Yellow Cream Filling, Flowers & Bunnies – Springtime Oreos & the Oreo Anniversary Series, One Year Later!

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I have to say, I have impeccable timing.  Almost a year to the day of Oreo’s 100th Anniversary (March 6, 2012), I stumble on their gorgeous, bright, happy and cheerful, brand spankin’ new springtime Oreos!  Yes, springtime Oreos!  Adorned with butterflies, flowers, bumblebees, smiling suns, and frogs and lily pads on the cookies on the outside and special yellow cream filling on the inside.  Yellow, one of my favourite colours.  Yellow, the sunny colour that makes me happy.  And now the colour of a special edition Oreo filling.  Sigh.  This makes me happy.

I don’t know if these special seasonal, springtime treats are released every year or not but they’re certainly brand new and shiny to me and I LOVE THEM.  Even though I know there are folks who moan and groan about special edition items and dislike the concept of releasing things that aren’t permanent or readily available (trust me, I’ve grumbled over my fair share of special edition items that were out of my reach in my time), stuff like this is just pure fun and happiness.

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And where did I find this bundle of yummy sunshine?  At Uncle John’s Candy Shack on Mount Pleasant Road, one of my favourite candy shops and speciality stories in the city!  It’s been a very long time since I last posted photos from the shop (almost two years!) and I really missed just popping into the store every once in awhile to see what new goodies were ripe for the picking.  I missed scoping out the flavoured Kit-Kats and M&Ms and ogling the collectible tins so I finally told myself to stop beating around the bush and just GO.  So I did, 2 weekends ago.  And I was rewarded.  With Oreos!  And you know, St. Patrick’s Day themed candies and merchandise, cute-as-a-button Easter sweets, and pastels.  Lots and lots of pastels!

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To be clear though, these Oreos are for novelty.  They don’t taste any different from regular Oreos; they’re just etched with cute designs and filled with a sunny yellow cream filling (can you imagine if the filling tasted like banana or lemon?!  Hmmm, something to chew on…).  I don’t care though.  I love the way regular Oreos taste and these are such a treat to me because I always feel like we get the short end of the stick north of the border.  I was crestfallen when I couldn’t find the special Christmas Oreos with the red cream filling and Santa etched on the cookies; they were so cute.  So this is kind of like an Oreo redemption.  I’d say there are about 36 cookies in the package (I haven’t taken the whole cookie tray out to count) and they’re $4.99 a pop.  Oreo lovers unite!

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*****

Uncle John’s Candy Shack is located at 635 Mount Pleasant Rd. in between Eglinton and Davisville Ave.

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Vegetarian Brunch Crêpes, Mushrooms, & Goat Cheese – Lazy Summer Sunday Brunch Mornings at Simple Bistro, Part I

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You’re strolling down the street feeling the light morning breeze through your hair and the warm sun gently beaming down on you.  It’s peaceful, it’s relaxing, and you look forward to what the day will bring as you pass by sweet bakeries, cafes, and gift shops.  And then you reach your dining destination.  You’re here, you’re hungry, and you’re ready to sit back and enjoy a delicious meal.  Ah, there’s nothing like a lazy Sunday summer morning brunch on Mount Pleasant Rd. 

Sunday brunch (or weekend brunch in general for that matter) is, in my opinion, one of life’s most luxurious treats and one of my favourite things in life to enjoy in the company of friends, my sweetheart, and nice people.  Aside from afternoon tea, it’s my favourite type of meal and food occasion.  There’s a certain air of tranquility and freshness about weekend brunch that makes it so special.  Different menus, different atmosphere – it’s all in the little things.  It’s a time to slow things down, to savour all the sights, tastes, and aromas, and to soak in every precious moment.  Our lives are so full of hustle and bustle every day what with work, school, home, family, friends, children; weekend brunch affords us that little nugget of time to do something fun and out of the ordinary and everyday.  And Simple Bistro on Mount Pleasant Rd. is one of the many weekend brunch spots in the city that make the weekends feel extra special.

Simple Bistro is the quinessential sweet and simple French cafe.  It’s small, quaint, and intimate, with sweet vases of flowers on every table and a hefty wine list to boot.  In addition to weekend brunch, they serve lunch from Wednesday to Friday from 11:30am-2:30pm, and dinner daily from 5:30pm-10pm.  Brunch is the highlight for me though.  Because of the bistro’s fold out ceiling to floor front windows, weekend brunch is made all the more fabulous with fresh air, gentle breezes, and soft sunlight filtering in.  Simple Bistro and summer work beautifully together and I took it upon myself to experience this lovely treat on a gorgeous Sunday morning. 

Known for its fresh and simple French cuisine, Simple Bistro offers a weekend brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays, serving a mix of both French classics and brunch staples with the majority of main dishes priced from $11-$16.  Here you’ll find the popular Croque Monsieur grilled sandwich served with bechamel on the side, the classic Vichyssoise creamy soup of leek and potato, heirloom tomato salad, duck confit hash, French toast with blueberry compote, and my pick for the morning, Crêpe aux Champignons! 

Simple’s mushroom “crepe of champions” (I know it doesn’t actually mean champions, but it looks like it and it might as well be because it’s so yummy) ($14) incorporates soft scrambled eggs, spinach, leek, sauteed mushrooms, and goat cheese, all encased in big egg sheet crepe folded over top.  A number of brunch items include frites on the side, but I lucked out and had spring mix green salad tossed with a light vinaigrette as a side to my mouthwatering vegetarian crepe.

Their Crêpe aux Champignons brunch dish is wonderful in so many ways.  Let it be known that this crepe was chosen waaaay advance of this first visit.  Being the excited day planner, meal planner, and foodie that I am, I had previously looked Simple Bistro up online and perused through their weekend brunch menu first.  Because their menu is sweet and simple (one page!), it was so much less difficult for me to narrow down my choices.  It was between the French toast with blueberry compote, the heirloom tomato salad, and the Crêpe aux Champignons and the crepe dish held on to win this round because my weakness for spinach, goat cheese, and mushrooms got the best of me. 

First off, the crepe is huuuge.  Folded over, it covers half an entire large dinner plate.  Second, it is stuffed.  The crepe was so fat and plump the warm spinach, melted goat cheese, leeks, soft, slightly runny scrambled eggs with herbs, and shittake mushrooms were brimming out of it when I cut the crepe open and lifted up part of the top half to snap a few photos.  This was no flimsy, flat crepe.  Now I know we’d all expect the best from a French bistro type of establishment but if something is poorly made or executed, it is what it is.        

And finally, the yumminess.  Oh my lordy.  I think I murmured, “this is so good!” about 10 times throughout the entire meal.  The spinach was perfectly cooked (not overdone and mushy), the scrambled eggs were done just the way I loved them (silky and slightly runny), and the mushrooms were divine.  They were so flavourful, juicy, and plump and the entire crepe just screamed with creaminess, savouriness, and warmth.  It was such a happy, spring-like meal.  The crepe itself was beautiful; a sunny yellow egg sheet that wasn’t the least bit dry and it reminded me of Japanese tamago a little bit, only obviously much thinner.  I loved it not only because it was scrumptious but also because it was easy on the palate and on the stomach.  You’d think a crepe of this size would leave me keeled over in a food coma but it was surprisingly airy and light and it left me feeling so good and satisfied afterward.     

No meal for me is quite complete without a little something sweet though, so the story isn’t over just yet!  Tomorrow I’ll be featuring a special summer dessert from Simple Bistro – in a jar!  My first brunch here was wonderful and judging by the people who also came by for some brunch love right when they opened their doors/windows at 11am, it’s a well-loved neighbourhood spot that is truly a gem in the Mount Pleasant area.

*****

Simple Bistro is located at 618 Mount Pleasant Rd between Eglinton Ave. East and Davisville Ave. in Mount Pleasant Village.  They serve lunch from Wednesday-Friday from 11:30am-2:30pm, dinner daily from 5:30pm-10pm, and weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-2:30pm.  Click HERE for more info and to view their menus.

The Sushi Lunch Special Series – Shrimp Tempura & Spicy BBQ Butter Fish Rolls at Sakae Sushi on Mount Pleasant!

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It must be the week of new foodie districts on the blog!  Earlier in the week we paid our very first visit to Fresh on Crawford, yesterday and the day before we explored a tiny part of Ossington Ave. and Ossington Village with an amazing Cuabn lunch at Delux, and today, we’re doing sushi for lunch on Mount Pleasant Road!  Aside from my cupcake post on Lollicakes last Hallowe’en, I haven’t featured any yummies from the neighbourhood since.  There are some fabulous cafes, sweet shops, gourmet food purveyors, and classic Italian restaurants in the area and while you wouldn’t automatically associate sushi with Mount Pleasant, I have found a great spot, one with a terrific sushi roll lunch special and a classic appetizer at a great price: Sakae Sushi!

Located at 643A on Mount Pleasant Rd., Sakae Sushi is an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant that serves both lunch and dinner with a separate, non AYCE menu.  I actually found out about Sakae Sushi just by walking by and grabbing a take-out menu from the front entrance during a nice walk several months ago.  I pored over the menu, realized they had a fab sushi roll lunch special 7 days a week, and had an epiphany about something very important and useful.  I realized that with all the sushi take-out menus I had I could actually start price comparing and cross-referencing items from different sushi spots in the city.       

We know many of them serve some of the same types of rolls and similar dishes, but how many of us truly know where the best bargain is between them all?  I don’t think any of do because it’s virtually impossible to know the price points at every single sushi spot in town.  But I know my method would at least narrow things down a little bit.  And that’s how I came to the conclusion that, in addition to a great sushi roll lunch special, Sakae Sushi has one of the most reasonably priced classic appetizers around.  It may not be the most inexpensive, but it’s definitely one of them.  Which appetizer am I referring to?  Why, the classic shrimp tempura of course!

Shrimp tempura, one of the simplest and most beloved sushi appetizers around, is oddly enough, not as readily available as one might think.  Now obviously we’re not taking into account AYCE menus, we’re talking straight lunch, dinner, and a la carte menus.  I LOVE shrimp tempura like nobody’s business, but so many places serve it along with tempura vegetables and not on their own and I always wished that I could order the shrimp by itself without the vegetable component just because I prefer my vegetables non-tempurafied.

Once I started cross-referencing items between menus, I discovered that there were a handful of places that served the appetizer on it own.  YES!  Now, all I had to do was figure out which one offered the best deal.  Guess who came out on top?  Sakae Sushi, with 5 giant, crunchy, delicious shrimp tempura for $6.50!  Other places priced theirs for $8, some places didn’t offer as many pieces for the same price point, and so on.  Their shrimp tempura is fantastic.  They’re big, they’re perfectly fried (not greasy), and the shrimp is so soft and delicious.  They come with a dish of ponzu sauce, but in all honesty, the sauce isn’t even necessary because they taste fab on their own.

Sakae Sushi also offers a number of lunch specials including grilled meat bento boxes and my favourite, sushi roll combos!  One of the reasons why I like their sushi roll lunch special is because I get to mix and match and choose which rolls I want.  For $7.50, the lunch special includes a miso soup, a salad, and your choice of two kinds of sushi rolls from a list of 13 with 6 of each kind.  Sure, there are places that offer sushi roll lunch specials for $6.50 or $6.99, but like I said, the roll sets aren’t predetermined and the sizes of the rolls here are big and very reasonable.  As well, their sushi roll selection is great in my opinion because they offer vegetarian options, you aren’t limited to california rolls in every single combo (my biggest pet peeve), and there are some rolls you can’t really get anywhere else.

I chose a tofu and avocado roll and – wait for this – a SPICY BBQ BUTTER FISH ROLL!  I was SO excited to see this when I looked through their take-out menu in the beginning just because butter fish rolls aren’t something you find at many places and certainly not spicy BBQ varieties!  I was really happy with the size of the rolls (one roll makes a veeery decent mouthful) and my rolls were delicious.  The avocado was creamy, the tofu was savoury with a bit of sweet mixed in and the texture was wonderful as it resembled bean curd sheets. 

The spicy BBQ butter fish rolls were A-MAZING!  The butter fish wasn’t in its raw sashimi form but instead, grilled and incredibly flaky and meaty and delicious.  Exactly like a grilled salmon fillet, but butter fish.  The rolls were stuffed with flaky grilled fish, tempura bits, and sweet and savoury BBQ sauce in between it all.  It had a little bit of kick, but for those of you who have a low tolerance for heat, no worries, it’s not light-my-mouth-and-butt on fire spicy.  Lots of flavour and texture without the fire!  This is a top notch roll and definitely one of the more unique ones in the city when it comes to lunch special offerings.

Ever since Haru Zushi by Yonge & Davisville left my heart broken when they packed up, I haven’t been able to find another sushi spot that let me mix and match rolls the way their menu allowed me to do – until now.  Sakae Sushi is a lovely spot in a lovely neighbourhood and I’m going to be really happy going back for more.  Especially for that awesome shrimp tempura. 

*****

Sakae Sushi is located at 643A Mount Pleasant Rd. at the corner of Hillsdale Ave. East on the east side of Mount Pleasant, south of Eglinton Ave. East.  They are open 7 days a week for both lunch and dinner and offer AYCE for both.  They are open from 11:30am-10pm from Monday to Friday and from 12 noon-10pm on weekends.  They provide take-out and delivery, and you can view their official website HERE.