A Veggie Gem in the Foodie Treasure Chest – Quinoa, Kale & Vegetarian, Vegan Delights at Lola’s Kitchen on Church Street!

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As someone who isn’t vegetarian or vegan, I sure do love my veggie meals and veggie food spots!  I adore my beloved Mela Cafe, Fresh, King’s Cafe, Earth & City and Sadie’s Diner and could feasibly eat my way through these places and others on my list) for an entire year and be just peachy (okay, not eating sushi would be crazy talk in my world but let’s just hypothetically envision it for this post).  But just when I thought I was content and satisfied with the yummy vegetarian and vegan options in the city, I am knocked off my feet by an amazing, wonderful, DELICIOUS accidental discovery!

After all this time, I had no idea Lola’s Kitchen existed.  LOLA’S KITCHEN.  By Bloor and Church St.  Smack dab in the centre of the downtown hub.  And right under my nose this whole time!  I don’t know whether to be disappointed in myself for having this allude me for so long or to be joyful that this dining destination is now lovingly in my life.  I think I’ll go for the latter, it’s happier.

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And it truly was an accidental discovery.  Long story short, I was googling red velvet whoopie pies in TO and found Lola’s Kitchen on the 2nd page of search results through a random yelp review with a red velvet whoopie photo!  Lola’s changes up their desserts on a regular basis though so the whoopie pies aren’t a regular fixture, but I don’t even care because that search led me to them!  And if you’re wondering why I was searching for red velvet whoopie pies…well, I can’t tell you.  It’s a secret, sorry guys!Anyway,  now that you’ve heard my preliminary gushing, write it down on a sticky note in red marker with exclamation points and circle it!  Oh and post it on your mirror.  Because you’ll want a reminder every day, trust me on this one.

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Lola’s Kitchen, located at 634 Church Street, just south of Bloor, is a fantastic eatery with more vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options than I can count on my fingers and toes!  Housed in a pretty Victorian-style house with a front patio to boot, Lola’s Kitchen dishes out lunch, dinner and weekend brunch to the masses (I know, I might as well float up to heaven right now) with plenty of salads, grain bowls, tacos, burgers, sandwiches and sides to choose from with prices ranging from $11-$14 for most mains, $3 to $7 for small plates, salads and sides.

It is such an interesting space to me, not just because of all the mouthwatering food they offer on their menu but because they are just so damn good at catering to all different types of appetites and people.  I love how they’re not one-dimensional.  Their menu offers a scrumptious array of bistro-style vegetarian and vegan dishes (with some meat dishes available as well!) that are simultaneously trendy and chic yet casual and comforting, surrounded by a halo of health and wellness.  It’s Fresh meets food truck meets bistro meets pub meets fine dining.  We’re talking quinoa and brown rice bowls with fresh vegetables on the one hand and vegan tacos, pulled pork, corn fritters and kale caesar salad on the other.

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Not only is there is there a juxtaposition in foods, there’s also a noticeable difference between clientele!  While I was here stuffing my face I noticed suit-clad business folks at one table and a student couple right next to them at the table to their right.  And then there was me noshing by myself.  I gotta say, it’s not something you see very often.  Let’s face it, we know some spots are very niche.  But Lola’s Kitchen just attracts everyone and that’s the beauty of it.  It’s incredible how they have the atmosphere and food to make a business meeting, friendly get-together, university student hangout and romantic date work in the same space.

While I had a reeeally difficult time choosing between all the awesome food (what else is new?), I opted for their California bowl ($14) because I LOVE grain bowls and rice bowls and the sheer abundance of kale in it made me salivate before my dish even hit the table!  So many of their dishes have veggies like sprouts, kale, beets, cabbage, spinach, peppers, sundried tomatoes and avocado and grains like quinoa, couscous, and brown rice.  The California bowl was a glorious mountain of shredded purple kale, a bed of quinoa, sliced avocado, sundried tomatoes, sunflower sprouts, sliced almonds and sunflower seeds and 3 wedges of grilled tofu, all drizzled with a yummy cider vinaigrette.  This is a pure bottomless pit of deliciousness!

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There was so much texture and colour and flavour and the vinaigrette, if you can believe it, made this dish!  It’s crazy how something so simple can make or break a dish.  I know I love quinoa and kale and avocado and everything else on this plate, so how does one elevate foods that are already so great on their own when they’re put together?  There’s the texture and crunch from nuts and sprouts, and then there’s the vinaigrette that gives the dish so much of its flavour and keeps everything moist.  And it was incredible just how much of it there was on the plate.  You don’t realize it until you start digging in but holy mother of pearl it’s the gift that keeps on giving and it’s exactly the type of meal that will fill you up and make you feel so good afterward.

If I could, I’d come here every single week.  There are that many wonderful options to choose from.  I want to attack their weekend brunch, I want to try their kale caesar salad (polenta croutons oh my god!), their vegan tacos, their black bean, mushroom and walnut burger, portobello and brie sandwich and SO MUCH MORE.  I’m so super excited to finally share this with you guys because I’ve been holding onto this for a month!  I love sharing different dishes from my fave places, but I know there’s nothing like brand new content and material to keep things fresh and exciting so I hope you’ll all try them out and enjoy the food as much as I did!

*****

Lola’s Kitchen is located at 634 Church Street, just south of Bloor St. East.  They are open from Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner from 11am-10pm and Saturday and Sunday for weekend brunch and dinner from 10am-10pm.  Visit their website HERE.

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It’s Good to Be Back at the Market – Fresh Cheese, Vegan Eats, Pies, Sprouts & More at Wychwood Barns!

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The Stop Community Food Centre booklets at Wychwood Barns farmers' market.

My left arm hurts from carrying my heavy load of market groceries.  My shoulder blades and neck are a wee bit sore from being wrapped in a heavy-duty scarf for most of the day.  And I’m just a little sleepy; leave it to me to wake up at 6am in the morning on a Saturday to go to the farmers’ market in the cold blowing snow/sleet/wet crap!  Who needs to walk when you can let the gusty wind push you along?  All I needed was a long coat and hat and I could have passed for the city gal version of Mary Poppins with a pink umbrella!

Despite the less-than-stellar weather, my trip to The Stop Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns yesterday morning was SO WORTH IT.  Even though I came home cold with rosy cheeks and just a tad on the wind-whipped side, I came home happy and so full of joy with some of the best food from the market in my grocery bag.

Root vegetables at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Carrots, potatoes and onions at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

The Stop farmers' market at Wychwood Barns

It’s been months since my last farmers’ market trek.  Not just months since my last post, but literally months since the last time I went to a market at all.  The last time I went to one was back in December and that was to Evergreen Brick Works where I lugged home bags of kale, salad greens, and butternut squash.  I know taking a break from blogging after that was something I had to do but since that last market visit, it’s almost as if a part of me was missing.  A part of me that so desperately wanted to go to the market and do blog-related things but couldn’t because I was tired and because I knew I had to sacrifice some of that precious blog time to take care of other aspects of my life that need my attention.

Going to the market yesterday for first time in nearly 4 months was like a breath of fresh of air.  It felt SO GOOD.  Like that something missing had been fully stored.  I had missed it so much and as sappy as it sounds, it’s stuff like this that makes you appreciate all the good things in your life.  The stuff that puts you in your happy place and makes your life so content, rewarding and satisfying.  I saw market vendors and friends, I took a ridiculous amount of photos (93!), I stuffed my hungry face with samples, learned about food, picked up a bunch of new food literature, and filled my grocery bag with some delicious eats!

vegan desserts by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

chocolate and vanilla macaroons by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

lentil-walnut vegan burgers by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Yorktown Pie Company at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

butter tarts by Yorktown Pie Company at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

A trip to The Stop Market at Wychwood Barns is never complete without fresh vegan eats from my beloved Earth & City and Yorktown Pie Company!  Cassandra from Earth & City was on hand with spring roll wraps, lentil-walnut burgers with sundried tomato puree, red onion, and collard green leaf “bun”, kale and arugula pesto, and a mountain of mouthwatering vegan sweets including their famous vegan brownies, chocolate and vanilla macaroons and cowgirl cookies, cookies with oats, almonds, banana, honey, dates, cinnamon and sea salt.  And Yorktown?  They had their famous mini butter tarts, chocolate chip cookies, and plenty of meat and vegetarian pies and pastries including spinach and ricotta, spinach and feta, chicken, steak and Guinness, mushroom and leek, and good old fashioned sausage rolls!

I happily picked up a container of a lentil-walnut burger, vegan brownie, and a container of kale and arugula pesto from Earth & City, and a sweet butter tart from Yorktown to bring home.  I cannot wait to come back to see if I can snatch up my favourite apple crumble and apple sour cream pies (what some have referred to as “apple crack”) the next time!

Chocosol coffee and chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol fair trade chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol coffee and chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol fair trade chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Between snapping photos and picking up food literature, I also added some walnut-raisin buns to my grocery bag from St. John’s Bakery, some AMAZING fresh-as-a-daisy Black Peppercorn goat cheese from Crosswind Farm who makes, by far, the best goat cheese EVER in the most delicious flavours (feta, maple cream, herb, green and red peppercorn, garlic Italian blend and a brand new creamy brie-style goat cheese), and a GIANT bar of Luscious Coconut chocolate from Chocosol.

It was so awesome seeing Chocosol’s fantastic selection of fresh cacao bars and beans and thanks to Chocosol’s Yanni (I hope I’ve spelled your name right!), my boyfriend and I learned the process behind Chocosol’s fair trade chocolate: cacao beans are roasted; shells from the roasted beans are then removed via fans which blow the shells off; the fresh cacao is then stone-ground into a paste, which is then tempered a number of times before flavourings and seasonings are added to create their famous flavours such as their hemp, spicy chili, dark and more.  Taking it all in was like cacao 101 which was awesome!

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

During this visit I also discovered some fantastic new vendors!  Now, these vendors aren’t exactly brand new to the market but they’re new to me.  First up, Essa Sprouts!  I love pea sprouts and shoots and sunflower sprouts like nobody’s business and Essa Sprouts grows everything from sunflower sprouts to sprouted chickpea, daikon radish, pea shoots, buckwheat, alfalfa, crunchy bean and more.  They have so many different types of sprouts and microgreens that are perfect for any type of palate (spicy, mild, you name it) and the baggies come in a number of sizes so you can choose what best suits your diet and sprouting eating frequency.  I picked up a small baggie of sunflower sprouts and have already inhaled the whole bag with help from my mum and dad!  You can find them here at The Stop at Wychwood and also at the Richmond Hill market (which I will add to the market list) and Barrie which is interestingly one of the oldest markets in the province!

sunflower greens and sprouts by Essa Sprouts at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Finally, I saw Delish Kitch at the market for the first time yesterday!  In a nutshell, Delish Kitch specializes in gluten-free, low-starch food with the absence of refined sugars.  They offer vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free options on their impressive menu: veggie pizzas, cookies, muffins, savoury tarts and pies, bread, tons of granola, soups, and their speciality, Bisckers, which are a cross between crackers and biscuits with a hint of scone without the gluten!

Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

gluten-free baked goods by Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

mushroom gluten-free pizzas by Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

This visit was just what I needed to kick start some extra inspiration and I happily got everything I wanted out of it.  It’s almost May and we all know what that means: spring and summer season at the markets!  I just found out all the 2013 dates so in another week I’ll be updating the market list with a rundown of all the ones returning in May and June and all the great market events we can expect this year!  I am so pumped and excited!

*****

The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.  The park and historic community centre complex is located at 76 Wychwood Ave. just off of St. Clair Ave. West, east of Christie St. and west of Bathurst St.  http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market

The Fall Harvest Series – Bringing Home Kale, Sunflower Sprouts, Sauces & More From the Junction Farmers Market!

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I am smitten.  Absolutely smitten.  I think my visit to the Junction Farmers Market this past Saturday morning was, hands down, my favourite market visit of the season!  It was such a rewarding experience, I had SO much fun, and by the end of it, I walked away with bags of goodies to take home.  It made me so happy and that’s saying a lot considering I was in a very foul mood about 2 hours prior!  Tthe bus I had originally planned on catching never showed up so that set me back a whole half hour.  I was not a happy camper at 7 in the morning.  But then I arrived at the market (when I finally did) and all the frustration and mumbling and grumbling went *POOF!* as I hopped from vendor to vendor in sheer joy.  Pumpkins!  Squash!  Apples!  Kale!  Tomatoes!  Sauces and dips!  FOOOOD!  The whole market was in full-swing fall mode with bushels of apples and pears by the vendors, delicious samples of apple cider, and tables overflowing with orange and golden yellow pumpkins, squashes, and tomatoes.

I couldn’t believe how amazing the market was on Saturday.  I know it sounds kind of weird given how this visit wasn’t my first but let’s face it, the market is in the middle of a parking lot and not exactly surrounded by daisies.  But by golly is it ever a goldmine of brilliant colour, lush fruits and vegetables, savoury nibbles, sweet baked goods, and scrumptious dips and sauces!  The Junction market has grown so much since its debut back in June.  It has grown steadily and organically with the enthusiasm of the community in its corner and I’m so proud of what this market has accomplished in just a matter of a few short months.  This is the Junction market’s first fall season and it’s an exciting time.

I am going to be so sad though when it packs up for the season in a week and a half on the 13th because I really feel like I can do grocery shopping at the Junction market as opposed to just being a passionate market goer and passerby.  I’m going to try my best to get in one last visit before it waves goodbye because it’s just that wonderful.  And I know other people in the commnity feel the exact same way because there were crowds lining up for bread and baked goods from De La Terre, there were discussions about kale left and right, and there was even an eager morning market shopper who came by Eugora’s Fine Foods and asked for 20 veggie samosas!

The selection of food was fantastic and there was a great balance between take-home groceries (fruits, vegetables, sauces, preserves, and pantry items) and “enjoy right away” food like sweet baked goods and bread from De La Terre, vegetarian samosas from Eudora’s Fine Foods, and Hogtown Charcuterie ‘s meats, savoury puff pastries and tarts, empanadas, scotch quail eggs and more!  For the first time, I felt like I was actually bogged down with food goodies and groceries!

I bought 4 vegetarian samosas (I know, it pales in comparison to the 20 the other lady snatched up!) and a jar of fresh, fruity, and flavourful mango chutney from Eudora’s Fine Foods, a container of delicious pesto the colour of freshly cut grass, sunflower sprouts from Fresh City Farms, and two of the biggest, fluffiest, most beautiful bunches of curly kale I had ever seen from Sosnicki Organics.  I was thisclose to buying more vegetables and picking up cheese too!  I’ve never shopped a market like this before and it felt terrific because I knew the food was incredibly fresh, I knew I was going to put the food to good use (dinner for me and the family!), and I knew it was money well spent.

I left the Junction market in such high spirits and I think that’s exactly how every farmers’ market should make everyone feel: welcome, loved, more knowledgable, and most importantly, excited for more.  It’s not every day you find your holy grail foods.  When you find a producer, farmer, and/or food shop that you love, you go back to them time and time again because you trust their passion, their integrity, and the greatness of their food.  It’s exactly how I felt when I came home with my beautiful bag of assorted kale from Samsara Fields the other week when I went to Crème Fraîche and I felt (and tasted!) it again when I lugged my giant bag of curly kale home from the Junction market.  The possibilities for wonderful food at the market are endless and I can only hope that one day this market will be a year-round one so I can enjoy it well past October.

*****

The Junction farmers’ market will be held every Saturday from 8:30am-12:30pm, June 2nd to October 13th.  The farmers’ market is located in the parking lot just off of Dundas Street West and Pacific Ave.  The market is brand new to Toronto and the Junction community, so spread the word, come out, and show your support!  For more info and a list of vendors, visit the official Junction market page HERE.

Nutty For Pesto, Sundried Tomato, & Burger Patties – A Photo Spotlight on Earth & City’s Raw, Vegan Nut Burgers!

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Vegan nut burgers at the ING Direct Cafe...

No matter how healthy many of us eat, everyone has their junk food weakness whether it’s sweet or savoury.  Some feel weak in the knees in the face of pizza, some salivate at the mention of ice cream sundaes, and some will do anything to get their hands on a basket of fries.  I’ll be honest with you guys: I have a weakness for good old fashioned grilled cheeseburgers.  And turkey burgers.  With cheese, relish, pickles, mushrooms, peppers, and garlic mayo.  I don’t eat them often though.  The word “rarely” comes to mind, actually.  Twice a year, tops.  For me, as much as I enjoy it, these type of cravings are just cravings and they come and go. 

Aside from having a sweet tooth, I shy away from junk food as often as I can.  The last time I had a soda was over 10 years ago in high school (and I can’t remember the time before that), I despise fried chicken with a passion, and I try my best not to put myself in a situation where I have to resort to choosing something to eat from a fast food chain.  Like I said, I allow myself to have a cheeseburger type of day maybe twice a year but that’s about it.  I even carefully think about how to schedule my dessert and sweets eating throughout the day and/or week – what you see on the blog isn’t in real time most of the time!  This lack of burger eating on my part clearly explains why my Burger Book catgory has been 1) relatively devoid of burger bliss (if I may quote the latest A&W commercial), and 2) more focused on vegetarian and vegan burgers! 

Sundried tomato goodness at Wychwood Barns

Looking for a delicious raw, vegan lunch?

I am LOVING the versatility and deliciousness of vegetarian and vegan burgers in all its different forms: soy, grain, tofu, potato, you name it.  The veggie burgers I’ve had in the last year have all been delicious and they’ve all been so different.  There’s the juicy, breaded tofu burger from Kale and the potato-like mushroom onion burger from Fresh.  Another veggie burger to add to the mix?  Earth & City’s raw, vegan nut burgers!

I approach Earth & City’s food the same way I approach the menu at Fresh: try everything!  Or at the very least, something from every food category on the menu.  So far I’ve had the pleasure of having Earth & City’s spring roll wraps, vegan pizza, nori rolls, macaroons, tarts, raw and vegan brownies, and even a raw peanut butter date square.  I can now say with absolute conviction that their vegan nut burgers are my favourite of all favourites.  I cannot get over how much I love them!  My favourite foods from Earth & City then are as follows (in no particular order): nut burgers, nori rolls, and brownies. 

Their nut burgers ($6, tax inclusive) are amazing and to me, they’re more delicious than any meat burger could ever be!  The vegan nut burgers are giant round patties made of raw, almonds, sunflower seeds, honey dates, and flax seed that have been pulsed and pulverized, mixed with dried basil and oregano, organic olive oil and lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar and sea salt, and topped with either a sundried tomato or creamy pesto sauce, and sunflower sprouts with slices of local organic tomatoes at times.  The heavenly burgers sit on a giant collard green leaf  “lily pad bun” and are then munched on and inhaled by people like me.

I had one of their pesto nut burgers at a Lunchtime Office Market at the ING Direct Cafe and I could not stop thinking about it for days, even weeks, afterward.  I was most surprised by the texture – it was simaltaneously smooth and slightly crunchy!  The smoothness comes from how well the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated throughout the burger patty and the slight crunch comes from the ground up sunflower seeds and almonds.  It’s not crunchy like a potato chip.  It’s more like if you were to grab a handful of rolled oats and stuffed them in your mouth.  They’re smooth and flat so you’re not actually crunching on them persay, but you can feel that texture as you chew.  THAT’s what eating the nut burgers are like, only with a million times more flavour.  The ground almonds and sunflower seeds in the burger give it body and bite.  The burgers are SO incredibly soft and moist (the moistest burger I’ve ever had!) and the flavour is phenomenal.  It’s savoury without being salty, the pesto is creamy and heavenly, and the sunflower sprouts and collared green give it leafy crunch and a burst of garden freshness.

The vegan nut burger finally in my hands!

I love that my nut burger experience was so fantastic, but I’m in a really bad predicament now because all I want to do is go to every market that Earth & City are at so I can pick up another burger!  Just think, you’re getting a burger that’s rich in protein, calcium, and fibre, AND it’s delicious beyond comprehension.  I guess my obsession with these burgers isn’t the worst thing that could happen.  It leaves me naughty room in my diet and belly to gorge on their raw vegan brownies.

*****

Earth & City is a local raw and vegan food business operating at farmers’ markets across Toronto year-round.  They are currently at 3 markets, with more during the late spring and summer months.  You can find them at the Centre for Social Innovation (Bathurst location at 720 Bathurst Street south of Bloor) on Tuesdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, the ING Direct Cafe (at Yonge & Shuter street just north of Queen Street) on Thursdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, and at The Stop market at Wychwood Barns (76 Wychwood Ave. near St. Clair Ave. West and Christie Street) on Saturdays from 8am-1pm.

A Vegetable Garden Party on Sprouted Buckwheat Pizza – Photo Spotlight on Raw, Vegan Pizza by Earth & City!

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Oh, pizza, how we love thee.  You’re the center of attention at sleepovers and childhood school lunch parties, you’re the one thing most people with differing tastes can agree on ordering, and you rank pretty high on the list of ultimate comfort foods.  However, as delicious as you are, you can pose quite a few food problems for some people!  Sure, vegetarians can be ready and willing to consume infinite slices of veggie pizza full of roasted, grilled, and sauteed vegetables with melted cheesy goodness, but where does that leave the lactose intolerant and vegans?  So where does that leave us?  Earth & City‘s cheeseless, raw vegan pizza to the rescue! 

After sadly passing on it during my first farmers’ visit to Wychwood Barns, I was lucky enough to snatch a jolly big slice at the newest Lunchtime Office Market at the ING Direct Cafe earlier this month.  Cassandra and Lisa of Earth & City don’t make the pizzas for every single market they do (it’s a rotating menu item as opposed to a permanent fixture), so my timing felt extra special this time around!  I was so excited I literally threw my coat and bag on the table by the window and scampered back to Earth & City’s spot to claim my lunch before it disappeared.  Their vegan pizzas are perfect for those who face food allergies and intolerances left and right because they’re gluten and wheat free, dairy-free, and nut-free.  If you have a soy allergy, I’d be cautious just because Earth & City lists wheat-free tamari on their list of ingredients, but I’d ask just to make sure as it really depends on the amount and levels.   

Earth & City’s raw vegan pizza changes throughout the year based on seasonal ingredients and whatever vegetables are fresh, but the one thing that is always constant is the pizza base.  Made with sprouted buckwheat, soaked flax seed, and dried herbs, the crusts are dehydrated overnight* and they firm up into thin, sturdy crusts.  My big slice was covered with sweet sundried tomato sauce (think tomato paste in consistency), raw mushrooms and grape tomatoes, and a generous helping of bright green sunflower sprouts.  I know soy cheese and Daiya cheese are also both viable options to use in vegan pizza-making, but this pizza truly gives new meaning to veggie pizza – it’s like having a garden on your pizza pie!          

The flavours and methods are totally and completely different because for one, it’s a raw pizza and second, the flavours are much more of a mix of sweet and savoury.  The sweetness from the honey dates in the flatbread crust, as well as from the tomato sauce, hits you full force and it gives the rest of the raw vegetables more complexity in flavour.  It envelopes and anchors everything while allowing the freshness of the vegetables to shine.  The pizza is incredibly hearty and so full of nutrients and healthy things for the body including dietary fiber and antioxidants straight from the soaked flax seed and honey dates. 

This was truly the healthiest pizza I had ever seen and eaten and the abundance of mushrooms and sunflower sprouts made me so happy.  Vegan pizza is hard to come by so I’m really happy Earth & City makes it on a regular basis, even if it’s not for every single market that they do.  If you want to know which markets will have it, just pop them a message on their Facebook page or on their Twitter @earthandcity, and ask to be included on their weekly newsletter. 

*****

* source = Earth & City’s official website. 

Earth & City is a local raw and vegan food business operating at farmers’ markets across Toronto year-round.  They are currently at 3 markets, with more during the late spring and summer months.  You can find them at the Centre for Social Innovation (Bathurst location at 720 Bathurst Street south of Bloor) on Tuesdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, the ING Direct Cafe (at Yonge & Shuter street just north of Queen Street) on Thursdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, and at The Stop market at Wychwood Barns (76 Wychwood Ave. near St. Clair Ave. West and Christie Street) on Saturdays from 8am-1pm.

Shredded Kale Slaw Is the Delicious Newbie in Fresh Town! The Love For Kale Continues On, Part II

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The love for kale continues on!  Yesterday I introduced the Italian raw bowl from Fresh to the blog (and to those of you who haven’t stuffed your face into it yet!), with its delicious crushed kale chips, basil pesto sauce, and zucchini noodles.  Today, my foodie love letter goes out to Fresh’s shredded kale slaw because it is absolute heaven in my mouth and if I could, I would sneak into their kitchens and eat their entire supply of it!  By the bowlful.  And then pass out from delicious happiness.  And then probably wheeled out in a wheelbarrow by kitchen staff.  It would be so worth it. 

Their shredded kale slaw is another newbie in Fresh town and from what I gather from other Fresh enthusiasts is that it’s already made quite the impression!  The side order of kale slaw comes with all burgers and wraps and replaces the cabbage slaw (which had chopped celery, red onion, and vinegar dressing) that was on the old menu.  I was in conniptions after I ate it for the first time last month and I am so glad this new side order is here to stay!  Cabbage coleslaw, I will always have fond memories of eating you with my grilled vegetable and basil pesto wrap filling on greens and with my mushroom onion burger.  I loved you too, but it’s time to say goodbye as I go on with my life with the new kid in town.

Farewell, cabbage slaw

I went full out GREEN this time with my build-a-bowl fun and ordered sides of kale slaw, sunflower sprouts, edamame beans, and Fresh’s signature house dressing with a warm bowl of brown rice.  Fresh is such a fun place for me to eat at because I try things I’ve never eaten before, I enjoy foods I don’t eat on a regular basis, and I get to learn about tasty combinations of foods I never would have otherwise thought of putting together.  I had sunflower sprouts for the first time here months ago and aside from times I eat yummies at Freshii, the only other time I eat brown rice is at Fresh and that’s simply because I eat steamed white rice at home and other places. 

You can tell how extensive Fresh’s menu is because after eating here a number of times, I have still have plenty of meals and foods I haven’t tried yet!  I’m still working my way through it and yet to try a Fresh weekend brunch, soup, salad entree, or smoothie!  Mixed fruit juice, yes, smoothie, no.  This was my first time having their brown rice and in combination with the kale slaw, sprouts, edamame, and house dressing, I shovelled the rice into my mouth and ate every last grain.

Fresh’s house dressing was the biggest surprise for me.  I knew it would be good, but I had no idea that it would be THIS good!  Made with a mixture of flax and sunflower oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon, dijon, garlic, and tamari (ingredient list taken from the menu), the house dressing is one of a number of dressings and dips that come with salads and as individual additional sides to any meal for an extra $1.  The flavour of the dressing is amazing.  Think of it as dressing with a subtle savouriness to it without the harsh tang from straight up vinegar or lemon.  The sunflower oil gives the dressing body while the apple cider vinegar gives it that sweet and sour taste that adds a kick to blank canvas foods like rice and plain noodles.  The shredded kale slaw itself is tossed with a bit of vinegar dressing of its own so the whole meal was just bursting with flavour and texture with the nutty, starchy flavour coming from the edamame beans and the crunchiness coming from the sunflower sprouts and kale.

I’m really excited to feature kale in my upcoming ‘5 Great…’ series on the blog and with so places utilizing the versatility of kale in their dishes, there’s bound to be some great hidden gems and showstoppers around the city to showcase.  The kale slaw at Fresh totally has my vote to be in the top 5.  It’s not fancy, but that’s the beauty of it because food doesn’t need to be fancy pants to make an impression.  All it has to be is fresh and delicious and made with love.  And of course, enjoyed with love.  No contest here.  I just might order two sides of it next time.

*****

Ate by Ate currently has 8 blog entries on Fresh.  To view all the Fresh goodness and scrapbook layouts, click here.

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)

A Beachy, Spring Day – Yummy Soba Noodles, Grilled Veggies, and Sunflower Sprouts in Fresh’s Beach Bowl

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Here’s some bright cheery colour to brighten up our otherwise drab rainy day!  It’s been a total washout here in Toronto today so for those of you who ventured out, props to you because good god, I would have been wrestling with my umbrella all day had I gone out.  It was freakin’ windy out!  I spent my day at home scrapbooking and organizing photos in photo albums.  I live dangerously, I know, ha!  I hope you guys like the scrap layout up top because I had a ton of fun making it 😀  Pink, green, and pastels.  Ahhh, the way to my heart.  So, for your drooling pleasure today: Fresh’s soba noodle beach bowl!  Even though this particular dish isn’t the one currently being featured in Fresh’s Veggielicious special (the one featured is actually the Ninja bowl), I figured it was appropriate anyway given how Fresh is participating in Veggielicious and all. 

I know I raved on and on about how much I adored my spicy black bean burrito dish on my bed of greens here the first time I ate at Fresh, but I have to say, the beach bowl just might be tied for possibly my favourite dish so far!  I looove soba noodles.  Also referred to as buckwheat noodles, they are Japanese noodles that are served both warm and cold.  The first time I had soba noodles was a number of years ago.  I found these great noodles at T&T supermarket and they were packaged and served cold with big leaves of green leaf lettuce, cold shrimp, wedges of tamago (Japanese egg), and peanut sauce.  Oh god, I loved it so much and devoured it every time I ate it.  I was so sad though when I found out they no longer made them, so Fresh’s soba noodle bowls totally fill that void in my heart whenever I’m out to eat and in the mood for them.

This meal was really special.  My boyfriend and I were celebrating our 2-year anniversary and were out during that Sunday to see the Raptors play that afternoon.  It was a nice, peaceful Sunday morning brunch and even though I probably could have ordered off of Fresh’s popular weekend brunch menu, I reeeally wanted noodles and veggies and cheese and all that good stuff, so that’s what I had.  It was a day to celebrate and besides, I’m a girly little piggy ^_^  I went out all out and even ordered myself a fresh glass of mixed fruit juice: mango and strawberry, super bright and refreshing!  It’s fun to mix and match fruits and other drinks to create my own special concoction and I especially love choosing things like mango, grapefruit, coconut milk, things like that.

Fresh has a number of bowls on their menu and you can either have them with brown rice or soba noodles, which cost an extra dollar.  The bowls have amazing combinations of vegetarian and vegan protein and vegetables.  Think tempeh, tofu steaks, sprouts, grilled vegetables, raw vegetables, and curry stews and sauces.  Depending on whether you choose to have brown rice or noodles, and whether you add cheese to your meal, bowls range in price from $8-$15, and some bowls offer a “baby” size (a half portion) at a discounted price.  It was my first time trying a Fresh bowl (remember what I said about eating my way through the menu?  Ha!) and I chose the beach bowl with soba noodles.

The beach bowl, to me, is perfection in a bowl.  SO many of my favourite things all in one!  The beach bowl is served with warm delicious grilled red bell peppers, sweet potato, and zucchini, thick slices of avocado, thinly sliced sun-dried tomato, a huge helping of sunflower sprouts, and olive oil, tamari (a variation of soy sauce that is slightly thicker and wheat-free), and lemon juice.  I added goat cheese to my bowl and oh my god, YUM, they gave me a nice generous scoop of cheese.  As you already know, I love cheese dearly and because the grilled vegetables were nice and warm, the goat cheese was easy to spread around and made everything so deliciously creamy.  The mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs just made the soba noodles so amazingly good. 

And this was actually my first time eating sunflower sprouts and I loved them.  Which is awesome because I am so not a fan of regular sprouts, so along with alfalfa, I can enjoy sunflower ones!  For me, it was a fusion of new things (sunflower sprouts) and old favourites (um, hello avocado and noodles), and I couldn’t have been more satisfied.  It was delicious and I was full.  So full I needed to doggy bag the rest!  Time and again, Fresh delivers and lives up to its name and their menu just inspires me every time I look at it…which is a lot, ha.  So in conclusion: I LOVE YOU BEACH BOWL! 😀

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)

They are currently serving a Veggielicious special until April 24th for a price fixe of $15: 16oz Chi-Spa Juice (ginger, dates, apple, soymilk, banana, cinnamon, chia seeds), Ninja Bowl (salad greens, tofu cubes, sundried tomatoes, sunflower sprouts, spicy ginger tamari sauce, and your choice of dressing on brown rice or soba noodles (add $1 for soba), and a Ginger Molasses Cupcake with Lemon Frosting.

Scrapbooking materials used: emerald green cardstock (paper printing shop); baby pink and beige cardstock (Recollections); green and blue patterned cardstock paper (Green Tea stack by DVWV); patterned journalling tags (Darcy Collection by Anna Griffin); pink floral chipboard alphabets (K & Company); spring pastel flower embellishments (Paper Bliss); glitter blue, green, and brown chipboard button embellishments (WT, Westrim Crafts); scalloped edge decorative scissors (Provo Craft); circle paper punch (marvy uchida); paper corner rounder.