From French Bistro to Molecular Cuisine – October Cooking Classes & Workshops at Nella Cucina!

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Learn the art of French pastry and more at Nella Cucina!

From French bistro fare to molecular cuisine and gastronomy, the cooking classes at Nella Cucina on Bathurst St. in the Annex is anything but boring!  I’m so excited to finally feature their cooking classes and workshops on the Food Calendar and I’m even more excited about the prospect of attending one of these classes!  I’ve never actually signed up for a real cooking class before and with so many options in the city, it really wouldn’t be difficult at all to find something that strikes my fancy.

I thank my walking feet for this particular foodie discovery!  I found out about Nella Cucina and their classes simply just by walking.  I had made plans to meet a friend for weekend brunch around Queen St. and Spadina and had made the trek to Wychwood Barns for the Saturday morning farmers’ market earlier on.  After my market fun, I walked back to St. Clair, looked down the road at Bathurst and thought, “ah, what the heck?  Let’s walk the whole way down!”  And you wouldn’t believe all the nifty food discoveries I made just by walking that stretch of city!  Nella Cucina was one of them and I’m so delighted because their classes sound really fun and engaging.  Aside from offering workshops and cooking classes, Nella Cucina is an actual culinary retail shop selling cookware and equipment for restaurants and food service establishments.  Here’s a sneak peek at part of the October Cooking Classes Calendar and the Nella’s October line-up of cooking classes!

Enjoy the bounty of the fall harvest and seasonal ingredients

Molecular Cuisine Workshop #1: The Professional Series at Nella Cucina, October 1.  10am-1pm.  $150/person (receive a $100 Nella Cucina gift card when you sign up for all 4 workshops!).  Love science?  Fascinated by molecular gastronomy?  Simply want to learn about awe-inspiring professional techniques used by Iron Chefs?  The Molecular Cuisine Workshop series is perfect for you!  In collaboration with John Placko, culinary director of the Modern Culinary Academy, this workshop is designed to introduce participants to the scientific processes behind many professional culinary techniques.  At this workshop, learn and practice spherification, reverse spherification, rapid freezing, and carbonation.  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/242/-/-.html

Classic French Fare at Nella Cucina, October 4.  6:30pm-9:30pm.  876 Bathurst St.  $95/person.  The kitchen transforms into a French bistro at this three and a half hour cooking class devoted to French classics and Parisian fare.  Create a 5-course feast as you travel through France via food!  Menu includes pan-seared chicken breast with tarragon and dijon cream sauce, gougère (classic French choux pastry with cheese), an apricot and almond tart with whipped cream, and more!  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/225/-/-.html

The Making of a Chef Series: The Making of a Pastry Chef at Nella Cucina, October 6.  12pm-3:30pm.  876 Bathurst St.  $125/person.  At this intensive three and a half hour hands-on class and workshop, learn the foundations and skills necessary for pastry culinary art from industry professionals using the basic ingredients in French desserts (sugar, eggs, butter, and flour), and create lovely desserts that are as beautiful as they are delicious!  Menu includes chocolate soufflé, mille- feuille (napoleon), crème brûlée, and more!  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/09/27/232/-/-.html

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The Market Is Here to Stay! Vegan Nori Rolls, Raw Pumpkin Tarts, Fresh Spring Roll Wraps and More at the CSI

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It’s official: the Lunchtime Office Markets at both Centre for Social Innovation locations are here to stay!  The office markets have been wildly successful with hungry workers and students, curious passerby, and dedicated market goers like yours truly!  What started out as a biweekly, fall market pilot project has now blossomed into a weekly extravaganza of fresh baked bread, organic and local produce, fresh farm cheeses, fair trade chocolate, and plenty of raw, vegan food lovingly made and sold by local businesses around the city and province.  I’ll be honest, I am absolutely ecstatic that the lunchtime markets are now a weekly occurrence –  twice a week no less!   

Back in October, I was hoping so much for the pilot to continue on well through the anticipated 4-week stint and for the market to become a weekly one as opposed to the biweekly one it started off as during its humble beginnings.  My wish was granted and my market-loving heart is so excited for the many future markets to come.  The market has plans to stay well into December but truthfully, I’m hoping for well into the new year 😉

Up until this point I had only purchased a few bits and bobs here and there including some bread from Nice Buns (I suggest you all try Sara’s cocoa sourdough and white bread buns) and St. Johns Bakery, as well as one of Earth & City‘s creamy coconut macaroons.  This time around though, I wanted a full out lunch and the spread didn’t disappoint!  I picked up a spring roll wrap, a vegan sushi/nori roll, and a pumpkin seasonal fruit tart, all from Earth & City‘s colourful and delicious selection of vegan food.  If you enjoy crunchy fruits and vegetables with a hint of sweetness, you need to try the spring roll wraps.  Made with apples, beets, carrots, red onions, walnuts, almonds, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey dates, sesame oil, and ginger, they’re all wrapped in rice paper and fresh, raw collard greens and they are so incredibly packed with nutrition and texture and sweet flavour because you get a mixture of fruit, vegetables, protein, fibre, and all that good stuff.  You get that sweet and spikey bite from the beets and plenty of crunch from the vegetables.

Now, you’re probably wondering how in the world I managed to eat this spring roll wrap without blowing up like a blowfish because there’s raw apple in it!  There isn’t too much in it so I managed to avoid a major allergic reaction.  I think the worst I got was a tiny red welt on my lip which went away fairly quickly, but no swollen tongue and mouth, no fire in my throat, and no excruitiating pain.  I know I was taking a chance eating something with raw apple in it, but I wanted to try one so bad I threw caution to the wind and figured I could always pick the apple out if the pieces were too big or if the amount was too much to handle.  Sigh.  The things I do for food.

The pumpkin tart was so incredibly smooth and creamy and it was great because it wasn’t overladen with spice.  It tasted fresh and natural, the way it’s supposed to.  The base of Earth & City’s seasonal fruit dessert tarts are made with a raw mixture of organic rolled oats and honey dates and filled with whatever fruit is seasonal and fresh.  For the fall months, Cassandra and Lisa have been filling them with apples, pears, and pumpkin and come winter, they’ll be using storage apples and peach preserves canned during the late summer in August.  The base is chewy as opposed to crumby, cakey, or flaky, similar to a granola and honey mixture, only naturally sweeter because of the honey dates.  I have to tell you, I actually prefer this type of base because for whatever reason, tart crusts and pie crusts don’t work with my tastebuds.  There’s always this bitter, dry aftertaste that I really don’t care for, so this oat and honey date tart base works for me!

And now, my personal favourite: the nori roll!  Earth & City’s vegan sushi is made with thin seaweed sheets rolled with cooked brown rice (one of the only food items of theirs that isn’t raw!) and stuffed with a variety of vegetables.  I LOVED the sushi so much, oh my goodness.  I had shittake mushrooms, red bell pepper, and sunflower sprouts and it was refreshing, juicy, and hearty because of the thick grains of brown rice.  Next time, I am getting myself an entire nori roll log!  Each nori roll is $2 and a nori roll log is $6 which translates into 4 rolls when cut.

The markets at both locations have done really remarkable things and by remarkable I mean getting people involved and getting people engaged in the food and the market itself.  When I go to these markets, I know it seems like all I’m there for is the food and the photos, but I’m also there to learn, to observe, and to listen.  Little do people know that while I’m snapping away and ogling all the yummies, I’m also listening to the conversations that go on between those who make the food and those who make the market possible by buying from these local businesses.  

There have been conversations about ingredients, about new and upcoming products, and about suggestions to make the market even more amazing than it already is.  It’s an awesome feeling being here in the hubbub of lunch hour when people are grabbing piping hot bowls of soup left and right, snatching up buns and loaves of bread, and taking the food they’ve bought and enjoying it for lunch.  You know a market means something to people when they bother to strike up these conversations in the first place because it means they’re invested and that they want to see the market continue and do well.  I can only see it getting stronger and I can’t wait to see what’s in store come December.     

*****

The Lunchtime Markets at the Centre for Social Innovation in the Annex and on Spadina take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays respectively from 11:30am-1pm.  The Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) is located at 720 Bathurst Street, just south of Bloor Street West and Lennox.  They also have a location on Spadina at 215 Spadina Ave., 4th floor.

Changing the Food Landscape & Our Accessibility to Food – Earth & City, Nice Buns, & Lunchtime Markets at CSI, Part II

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Imagine a world where the accessibility of healthy food isn’t an issue, isn’t a barrier to living life to the fullest.  Imagine a world where you could explore all the foodscapes you want without worrying about how, and how much it would cost, to get to those destinations.  Imagine equal opportunities to food.  It’s hard to envision, isn’t it?  We all come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and situations that either allow or inhibit our pathways to food exploration, and I don’t just mean exploration by way of eating great food, I mean seeing it, hearing about it, learning about it, and being exposed to it.  Not only is it important to theorize and critique our city’s food channels, but it’s equally important to find ways of improving these networks and to approach it from different angles.  It means pinpointing a problem, a missing link, or an oversight, and then coming up with ways to promote change for the better.

The Lunctime Markets at the Centre for Social Innovation on Spadina and in the Annex have started something wonderful because accessibility and exposure are both at the heart of the conceptual and theoretical premise behind it.  The Centre for Social Innovation Food Constellation began piloting this mini market at both CSI locations in October, and the plan was to host markets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30am-1:30pm for at least a month to determine its level of success.  Success at what exactly, though?  Answer: bringing healthy, local food to office buildings and institutions around the city that may not have the access or connections to engage in food culture and simaltaneously widening the consumer base for local farmers and food producers around the city and province.

I’m fortunate enough to have Facebook and Twitter accounts that allow me to communicate and build relationships with businesses and other food institutions around the city in this fashion, but not everyone cares to be a part of those communities, and not everyone has the same access to technology, transportation, and infrastructure.  The whole point of the Lunctime Office Markets is to develop reciprocal relationships between producer and consumer that otherwise may not have been created, and to give people options.  These mini markets do so much.  They 1) offer delicious, healthy food to either eat right then and there or to take home, 2) present food options outside of  the large chain corporation model that isn’t always inclusive, 3) break up the monotony present in office buildings and institutions that lack food pathways, 4) strive to bring the public food sector closer to the private one, and 5) grant people with the opportunity to learn more about local food businesses, producers, and entrpreneurs.

Several particular local producers and businesses that have really shined at the CSI markets since they started back in October include are ChocoSol Traders, Earth & City, Monforte Dairy, and Nice Buns Toronto.  I was treated to another gorgeous spread of food, with everything from heirloom peppers and vegetables to cheese to lamb barley soup to cocoa sourdough buns!  Cassandra and Lisa’s Earth & City brings a mouthwatering buffet of mostly raw vegan food to every market they participate in and they change things up all the time so that there’s always new and different items to try.  Their food is fresh, organic, seasonal, and always vegan, and their menu reflects this with different vegetables and fruits used in different dishes depending on their seasonal peaks. 

There were mountains of spring roll wraps just like my last time, along with huuuge veggie tacos made with collard greens wrapped around sunflower sprouts, tomatoes, dried cumin and chili, fresh corn, some sea salt, lemon juice, and cilantro.  They had their famous flatbread sandwiches made from flax, sunflower seeds, and onions, and served open-faced with tomatoes, sunflower sprouts, raw almonds, basil and oregano, among other ingredients, as well as vegan sushi!  The platter of vegan sushi was beeeautiful (it looked like a gorgeous painting) and because I was so in awe with its prettiness, I forgot to take down the list of ingredients.  I’m working on it, so for the time being, admire the photos!      

Earth & City always brings an offering of sweets along with their savoury foods and this time, we were treated to their vanilla and chocolate coconut macaroons made with coconut flakes, organic coconut butter, organic raw agave and cacao powder from ChocoSol, vanillia extract, raw almond flour, and sea salt, their frosted brownies, and their choco-peanut butter thumbprints!  I took away a cocoa sour dough bun from Sara’s Nice Buns and one of Earth & City’s vanilla coconut macaroons to enjoy on the subway.  I ate it in two bites and it was crunchy and creamy and all sorts of delicious.  I bought the bun for my mum and she shared some with my brother and they both thoroughly enjoyed and were pleasantly surprised when I told them there was cocoa in it!  I love that the menus are always evolving and I love that all the ingredients are listed under each Earth & City dish and item.

I love this market with a passion and judging by the crowds, I’m not the only one.  The market has exceeded its 4-week pilot period and I’m hoping so much that the concept and program will continue to grow and spread throughout the city.  There’s so much wonderful food to enjoy and discover among good company and little by little, these initiatives will hopefully spur positive change when it comes to our access to healthy food.

*****

Source of information: The Skinny on Maplekeys Lunchtime Office Markets

The Lunctime Markets at the Centre for Social Innovation in the Annex and on Spadina take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays respectively from 11:30am-1pm.  The Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) is located at 720 Bathurst Street, just south of Bloor Street West and Lennox.  They also have a location on Spadina at 215 Spadina Ave., 4th floor.

A Cozy Market That’s Fresh and Local – Earth & City, Nice Buns, and More at the CSI Lunchtime Market! Part I

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With fall in full swing and winter approaching, you might be inclined to think that that the farmers’ markets in the city have slowed things down.  Truth?  They haven’t.  Although many markets have recently packed up for the year, there are still plenty that are raring to go every week, offering more amazing food, baked goods, and fresh produce than ever before.  There are so many markets I want to revisit now that they’ve moved indoors for the rest of the season and into the new year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll have in store for the holidays! 

When I first started going to the markets on a weekly basis in late spring (sometimes visiting more than one in a week), I thought, “what will I do once they’re gone for the season?”  I thought I had exhausted most of my options over the course of the summer and the first month and a half of fall.  I was well aware that some of them operated year-round, but I still wondered how I was going to keep things active on the market front aside from going to one here and there during the winter. 

I had been bitten by the market bug and I wanted more.  I craved for the opportunity to keep learning, to keep growing and, of course, to keep bringing home delicious food!  Lucky for me, the market fairy came knocking on my door last month.  I was finding out about new markets sprouting up and new ways to engage in market culture.  I started reading magazine articles, learning more about circulating petitions and local market events (if I only I had known about Foodstock sooner!), following farms, vendors, and local businesses on Twitter as I came across them, and just immersing myself in whatever literature that was available to me. 

One particular market discovery in October has captured my heart: the Lunctime Market at the Centre for Social Innovation.  I admit it, I’m a devoted groupie.  After my first visit to the market at CSI in the Annex, I’ve become so invested in following this market and finding out as much as I can about the businesses that participate and how the market came to be in the first place as the market didn’t even exist during the spring and summer months.  I’m super excited to share these photos with you all tonight and I can’t wait to talk about the idea behind this growing market, and the wonderful, delicious food from Earth & City and Nice Buns tomorrow!  Be prepared – it’s going make you monstrously hungry.

*****

The Centre for Social Innovation (Spadina) is located at 215 Spadina Ave. on the 2nd and 4th floors of the Robertson Building.  They also have a location in the Annex at 720 Bathurst Street, just south of Bloor Street West and Lennox.  Nice Buns is located at 402 Queen Street East (visit their Facebook page here) and Earth and City serves several farmers’ markets in the city (most notably the market at Wychwood Barns on Saturday and the Sorauren market on Monday), as well as Pedestrian Sundays at Kensington Market.  They do catering and orders, so visit their site and blog here for more information on their food, mission, and menu.

The Fall Harvest Series – Spring Roll Wraps, Pumpkin Fruit Tarts, and More at the Centre for Social Innovation Market!

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A photo sneak peek for tonight before I dish out the full post tomorrow morning!

***

Sometimes Twitter is like a ray of sunshine.  Last Thursday, I managed to catch a tweet from Cassandra of Earth and City saying they wouldn’t be at Wychwood Barns on Saturday, but would still be at Sorauren market on Monday and the “@csiTO market” on Tuesday.  I did a double take.  What in the world was @csiTO and how did I not know about this??  Enter the clickity-clack noises of my fingertips flying over my keyboard as I added and followed @csiTO on Twitter and looked them up on Google.  I found out through their Twitter home page that they were actually not a forensic crime fighting team here in Toronto (I know, bad joke, har har), but instead the Centre for Social Innovation, a centre designed to encourage those with social entrepreneurial ideas and skills to bring those ideas to life through local and transnational community involvement. 

The Centre for Social Innovation is, in my opinion, a grassroots think-tank for people from all walks of life to come together to provide support and inspiration, and to discuss and implement programs and changes to social life, whether it be environmental issues, infrastructure, economic, and everything in between.  The focus is building relationships in the community and bringing about change, for the better.  Their spaces are open and welcoming, and anyone can come in to learn more, get involved, and pitch in.  They offer spaces for groups to come in and use for meetings and the like, and they currently serve two locations in Toronto.  The newest located in the Annex is just south of Bloor West on Bathurst Street, and a new location is set to open in Regent Park on Dundas East in the new Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre.

To make this post even more Twitter-tastic, guess how I found out about Earth and City?  You guessed it, Twitter!  I heard about – and saw – the amazing delicious food made my Cassandra and Lisa from my friend Jen, vegan baker and superwoman behind Apiecalypse Now.  I don’t know how I missed them at Sorauren during the summer, but there was no way I was going to miss them this time at a new market I had never been to in a venue I wasn’t even aware of! 

Ah, and there’s a reason for that: the market at CSI on the Annex is a new one.  They just launched their mini market and for the time being, the market will be there every other week until they can expand and run the market weekly, which I really hope they do!  Although the space looks a bit industrial and warehouse-like on the inside, I think there’s a great homey feel to it and it’s wonderful and welcoming with tables, chairs, and couches.  There’s a fully stocked kitchen with dishes and utensils and everything that everyone is more than welcome to use while they’re there.  I love that.  Grab some fresh food at the market and sit down and eat it.  I am totally doing this the next time I come!

The market was almost set up like a buffet, with a long table full of Earth and City’s raw vegan goodies, fresh bread from St. John’s Bakery in Toronto, cheese straight from Ontario farms, olive oils and vinaigrettes (which I sampled with some small chunks of bread – the pizza oil is fantastic!), and plenty of organic, vegan, fair trade chocolate courtesy of Chocosol who have just been all over the map during my farmers’ market visits!  I’ve featured them before in my Riverdale farmers’ market post, along with some photos here and there from other markets, so go have a look see!  Even though the market was small, the spread was fantastic and that’s what it’s all about – quality.

Earth and City changes up their farmers’ market menu on a consistent basis, so you never know what goodies you’ll come across when you visit them (unless of course you follow them on Twitter and they tell you).  Yesterday’s yummies: fresh spring roll wraps stuffed and made with rice paper, apples, carrots, beets, walnuts, almonds, honey dates, red onion, collard greens, ginger, sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice.  I don’t care, I am going to throw caution to my raw apple allergy and get one of these if I see them again for next time.  I figure I can just pick out the apple with destroying the wrap.  They look delicious. 

Also on their menu were their flatbreads, homemade frosted brownies, chocolate macaroons made with coconut flakes, organic cocoa butter, organic raw agave, and raw almond flour, and…pumpkin fruit tarts!!  I honestly should have bought one because c’mon, it’s a scrumptious-looking, to-die-for pumpkin tart!  But I had already bought cookies in the morning.  I’m going to kick myself, sigh.  I did, however, walk away with some bread rolls from St. John’s Bakery and they were delightful with green onion it.

The market was cozy, intimate, and lovely and I am SO glad I went.  I can’t wait for their next one and after checking the calendar, it looks like they’ll be there again on the 18th.  I will be there, ready to eat until I roll out down the street.

*****

The Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) is located at 720 Bathurst Street, just south of Bloor Street West and Lennox.  They also have a location on Spadina at 215 Spadina Ave., 4th floor.  Earth and City serves several farmers’ markets in the city (most notably the market at Wychwood Barns on Saturday and the Sorauren market on Monday), as well as Pedestrian Sundays at Kensington Market.  They do catering and orders, so visit their site and blog here for more information on their food, mission, and menu.

Soba Noodles, Pesto White Beans, and Delicious Slices of Grilled Red Peppers and Avocado: Build-a-Bowl Fun at Fresh!

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*Even though I’m uploading this post today, on the morning of August 23rd, it was actually written the night before, so don’t be confused by my usage of tense and my reference to time* 

I’m writing this post with a heavy heart after finding out this morning that Jack Layton, leader our federal NDP party and former Toronto city councillor (among many other things), passed away from his second bout of cancer.  Even after so many exuberant years in his career in politics in our beloved city, there were so many things I felt he could have continued to accomplish and I wish so much that he could have lived to see and enjoy allthe fruits of his successes and accomplishments.  I get teary-eyed every time I see the news footage displaying the chalk message mural for him developing at city hall, and all the flowers and messages that have been left for him at his office. 

Not that any of us have ever stopped fighting for change or fighting for happiness and a better world, but his death today is a huge wake-up call, or at the very least a solemn reminder.  A reminder that our life is precious and every day is a blessing.  That there is no such thing as too many “I love yous”.  That we should never stop fighting for our happiness, the happiness of the people we love, and change for the better.  To quote the last part of a letter he wrote just days before his death, “My friends, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”  In a nutshell: be the best person you can be and find the most positive ways to live your life.

This blog is my labour of love, my sounding board, and my inspiration, and I will always be grateful for all the amazing things I’ve seen and done for it and because of it.  So with that in mind, here is today’s foodie offerings to fill our tummies and our hearts: noodles, beans, and delicious veggies for build-a-bowl fun at Fresh!  If you’re accustomed to eating here, or ogling their menu online, then you know that they have a nice long list of entree bowls with a choice of brown rice or soba noodles with a slew of proteins, vegetables, sauces, and herbs.  Take my Beach Bowl, for instance.  Soba noodles with mounds of grilled red peppers, sweet potato, avocado, sunflower sprouts, zucchini, sun-dried tomato, and lemon juice and olive oil.  AMAZING in every way.  The Beach Bowl is just one of many bowls on their menu and although I can only imagine how delicious the others taste, there are times where I just want to have some fun and create my own bowl!  Kind of like the Build-a-Bear workshop, only with food!

Fresh’s menu offers a huuuuge, long list of sides that you can pick and choose from as add-ons to meals, but I actually use the list to create my own custom-made Fresh bowl.  Each item is assigned a price (ranging from $0.50 to $4) so you can mix and match between and across categories (raw vegetables, steamed vegetables, proteins, cheeses, sauces, dips, and others) and choose ingredients to your heart’s content!  Everything from tofu steaks, sunflower sprouts, black bean filling, steamed kale and bok choy, goat cheese, napa, jicama, chick pea curry, zucchini noodles, and on and on and on! 

For this particular build-a-bowl fun lunch, I ordered soba noodles with pesto white beans and thick, delicious slices of fresh avocado and hot-off-the-grill roasted red peppers.  The pesto white beans are to-die for and the red peppers have that perfect char on them.  And I’m just a lover of soba noodles and avocado in general.  Since these menu items are technically on the add-ons and sides portion of the menu, each ingredient you order comes in its own little dish.  And then you have yourself a ball and mix everything together yourself.  Or you can eat the sides on their own, straight out of the dish.  Whatever floats your boat! 

Now, these photos were taken before Fresh unveiled their revamped menu last month, so although the ingredients you see here haven’t changed, the utensils and aesthetics are going to look a bit different.  Gone are the green chopsticks, in are the bright orange ones!  And their bowls are nice big white curved ones, which actually give quite a nice contrast to the bright colours of food. 

After creating this bowl, I became hooked on wanting to create more.  The options and combinations are endless!  It’s so much fun and it’s such a cute way to get creative and healthy with your food.  And it’s great way to pick and choose based on your budget and the size of your appetite.  Not to mention, you get to put together a meal with everything you love – can you say happy taste buds and tummy?!  I’ll never stop eating my way through their menu, but this is a really awesome way to inject a little creativity and even more fun into eating here.  And that’s what food is all about: genuine love, making it fun, making it your own, and feeling good inside and out.

*****

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)

Poached to Perfection – Two Kinds of Eggs Benny at Futures Bakery!

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When I was growing up, I was fascinated with all the different ways eggs could be cooked and served.  This might sound all sorts of nutty, but when I used to accompany my mum to the supermarket when I was little I would grab all the little egg recipe books (you know, the ones by Get Crackin’) and all the coupons around the store not for their discounts, but for the recipes on the back and for the pretty pictures of egg sandwiches, omelettes, and frittatas on the front.  And till this day, those tiny recipe flipbooks are sitting comfortably in a file folder reminding me of the days when I dreamed of cooking great meals all on my own. 

As weird as it sounds, eggs play a role in a lot of my foodie memories, both sentimental and otherwise.  My grandmother made – and still makes – the best Chinese style preserved egg, something I really enjoy eating but also something I eat as sparingly as possible because of its salt content.  My little brother and I would test our “cooking” skills on Mother’s Day when we would “surprise” our mum with scrambled eggs a la breakfast in bed.  And the runny style eggs used in dishes like Chinese shrimp and egg rice remain my favourite along with the classic overeasy.

One thing that always left me stymied growing up though was figuring out what a poached egg was, and how to make one!  Up until I started university, I had no idea what a poached egg was and I had no idea that it was the center of attention when it came to the ever popular brunch dish, eggs benedict.  All of that changed though when I ate my first eggs benny a number of years ago and found out how to cook a poached egg.  I thought to myself, “I get to create a whirlpool of hot water in a pot to cook an egg?!  How funky!”  And so began my journey into the world of hollandaise sauce, eggs benny, and all its different variations: smoked salmon, peameal, ham, spinach, you name it.

Futures Bakery offers 3 different kinds of eggs benedict including eggs benny with grilled ham ($6.95), eggs florentine with fresh spinach ($6.95), and eggs blackstone with smoked salmon ($7.95).  I’ve tried both the eggs blackstone and eggs florentine and eating these two amazing breakfast dishes makes me realize what was wrong with past eggs benedict dishes that missed the mark.  For one thing, the English muffin is soft and moist.  I’ve had eggs benny on English muffins that were dry and let me tell you, it’s not fun.  It is also not a walk in the park when you need to saw through an English muffin that crunches like broken glass.  With eggs benedict, the English muffin is supposed to mesh with the poached egg and whatever it’s being served with so that you can cut into it with one swift motion.  It’s meant to be creamy and pillow soft, not starchy or anything that would remotely leave you feeling parched.

Futures does SUCH a bang on job with both of these.  The eggs are poached to perfection.  None of the yolk threatens to spill out before you even take a poke at it, and the hollandaise sauce is delicious.  It has the perfect consistency (not so thick it goops up but not thin and runny either) and they’re sprinkled with the yummy all-dressed chip-like spice mix which is also what coats their scrumptious potato home fries on the side.  The spinach leaves are HUGE on the eggs florentine and the smoked salmon has that wonderful slightly salty flavour to it that makes the whole dish explode with savouriness when you combine it with hollandaise and home fries.  Two eggs benny dishes for brunch, poached to perfection.

*****

Futures Bakery and Cafe is located at 483 Bloor St. West, in between the main intersections and subway stations of Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St.  It sits right at the corner of Bloor St. and Brunswick Ave. on the south side of Bloor.  They are open from 7:30am to 2am 7 days a week.