Vegetarian Sandwich Series – Country Kitchen Cooking & A Grilled Eggplant, Sundried Tomato, & Feta Pita at Sage Cafe

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I honestly can’t tell you how I found out about Sage.  For a girl who prides herself on having a good memory, this bothers me.  I don’t remember if I happened to find it through a random Google search for vegetarian sandwiches in the city or if I happened to learn about the downtown cafe through another site.  But I will tell you this: when I found out they served an abundance of vegetarian meals including a whole list of whole wheat pita wraps with vegetarian ingredients, I pumped my fist in the air and went, “YES!  PAY DIRT!” 😀  Especially considering it’s located in an area that’s actually rather central in the downtown core but unknown to many of my friends. 

Sage is located near the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) on McCaul St., just off of Elm St.  For whatever reason, this area seems to be a black hole for many people I know, including myself prior to this year!  The black hole seems to spread between Elm, Baldwin, or McCaul (or any combination of the three), and when I’m in these areas with friends, it’s very amusing to hear my them say, “I have no idea where we are!”  Have no fear, I am your food compass 😀

Much like Futures Bakery in the Annex, Sage’s menu isn’t wholly vegetarian.  They do, however, have MANY vegetarian options though, which makes it a great lunch spot for both vegetarians and carnivores.  The vegetarian sandwiches come in the form of whole wheat pita wraps and they are BIG!  I’m pretty sure you can have the option of having the wrap filling served on other types of grain/bread, just ask.  Vegetarian wraps are priced at $6.50 and they are well worth it not just because of their size, but because of how much food they stuff in them.  Their list of vegetarian tortilla wraps include:

  • grilled eggplant, sundried tomato, and feta cheese
  • dijon egg and avocado
  • grilled vegetables
  • grilled portobello mushrooms and brie
  • avocado, feta cheese, and roast pepper sauce
  • hummus and fresh vegetables
  • falafel with tahini and fresh vegetables
  • spicy tofy and peanut sauce

I had me a grilled eggplant, sundried tomato, and feta pita wrap and added some avocado for an extra charge (I can’t remember how much I added for the avocado, but it definitely wasn’t more than a dollar).  Was I ever excited when I got my pita wrap!  It was mondo big with SO MUCH VEGGIES stuffed inside!  Along with the eggplant, sundried tomato, and feta, my pita wrap was stuffed with romaine, tomato, cucumber, shredded carrots, alfalfa sprouts, and red cabbage. 

The wrap was crunchy, fresh, and savoury from both the sundried tomato and feta cheese, and the eggplant was sliced in large wedges with the blistered skin still on, YUM!  And I know this sounds silly, but this point is worth making: the pita wrap stayed intact!  I know some people shy away from pitas and tortillas and the like because stuff just crumbles and fulls out out of it and it becomes too messy to eat.  The pita was wrapped in such a way that the stuff actually stayed inside for the most part.  I mean, sure, some feta crumbles may have slipped out, but it definitely wasn’t a leaky wrap and it wasn’t messy.

Sage serves a number of other vegetarian dishes including pasta, salads, and a variety of quiches and soups.  Daily specials change on a regular basis, but on any given day you might see things like roasted pepper penne pasta with spinach, mushrooms, and olives; quinoa and vegetable salad; chick pea and red onion salad; lentil salad with bulghar and orange; eggplant parmesan; spicy stuffed plantain with sauteed peppers; pesto linguine with artichokes and sundried tomato; roasted red pepper linguine with black olives; pad thai; and vegetarian lasagna among others.

Even though the cafe is on the smaller side, I really feel it’s a fabulous lunch spot because the prices are reasonable (there are a number of “under $10 meals”, tax included!), portions are big, the food is fresh and healthy, and the cooking is done right before your eyes; owner Wendy Hernick was cooking up salads and pasta in the visible kitchen area while I was enjoying my meal. 

They also serve weekend brunch from 11am-3pm and although the prices for brunch and breakfast are a little on the pricier side, I caught a glimpse of someone else’s eggs benedict brunch dish as it was being brought to them and hot damn was the plate of food ever large.  Portion size isn’t an issue here, so it’s really, it’s up to each individual person on how much they’re willing to spend on weekend brunch.  Some won’t spend more than $10 and others feel fine spending $12 or $13.  Either way, I recommend the cafe for lunch for those looking for healthy, vegetarian options and an all-around great meal.  And hey, you just might make some foodie discoveries of your own around this “unchartered” territory 😉

*****

Sage Cafe and Catering is located at 166 McCaul St., just off Elm St.  It’s south of Baldwin St. and north of Dundas St. West.  It is located just several blocks north of the AGO and is open 7 days a week from 9am-5pm Monday through Friday and for weekend brunch from 11am-3pm.  For more info, click here.  The Vegetarian Sandwich Series is a series on Ate by Ate dedicated to showcasing great vegeterian sandwiches in and around the city of Toronto.  

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Opa! Layers of Grilled Eggplant, Zucchini, & Toasted Savoury Béchamel – Greek Moussaka at Loui’s Kouzina

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I’m so excited to finally write and post about Greek food on the blog!  I love Greek food and it’s a shame that these are the only photos I have to share with you all right now as I’ve been eating delicious Greek meals for years.  Greek food and I go waaaay back.  It holds a very special place in my heart, as well as my mom’s.  After immigrating to Canada, my mom grew up in Toronto’s east end and went to school right near the Danforth.  You all know what that means: Greek town!  Many of my mom’s best and closest friends were Greek and her friends’ parents would invite my mom over to their houses for dinner all the time.  This love was passed along to me when I was born – in the east end – and I’m reminded of all those times growing up where Greek food was one of the only things my whole family could agree on eating when we wanted to have a nice meal out. 

Having recently eaten this delicious meal at Loui’s Kouzina in Markham, I was overcome with a wave of nostalgia and it brought back a flood of memories.  It wasn’t until this meal that I realized just how much I missed having it in my life and having it so thoroughly integrated in my zone of comfort.  I may love sushi like nobody’s business.  I may love trying new things and making foodie discoveries.  But sometimes there’s nothing that can compare to the feeling of comfort you get from the food that has created roots in your memory and in your heart.

I have my best friend to thank for this meal 😀  After raving about Loui’s Kouzina on a number of occasions, I knew I had to go when my family asked me where we should go for dinner.  It’s nice when people designate you as meal outing and food decider, isn’t it?  Anyway, my best friend told me how much she loved the food here and given how my tummy was missing Greek food, it was the perfect idea.  

I’m so glad we went.  My brother and I tried out a dish we had never had before in our life and we LOVED it!  We both ordered the Greek moussaka and we scarfed it down because it was so delicious.  Total win!  Like I was gushing about yesterday about my stuffed peppers at The Grad Lounge, I love seeing menu items that are different from the norm.  Everyone knows you can get great Greek souvlaki, but moussaka?  Hello, never had it before.  Which just makes me want it more.  A dinner that was delicious and savoury, and a new dish to add to my growing vocabulary of food.  It doesn’t get much better than that.   

Moussaka is both a  Middle Eastern and Eastern European dish common in the Balkan and Mediterranean regions of Europe including Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and Turkey among others.  Although different regions make moussaka dishes in a number of different ways, Greek moussaka is characterized by layers of grilled vegetables, potatoes, minced meat, and a top layer of savoury baked béchamel sauce or egg custard.  The moussaka at Loui’s Kouzina was a soft, melt-in-your-mouth layered masterpiece with ground beef and grilled eggplant and zucchini sandwiched between a base of roast potatoes and a silky savoury toasted béchamel topping.  This was AMAZING.  It was like eating a heavy-duty layered lasagna only without the cheese and with potatoes, eggplant, and zucchini and a very pillowy soft dome on top.

This was such a savoury dish and the custard/pudding-like top was something that I had never encountered before in my life.  It had the texture of very soft silken tofu and it was very easy to cut through.  The dome of béchamel was wonderfully toasted and it was exactly like eating a Chinese egg tart only savoury as opposed to sweet.  And the flavours worked together.  Given how the dish was a layered one, it could have easily missed its mark with the ingredients just kind of laying there with no cohesiveness to it.  But everything worked amazingly.  The grilled vegetables weren’t mushy, the ground beef wasn’t over seasoned, and everything melded together.  It’s definitely a dish I can envision myself coming back for again and again.  YUM! 

Oh!  And the Greek salad.  Thumbs up.  I mean, sure, it was nothing that I hadn’t seen before.  Greek salad is very standard: iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion, olives, feta cheese, and a bit of dressing.  The salad was great though.  The lettuce was so crunchy and fresh and it wasn’t overladen with dressing or soggy from the juice of the tomatoes.

Loui’s Kouzina is a wonderful, casual Greek restaurant that serves up a number of gyros, pork, and chicken souvlaki dishes, appetizers, savory phyllo pastries, salads, pastas, pita sandwiches, and Greek spanakopita pies among other things.  I saw (and tasted!) what my best friend saw and the quality of food is just fabulous.  Prices for dinner mains sit around the $10-$15 range and for those who may not want a full dinner or who want something a little less expensive, there are a number of menu items closer to the front of the menu that you can put together and mix and match for a less expensive meal.  For example, you can order individual souvlaki skewers along with other sides for a few dollars apiece.  Loui’s Kouzina is a great Greek eatery that I would recommend to anyone and truly a gem in Markham.  I thank my best friend for the rec, and my tummy and heart thank me for the love and comfort.  And the memories.

*****

Loui’s Kouzina is located in Markham at 9255 Woodine Ave. at the intersection of Woodbine and 16th Ave.  The restaurant is situated within the strip mall complex closer to the west side of the complex and parking lot (if I remember correctly, it’s right beside the Pizza Pizza).