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)
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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).

A Beachy, Spring Day – Yummy Soba Noodles, Grilled Veggies, and Sunflower Sprouts in Fresh’s Beach Bowl

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Here’s some bright cheery colour to brighten up our otherwise drab rainy day!  It’s been a total washout here in Toronto today so for those of you who ventured out, props to you because good god, I would have been wrestling with my umbrella all day had I gone out.  It was freakin’ windy out!  I spent my day at home scrapbooking and organizing photos in photo albums.  I live dangerously, I know, ha!  I hope you guys like the scrap layout up top because I had a ton of fun making it 😀  Pink, green, and pastels.  Ahhh, the way to my heart.  So, for your drooling pleasure today: Fresh’s soba noodle beach bowl!  Even though this particular dish isn’t the one currently being featured in Fresh’s Veggielicious special (the one featured is actually the Ninja bowl), I figured it was appropriate anyway given how Fresh is participating in Veggielicious and all. 

I know I raved on and on about how much I adored my spicy black bean burrito dish on my bed of greens here the first time I ate at Fresh, but I have to say, the beach bowl just might be tied for possibly my favourite dish so far!  I looove soba noodles.  Also referred to as buckwheat noodles, they are Japanese noodles that are served both warm and cold.  The first time I had soba noodles was a number of years ago.  I found these great noodles at T&T supermarket and they were packaged and served cold with big leaves of green leaf lettuce, cold shrimp, wedges of tamago (Japanese egg), and peanut sauce.  Oh god, I loved it so much and devoured it every time I ate it.  I was so sad though when I found out they no longer made them, so Fresh’s soba noodle bowls totally fill that void in my heart whenever I’m out to eat and in the mood for them.

This meal was really special.  My boyfriend and I were celebrating our 2-year anniversary and were out during that Sunday to see the Raptors play that afternoon.  It was a nice, peaceful Sunday morning brunch and even though I probably could have ordered off of Fresh’s popular weekend brunch menu, I reeeally wanted noodles and veggies and cheese and all that good stuff, so that’s what I had.  It was a day to celebrate and besides, I’m a girly little piggy ^_^  I went out all out and even ordered myself a fresh glass of mixed fruit juice: mango and strawberry, super bright and refreshing!  It’s fun to mix and match fruits and other drinks to create my own special concoction and I especially love choosing things like mango, grapefruit, coconut milk, things like that.

Fresh has a number of bowls on their menu and you can either have them with brown rice or soba noodles, which cost an extra dollar.  The bowls have amazing combinations of vegetarian and vegan protein and vegetables.  Think tempeh, tofu steaks, sprouts, grilled vegetables, raw vegetables, and curry stews and sauces.  Depending on whether you choose to have brown rice or noodles, and whether you add cheese to your meal, bowls range in price from $8-$15, and some bowls offer a “baby” size (a half portion) at a discounted price.  It was my first time trying a Fresh bowl (remember what I said about eating my way through the menu?  Ha!) and I chose the beach bowl with soba noodles.

The beach bowl, to me, is perfection in a bowl.  SO many of my favourite things all in one!  The beach bowl is served with warm delicious grilled red bell peppers, sweet potato, and zucchini, thick slices of avocado, thinly sliced sun-dried tomato, a huge helping of sunflower sprouts, and olive oil, tamari (a variation of soy sauce that is slightly thicker and wheat-free), and lemon juice.  I added goat cheese to my bowl and oh my god, YUM, they gave me a nice generous scoop of cheese.  As you already know, I love cheese dearly and because the grilled vegetables were nice and warm, the goat cheese was easy to spread around and made everything so deliciously creamy.  The mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs just made the soba noodles so amazingly good. 

And this was actually my first time eating sunflower sprouts and I loved them.  Which is awesome because I am so not a fan of regular sprouts, so along with alfalfa, I can enjoy sunflower ones!  For me, it was a fusion of new things (sunflower sprouts) and old favourites (um, hello avocado and noodles), and I couldn’t have been more satisfied.  It was delicious and I was full.  So full I needed to doggy bag the rest!  Time and again, Fresh delivers and lives up to its name and their menu just inspires me every time I look at it…which is a lot, ha.  So in conclusion: I LOVE YOU BEACH BOWL! 😀

*****

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)

They are currently serving a Veggielicious special until April 24th for a price fixe of $15: 16oz Chi-Spa Juice (ginger, dates, apple, soymilk, banana, cinnamon, chia seeds), Ninja Bowl (salad greens, tofu cubes, sundried tomatoes, sunflower sprouts, spicy ginger tamari sauce, and your choice of dressing on brown rice or soba noodles (add $1 for soba), and a Ginger Molasses Cupcake with Lemon Frosting.

Scrapbooking materials used: emerald green cardstock (paper printing shop); baby pink and beige cardstock (Recollections); green and blue patterned cardstock paper (Green Tea stack by DVWV); patterned journalling tags (Darcy Collection by Anna Griffin); pink floral chipboard alphabets (K & Company); spring pastel flower embellishments (Paper Bliss); glitter blue, green, and brown chipboard button embellishments (WT, Westrim Crafts); scalloped edge decorative scissors (Provo Craft); circle paper punch (marvy uchida); paper corner rounder.

Spotlight on Fresh: Avocado White Bean Dosas With Tomato & Cilantro

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Ever since I started integrating more vegetarian and vegan meals into my diet, I’ve been eating and exploring many different kinds of beans and legumes and the foodie in me is super happy because of it!  I’m a huge fan of kidney beans (red and white ones), black beans, lentils, chickpeas, the list goes on…and on and on 😀  Beans offer so many vital nutrients (iron, fibre, and protein among others) and they scream, “I am hearty and delicious and I can be your meal!”  I love starting with a bean and building a great meal around it with vegetables and great sauces. 

Beans with avocado is one of my favourite food combinations and Fresh offers a great appetizer on their menu: white bean and avocado dosas!  Dosas are a cross between pancakes and crepes and are popular in Indian cuisine.  They’re super soft on the insides and crispy on the outside, and quite honestly, I’d eat these even without any filling in them because they’re so delicious!  The dosas are filled with large white kidney beans and chopped red onion, and they’re slathered with spicy chipotle avocado sauce.  Tomatoes and cilantro are served alongside, as well as a wedge of lime for a squirt of fresh citrus flavour! 

Fresh has a fantastic selection of juices, shakes, rice, noodles, wraps, burritos, soups, and vegan and vegetarian style “pub” food, like sweet potato fries and garlic mayo and quinoa battered onion rings, as well as dosas with different fillings and corn tortilla starters that function just as great as actual main meal items.  You can take a look at my first Fresh post here, and visit their fab website here.  I’m really excited to post these because tomorrow, I’m going to show you all a great salad dish that my mum and I whipped up over the weekend, inspired by these yummy dosas!

*****

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)

Appetizers and starters range in price from $3 up to $11 for larger sharing plates.