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).

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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).