All I Need Is Cheese – Red Bean Ice Drinks With Whipped Cream and Cheesy Pasta Hong Style Dishes at The Phoenix

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Okay, so that statement isn’t entirely true.  I need more than cheese to complete my life.  But I do love cheese a whole lot!  And what better way to spread my love for cheese than to show you all some insanely delicious cheesy pasta HK style dishes from Phoenix restaurant!  Phoenix is my favourite Chinese diner to eat at and I’m really lucky that all of their locations are in and around Markham – one of the locations is actually just a 10 minute drive/bus ride away!  I can’t believe it’s already been so long since my first post on Phoenix way back during Ate by Ate’s first week on the internet.  That was the first week of December and here I am enjoying my last month to month and a half of summer and so much has changed since I started the blog.  For one thing, I graduated from grad school with my MA and am no longer a student and for another, I’ve never felt like I’ve learned as much as I have this past year and I have so much to take away with me.  And to think it’s all because I love food as much as I do!

I have always loved pasta, cheese, and numerous kinds of seafood and it’s one of the things I enjoy the most when I eat at HK style diners.  Of course I enjoy my rice dishes, but more often than not, I gravitate toward the spaghetti, the macaroni, the rotini, and any other type of pasta that happens to be on the menu.  Aside from the drinks, it’s one of the things I look forward to the most when I know I’m coming here!  I’ll probably sound like such a simpleton when I say this, but I get SO excited at the thought of spaghetti 😀  And because HK style diners like Phoenix have so many different spaghetti and pasta combinations, I get to pick and choose to my heart’s content!  They have everything from pasta with sausage, pineapple, mushrooms, sauteed veggies, and fish cutlets to dishes with sauces like tomato, black pepper, white cream, garlic, and mushroom.

It just so happens that these two delicious dishes I’m showing you today both have seafood and cheese: 1) a spaghetti dish with baby clams, cream sauce, a little bit of baked, melted cheese on top, and a giant puff pastry to go along with it! and 2) a HK style macaroni and cheese meal with incredibly soft macaroni covered in ooey gooey pull-apart cheese, served with crab meat, squid, and shrimp.  Not only do I adore how fast Phoenix dishes out their meals, but I’ve loved everything I’ve ever eaten here and these meals were no different.

The quality is bang on and they set themselves apart from others with such a large selection of menu items that have both HK and Chinese staples (chow mein, ho fun, tong mein) and unique, unexpected dishes (c’mon when have you EVER been to a place that served puff pastry with clam spaghetti?!).  Everyone has their own version and definition of comfort food, and this is definitely one of mine.  It warms, it satisfies, and it makes me feel wiggly happy all over.  Pasta and cheese – it doesn’t get any better than that!

I may have stuck with what I knew I loved when it came to the food, but I did the unexpected when it came to ordering my drink: I ordered red bean.  Let’s put this another way: DEB DOESN’T LIKE RED BEAN AND NEVER HAS.  So why in the world did I order it?!  Because after all these years of wrinkling my nose and puckering my mouth, I’ve given red bean another shot, the same way I’ve given chocolate mint a whirl and the same way I’ve done a complete 180 when it comes to bell peppers.  Growing up, I would always turn down the red bean dessert that came at the end of the Chinese restaurant dinner (tong sui), I wouldn’t touch the pineapple red bean buns with a ten-foot pole, and I would ignore the red bean drinks on the menu and pretend they weren’t there.  To say the least, I was not a fan.

But I’ve had a change of heart as of late (and by that I mean in the last few months) and it’s been growing on me.  There aren’t a lot of things I don’t like to eat (healthy things, of course!), so I make a conscious effort to give the things I used to dislike a shot and I realize that I rather enjoy them now.  And it feels great opening myself up to it all.  Thus, enter the red bean ice slush drink with the sweet whipped cream on top.  I liked ^_^ 

These photos, and the meals they capture, are special to me.  Not only do these photos depict two different meals that have two very specific things I love in common (seafood and cheese!), but they also tell the story of a girl simaltaneously branching out and staying in her comfort food zone.

*****

Prices for mains range from $6-$9 and many meals include your choice of drink, with an additional charge added for special drinks like slushes, floats, and ices.  Phoenix serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with a selection of appetizers, snacks, desserts, and tea time specials.  Phoenix’s 3 locations are in Markham and Thornhill:

  1. 1 Raymerville Drive, Markham.  Intersection of McCowan and Raymerville Drive south, located north of Hwy.7 and Bullock Drive, south of 16th Ave.
  2. 7155 Woodbine Ave., Markham.  Intersection of Steeles and Woodbine, just north of Steeles.  Off the 404 Steeles highway exit
  3. 8190 Bayview Ave., Thornhill.  North of John St, south of Langstaff Rd.
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Ice Cream Bonanza & Rainbow-nanza at Marble Slab Creamery, Part I

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Okay, so it might has been a teeny bit teeth-chattering when I went out today.  And the weather network is forecasting the coldest weekend of the winter thus far for tomorrow and the day after.  The kind of cold that would most likely cause my eyelashes to stick together causing rapid blinking and weird stares from other people.  So I yes, I am a little loopy in the head for posting pictures of ice cream.  But really, tell me that you don’t love eating ice cream any time.  That if someone were to wave a bowl of it in your face you’d decline.  Well, I sure wouldn’t!  So Marble Slab ice cream it is for today!

To me, Marble Slab may not be your go-to place for ice cream on a frequent basis simply because of the larger portions and the higher-end price range (Marble Slab’s branding strategy offers gourmet ice cream, so you’re looking at around $5-$7), but it screams FUN!  The colours, the variety of mix-ins, the waffles cones and bowls; it’s just pure fun to be able to choose your ice cream and go to town with fun add-ons for whatever sweet tooth mood you might be in. 

There are pre-selected, “put together” menu items that you can order off their menu, as well as the choice of creating your own unique ice cream creation using cones, waffle bowls, different combinations of ice cream, and of course, all the toppings your heart desires.  Tasty Creations (the menu items that are already predetermined in composition) include white chocolate raspberry, s’mores, cookies and cake, rocky road, and a slew of others.  In addition to the classic Marble Slab ice cream creations, they also serve items such as sundaes and banana splits among others. 

If you would prefer creating your own ice cream masterpiece, you can choose a waffle cone, one type of ice cream, and one mixin for a flat price ($4.99 for a regular and $5.99 for a large), with additional mixins coming in at an extra $0.79 each.  It’s a splurge, an indulgence, and a total treat.  I have a huuuge weakness for rainbow sprinkles, (who doesn’t get squealy over sprinkles?!) so I chose the Rainbow-nanza icecream off the Tasty Creations menu ($5.78): sweet cream ice cream mixed with rainbow sprinkles and M&Ms!

Cue the scooping of ice cream, the plop plopping of sweets, and the metal clang-clang of ice cream being made right in front of your very hungry eyes!  Yup, how the ice cream concoction is created is what sets them apart from other ice cream parlours (other than Cold Stone Creamery who use a similar technique and concept): the ice cream and mix-ins are mixed and folded on a frozen marble slab, resulting in a generously creamy ice cream 😀  The frozen surface keeps the ice cream from getting mushed and melty, and the folding allows the candies and sweets to be fully incorporated.  It’s quite fun to watch!  Believe me when I say it’s a technique that really needs to be done with care and patience because it’s not just swirling ice cream around till it’s mushy!

The sweet cream ice cream was fabulous (think vanilla but richer and creamier and with more of a cake batter taste to it) and rainbow sprinkles are always up my alley, but in hindsight, I would have chosen something without the M&Ms.  I love M&Ms to death (they’re my favourite chocolate candies!), but to me, they felt misplaced in the ice cream.  It’s almost as if they interrupted my ice cream eating, if you understand what I mean.  I think if mini M&Ms had been used it would have worked out a little better because the regular-sized ones just didn’t provide the fluidity and cohesiveness that you would want in an ice cream dish.  Textures and flavours are tough things to balance out and sometimes combinations work and sometimes they don’t.  The ice cream was good and it was fun, but I’m looking forward to trying other mixins and ice creams to really get a wider breadth of flavours and textures.

Marble Slab has been around town for awhile now with new locations opening up periodically – I think the newest one is on Yonge St. right by the Eaton Centre – but my first time going was actually just this past summer!  The first location I knew of was the one by Promenade Mall (which is the location I went to for this ice cream trip) and several years later one opened up in Markham on Major Mackenzie Dr. E and Markland St., just east of the 404 Highway exit.  My family might not be as heavily into dessert stuffs as I am, but I blabbed on and on about the creamy ice cream and fun mix-ins enough for them to be intrigued.  So we went and all got ice cream just for fun.  Deb -1, family – 0.  Win win! 😉

*****

Marble Slab offers ice cream and cakes, and has 2 locations in Toronto as well as one in Markham and one in Thornhill:

  1. 330 Yonge St. (near the intersection of Yonge & Dundas, just north of Dundas)
  2. 2032 Queen St. E (in the Beaches neighbourhood, across the street from the KEW Gardens)
  3. 11 Disera Drive (near the intersection of Bathurst and Centre St., just west of Bathurst)
  4. 735 Markland Street (on Major Mackenzie Dr. E, at the plaza by Canadian Tire, Swiss Chalet, and Montana’s)