Kale Pesto & Artichoke Linguine, and Summer Strawberries, Rhubarb & Lettuces – Summerlicious at Trios Bistro!

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summerlicious collage 1 trios bistroWhen was the last time you had a makes-me-wiggle-with-happiness meal?  Mine was last Saturday.  Okay maybe it was yesterday when I excitedly ordered a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal and got my adorable Despicable Me toy (shhh, that’s between us).  But if we’re talking fine dining, it was Saturday.  It was a beautiful day.  A little on the hot and gross side, but a picture-perfect day nevertheless.  The seats were cushy, the place was gorgeous, and the food?  Fantastic.  One by one the dishes came: fresh and crunchy bibb lettuce, savoury artichokes bear-hugged by pesto and pasta and juicy berries in a flaky pastry surrounded by vanilla and whipped mascarpone.  I sat back, relaxed, and breathed a sigh of relief as I savoured the first Summerlicious meal of the season and the first Summerlicious meal in two years!

It’s about damn time Ate by Ate got back on the Summerlicious/Winterlicious wagon and believe me, this was no easy feat.  You’d think that a girl who loves food as much as I do would be pirouetting around the city during an annual culinary event like Summerlicious, right?  So wrong.  Summerlicious should be the highlight of the summer season for me.  Over 100 restaurants with special price fixe menus, many of them bursting with seasonal yummies?  You’d think that it was tailormade.  But alas, it is not.  And instead of looking forward to it, I almost dread it.  I know, I’m talking crazy.  I love Summerlicious in theory, in essence.  In actuality?  It drives me nuts.  It’s any wonder I made it out for a meal this year because I was thisclose to bailing again.

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I gotta tell you, not only do I have a hard time choosing between menus and places (which really isn’t even the hardest thing about the event anymore; I’ve accepted the fact that I’m just a horribly indecisive person who hems and haws for eternity), but I have a really difficult time finding a place that serves Summerlicious lunch with a menu I can’t refuse during the weekend!  I would love to do dinner, I really would.  But when the bus service in your area ends ridiculously early for a Saturday night and your close-to-Union-Station options are, hence, more limited, you’re looking at Summerlicious lunch during the day as your best bet.  So during my search, I kept clicking menu after menu after menu, double-checking with the actual restaurant sites to no avail.  So many of the spots I wanted to try only served dinner on the weekend and it became so frustrating I wanted to throw in the towel and give up.

Then along came Trios Bistro at the Marriott.  The beautiful Trios Bistro at the Marriott hotel by the Eaton Centre.  It saved me.  It saved me from banging my head against the wall and going 3 years without a Summerlicious adventure.  Maybe it was meant to be.

summerlicious collage 2 trios bistro

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Trios Bistro at the Marriott is a beautiful space.  I’d even say a little on the majestic side with its high ceiling and windows overlooking Trinity Square, lush booth seating and carpeting, and pretty chandeliers.  And it’s peaceful and relaxing.  There’s no rushing; just delicious food in a lovely environment and atmosphere.  During normal, non Summerlicious and Winterlicious days, Trios serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open to the public and not just to hotel guests (SCORE!).  Its proximity to the Eaton Centre and to the downtown core in general was perfect for me and it awesome being able to take advantage of a spot I’d never been to.  Their Summerlicious price fixe lunch menu ($20) was perfect for both my boyfriend and I (anything with chocolate, chicken, and fish will satisfy the sweetie.  Just, you know, not together.  Oh and anything without tomatoes and onions as a option is a gold star bonus because he hates the stuff) and we both left happy and full with scrumptious food in our bellies.

Here’s the Summerlicious menu lowdown: I chose their bibb lettuce and heirloom tomato salad as my appetizer (sliced radishes, shaved carrot, and lemon greek yogurt dressing), the linguine vert as my main (oodles of linguine noodles drenched in hazelnut kale pesto, artichokes, baby leeks, a mountain of peas and a smattering of grated grano padano cheese), and for dessert, a local strawberry and rhubarb strudel pastry with berries and glaze, whipped mascarpone and vanilla cream.

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Everything was so simple but so HUGE on flavour.  This was such a fantastic meal and I feel like I got my money’s worth and than some.  I was so happy with the portions (the doggy-bagger in me was absolutely thrilled that I ate everything and didn’t need to take anything away in the sweltering heat!  I am not a fan of wasting food on my plate) and as soon as I took the first bite of my food, I KNEW I had made the right choice to come here for Summerlicious.  The last thing anyone wants is to blow that amount of money on a crappy meal!

There were so many highlights: even with the dressing the bibb lettuce was so crisp and fresh, the tomatoes were ridiculously juicy and the dressing.  OH.MY.GOD.  It tasted divine.  It tasted like this crazy marriage between yogurt dressing and rich buttermilk!  It was so fragrant and the aroma of it literally beckoned me to the salad bowl.  I mean, I was uber hungry to begin with but this just tipped the scales.

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The pasta was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of pesto and olive oil sauce and the artichoke chunks were ginormous and delicious!  It was perfect for me because I love pasta like nobody’s business and it incorporated both things I love and eat regularly (peas and pesto!) with things I don’t eat regularly like leeks and artichokes.  This dish was a gift that just kept on giving with all its flavour and texture.  You had that little bit of starchiness from the peas, the juicy, savouriness from the artichokes, the freshness and nuttiness from the pesto and the smooth, velvetyness of the linguine noodles.

And then the finale: the strawberry-rhubarb strudel!  I was so happy that I could actually savoury the rhubarb.  I know this sounds stupid, but let’s be frank: some places would probably err on the side of strawberry with just a hint of rhubarb.  Not at Trios.  Every mouthful was crispy paper-thin layers of pastry sprinkled with sugar (it wasn’t soggy and it wasn’t stodgy) with juicy berries and sweet whipped mascarpone and vanilla sauce.  It was great because even though it was a strudel there was plenty of surface area to soak up the vanilla and cream and there was a great balance between sweetness and summer berry tartness.

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I am so relieved this Summerlicious meal worked out and while it wasn’t anything necessarily out of my comfort zone, I still got to enjoy many foods that I don’t eat often and for that, it was well worth it on its own.  Because Summerlicious isn’t just about taking risks and trying foods completely out of your element at a discounted rate; it’s about finding that perfect food match that makes a meal memorable from top to bottom.  And I’m so happy Trios Bistro could make that happen for me this time around.

*****

Trios Bistros is located at 525 Bay Street at the Toronto Eaton Centre Marriott Hotel in downtown Toronto just south of Dundas Street West.  You can follow them on Twitter @TriosBistro and you can check out their Summerlicious menus and their regular menus HERE.

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It’s Good to Be Back at the Market – Fresh Cheese, Vegan Eats, Pies, Sprouts & More at Wychwood Barns!

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The Stop Community Food Centre booklets at Wychwood Barns farmers' market.

My left arm hurts from carrying my heavy load of market groceries.  My shoulder blades and neck are a wee bit sore from being wrapped in a heavy-duty scarf for most of the day.  And I’m just a little sleepy; leave it to me to wake up at 6am in the morning on a Saturday to go to the farmers’ market in the cold blowing snow/sleet/wet crap!  Who needs to walk when you can let the gusty wind push you along?  All I needed was a long coat and hat and I could have passed for the city gal version of Mary Poppins with a pink umbrella!

Despite the less-than-stellar weather, my trip to The Stop Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns yesterday morning was SO WORTH IT.  Even though I came home cold with rosy cheeks and just a tad on the wind-whipped side, I came home happy and so full of joy with some of the best food from the market in my grocery bag.

Root vegetables at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Carrots, potatoes and onions at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

The Stop farmers' market at Wychwood Barns

It’s been months since my last farmers’ market trek.  Not just months since my last post, but literally months since the last time I went to a market at all.  The last time I went to one was back in December and that was to Evergreen Brick Works where I lugged home bags of kale, salad greens, and butternut squash.  I know taking a break from blogging after that was something I had to do but since that last market visit, it’s almost as if a part of me was missing.  A part of me that so desperately wanted to go to the market and do blog-related things but couldn’t because I was tired and because I knew I had to sacrifice some of that precious blog time to take care of other aspects of my life that need my attention.

Going to the market yesterday for first time in nearly 4 months was like a breath of fresh of air.  It felt SO GOOD.  Like that something missing had been fully stored.  I had missed it so much and as sappy as it sounds, it’s stuff like this that makes you appreciate all the good things in your life.  The stuff that puts you in your happy place and makes your life so content, rewarding and satisfying.  I saw market vendors and friends, I took a ridiculous amount of photos (93!), I stuffed my hungry face with samples, learned about food, picked up a bunch of new food literature, and filled my grocery bag with some delicious eats!

vegan desserts by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

chocolate and vanilla macaroons by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

lentil-walnut vegan burgers by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Yorktown Pie Company at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

butter tarts by Yorktown Pie Company at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

A trip to The Stop Market at Wychwood Barns is never complete without fresh vegan eats from my beloved Earth & City and Yorktown Pie Company!  Cassandra from Earth & City was on hand with spring roll wraps, lentil-walnut burgers with sundried tomato puree, red onion, and collard green leaf “bun”, kale and arugula pesto, and a mountain of mouthwatering vegan sweets including their famous vegan brownies, chocolate and vanilla macaroons and cowgirl cookies, cookies with oats, almonds, banana, honey, dates, cinnamon and sea salt.  And Yorktown?  They had their famous mini butter tarts, chocolate chip cookies, and plenty of meat and vegetarian pies and pastries including spinach and ricotta, spinach and feta, chicken, steak and Guinness, mushroom and leek, and good old fashioned sausage rolls!

I happily picked up a container of a lentil-walnut burger, vegan brownie, and a container of kale and arugula pesto from Earth & City, and a sweet butter tart from Yorktown to bring home.  I cannot wait to come back to see if I can snatch up my favourite apple crumble and apple sour cream pies (what some have referred to as “apple crack”) the next time!

Chocosol coffee and chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol fair trade chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol coffee and chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol fair trade chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Between snapping photos and picking up food literature, I also added some walnut-raisin buns to my grocery bag from St. John’s Bakery, some AMAZING fresh-as-a-daisy Black Peppercorn goat cheese from Crosswind Farm who makes, by far, the best goat cheese EVER in the most delicious flavours (feta, maple cream, herb, green and red peppercorn, garlic Italian blend and a brand new creamy brie-style goat cheese), and a GIANT bar of Luscious Coconut chocolate from Chocosol.

It was so awesome seeing Chocosol’s fantastic selection of fresh cacao bars and beans and thanks to Chocosol’s Yanni (I hope I’ve spelled your name right!), my boyfriend and I learned the process behind Chocosol’s fair trade chocolate: cacao beans are roasted; shells from the roasted beans are then removed via fans which blow the shells off; the fresh cacao is then stone-ground into a paste, which is then tempered a number of times before flavourings and seasonings are added to create their famous flavours such as their hemp, spicy chili, dark and more.  Taking it all in was like cacao 101 which was awesome!

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

During this visit I also discovered some fantastic new vendors!  Now, these vendors aren’t exactly brand new to the market but they’re new to me.  First up, Essa Sprouts!  I love pea sprouts and shoots and sunflower sprouts like nobody’s business and Essa Sprouts grows everything from sunflower sprouts to sprouted chickpea, daikon radish, pea shoots, buckwheat, alfalfa, crunchy bean and more.  They have so many different types of sprouts and microgreens that are perfect for any type of palate (spicy, mild, you name it) and the baggies come in a number of sizes so you can choose what best suits your diet and sprouting eating frequency.  I picked up a small baggie of sunflower sprouts and have already inhaled the whole bag with help from my mum and dad!  You can find them here at The Stop at Wychwood and also at the Richmond Hill market (which I will add to the market list) and Barrie which is interestingly one of the oldest markets in the province!

sunflower greens and sprouts by Essa Sprouts at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Finally, I saw Delish Kitch at the market for the first time yesterday!  In a nutshell, Delish Kitch specializes in gluten-free, low-starch food with the absence of refined sugars.  They offer vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free options on their impressive menu: veggie pizzas, cookies, muffins, savoury tarts and pies, bread, tons of granola, soups, and their speciality, Bisckers, which are a cross between crackers and biscuits with a hint of scone without the gluten!

Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

gluten-free baked goods by Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

mushroom gluten-free pizzas by Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

This visit was just what I needed to kick start some extra inspiration and I happily got everything I wanted out of it.  It’s almost May and we all know what that means: spring and summer season at the markets!  I just found out all the 2013 dates so in another week I’ll be updating the market list with a rundown of all the ones returning in May and June and all the great market events we can expect this year!  I am so pumped and excited!

*****

The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.  The park and historic community centre complex is located at 76 Wychwood Ave. just off of St. Clair Ave. West, east of Christie St. and west of Bathurst St.  http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market