A Look at This Summer’s First Tasty Thursday at Nathan Phillips Square – Channa and Rice!

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As much as I would love to go to Tasty Thursday tomorrow, there is just no way I can.  Tomorrow is expected to be the hottest day of the summer and even though I love my food, even I have limits!  I don’t know how many Tasty Thursdays I’ll be able to attend this summer, but rest assured I’ll make the effort to eat my way through one or two more.  Last Thursday kicked off the first Tasty Thursday of the summer at Nathan Phillips Square and I have the goods to show you all!  I took a bunch of photos of the outdoor food fest’s first day last week and it was great seeing this foodie event get off to such a busy, bustling start.  By 11:30am, there were lines curving around the picnic tables!  I got to Nathan Phillips Square at 11am sharp and got to work snapping pictures and eating 😀

I wasn’t sure what the arrangement would be this year.  Would all of the participating restaurants be there every week?  Would they take turns?  Not all of the participating vendors were present last Thursday, so I’m assuming this just means that the vendors are operating on a rotating basis where some will be there every other week, as opposed to every week, during the duration of the event.  If you’re dead set on grabbing lunch from one particular vendor, this set-up may not make it easier for you, but I actually really like it as it ensures that there’s a different combination of eats every week.  It was really fun jogging from booth to booth seeing the metal trays and bowls being filled with food, snapping photos of said mountains of food (a thank you to everyone who let me snap away!), and hearing the sizzling sounds of grills being fired up. 

There were Caribbean jerk chicken sandwiches, Chinese pork and beef ball skewers, dumplings, Thai mango salad and vegetarian pad thai, Indian butter chicken, and a host of other dishes.  If you’re looking for vegetarian options there are certainly a number of meals to choose from, but I’d say that the options might feel a bit limited depending on which vendors are there during a particular week.  Most of the vendors have one or two vegetarian options, so even though the choices aren’t exactly endless, I’d give the event a look-see regardless.  I sure enjoyed my vegetarian meal of channa and rice last week and I’m curious to see what the other restaurants have to offer.  I’ll definitely write out a list of veggie options and report back the next time I go.

I know with so many options it can feel a little overwhelming, but after giving the vendors a quick once-over, you start narrowing down your choices really quickly.  It boils down to what you feel like at that moment and how hungry you are and for me, these feelings change on a regular basis so I never rule out a specific vendor for the entire summer.  So, onto my process of elimination!  I rarely eat burgers now, so I automatically eliminated that route.  I didn’t feel like anything particularly meaty, so I passed on the Caribbean jerk meat and the Greek souvlaki, pork, and gyros.  My tummy wasn’t craving anything  Chinese or Thai that day and although the Peruvian food was calling my name, I wanted to try something I hadn’t already tried last summer.  After some careful consideration and a lot of running back and forth between vendors, I chose the channa and rice meal with salad from Kathmandu’s as my first Tasty Thursday meal of the summer.  And I’m really glad I did!

Their channa and rice meal was priced at $5 and I got bang for my buck with this one!  I was given a large square container with basmati rice, a green salad with lettuce, cucumber, carrots, and green bell pepper, and heaping spoonfuls of hot chickpeas smothered in sauce that tasted like a mixture of tomato, cream, and spices.  I’m not sure what the combination of spices were in the channa, but I’ll find out the next time I go.  The channa wasn’t overly spicy and the level of heat was perfect.  There was just enough kick to make it really yummy and even my brother, who has a low tolerance for spicy food, really liked it when I gave him some to try.  I really wouldn’t worry about the spiciness with this meal as they give you plenty of rice and salad to tame the existing heat and to mop up any extra sauce.  The chickpeas were tender, the rice was soft and fluffy, and I even thoroughly enjoyed my salad (I know, it’s just salad!) which was fresh and crunchy.

Even though I lamented at the fact that they raised the maximum price point for certain items from $5 to $7 this summer, this was definitely a great kick-off and I’m really looking forward to trying out a bunch of other dishes!

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Nathan Phillips Square is located at 100 Queen St. West at the intersection of Queen and Bay St.  Tasty Thursdays takes place every Thursday from 11am-2pm from July 14th-September 1st, 2011.  All food items are $7 or less.  For more information on which restaurants and vendors are participating this summer, click here.

A Sneak Peek at Fresh Wednesdays at Nathan Phillips Square!

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I’m so excited because tomorrow is the kick off of Nathan Phillips Square’s Fresh Wednesdays outdoor farmers’ market on Queen St. West!  I hope you all liked the photos I posted from Trinity Bellwoods last week of my first farmers’ market trip of the summer.  I’m going to make it my goal to attend at least one farmers’ market each week (at least for the summer anyway) and to show you all the goods!  I went to Nathan Phillips Square’s Fresh Wednesdays last summer and had such a great time looking at all the fresh fruit and vegetables, taking photos, soaking in the hustle and bustle, and trying out some new eats like gooseberries! 😀  They have everything from fresh produce to bread and baked goods to food vendors firing up corn on the cob, potato pancakes, and pulled pork sandwiches! 

Nathan Phillips Square and its surrounding area, located at the intersection of Bay St. and Queen St. W., holds a very special place in my heart.  I know this blog showcases all of my foodie adventures around the city and my exploration walks and everything, but my life hasn’t always revolved around these activities.  Having moved to Markham from Scarborough at 13, I never used to spend time in the city until my very late teens and early twenties, not because I didn’t have an interest, but mainly because I had overprotective parents and also because university undergrad just didn’t allow me that kind of time to devote to exploration at that capacity. 

When I did begin spending more time downtown, I would always stick myself around the Eaton Centre area.  It just made sense at the time given how I would take the GO to and from Union Station.  It was my “home base” so to speak, an area in which I felt comfortable and an area in which I could always get my bearings.  From there, I would push myself to get out of this comfort zone, to get to know different neighbourhoods, and to extend further into more unfamiliar areas.  Thus, in the beginning, Bay St. and Nathan Phillips Square was my downtown “home” and till this day, it still feels like a home.  I have great memories of branching out and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy knowing I’ve grown and learned so much from these experiences.  I hope you all enjoy these photos from last summer’s Fresh Wednesdays and I’ll have a fresh batch for you tomorrow!  It’s going to be a gorgeous day out, so go out and enjoy it if you can because I sure am 😀

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Nathan Phillips Square is located at 100 Queen St. West at the intersection of Queen and Bay St.  Fresh Wednesdays is an outdoor farmers’ market that runs on the grounds every Wednesday from 10am-2pm from June 1st to October 19th, excluding September 28th.