Crazy in Love with Lemon Blueberry Scones! A Visit to Cobs Bread – The Ate by Ate Daily, Vol. 009

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DSCN2331Current obsession: the lemon-blueberry scones from Cobs Bread!  I’ve been going crazy over these since May, to the point where I almost can’t pass them up any time I’m around a Cobs Bread now.  Even my brother, who normally wouldn’t touch a blueberry much less eat one (it’s one of his least favourite fruits) has totally given in to the lemon-blueberry scone love and scarfed a few of these babies down right along with me.  THEY ARE SO DARN YUMMY.  The glaze, the oodles of blueberries bursting from every scone and the sweet and zesty lemon make for delicious teatime snacks and, if you like things sweet in the morning, breakfasts.  Just think, they’d be so perfect paired with the Blueberry Jam tea from David’s Tea or the Lemon Meringue tea from Tealish or any other sweet or citrusy fresh flavours.  You could plan a whole breakfast or tea menu around these lovely pastries, what with blueberry pancakes, lemon tarts, loaf cakes, lemon bars, blueberry oatmeal cookies…I could daydream about this for a long time!  I am a lover of all things lemon, especially lemon desserts, and most blueberry things as well so the two married together in a scone is just heaven in my mouth.

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They’re $1.75 each and I’ve been getting mine from the Annex location just west of Spadina on Bloor Street West but any Cobs Bread location will do.  So far I’ve only tried the lemon-blueberry and cinnamon flavours but my brother has given the thumbs up for the apple butterscotch one and my boyfriend has given a heartfelt, “Mmmm….” for their double chocolate ones so none of us have struck out on any of their scone flavours just yet.  While I love the lemon-blueberry ones to itty bitty pieces, I wouldn’t mind trying their berry white chocolate ones too so we’ll see if I can get my hands on one of them in the near future.  In the meantime, I think I’ll continue drooling over these.

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*****

The Cobs Bread shop in the Annex is located at 370 Bloor Street West several blocks west of Spadina Ave. between Walmer and Dalton Rd.  Visit the Cobs Bread site: http://www.cobsbread.com/local-bakery/my-local-bakery for other locations in and around Toronto and the GTA.

I’ve Never Met a Potato I Didn’t Love! Potato Pancakes & Sour Cream at Futures Bakery & Cafe – The Ate by Ate Daily, Vol. 008

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DSCN2323Sunshine, a street-side table by an open window, and potatoes and sour cream – nothing like a yummy breakfast at Futures Bakery & Cafe to start a day off!  It just made sense coming here for breakfast given the plans I had for the day: staying on the Bloor-Danforth subway line, picking up a few scones at Cobs Bread in the Annex and just being out and about early in the morning.  It was so nice coming back and bring reminded of all the fun times I had here during grad school just hanging out with friends while we planned our conference at school (and eating pierogies while doing so), having breakfast with my mum and brother in the summer, and having lunch with my boyfriend during those crazy, agonizing days of thesis-writing.

I had been meaning to try Futures’ potato pancake breakfast ($6.95) for a long time now so I finally hunkered down, went back (aside from getting a few cake slices to go during the winter, it’s been a long time since I actually sat down for a real meal here), and ordered myself a plate: 3 big potato pancakes made with grated potatoes, carrots and plenty of herbs served with lots of tangy sour cream on the side!  I looove sour cream so of course I had a field day dolloping it onto my pancakes but truthfully, they taste fabulous all on their own.  They’re moist, savoury, herby and a scrumptious vegetarian option.  Next up on my to-eat list: blueberry crepes, the chicken salad sandwich, the pesto, mozzarella and tomato sandwich, and the knackwurst and sauerkraut!

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*****

Futures Bakery and Cafe is located at 483 Bloor St. West, in between the main intersections and subway stations of Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St.  It sits right at the corner of Bloor St. and Brunswick Ave. on the south side of Bloor.  They are open from 7:30am to 2am 7 days a week.

From French Bistro to Molecular Cuisine – October Cooking Classes & Workshops at Nella Cucina!

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Learn the art of French pastry and more at Nella Cucina!

From French bistro fare to molecular cuisine and gastronomy, the cooking classes at Nella Cucina on Bathurst St. in the Annex is anything but boring!  I’m so excited to finally feature their cooking classes and workshops on the Food Calendar and I’m even more excited about the prospect of attending one of these classes!  I’ve never actually signed up for a real cooking class before and with so many options in the city, it really wouldn’t be difficult at all to find something that strikes my fancy.

I thank my walking feet for this particular foodie discovery!  I found out about Nella Cucina and their classes simply just by walking.  I had made plans to meet a friend for weekend brunch around Queen St. and Spadina and had made the trek to Wychwood Barns for the Saturday morning farmers’ market earlier on.  After my market fun, I walked back to St. Clair, looked down the road at Bathurst and thought, “ah, what the heck?  Let’s walk the whole way down!”  And you wouldn’t believe all the nifty food discoveries I made just by walking that stretch of city!  Nella Cucina was one of them and I’m so delighted because their classes sound really fun and engaging.  Aside from offering workshops and cooking classes, Nella Cucina is an actual culinary retail shop selling cookware and equipment for restaurants and food service establishments.  Here’s a sneak peek at part of the October Cooking Classes Calendar and the Nella’s October line-up of cooking classes!

Enjoy the bounty of the fall harvest and seasonal ingredients

Molecular Cuisine Workshop #1: The Professional Series at Nella Cucina, October 1.  10am-1pm.  $150/person (receive a $100 Nella Cucina gift card when you sign up for all 4 workshops!).  Love science?  Fascinated by molecular gastronomy?  Simply want to learn about awe-inspiring professional techniques used by Iron Chefs?  The Molecular Cuisine Workshop series is perfect for you!  In collaboration with John Placko, culinary director of the Modern Culinary Academy, this workshop is designed to introduce participants to the scientific processes behind many professional culinary techniques.  At this workshop, learn and practice spherification, reverse spherification, rapid freezing, and carbonation.  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/242/-/-.html

Classic French Fare at Nella Cucina, October 4.  6:30pm-9:30pm.  876 Bathurst St.  $95/person.  The kitchen transforms into a French bistro at this three and a half hour cooking class devoted to French classics and Parisian fare.  Create a 5-course feast as you travel through France via food!  Menu includes pan-seared chicken breast with tarragon and dijon cream sauce, gougère (classic French choux pastry with cheese), an apricot and almond tart with whipped cream, and more!  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/225/-/-.html

The Making of a Chef Series: The Making of a Pastry Chef at Nella Cucina, October 6.  12pm-3:30pm.  876 Bathurst St.  $125/person.  At this intensive three and a half hour hands-on class and workshop, learn the foundations and skills necessary for pastry culinary art from industry professionals using the basic ingredients in French desserts (sugar, eggs, butter, and flour), and create lovely desserts that are as beautiful as they are delicious!  Menu includes chocolate soufflé, mille- feuille (napoleon), crème brûlée, and more!  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/232/-/-.html

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Soba Noodles, Pesto White Beans, and Delicious Slices of Grilled Red Peppers and Avocado: Build-a-Bowl Fun at Fresh!

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*Even though I’m uploading this post today, on the morning of August 23rd, it was actually written the night before, so don’t be confused by my usage of tense and my reference to time* 

I’m writing this post with a heavy heart after finding out this morning that Jack Layton, leader our federal NDP party and former Toronto city councillor (among many other things), passed away from his second bout of cancer.  Even after so many exuberant years in his career in politics in our beloved city, there were so many things I felt he could have continued to accomplish and I wish so much that he could have lived to see and enjoy allthe fruits of his successes and accomplishments.  I get teary-eyed every time I see the news footage displaying the chalk message mural for him developing at city hall, and all the flowers and messages that have been left for him at his office. 

Not that any of us have ever stopped fighting for change or fighting for happiness and a better world, but his death today is a huge wake-up call, or at the very least a solemn reminder.  A reminder that our life is precious and every day is a blessing.  That there is no such thing as too many “I love yous”.  That we should never stop fighting for our happiness, the happiness of the people we love, and change for the better.  To quote the last part of a letter he wrote just days before his death, “My friends, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”  In a nutshell: be the best person you can be and find the most positive ways to live your life.

This blog is my labour of love, my sounding board, and my inspiration, and I will always be grateful for all the amazing things I’ve seen and done for it and because of it.  So with that in mind, here is today’s foodie offerings to fill our tummies and our hearts: noodles, beans, and delicious veggies for build-a-bowl fun at Fresh!  If you’re accustomed to eating here, or ogling their menu online, then you know that they have a nice long list of entree bowls with a choice of brown rice or soba noodles with a slew of proteins, vegetables, sauces, and herbs.  Take my Beach Bowl, for instance.  Soba noodles with mounds of grilled red peppers, sweet potato, avocado, sunflower sprouts, zucchini, sun-dried tomato, and lemon juice and olive oil.  AMAZING in every way.  The Beach Bowl is just one of many bowls on their menu and although I can only imagine how delicious the others taste, there are times where I just want to have some fun and create my own bowl!  Kind of like the Build-a-Bear workshop, only with food!

Fresh’s menu offers a huuuuge, long list of sides that you can pick and choose from as add-ons to meals, but I actually use the list to create my own custom-made Fresh bowl.  Each item is assigned a price (ranging from $0.50 to $4) so you can mix and match between and across categories (raw vegetables, steamed vegetables, proteins, cheeses, sauces, dips, and others) and choose ingredients to your heart’s content!  Everything from tofu steaks, sunflower sprouts, black bean filling, steamed kale and bok choy, goat cheese, napa, jicama, chick pea curry, zucchini noodles, and on and on and on! 

For this particular build-a-bowl fun lunch, I ordered soba noodles with pesto white beans and thick, delicious slices of fresh avocado and hot-off-the-grill roasted red peppers.  The pesto white beans are to-die for and the red peppers have that perfect char on them.  And I’m just a lover of soba noodles and avocado in general.  Since these menu items are technically on the add-ons and sides portion of the menu, each ingredient you order comes in its own little dish.  And then you have yourself a ball and mix everything together yourself.  Or you can eat the sides on their own, straight out of the dish.  Whatever floats your boat! 

Now, these photos were taken before Fresh unveiled their revamped menu last month, so although the ingredients you see here haven’t changed, the utensils and aesthetics are going to look a bit different.  Gone are the green chopsticks, in are the bright orange ones!  And their bowls are nice big white curved ones, which actually give quite a nice contrast to the bright colours of food. 

After creating this bowl, I became hooked on wanting to create more.  The options and combinations are endless!  It’s so much fun and it’s such a cute way to get creative and healthy with your food.  And it’s great way to pick and choose based on your budget and the size of your appetite.  Not to mention, you get to put together a meal with everything you love – can you say happy taste buds and tummy?!  I’ll never stop eating my way through their menu, but this is a really awesome way to inject a little creativity and even more fun into eating here.  And that’s what food is all about: genuine love, making it fun, making it your own, and feeling good inside and out.

*****

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)

Poached to Perfection – Two Kinds of Eggs Benny at Futures Bakery!

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When I was growing up, I was fascinated with all the different ways eggs could be cooked and served.  This might sound all sorts of nutty, but when I used to accompany my mum to the supermarket when I was little I would grab all the little egg recipe books (you know, the ones by Get Crackin’) and all the coupons around the store not for their discounts, but for the recipes on the back and for the pretty pictures of egg sandwiches, omelettes, and frittatas on the front.  And till this day, those tiny recipe flipbooks are sitting comfortably in a file folder reminding me of the days when I dreamed of cooking great meals all on my own. 

As weird as it sounds, eggs play a role in a lot of my foodie memories, both sentimental and otherwise.  My grandmother made – and still makes – the best Chinese style preserved egg, something I really enjoy eating but also something I eat as sparingly as possible because of its salt content.  My little brother and I would test our “cooking” skills on Mother’s Day when we would “surprise” our mum with scrambled eggs a la breakfast in bed.  And the runny style eggs used in dishes like Chinese shrimp and egg rice remain my favourite along with the classic overeasy.

One thing that always left me stymied growing up though was figuring out what a poached egg was, and how to make one!  Up until I started university, I had no idea what a poached egg was and I had no idea that it was the center of attention when it came to the ever popular brunch dish, eggs benedict.  All of that changed though when I ate my first eggs benny a number of years ago and found out how to cook a poached egg.  I thought to myself, “I get to create a whirlpool of hot water in a pot to cook an egg?!  How funky!”  And so began my journey into the world of hollandaise sauce, eggs benny, and all its different variations: smoked salmon, peameal, ham, spinach, you name it.

Futures Bakery offers 3 different kinds of eggs benedict including eggs benny with grilled ham ($6.95), eggs florentine with fresh spinach ($6.95), and eggs blackstone with smoked salmon ($7.95).  I’ve tried both the eggs blackstone and eggs florentine and eating these two amazing breakfast dishes makes me realize what was wrong with past eggs benedict dishes that missed the mark.  For one thing, the English muffin is soft and moist.  I’ve had eggs benny on English muffins that were dry and let me tell you, it’s not fun.  It is also not a walk in the park when you need to saw through an English muffin that crunches like broken glass.  With eggs benedict, the English muffin is supposed to mesh with the poached egg and whatever it’s being served with so that you can cut into it with one swift motion.  It’s meant to be creamy and pillow soft, not starchy or anything that would remotely leave you feeling parched.

Futures does SUCH a bang on job with both of these.  The eggs are poached to perfection.  None of the yolk threatens to spill out before you even take a poke at it, and the hollandaise sauce is delicious.  It has the perfect consistency (not so thick it goops up but not thin and runny either) and they’re sprinkled with the yummy all-dressed chip-like spice mix which is also what coats their scrumptious potato home fries on the side.  The spinach leaves are HUGE on the eggs florentine and the smoked salmon has that wonderful slightly salty flavour to it that makes the whole dish explode with savouriness when you combine it with hollandaise and home fries.  Two eggs benny dishes for brunch, poached to perfection.

*****

Futures Bakery and Cafe is located at 483 Bloor St. West, in between the main intersections and subway stations of Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St.  It sits right at the corner of Bloor St. and Brunswick Ave. on the south side of Bloor.  They are open from 7:30am to 2am 7 days a week.

Crepelicious! Juicy Strawberries and Golden Yellow Crepes at Futures Bakery

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In honour of the ridiculously early morning outing I had yesterday, here’s some breakfast for anyone and everyone who needs a delicious energy boost!  Yesterday morning reminded me just how much I adore breakfast and breakfast foods (especially in a state of ravenous hunger), and also how much I’ve missed being in the water.  I used to be a hardcore swimmer when I was little, taking my fins all the way to Whalers life-saving class (Level 8 in my swim program and the first of three life-saving levels) when I was 11 years old.  I stopped swimming on a regular basis shortly after and only took it up again, briefly, when I started high school.  It’s been nearly 10 years since I last went swimming and I went to the pool with my dad yesterday morning at the crack of dawn for the first time since I was 15.  Needless to say, I had one hell of a workout!  It’s going to take some time for me to get my groove back (most of the time I was just flutter kicking, doggy paddling, and treading water), but it felt so good to swim again and I’m really glad I stuck it out and ran out of the house in a sleepy stumble at 6:15am! 😀

That morning swim worked up quite the appetite, so to celebrate all yummy breakfast things, I have fresh and fruity strawberry crepes from Futures Bakery for you!  Futures Bakery has a mouth-watering breakfast menu (along with a hunger-inducing lunch and dinner menu), that boasts thick slabs of French toast and several different kinds of eggs benedict, omelettes, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, and of course, crepes!  Their spinach and feta omelette was the first breakfast dish I blogged about and I absolutely raved about their portions, their home fries, and everything in between.  I made a solemn foodie promise to myself that I would eat my way through their menu, so this is my second breakfast post with much more to come in the future (no pun intended).

Futures serves 3 different kinds of crepes on their all-day breakfast menu ($6.95): strawberry, blueberry, and maple.  And if you can believe, between myself, my mum, and my brother, we’ve eaten through all 3 kinds!  And we love all of them.  I love crepes, but I’m always a little wary about them.  And what I mean by that is their potential to fill you and satisfy you as a full-fledged meal, without falling into the dessert category.  I’ve had non-dessert crepes that tasted good, but that have sadly left me hungry and a little empty in the end.  Off the top of my head, I know Demetres has GIANT dessert crepes (which prompted an old friend of mine to look at our non-crepe dessert plates and say, “why does mine look the most gluttonous?!”), and there are plenty of other places in the city I would love to go to that specialize in crepes, both savoury and sweet.  I am to say though that Futures breakfast crepes are AH-MAZING.

It was the combination of crepe and filling that makes the dish so good to eat.  One doesn’t trump the other because both are equally as delicious and of stellar quality.  The filling is so fruity and sweet and fresh.  You are not eating some lame filling that resembles jam out of a jar.  You’re literally cutting into a thick, yummy crepe and watching the juicy strawberry puree ooze out and let me tell you, there’s a lot of it. 

As well, they’re not the paper thin kind that we’re accustomed to seeing.  They’re thicker, like a pancake, but chewy instead of cakey.  If I could make an accurate comparison of their appearance and texture to any other kind of food, I would say that they resemble blintzes.  I say this time and time again, but Futures does not skimp and it’s great quality food at bang-for-your-buck prices and portions.  The crepes are plump, wonderfully crispy on the edges, golden in colour, and folded into cute little “envelopes” of strawberry fruit filling.   This meal reminds me so much of summer mornings with baskets of fresh fruit, and why breakfast is so much fun to eat.

*****

Futures Bakery and Cafe is located at 483 Bloor St. West, in between the main intersections and subway stations of Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St.  It sits right at the corner of Bloor St. and Brunswick Ave. on the south side of Bloor.  They are open from 7:30am to 2am 7 days a week.

Herbs Make For a Fragrant Kitchen and Delicious Food – the Farmers’ Market at Bloor & Lippincott

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I feel like I am having the best luck ever with the markets this summer.  This is the first summer that I have made it a point to going “marketing” every week and I carefully choose which market to visit based on what neighbourhood I’m in and what time the markets open up shop.  I am more and more impressed and filled with joy every week as I visit a new farmers’ market in the city.  Last week I paid a visit to the Bloor-Borden farmers’ market and bumped into my friend Jen on the way there and we, along with my boyfriend, happily perused the yummies there.  The Bloor-Borden market, located off of Bloor St. West and Lippincott St. at the Green P parking lot in the Annex, was so full of fresh, colourful fruits and vegetables and HERBS!  I was beside myself when I saw an entire table devoted to fragrant, delicious herbs and boy did I bring home a whopping load of goodies.  The herbs came in huuuge bunches and the prices were SO good.  A ginourmous bunch (that really looked more like a bush!) of herbs for $2 each.  Yoink, don’t mind if I do! 

I picked up a bunch of dill, a bunch of cilantro, and my favourite pick of the day, a basil plant!!  Cue fan-girly squealing here.  I have always wanted to make my own food from freshly grown basil and the basil plants were too beautiful to pass up.  $5 for a gift that keeps on giving?!  Yes, please.  As soon as I bought my basil plant, I was already starting to brainstorm what foods I could pair it with: sandwiches, pasta, soups, and of course, the ever popular pesto.  I mentioned this on my twitter, but if anyone has any recipes or meal suggestions that include basil, feel free to comment and share!  My mum and I have have already used the dill to make egg salad (photos to come tomorrow) and some of the cilantro in some veggie stir-fry.

There was also a bounty of vegetables and stuff I hadn’t seen at other markets such as rainbow radishes, red carrots, orange beets, different kinds if heirloom tomatoes (both baby and regular-sized), and purple bell peppers!  The prices at this market are fantastic and there’s a long table that where you can choose any 3 items for $10.  It took every ounce of willpower not to walk away with more as I was already bogged down with my purchases, tote bag, and mini backpack!  I made a promise to myself though that I would go back sometime to pick up some vegetables.  That, and to actually get photos of all the glorious herbs.  You’d think I would have photos of what I bought, but this time, no.  I think I was so excited to see such wide range of fresh herbs smack dab in front of me that all purpose went out the window until I left with my purchases and realized that I had no photos of the very thing I was singing my praises about.  D’oh!  Ah well, that’s what the next time is for.  This was -and is- a wonderful market to visit and I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t be able to find something wonderful and fresh to bring home from here.

*****

The Bloor-Borden farmers’ market is located off the intersection of Bloor St. West and Lippincott St., just east of Bathurst St.  The farmers’ market is located in the parking lot south of Bloor St. on Lippincott.  The market is held every Wednesday from 3pm-7pm.  For more info, click here.