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.

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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 – 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.

 

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Meet The Popular Veggie & Bean Burrito

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Much like her popular cousin, vegan chili, the veggie burrito has her own faithful flock of followers at The Grad Lounge; one of those followers being me!  They’re available every day on the permanent menu and they’re ready to go as soon as you walk in.  If you love bean burritos, you will love this.  You will devour this and then want more.  I speak from personal experience.  Wrapped in a warm flour tortilla, it’s stuffed with refried beans, jack and cheddar cheese, green bell pepper, and tomato salsa with a side of sour cream.  The beans are super smooth and delicious and it’s the kind of flavour that envelopes in your mouth.  You get that crunch from the bell pepper, the slight saltiness from the melted cheese, and a taste of vinegar and lime juice from the juciy tomato salsa.  It’s a favourite go-to menu item for many people who come here to eat just because it’s an easy item to take away, it’s filling, it’s big, and it’s affordable ($5.45 if I’m not mistaken).

I finish off my side of sour cream every single time.  I’ll use a fork to slather it on, I’ll dip the burrito in it, and I’ll use the fork to scrape up the sides when there’s really nothing left.  You know you’re obvious about how much your love sour cream when you’re out with your family and your grandma sees you cleaning off your little sour cream dish and whispers to your mother, “she really likes that stuff, doesn’t she?”.  Yes, yes I do.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  Starting today (Monday, April 11th), The Grad Lounge will be changing their hours to summer hours until September.  Summer operating hours are from 12pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – A “Brunch” Sandwich with Egg Salad and Crispy Bacon

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For whatever reason, I am on a huge sandwich kick these days.  I mean, sandwiches were always a staple for lunch during all my years in elementary and high school, and to a lesser extent, university, so it’s surprising to me that I’m not sick of it.  I guess it’s because I’ve become so inspired by different fillings and fresh bakery breads as of late that it has once again become exciting for me.  I think we all go through phases like this.  Sometimes you fall in a rut and you’re inspired again by something new and different.  I’m currently excited to create a tofu scramble sandwich on crusty bread so we’ll see how that works out in the next few weeks! 🙂

I’m quite fond of sandwiches on rye bread so whenever The Grad Lounge has a sammie using rye on the daily specials menu, it’s hard to pass up.  Pastrami, corned beef, tuna salad, tuna melt, I’m all for it.  Especially when it’s a sandwich with egg salad with the option of adding bacon!  Sometimes you just want something smoky, salty, and crispy and bacon fits the bill.  And my oh my did this sandwich ever taste YUMMY with the bacon!  It was like a lunch version of a breakfast sandwich except much fresher in flavour and without all the grease!  Egg salad with chopped celery served with lettuce and crispy strips of bacon on marble rye with a spring mix salad on the side.  It was crunchy and crispy and savoury and all sorts of awesome.  My way of getting in a “breakfast food” fix at lunch time 🙂

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  Spring and summer hours will most likely begin within the next few weeks, so check back for updated hours of operation.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – The Melty, Toasty, Crunchy Tuna Melt

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The tuna melt  is one of my favourite Grad Lounge dishes!  It’s funny, when we were in elementary or high school, sandwiches were one of those things that we often brought because 1) hey, that’s just what our parents used to make and if you didn’t like it you didn’t get lunch, 2) they didn’t need to be microwaved, and 3) they didn’t leak and make a mess all over the place (hopefully).  We brought them so often, day in and day out, that we would get bored of them and the last thing you’d want eating out was a sandwich.  And here I am eating a schooltime staple at the age of 25 and loving it: tuna salad.

Now I know it may seem like your regular sammie, but this ain’t no boring schoolyard lunch in a lunch box.  It’s one of my favourites because it incorporates 2 of my sandwich loves: tuna and cheese!  Served together or separately, I’m quite fond of tuna salad and you all know how dearly I adore cheese.  The tuna melt is fab.  It’s served on 3 slices of  toasty, crusty marble rye bread with tuna salad, slices of cucumber, melted marble cheese, and dried parsley flakes sprinkled on top with a side salad of mixed greens and sun-dried tomato dressing.  I love how toasty and warm and soft everything is and the melt gets brownie points in my book because the tuna salad is made in my favourite way: with chopped celery!  It’s how I make my tuna at home and it makes me all squealy knowing others make it and serve it the same way 😀  The tuna melt is part of the permanent Grad Lounge menu, so you can order it any day of the week and it is all sorts of warm and comforting.  Our schooltime sandwich is all grown up.  Awww.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus and have extended their hours to 9pm in the evening from Monday to Thursday, and until 7pm on Friday.