Wine Barrels, Pizza, & Marshmallow-Caramel Desserts – A Photo Spotlight on Eaton Centre’s Trattoria Mercatto, Part I!

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Trattoria Mercatto is located at 220 Yonge Street inside The Eaton Centre on the 3rd floor on the northern, Dundas Street end of the shopping centre.  Specializing in Italian fare and seasonal ingredients, their menu features pasta, antipasti, panini, pizza, Italian desserts, and special weekly menus that shine a spotlight on seasonal, local ingredients.  They serve 3 other locations in Toronto under the Mercatto name (Bay & Adelaide, Toronto Street, and the Mars Discovery District on College Street).  They are open for both lunch and dinner 7 days a week (Monday-Saturday 11:30am-11pm, Sunday 12pm-9pm at the Eaton Centre location).  Click HERE to view their website with menus, upcoming events, catering, news, and more!

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The Vegetarian Sandwich Series – Grilled Panini With Eggplant, Roasted Peppers, Artichokes and More at Fusaro’s Kitchen

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Things have been quiet on the Vegetarian Sandwich series front, so I thought it was definitely time to unleash some veggie goodness back into things!  I have my fellow Icing Sugar Queen at Le Dolci, Miya, to thank for the inspiration behind this post.  Not only have I learned so much about cupcake decorating and design during my time at Le Dolci so far, but Miya and Lisa have also introduced me to some fabulous good eats around the studio!  It’s fun bouncing ideas and recommendations off of one another; I tell Lisa and Miya all about my farmers’ market adventures, they show me another island of vegetarian sandwich paradise. 

When I saw Miya eating her veggie sandwich during lunch one day at the studio, I got curious because it looked so yummy and I asked her where she got her sandwich from.  “Fusaro’s Kitchen”, she replied, between bites.  I was quiet for about a nanosecond before the lightbulb went off and I almost literally face-palmed.  Fusaro’s Kitchen!  I knew where that was!  I had passed by it numerous times on the streetcar and walked past it another handful of times.  It was like deja vu all over again when I finally discovered Mela Cafe in Yorkville over a year ago after being in and around the neighbourhood so many times.  I felt so lame.  But I did what any dedicated foodie would do: I went and ate there.

Fusaro’s Kitchen, located on Spadina Ave. just south of Queen Street West, is an Italian eatery with hot and fresh pizzas, pastas, salads, and panini sandwiches.  I went in and instantly thought, “where have you been all my life?!”  Or rather, where in the world have I been?  Fusaro’s has a giant wall full of Italian grocery items including chocolates, wafer cookies (Quadratinis, my favourites!), sauces, olive oils, balsamics, and more. 

I know I don’t blog about it enough, but god do I ever love pasta.  Pasta is my weakness.  I love it more than rice and bread.  I suppose rice comes in at a close second when it comes to carbs and starches, but pasta makes me really happy.  Spaghetti, lasagna, linguine, macaroni, fettucine, I love it all and I would be a happy clam if I was just given a bowl of spaghtti with nothing but olive oil and herbs.  The pasta lover in me instinctively wanted to down a bowl for lunch, but I quickly remembered why I was there: to stuff my face with a delicious veggie panini.

Fusaro’s has menus dedicated to grilled panini sandwiches, pasta, salads, and dishes such as eggplant, chicken, and veal parmigiana, meatballs, and others.  Prices for pasta come in at around $10-$11, parmigiana and meatball mains at $8.50-$10.50, salads from $4.75-$10, and panini sandwiches from $7.50-$8.  Fusaro’s has two vegetarian sandwich options and I chose menu item number five (cinque), a grilled panini with grilled zucchini and eggplant, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, and goat cheese.  I ordered a side salad ($2.50) to go along with it and waited in excited anticipation for my lunch.  I was so excited like you wouldn’t believe.  I know it’s “just” a sandwich, but I was excited about the veggie toppings (I rarely get to eat artichokes!  And you all know how I feel about things like roasted peppers, spinach, and goat cheese!) and I really believed this panini would be a knockout.

Grilled paninis have been touch and go with me.  They’re either a total hit or a dismal miss.  I love the idea of a grilled sandwich and when it’s executed well, it’s heaven.  When they’re a miss though, often times it’s not necessarily because they don’t taste good or that the flavour isn’t there, it’s because they’re either too small, they don’t have enough substance between the bread, or the topping combinations are ho-hum and nothing to write home about.  Sandwiches of this variety will always range from about $5-$11 depending on where you go, so a fabulous panini has to be bang for my buck and it has to have ingredients worth get excited about, especially when it’s a vegetarian sandwich.  It just doesn’t make sense to eat something with nothing but lettuce and tomato and a few strands of something else.

I loved this sandwich.  This sandwich makes me want to come to Fusaro’s every day of the week.  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating.  But only a little.  For one thing, it wasn’t small.  This was a good-sized sandwich in both length and width, comparatible to a submarine bun from a bakery.  It wasn’t the size of a foot-long, but definitely larger than 6 inches.  I’d say it was closer to 8 inches.  The bread was so crunchy on the outside and so super soft on the inside.  The hallmark of a good sandwich is whether or not you can envision yourself eating the bread alone.  If the bread needs toppings to make it taste good, it means it isn’t.  The bread should make your mouth water all by itself and this bread does. 

And the toppings.  Oh my god.  Vegetarians rejoice.  There was so much going on in this sandwich and it was all amazingly delicious.  It was so stuffed with juicy vegetables and mouthwatering, creamy sauce.  A bed of leafy spinach sat on the bottom with strips of roasted red pepper, chunks of artichoke, eggplant, and zucchini on top with goat cheese wedged throughout.  The sauce was fantastic.  It was a cross between a cream sauce and a mayo and it was delightful.  I would eat this sandwich over and over again in a heartbeat.

Oh, and the salad!  The salad was a simple salad of greens, tomatoes, and cucumber and it was made especially delicious with an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette and I’m telling you, their balsamic is top-notch.  I never used to like balsamic, but after an amazing meal at Southern Accent with a fabulous balsamic reduction and a great balsamic my mum bought, I’ve done a 180 and now I really enjoy it and can appreciate good balsamic.  I was so happy with everything about this meal and I can’t wait to eat here again.  Judging by the crazy line-ups here though, I’m going to have to luck out again next time.

 

*****

Fusaro’s Kitchen is located at 147 Spadina Ave., just south of Queen Street West on the east side of Spadina.  Fusaro’s Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers a breakfast menu 7 days a week.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Me, My Boyfriend, and the Turkey BLT Panini: A Fond Love Story

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Let it be known that this is the only Grad Lounge dish being featured on the blog that has not been “nom, nom, nom”ed by me personally.  Yes, that is right, this panini sandwich has actually never been in my mouth, has never graced my digestive tract.  Not in its entirety anyway.  I know, shocking!  Especially considering this is a permanent menu item available every day.  So, how exactly did I get photos of it?  Easy.  My sweetie of a boyfriend, Richard, orders it all the time when we eat here and I simply go click happy with my camera before he starts eating it.  He humours me.  He drums his fingers on the table, looks out the window, and looks up at me expectantly when I appear to be finished giving the sandwich the red carpet treatment.  Now, I know it seems a bit weird to feature something from The Grad Lounge that I’ve never actually eaten on the blog, but I wanted to put these photos up because 1) if I can show off a menu item I haven’t yet blogged about, I will and 2) there’s a cute story behind this dish.

I mentioned up top that I haven’t eaten this turkey BLT in its entirety.  So obviously if you read between the lines, you gather that I have eaten some segment, some portion of it, if not the whole thing.  And I have.  I have eaten the tomato and the pickle spear.  Oh, and the little dipping mayo sauce.  *laughs*  I’m not kidding.  Richard doesn’t really care for dill pickles or sauce (he likes his food “naked”, hee) and he hates tomatoes with a passion to my dismay.  He basically loves this sandwich because of the other three compenents (namely the bacon, turkey, and romaine lettuce) and happily munches away while I eat his tomatoes and crunch on the delicious dill pickle.  And dip whatever it is that I’m eating (or a few fries off his plate) in the dipping mayo.  I like tomatoes and I looooove dill pickles and sauce so the arrangement, albeit a bit weird, works for us. 

I look back at these memories fondly.  It’s something that doesn’t even need discussion.  I order whatever meal it is that I’m ordering, he orders his sandwich and fries, he picks the tomatoes off and grins at me, I roll my eyes at him, I eat the tomatoes, and at the end of the meal I spear the juicy pickle off his plate.  And we call it a meal.  I may never be able to get my boyfriend to eat tomatoes the way I’ve gotten him to eat other things he previously believed he disliked, but that’s okay.  It makes for some sweet memories.

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The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge’s summer operating hours are from 11:30pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – The Chicken Salad Panini With Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Mayo

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The sun has been shining and it finally seems as though the weather is cooperating and giving us all a giant hug and kiss.  The fall/winter terms at school have ended and summer school has officially started.  And then there’s me, happily relishing in the fact that I finished grad school just a little over a month ago and enjoying all the time that I can for myself.  Having said that, I know it seems weird to see me writing Grad Lounge posts even after I’ve finished school.  The thing is, I’ve had so much fun profiling The Grad Lounge each week that I don’t really want to stop.  And I don’t feel I should have to.  I felt all warm and fuzzy and accomplished when I made my “20-post round-up” last week and it really solidified how special this place has become for me.  The presence of school in my life has no bearing on my ability to eat here, so I will continue to post about the meals here until I have exhausted all options and avenues 😀

I may not be an incredible “bread head” the way my mom, brother, and boyfriend are, but oh how I love grilled sandwiches.  Grilled foccacia, panini buns, ciabatta, whatever; I will eat a grilled sandwich any place, any time.  I love warm grilled bread with grilled vegetables as well as warm sandwiches with a shocking bite of coolness from fresh veggies and dressing.  I’ve been having a lot of fun trying out different breads and vegetarian sandwiches over the past little while and the great vegetarian and vegan sandwich hunt (inspired by my friend Wini) continues. 

So you can say that I was a bit of a sucker when I looked over The Grad Lounge’s daily specials chalkboard menu.  Lucky for me, I am a big fan of sun-dried tomato (plus sun-dried tomato mayo?  Colour me excited!) and I’m always interested in seeing different interpretations of chicken salad, so I took one look at the chicken salad panini menu item and didn’t even need to consider anything else.  Just think, for once I wasn’t completely and annoyingly indecisive about what to eat! 

Although the panini could have been grilled more (I guess I like mine extra toasty?!), the chicken salad dressed in the sun-dried tomato mayo was both creamy and crunchy with chopped celery and peppers mixed into the salad, and some big leaves of romaine lettuce gave an extra bit of fresh crunch to it.  I really loved the sun-dried tomato flavour mixed in.  And you know what the best part was that made the panini extra special?  The sprinkling of parmesan cheese!!  That made me squeal 😀  Along with my juicy dill pickle spear, half serving of salad and half serving of fries (because I wanted both and couldn’t decide, so they humoured me and gave me a little of each, awww).  Yup, it doesn’t take much.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge’s summer operating hours are from 11:30pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.