A Scrumptious Catch! Delicious Battered Halibut & Shrimp with the Works at Captain George’s Fish & Chips in Stouffville

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Words of wisdom for the day: a photographic memory definitely comes in handy when it comes to finding awesome places to eat.  And it’s because of my photographic memory (and a little help from my brother) that, years later, I was able to track down Captain George’s Fish & Chips in Stouffville!  Yes, Stouffville.  “But, but, you blog about places in Toronto!”  Yes, I know.  “But, but, you live in Markham!”  Yes, I know that too.  I like to expand my horizons.  “But you take public transit and there isn’t much of that in Stouffville!”  True.

So what the heck was I doing in Stouffville in the first place to compel me to go back there and eat?!  Before you scoff and dismiss it as an ‘it’ place to stuff your face, here’s the story: a number of moons ago, I started taking driving lessons with the intention of getting my driver’s license.  My brother and I took our lessons together, alternating getting behind the wheel with our instructor as we tentatively navigated the streets of Markham.  However, there were some days where we’d drive out a little further during those longer sessions.  And that is how we ended up in Stouffville, Markham’s friendly neighbour to the north.  Now that’s not to say that I had never been in Stouffville prior to that.  I remember a few trips to the Stouffville flea market when I was little as well as one to Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area and even a visit to a super Wal-Mart!  But to eat?  Never.  To explore a bit?  Hardly.

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Thus, it was during these quiet drives through the main arteries of Stouffville that I was able to somewhat see it with fresh eyes and have certain images imprinted in my brain and in my memory.  Years later as my brother and I were randomly discussing possible fish and chips places to eventually check out during one those odd ‘brother-sister same-wavelength food cravings’, an image, albeit a bit fuzzy, of a giant blue sign off the side of a road started formulating in my mind as I remembered driving past a fish and chips place during some of those lessons.  And I distinctly remembered my instructor recommending it my brother and I.  So I did what any modern foodie would do.

I went on the computer and start Googling.

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Given how I only had a mental image of a blue sign and the knowledge of it being in Stouffville to go on, I had to do a little more than just key things into the search box.  So after a little memory jogging with my brother and Google image search (way more useful when you need your memory to zero in and ‘match up’ to something), we figured it out: Captain George’s Fish & Chips at 5505 Main Street in Whitchurch-Stouffville!  Located between Hwy. 48 (also known as Markham Rd. in most of Markham until you hit 16th Ave.) and Ninth Line, it’s actually incredibly easy straight-forward to get here.  Just go straight up north.  No crazy turns, no weird side streets, just main roads and a smooth drive.  I do wish public transit was more accessible and readily available in this area but hey, that’s a whole other discussion for another time.

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Captain George’s Fish & Chips is as delicious, fantastic, friendly, and down-home as they come.  The owners are incredibly sweet, the nautical decor adorning the walls of the diner is quite cute and kitschy, and the food is out of this world.  The portions of food will honestly make your eyes and tummy sing.  And I’m not talking nasty and disgusting portions, I’m talking freakin’ awesome bang-for-your-buck portions, the type of portions that fill you and make you feel good about the money you slapped down for it.  It’s all about the halibut, haddock, cod, shrimp, scallops, and calamari here (okay, there are chicken fingers on the  menu but I truly believe that it’s a default for those folks who accompany seafood-loving friends and family but who don’t actually eat it or enjoy it themselves.  Shrugs.  To each their own) with a generous dose of chips and salad.  There are so many fish/seafood and chip and salad combinations that there is just no way you wouldn’t be able to find something that strikes your fancy.  Sometimes you don’t want as much fried food so you go with the grilled fish and salad.  Sometimes you want the full monty and go all out on the comfort fish and chips with the salad and other times you just want to gorge on fish alone.

The menu works for everyone.

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I felt like the full monty for this meal so I went all out with the works with one of the Fish & Shrimp Combos: 1 piece halibut, 5 shrimps, a garden salad and chips ($12.95).  With some lemon wedges, tartar sauce and cocktail sauce on the side, this was heaven on a plate!  There is just something SO satisfying and yummy about perfectly crispy, battered fish where the meat is juicy and flaky and there are those fab air pockets between the crunchy batter and fish.  The battered shrimps were huge, the chips were those cute stumpy ones that are nice and starchy and potato-y with that nice crunchy crust on the outside and even the salad was wonderful because it was chopped in a way that made it easy to fork generous mouthfuls with a little bit of everything.  It was a simple chopped garden salad with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber drizzled with my choice of dressing, good old fashioned tangy ranch which rounded out the scrumptious meal.

I love it when I find gems like these, the ones that make it worth your while by giving you a meal from the heart and a delicious, memorable eating experience that will never be forgotten, photographic memory or not.

*****

Captain George’s Fish & Chips is located at 5505 Main St. in Whitchurch-Stouffville between Hwy.48 and Ninth Line.

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It’s a Po’ Boy Kind of Day – A Crispy Fish Sandwich Lunch at The Gabardine!

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DSCN0539It’s time to put some crispy, savoury, mouthwatering grub back on Ate by Ate!  And what better way to do so than to introduce everyone to one of Bay Street’s popular work week diners, The Gabardine, where the taps are flowing and the food is droolworthy!  Located at 372 Bay Street at the corner of Bay and Richmond smackdab in the downtown core of the city, The Gabardine is a work-week only establishment.  Open from 8am-10pm Monday through Friday, the warm and welcoming diner caters to the work crowd, the university student crowd, and those who happen to have a hankering for really fab diner “grub” and a weekday off – like me!  With menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Gabardine positions itself as a casual, comforting space for hungry mouths in the morning before work, ravenous appetites midday, and relaxed and happy tummies at the end of a long day for hearty meals and drinks.  With stools at the bar, tables for two, and long booths for groups, it’s a great place to eat and unwind, especially when you’re in the mood for delicious comfort food.

Which is, you know, always.

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I made my way here for lunch during one of my Eaton Centre and underground PATH walking days knowing exactly what I wanted to eat which was quite the accomplishment considering my indecisiveness over all things yummy.  Given how I agonized over the menu online before coming, I really didn’t have any excuse for hemming and hawwing but when a menu reads like a food bible, all decisions have the potential of flying out the door; I’m used to it.

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The Gabardine’s lunch menu (served from 11:30am-3pm) is split into 3 categories: snacks and salads, sandwiches (served with a choice between fries or salad greens), and mains.  Most items ring in between $10-$20, but of course, there are few $6 and $9’s and a few $20+ but you get the idea.  I suggest you arm yourself with a napkin because you’re going to have to mop up some drool after reading the list of menu items.  Yummies include deep fried beer cheese croquettes with maple mustard ($13), roasted beet and farro salad with ricotta, grilled pickled onions and everything bagel spice ($15), the ever-growing popular ploughman’s lunch platter ($24) which in my mind is a nifty farm-to-table twist on the charcuterie board, Chinese bbq pork on a bun ($16) with mayo, scallions and napa cabbage slaw (with the option of substituting the pork for tofu ($14) – yum to both options!), chicken pot pie with herbed pastry crust ($19), a daily vegetarian risotto special and SO MUCH MORE.  There are items for hearty appetites, for vegetarians, for sandwich lovers, greasy spoon lovers, artisinal food lovers, the list goes on.  But the common thread is comfort food.

So what did I decide on before parking myself down at their window seat at 11:30am sharp that day?  The incredible-sounding shrimp po’ boy with butter lettuce, tomato relish and aioli ($16).  COME TO MAMA.  I have wanted a po’ boy sandwich for so long so seeing this on their menu made me break out into a happy dance!  BUT!  Instead of shrimp, the chefs were trying out something a little different for their po’ boys that day: crispy fried cod fish.  “Does that still sound tasty?” asked the nice waitress tentatively.  “Oh, for sure, that’s fine!”

What I really wanted to say was “HECK YES!”  Pft, shrimp, cod fish, it’s all heaven to me.  I freakin’ love my fish sandwiches and tacos.

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This meal was all sorts of fantabulous.  Not only was the portion huge (I wouldn’t be surprised if folks pulled a jaw muscle trying to fit the po’ boy into their mouth), but the quality and flavours were wonderful.  It’s easy to brush diner grub off as unhealthy, greasy, and well, cheap.  But this was none of the above.  The roll was soft and chewy, my salad greens were crisp and dressed perfectly (who wants soggy salad?), the butter lettuce was big and bright (who wants pale stuff that only covers half the bun?), and the fish was crispy, savoury, and to-die-for.  The cod fish chunks weren’t greasy, they were meaty, white and fleshy, and oh-so-delicious, and they were piled on high!  And combined with the tomato relish and creamy aioli (which functioned like the fish sauce), everything just worked.

It’s funny, when you’re eating something super savoury or super sweet, you tend to get a bit tired of it half way through because the flavours just get too overwhelming for the palate.  It’s not that you’re feeling full, it just gets to be too much with some foods.  But with this cod fish po’ boy with tomato relish, you consistently get bites of savoury fish between bites of acidic and sweet flavour from the relish to break things up so you don’t feel weighed down or bored with the same flavours throughout the meal and I totally appreciated how the aioli wasn’t glopped on.  It was a meal of crispy, yummy happiness and one I enjoyed during those elusive weekdays off.  If you have the chance, go.  It’s worth it.

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*****

The Gabardine is located at 372 Bay Street at the corner of Richmond Street West in Toronto’s downtown core.  They are open 8am-10pm, Monday through Friday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Visit their website at http://www.thegabardine.com/ to view their menus, beer, and wine lists and follow them @thegabardine on Twitter for the latest.

Creamy Chicken Soup & Saucy Curry Rice & Smoked Haddock Kedgeree with Poached Egg – Warm & Delicious British Flavours at The Oxley!

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Okay, who else has been glued to the television (or their laptop or tablet or phone) watching the Olympics this week?!  My brother and I love watching sports.  Always have, always will.  It’s a very special thing that bonds us together as siblings so when the Olympics roll around every 2 years (summer and winter, don’t forget!) it’s like a sports and television party in our living room.  We’re fascinated by the events, we’re captivated by the speed, the crazy flips and spins, and down-to-the-tenth-of-a-second finishes, and we love the feeling of celebration and pride for our team and athletes.  We stay up late watching recaps from the day and we catch whatever coverage we can early in the morning before leaving the house.  It’s so much fun and I love it.

Watching the Olympics take place in Sochi totally inspired me to do a little research on Russian food and Russian food in Toronto and while I’ve found some very cool options to check out, I really don’t think I’ll be able to go to them and then post before the Olympics are over, but at the very least it’s given me some creative juice to work with.  So even though I don’t have any Russian cuisine to share with you guys, I do have overseas eats for you all today: British food from The Oxley!

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Aside from the photo spotlight post I did on my British cookbook, this is the first post on Ate by Ate about British food and I’m so excited!  Going to London is on my bucket list of places to visit at some point in my life.  I salivate at the thought of visiting Twinings, Harrods and Hummingbird Bakery so until I can fly across the Atlantic and park myself down at one of the many afternoon tea spots, bakeries and pubs there, indulging in some British fare here in the city will have to soothe those daydreams for the time being.

The Oxley, located on Yorkville Ave. in Yorkville in a drop-dead gorgeous two-storey cherry red brick house, is the sister restaurant to The Queen and Beaver in downtown Toronto, a popular English pub and watering hole that serves both British and Scottish food.  The Oxley is all sorts of fabulous.  During the summer, it’s like being around an English courtyard and in the winter, it warms you up and makes you feel so cozy with its part English pub, part bar, part home living room vibe.  You should see the place inside.  I had the luxury of sitting and eating upstairs (a food blogger needs her natural light by the window!) and it’s unlike any other dining area I’ve ever been in.  With its long bar with leather bar stools, mahogany tables, hard-wood flooring, black armchairs, deep purple cushioned seating, floral wallpaper, paisley patterned rugs and Union Jack by the bar window, the upstairs dining room is like a scene out of Sherlock Holmes novel.  And I got to have a corner seat by the window all my by myself.  I LOVED IT.

This is prime real estate, folks.

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Their menu is so full of warmth and British character and flavour.  I will preface this next part though by saying that if you’re looking for an inexpensive meal, look elsewhere.  I think The Oxley is an amazing place to have a special lunch or dinner but if you’re just looking for something simple and casual money-wise, you’re not going to find it here simply because many of their mains come in between $16 -$24 (with appetizers $8 – $14, sides a la carte for $6, bar menu bites $8 – $12, and bar menu mains $18 – $26).  Which is fine with me!  I’m not made out of money but I’m constantly considering and evaluating what means the most to me and what would give me the most happiness so I don’t mind putting down the dough to enjoy a meal here because it’s worth it to me every once in awhile.  But I know others may feel differently so I want to be completely honest with you guys so you don’t get the impression that this is something you can do every day!

The menu is chock full of British classics including rabbit and potato pie, fish and chips, Stilton and mushrooms on toasts, Huntsman’s pie, venison and mushroom suet pudding, and fish pie and peas.  I went all out on the winter comfort food with my choices: Cream of Chicken with Tarragon Soup ($8) and Smoked Haddock Kedgeree with Poached Hen Egg ($16).

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Let’s start by talking about the dishes.  Yes, the things we put our food on.  I wanted to squeal out loud.  They are SO pretty.  Tea dishes!  Beautiful china with flowers and patterns and scalloped edges.  My heart wanted to burst from happiness just by looking at them.  Meals come with bread and butter which I happily devoured as I had foodgasms over my cream of chicken with tarragon soup to start.  The soup is so delicious and creamy and not overly salty or seasoned or rich in the least.  It was perfect and so savoury with just the right amount of thickness to it.  With a bright green chive on top, it was both bright and comforting at the same time.  And honestly, along with the bread, it would make an incredible light meal all on its own, it’s THAT good.

And now for the smoked haddock kedgeree with poached hen egg.  In it’s stripped down essence, kedgeree is a rice dish with boiled fish and eggs rooted in Indian-British colonial culture and history, with lots of room for many different interpretations and spins on it.  Could this be any more perfect for me?!  This dish has Deb written all over it because it incorporates all my favourite foods, textures and flavours.

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The Oxley put their signature on it with their mouthwatering, scrumptious version: hot rice bathed in curry sauce and spices, chunks of flaked haddock fish, toasted sliced almonds, bright green peas, and a beautiful and pristine poached egg on top.  There is so much to adore.  The rice is saucy, the almonds give the dish crunch, the smoked haddock fish provided savoury meatiness, the peas give it colour and homeyness (and I just love peas!) and the delicate poached egg just takes the whole thing to another level once you poke it, allowing the sunny yellow yolk to make the rice even more creamy and saucy – if that’s even possible!  It’s gorgeous to look at and even more satisfying to eat.

I’m so happy I finally got to visit The Oxley (I’ve been wanting to go since last summer!).  The staff was so nice to me, allowing me to sit by the window like I wanted and being so attentive and gracious and I felt like I was in another peaceful world sitting in their upstairs dining room looking out at the grey sky and Yorkville streets below.  The food was wonderfully delicious and the experience felt…special, like something you couldn’t have anywhere else.  And that was the real beauty of it.

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*****

The Oxley is located at 121 Yorkville Ave. at the corner of Hazelton Ave. in Yorkville, between Bay Street and Avenue Rd.  They are open 7 days a week serving lunch, dinner and weekend brunch: Monday to Friday 11:30am to 3pm for lunch, 3pm to 5pm Bar Menu, Monday to Saturday 3pm to 11pm for dinner, Sunday 5pm-10pm for dinner, and Saturday & Sunday 10:30am to 3pm for weekend brunch.  You can visit their official website at http://theoxley.com/

A Winter Lunch of Harvest Salad, Sourdough & Clam Chowder – Keep Toasty at Earls Kitchen & Bar

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Winter pro: I learned how to use our snow blower this year and am pushing and dragging that thing around like a winter warrior.  Winter con: there is so much freakin’ snow outside my house you can’t even see me behind the damn mountain of it.  Granted, I’m short (coming in at a generous 5 foot 2 inches) but our mountain of snow is so tall it even obscures my brother who’s 6 feet tall!  It’s been a loooong time since I’ve experienced a winter like this.  And this is coming from a girl who was born and bred in Canada and would lay in the snow inside a snow fort as a kid and just look up at the sky without a care in the world.  What can I say?  We’ve been a little spoiled the last few years here in Toronto so being slapped with so much snow and such bitterly cold temperatures all at once week after week has taken a bit of getting used to.

And I’ll be honest, it’s been especially stymying for me generating blog content.  I’ve never cancelled and switched around my plans more than I have this winter and the cold weather has really pushed me to get creative with the logistics of my outings.  I don’t fare so well in extreme temperatures (hot or cold) as both give me bad migraines so at any given moment I need to hop indoors to warm up to keep myself from being exposed for long periods of time.  Thus, the cold weather has, unfortunately, prevented me from taking those long exploration walks around the city that I love so much, relegating me to the more retail-oriented parts of town.  Which is not necessarily a bad thing!  But let’s be frank: malls get boring real fast and they do me no favours in the food blogging department.  And you all know how much I thrive on variety!

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So I’ve had to put my thinking cap on and figure out how to go about taking photos and trying new places still staying relatively close to the indoors and I think I’ve come up with a few pretty good solutions for myself.  One such outing led me through the underground PATH downtown (which is one of my favourite things in the city) through the Sun Life financial building and straight into the warm and welcoming arms of Earls Kitchen & Bar on King Street West and York Street.  Who would have thought I’d be walking through an insurance building to do food blogging!

Earls Kitchen & Bar is a place I’ve been meaning to try for years and while having a case of cabin fever isn’t exactly the best reason for finally going, I’ll take it.  Because it’s a wonderful place and a place I’d be happy to go back to for meals and meals to come.  If you haven’t been, make the effort because the food is delicious, the staff is so friendly and accommodating, and the restaurant is beautiful and lovely inside.

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Located at 150 King Street West in the financial district hubbub, Earls has a gorgeous outdoor patio out front (which I will be sure to enjoy come summer!) and two large dining areas inside including the large bar and adjoining dining room, making it quite the haunt for the business lunch crowd.  The dining room makes you feel like you’re eating inside a log cabin.  It’s so warm and cozy and nice.  And their menu has warm and cozy written all over it.  While it offers lots of pub fare such as appetizers (calamari, prawn and mango rolls, dry ribs, chicken and wontons), burgers, tacos and sandwiches (angus beef on brioche, chicken tacos, chicken with brie and fig on ciabatta, roasted portobellini and red pepper on sourdough), it offers just as many dishes that will warm you all over on a cold winter’s day such as meaty steaks and seafood, ribs and chicken, roasted root vegetables, curry and pasta (I’ve heard fantastic things about their fettuccini!) and what I had for lunch: sourdough, soup and salad!

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Their chicken and field mushroom fettuccini was calling out at me like a foghorn but I really wanted to try something more lunch fare-ish and I don’t post nearly enough about soup so I jumped at the chance to try Earls salad, soup and sourdough meal ($13.75).  The meal comes with your choice of Caesar or Harvest salad, Earls Famous Clam Chowder or featured soup (which was cream of mushroom at the time), and sourdough bread.  What better way to celebrate the season than with harvest salad and cozy clam chowder?!

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Earls’ Harvest Crunch salad is a beautiful, bright and refreshing mix of baby greens, purple kale, watermelon radish (possibly the prettiest vegetable to grace the earth), sunflower seeds, slices of pear (which I sadly couldn’t eat because of my allergy but it was lovely to look at nevertheless and thankfully there weren’t too many slices so I didn’t have to feel awful for leaving them on my plate) and dried fruit (apricots and cranberries) dressed in citrus vinaigrette with shaved parmesan.  I was all over it like peanut butter on jelly – I hardly ever see watermelon radish in salad!  I love crunch and texture in my salads and the fruit, seeds and radishes made it so enjoyable to eat, not to mention the parmesan gave the salad that yummy hit of saltiness, balancing out the sweetness from the dressing and fruits.  It was a such fab presentation of the winter bounty in salad form.

And the clam chowder and sourdough bread.  You will never look at clam chowder and sourdough the same way again after you have it here at Earls.  For starters, it was presented beautifully on a wooden serving board.  Second, the clam chowder was hearty and scrumptious, chock full of diced tomatoes, celery, carrots, potatoes and meaty clams in a smooth and creamy broth sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley.  It filled me without making me feel like I ate something too creamy or too saturated.  It was just SO DARN DELICIOUS.  It was so full of substance and it ate like a meal, pairing beautifully with the sourdough bread beside it.

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The gigantic wedge of sourdough knocked it out of the park.  It was golden to perfection with a crunchy crust on the outside, a moist and buttery inside and this amazing sweetness from the little bit of honey that was drizzled over top.  I couldn’t believe my tastebuds.  I sat there chewing on my sourdough thinking, “what the heck is this delicious taste that I am tasting?!”  It was sweet and light and unlike any sourdough I had ever had and then it dawned on me that there was a bit of honey on it.  It was fabulous on its own and as a dunker for the clam chowder.

This first visit to Earls made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside for more reasons than one and I’d love to go back to try at least ten other dishes!  Given how winter isn’t going away any time soon, I just might take advantage of the cold and make a return trip before the season is over for more winter comfort eats.

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*****

Earls Kitchen & Bar is located at 150 King Street West at York Street in the financial district in downtown Toronto.  They are open 7 days a week at 11:30am Monday through Sunday, with weekend brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays.  Earls Kitchen & Bar serves multiple locations in the GTA and across the country.  Visit their website at http://www.earls.ca/ for more info on their menus and locations.

When One Door Closes, Another One Opens – Ate by Ate’s Fresh Start and Baja Tacos & Cod Sliders at The Happy Hooker, Part II!

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Okay, so “tomorrow” ended up being almost 2 months.  I honestly didn’t mean to be away so long.  I was so excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with you guys, posting about fall baked goods, fall harvest goodies and afternoon tea and just reveling in the delicious bounty of my favourite season.  But I just couldn’t post.  I wasn’t ready to tell everyone what was going on and didn’t want to pretend things were normal when they weren’t.  Aside from being just plain tired and sleepy some days, something else happened in my life during my time away that has, well…turned my life upside down a little.

I got laid off and lost my job.

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I can’t even begin to explain everything that I’ve been feeling and thinking since it happened and everything that has happened in relation to it since it happened.  Dealing with very mixed emotions, people, the day-to-day grind of remaining work while I’m still there, the future.  It’s something that you’re never truly prepared for and when it happens your mind just starts running in a million different directions.  It made me so sad not to post for over a month.  Part of me wanted to but the other part just didn’t want to bother with the facade.  I missed my Food Calendars, I missed the majority of the fall season, I missed posting on Ate by Ate’s Facebook page and getting fun tweets from people, I missed Ate by Ate’s 3rd birthday.

Needless to say, I’ve experienced MUCH happier Novembers in my 28 years of life and saying that it’s been a roller coaster would be a gross understatement.  Despite everything that’s happened though, my heart is so full of joy for Christmas, I am soaking in as much holiday happiness as I can and moving on from this chapter in my life will be the best thing for me come the new year.  It’s time for a fresh start, truly, and maybe finally, I can give Ate by Ate the love and attention it needs again because I have floundered this entire year.  Ate by Ate is my baby, it’s my bread and butter and we need to start having fun again.

So, let’s take a deep breath and dive right into the Happy Hook Part II post that never happened in October!

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Ironically enough, The Happy Hooker and I were introduced through work.  Back in May, I went on a fun “Insanewich” culinary tour led by Stephen from Foodies on Foot where the entire food tour was – you guessed it – based on sandwiches!  We noshed our way through numerous neighbourhoods in the city and chomped on sandwiches of all kinds: panini, sliders, grilled cheese, ice cream (SO creative and the best way to end a sandwich tour on a sweet note) and The Happy Hooker’s myriad selection of seafood sandwich bites!  What I love about The Happy Hooker is its playfulness, versatility and culinary creativity.  Seafood is much more than your typical fish ‘n chips, slab of grilled salmon and things you crack and eat out of a shell.  While the familiar is great at times, the menu at The Happy Hooker allows you to try different kinds of fish and seafood in so many different ways.

We have fish that’s grilled, fish that’s fried, seafood on a stick and seafood between buns.  We have shrimp, baja, cod, oysters, lobster, blue marlin, and grouper.  And we have beautiful, delicious side dishes that go with all those scrumptious seafood delights such as a rainbow of salads (check out the arugula and kale, it’s a thing of beauty!), fish fries and other yummies.  Oh!  And pie-in-a-jar desserts from Le Dolci.  And deep fried Oreos.  Ohhh boy.  The Happy Hooker’s menu changes on a regular basis based on the availability of fresh seafood, seasonality and what’s plain delicious and fun.  Prices range from $3.50 to $11 with small tacos coming in at $3.50 each and larger sandwiches coming in at $9-$11 with sliders sitting between the two at $4.

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I’ve had the luxury of trying their seafood tacos and their adorable and delicious sliders.  What we have here are Cali Baja tacos with avocado crema, fresh lettuce and tomatoes served with a little wedge of lime, grilled shrimp tacos with mango salsa and pickled onions and BC cod sliders with tomatoes, slaw and capers, all dressed in their special seafood mayo sauce.  My mouth is watering just looking at these photos again.  I know some may appreciate larger portions more but you all know I’m the type of person who hates having to choose between menu items and generally munches on multiple small portions of things.  It just makes my life (and digestion!) easier.  I get to try numerous things at once and I don’t feel overwhelmed with what’s in front of me.

I would LOVE to eventually try everything on their menu but if I had to recommend something, I’d get the sliders and Cali Baja tacos again in a heartbeat.  The BC cod was so flavourful and moist (and come on, they’re just so damn cute) and the crispy fried goodness of the Cali Baja pairs so well with crema and sauce and fresh veggies.  I love my shrimp too but coming from a person who tries her best not make a hot mess out of herself while eating, it’s not the most graceful of things to eat – I kept dropping shrimp back onto my plate!

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The Happy Hooker exudes fun, hip, and casual and it’s one of those places that brings to mind fun lunches you can enjoy on a park bench on a gorgeous summer day.  Given how we’re deep into the first week of December though, that visual doesn’t really help our cause so I’m super curious to see what their menu looks like during the winter and how their food transforms into hearty comfort food.  No matter the season, it’s a fab place to try lots of different types of seafood and their buttermilk oyster sliders and blue marlin burgers totally have my name on them for a future trip!

It’s good to back everyone and thank you for hanging in there with me.  The support means the world and I am going to make the next 20 days before Christmas (and beyond) the most fun it can be.

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The Happy Hooker is located at 887 Dundas Street West, just west of Manning Ave. between Bathurst St. and Ossington Ave. near Trinity Bellwoods Park.  They are open every day from 12pm-10pm.

Photo Spotlight: Seduced by Fish & Shrimp Tacos – Meet The Happy Hooker on Dundas West, Part I!

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Photo teaser post of just some of the delicious food at The Happy Hooker!  Fish, shrimp, and yes, even beautiful, scrumptious salads!  I would write the whole post tonight, but I would be up reeeeally late if I did that.  It’s Thanksgiving weekend and I’ve been so busy planning outings for the next few days and editing photos that I could just fall asleep right now while writing this so the full write-up will come tomorrow night when I’m back from my super exciting harvest fall themed food adventure!  Full details on that to come very soon as well!  Tomorrow’s Happy Hooker write-up will introduce us to a number of their mouthwatering fresh seafood offerings as well as a story on how The Happy Hooker and I met in the first place (hint: we were set up and introduced by a third party.  How romantic!).  I’ve also been working really hard on updating Ate by Ate’s Pinterest boards and incorporating more pumpkin yummies in the the blog so in the next week or so, look out for new Pinterest boards, lots of Fall Harvest series posts, some classic comfort food (did someone say mac ‘n cheese?) and brand spankin’ new afternoon tea posts.  So, the in the meantime, enjoy the photos until tomorrow!

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The Happy Hooker is located at 887 Dundas Street West, just west of Manning Ave. between Bathurst St. and Ossington Ave. near Trinity Bellwoods Park.  They are open every day from 12pm-10pm.

Seared Tuna, Apple Cider & Gingerbread Men Wreaths – A Wintery Weekend Lunch at Bannock

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When I think of winter and the holiday season, I think of Christmas, yes, but I also think of the ultimate cozy, winter comfort scene: gingerbread and spices, snow, Christmas greenery, hot drinks, and a comforting plate of food, all in a warm and peaceful ski house.  A place where you can sit back and relax and watch the snow gently fall outside a window, all the while noshing on good eats.  Bannock, located at the corner of Queen and Bay Street on the ground floor of the city’s iconic Hudson’s Bay Company flagship store, may not be a ski house, but it does offer us foodies everything cozy and comforting in a wine bar, bistro type of atmosphere.  Think warm woods and browns, rustic accents, and a wine rack to boot!  I love the window seats that look out onto Queen West and I’m smitten with their seasonal holiday decorations: ice cream and candy cane trees, and gingerbread man wreaths!

Bannock is part of what I call the Oliver & Bonacini restaurant collection.  Partners Michael Bonacini and Peter Oliver have been putting their culinary, business, and restaurant management expertise to work for over 20 years, opening 8 different restaurants, each with a different look, feel, and menu.  Oliver & Bonacini restaurants have a little bit of French, some Italian, some Parisian, and some classic northern Canadian among a number of other cuisines.  One thing each and every O&B dining establishment has in common though is the intent of making every dining experience a fine dining one, even the most casual eateries!

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Bannock falls under O&B’s ‘Canadian comfort food’ umbrella.  Aside from the food and menu itself, its Canadian connection?  Bannock’s name.  Bannock, as a food, is a type of flat, biscuit-type quick bread common in Aboriginal and Inuit cuisine and this type of bread is incorporated into a number of Bannock’s dishes including their sandwiches, pizzas, and garlic and herb bannock appetizer.  The unique thing about Bannock is its dine-in and take-out components.  It fuses both the casual and fine dining experiences together under one roof.  On one side you can hop in during your busy lunch hour and grab a sweet treat, a sandwich on artisan bread, or a soup or salad (or some of everything!), or sit down for a quick drink with a book or newspaper.  On the other side, you can relax with a glass of wine and enjoy fresh fish, hearty meat dishes, grain salads and more with twinkling lights sparkling above you.

In order for an eatery to live up to its promise of Canadian comfort food, it obviously has to demonstrate this through its dishes and menu selection.  Bannock offers Monforte dairy and Canadian cheeses, Atlantic fish, Ontario venison, Alberta ground brisket, west coast tuna and more and goodness is their menu ever delightful!  My boyfriend and I counted at LEAST ten menu items that we wanted to try and come back for the next time around.  And that time after that.  And then the time after that.  I can tell we’ll be eating here a lot over the next year or two.  On my Bannock wishlist: mac and cheese with wilted spinach; crooked spinach salad with taro sticks, mixed pickles, and goat feta; salt cod donuts; Atlantic haddock and shrimp cake with chips and dill pickle tartar, vegetable cobb with avocado, barley, deviled egg, thunder oak gouda, and living sprouts; tofurkey scallopini with mozzarella, roasted garlic, squash mostarda (an Italian condiment that comes in the form of mustard married with syrup) and quinoa; and biff’s fried bologna and eggs with bannock, smoky tomato, and duck fat potatoes.  Prices come in at around $13-$22 for mains with most ringing in at $14-$16

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And this is just their lunch and dinner menu – they have a Sunday brunch service!  BRING IT ON.

Despite all the menu items I wanted to stuff my face in, I had to choose one so I chose Bannock’s seared BC albacore tuna ($19) with wax beans, smashed fingerling potatoes, root crudités (whole, small vegetables), and bagna cauda, a warm dip that is typically served with the vegetables and that is made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil and butter.  Oh!  And fresh apple cider ($5) with a cinnamon stick!  I am so, SO in love with their apple cider.  I love apple cider but it’s tricky to get that perfect balance of sweetness, warmth, and  fruitiness without the overpowering acidic tang and sourness from the apple.  Either that or that slightly rubbery taste you get when you drink apple or grape juice.  Their apple cider is perfect though.  It didn’t make me pucker and it was just really crisp and refreshing in a warm and cozy kind of way!

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And the tuna is delicious!  There were five thick pieces of tuna (like little tuna steaks) and they were so fresh and meaty.  What I really loved about it, aside from the smooth texture, was the tiny bit of fat on each piece.  It made it that much more savoury and soft and flavourful.  I was also a really big fan of the smashed fingerlings (they were really flattened which was really cute!) and the bagna cauda sauce that I used for the tuna, cauliflower crudités and potatoes.  I’m a huge fan of beans and I love it when I get both green and yellow ones, so I was a happy camper in that department; the only thing I wish was different was more beans!  That and maybe some more fingerlings.  But truly, I was full afterward and was really satisfied with my meal and how everything complemented each other.  The vegetables cut through the meatiness of the tuna while the tuna itself gave the whole dish its heartiness.

There’s so much to try here at Bannock and there’s so much to love!  It’s right across the street from the Eaton Centre, they serve Sunday brunch, and there’s about half a menu waiting for me every other day.  You know I’ll be back.

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Bannock is located at 401 Bay Street at the corner of Bay and Queen Street West, on the ground floor of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  It is located across the street from Old City Hall and the Eaton Centre and is open for 7 days a week.  Their grab-and-go coffee shop hours are 7:30am-8pm Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm on Saturday, and 9am-4pm on Sundays.  Their dining room hours are as follows: 11:30am-10pm Monday to Friday, 11am-10pm on Saturdays, and 11am-4pm for Sunday brunch service.