Falling In Love With Coriander “Ping Gai” Chicken (and Lemon Coconut Cake!) at Queen Mother Cafe

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Chocolate is a wonderful thing for more reasons than one.  For starters, it makes a mean mousse.  And for another, it made me blog again (thanks, Hershey’s!).  I know that you all know that I’ve been away for nearly half a year.  6 months.  None of my breaks have ever lasted that long and truth be told, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to blog again until after the new year, if at all.  But here I am and it’s all thanks to chocolate for giving me the kick in the pants I really needed to come back.

I’ll write a little more about my being away closer to the end of the month, but for the time being I just want to enjoy this little window of Christmas magic that I’ve carved out for myself because really, these two weeks (this past week and the coming one) are arguably the best weeks in this entire year for me.  It’s been one of the very few glimpses of light in an otherwise dark and unhappy year, especially the latter half while I was away from here.  So I am soaking everything in even more than usual (I’m not kidding, I’ve been looking at all the photos I’ve taken multiple times a day to relive the happiness) and keeping these sweet memories close to me for as long as I can.

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So, onto some really yummy eats.  You know what I discovered about myself during my time away from blogging?  That I really don’t mind eating the same thing from the same place twice in a row.  Or even three times.  Or four.  Which is probably very surprising to many people because I’m always tooting my horn about how much I love working my way through a menu and trying new things and keeping things new and exciting.  Blah, blah, blah.  I changed my tune just a tiny bit in relation to certain places and foods.  You’ll understand EXACTLY what I mean when I get around to making my ginormous ramen noodle house post in the very near future (really, I think I’m going to shock the pants off some people with what I’ll be revealing) but for now, I thought I’d talk a little bit about one of my favourite restaurants in the city, Queen Mother Cafe on Queen Street West.

To refresh everyone’s memories, I wrote my foodie love letter about them almost a year ago here and have loved them ever since.  (Note: their menu does change every so often, so as a note, their quinoa meatloaf burger is no longer on it, unfortunately!  But their quinoa salad is still there.)  Their food, their cake, everything.  Especially their Ping Gai.  Their fan-freakin’-tastic Ping Gai.

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You need this in your life (so long as you are not vegetarian).  You have not tasted awesome chicken until you have tasted this dish.  It’s a big, beautiful piece of boneless chicken marinated in garlic, coriander, and peppercorns and grilled to absolute crispy perfection served with white rice and dressed mixed salad greens ($13.95).  And the lime and coriander dipping sauce that accompanies this luscious chicken?  Good enough to drink.

This dish is comfort, heartiness, freshness, and savouriness all in one.  It’s so filling but light at the same time in the sense that you don’t feel weighed down afterward.  It fills you from the inside out in that happy, warm and full feeling, and the flavours just have that pop that makes it different from anything else I’ve tried.  The chicken is tender and juicy and the grilled crispy skin with that great garlic spiced crust is just divine.  This dish is so good, so delicious, it makes you not want to eat anything else on the menu (except cake), not because the other menu items aren’t mouthwatering too, but because it’s just than damn good.  It is SO hard to resist.  I look at the menu and I feel like there is this ridiculous magnetic pull towards it, that I need to literally pull myself away from that choice to consciously make another one from the menu.

So in a nutshell, I am guilty of having this more than once.  And I can honestly say that I would die happy having only this from Queen Mother for the rest of my life.

Yup.

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Variety is the spice of life though, so I’ve also included in this post some photos of one of their daily specials (which obviously changes daily), their butternut squash agnolotti pasta, and photos of cake.  Because you can’t eat at Queen Mother without having cake.  It’s a sin if you don’t.  And you want to be good, right?

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Their butternut squash agnolotti pasta was a delicious dish of stuffed pasta (think ravioli but half moons instead of squares) bathed in a creamy tomato sauce with snow peas, arugula, and asparagus with a healthy sprinkling of yummy parmesan cheese on top.  And the cake in question was a heavenly slice of lemon coconut: layers of vanilla and lemon cake with cream cheese frosting and shredded coconut.  Hello, happiness.  I would have this cake again in a heartbeat because the consistency of the cream cheese frosting was perfect and the cake was soft and moist.  And it’s lemon coconut, duh!  Their cake selection changes all the time but rest assured that there is something for everyone: chocolate cake, fruit cake, nut cakes, cheesecakes, mousse cakes, layered cakes, pick a cake.

So, the next time you’re here, I hope you try the Ping Gai dish and enjoy it as much as I do.  With cake.  Because you know it’s a must.

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Queen Mother Cafe is located at 208 Queen Street West in the downtown core just steps away from Osgoode subway station, situated between St. Patrick Street and Duncan Street.  They are opened 7 days a week, serving lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (11:30 am to 1 am) and weekend brunch and dinner on Sundays (11:30 am to midnight 12 am).  You can visit their official website HERE to view their info and menu.

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The Hot Chocolate Series – Want “S’more”? The Fun & Decadent S’mores Hot Chocolate at Aroma Espresso Bar!

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Eeee, I’m so excited to be making the first Hot Chocolate Series post of 2014!  I promised you all I would try my best to add more goodies to the series this winter so I’m hoping this is just the beginning.  And it couldn’t have come at a better time.  Even though these past few days have been mild, temperatures are going to dip below freezing again which means we need plenty of hot drinks like these to warm us up.  I’m really happy I was able to take these photos and make this post because I actually wanted to have it up and running much earlier, during the holidays (remember how I said I bussed northbound on Avenue Road the Monday after the ice storm in yesterday’s post?  I was en route to the Aroma Espresso Bar near Avenue Road and Wilson hoping to try this hot chocolate and get photos but the whole street was knocked out of power!  Hence the detour.  I ended up rescheduling at the King & Spadina location for these shots a week later.)

Such is life.  Sigh.

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As well, I’ve been so focused and preoccupied with tea for the past few months I haven’t given hot chocolate the love it deserves (that and apple cider.  But that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.)  There are so many delicious varieties just waiting to be slurped and savoured from cafes and restaurants all across the city but I’ll sheepishly admit it’s been hard steering my attention towards other beverages when all I can think of is what type of tea I want to spoon into my mesh ball when I wake up in the morning!  There’s no reason why I can’t enjoy both though, especially with all the fun flavours and toppings places are experimenting with, like the gorgeous fluffy, chocolately, marshmallowy masterpiece at Aroma Espresso Bar!

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New to the drink menu this winter, Aroma Espresso Bar’s S’mores Hot Chocolate ($4.80 medium) is everything you could want in a hot chocolate drink that screams, “I’m so fab I could be your bff at a posh ski lodge!”  It really does have all the bells and whistles: chunks of Aroma’s creamy milk chocolate melted in steamed milk and melted marshmallows, topped with cocoa, graham cracker crumbs and giant pillow-soft marshmallows!  It is a thing of beauty and it tastes delicious.  The drink is creamy and frothy on top and rich and decadent as you get closer to the bottom where all the melted chocolate has been mixed in.  The giant marshmallows are super soft and the graham cracker crumbs totally elevate the drink, living up to its s’mores name.  And surprisingly enough, it’s not a sugar bomb!  I mean, it’s sweet and everything in it and on it is sweet but the sweetness isn’t overwhelming.  It’s fun and dessert-like without being over the top flavour-wise.

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I’m hoping to get my hands (and tastebuds) on some mint hot chocolate and others this winter (as well as the hot chocolate at Fresh which I’ve tried but never took posted photos of because they didn’t look nice) so we’ll see how the hunt goes!  Cheers and stay warm, everyone!

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Aroma Espresso Bar is an Israeli espresso and coffee chain with over 100 locations worldwide.  There are numerous branches in and around Toronto, with shops in Thornhill and Vaughan.  Click here to view the list of Toronto and GTA locations.

Let Us Eat Cake! Desserts and Sweet & Delicious Black and White Cake at Queen Mother Cafe!

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I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m always on the hunt for cafes that have an amazing selection of cake for dessert.  YES, CAKE.  And I don’t mean petit gateaux, I mean a honking delicious slice from a gorgeous giant round cake with layers and layers of moist cake and frosting and all the bells and whistles.  I love a fab dessert menu, but there’s nothing like the feeling of being able to walk into a place for a warm drink and a mouthwatering slice of cake without having that awkward, “um, yes, I’d like to order from the dessert menu…and um, nothing else.  Thank you!” feeling.  Off the top of my head Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (don’t let the name fool you, their cake is amazing!  Check out Ate by Ate’s posts on their famous rainbow cake and carrot cake!) in Kensington Market and Futures Bakery in the Annex are perfect places for an awesome slice of cake, especially Futures Bakery if you’re looking for selection!  Now we can add Queen Mother Cafe to the mix and I am so incredibly happy about this!

Choosing cake and dessert here is like choosing your favourite candy from the candy store: you walk right up to the counter (or in this case, the bar), look through the glass case(s) in delight, and point and say, “that one!”  At any given moment Queen Mother Cafe has about 10 different kinds of cake on hand ($5.99 a slice): cheesecakes, tortes and tarts and mile-high layer cakes are all up for grabs.  The cafe has several popular La Rocca cakes on hand alongside their beautiful and delicious housemade ones that rotate and change on a regular basis.

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During my very first visit back in late November, I ordered a slice of one of the most amazing cakes known to sweet tooth: their signature Lemon Escapade, a mountainous combination of lemon cream and frosting, vanilla cake, almonds, and the crunchiest of meringues.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen or tasted and I promise you guys I will get photos the next time; I didn’t have enough lighting where I was sitting and couldn’t take any!  But if you beat me to Queen Mother Cafe and if you see the Lemon Escapade, YOU MUST HAVE IT, I’M NOT KIDDING!

After that first time, I knew having cake at the cafe was an absolute MUST for each and every single visit thereafter and I was not disappointed the second time around.  I chose their beautiful black and white velvet layer cake, a 4-layer cake with 2 layers of vanilla and 2 layers of chocolate with sweet cream frosting all over and adorable little edible pearls on the backside (my apologies for the lack of photo on that one!  If I get around to having it again I’ll remember to take more!).  The cake was wonderfully moist and it is just the epitome of what vanilla and chocolate should be.  It seems so simplistic but to represent the classic timelessness of vanilla and chocolate in this fashion is no easy feat.  I’ve had chocolate cake that’s been too dry and vanilla cake that’s been too artificial and crumbly.  Queen Mother Cafe’s black and white cake nails it and it is truly cloud nine for your tastebuds.  Their menu delivers in both savoury and sweet departments and I am beyond excited to go back many more times to come.

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*****

Queen Mother Cafe is located at 208 Queen Street West in the downtown core just steps away from Osgoode subway station, situated between St. Patrick Street and Duncan Street.  They are opened 7 days a week, serving lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (11:30 am to 1 am) and weekend brunch and dinner on Sundays (11:30 am to midnight 12 am).  You can visit their official website HERE to view their info and menu.

Curried Chicken & Quinoa Meatloaf & Fluffy Quinoa Salad – Comfort Food from the Heart of Her Royal Highness, Queen Mother Cafe

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*Trumpets and horns tooting in the distance*  “Hear ye, hear ye!  We are gathered here today to mark the celebration of winter comfort food in the wake of the treacherous weather that has descended upon our fair land.  Winter comfort food shall not be taken lightly; it is of utmost importance that we, the masses, surround thyselves with warmth, flavour and heartiness over the coming months in efforts to warm and soothe thy soul and fill thy belly amidst snow, rain and freezing cold.  Thou shall read this post and proceed to drool over the plethora of scrumptious delights Her Royal Highness, Queen Mother Cafe, has to offer: the brightest and heartiest of salads, the most mouthwatering of sandwiches, the savouriest of pasta and noodle dishes, the most scrumptious of burgers, and the most decadent of desserts.  Take note my fellow foodies, for there is only one Royal Highness in the land.”

It’s time to cozy up to some really awesome comfort food in the downtown core on Queen Street West at Queen Mother Cafe!  After passing by this beautiful establishment (serving food in the city since 1978!) more times than I can remember over the years, I fianlly put my foot down and said, “I’m going, no more putting this off!” back at the end of November.  And after that first time, I mentally slotted Queen Mother Cafe into my top 10 favourites, just like that.  It drives me crazy (in a good way!) when I find or visit a place that I end up loving so much I want to go back over and over forever and ever.  It’s one thing to want to come back on your own, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to tell others that they MUST ALSO GO OR ELSE.

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And you all know me well enough to know that it’s rare for me to order the exact same thing from a place because 1) I like variety and 2) I can’t blog about the same dish twice so I purposely choose different things so that I’ll always have new content for Ate by Ate even though there might be one particular dish that I adore to pieces.  Well, I’m confessing that I broke my own rule because I actually went back in December and ordered the same thing because IT WAS THAT AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS.  I didn’t order a salad the first time though and I ordered a different dessert so at least I did that!

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There are so many things to love about Queen Mother Cafe.  For starters, it’s cozy and warm and intimate and homey with Victorian flair.  Second, it’s so close to Osgoode subway station and walkable from Eaton Centre.  Finally, and most importantly, their menu and food leaves me awestruck.  Multi-faceted doesn’t even begin to describe how fantastic it is.  There are meat dishes, vegetarian and vegan dishes, light fare, hearty fare, bar food, comfort food (which, to some, could be one in the same!) and so many different textures and ethnic flavours: Thai, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and French just to name a handful.  There is no shortage of variety on their menu as well, with choices ranging from Thai noodles to grilled sandwiches to grain salads to mouthwatering burgers, providing the perfect landscape for picky eaters and larger parties with different diets and preferences.  In addition to their regular menu, they offer daily specials and a weekend brunch menu on Sundays.

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What we have here is their fluffy quinoa salad and their to-die-for curried chicken and quinoa meatloaf burger (oh we’ll get to dessert in the next post!  And if you’re wondering, no, I did not eat all this by myself!  I shared.)  If you love quinoa, you need to have these dishes in your life because they are game-changers.  Their quinoa salad ($10.95) is a meal-sized salad consisting of quinoa, chickpeas, crumbled goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and red peppers, a little bit of diced red onion, lots of fresh flat-leaf parsley (I love parsley like nobody’s business so I happily inhaled it all) and baby salad greens, all tossed in a light and refreshing vinaigrette of lemon, herbs, garlic and olive oil.

The great thing about this salad is the lightness and all the different textures in it.  The goat cheese is very creamy, you have the crunch from the parsley and chickpeas, a little savoury flavour from the sundried tomatoes and peppers and the greens complement the quinoa giving it even more body and fullness.

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Okay.  The curried chicken and quinoa meatloaf burger ($13.95; all burgers and sandwiches are served with your choice of Yukon gold fries or salad).  I honestly didn’t know what to expect when they brought my plate to me.  I just knew I wanted it because it sounded so delicious from the description: “lean ground chicken and quinoa with onions, celery, bell peppers, lime leaf and curry, oven baked and nestled on a toasted bun with baby arugula and roasted tomatoes”.  Would the meatloaf be like a big meatball on a bun?  Would it be a round grain patty?  Would it more like a sloppy joe type of style?

When my plate was placed down, angels sang and harps started playing.  I could not believe how beautiful it looked.  A perfect 1-inch loaf slice of, hands down, one of the juiciest, most amazing things I have ever tasted in my life!  The curry flavour was bang on, the meatloaf was so moist and the ground chicken and quinoa complemented each other so well because the ground meat gave it depth and body while the quinoa kept it from being too stodgy or heavy.  The roasted tomatoes lent a little bit of juicy acidity to it and the arugula kept it bright and crunchy.  It was one of those dishes that struck the perfect balance.  It was hearty and made you full without making you feel uncomfortable in the end.  On the contrary, this will leave you feeling energized and so good afterward.

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And the bun!  I’ll be the first to admit that I shy away from sandwiches and burgers sometimes because I’m just not a fan of some of the buns people serve.  Sometimes they’re too dry, too hard, too doughy or too bland (or even a combination of all of them).  But on this burger?  Holy mother of pearl.  The toasted bun is so soft and light on the outside and crispy on the inside and more than capable of holding the entire meatloaf burger fillings together.

I can’t praise Queen Mother Cafe enough; it is a gem in this city.  In the next post, we’ll talk dessert!

*****

Queen Mother Cafe is located at 208 Queen Street West in the downtown core just steps away from Osgoode subway station, situated between St. Patrick Street and Duncan Street.  They are opened 7 days a week, serving lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (11:30 am to 1 am) and weekend brunch and dinner on Sundays (11:30 am to midnight 12 am).  You can visit their official website HERE to view their info and menu.

Photo Spotlight on Bun-wiches, Grilled Cheese & More Food at Crème Fraîche Market Cafe!

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*****

Crème Fraîche Market Cafe is a cafe and local food shop located in the west end of Toronto in Annette Village/The Junction neighbourhod at 639 Annette Street.  The shop is just several blocks west of Runnymede Road and south of Dundas Street West.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays), from 8am-8pm.  Visit their official website HERE.

A Quiet Morning of Apple Tea & Golden Brioche with Jam at Terroni Bar Centrale

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Sometimes it’s the tiny things that bring us the most joy.  A little over a month ago I decided to take a random vacation day off from work to be alone with my thoughts and to be out and about on my own.  I wanted to walk around, I wanted some fresh air and most of all, I wanted to eat yummy things and get a head start on my Christmas shopping!  Truthfully, I’ve really missed the days when I had the flexibility of being out during the week and not just on the weekends.  The pace and atmosphere is just different and it’s something I can appreciate more now that I’ve been a full-time working girl.  I have such great memories from my days in grad school just exploring the city during the week (and working my tail off every other moment!) and growing as a person.  I knew taking a day for myself would do me some good and in true Deb fashion, I had a super fun day planned out for myself: tea and breakfast at a cafe, walking, window shopping, lunch with a friend, and more walking and window shopping.

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I’m nothing if not prepared!  So prepared that I woke up at the exact same time I would have woken up had I gone to work.  My alarm woke me up at 5:30am, it was pitch black out and no, I am not a crazy banana.  Even though I mumble and grumble every morning when my dreaded alarm clock wakes me up, quiet, peaceful mornings in the city are moments I really cherish.  I love sitting back and relaxing with a magazine, a cozy pot of tea and a plate of  warm comfort food like bacon and eggs or fresh bread hot out of the oven.  Having quiet breakfast to myself just makes me happy and it makes me look forward to the rest of my day that much more because I know I’ve taken advantage of every possible moment.

I hopped on the bus, headed to the subway, got off at Summerhill station and skipped on over to Terroni Bar Centrale for some hot tea and sweet breakfast nibbles.  After going to Terroni for weekend brunch last fall, I remembered their menu well and knew that they had sweet breakfast options and of course, darling little pots of loose leaf tea.  After choosing a pot of their Torta Di Mele black tea with apple ($4) to start, I hemmed and hawwed over my food: did I want biscotti?  Or maybe the yogurt and granola parfait with fruit?  Or their special Pandolci, Scandinavian-style pancakes with Nutella and jam?!  After some careful thought, I chose the Brioche con Burro e Marmellata: housemade brioche with housemade jam ($6).

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Believe it or not, good ol’ fashioned toast and jam is a weakness of mine and truly one of my favourite things in the world.  It’s a total comfort thing.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into quarters was my go-to lunch as a little kindergardener.  Toast and jam is the only thing I will touch when I’m not feeling well.  And there is nothing like the feeling of warm, crispy toasty golden bread crunching between your teeth with the sweet, fruitiness of jam or jelly lingering on your tastebuds.  It’s like a cozy hug from your favourite childhood teddy bear and I love it.  Terroni laid their golden slices of brioche on an adorable wooden platter with some butter and a VERY generous amount of jam!  It was warm and soft and buttery and oh so delicious.  Coupled with my pot of loose leaf tea, it made for the perfect way to start my day.  The wonderful thing about brioche is how it stands up to things like jam.  It doesn’t get soggy, it retains its shape and it has this lovely mix of thickness and lightness that just works.

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Mission quiet, peaceful, delicious morning to myself accomplished.

*****

Terroni Bar Central is located at 1095 Yonge Street on the corner of Price St. between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations in midtown Toronto.  They’re open 7 days a week: 11:30am-10pm Sunday to Wednesday, 11:30am-11pm Thursday to Saturday.

Frittata Sandwiches, Edamame with Avocado & Arugula Salads – Fresh Flavours & Fall Comfort at Yorkville Espresso Bar

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This fall is shaping up to be an amazing season so far.  I’ve done some baking, I’ve got my blogging back on, and I can’t even begin to describe how freakin’ excited I am for Thanksgiving this year!  The quintessential “day of turkey” is one week away and I’ve spent most of the weekend sticky-noting recipes and planning the menu for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, not to mention packing as much foodie goodness as I can into the holiday weekend with my boyfriend, family and friends.

While I do have pumpkins and apples (cooked and baked because of my raw fruit allergy!) and squash on the brain, part of me knows it’s still waaaay too early to be in full comfort food mode.  We have plenty of time for that in the dreaded “w” word in the coming months!  Fall food is so inviting because it incorporates both cozy comfort with bright and fresh flavours: fruit and veg soups, bean and vegetable salads with comforting herbs, fruity vinaigrettes and dressings, and tender meats with root vegetables and juicy cooked fruit.  I love how the weather is cool but still pleasantly balmy on days and how I can still enjoy the lighter fare without sweating to death and hiding from the fierce sun like I do during the summer!

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Which brings me to a teeny confession I have to make: this post and these photos were supposed to be on Ate by Ate over a month ago.  Possibly even 2 months ago.  But life happened and this post just never did.  Long story short, Yorkville Espresso Bar owners Rita and Tony invited me to the cafe for return visit to share a meal, to watch chef John Vetere cook and work his magic on the cafe’s many delicious menu items in the kitchen studio, to try some of the cafe’s various gluten-free bakery items from coffee and baking master Drew Randall and to basically talk food, blogging and community.  It was such a fun day and it was such a cool experience seeing the cafe menu items that make us drool come to life right before my eyes.  These photos were taken at Yorkville Espresso Bar during the summer and part of me worried that I wouldn’t be able to make them relevant for fall.  Thankfully for me, their food is just as perfect for fall as it is for summer and I’m just happy I finally get to share with you guys!

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Yorkville Espresso Bar has introduced a number of different breakfast and lunch foods to their ever-expanding menu: frittata sandwiches oozing with eggs, herbs, veggies and cheese (oh and ham!), scrumptious wraps with creamy cheese and fresh vegetables, and a plethora of hearty but bright salads.  Aside from how yummy everything is, what makes the food so enticing to me is the price point.  Being located in Yorkville doesn’t exactly give you the reputation of being inexpensive.  Let’s face it, Yorkville isn’t known as Mink Mile for nothing; its poshness extends to the dining scene too.  But Yorkville Espresso Bar has made their dishes and food so accessible by making it healthy, fresh and affordable.  You have the frittata sandwiches and salads coming in at $4 and $4.50 respectively (under $5!) and their ginourmous wraps and artisan bread sandwiches coming in under $10 at $8.

Their food menu is a reflection of what folks in and around the community have asked for; Rita and Tony and their staff have taken so much of everyone’s feedback to heart and have put an enormous amount of thought and care into their menu, offering healthy food that isn’t run of the mill (nobody needs a limp lettuce and tomato salad that was packaged the day before thank you very much), made the morning of, and perfect for both dine-in and grab-and-go for the work crowd.  Their food menu includes herb roasted chicken wraps with crunchy celery and sunflower seeds, Thai tuna with basmati rice, and shaved carrots dressed in chili sauce, Italian meatball and mozzarella and rapini on toasted artisan bread and even Trinidadian doubles among other savouries alongside the mountain of baked goods and gluten-free items such as biscotti, muffins, pastries, tarts, scones, brownies, loaf cakes, macarons and more.

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What we have here are toasted and grilled English muffin frittata sandwiches stuffed with eggs, mozzarella, provolone and basil along with ham and cheese sandwiches, grilled sun-dried tomato wraps stuffed with creamy goat cheese, roasted red peppers, zucchini, eggplant, greens and mushrooms and two amazing, fantastic salads: white beans infused with fresh sprigs of rosemary with edamame, avocado and red onion vinaigrette and an artichoke salad with grape tomatoes, olives, arugula, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finished with a red wine vinaigrette.  I love English muffin sandwiches like nobody’s business.  At home, I toast English muffins and eat them with cream cheese and nothing else at times.  Yorkville Espresso Bar does a special daily frittata sandwich each morning and on this day my tastebuds were treated to two of my favourite things enveloped in eggs: cheese and basil.  It makes my stomach growl just thinking about it.

Next, we have the sun-dried tomato wrap.  This thing is HUGE.  I was watching chef John make it while I was taking photos in the Kitchen Studio and I was all bug-eyed when I saw the size of tortilla he was using!  For those who loooove grilled wraps and vegetarian sandwiches, you need this in your life.  The goat cheese and eggplant totally do it for me and it’s just gorgeous to look at.  It is a thing of beauty and so soft and flavourful with a hint of smokiness from the grilled vegetables and grilled tortilla wrap.

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Finally, the salads.  The scrumptious, mouthwatering salads.  They are perfect as an accompaniment to the sandwiches but also just as perfect on their own.  They are truly top-notch and for $4.50…you really can’t ask for more.  I watched as Chef John cooked the soaked white beans, infusing them with warm rosemary flavour in a giant pot of boiling water with onions and brightening them at the same time with crunchy edamame and soft, creamy avocado in the finished product.  It’s a beautiful fusion of warmth and comfort with lightness and it’s definitely a winning combination you don’t find at other places.  To finish off: the arugula and artichoke salad.  I love arugula so much and the red wine vinaigrette that the salad was tossed in was delicious.  The tomatoes in the salad balance out the briny flavour of the olives and artichokes and peppery bite of the arugula, and parm just elevates the savouriness to another level.  These are the types of salads I always wish for because their hearty with substance but still light and fresh in flavour.

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The menu and the people here make the espresso bar such an inviting place for coffee, tea and lunch and I feel so lucky to have been able to enjoy the food and learn about it at the same time, watching Chef John make the food from start to finish and getting to know the people and the cafe from the inside out.  Rita and Tony made me feel just like family.  It’s almost the first anniversary of my first visit (October 21!) and I think it’s high time I went back again to try even more of their delicious menu.

*****

Yorkville Espresso Bar is located at 3 Yorkville Ave., just west of Yonge Street and north of Cumberland St.  They are open 7 days a week from 7:30am-7pm Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm Saturday, and 9am-5pm Sunday.