Vegetarian Sandwich Series – Country Kitchen Cooking & A Grilled Eggplant, Sundried Tomato, & Feta Pita at Sage Cafe

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I honestly can’t tell you how I found out about Sage.  For a girl who prides herself on having a good memory, this bothers me.  I don’t remember if I happened to find it through a random Google search for vegetarian sandwiches in the city or if I happened to learn about the downtown cafe through another site.  But I will tell you this: when I found out they served an abundance of vegetarian meals including a whole list of whole wheat pita wraps with vegetarian ingredients, I pumped my fist in the air and went, “YES!  PAY DIRT!” 😀  Especially considering it’s located in an area that’s actually rather central in the downtown core but unknown to many of my friends. 

Sage is located near the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) on McCaul St., just off of Elm St.  For whatever reason, this area seems to be a black hole for many people I know, including myself prior to this year!  The black hole seems to spread between Elm, Baldwin, or McCaul (or any combination of the three), and when I’m in these areas with friends, it’s very amusing to hear my them say, “I have no idea where we are!”  Have no fear, I am your food compass 😀

Much like Futures Bakery in the Annex, Sage’s menu isn’t wholly vegetarian.  They do, however, have MANY vegetarian options though, which makes it a great lunch spot for both vegetarians and carnivores.  The vegetarian sandwiches come in the form of whole wheat pita wraps and they are BIG!  I’m pretty sure you can have the option of having the wrap filling served on other types of grain/bread, just ask.  Vegetarian wraps are priced at $6.50 and they are well worth it not just because of their size, but because of how much food they stuff in them.  Their list of vegetarian tortilla wraps include:

  • grilled eggplant, sundried tomato, and feta cheese
  • dijon egg and avocado
  • grilled vegetables
  • grilled portobello mushrooms and brie
  • avocado, feta cheese, and roast pepper sauce
  • hummus and fresh vegetables
  • falafel with tahini and fresh vegetables
  • spicy tofy and peanut sauce

I had me a grilled eggplant, sundried tomato, and feta pita wrap and added some avocado for an extra charge (I can’t remember how much I added for the avocado, but it definitely wasn’t more than a dollar).  Was I ever excited when I got my pita wrap!  It was mondo big with SO MUCH VEGGIES stuffed inside!  Along with the eggplant, sundried tomato, and feta, my pita wrap was stuffed with romaine, tomato, cucumber, shredded carrots, alfalfa sprouts, and red cabbage. 

The wrap was crunchy, fresh, and savoury from both the sundried tomato and feta cheese, and the eggplant was sliced in large wedges with the blistered skin still on, YUM!  And I know this sounds silly, but this point is worth making: the pita wrap stayed intact!  I know some people shy away from pitas and tortillas and the like because stuff just crumbles and fulls out out of it and it becomes too messy to eat.  The pita was wrapped in such a way that the stuff actually stayed inside for the most part.  I mean, sure, some feta crumbles may have slipped out, but it definitely wasn’t a leaky wrap and it wasn’t messy.

Sage serves a number of other vegetarian dishes including pasta, salads, and a variety of quiches and soups.  Daily specials change on a regular basis, but on any given day you might see things like roasted pepper penne pasta with spinach, mushrooms, and olives; quinoa and vegetable salad; chick pea and red onion salad; lentil salad with bulghar and orange; eggplant parmesan; spicy stuffed plantain with sauteed peppers; pesto linguine with artichokes and sundried tomato; roasted red pepper linguine with black olives; pad thai; and vegetarian lasagna among others.

Even though the cafe is on the smaller side, I really feel it’s a fabulous lunch spot because the prices are reasonable (there are a number of “under $10 meals”, tax included!), portions are big, the food is fresh and healthy, and the cooking is done right before your eyes; owner Wendy Hernick was cooking up salads and pasta in the visible kitchen area while I was enjoying my meal. 

They also serve weekend brunch from 11am-3pm and although the prices for brunch and breakfast are a little on the pricier side, I caught a glimpse of someone else’s eggs benedict brunch dish as it was being brought to them and hot damn was the plate of food ever large.  Portion size isn’t an issue here, so it’s really, it’s up to each individual person on how much they’re willing to spend on weekend brunch.  Some won’t spend more than $10 and others feel fine spending $12 or $13.  Either way, I recommend the cafe for lunch for those looking for healthy, vegetarian options and an all-around great meal.  And hey, you just might make some foodie discoveries of your own around this “unchartered” territory 😉

*****

Sage Cafe and Catering is located at 166 McCaul St., just off Elm St.  It’s south of Baldwin St. and north of Dundas St. West.  It is located just several blocks north of the AGO and is open 7 days a week from 9am-5pm Monday through Friday and for weekend brunch from 11am-3pm.  For more info, click here.  The Vegetarian Sandwich Series is a series on Ate by Ate dedicated to showcasing great vegeterian sandwiches in and around the city of Toronto.  

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I Heart Sushi Shop: The Smoky Salmon & Avocado Hand Roll and Cream Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Rolls

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When I eat at sushi places, it’s kind of like playing a mental game of Where’s Waldo.  I’ll scan the menu, mentally discard the options that I don’t care for (those who clearly don’t look like Waldo), take mental notes of the ones I might be interested in and remind myself to go back to them to reconsider (the areas that are really busy and confusing that need greater attention a bit later if I don’t find Waldo after the first go-around), and the kinds that make me squeal with excitement and convince me via words and/or pictures that I NEED to try this.  Cue the sushi radar alarm: Ding-ding-ding, meep-meep-meep, Waldo has been spotted!  No further searching necessary 😀  That is certainly what happened my first time eating at Sushi Shop; my sushi radar was on overload!  So many rolls that encompassed my two sushi weaknesses all rolled into one: salmon and cream cheese!  I love trying different things at sushi places, but those are the two things I can never resist.

I love cream cheese so much, and I’m also a sucker for things like pesto and sundried-tomato, so the Akanasu rolls (a set of 6) with creamy, tangy light cream cheese, sundried-tomato, and sesame seeds, were a total no-brainer for me.  It’s like this sushi bar and I were meant to be!  And all the Sumomaki rolls (sets of 5 large rolls) are also offered as hand roll varieties so I salivated a la Homer Simpson style at the description of the Smoky: fresh salmon sashimi, thick slices of avocado, orange masago (fish roe), spicy light mayo and sauce, and a huge truckload dumping of crunchy tempura, all wrapped up in sushi rice and seaweed.  Hand rolls are fun because 1) who doesn’t like food you can eat with your hands?? and 2) it’s like a sushi taco or burrito, woohoo!  Every mouthful is pure deliciousness.

Oh gosh, this meal had “Deb” written all over it ❤  Salmon and avocado are pretty basic staples in a lot of sushi and of course, freshness always plays a role in how good it is (frozen salmon?  no, thanks.  Lukewarm salmon?  I’ll pass on that too, ew) but what really makes this fantastic (besides the freshness of those two things) is the crunchy tempura and spicy sauce.  It is texture like you wouldn’t believe.  You have the smoothness of the salmon, the buttery meltiness of the avocado, and then the crunch from the tempura that just explodes and melts in your mouth.  Imagine the crunchiness of amazing onion rings.  It’s like that only in my opinion, even ten times better than that!  And don’t even get me started on how lip smackin’ my cream cheese and sundried tomato rolls were!  Sushi Shop is my absolute favourite and I’ll be hard pressed to find one that rivals the quality, freshness, and uniqueness that it offers.  But that’s fine by me.  Mental games of Where’s Waldo sushi-style are amusing 😀

*****

The Sushi Shop is located at the intersection of Yonge and Carlton St. (3 Carlton St.), with 2 other take-out locations serving the downtown core, one being in the GO train station concourse and the other near Maple Leaf Square at 25 York St (closed Saturday and Sunday).  According to Google map, there is also a location on Bloor St. E at 175 Bloor St.E (Saturday and Sunday closed as well).

Scrapbook materials used: purple, bubblegum pink, pale pink, and emerald green cardstock (Recollections); white paper; patterned alphabet stickers (K&Company); silver alphabet stickers (Sticko); magenta, pink, and purple adhesive gems; flower paper punch; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); black Sharpie felt tip marker.

Around the Carousel: Our 2nd Trip to The Old Spaghetti Factory!

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If I wasn’t so concerned about being hauled away by restaurant staff and possibly banned from the restaurant forever, I would have totally climbed on to one of the carousel horses.  You know, for a photo op.  For fun *whistles innocently*.  But I do have some sense and self-restraint (as well as pride), so I didn’t.  So no pictures of me sitting on a painted horse, but I have plenty of pictures of yummy pasta and the OSF for you all! 

My first post about The Old Spaghetti Factory was a month ago and I thought it would be a nice time to share my 2nd trip there back in September!  My honey, Richard, and I had such a fantastic time our first time there in August that we made another trip the next month and were seated inside the hanging carousel!  Like I mentioned in my first post on OSF, the decor in this restaurant is adorable and I’m hoping that in my lifetime I’ll be able to have sat in all “areas” of the restaurant.  I know, I’m a food nerd, ha.  Thus far I’ve been seated in the cozy elevator booth, the carousel, and beside the “library” desk 😀

Now here’s a little secret about me: I’m not fond of buying or spending money on drinks when I go out to eat.  When I go to school, I’ll bring my own snacks and juice and water and when I go out dining, I’m the one who usually orders a plain ol’ water.  Obviously, I’m excluding establishmens like coffee shops and bubble tea houses as the whole point of those places is to order drinks.  Other than those types of places though, I’ve always had the mindset that spending money on food was more worth it than spending money on overpriced drinks (seriously, $3 for a tiny glass of apple juice?  Over $2 for a bottled beverage?  No, thanks!) as many places don’t include a drink in the cost of the meal itself. 

Which means when I go out to eat, a menu’s drink selection has to seriously impress me and entice me in order for me to even consider getting a drink other than water.  Pop and iced tea is not good enough.  I don’t drink pop anyway, but regardless, I want to drink something that I don’t or can’t drink any old time.  And whaddaya know, Old Spaghetti Factory opened a can of whoop ass on me!  If there’s any place with a good selection of fun, delicious drinks, it’s here.  Flavoured lemonade, Italian sodas, yogurt smoothies, eeee!  What you see here is my peach Italian soda with a lime wedge, YUMMY!  So in this respect, Deb has been trumped by OSF.  I really don’t feel that badly 😀  It’s delicious.

Old Spaghetti Factory is so wonderful for a pasta head like myself.  For my first visit, I ordered the clam spaghetti which was yummy in the tummy!  This time, I wanted to order a non-spaghetti dish (variety is the name of the game!) so I chose the goat cheese agnolotti: goat cheese stuffed pasta with sundried tomatoes, sliced button mushrooms and red onion, all bathing in a rich pesto cream sauce.  Given how much I love cheese, pesto, cream sauce, mushrooms, and sundried tomato, this was basically heaven in a dish!  It was warm and comforting, seasoned perfectly, and an absolute joy to eat.  

I had no idea what agnolotti was though.  It seemed so similar to ravioli to me since both pastas are stuffed with meat and/or cheeses and both are often in square or rectangle shapes, so I did a little research and brushed up on some pasta knowledge.  Agnolotti pasta is a part of the broader ravioli family, but differs in the way it’s made.  While ravioli is made by using two thin pasta sheets (one as the bottom layer, one as the top), agnolotti is made with one thin pasta sheet folded over into either sqaure or rectangle shapes, or into half moons, like my dish up top.  Agnolotti is also closely related to the Piedmont region of Italy and is often referred to as a type of Piemontese pasta. 

There’s something you may not have known! 😀  It may sound geeky, but I love learning about food and its origins and everything so this is golden to me.  Seriously, I’m excited right now because I’m planning on learning about herbs in the near future.  Go me *fist bump*.  Enjoy the pictures everyone!

*****

The Old Spaghetti Factory is located at 54 The Esplanade, just south of Front St. E, between Yonge and Church St.

Scrapbooking materials used: bubblegum pink, goldenrod, emerald green, and white cardstock (Recollections); patterned paper; black alphabet stickers (Staples); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); black felt tip pen (Sharpie).