Fit For a King and Queen…Or Maybe Just a Brother and Sister – Rolls, Rolls, and More Rolls at The Sushi Shop

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Oh sushi, how I’ve missed you.  Well, blogging about you anyway because I actually ate some last week!  These pictures were taken on a very special day during the first week of March.  If you’ve been reading and following my blog, I know you’re probably thinking that sushi is very commonplace in my foodie world and EVERY sushi adventure is awesome for me.  And that’s true, but this meal was different because I enjoyed it with my mum and my brother during my brother’s spring break. 

Let it be known that my younger brother and I, as close as we are, are very different in personality.  He’s four and a half years my junior, he’s one of my best friends in life, and we couldn’t be more different.  I am the chatty, bubbly, independent artsy fartsy one who loves going out.  He is the shy, quiet homebody who loves the comfort of home.  He looooves it when we go out as a family, but unlike me, he would never venture out on his own for the sake of it.  I, on the other hand, will arbitrarily pick a subway station off the map, get off, and walk around without knowing what the heck is around the area.  So when I told him that I wanted to take him out for a day on the town during his spring break, he was mega excited. 

I took him and my mum to my favourite sushi place, The Sushi Shop, and we had ourselves a maki roll par-tay!  I recommended some of my favourites (the salmon with green onion as well as the smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese Vancouver rolls that I love so dearly!) and ordered some I hadn’t yet pigged out on (the spicy tuna, tempura, and avocado 911 rolls, and the Ebik maki with shrimp, tempura, avocado, and cucumber rolled in red masago).  I loved it, they loved it, and we “mmmed” our way through a whole platter of amazing sushi rolls.

This was a fun day, just for us.  My dad isn’t into sushi rolls, so it worked out quite nicely.  No guilt for going without him on our part!  It’s something that we don’t get to do as often as we’d like.  Our lives are hectic and we’re constantly pulled into different directions.  My dad is work, my brother and I are both at school and have mountains of work to attend to, I’m not always home for dinner, and my mum runs the household and has a gazillion things on her never-ending to-do list.  I know how hard-working my brother is and I know how he doesn’t get to do a lot of “fun” things during the school year, so it was important to me to make sure he had one super fun day during his week off.  Call it sisterly love.  We love sushi and my mum and brother love going downtown with me, so it was win-win for everyone.

Even though my brother is 21, he is still very much a baby brother to me.  He came home with the biggest smile on his face and with so much excitement and happiness from our day out.  We got some fresh air, we walked around till our feet were going to fall off, and I introduced parts of the city to my mum and brother they were completely unaware of.  I was so happy that they had enjoyed the day.  And my mum pulled me aside at the end of the night and said, “You made your brother so happy.  He said today was one of the best days ever.  I’m so proud of you”.  I smiled and nodded, blinking back a few tears.  Just doing what any good sister would do.  Fill the tummy and fill the heart ❤

*****

The Sushi Shop is located at the intersection of Yonge and Carlton St. (3 Carlton St.), with 2 other take-out locations serving the downtown core, one being in the GO train station concourse and the other near Maple Leaf Square at 25 York St (closed Saturday and Sunday).  According to Google map, there is also a location on Bloor St. E at 175 Bloor St.E (Saturday and Sunday closed as well).    

Tummies, Start Your Engines! Veggielicious Is Just Around the Corner

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I love food fests!  In less than 2 weeks, the first ever Veggielicious will be upon us in Toronto!  Brought to us by the Toronto Vegetarian Association, Veggielicious is a price fixe food event with the same concept as Winterlicious and Summerlicious.  A number of vegetarain, vegan, and organic and raw eateries are participating this first time around and I’m excited!  After checking out some of the menus on the Veggielicious website, I’m definitely interested in trying The Beet and Live Organic Food Bar.  My favourite, Mela Café will be participating (yay!) and I can’t wait to see what specials they’re going to have on their menu for the 2 weeks Veggielicious is running.  I brought my best friend there about 2 weeks ago (blog post and pictures to come soon!) and she loved it.  All she wanted to do was eat plate after plate of their fresh ravioli and after sharing one of the adorable, delicious vegan banana cream pie desserts, we could have noshed on 4 more because they were so good.   

Granted, even if I decide not to take advantage of the specific price fixe menus these places are offering, I’m still really looking forward to trying out new places and seeing what my favourites are planning on whipping up for the event.  It’s been so rewarding learning about vegetarian and vegan food and cooking, and incorportating it more and more into my diet.  Seeing what these places offer gives you inspiration to take home with you so that you can create your own homemade veggie meals.  I spend a lot of my free time reading up on food-related things and scoping out places for friends to try because sometimes it does take that extra bit of effort to find those holy grails you never knew existed.  The event will be great for exposure and of course, I’ll blog and post pictures of anything and everything I stuff my face with 😀  I’ll do a rundown of places closer to the date so in the meantime, mark your calendars from April 9th to the 24th becuase it’s going to be gooood.

*****

There are also places outside of Toronto participating in the event including Burlington, Oakville, and St. Catherines.  For more information and to print out your own Veggielicious posters to hand out and advertise, visit their website here.  I’m definitely printing out a bunch!

A Berry Good Morning! Strawberry Blueberry Aunt Jemima Pancakes

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Another edition of Aunt Jemima pancakes!  This time with lots of strawberries and blueberries for a very fruit pancake 😀  It’s been so much fun experimenting with different fruits and fillings and there is a lot more I want to try.  My mum and I had ourselves a field day on Saturday at Bulk Barn, picking up almonds, walnuts, granola mix, and lots of other goodies for baking!  It’s going to be a fun next few weeks, yay.  So far I’ve done plain banana with some sliced bananas and strawberries on top, and banana with dried fruit and nuts mixed in with the batter and sprinkled on top (dried cranberries with golden raisins, pumpkin seeds, and cashews).  This time we wanted to try a berry pancake so we mashed up about a pint of strawberries (yes, again with my beloved potato masher.  This thing is a godsend) and used around half a pint of blueberries.  We added the mashed strawberries to the pancake batter and gently folded in the blueberries.  The result was a sweet, fluffy, fruit pancake!

The pancakes were fluffier and had that tart sweetness from the juicy fruits!  These cook differently from the ones with banana in them though.  There’s more moisture from the fruit and it takes more time for the pancake batter to be completely cooked through so as a note, definitely let them hang out in the pan longer so they have a bit more time to crisp up and brown.  You don’t want soggy pancakes!  I had myself two large pancakes with powdered sugar dusted on top and lots of sliced strawberries, blueberries, sliced almonds, and honey!  I love fruit for breakfast and I’m warming up to different kinds of nuts so I really enjoyed these.  I’m thinkin’ tropical for next week 😀

There’s Always Room for Mushrooms! The Mushroom Onion Burger from Fresh

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You all can tell how much I love Fresh, right? 😉  After that first outing back during the holidays, I’ve fallen head over heels and I look forward to my next meal here after each time.  I love the variety of options, and I love taking photos and creating a scrapbook layout that speaks to the colours, flavours, and atmosphere of each unique foodie experience.  Call me crazy but I already have cardstock colours and scrapbook papers picked out in my head as I’m eating.  It makes me giddy when the decor reminds me of pretty patterned paper!  I seriously look at the menu online several times a week, daydreaming about what I might try the next time or a combination that will most definitely be yummy!  And don’t even get me started on how desperately I want need the cookbook in my personal library.  It’s a wonderful love and I’m completely amoured.

This was my first time eating at the Fresh on Bloor location (at the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. W) and the 2nd time eating at Fresh, and because I know what a huge crowd Fresh draws in at any point in the day, I was there with Richard right when they opened at 11:30am.  Tummies, start your engines!  I was ready and raring to go!  I thought it would be fun to work my way around the menu, trying something from each category before rotating back again.  So since I had the black bean burrito the first time (on a bed of greens instead of in the tortilla), I picked out a burger to try the second time around: the mushroom onion burger, yay.  On a bed of greens again, without the bun.  Don’t mind me, it’s just my weird preference!

The same way the black bean burrito made me nom, nom, nom with happiness, the mushroom onion burger was SO DAMN scrumptious and yummy, oh my lordy.  I am HUGE lover of mushrooms, both raw and sautéed, and I love many different kinds: cremini, portobello, king oyster, button, etc. etc.  I eat mushrooms all the time at home and it’s one of those foods that give the most amazing flavour to just about everything.  The mushroom onion burger tastes like a cross between a delicious potato patty with veggies and herbs and a meaty burger.  Fresh’s burgers are made with almond, grain, tofu, and veggies and they’re super thick and so yummy.  It has this fantastic potato-like, crumbly texture with bold meaty, hearty flavour.  

This particular burger dish is served with thick slicies of beefsteak tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and red onion, lettuce, a nice pile of alfalfa sprouts, and yummy vegan mayo.  The vegan mayo is made from miso, tofu, garlic, sunflower oil, and apple cider vinegar and has a delicious creamy subtle garlic flavour.  I added some aged cheddar cheese to my burger which is rennet-free and oh-so-delicious with the alfalfa sprouts and greens (I almost never pass on cheese, I love it very much) and I had myself a bangin’ awesome meal.  Oh!  And I can’t forget about the juice I ordered too.

 Fresh is also known for their ridiculously large selection of fresh fruit juice, protein shakes, fruit smoothies, wheatgrass shots and shakes, supplements, and a number of other cold drinks and espressos.  You can create your own juice by choosing a fruit juice or two (such as grapefruit, mango, apple, carrot, pomegranate, etc.), or having a fruit juice mixed with other ingredients such agave, coconut milk, celery, raspberry, maple syrup, cocoa and peppermint.  

Fruit juices specifically come in 2 sizes, a 16 oz. glass (like the one I ordered) and a larger 32 oz. one.  Juices start at $3.50 for one fruit juice choice and you add additional charges ($0.50 or $1 depending on what you choose, for extra ingredients).  I chose a combination of mango juice with coconut milk and mmmm, it was like my own version of a juicy, creamy mango lassi!  I was so excited to get some great pictures (getting here when Fresh opens has its perks, I got myself a window seat for that natural light I love so much!), to enjoy a wonderful lunch with my sweetie, and eat another truly delicious and satisfying meal here.

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)

Scrapbooking materials used: emerald green cardstock (Recollections); baby blue cardstock (DCWV); blue, green, and white floral and polka dot patterned cardstock (“Green Tea” stack, DCWV); magenta cardstock (Best Occasions); journalling tags (“Darcy” collection, Anna Griffin); brown and white polka dot alphabet stickers (K&Company); blue, white, brown, and pink flower stickers (Sticko); magenta adhesive gems.

Mangia, Mangia! An All-You-Can-Eat Italian Feast at Frankie Tomatto’s

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I’m so excited to finally post pictures from Frankie Tomatto’s!  Not only is this my first AYCE post for the blog, but it’s also a post that’s very near and dear to my heart.  My family and I went out to Frankie’s a little over a week ago to celebrate my brother’s birthday and this outing was just one out of the many we’ve had as a family over the last decade.  Me and Frankie Tomatto’s go waaaaayyyy back.  I feel like I’ve grown up with this place because, just think, I’ve been going here to celebrate birthdays (mine, my brother’s, my mom’s, and my grandpa’s) on and off since I was 13.  I’m 25.  Do the math!  Even though my dad isn’t the biggest fan of pasta or Italian food, the rest of my family and I looooove Frankie’s and we always enjoy our time and meals here (dad just humours us.  It’s 3 against 1.  If he wants to eat, he’s going to have to, ha).  It’s one of the few places that’s been a part of my family’s foodie history for years and it’s a happy celebration staple for us.  They have hilarious birthday packages and I remember they sang to me on my 14th birthday! 😀

Taking and posting these pictures has been a process in the making.  Taking pictures at an all-you-can-eat buffet is extremely difficult.  Think about it: for one, you’re concentrating on visiting station after station of delicious food and bringing your plate back to the table and devouring it because, hey, the rest of your family ain’t going to wait around for you.  Second, it’s a self-serve buffet so there are people milling around EVERYWHERE.  You try to take a picture and you end up with someone’s arm in the shot.  You’re scared that if you’re not careful, your hand will slip and your camera will fall into a dish of spaghetti and meatballs.  And then there are the blurry pictures of eggplant parmesan and bruschetta because you were trying to be discreet and you took the pictures too fast.  It takes patience, my lovelies, so congratulate me on getting one decent shot for every five bad ones!  I couldn’t get any decent ones of the dessert bars though.  There were lineups up the wazoo at the icecream and sprinkles station!

Frankie Tomatto’s is an all-you-can-eat Italian feast located near the intersection of Woodbine and Steeles Ave. West in Markham, and if you’re a sucker for themed restaurants like me, you’ll love it here.  The decor is adorable (think faux wine cellars and Roman architecture) and the selection of food is just fantastic with the multiple stations of Italian fare and good old fashioned comfort food.  Antipasto, seafood, pizza and bruschetta (a section that is referred to as “Al Forno” meaning “from the oven”), vegetarian, and yes, plenty of pastas and desserts! 😀  Some notables and favourites: eggplant parmesan, grilled salmon, veal with lemon butter, spaghetti, tomato tortellini, Italian rice balls, cheese gnocchi, fettuccine, roast beef, salmon wellington, Italian potato pancakes, rice pilaf, chicken tetrazzini, steamed vegetable medley, and lots of salads, pizzas, and bruschetta and crunchy breads!

Frankie’s also has really great price promotions and deals throughout the week.  My family and I took advantage of the Friday early bird dinner special the week before: from 5pm-5:30pm, dinner is only $13.99 which is insanely cheap for a Friday evening all-you-can-eat!  I mean, I know I’m accustomed to eating earlier because, well, I eat at all points in the day and I know others aren’t really used to that, but seriously, take advantage of the deal if you can because it is so worth it.  And maybe next time I can get those pictures of dessert for you all.  Mangia, mangia!

*****

Frankie Tomatto’s is located at 7225 Woodbine Ave., 2 blocks north of Steeles Ave. West on the east side of Woodbine.  It’s also easily accessible from Highway 401, 404, and 407.  Click here for information on prices, hours, birthday packages, and specials.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Sunny With a Chance of Meatballs!

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I know the popular book and movie title is “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”, but it’s supposed to be sunny today so sunny it is!  My brother and I are like giddy little kids when it comes to meatballs because we love them so much, especially love turkey ones!  And although I have this weird food and eating quirk where I have to have even amounts of food on my plate (so I kind of eat my food in a circle or in a rotation), all bets are off when it comes to pasta and meatballs because my brother and I will both leave a few till the very end so we can enjoy the best parts for last, ha 😀  I loved this Grad Lounge dish, meatball goulash with egg noodles, yummy!  I normally eat meatballs with spaghetti, fusilli, or penne, so having it with egg noodles was a nice switch up for me.

Goulash is a traditional Hungarian soup or stew (which has also been taken up and incorporated into other European cuisines such as German, Austrian, Slovakian, and Dutch among others) made with meat (most often with beef, pork, veal, or lamb), onions, vegetables, and spices.  A number of goulash varieties are served with pasta and The Grad Lounge’s meatball goulash is served on a bed of egg noodles and made with ground beef, potatoes, sweet potato mash, onions, and carrots with caraway seeds, some garlic, and I believe thyme too.  The potatoes and mash and meatballs were super soft and yummy and made me giddy with meatball glee!

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  They offer a number of daily specials in addition to their permanent menu, and provide numerous vegetarian and vegan options.

Taste the Rainbow! Sweet, Airy Macarons From Petite Thuet

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You knew another macaron post would show up on my blog eventually 😉  I recently read in a food magazine that macarons have become the new cupcakes, and that cupcakes had their time in the spotlight and macarons are, if I can put it, the “Ooo la la, haute couture” of pastry desserts and sweet confections.  Although I love macarons dearly and find them absolutely darling, I completely disagree.  I love cupcakes and always will, period.  And so will many other people.  I know interests are piqued and new loves are formed as time goes on, but I find the notion of food as “trendy” absolutely ludacris.  The role that food plays in our lives may evolve as we grow older, develop new relationships, and take on different lifestyles, but food should never be “trendy”.  You either like it, or you don’t, and you like your food because it genuinely makes you happy, not because everyone and their mother is stuffing their face with it.

The macaron is one of those desserts that really stirs up a ton of debate and emotion among foodies.  The frustrations with soggy meringue shells when not made properly, the pure delight in simply seeing the myriad colours and flavours, and finding that perfect dual texture of crispy, yet light and creamy.  I wanted to approach macarons from two angles: the accessible, supermarket bakery angle and the gourmet pastry shop angle.  We may love food, but it’s important to remember that luxuries such as macarons may not be accessible to everyone, and the accessibility and enjoyment of such things shouldn’t be inhibited by the size of your wallet or the area in which you live in.

I first found out about Petite Thuet from an issue of Where magazine and to my delight, there was a location smack dab in the core of downtown Toronto: 1 King St. West, right at the southwest corner of Yonge and King St.  Petit Thuet is a gourmet bakery, pastry, and food shop, offering sweet treats such as macarons, lemon meringue tarts, flaky fruit and almond pastries, freshly baked croissants and artisan breads, jams and preserves, packaged meats and sauces, and other baked goods.

Macarons are priced at $1.95 each and come in so many flavours!  I enjoyed 2 lovely, dainty macarons, one in hazelnut and the other in rosewater.  I chose them based on appearance only.  I had no idea what flavour I was getting because I honestly didn’t bother looking at the list of flavours.  The sweet tooth in me snarled and said, “just pick 2 damn macarons and let me eat them!”  If I can make a recommendation, the rosewater macaron is delicious.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.  Pretty in pink, the cream is soft and sweet without being cavity inducing, and the meringue shell is crispy and so flavourful.  It’s not chewy or dry or soggy; it’s light and airy and creamy.  And because I didn’t know what the flavour was initially, I knew the flavour was bang on when I ate it because I knew it was rosewater as soon as I bit into it, “this is rosewater, omg, yummy!”

I recently discovered a 2nd location in the Rosedale neighbourhood (between Summerhill and Rosedale subway station on Yonge St.) and when I went in, I saw a fresh platter of breakfast croissants and a plate with a pyramid of freshly baked donut holes rolled in sugar.  I wanted to jump on them.  Tis all.

*****

Petite Thuet serves 3 locations in downtown/midtown Toronto:

  1. 1162 Yonge St. (between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations, on the west side of Yonge St.)
  2. 1 King St. West (at the corner of Yonge and King St.)
  3. 244 King St. East (between Sherbourne and Princess St.)