Vegan Food Fairy Tales – Winter Kale Salad & Mushroom Barley Risotto with Sage at Prime at the Windsor Arms Hotel, Part II

3 Comments

Food fairy tales are hard to come by.  You know, instances when you have the perfect food served in the perfect place in a gorgeous setting with a wonderful atmosphere with fabulous service and music to boot.  It’s hard to have everything rolled into one!  But food fairy tales do come true and when they happen, you cherish them and hold them dear to your heart.  Even though my list isn’t very long (I love many places and things I’ve eaten, yes, but we know only the knock-my-fuzzy-socks-off spectacular get to be on a list like this), there’s always room for more.  The latest addition to the storybook?  Vegan lunch at the Windsor Arms Hotel!

Luring me in with their delightful afternoon tea service just wasn’t enough, they had to bait and hook me with an ENTIRE VEGAN BRUNCH, LUNCH AND DINNER MENU too!  When I first found out about the magical weekend vegan brunch menu a number of months ago through the online food community grapevine, I thought it was too good to be true.  Especially at a fine dining establishment like Prime restaurant which brings about visions of steak and wine and other dishes that are as far from vegan as you could imagine.  But it wasn’t a myth and if that wasn’t enough, there was an accompanying vegan lunch and dinner menu on the Windsor Arms Hotel website in all its shiny glory, just waiting for me to pounce on it.  And so I did.

Admittedly, I was hoping to do chocolate afternoon tea at the King Edward during the Toronto Chocolate Festival but got on it a little too late and couldn’t get a seating.  So I thought to myself, “well, I still want to be in an afternoon tea type setting…oh my goodness, I can do vegan lunch at the Windsor Arms!!”  Hurray for lightbulb moments and thinking on my feet!

Dining at the Windsor Arms in Yorkville is one of my favourite luxuries.  It makes me feel like a princess every single time.  It’s so beautiful and majestic and regal and I feel like I’m being transported to a far away land where everything is sugar and spice and everything nice.  Sitting in a plush, cushion booth in Prime was so relaxing I felt like I was in a spa.  Soft music floated through the dining room, soft sunlight filtered through the curtained windows, and I was about to have a fab fall comfort vegan meal with a pot of hot mint tea and my sweetheart sitting across from me.  It was perfect.

Prime’s vegan lunch and dinner menu features a bounty of seasonal ingredients and what’s great about it is that it’s so easy to mix and match your dishes because the menu is divided into 4 sections – appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts – and each category has its own flat price.  Appetizers are $12, entrees are $18, sides are $7, and desserts are $14.  You could easily choose two appetizers as a meal, an appetizer and a side, an entree and a side, just an entree, and all of the above with dessert – if you can eat all of it!

Dishes include cornmeal crusted tempeh steaks with spiced sweet potato coconut mash; zucchini and carrot spaghetti with almond parmesan cheese, vegetables, and ground “walnut” meat; marinated winter kale salad with sundried tomatoes, avocado, walnuts, hemp seeds and more; nori rolls stuffed with a creamy ginger dill sunflower seed pate; teriyaki tempeh and vegetable stir-fry with steamed quinoa; raspberry cashew cheesecake; almond butter chocolate truffles, and SO much more.  I’m telling you, their vegan menu is a divine specimen sent from heaven.  There’s just nothing else like it in the city and I love that.

Meals come with a basket of fresh, soft-as-pillows bread with butter (and the bread is garlic crusted!) and while I don’t know too much about the selection of beverages, I went with my Windsor Arms tried-and-true loose leaf tea in a pot, this time going for refreshing mint!  I wanted to try more than one dish so I went with the two appetizer route: marinated winter kale salad tossed with hemp seeds, walnuts, raisins, sundried tomatoes and avocado in a creamy lemon dill tahini sauce with shaved apple, and the wild mushroom and pearl barley risotto with crispy sage and truffle oil.  The menu just radiated with warmth and comfort and I chose these two because 1) I love kale, 2) I love risotto, and 3) I wanted something light and then something hearty.  Done and done.

First, the winter kale salad.  It is so light and refreshing.  The kale was shredded into long, crinkled leaves and the dressing was absolutely delicious.  It wasn’t heavy but it was noticeable enough to give the kale that bright punch of creaminess and flavour that complemented the creaminess of the avocado.  The avocado was diced into the most adorable tiny cubes, the big chunks of walnuts worked perfectly with the salad to give it crunch (and I LOVE crunch in my salads), and the sundried tomatoes gave the dish additional body to make it fuller and more meal-like.  While I would’ve gone lighter on the sundried tomato front (they’re great but the cured flavour can get overwhelming!), it was lovely dish with so many textures and dimensions of flavour.  And the apple?  I pawned that off to my sweetheart.

Now, the wild mushroom and pearl barley risotto.  OH.MY.GOD.  I have to say, I love my kale to pieces but oh my word did this dish ever knock it out of the park!  First off, the smell of the dish made my mouth water even before I dug my fork in (yes, I eat rice-like dishes with a fork.  Because I like to and because I can).  It smells SO AMAZINGLY GOOD.  Like a mix of warm cream with bit of parm and cheese and nuttiness.  If you love creamy, this is your dish.  Everything just melts in your mouth and it was so delicious having a risotto that utilized something other than the traditional arborio rice just because it’s always nice to have something different.  I’ve never had a barley risotto before and it was such a different texture but a good one because it made the dish feel even more hearty and comforting.

The mushrooms were creamy and so soft, the truffle oil provided that extra hit of richness, and crispy sage?  THIS made the dish!  Herbs as just a garnish?  Please.  I ate the crispy sage right off the top, eating a few leaves on their own and mixing the rest into my risotto.  It was so delicious and unlike anything I’ve ever had.  The crispiness cut through the richness of the dish and it had a forest type of flavour to it with a tiny hint of mint.  It’s hard to explain but trust me when I say that it’s fabulous, especially in this dish.  I didn’t have any room for dessert after, but I had no doubt in my mind that I would be back for many rounds to come.  Food fairy tales do exist and the wonderful thing is that there are no limits on how many times you can go back to the storybook and retell the stories, experiencing in a different way each time.

*****

The Windsor Arms Hotel is located at 18 Saint Thomas Street, just south of Bloor St. W, between Bay St. and Avenue Rd.   In addition to their afternoon tea service, Windsor Arms Hotel is also known for their fine dining and most recently, their newly added vegan menus at Prime restaurant!

Advertisements

Tea, Sunshine & A Beautiful, Fairy Tale Vegan Lunch at Prime at Windsor Arms Hotel, Part I!

Leave a comment

*****

The Windsor Arms Hotel is located at 18 Saint Thomas Street, just south of Bloor St. W, between Bay St. and Avenue Rd.   In addition to their afternoon tea service, Windsor Arms Hotel is also known for their fine dining and most recently, their newly added vegan menus at Prime restaurant!

Once Upon a Tea – A Romantic Tea of Scones & Nibbles For Valentine’s at the Windsor Arms Hotel, Part II

8 Comments

Crisp white tablecloths, engraved and monogrammed silverware, a doorman opening the grand front door, lush tea rooms, and majestic crystal chandeliers.  If the Windsor Arms Hotel makes me feel like a princess, their afternoon tea is a model of royal treatment.  After the doorman let myself and my boyfriend in, I was in awe.  It wasn’t my first time at the hotel, but I was clearly seeing the hotel lobby and even other parts of the hotel with fresh eyes.  There were lush green palms in the lobby, a gorgeous, gigantic chandelier hanging  from the high ceiling, and a beautiful balcony view of the lobby and banquet hall courtyard cafe from the 2nd floor of the hotel.  I was so thrilled to be here again and I was ready to sit down to a beautiful tea full of tea sandwiches, scones, petit fours, and copious amounts of sweet tea.

I was beyond excited when I decided to go to my first afternoon tea here for Toronto’s Chocolate Festival back in 2010 and I was even more delighted with the prospect of going back for Valentine’s this month.  Not only was I looking forward to doing something sweet and romantic (and not to mention delicious) for the occasion of hearts and cupids, but after visiting the Windsor Arms tea menu page I was ecstatic to find out there were new nibbles!  I would have been happy receiving the same selection of tea sandwiches and such from the time before, but you know how I feel about new menu items.  The full afternoon tea comes with a selection of tea from their tea menu, cream, jam and preserves, scones, tea sandwiches, a mini goat cheese and caramelized shallot puff pastry tarts, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, and petit four desserts.

The menu of tea sandwiches this time around featured a mix of smoked salmon with wasabi sour cream and salmon caviar, cucumber with sundried tomato paste and dill cream cheese, and grilled chicken with granny smith apples, citrus mayo, greek yogurt, and chives.  As much as I wanted to inhale the sandwiches with grilled chicken, my allergy to raw apples (and my boyfriend’s throat tickle to raw apples didn’t help the cause either) deterred me so I kindly told the server about this and asked if we could either omit the apples in it or substitute it with something else and our server informed us that he would give us more of the other two types, which was perfectly fine with us.  The salmon lovers in us rejoiced!

The entire afternoon tea was fabulous, but what really blew me away was their selection of tea this time!  When we were given the tea menu, I flipped it open and was astonished to find pages of tea choices!  Not all of their teas are listed on the website so I was taken by surprise in the best way possible.  Green tea, white tea, rooibos, the possibilities went on for pages.  Windsor Arms had expanded their tea selection ten-fold and I was rapidly reading through loose leaf tea descriptions in an effort to choose one for to enjoy with my food.

Continue Reading »

A Cuppa Tea, A Cuppa Love – An Afternoon Tea For Valentine’s at the Windsor Arms Hotel, Part I

8 Comments

The love and romance surrounding Valentine’s isn’t over just yet here on Ate by Ate!  Besides cupcakes and cake pops and heart-shaped tins of M&Ms, there was also tea – and lots of it!  Surrounded by darling tea cups and teapots, plush seats, and the softest scones imaginable, I sat back and soaked in a sweet and romantic afternoon tea in the bright and lush royal purple tea room at the Windsor Arms Hotel in celebration of Valentine’s. 

As the years go by, I often reflect on all the special memories I’ve made during holidays and special occasions and undoubtedly, memories of Valentine’s past fit into this ever-growing mental scrapbook of mine.  Valentine’s past have been chock full of movies (which have become some of my favourite movies of all time), dessert dates, delicious dinners, cupcakes, sushi, visits to my favourite garden, Allan Gardens, and most recently, even a heart-shaped pizza!  I love doing different things for special occasions and having new things to look forward to on those particular days, so I thought, “why not do an afternoon tea for Valentine’s?  It would be perfect!”  Sweet petit fours, my boyfriend’s favourite scones, my love of tea, and delicious food in a fairytale-like atmosphere.  It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

Given how much we had enjoyed our very first afternoon tea at Windsor Arms over a year ago, my heart was set on afternoon tea with my boyfriend as a little Valentine’s treat and I had a day plan in mind all ready to go.  I love making plans and planning “fun days”.  The joy I get from concocting these elaborate schemes stems from three things.  One, I’ve been conditioned to get the most out of my public transit spending.  If I’m going to be purchasing and using tickets and tokens to be out and about anyway, I’m going to make the most out of my day and that means cramming in as many activities and errands as possible.  Two, after being at the mercy of a topsy-turvy university schedule that didn’t leave me with a lot of time to myself for six and a half years, I relish the time I have to enjoy an entire day full of my favourite things and activities and in this case.  And last, because my boyfriend surprised me with a romantic day all planned out on our very first date, I’ve loved doing multiple things in a day, especially with him.  To have a specific day to look forward to like this, centred around tea and nibbles and making Valentine’s memories, is simply wonderful to me.   

The afternoon tea ended up being more wonderful than I had expected!  I loved my first experience, but this time was even better.  Not only did I fall crazy in love with my tea and food, but I also took a mini tour of the majestic hotel (paying a visit to the ladies’ room on the 2nd floor will make you awestruck on the way there and on the way back like that) and I also found out some new information about the dining at Windsor Arms previously unbeknowst to me (hint: vegan menus abound!) that make me so much more excited about visiting the hotel again!  With a new menu, different teas and nibbles, and a tea room full of happy tea sippers, the place was abuzz with love and friendship.  Here’s a sneak peek at my Valentine’s afternoon tea.     

*****

The Windsor Arms Hotel is located at 18 Saint Thomas Street, just south of Bloor St. W, between Bay St. and Avenue Rd.  From Monday to Wednesday tea is served in 4 sittings: 12:30, 1:00, 3:00, 3:30, and from Thursday to Sunday 5:30 and 6:00 as well.  Teas are available at a range of prices, from $18/person to $45/person, with different menus for each price point.  Visit the Windsor Arms Hotel website for prices and menus.

Pinkies Up! Chocolate & Afternoon Tea at the Windsor Arms Hotel – Part II

6 Comments

Once upon a time there was a princess who desperately wished to attend a tea party.  A tea with cute teacups, nice linens, delicious scones and sweet pastries, little cream cheese and/or smoked salmon tea sandwiches, and of course, a piping hot teapot of flavoured tea.  And as luck would have it, the Toronto Chocolate Festival held in October through November delivered the perfect opportunity to the princess: a chocolate afternoon tea at the Windsor Arms Hotel!  An afternoon tea devoted to the richness and decadence of chocolate with chocolate dessert tea and chocolate petit fours.  The princess certainly couldn’t say no! 

Located near the posh shopping neighbourhood of Bay & Bloor, the Windsor Arms Hotel was the epitome of sophisticated and lush.  Overcome with giddiness and with her Prince Charming in tow, the princess high-tailed herself over to the quaint hotel on the 2nd of November, and braced herself for what was to be a very sweet and delicious affair.  Tucked away on Saint Thomas St., just steps away from Yorkville, the Windsor Arms is what the princess would describe as fancy-pants: grand chandeliers, a ballroom, fine dining, afternoon tea seatings throughout the afternoon, and several tea rooms to boot.  As she “oohed” and “ahhed” her way through the front foyer and adjoining bar and lounge, the princess and her Prince Charming were whisked away to the bright purple room, fit for royalty, for their afternoon tea. 

 

The princess was in awe.  Only two words could capture the essence of the purple and white tea room before her: hush and lush.  Crisp white tablecloths and linens adorned the dainty tables, lush purple love seats and sofas sat regally in each corner of the room, sunlight streamed through soft and billowy lilac curtains, and a warm fireplace greeted its afternoon tea guests.  Tea tables were set with the whitest of napkins, engraved silverware, tea strainers, and dishes of jarred jams and jellies and fresh cream for scones.  The princess was overcome with excitement as she eagerly awaited the indulgences to come.

Her tea was brought forth, a steaming teapot of Tibetan Tiger: a sweet chocolate dessert tea with hints of vanilla, chocolate, caramel, and butterscotch that smelled as divine as it tasted.  The princess’s white and floral patterned teapot sat alongside fresh cream and dainty jars of raspberry and strawberry jams for the delightful scones that were to come.  The princess poured her tea through the strainer into her teacup and took a sip: if tea was heaven, the princess was floating in it.  Rich and sweet, and at the same time refreshing, the chocolatey, buttery flavour paired perfectly with the freshly baked, fluffy scones.  The nibbles, scrumptious in every way, were arranged on a tea stand, rolled out on a cart, and daintily placed on the princess’s table.  The princess felt as though her heart would burst from happiness.  Never in her life had she experienced an afternoon tea and she was ecstatic.  So very, very ecstatic!

 

 

What lay before the princess and her prince were four large and round, sweet and fluffy, cinnamon and raisin scones dusted with powdered fairy sugar; one dozen plump tea sandwiches made with grilled cheese and citrus peel topping, baby greens, asparagus, and creamy chive cream cheese, and smoked salmon with baubles of salmon caviar and roasted tomato cream cheese; and four chocolate petit fours that looked so extremely rich and decadent.  Each one of the chocolate petit fours highlighted either a different type of chocolate or a popular chocolate combination.  There was a creamy white chocolate petit four topped with a dark juicy cherry, a chocolate truffle A warm, flaky goat cheese and caramelized shallot tart; ; salmon caviar and roasted tomato cream cheese.  The food was fresh, delectable, and oh-so-delightful.  And the grand finale?  Rich chocolate petit fours adorned with a raspberry, a maraschino cherry, or crushed hazelnuts, and a bowl of fresh strawberries and whipped cream. 

In the magical land of foodies, the experience was enchanting.  After being stuffed to the brim with such splendid delicacies, the princess and her Prince Charming thanked the staff for a wonderful afternoon tea, rolled down the street on their full tummies, and lived happily ever after.

 

*****

The Windsor Arms Hotel is located at 18 Saint Thomas Street, just south of Bloor St. W, between Bay St. and Avenue Rd.  From Monday to Wednesday tea is served in 4 sittings: 12:30, 1:00, 3:00, 3:30, and from Thursday to Sunday 5:30 and 6:00 as well.  Teas are available at a range of prices, from $18/person to $45/person, with different menus for each price point.  Visit the Windsor Arms Hotel website for prices and menus.