The Keys to My Heart: My Favourite Crunchy, Gooey Grilled Cheese Sandwich at T&T Bakery and Café!

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The day was sunny, the air was crisp, and I was happily skipping over to one of my favourite bakeries and cafés in town for lunch: T&T Bakery and Café on Main Street Markham.  I hadn’t been back since the holidays when I tried their adorable little turkey pies and I was dying to go back to enjoy a simple, breezy lunch with my boyfriend.  That and also because I desparately wanted a gingerbread cookie.  They have the best gingerbread cookies (not to mention the softest, yummiest shortbread cookies with sprinkles!) in the cutest seasonal shapes and frosted decorations, and I reeeally wanted to see what adorable spring and Easter themed goodies they had in the cookie baskets.  Nothing gets in the way of me and my cookies! 😀

T&T Bakery and Café is like a comforting hometown country kitchen with menu items written on boards, and bustling customers enjoying big plates of French toast and waffles for breakfast, picking up fresh-baked pies, tea biscuits, and scones, and sitting down for a relaxing lunchtime or midday meal.  The prices are fabulous (a great meal for $4-$8?  Count me in, babe!) and it’s a family business with a big heart and great people and I just LOVE coming here.  Like I mentioned in my very first post about T&T over the holidays, I’ve had amazing breakfasts here and I’m still able to vividly recall how yummy the scalloped potato homefries are and how thick and delicious the chocolate milkshakes are.  And on this day, I had the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich EVER, loaded and stuffed with veggies with plenty of hot kicks from the hot peppers!

Oh was this sandwich all sorts of awesome.  My grilled cheese sandwich was delightfully crunchy, cheesy, gooey, and flavourful and it was amazing in so many ways.  I knew I wanted veggies on my sandwich and when the nice girl asked me what I wanted on it (after I told her it was more than fine that it would cost an extra dollar from the regular grilled cheese), I simply replied, “everything!”  You have it, I’ll eat it!  My grilled cheese ended up with a mountain of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, pickles,and hot peppers and OH.MY.GOD. the sandwich kick-boxed my taste buds and I had a field day fitting this thing into my mouth with every bite.  Oh, and using up my entire pile of napkins. The sandwich was so crunchy and perfectly grilled I crunched bread crumbs onto myself after every bite.  My hands and mouth were a mess and I couldn’t have been happier!

Not only did I love the hot spicy kick from the hot peppers, but I loved how this sandwich was constructed.  The cheddar cheese was melted on both the top AND bottom so you had mouthfuls of melty, gooey cheese enveloping the vegetables and bread and hello, best moisture barrier ever!  Without the cheese on both sides, the veggies risk making the bread soggy, but no such situation here.  They are smart thinkers!  And a bad or less than stellar grilled cheese doesn’t retain its shape and ends up floppy.  Not sexy.  This sandwich stuck its tongue out to the not-so-great grilled cheeses around the world and held up to the very last bite.  YUM YUM YUM!

To celebrate this fab meal, I got myself that gingerbread cookie I wanted so badly.  I got the cute yellow tulip flower one 😀  And yes, part of me wants to run back and snatch up that bunny one too.

*****

The T&T Bakery and Café is located at 35 Main Street Markham at the intersection of Hwy 7 and Markham Rd., just north of Hwy.7.     

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The Keys to My Heart: One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four…My Homemade Mashed Potatoes!

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Okay, so if you know me, you know what my favourite foods are: sweets (especially cake and cupcakes), sushi (bring on the salmon and avocado!), cream cheese (and any cheese for that matter), pasta, and a plethora of veggies including bell peppers, baby spinach, arugula, avocado, mushrooms, and broccoli among many others.  I am also a passionate potato lover!  Let it be known that I have never met a potato I didn’t like.  Baked, roasted, scalloped, mashed, I love them all and I go crazy with toppings and seasonings!  My mum and I sprinkle dry basil flakes on our roasted spuds, I love me some peas and gravy in and on my mashed, and hand me some sour cream with my baked potato and I am a happy girl 😀  My mum and I made a hot, steaming, fresh bowl of mashed potatoes last Friday and I am loving how they turned out! 

We used yummy Yukon gold ones for our homemade mashed potatoes.  For 6-8 potatoes, peeled and quartered, boiling them for about 20 minutes did the job.  After the potatoes came out of the hot tub, we added some margarine (about 3 tablespoons) and a very generous splash of milk.  And I mean generous.  We wanted our mashed potatoes nice and soft and whippy, so we added enough milk to the bowl so that we could see the milk around the edges of the potatoes.  Drowning them would make them soppy and gross, but we added just enough so that the milk peeked through. 

Then came the fun part: mashing!  I’m sure everyone has their favourite kitchen activity (and a not-so-favourite to go along with it.  Chopping onions, anyone?) and mine is using the potato masher, haha.  I had a very fun time mashing my black beans for my black bean burrito filling and I was quite happy to go at it with the masher again.  I guess I find it satisfying mushing things!  *laughs*  We added lots of black pepper, dried basil and parsley flakes, a sprinkling of bacon bits, and a heaping handful of chopped green onions/scallions which gave it some fresh colour and crunch.  The potatoes were delicious and at just the right consistency!

I can’t wait to make another batch sometime and try out some different seasonings and add-ons, maybe some red pepper chili flakes for a little heat, or maybe some corn and beans.  Making potatoes totally reminds me of the episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S in the first season where they’re celebrating Thanksgiving and everyone wants and likes their mashed potatoes in a different way and everyone is bickering because nobody can agree on anything, ha!  So, how does everyone like their potatoes? 😀

The Keys to My Heart: Spaghetti, Portuguese Chicken (Po Gok Gai), and Warm Mugs of Ovaltine at Goldsor

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I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Hong Style restaurant that I didn’t love.  The baked spaghetti and rice dishes, the crushed ice fruit drinks, the awesome tea time snack menus; every café offers something different and I have so much fun trying out new places.  I’ve been noshing at HK style eateries on a regular basis since I was 15 and thanks to family and friends, all over town!  First Markham Place, Metro Square, Finch & Leslie, Peachtree Plaza, the list goes on. 

Even though The Phoenix holds a ton of high school memories, my first memory of HK style food was actually from the age of 9.  It was a such a special day.  My aunt and uncle were taking me for a night on the town for Christmas to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and they had bought me a cute little dress for our outing, they were taking me out to dinner with them before the show, the whole nine yards.  I remember that fun night so clearly.  After the show, they took me for a late night nibble and we went to place called the Ritz Restaurant back in Scarborough, closer to where I lived at the time.  Sadly, the restaurant is no longer around, but I remember getting my first taste (literally!) of HK style food and loving it: baked spaghetti in cream sauce with shredded ham, cheese, and peas.  OH.MY.GOD.  I was hooked.

My dad is on his A-game when it comes to hunting down HK style cafés.  Him and his Chinese newspapers are best friends.  He snatches so many free newspapers at every Chinese place that offers them that my mum has just become exasperated and tells him to constantly stop bringing back “junk”.  Oh, the parentals, how funny they are, haha.  The newspapers turn into goldmines though when they advertise store and restaurant openings, promos, and great places to eat!  And that is how we found out about Goldsor, located in Richmond Hill and nested within the Times Square plaza on Hwy.7 and Leslie St.  A new HK style restaurant to try?  YAY!

Three of my favourite yummies EVER are spaghetti, Portuguese Chicken, and ovaltine!  And lucky for me, HK style is never without any of these three things.  I love pasta like peanut butter loves jelly and spaghetti makes me all wiggly with happiness.  Like I’ve said on numerous occasions, I always love trying new things and picking out more unique items off a menu that sets the place apart from others.  However, sometimes you just want to eat what you love most and that’s what I did when we went back in Novemer: I ordered spaghetti with Portuguese chicken and a warm mug of ovaltine.  Colour me a happy camper!

You must be wondering, “how the heck does Portuguese anything end up in Chinese eateries and cuisine?”  It’s okay, I wondered that myself.  Especially considering I’ve been having this type of chicken dish since I was little, thanks to mum’s cooking.  “Po Gok Gai” has been one of my long-time favourite comfort foods and I love that HK style places have taken it up and put their own unique spins on the dish.  In a nutshell, Portuguese influence infiltrated Chinese culture and cuisine in Macau as a European colony and many dishes are a fusion of the two cultures.* 

Now, in Chinese Portuguese style chicken dishes, two components are key: curry and coconut.  This is what makes it so amazingly DELICIOUS like you wouldn’t believe.  The sweetness of the coconut is subtle but it hits you in the sauce, mixed in with your rice, spaghetti, or whatever you’re eating it with.  Goldsor’s version has the normal vegetable components: chunks of potato, green bell pepper, and carrots.  It deviants in one special way though.  The chicken is crispy with a light breaded coating and together with the delicious sauce and soft potatoes and vegetables, it is so freakin’ satisfying.  It is such a savoury dish and it is the perfect combination of crispy and soft, and the sweetness of the coconut and savouriness of the chicken and curry rounds everything out.  If there was one way to cook a chicken for life, this would be mine.  Yummy, yummy, and more yummy 😀

I had a great experience at Goldsor my first time there and I’m so looing forward to going back!  The quality of the food was fantastic (my dad ordered a breaded fish dish that looked at though it came out of a gourmet kitchen) and the prices are very reasonable and in keeping with HK style cafés where meals are, on average, around $6-$11.  It’s got that hustle and bustle that I love with the clang clang of dishes and glasses and orders being brought to tables, and I am so glad I get to tuck away another great meal in my mental scrapbook.  HK style, spaghetti, and Portuguese chicken are keys to my heart ❤

*****

Goldsor Restaurant is located at  550 Highway 7 East, at the intersection of Hwy.7 and Leslie St.  It’s not located inside the Times Square mall, but rather within the complex of stores and restaurants behind Times Square in the central parking lot.  Goldsor faces south toward the back entrance of Times Square.

*source: Sunflower Food Galore

Valentine’s Series: The Keys to My Heart Part IV – Memories of High School & My Favourite Turkey Sandwiches

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Forget the pretentious gourmet stuff.  The BEST turkey sandwiches in the world (okay, fine, in my world) are made at one of the most fantastic bakeries in town located just across the street from my old high school: Raymerville Deli & Bakery located at 1 Raymerville Drive south, off of McCowan Rd. and north of Bullock Drive in Unionville, Markham.   This is truly one of the reasons why I’ve been so excited to share the Keys to My Heart series; to showcase the things I love the most in any category of food and to tell all the memorable stories attached to them.  I think I may keep this series around just for the heck of it because talking about my favourite things is fun and makes me happy! 😀  This bakery holds a lot of fun memories, especially from high school. 

I would buy my lunch once a week and about a third of the time I’d go to the bakery across the street.  I remember running over at lunch hour with a few friends in tow and lining up in the packed bakery for my coveted smoked turkey sandwich on crusty kaiser bun.  Watching the ladies slice my turkey meat, pack on the toppings, and wrap it in the signature white sandwich paper with deli sticker made my heart pump fast and till this day, it still does.  Everything about this sandwich is amazing.  The crusty kaiser is the best with its bread crumb dusty top and soft insides and no sandwich makes me happier than this one: fresh smoked turkey piled high with lots of shredded lettuce, tomato, mozzerella cheese, and mayo and mustard.  I might be all into trying new things and consistently expanding my food horizons (pft, like you couldn’t tell from the blog, right?  Ha!) but this is one thing that I’ve been eating the same way for 10 years and it tastes SO FREAKIN’ GOOD each and every single time.  This bakery has not lost its touch.

The bakery is family owned and run, and is stocked to the brim with Italian pastas, meats, and dry food pantry items.  Racks and racks of fresh baked bread are ripe for the picking (with a bread slicer that you can use if you would rather have it done in-store) and there is plenty of other good eats to nosh on too: pepperoni pizza slices the size of the moon; ginormous chocolate chip cookies which might as well be the moon because of the all chocolate chip craters; fresh baked apple and fruit pies; apple, cherry, and raspberry turnovers (my brother and mum’s favourite); pastry twists dusted with powdered sugar; and oodles of tarts, cookies, and strudels.

You can choose any bread or bun in the bakery and bring it up to the deli counter to have  your sandwich made, but I’m telling you, you MUST order  a sandwich on the kaiser, which they have a basket of up on the counter.  Why?  Because I said so.  Trust me!  Prices for kaiser sandwiches vary depending on the type of meat you want and whether ot not you order it with cheese (extra 50 cents), but most sandwiches are anywhere from $3.50 to $5.  Oh!  And no tax.  I KNOW.  What dimension are we in, right??  If it’s $4.50 for your sandwich, it’s $4.50.  Take a minute and wrap your head around that.  And imagine all the yummy baked goods you can buy for $10.  Mmmm.  It makes me wistful knowing I can’t walk across the street to the bakery anymore, but I look forward to any and all trips I make there.

*****

Raymerville Deli & Bakery is located within the strip plaza right at the intersection of McCowan Rd. and Ramerville Drive south, on the east side of McCowan (Carlton Rd. is on the west side of McCowan).  It’s about a 10 minute walk (or a 2 or 3 minute drive) from Markville Mall.  They usually have a day off during the week and I’m pretty sure that day is Monday, although your best bet is to visit them during the middle of the week or on the weekend.

Valentine’s Series: The Keys to My Heart, Part I – My Favourite Spicy Salmon Rolls!

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I’ve said it a number of times on the blog and I’ll say it again: I’m a sucker for cute, seasonal things and I adore celebratory occasions.  So in lieu of Valentine’s Day next Monday, I’m starting a series today entitled “The Keys to My Heart” that will profile some of my favourite foods and indulgences, and I’ll be running it for the next 4 days until the big day! 😀  And by “big day”, I mean a day of good food and lots of cute and pretty things!  Some people feel that Valentine’s Day is cliché, overrated, and well…stupid.  In the traditional sense, it can definitely seem archaic, but I like to think of Valentine’s Day as a day to simply enjoy the company of people you love, as well as indulging in your favourite treats and activities.  I think I’ll treat myself to a lip gloss shopping trip in the very near future to celebrate.

First up in the Keys To My Heart series: my favourite spicy salmon sushi rolls!!  *prances around the room*  Now you all know how much I love my sushi and how many different kinds I’ve tried.  Out of all the places I’ve been to so far and all the spicy salmon varieties I’ve ordered, the spicy salmon roll bento box at Japanese Express in the upper level food court in Pacific is the BEST!  For $7.95, you get a bento box with 12 rolls, a side salad, and a tea.  The buttery, melt-in-your-mouth salmon is surrounded by a ring of crunchy tempura, and with the dollop (or as I like to think of it, a little pool of spicy heaven) of spicy sauce on each roll, it’s like a crunchy, spicy party in your mouth.  The texture and heat are so good!  And the rice is perfect too – not mushy and not hard. 

I’m known for taking itty bitty bites of things, but for these rolls, you put the whole shebang in your mouth and wiggle and savour, even as you’re puffing from the heat, haha! 😀  I cannot get over how amazing the sauce is in combination with the rolls and I suppose my love for it makes sense considering how much I love sauce on stuff!  I have such a weakness for the different kinds of spicy sauce and mayo sushi places use for their rolls, mmm. 

And if you’re interested in another really good menu item, I definitely recommend the hand rolls!  You get a set of three: one salmon, one California (crab meat, cucumber, and avocado), and one bbq eel.  These are truly quality hand rolls in size, taste, and texture with the crunchy, crispy seaweed and grainy rice.  The slices of salmon sashimi, crab meat, and avocado are so fresh and thick, and the bbq eel is yumminess!  I’ve had bbq eel in rolls before, twice, but for whatever reason, the bbq eel in this pocket of a hand roll tasted so much better!  It has the texture of grilled salmon, soft and not dry in the least.  I’m actually really happy to have found these great sushi items.  You get skeptical of the quality of food in food courts, especially when so much of it is imitation, but these dishes deliver.  Yay!  

I absolutely cannot wait to scrapbook my little heart out real soon, so expect a ton of new layouts in the next 2 weeks!  I’m really excited to do some special Valentine’s-related posts for the blog in the next few days too, so I hope you all enjoy this series!

*****

Pacific Mall is located at 4300 Steeles Ave. East, right at the intersection of Kennedy Rd. and Steeles.  Pacific Heritage Town is on the upper level and houses a food court with traditional Chinese, Shanghai, and Japanese and sushi, as well as a bakery and plenty of bubble tea and Chinese snack vendors.  Japanese Express is located further into the food court right by the stage and podium where the emperor chair is.

Thank you to my sweetie Richard for the Heritage Town photo, and thank you to Cait for inspiring me with the title of this series!