Quite Possibly the Last Grad Lounge Feature – Saying Farewell With Spicy Tomato Dill Soup

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It’s true, this may very well be my last Weekly Grad Lounge post.  The Grad Lounge will be closing up shop for the summer after this Thursday (June 30th) and seeing that I’m no longer a grad student, the chances of me reporting back with more good eats from here come September are slim to none.  I’m sad that I won’t be able to make any more weekly posts because it’s been so much fun, but most of all, I’m sad that I won’t get to eat here and see the people who keep this place running like clockwork on a consistent basis anymore.  There’s no guarantee that I’ll have the job of my dreams (or any full-time job for that matter) by the time September rolls around, but even so, it’s looking like this meal may have been my last here. 

I’m saying farewell with a bowl of hot, spicy tomato dill soup with lots of yummy dill and chives and creamed tomato with a crunchy side of baguette bread.  I slurped this bowl of soup up real good.  I love dill, I love chives, and because I don’t shy away from tomatoes and enjoy a little bit of kick in my food (and evidently in my soup!), this was delicious.  Dunking my crunchy bread into the creamy soup and crushed tomatoes was delightful.  I’m going to really miss getting excited over new menu items, walking in to find out that there are daily special menu items written on the chalkboard I haven’t tried yet (and consequently, haven’t blogged about yet), and having a homey place on campus to have a wholesome, great meal.

Writing these weekly posts has been awesome; it’s given me focus, a way to get inspired, and a way to show everyone just how important The Grad Lounge has been to me during the course of my grad student career.  And to think that there are still menu items I haven’t blogged about yet!  I really hope someday I’ll be able to pick up where I left off and post more Grad Lounge meals here and there, but for now, it’s good-bye.  Thanks for the memories (and of course the delicious food!), it’s been amazing.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  They will be closing for the summer THIS THURSDAY (June 30th) and will be open from 12pm-5pm for the next several days, so drop in to get your last fix of the summer and to give Mike and Paul a big thanks for all their hard work.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – The Epitome of Brunch in a Swiss & Smoky Bacon Quiche

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I think I’m in love with the concept and idea of brunch.  The thought of little sandwiches, crusty bread, panini, pies, quiches, pastries, omelettes and other breakfast foods makes me salivate with visions of bakeries and cafés dancing in my head.  I wake up early in the morning (most of the time at 6:30am so that I can get a good jump start to my day) and by the time 8am hits, I am ravenous and I am shoving blueberries and bananas in my mouth like it’s my last meal on Earth.  So for a hungry girl like myself, a mid-morning meal with the works fits the bill for that growling tummy of mine.  

Lunch and/or brunch has always been my favourite meal of the day.  I look forward to lunch more than I look forward to dinner.  And even though I adore traditional breakfast foods, I love that breezy relaxed feeling that goes along with a great lunch and/or brunch.  Having been in university and grad school for a combined six and a half years, I would get through my days by looking forward to my lunches.  I would contemplate where to eat, what to eat, and when to eat.  It was always the highlight of my day and it made those god awful 12-hour typing days just slightly more bearable.

Even though this was a lunch time meal at The Grad Lounge, it had brunch written all over it and I think it may have even bumped a meal off of my current top 5 list of favourites because it was THAT amazing and delicious.  The amazing swiss and bacon quiche with side spring mix salad and crusty baguette wedge.  I gotta say, The Grad Lounge kills it when it comes to their quiches and pies and I don’t even care that quiches are slightly fattening because of the pie crust and egg/custard/cream/milk composition; they’re mouthwateringly good and I would choose a quiche meal over a rice one or sandwich/wrap one any day.  THAT’s how much I adore these.  I’ve had two of The Grad Lounge’s quiches and pies thus far: 1) cheddar broccoli quiche with grilled zucchini and 2) sweet potato and mushroom pie.  I loved them both, but this swiss and bacon one just knocked it out of the park, so much so that I didn’t want to finish my meal because I didn’t want the yumminess to end. 

While the cheddar broccoli quiche was softer and airier and more tofu-like in consistency, the swiss and bacon one was denser and more “solid”, almost like a thick slice of pizza with egg.  It was cheesy, eggy, and full of smokiness from the bacon, and the green onion and chive flavour was a great complement.  We do eggs at home this way a lot, scrambling them with some green onions or chives and sometimes adding bacon crumble into the mix. 

Egg in and of itself is a blank canvas.  Unless you season it, it’s bland so it works perfectly for dishes like these where you can really go crazy with adding things and working with combinations of foods and flavours (things like spinach and feta, broccoli and cheddar, and in this case, swiss and bacon).  The flavour of the baked egg doesn’t end up competing and clashing with other foods.  The cheese flavour was very subtle, but very well done as you can see the cheese bubbled and browned perfectly off the edges.  The whole dish just worked and the crusty baguette wedge was a really nice touch too.  This right here is the epitome of a fantastic brunch dish 😀 

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  They will be closing for the summer THIS THURSDAY (June 30th) and will be open from 12pm-5pm for the next several days, so drop in to get your last fix of the summer and to give Mike and Paul a big thanks for all their hard work.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Sweet Potato & Black Bean Soup, Channa Wraps, and Memories of Wet Boots

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There isn’t a story behind the sweet potato and black bean soup (other than it tastes good!), but there’s certainly one behind the channa wrap.  The channa wrap and I were introduced and acquainted during the cold days of winter 2008.  I was a first year masters student out on the picket line during a strike at school and the channa wrap…well, the channa wrap was merely a warm tortilla with stuffing just waiting to be eaten.  It was a tumultuous relationship from the get-go.  

On those bitter cold, dreary days, the food truck that provided us with these warm morsels of chickpeas for lunch was like a heavenly godsend, a desert oasis if you will.  On other days when I was tired of staring at the same traffic light and trudging along in repititive circles, the channa wrap was a sad reminder of how much I wanted pizza.  That and a warm, dry pair of boots.  I would hold my channa wrap in my mittened hands, sneer at it and think, “I am not in the mood for you today, I have a pool party going on in my boots!”  But that was then and this is now and I am in a much better place.  For one thing, I haven’t crossed that old picket crosswalk in over two years.  And for another, I chucked those wet wafer boots out.

Given our turbulent relationship, the channa wrap and I haven’t been reunited till now.  And I gotta say, the channa wrap tastes much more heavenly when you’re sitting down, enjoying a nice relaxing lunch, and you’re not cold to the bone.  Along with the vegan chili and veggie burritos, the channa wrap is a great vegetarian and vegan permanent, everyday menu item.  One of the things I really like about The Grad Lounge is how they provide a number of healthy vegetarian and vegan meals.  Anyone can claim they’re vegetarian by eating nothing by bread, pasta, and starches, but it’s a much bigger task eating vegetarian in a healthy, nutrient-rich way.  To my vegetarian friends and readers, you know the situation.  You’re at a place and all you can find on the menu is a veggie burger and fries.  Not your idea of a healthy, fulfilling, or satisfying meal.  Vegetarians and vegans alike can eat here without having to make sacrifices on health or waistlines. 

The wrap is full to bursting with soft chickpeas, onions, herbs, and spices, bathed in curry sauce with coconut milk.  It’s soft, warm, hearty, and flavourful with that little bit of curry kick.  You don’t realize just how filling this is until you eat it but let me tell you, it packs a punch and for $4.95 each, that works for me.  I love my legumes, so I had me a bowl of sweet potato and black bean soup to go along with my channa wrap and that rounded out my vegetarian meal quite nicely.  The hungarian mushroom soup has to be my favourite soup at The Grad Lounge, but this sweet potato and black bean soup was really good too.  They have a rotating daily selection of soup and from what I’ve seen, a lot of the soups are stocked with veggies and protein-rich beans, lentils, and other legumes.

Twas a warm, welcoming reunion between me and channa wrap.  Go chickpeas!

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge’s summer operating hours are from 11:30pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.  It is a graduate student space on campus, so please ensure that if you wish to come here that you are either a York grad student with ID on hand, or that you are accompanied by a grad student if you aren’t one.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – The Fruity and Summery Jerk Chicken & Mango Salsa Wrap

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Let’s tick off all the foodie things that scream out SUMMER!  There’s watermelon, ice cream trucks and popsicles, juicy corn on the cob straight off the grill, juicy salads, berries, iced beverages, and one of my favourites, salsa!  Tomato salsa, avocado salsa, it’s all amazing.  You eat it with tacos and burritos, dunk chips and pita wedges in it, and hey, bruschetta wouldn’t be the hot tamale that it is without it.  So imagine my jubilance when I saw a Grad Lounge menu item with MANGO SALSA in it!  A jerk chicken grilled flour tortilla wrap (gosh, don’t you just love the grill marks?) outfitted with fresh romaine lettuce and juicy mango made with diced mango, mango puree, and diced red bell pepper.  I was so thrilled to see this menu item on The Grad Lounge’s daily specials menu board that truth be told, I wanted to pluck it off the daily specials right into the permanent menu because it is delicious.  I may feature a different Grad Lounge meal every week, but that doesn’t mean that I absolutely, positively looooove everything to death.  I enjoy many of the meals but there’s always that handful that really make you do the Elaine thumbs-and-little-kicks dance.  And no, I didn’t do the dance…not outwardly anyway.

Just as I talked about last week in my stuffed peppers post, The Grad Lounge once again made good on their resources.  The jerk chicken is something that they regularly serve on their rotating specials menu, normally with rice, salad, and a roll or corn muffin and they used that same chicken to make their jerk chicken and mango salsa wraps.  The wrap had tender pieces of jerk chicken meat with just the subtlest of heat kick.  I’ve had the jerk chicken meal before and holy jeebus does it live up to its name in spiciness!  It’s awesome how spicy it is, but boy did it make me wheeze and pant!  If you have the jerk chicken meal with rice be prepared for a hot one.  Having said that, the heat is completely toned down for the wrap and it’s more about the tenderness of the meat that shines through, which is important in a wrap.  Meat in a wrap needs to be soft, otherwise it just defeats the purpose and you end up having to tug and pull and gnaw and basically destroy the tortilla. 

The grilled tortilla was warm, slightly crispy, and didn’t fall apart, the romaine was fresh and crunchy, and the mango salsa was fantastic!  It further moistened the chicken, dressed the romaine, and gave the wrap the fruitest of flavours.  And it was the perfect consistency.  It wasn’t liquidy yet there was enough body in it from the diced mango and bell pepper that it made the salsa chunky enough to be considered an actual salsa as opposed to a chutney.  It worked on all levels and I’m so happy I got to try this one out.  I’d say this is definitely in my top 5 list of favourite Grad Lounge meals, right up there with the vegetarian lasagna, lamb curry on rice, cannelloni, and vegan chili.  It’s yummy and so perfect for the sunny summer weather.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge’s summer operating hours are from 11:30pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.  It is a graduate student space on campus, so please ensure that if you wish to come here that you are either a York grad student with ID on hand, or that you are accompanied by a grad student if you aren’t one.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Stuffed Red Bell Peppers With Rice and Melted Cheddar Cheese

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Hurray for new menu items at The Grad Lounge!  Paul and Mike are churning out some new dishes over the course of the summer and I have to say, I’m happy to be their unofficial taste-tester!  I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I get when I go in and see something on their specials menu board that I’ve never seen before.  New food to try!  My eyes light up, my heart flutters, and I think, “YES!  A new item to add to The Grad Lounge archive!”  Don’t even get me started when I see more than ONE new item on the menu though.  I’m initially overcome with excitement but then I’m quickly wracked by indecision because choosing between food things frustrates me to no end and it’s happened before and I’m left pacing staring at the board not knowing which one to choose.  I’m know, I’m crazy.  I take my food very seriously.

Their stuffed peppers were introduced on their daily specials rotating menu just recently and they took them out for a test drive.  Lucky for me, I was on campus that day and went there to eat.  I love these meant to be moments 😀  I adore stuffed peppers not just because it’s a healthy meal that incorporates both vegteables and grains, but also because the stuffings and fillings are so versatile.  You can use rice, quinoa, couscous, roasted bread crumbs, and the fun part is topping it off with cheese!  My favourite things about these stuffed peppers were the grill marks (everything tastes awesome off the grill!), the extra softness of the rice from the tomato and pepper salsa sauce, and the ooey gooey melted cheddar cheese in the rice stuffing.    The incorporation of the cheese IN the rice stuffing totally made this dish.  With a generous sprinkling of black pepper, I was good to go.

What I also really loved about this dish was how it demonstrated the resourcefulness of The Grad Lounge and their rotation of ingredients and dishes.  They created a stuffed peppers dish out of many things they normally serve on a daily basis.  They almost always have rice in some way, shape, or form for chicken dishes, for example, and the tomato and pepper salsa has used be on a number of occasions on noodles, for tofu dishes, and other vegetarian mains.  It just shows that you don’t need to be fancy and outlandish to made great food.  Using a particular number of ingredients in different ways challenges you to think outside the box and that’s exactly what The Grad Lounge did with this new stuffed pepper dish.  It gets a big thumbs up from me.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge’s summer operating hours are from 11:30pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.

  

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Me, My Boyfriend, and the Turkey BLT Panini: A Fond Love Story

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Let it be known that this is the only Grad Lounge dish being featured on the blog that has not been “nom, nom, nom”ed by me personally.  Yes, that is right, this panini sandwich has actually never been in my mouth, has never graced my digestive tract.  Not in its entirety anyway.  I know, shocking!  Especially considering this is a permanent menu item available every day.  So, how exactly did I get photos of it?  Easy.  My sweetie of a boyfriend, Richard, orders it all the time when we eat here and I simply go click happy with my camera before he starts eating it.  He humours me.  He drums his fingers on the table, looks out the window, and looks up at me expectantly when I appear to be finished giving the sandwich the red carpet treatment.  Now, I know it seems a bit weird to feature something from The Grad Lounge that I’ve never actually eaten on the blog, but I wanted to put these photos up because 1) if I can show off a menu item I haven’t yet blogged about, I will and 2) there’s a cute story behind this dish.

I mentioned up top that I haven’t eaten this turkey BLT in its entirety.  So obviously if you read between the lines, you gather that I have eaten some segment, some portion of it, if not the whole thing.  And I have.  I have eaten the tomato and the pickle spear.  Oh, and the little dipping mayo sauce.  *laughs*  I’m not kidding.  Richard doesn’t really care for dill pickles or sauce (he likes his food “naked”, hee) and he hates tomatoes with a passion to my dismay.  He basically loves this sandwich because of the other three compenents (namely the bacon, turkey, and romaine lettuce) and happily munches away while I eat his tomatoes and crunch on the delicious dill pickle.  And dip whatever it is that I’m eating (or a few fries off his plate) in the dipping mayo.  I like tomatoes and I looooove dill pickles and sauce so the arrangement, albeit a bit weird, works for us. 

I look back at these memories fondly.  It’s something that doesn’t even need discussion.  I order whatever meal it is that I’m ordering, he orders his sandwich and fries, he picks the tomatoes off and grins at me, I roll my eyes at him, I eat the tomatoes, and at the end of the meal I spear the juicy pickle off his plate.  And we call it a meal.  I may never be able to get my boyfriend to eat tomatoes the way I’ve gotten him to eat other things he previously believed he disliked, but that’s okay.  It makes for some sweet memories.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge’s summer operating hours are from 11:30pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – The Chicken Salad Panini With Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Mayo

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The sun has been shining and it finally seems as though the weather is cooperating and giving us all a giant hug and kiss.  The fall/winter terms at school have ended and summer school has officially started.  And then there’s me, happily relishing in the fact that I finished grad school just a little over a month ago and enjoying all the time that I can for myself.  Having said that, I know it seems weird to see me writing Grad Lounge posts even after I’ve finished school.  The thing is, I’ve had so much fun profiling The Grad Lounge each week that I don’t really want to stop.  And I don’t feel I should have to.  I felt all warm and fuzzy and accomplished when I made my “20-post round-up” last week and it really solidified how special this place has become for me.  The presence of school in my life has no bearing on my ability to eat here, so I will continue to post about the meals here until I have exhausted all options and avenues 😀

I may not be an incredible “bread head” the way my mom, brother, and boyfriend are, but oh how I love grilled sandwiches.  Grilled foccacia, panini buns, ciabatta, whatever; I will eat a grilled sandwich any place, any time.  I love warm grilled bread with grilled vegetables as well as warm sandwiches with a shocking bite of coolness from fresh veggies and dressing.  I’ve been having a lot of fun trying out different breads and vegetarian sandwiches over the past little while and the great vegetarian and vegan sandwich hunt (inspired by my friend Wini) continues. 

So you can say that I was a bit of a sucker when I looked over The Grad Lounge’s daily specials chalkboard menu.  Lucky for me, I am a big fan of sun-dried tomato (plus sun-dried tomato mayo?  Colour me excited!) and I’m always interested in seeing different interpretations of chicken salad, so I took one look at the chicken salad panini menu item and didn’t even need to consider anything else.  Just think, for once I wasn’t completely and annoyingly indecisive about what to eat! 

Although the panini could have been grilled more (I guess I like mine extra toasty?!), the chicken salad dressed in the sun-dried tomato mayo was both creamy and crunchy with chopped celery and peppers mixed into the salad, and some big leaves of romaine lettuce gave an extra bit of fresh crunch to it.  I really loved the sun-dried tomato flavour mixed in.  And you know what the best part was that made the panini extra special?  The sprinkling of parmesan cheese!!  That made me squeal 😀  Along with my juicy dill pickle spear, half serving of salad and half serving of fries (because I wanted both and couldn’t decide, so they humoured me and gave me a little of each, awww).  Yup, it doesn’t take much.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge’s summer operating hours are from 11:30pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.