Frittata Sandwiches, Edamame with Avocado & Arugula Salads – Fresh Flavours & Fall Comfort at Yorkville Espresso Bar

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This fall is shaping up to be an amazing season so far.  I’ve done some baking, I’ve got my blogging back on, and I can’t even begin to describe how freakin’ excited I am for Thanksgiving this year!  The quintessential “day of turkey” is one week away and I’ve spent most of the weekend sticky-noting recipes and planning the menu for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, not to mention packing as much foodie goodness as I can into the holiday weekend with my boyfriend, family and friends.

While I do have pumpkins and apples (cooked and baked because of my raw fruit allergy!) and squash on the brain, part of me knows it’s still waaaay too early to be in full comfort food mode.  We have plenty of time for that in the dreaded “w” word in the coming months!  Fall food is so inviting because it incorporates both cozy comfort with bright and fresh flavours: fruit and veg soups, bean and vegetable salads with comforting herbs, fruity vinaigrettes and dressings, and tender meats with root vegetables and juicy cooked fruit.  I love how the weather is cool but still pleasantly balmy on days and how I can still enjoy the lighter fare without sweating to death and hiding from the fierce sun like I do during the summer!

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Which brings me to a teeny confession I have to make: this post and these photos were supposed to be on Ate by Ate over a month ago.  Possibly even 2 months ago.  But life happened and this post just never did.  Long story short, Yorkville Espresso Bar owners Rita and Tony invited me to the cafe for return visit to share a meal, to watch chef John Vetere cook and work his magic on the cafe’s many delicious menu items in the kitchen studio, to try some of the cafe’s various gluten-free bakery items from coffee and baking master Drew Randall and to basically talk food, blogging and community.  It was such a fun day and it was such a cool experience seeing the cafe menu items that make us drool come to life right before my eyes.  These photos were taken at Yorkville Espresso Bar during the summer and part of me worried that I wouldn’t be able to make them relevant for fall.  Thankfully for me, their food is just as perfect for fall as it is for summer and I’m just happy I finally get to share with you guys!

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Yorkville Espresso Bar has introduced a number of different breakfast and lunch foods to their ever-expanding menu: frittata sandwiches oozing with eggs, herbs, veggies and cheese (oh and ham!), scrumptious wraps with creamy cheese and fresh vegetables, and a plethora of hearty but bright salads.  Aside from how yummy everything is, what makes the food so enticing to me is the price point.  Being located in Yorkville doesn’t exactly give you the reputation of being inexpensive.  Let’s face it, Yorkville isn’t known as Mink Mile for nothing; its poshness extends to the dining scene too.  But Yorkville Espresso Bar has made their dishes and food so accessible by making it healthy, fresh and affordable.  You have the frittata sandwiches and salads coming in at $4 and $4.50 respectively (under $5!) and their ginourmous wraps and artisan bread sandwiches coming in under $10 at $8.

Their food menu is a reflection of what folks in and around the community have asked for; Rita and Tony and their staff have taken so much of everyone’s feedback to heart and have put an enormous amount of thought and care into their menu, offering healthy food that isn’t run of the mill (nobody needs a limp lettuce and tomato salad that was packaged the day before thank you very much), made the morning of, and perfect for both dine-in and grab-and-go for the work crowd.  Their food menu includes herb roasted chicken wraps with crunchy celery and sunflower seeds, Thai tuna with basmati rice, and shaved carrots dressed in chili sauce, Italian meatball and mozzarella and rapini on toasted artisan bread and even Trinidadian doubles among other savouries alongside the mountain of baked goods and gluten-free items such as biscotti, muffins, pastries, tarts, scones, brownies, loaf cakes, macarons and more.

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What we have here are toasted and grilled English muffin frittata sandwiches stuffed with eggs, mozzarella, provolone and basil along with ham and cheese sandwiches, grilled sun-dried tomato wraps stuffed with creamy goat cheese, roasted red peppers, zucchini, eggplant, greens and mushrooms and two amazing, fantastic salads: white beans infused with fresh sprigs of rosemary with edamame, avocado and red onion vinaigrette and an artichoke salad with grape tomatoes, olives, arugula, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finished with a red wine vinaigrette.  I love English muffin sandwiches like nobody’s business.  At home, I toast English muffins and eat them with cream cheese and nothing else at times.  Yorkville Espresso Bar does a special daily frittata sandwich each morning and on this day my tastebuds were treated to two of my favourite things enveloped in eggs: cheese and basil.  It makes my stomach growl just thinking about it.

Next, we have the sun-dried tomato wrap.  This thing is HUGE.  I was watching chef John make it while I was taking photos in the Kitchen Studio and I was all bug-eyed when I saw the size of tortilla he was using!  For those who loooove grilled wraps and vegetarian sandwiches, you need this in your life.  The goat cheese and eggplant totally do it for me and it’s just gorgeous to look at.  It is a thing of beauty and so soft and flavourful with a hint of smokiness from the grilled vegetables and grilled tortilla wrap.

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Finally, the salads.  The scrumptious, mouthwatering salads.  They are perfect as an accompaniment to the sandwiches but also just as perfect on their own.  They are truly top-notch and for $4.50…you really can’t ask for more.  I watched as Chef John cooked the soaked white beans, infusing them with warm rosemary flavour in a giant pot of boiling water with onions and brightening them at the same time with crunchy edamame and soft, creamy avocado in the finished product.  It’s a beautiful fusion of warmth and comfort with lightness and it’s definitely a winning combination you don’t find at other places.  To finish off: the arugula and artichoke salad.  I love arugula so much and the red wine vinaigrette that the salad was tossed in was delicious.  The tomatoes in the salad balance out the briny flavour of the olives and artichokes and peppery bite of the arugula, and parm just elevates the savouriness to another level.  These are the types of salads I always wish for because their hearty with substance but still light and fresh in flavour.

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The menu and the people here make the espresso bar such an inviting place for coffee, tea and lunch and I feel so lucky to have been able to enjoy the food and learn about it at the same time, watching Chef John make the food from start to finish and getting to know the people and the cafe from the inside out.  Rita and Tony made me feel just like family.  It’s almost the first anniversary of my first visit (October 21!) and I think it’s high time I went back again to try even more of their delicious menu.

*****

Yorkville Espresso Bar is located at 3 Yorkville Ave., just west of Yonge Street and north of Cumberland St.  They are open 7 days a week from 7:30am-7pm Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm Saturday, and 9am-5pm Sunday.

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Scones & Strawberry Marshmallow Macarons – Afternoon Tea Treats on a Fall Morning at Yorkville Espresso Bar

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Ste. Anne’s coconut black tea at Yorkville Espresso Bar!

An espresso bar and cafe with amazing tea, delicious scones, and adorable macarons among other afternoon tea-style sweets and treats?  In the picturesque neighbourhood of Yorkville?  That’s a cafe after my own heart!  Yorkville Espresso Bar, located at 3 Yorkville Ave. just west of Yonge Street near the Toronto reference library and just steps away from the Cookbook Store and my beloved Italian-vegetarian Mela Cafe, is a new cafe that just opened up last year and after my very first visit, I think it’s a wonderful and splenderific addition to the neighbourhood.  Brunch, vegetarian, Mexican, ice cream, macarons, Italian, Middle-Eastern, pub classics, and now a new espresso bar and cafe – aside from Kensington Market, Yorkville is truly my ideal place to eat to my heart’s content.

The pretty Yorkville park nearby

I know, there are plenty of cafes in the area including Lettieri and Zaza, not to mention around the city in general, so what makes this space so great?  The thing about cafes is that they have to offer something different, something a little more unique in order to stand out from the others.  Because let’s face it, it’s not like we have to go very far to fetch an Americano, a cappuccino, or an espresso and while yes, every cafe will have their own way of making these drinks, it’s the atmosphere and the food goodies that accompany these drinks that will make us foodies feel compelled to come back for more.  Some cafes offer the comfort factor with plushy seats to relax in while you read, sip, munch, or type away on a laptop (or a tablet, sigh), others are great as meeting spots for friends, and then the are the ones that are fabulous purely for the food and drink.  THIS would be Yorkville Espresso Bar’s forte.

It’s a small space so you wouldn’t necessarily see large groups inhabiting it, but it is cozy enough for you to sit down with a friend and a coffee, tea, and light meal or snack.  And let me just say, Yorkville Espresso Bar is awesomesauce in the food and goodies department.  There is something here for everyone: the sweet tooth, the vegetarian, the gluten-intolerant, and the just plain hungry!  Often times I’ll shy away from certain spots, not because I think their drinks are bad persay, but because I want something a little more special than baked goods wrapped in saran wrap in a basket or baked goods that look as though they just got a shot of steroids and a bath in grease.  That could be the food snob in me tsking but really, it’s unappealing and I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way!

Yorkville Espresso Bar is great though because their selection of food and sweets changes on a pretty consistent basis (from what I gather on their Facebook page where they announce menu items for the day), they’re always coming up with new and unique yummies to showcase, they offer a number of gluten-free menu items (see below in the next few paragraphs for examples!), and you know everything is fresh and hot off the press because the adjoining kitchen studio that handles the baking, cooking, and catering for the espresso bar doles them out throughout the day.  They were already baking their 2nd round of scones at 10am on a Sunday morning because they sold out of their 1st round.   Can you believe it?!

Oh!  And I can’t forget about their tea!  I honking LOVE the tea.  They get their teas from Ste. Anne’s (Ste. Anne’s Extraordinary Teas), which is actually a spa located in several spots in Ontario (Grafton and Port Hope) and the whole concept behind the tea is driven by the relaxing spa experience.  I had their black tea coconut tea with my cinnamon scone and strawberry marshmallow macaron (I KNOW – MARSHMALLOW!) and I loved it to itty bitty pieces.

Their food menu is insane.  Let’s start with the savoury, gluten-free muffins first.  These are items that have graced their display case of goodies over the last few months:

  • sweet potato chocolate chip muffins
  • sweet potato and cranberry muffins
  • carrot and beetroot muffins
  • blueberry flaxseed muffins
  • gluten-free, vegan chocolate zucchini muffins!

Other savoury bites include jalapeno cornbread, brioche with dates, Parmesan, and thyme, 8-year old cheddar and chive scones, and bacon and thyme scones.  Okay, now the sweet stuff including cupcakes, gluten-free sweet muffins, sweet scones, chocolate and confectionery, and more:

  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mango and Nutella frosting and dried mango
  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mango buttercream frosting
  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mocha buttercream frosting
  • mini chocolate berry cheesecake cupcakes

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The Goodness of Food at The Depanneur – April Supper Clubs, Drop-In Dinners, and Grilled Cheese Month!

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Never a dull food moment!

Easter weekend has come and gone for another year and while mine was rather uneventful and forgettable, I hope everyone who celebrated had a wonderful time with their family and friends eating treats, dyeing eggs, baking, hunting for eggs, and cooing at cute bunny things!  Given how lackluster my weekend was though, I’m looking forward to the rest of the month and that means getting my grilled cheese on!  Now that everyone’s bellies are happy and full of chocolate eggs and bunnies, marshmallows, and Easter dinner, it’s time to bring on the grilled cheese for the month of April in honour of National Grilled Cheese Month.  I’ve been having ridiculous havarti and cheddar cheese cravings lately and I desparately need to satiate them with some ooy gooey crunchy sandwiches this month. 

Aside from Cheesewerks on Wellington and Bathurst, Grilled Cheese in Kensington Market, The Construction Site at Yonge and Eglinton, Leslieville Cheese Market on Queen East and West, and Cool Hand Luc on King West, The Depanneur (at College and Dufferin) is yet another wonderful spot you can go to to satisfy those grilled cheese cravings!  While my last and latest visit didn’t involve any grilled cheeses, I’m here to remind everyone that The Depanneur normally serves two kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches every day for lunch (except Mondays because they’re closed), using plenty of ingredients from local farms and businesses and fresh baked bread from local bakeries such as Nice Buns and St. John’s.

A sneak peek of tomorrow's post!

The grilled cheese menu selection ($4 for a half, $7 for a whole, tax inclusive) could be a mozzarella with peameal bacon on raisin walnut bread, a cheddar sandwich with arugula pesto on sourdough, or a cheddar and sauteed mushroom mix.  I’ve been enjoying their breakfast sandwiches thus far, so regardless of whether I get around to having a grilled cheese from The Depanneur this month, I’m just excited to try one at some point in time!

This month also brings a whole slew of upcoming Drop-In Dinners ($10) and Supper Club events!  If you’ve been keeping up with the The Depanneur’s Food Events in the Food Calendar, you’ll have noticed that Len and his team have been churning out some amazing, creative events: evenings of vegetarian and vegan Mexican and Jamaican, a black and white coloured themed supper club dinner, Nonya and Malaysian cuisine, Cuban flavour, and meat-centric ribs, sliders, and pork meals.  I love, love, LOVE how creative and all-encompassing these supper clubs and drop-in dinners are.  You have meals that cater to meat-lovers, you have ones that are vegetarian and vegan up and down, you have an emphasis on soups, on grains, on dessert, everything could possibly want and think of.  Trust that when I live in the thick of Toronto in the future, I will be at these events!

April Supper Clubs and Drop-In Dinners – I’ll be adding these to the Food Calendar with full descriptions as they come!

  • Sunday, April 21st – A Mexican Culinary Affair With Chef Natalie Ryan (Supper Club)
  • Monday, April 22nd – Vegetarian Eritrean (African) Dinner With Live Music & Coffee Ceremony (Supper Club)
  • Friday, April 27th – Homemade Popovers and Soup (Drop-In Dinner)
  • Sunday, April 29th – Island Fever!  Spicy I-tal Vegan Dinner With Kalmplex

*****

The Depannuer is located at 1033 College Street between Dovercourt Rd. and Dufferin Street.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays) with a number of cooking classes, food workshops, drop-in dinners, and supper clubs throughout the month, which you can keep up with on the Food Calendar or on their Twitter @TheDepanneur.  You can view The Depannuer’s Facebook page here.

Friends & Great Breakfast Food – Salmon Sandwiches, Home Fries, & Vanilla Milkshakes at T&T Bakery & Cafe

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Going to T&T Bakery & Cafe for breakfast turned into a holiday and winter tradition for myself and my friends several years ago when we gathered together for a meal to catch up with each other’s lives.  Since then, we’ve done coffee shops here and there when an early morning T&T breakfast wasn’t an option, but in total, T&T has made its way into our holiday and winter memories for three years and I find myself looking forward to every breakfast meal here during the gray winter months.  Like Winterlicious, it’s a beacon of light. 

I can eat breakfast here at any time and at any point in the year, but I love coming here during the winter the most.  Located on Main Street Markham, coming here with a little bit of snow and chill in the air feels quaint, magical almost.  T&T may not have pages and pages of menu items, but it’s the wholesome goodness and simplicity (not to mention fabulous portions!) that keeps me coming back for more.

T&T’s turkey pot pie, Christmas shortbread cookies, and crunchy, ooey gooey grilled cheese with veggies were both introduced on the blog last year and today, I’m finally read to post and write about some of their famous breakfast dishes!  Breakfast was actually what drew me in and what made me fall in love with the cozy smalltown cafe and bakery and judging by the crowds, I’m not the only one who adores their breakfasts and baked goods.  There are seven permanent, everyday breakfast dishes on their menu ($5.09-$6.87): 1) 2 poached eggs, bacon, home fries, toast, and beans; 2) 2 fried eggs, bacon, homenfries, and toast; 3) Peameal bacon on a bun; 4) French toast with bacon; 5) Pancakes with bacon; 6) Blueberry pancakes with bacon; 7) Waffle with strawberries, whipped cream, and bacon.  As you can tell, bacon is the name of the game at T&T and this is perfect for the MANY bacon lovers and fanatics out there and you know who you are!

I'm having a blast with my food up top!

Even though I haven’t blogged about their breakfast until now, trust me when I say that I’ve had their breakfast four times on four different occasions.  Where are all the photos?!  Well, I have two sets for you all today and tomorrow and the other two sets won’t be making it to the blog because 1) I didn’t take photos of one of them (shocking, I know!  It was years ago, before I started doing food photography full-time, and 2) the other meal was taken with my camera flash on and although the photo was okay a number of years ago for a photo album on my bookshelf, it’s not something I’d use as the main attraction.  Not to worry though, I see myself cycling through the breakfast menu eventually so the two meals I had from before will be eaten again in due time!

First up: home fries and a salmon salad sandwich!  Okay, so the salmon salad sandwich is actually part of the sandwich menu and not the breakfast menu, but what’s great about T&T is that you can order a sandwich any time you want!  The best thing about T&T sandwiches is the crispness and freshness of ingredients and the generous portions and fillings.  Sandwiches are super thick, simple, and delicious and prices range from $3.55-$5.19.  Their sandwiches aren’t exclusive to lunch and/or dinner hours and since I’ll eat a sandwich at any old hour, I had myself a salmon salad one.

It reminded me of my university days during the 2nd year of my undergrad when I used to order a salmon salad bagel sandwich with pickles for my early morning Children’s Literature class at the nearby coffee shop.  One of my friends used to roll his eyes and snicker at me whenever I brought my “weekly” sandwich into class; I swear it’s not as disgusting as it sounds!  This one was sans the pickles though.  Mine was a thick sandwich stuffed to the nines with salmon salad with some lettuce and tomato with a generous side of my favourite home fries!

Their home fries are what I look forward to the most when I’m here and I love that I can order a side of them for $2-$3 and get a plate of delicious crispy-on-the-outside, moist-and-tender-on-the-inside potato coins that are exactly like scalloped potatoes.  It’s great for sharing among friends and they are just the best because they’re not overcooked, overseasoned, or dry.  Some home fries, although great, need a little sauce or a little something to go with them.  Not these.  These are perfect the way they are because they maintain their starchy meatiness while at the same time tasting tender and soft.  They are so delicious and between friends, incredibly easy to scarf down!

And finally, no meal is complete with something to wash it all down so in addition to my favourite homefries, I ordered another one of my favourites: a milkshake!  Aside from King’s Cafe, T&T makes my favourite milkshakes because they’re so creamy and sweet with just the right amount of thickness to it.  A runny, diluted milkshake is gross while a milkshake that is too thick ends up being goopy and undrinkable (you might as well just give me a spoon for it because it ain’t going anywhere in a straw!), and I’m delighted to say that T&T’s milkshakes are neither. 

They come in the neapolitan flavours of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ($2.38) and so far I’ve had their chocolate and vanilla and I love them both.  Although some may not care for the styrofoam cup, I know many will appreciate the tallness of it.  They serve giant milkshakes that are deliciously sweet and they give the cafe that hometown diner feel that everyone feels so comfortable in.

 

*****

T&T Bakery and Café is located at 35 Main Street Markham at the intersection of Highway 7 and Markham Rd., just north of Highway.7 and on the east side of Markham Rd.

Turkey Sandwiches, Scalloped Potatoes & Fish, and LOTS of Sweet Treats! Courense Bakery on Bloor Street West

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You know what’s better than a bakery that has cakes, donuts, pastries, tarts, mousse cups, cupcakes, and meringues?  A bakery that has cakes, donuts, pastries, tarts, mousse cups, cupcakes, meringues AND fresh baked bread, sandwiches, breakfast, pasta, hot food and plenty of space to sit and eat!  With Christmas decorations!  And a Christmas tree by the window!  Can you tell I’m excited?!  I absolutely lovelovelove bakeries that double as cafés and I happened across a fabulous one in Bloorcourt Village on Bloor Street West, sandwiched between Ossington and Dufferin just west of Dovercourt Rd. 

Courense Bakery is a pretty bakery that lights up from the inside out.  Its dark chocolate brown and frosted gold exterior beckons you inside like a homey Christmas gingerbread house and when I passed by it for the first time a week and a half ago, there was something warm, welcoming, and cozy about the way the lights from the inside shone through the front windows.  It felt like a place I could enjoy some hot cocoa in while inhaling the smell of warm bread and sugary spun desserts.

I had no idea Courense was a bakery and a sit down café!  I was so delighted when I walked in and saw all the tables and chairs to sit and eat on and I was even more delighted when my eyes landed on the trays and trays of beautiful white meringues with Christmas sprinkles!  The dessert and pastry display cases curved around in a J shape – like a candy cane – and carried everything from whole cakes, jelly roll cake slices, frosted cake slices, sweet puff pastries, vanilla cupcakes, donuts, tarts, meringues with Christmas sprinkles and chocolate sprinkles, custards, eclairs, cannolis, chocolate mousse, and more. 

It was so cute how some of the dessert were also decorated for Christmas.  The meringues and chocolate mousse had Christmas sprinkles and some of the pastries were coated in melted chocolate and/or powdered sugar with chocolate cigar biscuits and adorned with a little rainbow candy cane!  The dessert selection is AMAZING.  I can’t imagine anyone not being able to find something that strikes their fancy here!

Courense Bakery isn’t just a place to tickle your sweet teeth though.  They serve sandwiches, pasta, hot food, and breakfast!  Behind the display cases sits a wooden wall rack of fresh baked bread in the form of buns, kaisers, and giant loaves.  When you walk further into the bakery, closer to the back, you’ll find their selection of deli meat, cheeses, and hot food selections for the day.  Here’s the thing though: they don’t have a menu.  Which would probably confuse first-timers big time.  I’m here to the rescue though!  Once you figure out how their portions and pricing works the first time, you’re set for life. 

I know not having a menu with prices to look at might irritate some people (or at the very least cause a little confusion), but for me, it’s okay.  Of course I would prefer a menu to look at.  I can look over something slowly, consider my options, and order my food accordingly.  But the way I see it is that I have no qualms asking the nice girls who work here about the food and pricing.  I have vocal cords.  I am capable of asking questions to find out whatever information I want to find out.  It may not be the most ideal situation, but the food is great and I personally don’t mind because their food falls into 3 categories (sandwiches, hot food, and breakfast), making the situation manageable.  Some might counter back and say that one shouldn’t have to ask about food menu items and pricing and that’s fair.  I’m here to give you the good though, so this is just fair warning!

Courense Bakery serves sandwiches with their deli meats, lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo, and mustard.  The flat price of a sandwich starts at $4 and lettuce and tomato are an extra $.50.  Their deli meats for sandwiches probably change on a regular basis depending on what they have on hand, but they have turkey, salami, and ham among others, and their selection of provolone and havarti cheese is delicious! 

Their hot food includes pasta, meats, and potato dishes and they serve them on large square plates fit for a hearty meal.  Each hot food plate entree comes in at $8.50 and you can mix and match your mains to fill your plate.  For example, you can have half a plate of pasta and half a plate of one of the other selections.  On this particular day, they had penne pasta with olives, feta cheese, red onions, tomatoes, and red pepper in olive oil dressing and herbs, roast beef in a marinara sauce, and a fabulous hot food dish of scalloped potatoes, tuna, flaky cod fish, and herbs.  I shared a plate of penne pasta and potatoes and fish with my mum and brother and shared a turkey sandwich with my mum while my brother enjoyed a whole turkey sandwich on his own.

The food is delicious.  We were especially over the moon with the scalloped potatoes and flaked tuna and cod!  I love scalloped potatoes and don’t eat them often enough so this was a scrumptious, shovel-the-food-off-the-plate-and-into-my-mouth treat!  The cod fish was white, meaty, soft, and flavourful and it was just all-around yumminess.  It was a warm meal that really packed a punch and it was great that we were given an ample portion of food on our plate.  I love potatoes and I love both flaky and meaty white fish so I was so excited to see a dish like this here! 

And their sandwiches?  SO.DARN.AWESOME!  Aside from grilled cheese, and vegetarian and cheese sandwiches, turkey sandwiches are my favourite.  You all know how much I love my turkey sandwiches from Raymerville Deli & Bakery and I’ve always tooted my horn that nothing would ever come close to those scrumptious sandwiches.  I think I’ve found an almost tie for my favourite turkey sandwich!  Courense Bakery uses this amazing soft-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside bread (I was enjoying my half of the turkey sandwich so much I forgot to ask what kind of bread they used!  I’ll remember to ask next time!) and the havarti cheese was deliciously rich and combined with the turkey breast deli meat, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard (just the way I like it!), it was a heavenly sandwich.

I can’t report back on the breakfast because I didn’t have any, but I know they serve breakfast because I saw egg breakfasts being brought to some people’s tables!  Courense is a great bakery with a ton of sweet options at very reasonable prices (we picked up huge jelly roll cake slices for $1.65 each!), and I can’t wait to come back for the breakfast, another turkey sandwich, more hot food, and those chocolate mousses!

*****

Courense Bakery is located at 1014 Bloor Street West between Ossington Ave. and Dufferin St.  The bakery is located just one block west of Dovercourt Rd.  In addition to the dizzying array of desserts and fresh bread, they serve breakfast, coffee drinks, hot food, and deli sandwiches.

The Vegan Chili Series – Gluten-Free Bread, Sandwiches, Desserts, and Tomato Vegan Chili at Organic Oven

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It feels SO good to scrapbook again.  After being scrapbook layout-less on the blog for a month (god, it makes me cringe), I finally got a batch of photos developed yesterday and I got right down to business cranking out a new bright and fun foodie layout for today!  I’ve been meaning to blog about Organic Oven for a long time now but the perfectionist in me didn’t like the photos I initially took back in March (yes, in MARCH!) and to make matters worse, I took said photos and tried to create a decent scrapbook layout out of them which I also did not like.  That scrapbook layout sat in my “these pages are not good enough” pile for months and recreating a new one sat on the backburner for awhile.  Enter the Vegan Chili series I started back at the end of September.  I knew Organic Oven had a vegan chili on their menu and it was perfect opportunity to go back and try some more yummy eats and to give myself the creative kick in the butt I needed!  So here we are with the 2nd instalment of the Vegan Chili series, my blog post on Organic Oven, and a brand spankin’ new scrapbook layout! 

Organic Oven, located on Yonge Street just north of Lawrence Ave., is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the food that they serve.  First off, they’re not just a bakery with desserts.  They’re a lunch cafe, a coffee spot, and a retail shop with grocery items, all in one.  They sell a number of sweets that can either be purchased as single desserts, prepackaged take-away packs, or custom designed and ordered.  They’re sweets menu includes brownies, biscotti, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies.  For lunch, you can sit down to a hot bowl of soup or chili, a freshly made sandwich or bagel, salads, quiches, and a host off coffee drinks, smoothies, juices, and milks, and while you’re there, you can pick up a few gluten-free grocery items to add to your bread basket.

Furthermore – and this is the kicker – you could literally have a group of people comprised of a vegetarian, a vegan, a meat-eater, and a gluten-intolerant come here to eat, and all four people would be satisfied with the food because their menu caters to all four diets!  For the vegetarian: goat cheese quiche, pizza bagels, egg salad, grilled cheese, and veggie sandwiches.  For the vegan (and vegetarian): multigrain, cinnamon, raisin, and poppy seeds bagels with vegan butter, vegan chili and soups, veggie sandwiches, and vegan brownies and cupcakes.  For the meat-lover: chicken and turkey sandwiches with veggies and cheese, as well as tuna salad.  Finally, for the gluten-intolerant: everything! 

Their focus is on serving healthier alternatives with dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free options.  They’re best known for their gluten-free breads, bagels, and pizza crusts and all three items can be purchased from their grocery shelves.  Their gluten-free breads are crunchy rice buns that are dairy-free, egg-free, and certified organic and they use these same buns for all of the sandwiches on their menu.  The rice buns are made from certfiied organic flax meal and quinoa flakes and they come in packs of six.  Pop them in the toaster and you have yourself a healthy breakfast and lunch!  In addition to their rice buns, they also carry gluten-free cheese, cinnamon raisin, multigrain, and poppyseed bagels which come in packs of five, as well as gluten-free pizza crusts.  Aside from the breads, their grocery shelves also carry cereals, ice cones, rice snacks, milks (a variety of soy, almond, and rice), and other goodies.

Now, onto the vegan chili!  Their vegan chili is served either on its own with a side of rice bread ($5.70) or in a combo alongside a salad, quiche, bagel, or sandwich.  Prices vary depending on which combo you choose, but generally speaking lunch at Organic Oven will come out to around $5-$10, with most items averaging $6-$7.  Their vegan chili isn’t super spicy so for those who shy away from chili because of the level of heat, have no fear because the vegan chili here isn’t an alarm setter.  I’d say that the vegan chili here is a good cross between a thick soup and a chili in texture, consistency, and flavour. 

It’s a tomato based vegan chili made with crushed tomatoes, green bell pepper, sweet onions, red and white kidney beans, and chunks of sweet potato.  It’s such a hearty, warm, comforting dish.  It’s exactly the type of meal you’d want to eat on a chilly day, with a cheese sandwich (I know that would defeat the purpose of a entirely vegan meal if that wasn’t vegan cheese, but I’m not vegan so work with me here!), relaxing with the paper or a book.  It’s that type of meal.  The robust tomato flavour was savoury and the whole bowl was overflowing with veggies.  Oh!  And I added a side of avocado to my chili.  I love avocado like nobody’s business and since there was an option to add avocado for $0.50, I took it, which is why you see slices of creamy avocado on my chili.

And the bread!  It wasn’t my first time having Organic Oven’s rice bread, but for whatever reason, it tasted extra delicious this time!  Wedges of toasted rice bread were included on the side and I had the choice of having the bread spread or brushed with vegan butter or olive oil and I chose olive oil this time around.  I could not get over how amazing the bread with olive oil tasted!  Even though it was toasted, it was so incredibly soft on the inside with crispiness on the outside.  The olive oil soaked into the bread really nicely so the bread ended up having these yummy herb flavour to it.  I could have eaten an entire loaf because it was so yummy and scrumptious and all sorts of heaven in my mouth.  I am definitely planning on picking up a pack of rice buns to take home sometime.  Between myself, my brother, and my mum (my dad isn’t really into bread), I envision the pack being devoured in two days.  Or maybe even in one.

Organic Oven is a great lunch spot because the menu caters to so many different diets and the food is wholesome, healthy, and delicious.  You can bet I’ll be back for their cupcakes (I know, shocking how I didn’t blog about them already!  I’ll get to them, I promise) and I’ll profile their sandwiches next time around too.  For the time being, bookmark this post and Organic Oven as your uptown vegan chili station.

       

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Organic Oven is located at 3189 Yonge Street, just north of Lawrence Ave. on the east side of Yonge Street just steps away from Lawrence subway station.  They have several other locations around the city, which I will update once I get the addresses.

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

Bagels, Baked Goods, Pastries, and Russian Matryoshka Dolls! Seventh Sister Bakery on Roncesvalles

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Welcome to Seventh Sister and Roncesvalles!  It took me awhile to get here, I know.  I’ve wanted to explore Roncesvalles and the surrounding neighbourhood for so long and last month I finally did!  Whenever I would go downtown, I would see the King streetcar and see the name “Roncesvalles” at the top and it drove me crazy knowing I had never been in the area.  These past few years have been amazing in terms of city exploration.  Anyone who thinks TO is boring is out of their mind; with all the running around I’ve done, I still haven’t seen all of the city and I know I won’t for quite some time.  Anyway, I made it a mission to visit Roncesvalles and since I had a Teambuy voucher for Cardinal Rule (blog post forthcoming), it was the perfect fit.  Luck was not on my side that day though as Cardinal Rule was closed just for that day because of city sidewalk and curb construction right outside their diner. 

Believe me, I was not thrilled.  I stuffed the voucher in my bag, pouted, and mumbled and grumbled about how much I had looked forward to eating veggie diner food.  I sighed, looked at my boyfriend, and decided that we would walk up and down Roncesvalles to find ourselves some yummy food.  I promise to dedicate an entire Foodie District post (or two) to all the amazing food on and around Roncesvalles, but for now, I’m just going to say that there is no way anyone could ever starve while being here.  Oh my goodness.  You know how we have Chinatown, Little India, and Little Italy?  Roncesvalles is Little Poland.  We’re talking Polish bookstores, Polish cheese and deli shops, Polish bakeries, and Polish and Hungarian restaurants among coffee shops, diners, and other amazing eateries.

As we walked north on Roncesvalles, I saw Seventh Sister and fell in love with it from the get go.  There are SO many things I love about Seventh Sister Bakery.  I’m not going to lie though, I wish Seventh Sister was 100 times bigger.  The bakery is TINY.  There are two tables that seat 4 people each inside and a small 2-seater outside the bakery and that’s it.  I know, the teenyness makes me cringe a bit too.  My boyfriend, Richard, and I had to come back 3 times to nab ourselves a table inside (yes, I refused to give up because I’m just that damn stubborn) and while many people were coming and going and grabbing bags of bagels, bread, and pastries, you know how I feel about having a place to sit to eat my yummies. 

But I’m telling you, the bakery has so much character and so many wonderful sweet treats, the tight corners make it all worth it.  I adore Seventh Sister.  First, who wouldn’t fall in love with the storefront?  Russian matryoshka dolls!!  I adore these dolls.  This scrapbook layout was so much fun to make and I’ve been waiting to make it for over a month now.  The handmade paper doll was inspired by my matryoshka tote bag, makeup bag, and matching compact mirror 😀  If you’re wondering, yes, every single piece of cardstock and part of the doll was drawn and cut out by me!  I also love the bakery’s yellow and orange and chocolate brown storefront with the stripey awning!  And the walls and shop are adorned with adorable toys and matryoshka doll accessories like drinking glasses and ornaments.

I love that I can come here and have a simple but delicious lunch or afternoon snack.  If you enjoy bagels, sandwiches, baked goods, pastries, and cute decor, this is your kind of bakery.  The set up of the bakery is kind of like this: when you enter the shop, the two tables are in the center.  To your right is a shelf where you’d get your coffee creamer, milk, sugar, honey, and cups.  In front of you past the tables and closer to the back is the cash, the menu board up on the wall, and the sweet lady owners who make your food.  Last, to your left are the shelves with all the delicious baked goods and pastries!  Snatch up a paper bag and go to town!  There are huuuge baskets of freshly baked sesame, poppy seed, and plain bagels for you to grab from, bread and buns, and dishes and cake stands of sweet treats and savoury snacks.

The sweet treats and baked goods alone would compel me to go all the way to Roncesvalles, and not just to Seventh Sister!  The bakery had a fabulous assortment of goodies with prices around $0.50-$3.  There were fruit danishes and pinwheels with sweet icing, chocolate chip shortbread cookies, oat cake squares with cinnamon, chocolate croissants dusted with powdered sugar, dried fruit squares with oats, coconut, almonds, and nuts, lemon poppy seed muffins, soft pretzels, triple chocolate pecan brownies, and – get this – savoury bacon and gruyère muffins!!

That day for lunch, I got myself a bacon and gruyère muffin ($2.75), and a sesame seed bagel from the big basket on the shelf, which I gave it to the nice ladies to toast for me for my veggie and cheese sandwich.  Their menu is full of deli meat and veggie sandwich options that you can have on bread or bagels and prices range from $2-$6.  Oh, and they have Nutella and fluffernutter sandwiches on the menu too!  My veggie sandwich on a bagel was stuffed silly with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, alfalfa sprouts, green olives, guacamole, swiss cheese, mayo, and dijon mustard.  I loooved my veggie and swiss cheese bagel (yes, even with the olives!) and even though it sounds simple, sometimes that’s the best.  Simple food done well that tastes delicious that isn’t expensive.

And the bacon and gruyère cheese muffin?  Talk about deliciously delicious!  This muffin is amazing and I could eat these day in and day out.  They’re the perfect brunch or afternoon tea muffin and they are so incredibly moist, soft, and flavourful.  There are strips of chopped bacon in the muffin with ooey gooey melted cheese inside and my muffin was still super warm when I got it.  Forget bacon and eggs, this is where it’s at.  If I didn’t care so much about sharing the wealth of goodness with others, I would have taken the entire plate.  

And speaking of plates, Seventh Sister is even more awesome in my book because of the mismatched china they use for their food.  The plates are beautiful and so full of history and artistry.  There are china plates with gold filigree, plates with painted scenes of American states and Canadian provinces (possibly from the 70s or 80s), and plates with pretty, colourful, and dainty floral prints.  The kitchen decor lover in me was in conniptions and the next time I plan on coming here, I’m coming prepared.  I’m bringing tupperware.

*****

Seventh Sister Bakery is located at 53 Roncesvalles Ave., north of Queen St. on the east side of Roncesvalles.  The bakery is sandwiched between Marion St. to the north and Harvard Ave. to the south.  If you are curious about the name, the name is true to life – the owner is in fact the 7th sister in her large family!

Scrapbooking materials used: grape purple, bubblegum pink, grass green, mint green, powder blue, red, and black cardstock (Recollections); bakery dessert stickers (Sticko); gold foiled flower and forest stickers (atd by momenta); adhesive foam squares; paper corner rounder (ek success), black fine point Sharpie.