The Magical Marriage Between Milk & Cookies (& Ice Cream!) – Moo Milk Bar on Queen East in the Beaches!

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Raise your hand if you love ice cream.  Raise your other hand if you love cookies.  Okay, awesome, you’ll love this post then!  *slaps you two high fives*  I present to you all, Moo Milk Bar on Queen Street East in the Beaches!  Seriously, this sweets and dessert bakery is one of the most fantastical places in the entire city.  If you’ve never been, you have to go.  And if you already have, drool right along with me.  And for those who are skeptics thinking, “well, I can get ice cream and cookies at other places too”, I understand.  Fair enough.  But do those other places offer 16 different kinds of cookies on any given day?  Do those other places offer Banana Chocolate milk?  Strawberry milk?  Caramel milk?  Cinnamon milk?  VANILLA BEAN milk?!  And a few different kinds of ice cream to make ice cream cookie sandwiches with any one of those 16 different kinds of cookies?  Nah, I didn’t think so.  Moo Milk Bar is such a special place because it is devoted to the sweet and innocent, tried and true, childhood staple of milk and cookies,  with the addition and option of ice cream.  Which just makes it all even more amazing than it already is!

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In truth though, I’ve always been in love with milk and cookies on paper and in theory more than I’ve been in love with milk and cookies in actuality.  How can that be?!  You all know how much I adore cookies, eating them and baking them.  There’s never been any question about that.  And I love the concept of milk and cookies so much that I even have an adorable pair of socks with an image of a glass of milk with chocolate chip cookies on the ankles.  But milk?  Eh.  Ever since I was a baby, milk straight up has never sat well with me and it’s not because of lactose intolerance (cheese, yogurt, and ice cream all make my belly feel quite happy), it was just something that I didn’t digest well when I was little and over time, I stopped drinking cow’s milk because it wasn’t enjoyable to drink and primarily just drink almond milk now.  I even developed an allergy to soy milk in my teens.  I couldn’t catch a break.  But Moo Milk Bar has honestly given my aversion to milk a talking-to with all their yummy different flavours.  There’s no reason to be apprehensive about it now because I can try a flavoured milk every once in a while and actually enjoy it!

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Moo Milk Bar, located at 1918 Queen Street East just east of Woodbine Ave. in the Beaches neighbourhood, offers a huge selection of cookies including banana chocolate chip, mocha, red velvet, salted caramel dark chocolate and peanut butter coconut among others ($1.90 each, $11 for half a dozen, $21 for 1 dozen, and $31 for 1 dozen and a half or 18 cookies), milk from Hewitt’s Dairy Farm in Ontario flavoured in-house by bakery staff like the ones I listed at the beginning of the post up top ($3.33 each in a 355 mL milk jug-style bottle), brownies and bars ($3.33 each), ice cream cookie sandwiches ($3.10 for a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between 2 halves of one cookie, and $5 for a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two cookies), milk and cookie combos ($5 for a cookie with a milk), cakes, and cookie gift bags.

It’s a cute and small bakery with baking tools tacked up on the walls, faux picnic grass on parts of the floor, and some side counter space for folks to sit by to stuff their face.  While I would loooove for them to be in Markham (or just closer to me in general), their location really is great because the Beaches is such a walkable neighbourhood and it’s such a nice, fun summertime spot.  You can grab some cookies or a bottle of milk to enjoy during a leisurely stroll, you can grab some some goodies and enjoy them on the beach or at a picnic in the Kew Gardens, or you could come by after a weekend brunch at one of the many Queen East spots for a delicious dessert.

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For the my first Moo Milk Bar experience, I went all out with an ice cream cookie sandwich AND a flavoured milk.  Go big or go home, right?!  I had myself a Cookies n’ Cream cookie with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and vanilla bean flavoured milk and ugh, for the cookie and vanilla loving freak in me, it was PERFECT.  Who wouldn’t love a big and fresh cookie with cold, creamy ice cream and a sweet and delicious drink?

The great thing about it as that it’s not too difficult to handle, even for messy eaters!  You drink your milk from a straw (like a little kid!), the ice cream is dead center so you can work your way in without having to lick drippy ice cream from the edges (or from your fingers) from the get-go, and the milk bottles are capped and portable so you can bring or carry it around with you if you don’t finish it right away (granted, in hot weather it might be a good idea to just finish it in one seating unless you’re planning to bring a mini ice pack along with you while you’re out!).  There are so many possible combinations and so many different ways to mix things up and that’s the beauty of it.  You can be like me and keep it “themed” or you can go wild and try the wackiest of combinations, all in the name of yummy fun.  And that is what Moo Milk Bar is all about, the joy, fun and innocent behind the magical marriage of milk and cookies.

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Moo Milk Bar is located at 1918 Queen Street East just east of Woodbine Ave. in the Beaches neighbourhood.  They are open 6 days a week (closed Mondays): Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm.  You can follow them on Twitter @moomilkbar

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Rise & Shine to a Mexican Fiesta! Weekend Brunch in the Beaches at Xola

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Rise and shine to a Mexican fiesta!  If you’re looking for a weekend brunch spot to add to your list of foodie escapades, head to Xola in the Beaches.  Located in the east end of the city on Queen Street East, Xola is a fun and colourful cantina serving up delicious weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner options with Mexican flair and flavour.  Truth be told, I stumbled on Xola last summer during a day out in the Beaches neighbourhood but didn’t get around to eating here until I did an assignment for Eat In Eat Out magazine for their feature on Mexican restaurants earlier in the year but because I’ve been so on and off with blogging for the last little while I haven’t gotten the chance to post about them here on Ate by Ate until now.  Phew!  It’s actually not such a bad thing now that I think about it because the weather is beautiful now which makes Xola’s fun and fiery interior and menu pop that much more.  It screams summer more than it screams winter in January!  Before I dive right into divulging the yummy details of my first meal here though, let me rewind and talk a little bit about the assignment I took on that led me back to Xola in the first place.

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When I took on the assignment for Eat In Eat Out magazine knowing that it was for a feature on Mexican restaurants across Canada, I wanted to approach it in a non-traditional way.  I didn’t particularly want to choose any old Mexican restaurant in Toronto for lunch.  So I racked my brain for something different, something special.  The light blub came on and Xola came to mind.  I quickly searched through my photos from last summer for the photo I took of Xola’s menu taped to their front window, did a little digging online, and found out to my utter delight that they served weekend brunch on Saturdays!  Seeing as how Mexican weekend brunch is a pretty neat and unique thing in Toronto (it’s not like the city is crawling with places that serve it.  Not yet anyway), I knew it was the perfect place to write about.  And it totally and wholeheartedly was.

Xola is barely a year old but I’ve seen and heard folks talk about lineups out the door some nights!  Thankfully for me I was planning on having my meal during the day and arriving right when they opened at 12 noon so I wasn’t too fussed or worried about that.  I was much more interested in what I was going to stuff my face in.  Xola’s weekend brunch menu, served on Saturdays from 12pm-2pm, serves everything from burritos with slow braised beef and slow braised pork to fish tacos, omelettes with goat cheese, and THREE kinds of huevos rancheros with fresh corn tortillas, eggs, chorizo sausage, potatoes, different salsas, sour cream, fresco, and black beans among other dishes.  Prices range from $8-$15, making it an incredibly affordable weekend brunch spot.  NOTE: Xola accepts CASH ONLY.  They are a CASH ONLY establishment much like Lady Marmalade in Leslieville.

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When I think back to this meal and this visit, I smile because everything about Xola is just so fun and vibrant.  They have this gorgeous, colourful mural on one wall that I love to pieces and while the place is small, they more than make up for it in flair, food, and personality.  For weekend brunch that day I enjoyed a handful of yummy things: a cold and delicious glass of horchata ($3.50), a Mexican drink made with rice, milk and cinnamon; a ridiculously large dish of chilaquiles ($9): homemade tortilla chips covered in creamy red salsa, drizzled with sour cream and sprinkled queso fresco cheese; trio de gorditas ($8.95), my meal of corn masa patties topped with an assortment of refried beans, red salsa, and green salsa with sour cream and queso fresco cheese and served with guacamole and scrambled eggs; and last, but not least, a freshly made Mexican margarita!

I can honestly say that I enjoyed everything so much because they were all delicious in their own way and because all this food was so new to me, I was seeing it with fresh eyes and tasting it with fresh tastebuds.  The horchata drink was so unbelievably delicious.  It was like dessert in drink form.  It had just enough sweetness from the cinnamon and the milk and rice gave it substance while the ice kept it cold and refreshing throughout the meal.

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The chilaquiles?  Out of this freakin’ world.  This is like the appetizer to end all appetizers.  So messy but so fun!  The red salsa (which is the consistency of a sauce, not to be mistaken with the pico de gallo style of salsa) is thick and creamy and with the sour cream and queso fresco, there was savouriness, there was tanginess and of course there was fun and crunch from the tortilla chips.  My trio de gorditas dish makes my weekend brunch and breakfast-loving heart all warm and fuzzy because the inclusion of scrambled eggs just screams happy breakfast to me.  It makes me think of warm sun streaming in through windows, hot eggs coming out of sizzling pan, and enjoying that first meal of the day on those wonderful weekend mornings where the remainder of the day stretches out in front of you and the possibilities for loveliness are endless.

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And finally, the margarita!  I know, I know, I don’t drink!  But my server was so sweet and so gracious that the drink was on the house so I did what any good patron would do: I thanked her profusely and enjoyed it.  Not all of it because I’m such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol (drinking is honestly not my thing) but enough to know that heck, it was REALLY good!  The lime just made it so juicy and refreshing and for me, it helped to tame the strength of the tequila.  At the very least, you all know now that you can certainly raise a happy glass here!

So, if you’re looking to enjoy Mexican food in a fun and different way, Xola in the Beaches is just the ticket.  Happy Friday and early weekend, everyone!

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Xola is located at 2222A Queen Street East in the Beaches neighbourhood in Toronto. Weekend brunch is served on Saturdays from 12pm to 2pm. Operating hours all other days: Monday (5pm-9pm), Tuesday (closed); Wednesday to Friday (12pm-3pm for lunch, 5pm-closing for dinner); Saturday (12pm-closing); Sunday (4pm-closing).  CASH ONLY.

The Keys to My Heart: Beautiful Summer Days and Fresh & Flaky Fish n’ Chips at King’s Table in the Beaches

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It feels like eons since I last talked about my favourite foods and where to get them!  I guess it makes sense though because favourites are difficult to narrow down and it takes time to try out different variations of the same dish.  I may have nailed down my favourite spicy salmon sushi rolls and my favourite cookie dessert, but I have a long way to go before I figure out my be-all and end-all for every other food category!  Not to mention there’s always a chance that your favourite now may not be your favourite years later.  There’s always the possibility that your current faves will get replaced by even more amazing eats in the future, but for the time being, I have a gut feeling that the handful of favourites I’ve selected are here to stay on my list.   

Fish n’ chips is a treat to me.  It’s that one guilty pleasure, comfort food type of indulgence that I go for once a year.  And I love it.  I would take fish n’ chips over a burger any day.  And lucky for me, I’ve found my holy grail fish n’ chips!  One food category down, a gazillion more to go 😀  King’s Table, located on Queen St. East in the Beaches, is by far my favourite place to go for fresh, flaky, buttery fish n’ chips.  I went here for the first time last summer and I instantly knew this place was a keeper in my book.

There are so many things I love about King’s Table.  I love that it’s a beautiful, intimate place (with a romantic-looking little patio out back!) that evokes that light, breezy feeling of summer happiness and comfort.  Whenever I think of fish n’ chips, I think, “Mmm, yummy.  Greasy spoons!”  We’re talking fish n’ chips here, not rainbow trout or lobster or other seafood delicacies.  We’re talking your good old fashioned fish n’ chips with plenty of haddock, halibut, and cod with starchy, potato-y, delicious fries.  When I think of fish n’ chips, I envision tiny diner style places with a lot of take-out and paper bag sacks.  Although King’s Table could be considered a neighbourhood diner, it has that inviting atmosphere that draws you in to sit and stay and have a good meal.  I love the rich yellow colour of the walls and napkins, the red curtains by the front window, the cute fish memorabilia hanging (and painted!) on the walls, and the peacefulness inside the restaurant.  When I eat here I feel relaxed, like I can take my time to enjoy my meal without being rushed.  It’s a lovely fish n’ chips diner that has amazing food to boot.

Prices for meals depend on the type of fish and their sizes.  Halibut is the more expensive option while haddock and cod are the lesser expensive ones.  If you order a meal like mine (one piece of 4oz. haddock with chips), it’ll run you $8.65.  I’m more than satisfied with this, but if you have a heartier appetite, your meal will probably run closer to $12-$15.  They have fish n’ chips meals, fish n’ chips with salad meals (which are the meals that are closer to the $12-$15 range), and fish only meals.  As well, they have large portions of panfried fish and salmon fillet meals (around 70z. and 8oz.) that are more expensive if you feel like you want to splurge.   

King’s Table fills that fish n’ chips love of mine with some amazing haddock and chips.  I plan on trying other dishes from their menu (such as their shrimp, their clam chowder, their mushrooms with garlic and chive sauce, and maybe even a dessert), but I have to tell you, I’d be a happy camper for life if I came back here and ate nothing else but the haddock and chips I love so much.  And that’s saying a lot coming from me, Little Miss I-always-want-to-order-and-try-something-different-each-time-I-go-out-to-eat!  The haddock is buttery, flaky, crispy, crunchy, and everything you could want in a piece of battered fish.  It’s not greasy or oil-laden in the least.

And their fries!  I know fries aren’t the star of the show but if you’re eating fish n’ chips, I think it’s necessary for the “chips” part of the meal to own it.  To me, even though you’re paying the bulk of your meal toward the fish, it ruins the meal if the fries are nasty.  Their fries are soft without being soggy and I dunk them (as well as my crispy, flaky haddock) in their seafood tartar sauce and it is heaven.  I know a lot of people like to eat their food “naked”, but I am not one of them.  I adore sauce.  So much so that I took my boyfriend’s sauce and ate that too.  He doesn’t use sauce so I offered my eating services to prevent waste.  And no one likes to see awesome sauce go to waste, right? 😉

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King’s Table is located at 2248 Queen St. East between Beech and Willow Ave. in the Beaches neighbourhood.  They are open for business from 12pm-10pm and I am pretty sure these hours are for every day of the week, but I will double check to make sure.  King’s Table also offers take-out.

Enough Fudge to Put You in a Sugar Coma! The Nutty Chocolatier on Queen St. East in the Beaches, Part II

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I adore this beautiful art outside The Nutty Chocolatier’s front door.  I think I have four or five pictures of this pretty mural alone.  It’s eye-catching, it’s colourful, and so happy-go-lucky.  You have chocolate bars hugging, truffles skipping about, and some very smiley lollipops.  It’s such a cute way of exemplifying how much fun candy shops can be and how everyone has a soft spot for candies and chocolates in same way.  When I visit candy stores, I don’t buy a lot.  To me, less is more because otherwise, it becomes overwhelming and it ends up spoiling when it gets to be too much.  I love walking away with one special treat, something to enjoy on the ride back home or something to savour later.   

I do enjoy my Fuzzy Peaches as well as peach and green apple gummy rings, but what I look forward to the most is finding special imports, and limited edition collectibles and novelty items!  Things like adorable tin lunch boxes, imported candies, different flavours of old classics, that sort of thing.  This is what sets each and every candy shop apart from each other.  For example, I know a handful of places where you can get the special coconut M&Ms, but can you always get them at lower prices?  Nope.  Which is why I still stand by my top two picks on where to get them for cheap: Yonge Market ($1) and Uncle John’s Candy Shack ($1.39).  What appeals to me the most is the stuff that you can’t get anywhere else, and that same great stuff for really good prices.

What threw me for a loop the very first time I came here was their ridiculously huge selection of potato chips!  You know, those little snack-size bags of Ruffles or Lays that we, in North America, are so accustomed to seeing?  Imagine those, but instead of Ruffles or Lays, they’re Walkers and they come in flavours like roasted chicken, pickled onion, and prawn cocktail!  And you sooo know these are from the UK because, as my English friend Alex once said, “we say prawn, not shrimp!”  Ha! 😀  The little baggies of potato chips are in boxes closer to the back of the candy shop and there are at least ten flavours to choose from.  The little baggies are $1 each, but I’m almost positive that if you buy several, there’s a deal.  If you love unexpected flavours and potato chips, or if you’re just plain curious, I totally recommend their selection!

At the Nutty Chocolatier, their standouts are their fudge, truffles, and their imported candies, chocolates, and savoury snacks which, for the most part, come from the UK.  Their selection varies over time, but if you love fudge and if you like finding different flavours of certain chocolates, you will love it here!  Their selection of fresh fudge is out of this world.  Slabs and slabs of it sit on their cutting boards in a bazillion different flavours and the girls who work here are happy to slice you a piece to sample!  They have flavours like chocolate cheesecake chip, banana chocolate, chocolate orange, peanut butter cup, rocky road, Turtles fudge, chewy praline, and watermelon!  I know, watermelon fudge!  The slab is white, pink, and green with chocolate chips in it to resemble seeds and I grabbed a sample to try and it tasted really fruit and chocolatey!  Kind of like watermelon mixed with white chocolate. 

The fudge looked so good, especially the chocolate cheesecake chip and the chocolate orange, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish whatever I bought so I settled for a rich, sweet sample.  The prices differ based on flavour, but the prices are calculated by weight (per 100g) and there are prepackaged slabs of fudge for you to choose from too.

The Nutty Chocolatier has a HUGE selection of candies, but to be honest, I’d pass on the candy and focus more on the chocolate products (if you can eat them) or their savoury snacks (like the UK imported chips), just because I find that the candy prices are a little more expensive than other places and it’s just not necessary, in my opinion, to pay more for candies that you could get elsewhere for less. 

But!  For those who like flavoured Kit Kats and who loooove mint chocolate, you’re in luck!  The candy shop has a special mint chocolate Kit Kat UK import!  They’re mini Kit Kats and you can either buy them individually near the cash, or you can pick up party packs with 9 mini packs inside.  Each mini has two chocolate wafers.  Even though I’m still warming up to mint chocolate, I was pretty excited to find these!  I adore flavoured Kit Kats and although I haven’t tried every flavour under the sun, my favourite over the years has been the orange Kit Kat and I was so giddy when I found special mini orange Kit Kats from the UK at Uncle John’s Candy Shack almost two months ago.

The candy and chocolate shop also serves ice cream and gelato and they have plenty of novelty items like mugs and tin lunch boxes.  It’s a big shop and it’s so much fun to look at everything.  If you’re ever in the Beaches area, drop in and take a look because it’s one of those novelty stores that you just have to visit and roam around in because of their sheer volume of stock.  And who knows, maybe the next time I’m there I’ll succumb to temptation and pick up some fudge after all.

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The Nutty Chocolatier is located in the Beaches neighbourhood at 2179 Queen Street East, east of Woodbine Ave. and in between Lee and Hambly Ave.

Skipping Down Chocolate & Candy Lane – The Nutty Chocolatier on Queen St. East in the Beaches, Part I

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My trip to The Nutty Chocolatier in the Beaches area on Queen St. East was well worth the wait.  I waited A YEAR to come back to this sweet morsel of confectionary to finally take the photos I wanted to take.  You all know how anal I am about my photos.  If I don’t like them, I retake until I’m satisfied.  And if it takes me a year to go back to a place, I will mumble and grumble but patiently wait till the day I get to come back.  I know it sounds so silly considering that all it takes is a subway and streetcar ride.  But the weather doesn’t always cooperate when you make plans to go, sometimes you just feel like exploring another neighbourhood, and other times you run out of bus tokens and tickets and feel too cheap to buy more, and thus the trip is prolonged for another chunk of time.  Sigh.  Tis the life of a foodie. 

I went to the Beaches area for the first time last summer and I was so, so excited to go back to revisit some places and to explore a bit more this past month.  The Beaches area is beautiful.  It’s quaint, it’s peaceful, and it has that lovely mom-and-pop feel.  Added bonus?  It’s just a hop, skip, step away from Woodbine beach!  When you walk along Queen St. E, it feels so nice because you can feel the balmy air coming in from the shore.  When I spend a day in the Beaches, my plan of action involves getting off the Queen streetcar at Woodbine Ave. and walking east till I’m too tired to keep walking, ha! 

Even though I may not buy things in every candy shop I go into (what self-control I have!), I looove looking and The Nutty Chocolatier is a BIG shop that offers candy, chocolate, British imports and memorabilia (there were plenty of William and Kate mugs among other things when I was there this past month, haha), gelato and icecream, imported chips and savoury snacks, and lots and lots of fudge!  So here’s a teaser post with photos of The Nutty Chocolatier, the resident neighbourhood candy store, fudge shop, and cavity-inducing sugar emporium with plenty of local and imported sweets and treats 😀

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The Nutty Chocolatier is located in the Beaches neighbourhood at 2179 Queen Street East, east of Woodbine Ave. and in between Lee and Hambly Ave.