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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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The Summer Patio Dining Series – Fluffy Rice, Grilled Vegetables & Ground Lamb & Beef Kefta at Tabule!

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Ate by Ate is back!  The lazy days of summer are upon us and we all know what that means: we’re either coming or going with exciting stories and plans of summer vacation, big and small, basking in those gorgeous summer vacation moments when the days seem endless and fleeting all at the same time.  I didn’t jet away to an exotic destination or drive off to a lakeside cottage though.  Nope, my glorious week away took place right here in the city where I patio dined, felt the warm sun on my face, shopped till I dropped, ate yummy things, and spent time with my favourite people in the world!

With the exception of checking e-mail every once in awhile, I completely unplugged myself over the last week and a half during my summer “stay-cation” and made the most out of the time I took off from work.  Even though I feel like I could’ve squeezed out so much more out of my time off, I loved what I DID do and the time away just makes all those little moments that much happier.  Sleeping in an extra hour (or two!), staying up late knowing you don’t have to get up at 5:30 the next morning, reading and completely losing yourself in a mountain of books, eating soft serve, walking around the city till your feet hurt and having some of the most delicious meals your heart could ever desire.  I’ve missed being out during the week so much and I’m so grateful for the time off.

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I know I’m a little behind on things (I don’t even have my August Food Calendar for you guys – sorry!), but I think we should be able to pick up where we left off and talk food pretty easily!  This post marks the return of The Summer Patio Dining Series with a mouthwatering look at Middle Eastern food at Tabule!  I almost can’t even find the right words to express how much I freakin’ love Tabule.  A space washed in olive green and metallics, colourful lantern light fixtures and a menu chock full of Middle Eastern grain, vegetable and meat dishes that will have you coming back again and again.  And to think it took me YEARS to finally park my hiney in their beautiful, delicious space!  A friend from grad school told me I HAD to come here and it took my mum’s birthday and a light bulb moment on my part to finally give me the shove I needed to go.

My mum desperately wanted to go to either a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern spot for dinner for her birthday so I happily offered to take care of dinner plans.  Choosing the dining destination for the whole fam and having the reins in my hands?  Totally up my alley!  I hemmed and hawwed over a few options when suddenly, as I was typing away on my laptop on the couch one afternoon I exclaimed, “OH, DUH!” and rolled my eyes at myself.  Which drew a few weird stares from the fam, but I didn’t care.  I was excited!  Like a bolt of lightning, genius struck and instantly knew Tabule was the perfect place to go.  The meal was SO wonderful and I loved it SO much I went back a second time and ordered the same thing!

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Tabule, located at 2009 Yonge Street between Davisville and Eglinton (with a new second location on Queen East in Riverside), serves up dishes such as falafel and fattoush/fattüsh salad, halloumi/hallüm cheese and arugula, hummus and baba ganoush/babaganüj platters, tabbouleh (of course!), fried eggplant and cauliflower, vegetarian grape leaves (warak enab), TONS of pita sandwiches, Lebanese spicy sausage, skewers of grilled ground lamb and beef, chicken breast, lamb chops, and a number of fresh fish dishes, all served with grilled vegetables and rice and onions.  While prices differ slightly for lunch and dinner, prices range from $14 to $19 for main entrees and $5 to $10 for most appetizers, salads, sandwiches and sharing plates.

Now, I didn’t get to stick around long enough to watch the belly dancers at dinner (belly dancing on Saturdays at 7:30 and 9:30!) but both my meals both times were fantastically awesome.  The photos here are only of my lunch though.  I wasn’t able to get any of the tabbouleh salad I ordered for my fam and I to share during that first dinner but in 5 words: refreshing!  Minty!  Leafy!  Crunchy!  Juicy!  What we have here is Tabule’s Kefta dish ($14.95), balls of grilled ground lamb and ground beef mixed with garlic, onions, tomatoes, parsley and spices (cooked on the skewer but taken off for plating), on a bed of rice with grilled vegetables and onions.  OH.MY.GOD.  I could eat this meal every single time I come here.  I could eat this every single month.  Hell, maybe even every single week.  It is SO freakin’ delicious.  I have honestly never eaten lamb before so this was all brand new to me and I LOVED it.  So many things on the menu sounded scrumptious but I wanted to try something different and I’m so happy I did.

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The kefta was by far some of the moistest, juiciest, most flavourful meat I have EVER had in my life!  There were 6 bundles on my dish and each forkful was as tender as the last and the amount of spices and garlic were perfect.  The meat was incredibly easy to cut and bite into and the meat never dried out.  I love dunking things into sauce but in all honesty, you don’t actually NEED any for this meat, it’s perfect on its own.  And the rice!  Many times we associate carbs with heaviness but their rice, which had this wonderful, fresh lemony flavour to it, was light as light could be.  The rice was so fluffy and airy and it even had some yummy texture as there were onions strewn throughout the rice.  It paired with the meat wonderfully and the vegetables rounded out the meal with a bit of that smoky char, brightness and juiciness.  And to wash it all down?  A beautiful pot of Moroccan mint tea!

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Tabule has become one of my favourite spots in the city and I just love that I can do take-out and dine-in in both their dining room and patio!  My family was all over their chicken breast meal like mud on a pig and the next time I go I am totally going berserk over an appetizer or two and definitely dessert!  It’s a beautiful place to have a glorious and delicious summer meal.

*****

Tabule serves 2 locations in Toronto: 2009 Yonge Street (between Eglinton and Davisville subway stations, just north of Millwood) and 810 Queen Street East by Jimmy Simpson Park and Degrassi Street.  They serve both lunch and dinner with belly dancing on Saturday nights!

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

Riding a High From FBC 2013 – What’s Coming Up on Ate by Ate for Spring!

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cupcakes from Short & Sweet Cupcakes in Toronto, Ontario

Coming back from FBC 2013 last night and riding the high from a whirlwind of an amazing weekend gave me the biggest jolt of adrenaline, inspiration, happiness and hope.  I AM PUMPED and so ready to rock spring and summer.  Winter was a tough time for many reasons but I’m relieved that all of that is behind me and that I get to look forward to so many things here on Ate by Ate and outside of the blog.  I am still weeding through an inbox of e-mail that vomited all over me this morning when I opened it for first time in 4 days and I am just starting to edit my photos from FBC 2013, so I will give you all my FBC 2013 post as soon as I can.  This time around, I’m not even going to bother with a 3-part post series.  I’m going to scrapbook the heck out of it instead and just stick to one post because I truly feel that a scrapbook layout will speak louder than any post I make with words.  I am beyond excited to get back my scrapbooking on again!  It’s been much too long and let’s face it: this is the perfect excuse to shop for wine and cheese stickers!

So, in the meantime while I continue editing photos, here is an update on what to expect on Ate by Ate in the coming days, weeks, and months!

  • the return of The Cupcake Connection!  Amy from Prairie Girl Bakery has e-mailed me with a ridiculously awesome rundown of all the exciting things happening with the cupcake shop so stay tuned.
  • spring time at the Short & Sweet Cupcakes VAUGHAN location!  I’m going to finally post photos from their newer, 2nd location
  • new posts for the Weekend Brunch Series.  I have 2 that I am working on right now and they are yummy and scrumptious and delicious and ahhhhh – that’s just me drooling, don’t mind me.
  • tea!  I have so many new teas and tea sets I could fill a river with them.  Photos and posts to come on David’s Tea, Tea Forte and more.
  • the return of the Farmer’s Market Series!  It feels like an eternity since my last farmers’ market visit and it is eating me inside that it’s been that long.  I’m planning on making a market visit in the next week or two AND I’ll be compiling as much info as I can on all the spring and summer markets that will be coming back in May – so excited!
  • new baking posts.  I’ve been baking some muffins that I can’t wait to share with you all!
  • the May 2013 Food Calendar

And a lot more!  It feels like a fresh start all over again and it’s going to be fab!

Summer Can’t Come Soon Enough – A Work-in-Progress Look at the *NEW* Fresh Location at Yonge & Eglinton!

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It may be below zero out but I am all warm and fuzzy inside because I am absolutely ECSTATIC and bouncing off the walls over Fresh’s brand spankin’ NEW location opening this summer!  For those of you already know, jump up and down with me!  For those who don’t, start jumping up and down with glee now!  Fresh is expanding, opening a beautiful new location uptown in the Yonge & Eglinton neighbourhood right at the intersection of Eglinton Ave. East and Dunfield Ave.  Expected opening?  Just in time for the gorgeous, sun-kissed season of summer.

I should have posted this exciting news back in December when I first found out, but we all know I was hardly here so better late than never!  My breath literally caught in my throat when I found out the news from Fresh’s December newsletter.  One of my favourite restaurants opening a new location in one of my favourite neighbourhoods in the city?  PURE GOLD.  I cannot wait.  The patio area is going to be spectacular (just look at it!  Envision patio tables and chairs and sipping freshly blended juices out here!  Ignore the snow.  It’s ugly and it needs to go away, like, NOW).  And even after all my Fresh meals and visits, I am far from exhausting their menu and I am so looking forward to trying something I’ve never tried before at this new location.  It’s only appropriate!  Here’s what’s on my to-eat list (taken straight off their online menu) at Fresh!

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Source: Fresh Restaurant website

  • All-Star Salad ($12) – quinoa & adzuki bean tabouleh on shredded raw kale with goji berries, Toasted Nut & Seed Mix, parsley, cilantro, sunflower sprouts, grilled sweet potato & tofu steaks
  • California Classic Salad ($12) – quinoa & adzuki bean tabouleh on shredded raw kale with goji berries, Toasted Nut & Seed Mix, parsley, cilantro, sunflower sprouts, grilled sweet potato & tofu steaks
  • Sam Houston Burrito ($10) – slow cooked soy & sweet potato taco filling, sautéed peppers & onions, salsa, avocado chipotle sauce, lettuce and alfalfa sprouts
  • Powerhouse Bowl (with either brown rice, $14 or soba noodles, $16) – avocado, chick peas & grilled tofu steaks with sunflower sprouts, Toasted Nut & Seed Mix, tomato, red onion & spicy tahini sauce
  • Dragon Bowl (with either brown rice, $14 or soba noodles, $16.  Also available in baby size. Rice, $10.  Soba noodles, $11) – grilled tomato, zucchini & tofu steaks with rich miso gravy, sesame seeds, cilantro & green onions
  • Energy Bowl (with either brown rice, $14 or soba noodles, $16.  Also available in baby size. Rice, $10.  Soba noodles, $11) – marinated tofu cubes, rich coconut curry sauce, chick pea & vegetable stew, cucumber, tomato, red onion, sunflower sprouts & tahini sauce
  • Brunch Burrito (weekend brunch only, $11) – scrambled tofu with tempeh bacon, tomato, lettuce, alfalfa & house mayo in a grilled whole wheat tortilla served with your choice of soup, salad or home fries
  • Banana Nut Pancakes and Blueberry Almond Pancakes (weekend brunch only; double for $8, triple for $10)

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I will consider my mission accomplished if I can even check two options off this list!  It’s just a never-ending list of scrumptious wants, especially when you factor in how much I love creating my own custom bowls too!

Summer can’t come soon enough.

*****

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)

With Love, Lemon and Jam – Italian Bocconotti Pastry Cookies at Si Espresso Bar!

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Going through these photos right now makes me want to curl up on the couch with a giant mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows and whipped cream!  I am curled up on the couch as I write this with the tv turned to the Food Network (holiday edition of Iron Chef America!), but without the hot chocolate.  Sigh.  It’s been so chilly lately and all I can think about is having some much needed downtime in a warm cafe with a warm drink, a book, a squishy couch and being alone with my thoughts as the sights and sounds of the holiday season whip by me in a blur.  No trip to a cafe is complete without something yummy to eat though and I love finding different cafes that serve different types of treats that you just can’t get anywhere else.  And if you can, it better be just as good if not better.  That’s where one of my latest food discoveries comes in – Si Espresso Bar at Broadview and Danforth!

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Now, calling this one of my latest food discoveries is a tiny bit of a white lie.  I didn’t discover it recently.  I discovered it over a year ago, possibly even longer.  I just didn’t make my first visit until a few weeks ago!  This is what happens when you pass by a spot over and over again on the streetcar and you never buckle down and just GO.  I pass by it on the streetcar every single time I head down to Leslieville or King East and it’s just steps away from me when I exit the station to catch the shuttle bus to Evergreen Brick Works.  It’s actually kind of shameful I haven’t been here sooner and more often!  But now that I’ve made my first visit, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be on the agenda during every Evergreen Brick Works excursion.

And funny enough, it’s because of my latest trip to Evergreen Brick Works that I decided to finally step inside this cute and hip cafe.  I was waiting for the shuttle and didn’t really feel like waiting in the cold (can you blame me?!), so I walked across the street to Si to see (ha, that sounds funny) what type of goodies they had.  Located right across the street from Broadview subway station on Broadview Ave., Si Espresso Bar is a cozy little Italian cafe serving up lattes, chai lattes, cappuccinos, espressos and double espressos, Americanos, London Fogs, steamers, hot chocolate, and more!

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It’s a well-known fact that I don’t drink coffee.  I have lattes every once in a while (why, hello there matcha green tea lattes!), but coffee drinks and I don’t mingle, period.  So what in the world would make me adore Si Espresso Bar aside from maybe the hot chocolate and chai lattes?  Need you ask?  Food!  Introducing the delicious and adorable Italian bocconotti pastry cookies!

Taking into account my eating habits and what I love, sometimes I truly think I should have been born Italian instead of Chinese!  I am fascinated with the complexity of Italian cuisine and I find myself constantly learning about new foods I’ve never tried or even known of before.  Italian bocconotti is one of them.  I saw them in a giant clear glass cookie jar, asked what they were and thought, “well, I’d be a fool not to try these out, they sound delicious!”  Bocconotti are Italian pastries (or cookies as they are sometimes referred to) with different sweet fillings – jam, chocolate, custard, curd, you name it.  They’re beautiful, delicate little morsels (they fit right into the palm of your hand!) with cute crimped edges and puffy centres.  They’re golden in colour and sprinkled with sugar on the outside and the nice thing about them is that they aren’t too sweet!  Everyone knows what a sweet tooth I have but even I can appreciate the desserts that are toned down in sugar.  Not everything has to be cavity-inducing!

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I grabbed myself two bocconotti pastry cookies and I only wish I had taken a photo of the one with the jam filling because it would have been pretty for all of you to see but I wanted to eat one and save the other so I randomly chose one out of the two and got the lemon one first!  I love lemon desserts so much.  This bocconotti was filled with a tangy, creamy lemon curd and the second one I bought was filled with a sweet and fruity berry jam.  What I loved about them was how they weren’t too sweet and dry, how the filling stood on its own two feet (clearly the star of the show!), and how the sprinkled sugar on top truly took these bocconotti to another level.  I loved them and I can’t wait to go back and get more.

I hope everyone is keeping warm the best they can; if you’re in the area, definitely give Si Espresso Bar a look-see and grab a treat and drink while you’re at it!

*****

Si Espresso Bar is located at 748 Broadview Ave. right across the street from Broadview subway station.

Eggnog, Gingerbread Candy Cane and More – Magical Christmas & Holiday Macarons at Petit Thuet!

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What’s better than sweet and delicious Christmas and holiday themed cupcakes?  Christmas and holiday themed cupcakes AND macarons!  For years cupcakes were my be all and end all.  Nothing could come between us.  Not pie, not candy, not donuts, sometimes not even ice cream!  It was rare, but it happened.  For the past year and a half though I’ve been loving macarons more and more and I’ve been enjoying them just as much as cupcakes, especially over the last few months.  I started hitting up a ton of patisseries and bakeries I had never been to before to try their macarons – Butter Avenue, Cake Opera, Nadege Patisserie and even Yorkville Espresso Bar for their strawberry marshmallow ones among a few other spots.  Some I loved to itty bitty pieces, some were so-so, and some were, well, awful.  Which ones were awful?  I can’t say.  I promised myself and all of you that I’d never bash anything here unless I had something else positive to redeem the situation.  If you’re really curious I’d tell you straight up but only privately, so all you’ll see here are the ones I loved and the ones I liked.

Every spot has their standouts and the ones you can live without, so out of those 4 recent visits and sweet spots, here are the ones I loved the most: Yorkville Espresso Bar’s strawberry marshmallow, Nadege Patisserie’s pumpkin, Cake Opera’s vanilla-orange blossom (even though their retail section is no longer around, definitely keep them in mind for catering orders and sweet tables!), and Butter Avenue’s walnut matcha green tea and cafe au lait.  Now it’s time to add some sweet and lickably delicious Christmas and holiday macarons from Petit Thuet to the mix!

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Now, you all know how deeply in love I am with Petit Thuet’s cookies n’ cream macaron.  And if you don’t, you do now!  I didn’t think any other flavour of theirs could compare.

I was wrong.

There are 3 others.  And two of them are Christmas ones!  *cue excited squeals*  During my most recent visit to Petit Thuet on King and Yonge Street, I picked up a box of half a dozen macarons and was absolutely beside myself when I found out they had holiday flavours!  I was truly happy with all 5 flavours I chose (I duplicated one of them so my boyfriend could try): eggnog (bright yellow shells with eggnog cream), gingerbread candy cane (OH.MY.GOD – gingerbread brown shells with candy cane cream), white chocolate wasabi (crazy, I know!  White shells with wasabi powder sprinkled on top and white chocolate cream mixed with a hint of wasabi mixed in), my beloved cookies n’ cream (cookie shells with Oreo cream), and the luscious mint chocolate with its bright green shells and rich chocolate ganache.

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Honestly, out of all the times I’ve bought a selection of macarons, this was the first time I truly loved all the flavours I chose.  While there are flavours I’d jump on more quickly, I can truly say I’d go back for any and all of them.  However, I know everyone likes to know which ones are the shining stars out of the ones I hadn’t tried yet so I’m going to say that you need to stuff your face with the eggnog, gingerbread candy cane, and the mint chocolate ones.  I know.  That doesn’t really help.  But it’s only because they’re so delicious!  The eggnog is so creamy, the gingerbread candy cane is an insanely adorable, fun mix of gingerbread spice and crunchy, pepperminty candy cane bits and cream (that’s right, it’s not just candy cane cream in the middle, you get the crunch from actual crushed candy cane!), and the mint chocolate is decadent, rich, thick, and deliciously chocolatey smorsgabord of your favourite peppermint patty, After Ate chocolate thin mints, and Girl Scout cookies.

So if you can get to Petit Thuet sometime, take advantage of the holiday and Christmas flavours!

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Petite Thuet serves 3 locations in downtown/midtown Toronto:

  1. 1162 Yonge St. (between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations, on the west side of Yonge St.)
  2. 1 King St. West (at the corner of Yonge and King St.)
  3. 244 King St. East (between Sherbourne and Princess St.)