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)
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Spotlight on Fresh – Zucchini Noodles, Basil Pesto, and the Love for Kale in the Italian Raw Bowl, Part I

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Dear Fresh, thank you for having fantabulous kale dishes on your menu to stuff my face with.  With love, me.  Ever since I started eating kale last winter, I’ve been so excited to find places that serve it and finding different ways to cook it and combine it with other vegetables.  I bought my first fresh bunch of kale at the farmers’ market earlier in the month, I got my delicious steamed kale fix at Kale Eatery the first few times I ate it, and I enjoyed it in a wonderful salad at my beloved Mela Cafe.  And now, I get to it in a plethora of other ways at Fresh!  Fresh rolled out a slew of new menu items to spruce up their revamped menu during the summer and the one I was most excited to try – the Italian raw bowl – was just one of them. 

Fresh introduced some new mains, starters, salads, and add-ons to their existing menu, as well as some colourful changes to their restaurant details including bright orange chopsticks!  Some of their new menu items include the Sam Houston burrito (soy and sweet potato taco filling with lettuce, sauteed peppers and onions, chipotle avocado sauce, and alfalfa sprouts), Eat Your Greens! salad (edamame, napa cabbage, cucumber, sunflower sprouts, parsley, cilantro, and a Fresh Protein Boost mixture of nuts and seeds), and the return of an old favourite, the Ninja bowl!  When I looked over the new menu, I instantly knew my tastebuds wanted to tango with the Italian raw bowl.

The Italian raw bowl ($9) is a cold, quasi-salad starter with zucchini noodles dressed in a basil pesto sauce (you can tell why I wanted to eat this so badly now, don’t you?), served with a generous helping of grape tomatoes, Fresh Protein Boost mixture, sundried tomatoes, and kale chips!  Okay, first things first, let’s break it all down.  Fresh’s Protein Boost is a combination of brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, sesame, flax, hemp, and sunflower, pumpkin, and chia seeds, included on several dishes on their menu or as an add-on or individual side for an extra charge ($2). 

Next, I describe the meal as a quasi-salad starter because in my opinion, this is a full-on entree meal!  This is not a dinky small bowl appetizer.  This is a nice big bowl of fresh, succulent zucchini noodles (think linguine pasta or soba noodles married with zucchini that’s been julienned so thinly and finely it becomes long noodles) that is so savoury and crunchy it makes you lick the bowl clean.  If you love contrasting textures and flavours, the Italian raw bowl is delicious.  There’s the cold freshness from the zucchini, that burst of cured salty flavour from the sundried tomatoes, and amazing roasted flavour that comes from the kale chips, nuts, and seeds.  The kale chips are like tiny heavenly leaves of roasted crunchiness and I love them.  I love them even more knowing I can make kale chips in my own oven at home too!

I know I kind of defeated the “raw” in the raw bowl by adding some grilled tofu steaks, but I really wanted to try Fresh’s tofu and they were so good I inhaled them.  I totally understand the hemming and hawing some people go through when it comes to tofu, whether it’s because they find it too bland or because they want to limit the amount of processed foods in their diet, but I’ve enjoyed tofu for nearly my entire life and Fresh does it SO GOOD.  They were thick rectangles of flavourful tofu with the prettiest of grill marks!

I haven’t had the chance to try any of Fresh’s other new menu items (yet!), but I’m so happy my first foray into new dish territory was as delicious as it was.  I’m reeeally hoping to get my scrapbooking on for some new Fresh scrapbook layouts in the future because I miss doing them!  Stayed tuned for Part II of the kale love at Fresh with another post tomorrow! 

*****

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)

Soba Noodles, Pesto White Beans, and Delicious Slices of Grilled Red Peppers and Avocado: Build-a-Bowl Fun at Fresh!

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*Even though I’m uploading this post today, on the morning of August 23rd, it was actually written the night before, so don’t be confused by my usage of tense and my reference to time* 

I’m writing this post with a heavy heart after finding out this morning that Jack Layton, leader our federal NDP party and former Toronto city councillor (among many other things), passed away from his second bout of cancer.  Even after so many exuberant years in his career in politics in our beloved city, there were so many things I felt he could have continued to accomplish and I wish so much that he could have lived to see and enjoy allthe fruits of his successes and accomplishments.  I get teary-eyed every time I see the news footage displaying the chalk message mural for him developing at city hall, and all the flowers and messages that have been left for him at his office. 

Not that any of us have ever stopped fighting for change or fighting for happiness and a better world, but his death today is a huge wake-up call, or at the very least a solemn reminder.  A reminder that our life is precious and every day is a blessing.  That there is no such thing as too many “I love yous”.  That we should never stop fighting for our happiness, the happiness of the people we love, and change for the better.  To quote the last part of a letter he wrote just days before his death, “My friends, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”  In a nutshell: be the best person you can be and find the most positive ways to live your life.

This blog is my labour of love, my sounding board, and my inspiration, and I will always be grateful for all the amazing things I’ve seen and done for it and because of it.  So with that in mind, here is today’s foodie offerings to fill our tummies and our hearts: noodles, beans, and delicious veggies for build-a-bowl fun at Fresh!  If you’re accustomed to eating here, or ogling their menu online, then you know that they have a nice long list of entree bowls with a choice of brown rice or soba noodles with a slew of proteins, vegetables, sauces, and herbs.  Take my Beach Bowl, for instance.  Soba noodles with mounds of grilled red peppers, sweet potato, avocado, sunflower sprouts, zucchini, sun-dried tomato, and lemon juice and olive oil.  AMAZING in every way.  The Beach Bowl is just one of many bowls on their menu and although I can only imagine how delicious the others taste, there are times where I just want to have some fun and create my own bowl!  Kind of like the Build-a-Bear workshop, only with food!

Fresh’s menu offers a huuuuge, long list of sides that you can pick and choose from as add-ons to meals, but I actually use the list to create my own custom-made Fresh bowl.  Each item is assigned a price (ranging from $0.50 to $4) so you can mix and match between and across categories (raw vegetables, steamed vegetables, proteins, cheeses, sauces, dips, and others) and choose ingredients to your heart’s content!  Everything from tofu steaks, sunflower sprouts, black bean filling, steamed kale and bok choy, goat cheese, napa, jicama, chick pea curry, zucchini noodles, and on and on and on! 

For this particular build-a-bowl fun lunch, I ordered soba noodles with pesto white beans and thick, delicious slices of fresh avocado and hot-off-the-grill roasted red peppers.  The pesto white beans are to-die for and the red peppers have that perfect char on them.  And I’m just a lover of soba noodles and avocado in general.  Since these menu items are technically on the add-ons and sides portion of the menu, each ingredient you order comes in its own little dish.  And then you have yourself a ball and mix everything together yourself.  Or you can eat the sides on their own, straight out of the dish.  Whatever floats your boat! 

Now, these photos were taken before Fresh unveiled their revamped menu last month, so although the ingredients you see here haven’t changed, the utensils and aesthetics are going to look a bit different.  Gone are the green chopsticks, in are the bright orange ones!  And their bowls are nice big white curved ones, which actually give quite a nice contrast to the bright colours of food. 

After creating this bowl, I became hooked on wanting to create more.  The options and combinations are endless!  It’s so much fun and it’s such a cute way to get creative and healthy with your food.  And it’s great way to pick and choose based on your budget and the size of your appetite.  Not to mention, you get to put together a meal with everything you love – can you say happy taste buds and tummy?!  I’ll never stop eating my way through their menu, but this is a really awesome way to inject a little creativity and even more fun into eating here.  And that’s what food is all about: genuine love, making it fun, making it your own, and feeling good inside and out.

*****

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)

Everything Tastes Amazing Off the Grill: Grilled Vegetables & Pesto, and an Irish Cream Vegan Cupcake at Fresh!

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It’s true, I have a hankering for Fresh.  All I can think about are soba noodle bowls and fruit drinks and quinoa battered onion rings with vegan mayo.  Sigh.  So to tide myself over until my next yummy in the tummy Fresh fest, I scrapbooked my last Fresh outing.  I know, I know, scrapbooking photos of their delicious food can only exacerbate my craving that much more.  But it’s not such a bad thing because it lets me chew on (mentally) what I want to try next and reminisce about past meals.  Not to mention I get to show you all photos of yet another great meal here as well as some dessert! 

So far I’ve only blogged about their mains and their fruit juices, so this will be the first blog post showcasing a few dessert items.  And yes, you guessed it, the dessert items are cupcakes!  Even though this wasn’t my first time having a dessert here, I wanted to blog about two different cupcakes to show somewhat of a comparison between them as one was much better than the other.  Even though I didn’t enjoy the first cupcake I had here as much as I did the second time around, it was important to me to blog about something good alongside something not-so-good because I think it’s important not to swear things off after having only tried one thing.  But I’m getting ahead of myself! 

I enjoyed my last meal at Fresh with my lovely friend Wini, my vegetarian foodie partner in crime!  We went into Fresh with one goal in mind: get that Irish Cream vegan cupcake!  The Irish Cream vegan cupcake at Fresh was a limited time flavour (a flavour they may bring back again in the future) and we didn’t want to miss our chance at noshing on it.  Great minds and tummies think alike because we both ordered the same thing: an Irish Cream vegan cupcake and the grilled vegetable and pesto burrito, menu items neither one of us had tried before.  We enjoyed our yummy food and weren’t disappointed!

Fresh is just one of those places that manages to pair so many of my favourite foods into great combinations in their meals.  I adore grilled vegetables, especially things like peppers, asparagus, zucchini, green beans, and corn.  And pesto?  Hello, it’s pesto!  I could eat this stuff by the spoonful because it’s so delicious.  I love it on pasta, with bread, pitas, crackers, you name it.  The same way I enjoyed my black bean burrito on a bed of greens as opposed to in a tortilla, I enjoyed my grilled vegetables and pesto the same way.  For whatever reason, I just love having the burritos on greens.  I think everything tastes amazing when you can take a huge forkful or chopstickful of burrito filling and stuff it in your mouth with a generous helping of spring mix.  There’s this great balance of textures with the soft fillings (the black burrito filling and this time with the grilled veggies and pesto) and crunchy greens that makes me tastebuds go “ahhhh”. 

The grilled vegetable and pesto burrito is comprised of mountain of grilled red peppers, zucchini, and sweet potato, lots of pesto, some vegan mayo, a layer of alfalfa sprouts, and diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion.  Being the cheese lover that I am, I added a side of goat cheese to it and I love it because the warmth of the dish makes the cheese a bit melty and even softer than it already is.  Creamy, rich, grilled, crunchy.  Awesome.  The grilled vegetables were so soft yet full of body and substance, as opposed to mushy, cooked down and gross.  The pesto had a great grainy texture to it and everything on the plate just worked.  Burrito mains are $9.50 and there is no difference in price between the tortilla and bed of greens.

To end off a great meal, the fabulous Irish Cream vegan cupcake!  This cupcake was MUCH better than the first cupcake I had here.  To clarify, Fresh gets all their desserts and sweets from Sweets From the Earth, a popular Toronto vegan bakery that not only operates and bakes in a shop of their own, but also provides vegan desserts to a number of retailers around the city.  The cupcakes at Fresh are priced at $3.25, which does place them in the higher end of cupcake prices around the city.  They do, however, have a take-out special going on right now where you can get any dessert and drink from the menu for $5.75 between 2:30pm-5:30pm on weekdays, hurray!

The very first cupcake I tried here, the chocolate vanilla cream filled cupcake, just didn’t live up.  It was adorable because it looked like a Hostess cupcake, but it was on the drier side and it ended up falling flat for me.  However, the Irish Cream cupcake was a world of difference.  The chocolate cupcake was very moist and a little fudgy, and the frosting was very light and creamy with hints of vanilla, mocha, chocolate, and cream.  It’s not your typical thick, sweet frosting, it’s much lighter and creamier and airier.  This was a YUMMY cupcake though and it proved that the first dessert wasn’t for me and that there are plenty of others I can enjoy here.

That Fresh hankering of mine will soon be soothed, but in the meantime, it’s nice to refresh my memory and taste buds with these photos and scrapbook pages 😀

*****

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)

Scrapbooking materials used: cobalt blue and violet cardstock (Recollections); patterned paper (Choco Mod Patterns by DCWV, Green Pinstripe by Recollections Basics, Purple Daze by Recollections); glitter floral embellishment (Wild Saffron Grand Adhesions by K&Company); pastel spring glitter alphabet stickers (Lion Sleeps Alphabet, Suzi Ultman for K&Company); purple and pink heart stickers (Sticko); coffee cup sticker (Pierre Belvédère); black fine point Sharpie marker; circle paper punch (Marvy Uchida).

There’s Always Room for Mushrooms! The Mushroom Onion Burger from Fresh

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You all can tell how much I love Fresh, right? 😉  After that first outing back during the holidays, I’ve fallen head over heels and I look forward to my next meal here after each time.  I love the variety of options, and I love taking photos and creating a scrapbook layout that speaks to the colours, flavours, and atmosphere of each unique foodie experience.  Call me crazy but I already have cardstock colours and scrapbook papers picked out in my head as I’m eating.  It makes me giddy when the decor reminds me of pretty patterned paper!  I seriously look at the menu online several times a week, daydreaming about what I might try the next time or a combination that will most definitely be yummy!  And don’t even get me started on how desperately I want need the cookbook in my personal library.  It’s a wonderful love and I’m completely amoured.

This was my first time eating at the Fresh on Bloor location (at the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. W) and the 2nd time eating at Fresh, and because I know what a huge crowd Fresh draws in at any point in the day, I was there with Richard right when they opened at 11:30am.  Tummies, start your engines!  I was ready and raring to go!  I thought it would be fun to work my way around the menu, trying something from each category before rotating back again.  So since I had the black bean burrito the first time (on a bed of greens instead of in the tortilla), I picked out a burger to try the second time around: the mushroom onion burger, yay.  On a bed of greens again, without the bun.  Don’t mind me, it’s just my weird preference!

The same way the black bean burrito made me nom, nom, nom with happiness, the mushroom onion burger was SO DAMN scrumptious and yummy, oh my lordy.  I am HUGE lover of mushrooms, both raw and sautéed, and I love many different kinds: cremini, portobello, king oyster, button, etc. etc.  I eat mushrooms all the time at home and it’s one of those foods that give the most amazing flavour to just about everything.  The mushroom onion burger tastes like a cross between a delicious potato patty with veggies and herbs and a meaty burger.  Fresh’s burgers are made with almond, grain, tofu, and veggies and they’re super thick and so yummy.  It has this fantastic potato-like, crumbly texture with bold meaty, hearty flavour.  

This particular burger dish is served with thick slicies of beefsteak tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and red onion, lettuce, a nice pile of alfalfa sprouts, and yummy vegan mayo.  The vegan mayo is made from miso, tofu, garlic, sunflower oil, and apple cider vinegar and has a delicious creamy subtle garlic flavour.  I added some aged cheddar cheese to my burger which is rennet-free and oh-so-delicious with the alfalfa sprouts and greens (I almost never pass on cheese, I love it very much) and I had myself a bangin’ awesome meal.  Oh!  And I can’t forget about the juice I ordered too.

 Fresh is also known for their ridiculously large selection of fresh fruit juice, protein shakes, fruit smoothies, wheatgrass shots and shakes, supplements, and a number of other cold drinks and espressos.  You can create your own juice by choosing a fruit juice or two (such as grapefruit, mango, apple, carrot, pomegranate, etc.), or having a fruit juice mixed with other ingredients such agave, coconut milk, celery, raspberry, maple syrup, cocoa and peppermint.  

Fruit juices specifically come in 2 sizes, a 16 oz. glass (like the one I ordered) and a larger 32 oz. one.  Juices start at $3.50 for one fruit juice choice and you add additional charges ($0.50 or $1 depending on what you choose, for extra ingredients).  I chose a combination of mango juice with coconut milk and mmmm, it was like my own version of a juicy, creamy mango lassi!  I was so excited to get some great pictures (getting here when Fresh opens has its perks, I got myself a window seat for that natural light I love so much!), to enjoy a wonderful lunch with my sweetie, and eat another truly delicious and satisfying meal 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)

Scrapbooking materials used: emerald green cardstock (Recollections); baby blue cardstock (DCWV); blue, green, and white floral and polka dot patterned cardstock (“Green Tea” stack, DCWV); magenta cardstock (Best Occasions); journalling tags (“Darcy” collection, Anna Griffin); brown and white polka dot alphabet stickers (K&Company); blue, white, brown, and pink flower stickers (Sticko); magenta adhesive gems.