California Dreamin’ – The California Classic Salad & A Day of All Things New at Fresh on Eglinton!

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DSCN0252It’s finally here: my post on veggie eats at Fresh on Eglinton!  Let it be known that when these photos were taken, there was still snow on the ground.  And ice.  And some slush.  In the dead of what became a ridiculously frightful winter.  But!  The yummies I have for you all today scream summer so at the very least it’s seasonally appropriate to be posting about this now (I think I ordered what I ordered at the time to make myself feel better about the wretched weather and to silently send winter “go away” vibes.  Because, you know, that totally helps.  NOT.) instead of say, a hot hearty stew that would probably make us break out into an uncomfortable sweat at this point.  So even though it’s been months since I made my first visit to their newest location and took these photos and even longer since this location officially opened, it’s now in the books for real!

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Fresh on Eglinton, located at 90 Eglinton Ave. East a few blocks east of Yonge Street at Dunfield Ave. is the latest addition to the Fresh empire and the foodie in me is so geeked that I have now eaten in all 4 of their locations: Queen & Spadina, Queen & Crawford, Spadina & Bloor, and now Yonge & Eglinton.  And while I LOVE Fresh and all their different locations in their own way, I have to say, the Eglinton one has captured my heart.  For starters, it’s in the Yonge & Eglinton neighbourhood.  Hello, Deb’s wheelhouse of foodie fun!  David’s Tea, The Cupcake Shoppe, Kale Eatery, tons of cafes, Italian, and weekend brunch spots, walking distance to the Yonge & Lawrence, Yonge & Davisville, and Mount Pleasant neighbourhoods and so much more.  There’s so much to love.

In addition, this one boasts the largest space of all Fresh locations.  It’s so pretty and spacious –  pops of pineapple yellow, lime and celery green and chargoal grey, wooden and mirror accents, plenty of spacious booths and suspended from the ceiling, Fresh’s signature sparkly chandeliers.  And did I mention the really nice, big patio?  Yeah, there’s a really nice, big summer-ready patio that’s just calling everyone to come over to eat till they’re silly.  Mark my words, I WILL have a patio meal there before the summer is over!

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To make this first visit to the new location feel even more ‘new’, I decided to try something, well, new!  To me anyway.  I went over in my head all the things I’ve eaten so far and realized that the only category I hadn’t yet eaten from was the salad one.  I’d had their rice and soba noodle bowls, a few of their appetizers, a few of their burgers and wraps on beds of salad greens, their weekend brunch, their juice, their soups, heck, I’ve even created my own custom brown rice and soba noodle bowls!  So I thought, “what better way to celebrate this lovely occasion than to knock out the last category in my ‘to-eat-at-Fresh’ list?”  Salad it was!

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Fresh’s salads are meal/entree size ranging from $10 to $13 with all sorts of delicious veggie combinations atop a big pillow of salad greens: marinated tofu cubes with grilled spinach and sunflower seeds; edamame with napa cabbage and sunflower sprouts; grilled tempeh bacon with jicama, avocado, tomatoes and kale; yellow beets with jicama, napa cabbage, peanuts and peanut lime dressing; quinoa, kale and goji berries; and a soup, salad and cornbread lunch combo.  I picked a salad that had Deb written all over it: the California Classic ($12), a giant salad comprised of pesto white beans, toasted pecans, avocado, grape tomatoes, and hearts of palm on spinach and mixed salad greens.  I ordered tahini dressing with it (a mouthwatering creamy dressing of sesame with garlic, lemon and parsley) along with a side of goat cheese because a cheese lover like myself would feel naked without it, and a side of their famous kale slaw.  And a fresh mango juice with coconut water to wash it all down.  YUM!

I could seriously just stuff my face with pesto white beans, pecans and avocado all the live long day.  The wonderful thing about salads is how full of flavour and texture they are when they are constructed well.  I mean, you can construct it based on the ‘kitchen sink’ philosophy where you kind of throw in some of this and some of that or some leftovers here and some things in the fridge you need to finish there, but it may or may not taste good depending on what you use.  But salads like these, bursting with colour and life, give you all sorts of different yummy sensations.  Crunchiness from the greens and pecans, creaminess from the avocado and dressing, juiciness from the tomatoes, starchy savouriness from the pesto white beans, and meatiness from the hearts of palm.

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And you know what?  Something else was new about this experience: my first time eating hearts of palm!  YES, I had never eaten hearts of palm before this meal and quite honestly, had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t know what they looked like, how they would taste.  For some odd reason, I went into it thinking hearts of palm were similar to endive!  Um, I was very wrong.  Hearts of palm are not green.  Or leafy.  If I had to describe the appearance, texture and taste, I’d have to say they’re like a cross between bamboo shoots in appearance, cooked mushrooms in texture and artichokes in taste.  They’re extremely mild but meaty and yet kind of cool and refreshing at the same time and its softness complimented the soft and creamy avocado.  They’re like blank canvases, able to absorb all sorts of different flavours that surround it so it was very cool tasting it for the first time.  How’s that for trying new things all in one day?!

Here’s to another handful of delicious, mouthwatering vegetarian meals at Fresh for the remainder of 2014!

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*****

Fresh currently serves 4 locations in 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)
  4. 90 Eglinton Ave. East (at Dunfield Ave. on Eglinton east of Yonge St.)
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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.