Frittata Sandwiches, Edamame with Avocado & Arugula Salads – Fresh Flavours & Fall Comfort at Yorkville Espresso Bar

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This fall is shaping up to be an amazing season so far.  I’ve done some baking, I’ve got my blogging back on, and I can’t even begin to describe how freakin’ excited I am for Thanksgiving this year!  The quintessential “day of turkey” is one week away and I’ve spent most of the weekend sticky-noting recipes and planning the menu for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, not to mention packing as much foodie goodness as I can into the holiday weekend with my boyfriend, family and friends.

While I do have pumpkins and apples (cooked and baked because of my raw fruit allergy!) and squash on the brain, part of me knows it’s still waaaay too early to be in full comfort food mode.  We have plenty of time for that in the dreaded “w” word in the coming months!  Fall food is so inviting because it incorporates both cozy comfort with bright and fresh flavours: fruit and veg soups, bean and vegetable salads with comforting herbs, fruity vinaigrettes and dressings, and tender meats with root vegetables and juicy cooked fruit.  I love how the weather is cool but still pleasantly balmy on days and how I can still enjoy the lighter fare without sweating to death and hiding from the fierce sun like I do during the summer!

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Which brings me to a teeny confession I have to make: this post and these photos were supposed to be on Ate by Ate over a month ago.  Possibly even 2 months ago.  But life happened and this post just never did.  Long story short, Yorkville Espresso Bar owners Rita and Tony invited me to the cafe for return visit to share a meal, to watch chef John Vetere cook and work his magic on the cafe’s many delicious menu items in the kitchen studio, to try some of the cafe’s various gluten-free bakery items from coffee and baking master Drew Randall and to basically talk food, blogging and community.  It was such a fun day and it was such a cool experience seeing the cafe menu items that make us drool come to life right before my eyes.  These photos were taken at Yorkville Espresso Bar during the summer and part of me worried that I wouldn’t be able to make them relevant for fall.  Thankfully for me, their food is just as perfect for fall as it is for summer and I’m just happy I finally get to share with you guys!

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Yorkville Espresso Bar has introduced a number of different breakfast and lunch foods to their ever-expanding menu: frittata sandwiches oozing with eggs, herbs, veggies and cheese (oh and ham!), scrumptious wraps with creamy cheese and fresh vegetables, and a plethora of hearty but bright salads.  Aside from how yummy everything is, what makes the food so enticing to me is the price point.  Being located in Yorkville doesn’t exactly give you the reputation of being inexpensive.  Let’s face it, Yorkville isn’t known as Mink Mile for nothing; its poshness extends to the dining scene too.  But Yorkville Espresso Bar has made their dishes and food so accessible by making it healthy, fresh and affordable.  You have the frittata sandwiches and salads coming in at $4 and $4.50 respectively (under $5!) and their ginourmous wraps and artisan bread sandwiches coming in under $10 at $8.

Their food menu is a reflection of what folks in and around the community have asked for; Rita and Tony and their staff have taken so much of everyone’s feedback to heart and have put an enormous amount of thought and care into their menu, offering healthy food that isn’t run of the mill (nobody needs a limp lettuce and tomato salad that was packaged the day before thank you very much), made the morning of, and perfect for both dine-in and grab-and-go for the work crowd.  Their food menu includes herb roasted chicken wraps with crunchy celery and sunflower seeds, Thai tuna with basmati rice, and shaved carrots dressed in chili sauce, Italian meatball and mozzarella and rapini on toasted artisan bread and even Trinidadian doubles among other savouries alongside the mountain of baked goods and gluten-free items such as biscotti, muffins, pastries, tarts, scones, brownies, loaf cakes, macarons and more.

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What we have here are toasted and grilled English muffin frittata sandwiches stuffed with eggs, mozzarella, provolone and basil along with ham and cheese sandwiches, grilled sun-dried tomato wraps stuffed with creamy goat cheese, roasted red peppers, zucchini, eggplant, greens and mushrooms and two amazing, fantastic salads: white beans infused with fresh sprigs of rosemary with edamame, avocado and red onion vinaigrette and an artichoke salad with grape tomatoes, olives, arugula, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finished with a red wine vinaigrette.  I love English muffin sandwiches like nobody’s business.  At home, I toast English muffins and eat them with cream cheese and nothing else at times.  Yorkville Espresso Bar does a special daily frittata sandwich each morning and on this day my tastebuds were treated to two of my favourite things enveloped in eggs: cheese and basil.  It makes my stomach growl just thinking about it.

Next, we have the sun-dried tomato wrap.  This thing is HUGE.  I was watching chef John make it while I was taking photos in the Kitchen Studio and I was all bug-eyed when I saw the size of tortilla he was using!  For those who loooove grilled wraps and vegetarian sandwiches, you need this in your life.  The goat cheese and eggplant totally do it for me and it’s just gorgeous to look at.  It is a thing of beauty and so soft and flavourful with a hint of smokiness from the grilled vegetables and grilled tortilla wrap.

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Finally, the salads.  The scrumptious, mouthwatering salads.  They are perfect as an accompaniment to the sandwiches but also just as perfect on their own.  They are truly top-notch and for $4.50…you really can’t ask for more.  I watched as Chef John cooked the soaked white beans, infusing them with warm rosemary flavour in a giant pot of boiling water with onions and brightening them at the same time with crunchy edamame and soft, creamy avocado in the finished product.  It’s a beautiful fusion of warmth and comfort with lightness and it’s definitely a winning combination you don’t find at other places.  To finish off: the arugula and artichoke salad.  I love arugula so much and the red wine vinaigrette that the salad was tossed in was delicious.  The tomatoes in the salad balance out the briny flavour of the olives and artichokes and peppery bite of the arugula, and parm just elevates the savouriness to another level.  These are the types of salads I always wish for because their hearty with substance but still light and fresh in flavour.

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The menu and the people here make the espresso bar such an inviting place for coffee, tea and lunch and I feel so lucky to have been able to enjoy the food and learn about it at the same time, watching Chef John make the food from start to finish and getting to know the people and the cafe from the inside out.  Rita and Tony made me feel just like family.  It’s almost the first anniversary of my first visit (October 21!) and I think it’s high time I went back again to try even more of their delicious menu.

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Yorkville Espresso Bar is located at 3 Yorkville Ave., just west of Yonge Street and north of Cumberland St.  They are open 7 days a week from 7:30am-7pm Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm Saturday, and 9am-5pm Sunday.

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Line-Ups Out the Door, Lunch or Dinner – Great Sushi and Rolls at Sushi on Bloor!

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It’s been months since I blogged about Sushi on Bloor and even though I really wanted to incorporate a new scrapbook layout into this post, I figured some new photos sans the cardstock and patterned paper wouldn’t hurt!  Sushi on Bloor is just all sorts of awesome and convenience.  As I was discussing with a friend, anything located within The Annex makes for great accessibility.  The neighbourhood itself is always bustling with foot traffic, there’s great stuff to see and eat, and Sushi on Bloor’s location on Bloor St. West between Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St. makes it simple to explore other neighbouring areas such as Korea Town to the west, Kensington Market to the southeast, and Yorkville to the northeast.  I’ve explored this neighbourhood a lot over the last year and half and I’ve had so much fun finding and taking my graffiti art photos, getting excited over new additions (hello, there’s a David’s Tea now!), and basically walking up and down and all around a million times.

Although The Sushi Shop will always be my number one for amazing sushi rolls, Sushi on Bloor holds its place as a solid second.  As I mentioned in my very first Sushi on Bloor post, I enjoy their Crunchy Rolls (salmon) and Crunchy Spicy Tuna Rolls SO much.  Since then I’ve tried their smoked salmon rolls, their tuna dragon roll, the Casa Loma (again), and their avocado salad and there are some real winners here.  The smoked salmon rolls consist of salmon, crab meat, tobiko, and bell pepper!  Their smoked salmon rolls are served warm and are different from so many other rolls I’ve had.  For one thing, the outer layer of seaweed is coated in crunchy tempura (I know, start drooling!) and for another, there’s bell pepper inside which you don’t see quite as often as other fruits and vegetables such as cucumber, avocado, sweet potato, and mango, for instance.  The smoked salmon is not the cured, smoky version but the flaky, grilled fish kind and it absorbs the flavour of the little bit of soy sauce they use on the rolls so well.  The texture is fabulous and it packs a punch of flavour with the sauce they use.  If you like crispy and crunchy, it has your name all over it!

From my personal experience, if you love rolls stick to enjoying the large variety they have as opposed to ordering the dragon sets.  They’re yummy, but honestly, I feel you get SO much more bang for your buck when you order the different sushi roll sets and really, this is their strong suit.  They have a wonderful selection of different roll sets (most of them with 8 rolls per set) for $5.00 and great lunch specials that offer 12 rolls (6 each of 2 kinds: salmon and California, or avocado and Dynamite shrimp tempura) for $5.99.  I couldn’t get decent photos of my Casa Loma rolls (both times I had them!  I really need to clamour harder for those window seats) but I will say that I reeeeally wish they would use more cream cheese in them (unagi, cream cheese, and avocado).  They’re yummy, but the beasty cream cream monster in me wants more 😀

The nicest surprise for me in all the times I’ve eaten here was the avocado salad.  I was only expecting maybe a small dish or bowl of salad; a decent size, but nothing big.  I almost jumped out of my seat in excited surprise when I was presented with a HONKING LARGE dinner plate full of spring mix salad greens, shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, and big creamy wedges of avocado.  OH.MY.GOD.  I love this salad.  Hands down, one of the most fantastic items on their menu.  It’s $4.50 for crying out loud!  It’s meal-size!  To think that you could have a fresh meal-size salad for under $5 in Toronto at a SUSHI PLACE no less is unheard of!  Freshii salads ring in at around $7-$9.  Fancy pants places charge $5+ for a simple green salad with balsalmic!  And don’t even get me started on the fast food places that attempt to put on a healthier image with their $5-$7 salads.  This blew me away and now I’m tempted to order this every time I’m there now!

I know how popular Sushi on Bloor is in this city but it still wows me every time I see line-ups out the door here.  They recently renovated and added a 2nd floor of seating to the restaurant and the place is STILL packed to the brim!  There are obviously lull periods, but come 12:30pm and after 6pm, you might as well take a number!  They serve great quality food and they deserve all the success and business they’ve been getting.  It excites to me try the different rolls and really, the only thing missing here is a dessert menu.  Fantastic selection with fantastic prices in a hopping neighbourhood.  You really couldn’t ask for more.  Except the dessert menu 😉

*****

Sushi on Bloor is located at 515 Bloor St. West just east of Bathurst St.  They are open for business 7 days a week at 12pm and offer a number of lunch specials and an wide range of rolls, appetizers, bento boxes, and sashimi, sushi, and maki sets.