goodness.  You know how I said I love shortbread cookies to pieces?  Yeah, I also love thumbprint cookies and their jam dab cookies are lovely.  They’re not overly sweet or chewy and they’re not hard or dry.  The jam parts in the middle make me wiggle, I love them.

They have a variety of cakes, tarts, and cookies, including chocolate chip ones stuffed with enough chocolate chips to fill the Grand Canyon!  Items are individually priced with the exception of cookies which are priced based on weight, per 100g.  They serve lunch and breakfast foods  as well and let me tell you, for a small bakery inside a tiny mini mall, they make a damn good veggie omelette!  I had breakfast there one time and ordered the veggie omelette and it was done perfectly with green bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions.  And yes, I had my jab dabs to go with them 😀  Cakes are super reasonably priced (a giant whole lemon frosted cake for $11.99??  Oooo, me!!) and most breakfast and lunch items range from $3-$5.

That’s what I love about independent shops and little “hole-in-the-wall” places.  Other than sanitary reasons, I’ve never been one to stick my nose up at places that are tucked away, or to think that certain areas “just don’t have anything in them” to look at or explore.  I truly believe that every little area has something valuable to offer and it’s through exploration and just walking around aimlessly that leads you to such amazing stuff.  Sometimes you purposely seek things out and other times they fall right into your lap.  The best things always seem to come unexpectedly and that’s what makes this such a fun adventure ❤  

The Shops on Steeles and 404 is located at 2900 Steeles Ave. East, at the intersection of Don Mills Rd. and Steeles Ave. E, off Highway 404 in North York.

Update – January18, 2011: I was informed last night that the Open Window Bakery just closed its doors for business and that makes me very sad!  Sorry everyone 😦

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Scrapbooking materials used: white and indigo/violet cardstock (Recollections); circle paper punch and numerous colours of cardstock for said circles; bakery stickers (Sticko); brown and white polka dotted alphabet stickers (K&Company).

Thick, Sweet Frosting & Fudgy Chocolate: Vegan Cupcakes at Blue Banana

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Oh how I’ve missed blogging about cupcakes.  I know it hasn’t been that long, but it’s felt like an eternity because I’ve been so impatient to share more cupcake adventures with you guys!  I was really excited to finally get these pictures developed for this layout and I worked my tooshie off to get this 4-pager all nice and pretty for today 😀  Although I don’t scrapbook a lot of cupcake pictures (sometimes I just like keeping photos in albums; I don’t feel the urge to scrap absolutely everything, ha!), it’s SO much fun when I do because cupcakes themselves are fun and colourful and whimsical, and what I have for you all today are deliciously chocolatey vegan cupcakes from the Blue Banana Market coffee shop in Kensington Market.

I know I toot my horn a lot about this neighbourhood.  Heck, I think I have 2 posts from this past week alone dedicated to it (yesterday’s holiday cookie photos and King’s Café from Christmas eve), but I can’t help it because I simply love it so much.  And Blue Banana is one of my FAVOURITE places to shop in the city.  Located at 250 Augusta Ave. (nearest major intersection is College St. and Spadina Ave., west of Spadina), it’s this giant gift shop with everything from offbeat clothing and jewelry on the 2nd floor, to stationery, candy, kitchen accessories, books, lotion, and toys on the ground floor.  And by the front entrance is the cutesy coffee shop with delightful desserts like cookies, Turkish delight, chocolate covered pretzels, brownies, and carrot cake among other things.

Now, I can’t comment on the java as I’ve never had a cuppa joe there (remember how I mentioned I didn’t like coffee?  I know, go ahead and chuck things at me), but I can tell you how good the cupcakes are.  They are different and in the best way possible.  They are chocolatey moist and denser in texture than your average non-vegan cupcake.  You can taste the richness of the chocolate cake batter and it’s a very well-rounded flavour.  You’re not left with a dry aftertaste and the frosting on these sweet things are just amazing. 

Cupcake frosting is done differently all across the board and  The Cupcake Shoppe by Yonge and Eglinton does theirs buttercream style.  These vegan cupcakes on the other hand are topped with a frosting of a thicker, sugary cream consistency that tastes like spun sugar.  When you take a bite of the cake and frosting together, it is heaven in your mouth.  It’s thick and sweet and SO delicious when you have a mouthful of the frosting with the fudgy cake.  For those are who interested in knowing the ingredients that go into making these cupcakes vegan, I am working on getting this information, so I’ll be sure to let y’all know when I have it!

Now here’s an interesting tidbit to keep in mind: Blue Banana is simply a retailer that sells these cupcakes in their shop on behalf of another cupcakery in the city, OMG Baked Goodness (located at 1561 Dundas St. West) who delivers these sweet treats to Blue Banana every day, so there’s more than one location you can snag these vegan cupcakes!  And yes, you can bet your sweet butt I’ll be paying a visit to OMG Baked Goodness when I get the chance 😀  If you’re curious, thus far I’ve had the cupcake with orange frosting and edible pearl, orange frosting and crystal sprinkles, chocolate frosting with pink crystal sprinkles, and the carrot cake (not pictured or scrapbooked).  My favourites?  The ones with the crystal sprinkles. 

Cupcakes are $2.65 each (before taxes) and you can eat them in the coffee shop or take them to go…like me, in a cup with a fork, haha.  Seriously, if you don’t take it to go in something, you are going to wind up with frosting all over your nose, face, and mouth.  It was cute having my boyfriend Richard lick kiss the frosting off me, but you know…you don’t always have assistance with you *laughs*

*****

Scrapbooking materials used: Neon green, indigo violet, periwinkle, bubble gum pink, and white cardstock (Recollections); “I ❤ Cupcakes” stickers (Sticko); adhesive gems; alphabet stickers (K & Company); circle paper punch; curly whirl paper punch; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success)

A thank you to my friend Maria who sent me the curly whirl paper punch, and my dear Mindy who sent me the sheet of “I ❤ Cupcakes” stickers.  I ❤ you!

A Little Bit of Holiday Sweetness in Kensington Market – Christmas Cookies at My Market Bakery

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Cookies, cookies, and more cookies in Kensington Market at My Market Bakery

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My Market Bakery is located at 184 Baldwin St. in Kensington Market.  The bakery is located west of Spadina Ave. and south of Nassau St. 

The Irresistible Haru Zushi Rolls

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The 12 roll, totally awesome lunch special from Haru Zushi!  From 11am to 3pm, one of the numerous lunch specials includes choosing 2 sets of 6 rolls (12 rolls)  for $6.75, or 3 kinds (18 rolls) for $9.75.  The very first post I did for my blog was for Haru Zushi and I have plenty more to share from the last time.  This time around we have 6 tuna rolls and 6 Easter rolls: crab meat, cucumber, and smoked salmon.  I’m usually indifferent about crab meat in my sushi, but smoked salmon hits the spot *cue salivating*. 

I’m all over salmon sashimi like mud on a pig, but with smoked salmon, there’s just something about that bold, salty, savouriness that heightens any kind of plain rice, pasta, or bread.  With these rolls, you get the freshness from the cucumber, the meatiness from the crab, and the punching flavour from the smoked salmon.  Awesomeness! 😀

From the set lunch list that you choose your rolls from, Ive tried the Philadelphia, the Alaska, the Boston, the Easter, the spicy white tuna, the regular tuna, and the spicy salmon and my ultimate weakness is the Alaska, good old fashioned salmon and avocado.  I know this one is a staple among all sushi restaurants, but Haru Zushi makes theirs hyperventiliatingly good!  I am telling you, heaven in your mouth.  There will be many more pictures and posts to come on this great place, ranked #2 in my personal favourites 😀

 

Scrapbooking materials used: string of adhesive pearls (Recollections); cappuccino, mint green, bubblegum pink, and powder pink cardstock (Recollections); adhesive gems; one-hole punch.

Scrap Happy!

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I hope everyone who celebrated Christmas yesterday had an amazing, fun, happy day!  I’m happily preparing myself for days and days of scrapbooking bliss and I’m realizing that after all this time (well, alright, it’s been less than a month, but since I started this blog!) I’ve never shown you all my stuff and how my little scrapping workshop rolls.  I like to think of myself as a little elf, churning out food pages all year long 😀

I really wish I had my own craft room to go bananas in, but I don’t so all my scrapbooking is relegated to the kitchen table and every scrapbooking stint of mine requires lots and lots of running, up and down the stairs, to fetch materials, and it’s ridiculous watching me do it because I’ll run up to my room for some stickers.  Then I’ll run back up for 3 more colours of cardstock.  And then another time for a paper punch.  And sometimes I will run up, get distracted, forget why I’m there, and go back to the kitchen without whatever it is I went upstairs for.  I’m a silly willy.

There's a method to my madness. I swear.

The goodies drawer! Stickers and ribbon and journalling tags and alphabets and, and…yeah.

I admit that I am totally anal with my scrapbooking habits.  I’ll make a hoopla of new pages and won’t put them into albums for ages.  I like it that way.  It makes me feel accomplished seeing a growing pile of new pages, ha!  I have a pile of pages that is currently sitting at over a foot tall that has yet to be organized and I just go on with my days, fa la la, in no real rush to tuck them into their respective plastic sleeves.  But when I do, does it ever feel awesome putting pages into an album, making it nice and full and fat! 😀 

The first 8×8 album I ever bought was 2 years ago at Winners/Homesense and I’ve never bought an album anywhere else.  Not Michael’s, not Wal-mart, not any other craft store.  Winners/Homesense is my holy grail for scrapbook albums because 1) they are CHEAP!  I’ve scored so many of these babies for around $5-$7 when they normally ring in at other places for well over $12, and 2) they are BEAUTIFUL.  I am absolutely obsessed with the brand DCWV (Die Cuts With a View) because they produce the most gorgeous albums and paper pads and I cannot get enough of them.  The stock at Winners/Homesense is constantly changing so sometimes I’m rewarded with new loot and sometimes I’m not, but I hunt these down like a vulture and it makes me so happy each time I snag a pretty one!

And speaking of DCVW, I am so giddy right now because I just scored myself a fabulous new pad of patterned cardstock from Michael’s today for over 50% off, OH MY LORDY!!  It helps that today is Boxing Day.  I got a sale on top of another sale, which allowed me to skipped out of the store with a yummy pad of paper that is so pretty it makes my heart all sorts of happy.  You’ll understand why:

The GREEN TEA STACK!!!! ❤  *bounces*  How perfect!  It’s like it was meant to be!  And before you get all, “hey, you don’t scrap in 12×12!” on me, this was a damn good deal and besides, I cut up my paper for multiple uses anyway.  Although I have a ton of existing pages and layouts I want to show you guys, I have a huuuuge backlog of photos (some of which I developed today) that haven’t been scrapbooked yet and I’m real excited to dig into some new stuff.  I take pictures faster than I can scrap them, but it’s kind of nice that way because I know I’ll always have new ways to get creative and there will always be something to make you all drool over, ha!  It’s going to be a fan-freakin’-tastic week of scrapping!  

Dreaming of a White Christmas – The Quiet Serenity of King’s Café

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Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone! ❤  I am sitting here at my laptop in a blanket burrito at 9pm on the eve of Christmas, technically 3 hours away from Christmas Day, watching my brother play hockey on his PS3, reliving glorious sports moments of the year being shown on tv, and relishing in the wonderful day I spent with my bestie, Melissa, just 2 days ago.  Whatever stresses we may be feeling, whatever bad feelings we may be harbouring, this is the time to put them aside, even if just temporarily.  It’s a time to reminisce and a time to savour.

Aside from The Distillery District, Kensington Market is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Toronto and King’s Café is a wonderful Chinese vegetarian restaurant in the middle of the all the Kensington action on Augusta Ave.  Accessible from both Dundas and College St., it’s a beautiful restaurant with heart-healthy foods and drinks and a delicious bounty of vegetarian options.  It’s open, it’s spacious, and it has this wonderful fresh, quiet, serene quality to it that makes eating a meal here so relaxing and enjoyable.

There is SO much to choose from in the menu: dim sum, rice and noodles dishes, curry, tofu, veggie chicken steak, sushi, the list goes on for miles.  While perusing the menu, I was SUPER ecstatic to find out that they had a special “winter menu” for the season!  And was the little paper insert in the middle ever adorable with the cute picture of a little King’s Café winter house down by the bottom! *cue excited squeals of “it’s so cuuuuuute!” from me*.  I am easy to amuse and easy to please.  Just give me paper.  You know me, I can’t resist seasonal things so with an excited squeal, I happily began scoping out my options.

With giddy anticipation, I chose the veggie chicken steak with orange sauce while my bestie, Melissa, went the dim sum route with the green leaf sticky rice and pan-fried radish pastry squares (law back go in Chinese).  The food was beautiful, fresh, and so yummy-yum-yummy!  My dish came with 4 veggie chicken steak rounds bathed in tangy orange sauce with spears of fresh asparagus and a colourful, fresh green salad with spring mix greens, cucumber, carrots, orange wedges, apple slices (which I actually gave to Melissa because I’m allergic to the fresh flesh of apples), and red grapes. 

The veggie chicken steak rounds were moist and so flavouful and about the size of your palm.  The orange sauce had just the right amount of tang to it and wasn’t overly citrusy and the salad made me smile; how Chinese of them 🙂  My mom and dad tell me all the time how much they love the Chinese style salads with chunks of fruits and vegetables in it like potato, pear, and apple and it’s the little details like those that really scream out to you.  I say this all the time, but you eat with your eyes and when you see something so colourful and pretty on your plate, with the freshness of it just wafting from it, it makes you happy.

One of the sweet waitresses gave us these fried vegetable fritters to try and OH.MY.GOD.  They were crunchy, crispy, and seasoned to the most amazing salty perfection you could ever imagine.  And to end off the meal?  A sweet and rich square of cranberry cheesecake with crumbles on top, sitting prettily on an adorable seashell shaped dish.  This meal was amazing and King’s Café continues to score major brownie points on quality and freshness and judging by how much several of my friends love it too, I know I’m the only one who sings its praises!

I love that it has such Chinese flair to it and I also love that its in Kensington, a neighbourhood with so much character and a passion for market freshness.  King’s Café also has a fantastic selection of teas, not just on the menu, but in the actual restaurant where you can quietly browse and shop.  The restaurant is located at 192 Augusta Ave (accessible from both Dundas and College St, just west of Spadina) and is open at 11:30am seven days a week until 9:30pm from Monday-Saturday, and until 9pm on Sundays.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and best wishes to everyone for a happy, memorable holiday!

*****

King’s Café is located at 192 Augusta Ave (accessible from both Dundas and College St, just west of Spadina) and is open at 11:30am seven days a week until 9:30pm from Monday-Saturday, and until 9pm on Sundays.