The Vegetarian Sandwich Series – Grilled Tofu & Eggplant Panini and Hot Chocolate at Dark Horse Espresso Bar

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Sandwiches?  Vegan sandwiches?  At a coffee shop?!  Yes siree.  Bring a book, a magazine, or a friend to the popular java haunt and sit back and relax with some sips and eats.  Dark Horse Espresso Bar, with 3 locations around downtown Toronto, is your one stop coffee shop for sunny laptop and tablet fun, coffee, lattes, summer and winter drinks, sweet treat baked goods, and grilled panini sandwiches.  I’ve sat back with an apple cider and a latte on two separate occasions and with its pretty orchid flowers and beautiful artwork on the walls, it’s a really nice coffee shop to be in.  It’s one of those perfect “oh my goodness, I need to get some work done but staying at home by myself makes me want to stab myself with a pen” spots because it’s airy and open with big communal tables, so it provides the space to be anonymous without being completely alone AND you get to enjoy food and drink while doing it!  

Recently, I’ve been hemming and hawwing about getting some work done at my local library but I’ve been hesitant about going just because the area lacks food options (I’m not kidding, the closest food option is a dot on the 3 km radius map) and we all know we can’t start breaking out the 3-course meals from our kitchen tupperware containers in the middle of the library.  So, Dark Horse poses itself as the more appealing option for a day of web work and after I had my lovely vegan grilled panini sandwich and hot chocolate, it posits itself as very delicious one too!

 

I love how I can go to Dark Horse and ask for cute latte art.  I know, you can get latte art at several other coffee shops in the city but I haven’t been to those yet, so humour me!  I asked for a cute heart in my hot chocolate ($3.09) and I got the most adorable heart/tulip heart shaped flower!  It was unintentionally (or maybe it was intentional on the part of the nice barista…) perfect for spring and if you like foamy hot chocolates, Dark Horse is your spot.  Don’t do what I did though and leave it sitting for too long.  I was so busy snapping photos of it and my sandwich that the foamies stuck to the inside of the mug and while it was kind of funny having to scrape some of the hot chocolate off, it’s not something I would suggest to anyone else. 

Their hot chocolate is very mild and foamy in taste and texture.  It’s not a fudgy type of chocolate taste, nor is is straight up cocoa powder in taste either.  It’s airy and light and if I had to compare it to something, I’d say that it tastes more like an unsweetened mousse that’s been air whipped into a hot chocolate drink.  For those who don’t like it sickly sweet and just want something that tastes more natural and light as opposed to rich and decadent, this is what you want.

I’ve had my eye on their vegan sandwich for months and months and it has taken me so long to finally get to it, but it was worth the wait because I really enjoyed it!  While I would have loved a big, stacked vegan sandwich baguette style or just a thicker sandwich in general, the vegan sandwich delivers in flavour on all counts and it’s hard to be hard on a panini sandwich based on its thickness; a panini is, essentially, a flattened grilled, toasted sandwich.  Dark Horse serves up a number of grilled panini sandwiches during the day (come after 11am and they’ll all be ready), with both meat and vegetarian options ranging from $6-$7.  These include grilled cheese, hot salami, turkey, and avocado and asparagus in addition to the vegan sandwich. 

The vegan sandwich is filled with a mix of firm tofu, grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, avocado, and a coriander pesto spread.  I was totally expecting a run-of-the-mill grilled vegetable sandwich but what I got was an out-of-this-world warm, savoury, slightly spicy, ginger taste that emanated throughout the entire sandwich.  It took me completely by surprise and I found myself enjoying the sandwich more and more with every bite.  The bread was fantastic in texture with crunchy, grainy bits that had tiny pockets of savoury saltiness to it and the tofu wedges were perfect because they were firm without being rubbery and it fed off of the coriander pesto and grilled vegetables, absorbing their flavours while still retaining its own, well, tofu-ness. 

The bread and the spread totally did it for me and I had flavours in this sandwich that I had never come across before in other sandwiches and for that, it makes it unique.  Do I wish panini sandwiches in general were bigger and less flattened?  Sure.  But I’m more happy with the fact that it tasted great and that it was something I could see myself having again.  After all the dishes and things I’ve had in my life, especially since I started Ate by Ate, I’ve come across things that have been not-so-great and at the very least, forgettable, but this was a sandwich that I truly savoured and liked.          

*****

Dark Horse Espresso Bar serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 215 Spadina Ave. (nearest intersection is Queen St. West and Spadina, about a block or two north of Queen on the east side of Spadina)
  2. 682 Queen St. East (located in the Riverside neighbourhood, west of Broadview Ave.)
  3. 684 Queen St. West (located at Euclid Ave. on the north side of Queen)  
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Apple Cider to Warm Up My Morning

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This is how I spend a relaxing, low-key morning – with a warm mug of sweet apple cider and a Homemakers magazine!  😀  Not pictured: Lush Times catalogue.  It was windy, gusty, and bitterly cold yesterday so I hugged my apple cider for a few hours as I thumbed through recipes for chicken and mango stir-fry, and popcorn toppings and seasonings, all the while jotting down blogging notes in my little blue muffymade fashionista notebook.  It was really nice.  The apple cider was delicious, I was enjoying an apple-related something with no worries of blowing up like a blowfish, and I was alone with my thoughts.  I cherish mornings like these.  I love flipping through and reading my food magazines for inspiration and Homemakers has been a long time staple in my life! 

After receiving a free copy at last weekend’s Bloor/Yorkville Icefest, I was transported back to the age of 7 and 8 when I used to read my grandmother’s Homemarkers magazines.  She would get them delivered to her apartment for free and because she couldn’t read English, I would happily read them while I was over there and take them home with me when I left.  I would use them for food collages and I would look forward to the recipes section in each issue every time.  The holiday issues were especially amazing as they would include pullout booklets and all the fixins’.  Sure, I was only 7 or 8 at the time and no where near being a homemaker myself, but reading these magazines ignited a fire in me and till this day the passion to learn is still as strong as it was when I was little.  This “little” magazine will always hold a very special place in my heart. 

*****

Dark Horse Espresso Bar serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 215 Spadina Ave. (nearest intersection is Queen St. West and Spadina, about a block or two north of Queen on the east side of Spadina)
  2. 682 Queen St. East (located in the Riverside neighbourhood, west of Broadview Ave.)
  3. 684 Queen St. West (located at Euclid Ave. on the north side of Queen)  

Valentine’s Series: The Keys to My Heart Part II – Warm Hands & Latte Love at Dark Horse Espresso Bar

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lat·te [lah-tey] – noun: hot espresso with steamed milk, usually topped with foamed milk

love [luhv] – noun, verb:

  1. strong enthusiasm, or liking for anything
  2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection
  3. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person

You know a coffee haunt is great when it can entice a non-coffee drinker like myself.  And yet, given my indifference to coffee, I adore independent coffee shops.  They have so much character, so much personality and warmth.  A coffee shop is so much more than a place for your caffiene zing in the morning.  It’s a place to catch up with a friend with a drink and sweet treat.  It’s a place to warm up on a bitter cold day.  A place to meet new people, to develop that relationship with the people who work there where they know your order by heart.  My mum and our local barista exchange Christmas gifts and have become close friends, so much so that my mum’s coffee is hot and ready to go the second she steps in.  It’s a place to park your laptop, to listen to some great music.  It’s a place to sit and relax.  To have that moment in your day where you let go of the stress and lose yourself in the hustle and bustle around you.  That quiet moment where it’s just you and your hot drink with the warm sunlight streaming in.  That was my moment today; with my honey by my side and my latte in a mug.  A latte to warm the hands…and the heart ❤

*****

Dark Horse Espresso Bar serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 215 Spadina Ave. (nearest intersection is Queen St. West and Spadina, about a block or two north of Queen on the east side of Spadina)
  2. 682 Queen St. East (located in the Riverside neighbourhood, west of Broadview Ave.)
  3. 684 Queen St. West (located at Euclid Ave. on the north side of Queen)