The Vegan Chili Series – Gluten-Free Bread, Sandwiches, Desserts, and Tomato Vegan Chili at Organic Oven

Leave a comment

It feels SO good to scrapbook again.  After being scrapbook layout-less on the blog for a month (god, it makes me cringe), I finally got a batch of photos developed yesterday and I got right down to business cranking out a new bright and fun foodie layout for today!  I’ve been meaning to blog about Organic Oven for a long time now but the perfectionist in me didn’t like the photos I initially took back in March (yes, in MARCH!) and to make matters worse, I took said photos and tried to create a decent scrapbook layout out of them which I also did not like.  That scrapbook layout sat in my “these pages are not good enough” pile for months and recreating a new one sat on the backburner for awhile.  Enter the Vegan Chili series I started back at the end of September.  I knew Organic Oven had a vegan chili on their menu and it was perfect opportunity to go back and try some more yummy eats and to give myself the creative kick in the butt I needed!  So here we are with the 2nd instalment of the Vegan Chili series, my blog post on Organic Oven, and a brand spankin’ new scrapbook layout! 

Organic Oven, located on Yonge Street just north of Lawrence Ave., is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the food that they serve.  First off, they’re not just a bakery with desserts.  They’re a lunch cafe, a coffee spot, and a retail shop with grocery items, all in one.  They sell a number of sweets that can either be purchased as single desserts, prepackaged take-away packs, or custom designed and ordered.  They’re sweets menu includes brownies, biscotti, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies.  For lunch, you can sit down to a hot bowl of soup or chili, a freshly made sandwich or bagel, salads, quiches, and a host off coffee drinks, smoothies, juices, and milks, and while you’re there, you can pick up a few gluten-free grocery items to add to your bread basket.

Furthermore – and this is the kicker – you could literally have a group of people comprised of a vegetarian, a vegan, a meat-eater, and a gluten-intolerant come here to eat, and all four people would be satisfied with the food because their menu caters to all four diets!  For the vegetarian: goat cheese quiche, pizza bagels, egg salad, grilled cheese, and veggie sandwiches.  For the vegan (and vegetarian): multigrain, cinnamon, raisin, and poppy seeds bagels with vegan butter, vegan chili and soups, veggie sandwiches, and vegan brownies and cupcakes.  For the meat-lover: chicken and turkey sandwiches with veggies and cheese, as well as tuna salad.  Finally, for the gluten-intolerant: everything! 

Their focus is on serving healthier alternatives with dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free options.  They’re best known for their gluten-free breads, bagels, and pizza crusts and all three items can be purchased from their grocery shelves.  Their gluten-free breads are crunchy rice buns that are dairy-free, egg-free, and certified organic and they use these same buns for all of the sandwiches on their menu.  The rice buns are made from certfiied organic flax meal and quinoa flakes and they come in packs of six.  Pop them in the toaster and you have yourself a healthy breakfast and lunch!  In addition to their rice buns, they also carry gluten-free cheese, cinnamon raisin, multigrain, and poppyseed bagels which come in packs of five, as well as gluten-free pizza crusts.  Aside from the breads, their grocery shelves also carry cereals, ice cones, rice snacks, milks (a variety of soy, almond, and rice), and other goodies.

Now, onto the vegan chili!  Their vegan chili is served either on its own with a side of rice bread ($5.70) or in a combo alongside a salad, quiche, bagel, or sandwich.  Prices vary depending on which combo you choose, but generally speaking lunch at Organic Oven will come out to around $5-$10, with most items averaging $6-$7.  Their vegan chili isn’t super spicy so for those who shy away from chili because of the level of heat, have no fear because the vegan chili here isn’t an alarm setter.  I’d say that the vegan chili here is a good cross between a thick soup and a chili in texture, consistency, and flavour. 

It’s a tomato based vegan chili made with crushed tomatoes, green bell pepper, sweet onions, red and white kidney beans, and chunks of sweet potato.  It’s such a hearty, warm, comforting dish.  It’s exactly the type of meal you’d want to eat on a chilly day, with a cheese sandwich (I know that would defeat the purpose of a entirely vegan meal if that wasn’t vegan cheese, but I’m not vegan so work with me here!), relaxing with the paper or a book.  It’s that type of meal.  The robust tomato flavour was savoury and the whole bowl was overflowing with veggies.  Oh!  And I added a side of avocado to my chili.  I love avocado like nobody’s business and since there was an option to add avocado for $0.50, I took it, which is why you see slices of creamy avocado on my chili.

And the bread!  It wasn’t my first time having Organic Oven’s rice bread, but for whatever reason, it tasted extra delicious this time!  Wedges of toasted rice bread were included on the side and I had the choice of having the bread spread or brushed with vegan butter or olive oil and I chose olive oil this time around.  I could not get over how amazing the bread with olive oil tasted!  Even though it was toasted, it was so incredibly soft on the inside with crispiness on the outside.  The olive oil soaked into the bread really nicely so the bread ended up having these yummy herb flavour to it.  I could have eaten an entire loaf because it was so yummy and scrumptious and all sorts of heaven in my mouth.  I am definitely planning on picking up a pack of rice buns to take home sometime.  Between myself, my brother, and my mum (my dad isn’t really into bread), I envision the pack being devoured in two days.  Or maybe even in one.

Organic Oven is a great lunch spot because the menu caters to so many different diets and the food is wholesome, healthy, and delicious.  You can bet I’ll be back for their cupcakes (I know, shocking how I didn’t blog about them already!  I’ll get to them, I promise) and I’ll profile their sandwiches next time around too.  For the time being, bookmark this post and Organic Oven as your uptown vegan chili station.

       

*****

Organic Oven is located at 3189 Yonge Street, just north of Lawrence Ave. on the east side of Yonge Street just steps away from Lawrence subway station.  They have several other locations around the city, which I will update once I get the addresses.

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

Deb’s New Morning Haunt – Coffee, Tea, and Beautiful Country Kitchen Gifts and Goodies at La Merceria

6 Comments

Thanks to Lisa from Le Dolci, I am now aware of this beautiful gem of a coffee, tea, and giftwares shop!  I felt so silly the first time Lisa took me here because it’s located on a street I’ve been on a number of times and in a downtown neighbourhood I’m not entirely unfamiliar with.  Located near the intersection of Adelaide Street West and Portland Street (just east of Bathurst), La Merceria sits snuggly beside Sadie’s Diner and is wedged neatly between the Fashion Districts of King and Queen.  With a few mannequins standing in the storefront window draped with pretty scarves, I completely mistook the shop for being a hip clothing boutique and always strolled past, conveniently averting my eyes so as to not tempt myself with more pretty things.  I love accessories and clothes, yes, but we’re in the downtown core here; I want to come home with something in my wallet.  I often avoid independent boutiques like the plague not because I don’t want to own all the gorgeous garments they have to offer, but because window shopping in such shops just makes me heart whimper a little.

So when Lisa took me here, I was shocked out of my pants to find out that La Merceria was in fact not a clothing boutique but was instead a fusion of 1) a gift shop, 2) a kitchen housewares store, and 3) a coffee and tea cafe with drinks and food.  I could have died right there on the spot.  It walked in and it was like a halo of light floated around me.  This cafe and shop is beautiful.  So country chic, so bright and clean, and so wonderfully cozy.  Think wood floors, wood chairs, wood tea tables, cushiony seats and pillows, brilliant sunlight streaming through the front windows and door, and shelves and tables lined and stocked with some of the most adorable kitchen housewares, accesssories, stationery, and gifts imaginable. 

It’s perfect for the cafe lover, droolworthy for those in love with interior decorating, and just dangerous for the kitchen accessory fanatic.  Oh, this was bad.  This might have been even worse than a clothing boutique.  And all because I couldn’t stop ogling the lavender and powder blue tea cups, dishes, and tea towels.  Oh, and the tote bags in the back of the shop.  And the cute stationery.  And the rest of the shop.

As Lisa informed me, the owners of La Merceria hail from Argentina and many of the drinks, artwork, and interior design and decorating in the shop show off this cultural heritage.  I can’t wait to show you guys more of the food and coffee drinks they have here in future posts; I may not be a coffee drinker but I’m sure I can make an exception every once in awhile 😉  They have both hot and chilled coffee drinks (lattes, americanos, espressos, mochas, and more) and they also have lemonades and In terms of food, think more along the lines of light breakfast and lunch, snacks, and tea time with crunchy cream cheese toasted bagels, quiche pies, salads, sandwiches, small baguettes and biscuits, cookies and sweets, and vegan, dairy and nut-free desserts from Sweets From the Earth.  I am so excited to actually have some food here.  The quiches, biscuit cookies, and cute biscuit sandwiches were calling my name!

For the time being though, my favourite thing to do here (aside from staring at all the pretty things I want to buy) is to sit down at one of the lovely wooden tables by the front with the squishy cushions behind me with a hot cup of tea.  They serve a selection of yummy Tealish teas and thus far I’ve had their Sweetie Pie Rooibos and Tahitian Moon Vanilla Rooibos and between the two I’m definitely in love with the Sweetie Pie!  What I absolutely adore about La Merceria and their “tea”ness is how they serve it!  The tea is served in giant glass or ceramic mugs on a dish with a little spoon (to stir with or to add honey or sugar) and the cutest little shortbread cookie biscuit!  This biscuit with my tea just makes my morning.  I may not have been to every cafe in town, but I can assure you that no other place I’ve been to serves their tea like this.  It makes me so giddy and I love starting my morning this way.  It’s the kind of place you envision yourself having a sunny bite in or a great coffee or tea date.  It’s so peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful being here and I love it.  This, my lovelies, is my new morning haunt.

 

*****

La Merceria is located at 506 Adelaide Street West by the northwest corner of Adelaide and Portland Street, east of Bathurst.  La Merceria is located beside Sadie’s Diner and Juice Bar.  Visit their website and blog here for updates, info, promos, events, pictures, and contact information and visit their Facebook page here.   

A Scrumptious Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Bagel – An Introduction to Brunch at Niche on Queen Street West!

2 Comments

Given how this weekend marks the 9th annual Queen West Art Crawl in the city, I thought it’d be a great time to introduce another fab café on the West Queen West strip: Niche Coffee & Tea Company!  Art has been such a huge part of my life since my kindergarten days of holding crayons and smearing paint on kraft paper (like you couldn’t tell from all the scrapbooking, right?), so I was really excited to finally go to the Queen West Art Crawl last year to enjoy the outdoor art show at Trinity Bellwoods Park, sidewalk art, and all the art installations along Queen West.  It was during this trek last year that I found Niche with its signature baby blue and brown storefront signage stamp, just east of Palmerston Ave. and west of Bathurst St.  It took my tastebuds forever and a half to make their way back, but they finally did!  And I am SO happy that they did because holy hell do they ever have a brunch menu to die for!

Their brunch is served all-day and I can say with eager certainty that their brunch menu is one that I would be happy to eat my way through.  For starters, their menu is really well-rounded because it incorporates a least one item from almost all of the popular brunch favourites that we love so much: egg breakfasts, omelettes, French toast, eggs benedict, and breakfast sandwiches.  You might be looking at the list and thinking, “well, it sounds kind of run of the mill, stuff I can get anywhere”.  Not to ruffle your feathers, but if you’re thinking that, you are wrong.  No, no, lovelies, it is SO much more than that.

What makes their brunch really unique is all the sides you get with all the brunch mains.  Just reading through the descriptions will make you salivate and make your heart beat a little faster because there’s just so much yummy food that’s included with everything!  You have sides such as pan-roasted lemon herb potatoes, greens with maple dijon dressing, homemade foccacia, pumpernickel toast, challa bread, chicken chirizo sausage, and sweet potato rounds.  Now I don’t know about you, but this was the first time I had ever come across a menu with such a varied assortment of brunch sides!  Not only do all the mains come with an assortment of these sides, but they’re also available (at individual extra charges) on their own, which makes for wonderful mix-and-match fun!

And the mains!  Sweet mother of pearl.  You have your savoury: poached eggs BLT, build-your-own cheese and veggie omelette (choose between 3 types of cheese and 5 different veggies), and the Niche’s signature eggs benedict served on homemade cornbread, just to name a few.  On top of that, you have your sweet: deep dish French toast using thick challa with bananas and burnt sugar sauce, and homemade grilled banana bread with cinnamon sugar and nutella.  Yes, that’s right, I said nutella.  Jot that down on a sticky note now – because I have!  Finally, what makes the menu even more awesome?  Vegetarian and vegan options!  I mean, sure, the French toast and cheese and veggie omelettes are vegetarian in the sense that they don’t serve meat, but vegans, are you ready for this?  Niche has a grilled tofu on vegan chili brunch!  OH.MY.GOD.  When I saw it on the menu, all I could think of was, “my friends will flip over this…and I am so ordering this next time!”  Individual sides average around $2-$4, and mains with all the fixins will run you around $7.50-$11.

What I did enjoy on this particular morning was a delicious open-faced, toasted sesame seed bagel with cream cheese, red onions, capers, smoked salmon, and fresh sprigs of dill with a side salad of crisp romaine with vinaigrette dressing.  Here’s a secret: before this, I hadn’t had a bagel in years.  That’s right, years.  Why?  Well, I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but I cut bagels out of my diet because I was put-off from the jumbo-sized ones I kept seeing that looked as though they had been pumped with steroids.  I thought, “geez Louise, I could throw one of these into the wall and make a dent because they’re so darn dense!”.  It didn’t sit well with me so I stopped eating them altogether, even my beloved Tim Hortons bagels that are actually a good size.

I reeeeally love a good bagel with cream cheese though (forget butter, pft) and smoked salmon just seals the deal for me.  So I threw caution to the wind that morning and got myself a delicious smoked salmon bagel brunch.  My sesame bagel wasn’t ridiculously thick, puffy, or overly starchy at all and I absolutely loved the inclusion of dill on it.  Call me a glutton, but I also loved how the cream cheese was wedged into the grill mark dents because it made for some scrumptious mouthfuls of cream cheese with the capers, onions, and dill.  The smoked salmon was so good and in such a generous portion.  There weren’t just a few measly, thin slices.  Oh no, there were slices upon slices on EACH bagel half.  I only wish though that there was a selection of bagels to choose from.  I love sesame, but it would have been really nice to have had the option for, say, poppyseed or something.  My smoked salmon, cheese bagel was delicious though and it totally renewed my faith in bagels 😀 

Niche is a beautiful, breezy brunch and café spot with an outdoor patio in the back and an open storefront during nice weather.  There are gorgeous paintings and artwork on the walls, and there’s plenty of grab-and-go snacks at the counter including marshmallows squares with chocolate and dried fruit, scones, muffins, and other pastries.  Since Niche is a coffee and tea café, they also have a whole blackboard menu up top dedicated to coffee (brewed coffees, espressos, white mochas, lattes, cappuccinos, etc.), chilled coffee drinks, tea and chai, Italian soda, homemade lemonade, and a host of others.  You can bet I’ll report back with some drink goodies for all the next time I’m there!  It’s a lovely spot that I’m so looking forward to going back to and given the menu tidbits that I gave you guys, I wouldn’t be surprised if you made your way there before my next visit.

*****

Niche Coffee & Tea Company is located at 626 Queen Street West just east of Palmerston Ave. and west of Bathurst St.  They serve brunch during all hours of operations and are open 7 days a week at 8am on weekdays and 9am on weekends, with closing hours at 5pm on all days.