California Dreamin’ – The California Classic Salad & A Day of All Things New at Fresh on Eglinton!

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DSCN0252It’s finally here: my post on veggie eats at Fresh on Eglinton!  Let it be known that when these photos were taken, there was still snow on the ground.  And ice.  And some slush.  In the dead of what became a ridiculously frightful winter.  But!  The yummies I have for you all today scream summer so at the very least it’s seasonally appropriate to be posting about this now (I think I ordered what I ordered at the time to make myself feel better about the wretched weather and to silently send winter “go away” vibes.  Because, you know, that totally helps.  NOT.) instead of say, a hot hearty stew that would probably make us break out into an uncomfortable sweat at this point.  So even though it’s been months since I made my first visit to their newest location and took these photos and even longer since this location officially opened, it’s now in the books for real!

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Fresh on Eglinton, located at 90 Eglinton Ave. East a few blocks east of Yonge Street at Dunfield Ave. is the latest addition to the Fresh empire and the foodie in me is so geeked that I have now eaten in all 4 of their locations: Queen & Spadina, Queen & Crawford, Spadina & Bloor, and now Yonge & Eglinton.  And while I LOVE Fresh and all their different locations in their own way, I have to say, the Eglinton one has captured my heart.  For starters, it’s in the Yonge & Eglinton neighbourhood.  Hello, Deb’s wheelhouse of foodie fun!  David’s Tea, The Cupcake Shoppe, Kale Eatery, tons of cafes, Italian, and weekend brunch spots, walking distance to the Yonge & Lawrence, Yonge & Davisville, and Mount Pleasant neighbourhoods and so much more.  There’s so much to love.

In addition, this one boasts the largest space of all Fresh locations.  It’s so pretty and spacious –  pops of pineapple yellow, lime and celery green and chargoal grey, wooden and mirror accents, plenty of spacious booths and suspended from the ceiling, Fresh’s signature sparkly chandeliers.  And did I mention the really nice, big patio?  Yeah, there’s a really nice, big summer-ready patio that’s just calling everyone to come over to eat till they’re silly.  Mark my words, I WILL have a patio meal there before the summer is over!

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To make this first visit to the new location feel even more ‘new’, I decided to try something, well, new!  To me anyway.  I went over in my head all the things I’ve eaten so far and realized that the only category I hadn’t yet eaten from was the salad one.  I’d had their rice and soba noodle bowls, a few of their appetizers, a few of their burgers and wraps on beds of salad greens, their weekend brunch, their juice, their soups, heck, I’ve even created my own custom brown rice and soba noodle bowls!  So I thought, “what better way to celebrate this lovely occasion than to knock out the last category in my ‘to-eat-at-Fresh’ list?”  Salad it was!

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Fresh’s salads are meal/entree size ranging from $10 to $13 with all sorts of delicious veggie combinations atop a big pillow of salad greens: marinated tofu cubes with grilled spinach and sunflower seeds; edamame with napa cabbage and sunflower sprouts; grilled tempeh bacon with jicama, avocado, tomatoes and kale; yellow beets with jicama, napa cabbage, peanuts and peanut lime dressing; quinoa, kale and goji berries; and a soup, salad and cornbread lunch combo.  I picked a salad that had Deb written all over it: the California Classic ($12), a giant salad comprised of pesto white beans, toasted pecans, avocado, grape tomatoes, and hearts of palm on spinach and mixed salad greens.  I ordered tahini dressing with it (a mouthwatering creamy dressing of sesame with garlic, lemon and parsley) along with a side of goat cheese because a cheese lover like myself would feel naked without it, and a side of their famous kale slaw.  And a fresh mango juice with coconut water to wash it all down.  YUM!

I could seriously just stuff my face with pesto white beans, pecans and avocado all the live long day.  The wonderful thing about salads is how full of flavour and texture they are when they are constructed well.  I mean, you can construct it based on the ‘kitchen sink’ philosophy where you kind of throw in some of this and some of that or some leftovers here and some things in the fridge you need to finish there, but it may or may not taste good depending on what you use.  But salads like these, bursting with colour and life, give you all sorts of different yummy sensations.  Crunchiness from the greens and pecans, creaminess from the avocado and dressing, juiciness from the tomatoes, starchy savouriness from the pesto white beans, and meatiness from the hearts of palm.

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And you know what?  Something else was new about this experience: my first time eating hearts of palm!  YES, I had never eaten hearts of palm before this meal and quite honestly, had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t know what they looked like, how they would taste.  For some odd reason, I went into it thinking hearts of palm were similar to endive!  Um, I was very wrong.  Hearts of palm are not green.  Or leafy.  If I had to describe the appearance, texture and taste, I’d have to say they’re like a cross between bamboo shoots in appearance, cooked mushrooms in texture and artichokes in taste.  They’re extremely mild but meaty and yet kind of cool and refreshing at the same time and its softness complimented the soft and creamy avocado.  They’re like blank canvases, able to absorb all sorts of different flavours that surround it so it was very cool tasting it for the first time.  How’s that for trying new things all in one day?!

Here’s to another handful of delicious, mouthwatering vegetarian meals at Fresh for the remainder of 2014!

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*****

Fresh currently serves 4 locations in Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)
  4. 90 Eglinton Ave. East (at Dunfield Ave. on Eglinton east of Yonge St.)
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Summer Can’t Come Soon Enough – A Work-in-Progress Look at the *NEW* Fresh Location at Yonge & Eglinton!

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It may be below zero out but I am all warm and fuzzy inside because I am absolutely ECSTATIC and bouncing off the walls over Fresh’s brand spankin’ NEW location opening this summer!  For those of you already know, jump up and down with me!  For those who don’t, start jumping up and down with glee now!  Fresh is expanding, opening a beautiful new location uptown in the Yonge & Eglinton neighbourhood right at the intersection of Eglinton Ave. East and Dunfield Ave.  Expected opening?  Just in time for the gorgeous, sun-kissed season of summer.

I should have posted this exciting news back in December when I first found out, but we all know I was hardly here so better late than never!  My breath literally caught in my throat when I found out the news from Fresh’s December newsletter.  One of my favourite restaurants opening a new location in one of my favourite neighbourhoods in the city?  PURE GOLD.  I cannot wait.  The patio area is going to be spectacular (just look at it!  Envision patio tables and chairs and sipping freshly blended juices out here!  Ignore the snow.  It’s ugly and it needs to go away, like, NOW).  And even after all my Fresh meals and visits, I am far from exhausting their menu and I am so looking forward to trying something I’ve never tried before at this new location.  It’s only appropriate!  Here’s what’s on my to-eat list (taken straight off their online menu) at Fresh!

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Source: Fresh Restaurant website

  • All-Star Salad ($12) – quinoa & adzuki bean tabouleh on shredded raw kale with goji berries, Toasted Nut & Seed Mix, parsley, cilantro, sunflower sprouts, grilled sweet potato & tofu steaks
  • California Classic Salad ($12) – quinoa & adzuki bean tabouleh on shredded raw kale with goji berries, Toasted Nut & Seed Mix, parsley, cilantro, sunflower sprouts, grilled sweet potato & tofu steaks
  • Sam Houston Burrito ($10) – slow cooked soy & sweet potato taco filling, sautéed peppers & onions, salsa, avocado chipotle sauce, lettuce and alfalfa sprouts
  • Powerhouse Bowl (with either brown rice, $14 or soba noodles, $16) – avocado, chick peas & grilled tofu steaks with sunflower sprouts, Toasted Nut & Seed Mix, tomato, red onion & spicy tahini sauce
  • Dragon Bowl (with either brown rice, $14 or soba noodles, $16.  Also available in baby size. Rice, $10.  Soba noodles, $11) – grilled tomato, zucchini & tofu steaks with rich miso gravy, sesame seeds, cilantro & green onions
  • Energy Bowl (with either brown rice, $14 or soba noodles, $16.  Also available in baby size. Rice, $10.  Soba noodles, $11) – marinated tofu cubes, rich coconut curry sauce, chick pea & vegetable stew, cucumber, tomato, red onion, sunflower sprouts & tahini sauce
  • Brunch Burrito (weekend brunch only, $11) – scrambled tofu with tempeh bacon, tomato, lettuce, alfalfa & house mayo in a grilled whole wheat tortilla served with your choice of soup, salad or home fries
  • Banana Nut Pancakes and Blueberry Almond Pancakes (weekend brunch only; double for $8, triple for $10)

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I will consider my mission accomplished if I can even check two options off this list!  It’s just a never-ending list of scrumptious wants, especially when you factor in how much I love creating my own custom bowls too!

Summer can’t come soon enough.

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)

Flavour Favourites – 5 Great Tofu & Tofu Scramble Vegetarian & Vegan Brunch Dishes!

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Source: photovisi

I’m so happy and excited!  I finally have enough posts to do a Flavour Favourites post for one of my favourite foods: TOFU!  And not just any post devoted to tofu, this is a special tofu and tofu scramble brunch edition post!  Even though I’ve been eating tofu almost all my life, it wasn’t until I started my crazy food exploration 4 years ago that I realized just how versatile it was as a vegetarian brunch main.  I was especially intrigued by tofu scramble and the more I saw it on vegetarian and vegan brunch menus, the more I wanted to try them all.  Tofu scramble with vegan cheddar, tofu scramble with spinach and diced onions, on crispy corn tortillas, with peppers and spices – I totally have a “gotta catch ’em all!” mentality towards it now and it’s been so much fun trying the dishes that I have and discovering new eateries and hot spots along the way.

Oh, and did you notice the snazzy photo collages?!  I love them, they’re so pretty if I do say so myself!  I didn’t actually create the backgrounds, I just picked the template and plugged the photos in.  But it was fun nevertheless!  I’ve been feeling so sad about my lack of scrapbooking that I felt compelled to do something colourful and creative with my photos.  It’s been tough.  Ever since I started working full-time M-F, scrapbooking just hasn’t happened and it certainly hasn’t been because of a lack of desire.  It’s purely a lack of time.  I hate even saying it because it makes me sound like a person who whines and complains about not having enough time, making excuses, and not doing anything to change it.

Source: Ate by Ate’s Facebook page

Believe me, I’ve made an effort.

I’ve bought new materials for projects on my to-do list, I developed some new photos for new layouts.  But with a M-F full-time schedule and weekends jam-packed with getting and preparing blog stories and content and fitting in time with my boyfriend, friends, and family, there has been virtually nothing left for quiet, undisturbed sit-down time with my paper and scissors.  I want to change this so much so here’s to hoping I find a way to do it because this was one of the major reasons why I started Ate by Ate in the first place.

Let’s get this tofu brunch show started!

  1. Vegan Rancheros at Sadie’s Diner (504 Adelaide Street West at Portland Street, just east of Bathurst) – Scrambled tofu on corn tortillas with salsa, refried beans, guacamole, and vegan cheese, $12, daily Welcome to Sadie’s Diner – Rockin’ Robin Huevos Rancheros, Part II || May 4, 2011
  2. Full Breakfast at Fresh (147 Spadina Ave. just south of Queen Street; 326 Bloor Street West just east of Spadina Ave; 894 Queen Street West at Crawford) – Scrambled tofu with grilled spinach, baked beans, grilled vegan sausage or tempeh bacon, toast, and homefries, $11, weekend brunch A Weekend Vegan Brunch of Tofu Scramble, Grilled Spinach, Home Fries, and Tempeh Bacon at Fresh || February 27, 2012
  3. Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble at Fresh (147 Spadina Ave. just south of Queen Street; 326 Bloor Street West just east of Spadina Ave; 894 Queen Street West at Crawford) – Crunchy corn tortillas, scrambled tofu, avocado, cilantro, tomato, lettuce, green onions, avocado chipotle sauce, spicy black beans, and brown basmati rice, $11, weekend brunch (mine served with an additional order ($2) of aged cheddar cheese!) A Rainforest Cabana Weekend Brunch – The Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble & The First Visit to Fresh Crawford || May 11, 2012
  4. Grilled Tofu on Vegan Chili at Niche Coffee & Tea Company (626 Queen Street West) – Grilled tofu steaks on homemade spicy vegan chili topped with tortilla crisps and a choice of homemade foccacia or cornbread, $10.50, daily (depending on the day, the meal can come with either tomato and arugula salad or guacamole cream) The Vegan Chili Series! First Up: Vegan Chili Brunch with Grilled Tofu Steaks at Niche Coffee & Tea on Queen West || September 28, 2011
  5. Tofu Scramble at Disgraceland (965 Bloor Street West between Delaware Ave. and Dovercourt Rd.) – Tofu scramble with sweet bell peppers, onions, garlic, cumin, chili, black beans, corn, and jalapenos with crunchy corn chips and a choice between hash browns (breakfast potatoes) or greens, $9 tax inclusive, weekend brunch Corn Chips, Breakfast Potatoes & Moroccan Flavour in a Tofu Scramble – Weekend Vegan Brunch at Disgraceland || September 7, 2012

AND, if you’re interested in trying tofu brunch dishes that I haven’t blogged about yet, here is my tofu goldmine “to-eat” list!

  • Tofu Scramble at Lady Marmalade (898 Queen Street East, just west of Logan Ave.) – Tofu scramble with shitake mushrooms, bok choy, spinach, and scallions in sesame soy dressing with your choice of either brown basmati rice or potatoes, toast, and salad, $11.50, daily all-day breakfast http://www.ladymarmalade.ca/
  • Sesame Tofu Scramble at Sage Cafe (166 McCaul Street at the corner of Elm) – Sesame tofu scramble on a bed of Thai-style rice noodles, $10, weekend brunch http://www.sagecafeandcatering.com/our-menus/weekend-brunch-menu
  • Tofu Omelette at Live Organic Food Bar (264 Dupont Street at Spadina Ave.) – Tofu omelette with tempeh, regular and sundried tomatoes, spinach, peppers, and olives with your choice of either potatoes or salad, $16, weekend brunch http://www.livefoodbar.com/brunch.html
  • Baked Polenta “Bolognese” at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West, east of Dufferin St.) – Vegan polenta cake with roasted heirloom tomato, mushroom and tofu “bolognese” with lentils and broccoli, $9, Fall 2012 weekend brunch (over the summer, the Gladstone had a tofu quesadilla!) http://www.gladstonehotel.com/food/?doing_wp_cron=1351394130.0679988861083984375000

A Rainforest Cabana Weekend Brunch – The Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble & The First Visit to Fresh on Crawford!

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To all Fresh enthusiasts: have any of you noticed something missing from my Fresh posts?  I’m serious!  This is truly not a rhetorical question and while I certainly don’t expect any of you to go back and comb through my entire Fresh history, I’m genuinely asking because a glaring, unintentional omission exists and I’m just very curious to know if anybody else has picked up on this!  I’ve featured Fresh bowls, brunch, appetizers, plenty of brown rice, soba noodle, and vegetable goodness and even a burger in between scrapbook layouts.  However, the Fresh party on Ate by Ate will never be complete without this missing puzzle piece and I’m delighted to announce that the missing piece is has been claimed! 

After 10 gloriously delicous posts on Fresh over the course of a year and a half, I finally made my way to their Crawford location!  And that, my dear foodies, was the missing member of the Fresh family.  I know, it took me long enough!  Fresh serves 3 locations in Toronto and after 10 visits, my time at Queen and Crawford finally came and it was wonderful and fantastical and foodgasmic all at the same time.  It also helped that I celebrated this monumental occasion with my favourite meal of the day: brunch!  Before we get to the good eats though, let’s do a little rundown of the Crawford location in all its glory.   

One of the things I love most about Fresh is their decor and aesthetic.  The colours are bright, colourful, and fresh and all 3 locations have their own unique style and atmosphere.  Bright green paint and big mirrors adorn the walls of the Queen and Spadina location while pops of acid bright pink and orange, and beautiful wallpaper reminiscent of pretty scrapbook paper, decorate their Bloor St. spot.  Both locations also have cute restaurant-front awnings patterned in their signature colours of blue and green. 

Fresh on Crawford?  Let’s just say what Fresh on Crawford lacks on the outside is made up for on the inside ten times over.  The inside is beautiful.  It’s sleek and contemporary and it has such a hip yet tranquil spa-like quality.  Being inside makes me feel like I’m eating in a lush green rainforest cabana.  Wooden accents, anthurium plants, exposed brick wall on one side, and lots of green all over beautify the space.  The juice bar is lined with bar stools, brightened up with potlights (and look at the mountains of bright yellow bananas!), and in plain view from the seating area which I absolutely adore.  I really like this location and it’s anyone’s guess as to why it’s taken me so long to come here!  Located at 894 Queen Street West, it’s also the only location out of the three that has a full-fledged outdoor patio.  The Queen & Spadina location does have a tiny one out in the front, but the one at Crawford is the real deal!

Now, onto the foodgasmic moments of brunch!  I made myself a promise after my first weekend brunch at Fresh.  I promised myself I would go back and devour their Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble because in the beginning, I couldn’t decide between their Full Breakfast and their Tex Mex Scramble and actually felt a pang when I opted for the Full Breakfast first.  I know I probably would have felt the same way about the Full Breakfast had I chose the Tex Mex one first, but either way, I made good on my promise and had their Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble ($11) a few weeks ago with aged cheddar cheese and a side of garlic mayo. 

THIS IS THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS.  OH.MY.GOD.  Imagine eleventy billion exclaimation points inserted here!  Their Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble is comprised of savoury, crunchy melt-in-your-mouth corn tortillas underneath a mountain of tofu scramble, thick wedges of avocado, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, green onions, cilantro, and warm brown rice and creamy, spicy black beans.  The option of adding aged cheddar or vegan cheese is available for an extra $2, so I gladly added some cheddar to my tex mex mountain and had myself a field day stuffing my face with mouthfuls of creaminess, crunchiness, juiciness, and all around amazingness.

Each and every single part of this brunch dish worked in tandem and there was so much great flavour and texture.  The crunch came from the savoury corn tortillas, lettuce, and green onion, the creaminess came from the avocado and the spicy black beans, the tomatoes brought some juiciness, and the added crumbled aged cheddar just took the entire dish above and beyond with its nutty creaminess.  The scrambled tofu?  Wonderful.  It was smooth, it was super silky, and it had a delicious herb flavour to it.  And the brown rice brought the dish together with warmth, wholesomeness, and heartiness.  It was truly one of the best meals I have EVER had, hands down.  I enjoyed the Full Breakfast the last time, but the Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble blows it out of the water.  If you ever have any doubts as to which brunch meal you should have at Fresh, don’t.  Have this one and enjoy it until you are happy in the tummy and rolling down the road afterward.

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)

A Weekend Vegan Brunch of Tofu Scramble, Grilled Spinach, Home Fries, and Tempeh Bacon at Fresh!

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I love breakfast and brunch so much.  Even as I write this, I’m daydreaming about tofu scrambles, poached eggs, omelettes, breakfast sausages, and veggie skillets and this is a few hours before bedtime!  Clearly, that doesn’t deter me – I love breakfast food at any point in the day and I’ve been known to eat eggs and hash browns for dinner!  Morning munchies make me happy (especially since I’m ravenous minutes after I roll out of bed) and I go through breakfast phases all the time where I’ll crave different things.  For the longest time it’s been fruit with some bread with cream cheese, but lately I’ve been going out of my mind with peanut butter on toast with almond milk.  I’ve always enjoyed peanut butter okay (more so with jam), but it’s almost as if I can’t go a morning without my PB and toast now!  Needless to say, I am all over the place with my preferences but one thing is for certain: weekend brunch is a treat and totally qualifies as one of the best things in the world. 

It’s been a little over a year since my first visit to Fresh and I have been having the best time eating here.  Their menu constantly inspires me and I can’t imagine ever being bored with the food here.  After building my own custom rice and soba noodle bowls, and having one of their veggie burgers, burritos, appetizers, and soups, the only menu categories I hadn’t yet dipped my tastebuds in were the salads and the weekend brunch.  When my dear friend and vegetarian partner in crime, Wini, wanted get together for some Fresh eats on a Saturday, I was in conniptions.  Weekend brunch at Fresh, finally!  Neither one of us had tried their brunch yet so we were both excited.  It had been months since we had done any vegetarian noshing together, so it felt especially great to catch up with a close friend at one of our favourite spots in the city.  Just as I said in my breakfast scrapbook post yesterday, friends and brunch truly go hand in hand.

Fresh’s weekend brunch is served at all 3 of their locations on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 10:30am-3pm.  With the exception of optional sides of cheeses that you can order with your meal, their brunch menu is entirely vegan so you won’t find any egg breakfasts here!  Instead, Fresh’s brunch menu focuses on tofu scrambles, tempeh bacon, veggie sausage rounds, brunch burritos and tortillas, and pancakes – LOTS of pancakes!  The menu is divided into two parts: pancakes and brunch entrees ($11).  Pancake meals ($6-$10) are served in doubles and triples and come in five varieties including plain, banana, blueberry, banana nut, and blueberry almond.  Even though I ended up choosing a savoury brunch entree (because I do generally enjoy savoury breakfasts more), I can’t help but feel like I need to introduce more pancake breakfasts into my breakfast world after my Mardi Gras & Pancake Tuesday post!

My first brunch of choice at Fresh?  The full monty, full breakfast with tofu scramble, grilled spinach, baked beans, toast, home fries, and a choice of either veggie sausage rounds or tempeh bacon!  As usual, I had a difficult time choosing which brunch menu I wanted to try first but ultimately, the combination of tofu scramble with grilled spinach won me over this time.  I love spinach so to have it with tofu scramble sounded scrumptious.  Wini and I ended up ordering the same thing (great minds think alike!) and decided that we both wanted to try the veggie sausage and the tempeh bacon so each one of us chose one to order so that we could share them between the two of us.  Weekend brunch with friends is not only fun in and of itself, but it is also wonderful when you get to share food!

This brunch meal made me feel so warm and cozy.  It was hearty and delicious and it made me feel as though I was sitting in a winter log cabin by the fire enjoying some good old fashioned breakfast comfort food, veggie style.  My absolute favourite things had to be the tofu scramble, grilled spinach, and the home fries.  I adore tofu and having tofu scramble in my life has just made this love that much greater.  My very first tofu scramble was at Sadie’s Diner and I love both Sadie’s and Fresh’s equally because they’re both delicious, different, and unique in their own way.  While the texture of Sadie’s scramble is reminiscent of fluffy scrambled eggs, Fresh’s scramble is more like a chopped up hash with amazing herb and onion flavour with tiny diced sauteed onions strewn throughout the tofu scramble. 

Between the tempeh bacon and veggie sausage, Wini and I both loved the tempeh more, hands down.  This was my first time eating tempeh and while I knew of tempeh since my foray into vegetarian and vegan eating several years ago, I had to find out what tempeh was first before actually trying it.  In a nutshell, tempeh is made from soybeans and often used as meat substitute.  After careful fermentation, soybeans are binded into what looks like bricks of cake-like SPAM.  I know that isn’t the most appetizing description, but that’s what it reminds me of and it tastes great so that’s all that matters!

While it didn’t have the crispy texture of traditional bacon, they were in adorable “strips”, they were soft, and they had this great savoury tomato flavour to it that was very unique.  Not a sour tomato taste, but more like a stewed tomato flavour with warmth and depth to it.  The grilled spinach was just like scrumptious collard greens and I absolutely adored the style and size of the home fry cubes and chunks.  They were crispy and golden on the outside and fluffy with meaty potato and starchiness on the inside.  They were sturdy (not mushy or greasy in the least) and the hold up perfectly to sauce. 

Yes, sauce!  Fresh serves their breakfast toast plain so if you’re cool with that, there’s no need to mess with a good thing.  I, for one, love dipping or having my bread with a spread or sauce though so I took it upon myself to add a side of garlic mayo from Fresh’s regular menu and I had a field day dunking some of my toast and my awesome home fries into my garlic mayo.  With one brunch from Fresh down, I’m revved up and ready for more!  I can’t wait to have their tortilla scramble, the burrito, and the banana nut pancakes in the future.  Brunch is one of the most enjoyable things in my life and while I don’t know how long it will take to cycle through every single amazing breakfast diner and weekend brunch spot in the city, but I’m more than happy savouring every experience for as long as it takes.

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)

P is for Pesto-Perfect! Pesto White Beans Brown Rice Bowl and Puree of Green Vegetable & Pesto Soup at Fresh

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I have missed Fresh so much.  Sometimes you don’t even realize just how much you’ve missed something until you come back to it.  After several months of withdrawal, I finally snagged my Fresh fix over the holidays and introduced yet another category of menu items to my happy belly: soups!  After a year of delicious meals here it’s hard to believe my lips never touched even one of Fresh’s vast, amazing menu of vegetarian and vegan soups, but all of that changed when I strolled in for lunch on a chilly winter’s day (which is saying a lot considering our winter has been incredibly mild thus far!) just before the new year. 

I was a girl on a mission: to slurp and spoon my way through a bowl of Fresh soup heaven.  Luck was on my side that day because I had a hankering for pesto (who am I kidding – I always want pesto) and the vegetarian gods answered my prayers with a Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup option!  It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.

All three Fresh locations in Toronto serve two soups daily.  The selection changes every day and depending on the location, the choices may also slightly vary.  For example, one soup might be present at all three locations on a given day, while the 2nd choice might be different at one or two of the other locations.  All of Fresh’s soups are vegan and they incorporate everything from beans to vegetables to herbs to spices, resulting in a very large breadth of flavour, texture, and colour. 

There are 32 different soups currently presenting on their rotating soup menu (I counted them on their online menu!), and some of these soups include curried red lentil stew with zucchini, baby lima beans, and sage; leek and potato with rosemary; mushroom and eggplant stroganoff with toasted caraway seeds; and puree of curried yam and apple.  Needless to say, it is going to take me a very long time to try even five of their soups, much less all 32!

 

On their own, soups can either be ordered in a cup size like the one I chose ($3.50) or in an entree bowl size ($6), and can either be accessorized with a toasted organic whole wheat pita on the side ($2.50) or with grilled cornbread for $3.  If you’re looking to jazz things up with a salad, Fresh offers a soup, cornbread, and salad combo (small $9, large $11.50) where you can order a cup or bowl of soup alongside two slices of grilled cornbread and an Eat Your Greens! salad, which is chock full of cabbage, sunflower sprouts, edamame, cucumber, parsley, cilantro, Protein Boost crunchy munchines and nuts, and salad greens.

Straight from Fresh’s menu of soups and ingredient list, my Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup consisted of “onions, leeks, garlic, mixed green vegetables (broccoli, kale, bok choy & swiss chard), zucchini, green peas, parsley, basil, black pepper, cayenne, pesto (contains pine nuts & sunflower seeds), sea salt, canola oil & vegetable stock”*, and out of all of those ingredients, the pesto, black pepper, cayenne, garlic, bok choy, and green peas came through the strongest for me.  It was deliciously thick without being goopy and I absolutely loved the crunchy topping of pine nuts and sunflower seeds on top!  The contrast in texture was perfect because the puree was smooth enough that you couldn’t tell which vegetables were floating where but thick enough that you could distinctly taste a mixture, a fusion.

It was a pesto-perfect lunch with my Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup and my next installment of build-a-bowl fun.  I put together a bowl of brown rice with kale slaw, goat cheese, grilled tofu steaks, pesto white beans, and house dressing.  There ought to be a disclaimer or a little warning sign that comes with these ingredients that says, “WARNING: these delicious foods may cause addiction and physical signs and/or symtoms of hunger cravings and extreme enjoyment of food such as drooling and constant exclamations of the word “YUM!” 

This is by far the most delicious combination I’ve put together through build-a-bowl (my phrase, not theirs just to be clear!) and I would eat it 100 times more.  The kale slaw provides the crunchiness, the goat cheese for the creamy richness, the pesto white beans for that bit of starchy protein and body, and the grilled tofu steaks for that “meaty” savouriness that is just out of this world.  Fresh does grilled tofu so amazing and it drives the tofu lover in me batty because it’s so good.  And like I mentioned in my last Fresh post, the house dressing is to die for.  I order a side of this dressing and splash the entire little bowl of it into my rice bowl and mix it into the brown rice and other ingredients and it just heightens all the other flavours and textures.  It is one of my all-time favourite things at Fresh.

Now that I have a Fresh soup under my belt, I’m almost at the point where I’ve tried every food category on the menu, so we’ll see what the next several amazing meals will bring in 2012!

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)

Shredded Kale Slaw Is the Delicious Newbie in Fresh Town! The Love For Kale Continues On, Part II

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The love for kale continues on!  Yesterday I introduced the Italian raw bowl from Fresh to the blog (and to those of you who haven’t stuffed your face into it yet!), with its delicious crushed kale chips, basil pesto sauce, and zucchini noodles.  Today, my foodie love letter goes out to Fresh’s shredded kale slaw because it is absolute heaven in my mouth and if I could, I would sneak into their kitchens and eat their entire supply of it!  By the bowlful.  And then pass out from delicious happiness.  And then probably wheeled out in a wheelbarrow by kitchen staff.  It would be so worth it. 

Their shredded kale slaw is another newbie in Fresh town and from what I gather from other Fresh enthusiasts is that it’s already made quite the impression!  The side order of kale slaw comes with all burgers and wraps and replaces the cabbage slaw (which had chopped celery, red onion, and vinegar dressing) that was on the old menu.  I was in conniptions after I ate it for the first time last month and I am so glad this new side order is here to stay!  Cabbage coleslaw, I will always have fond memories of eating you with my grilled vegetable and basil pesto wrap filling on greens and with my mushroom onion burger.  I loved you too, but it’s time to say goodbye as I go on with my life with the new kid in town.

Farewell, cabbage slaw

I went full out GREEN this time with my build-a-bowl fun and ordered sides of kale slaw, sunflower sprouts, edamame beans, and Fresh’s signature house dressing with a warm bowl of brown rice.  Fresh is such a fun place for me to eat at because I try things I’ve never eaten before, I enjoy foods I don’t eat on a regular basis, and I get to learn about tasty combinations of foods I never would have otherwise thought of putting together.  I had sunflower sprouts for the first time here months ago and aside from times I eat yummies at Freshii, the only other time I eat brown rice is at Fresh and that’s simply because I eat steamed white rice at home and other places. 

You can tell how extensive Fresh’s menu is because after eating here a number of times, I have still have plenty of meals and foods I haven’t tried yet!  I’m still working my way through it and yet to try a Fresh weekend brunch, soup, salad entree, or smoothie!  Mixed fruit juice, yes, smoothie, no.  This was my first time having their brown rice and in combination with the kale slaw, sprouts, edamame, and house dressing, I shovelled the rice into my mouth and ate every last grain.

Fresh’s house dressing was the biggest surprise for me.  I knew it would be good, but I had no idea that it would be THIS good!  Made with a mixture of flax and sunflower oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon, dijon, garlic, and tamari (ingredient list taken from the menu), the house dressing is one of a number of dressings and dips that come with salads and as individual additional sides to any meal for an extra $1.  The flavour of the dressing is amazing.  Think of it as dressing with a subtle savouriness to it without the harsh tang from straight up vinegar or lemon.  The sunflower oil gives the dressing body while the apple cider vinegar gives it that sweet and sour taste that adds a kick to blank canvas foods like rice and plain noodles.  The shredded kale slaw itself is tossed with a bit of vinegar dressing of its own so the whole meal was just bursting with flavour and texture with the nutty, starchy flavour coming from the edamame beans and the crunchiness coming from the sunflower sprouts and kale.

I’m really excited to feature kale in my upcoming ‘5 Great…’ series on the blog and with so places utilizing the versatility of kale in their dishes, there’s bound to be some great hidden gems and showstoppers around the city to showcase.  The kale slaw at Fresh totally has my vote to be in the top 5.  It’s not fancy, but that’s the beauty of it because food doesn’t need to be fancy pants to make an impression.  All it has to be is fresh and delicious and made with love.  And of course, enjoyed with love.  No contest here.  I just might order two sides of it next time.

*****

Ate by Ate currently has 8 blog entries on Fresh.  To view all the Fresh goodness and scrapbook layouts, click here.

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)