Quite Possibly the Last Grad Lounge Feature – Saying Farewell With Spicy Tomato Dill Soup

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It’s true, this may very well be my last Weekly Grad Lounge post.  The Grad Lounge will be closing up shop for the summer after this Thursday (June 30th) and seeing that I’m no longer a grad student, the chances of me reporting back with more good eats from here come September are slim to none.  I’m sad that I won’t be able to make any more weekly posts because it’s been so much fun, but most of all, I’m sad that I won’t get to eat here and see the people who keep this place running like clockwork on a consistent basis anymore.  There’s no guarantee that I’ll have the job of my dreams (or any full-time job for that matter) by the time September rolls around, but even so, it’s looking like this meal may have been my last here. 

I’m saying farewell with a bowl of hot, spicy tomato dill soup with lots of yummy dill and chives and creamed tomato with a crunchy side of baguette bread.  I slurped this bowl of soup up real good.  I love dill, I love chives, and because I don’t shy away from tomatoes and enjoy a little bit of kick in my food (and evidently in my soup!), this was delicious.  Dunking my crunchy bread into the creamy soup and crushed tomatoes was delightful.  I’m going to really miss getting excited over new menu items, walking in to find out that there are daily special menu items written on the chalkboard I haven’t tried yet (and consequently, haven’t blogged about yet), and having a homey place on campus to have a wholesome, great meal.

Writing these weekly posts has been awesome; it’s given me focus, a way to get inspired, and a way to show everyone just how important The Grad Lounge has been to me during the course of my grad student career.  And to think that there are still menu items I haven’t blogged about yet!  I really hope someday I’ll be able to pick up where I left off and post more Grad Lounge meals here and there, but for now, it’s good-bye.  Thanks for the memories (and of course the delicious food!), it’s been amazing.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  They will be closing for the summer THIS THURSDAY (June 30th) and will be open from 12pm-5pm for the next several days, so drop in to get your last fix of the summer and to give Mike and Paul a big thanks for all their hard work.

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Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – The Epitome of Brunch in a Swiss & Smoky Bacon Quiche

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I think I’m in love with the concept and idea of brunch.  The thought of little sandwiches, crusty bread, panini, pies, quiches, pastries, omelettes and other breakfast foods makes me salivate with visions of bakeries and cafés dancing in my head.  I wake up early in the morning (most of the time at 6:30am so that I can get a good jump start to my day) and by the time 8am hits, I am ravenous and I am shoving blueberries and bananas in my mouth like it’s my last meal on Earth.  So for a hungry girl like myself, a mid-morning meal with the works fits the bill for that growling tummy of mine.  

Lunch and/or brunch has always been my favourite meal of the day.  I look forward to lunch more than I look forward to dinner.  And even though I adore traditional breakfast foods, I love that breezy relaxed feeling that goes along with a great lunch and/or brunch.  Having been in university and grad school for a combined six and a half years, I would get through my days by looking forward to my lunches.  I would contemplate where to eat, what to eat, and when to eat.  It was always the highlight of my day and it made those god awful 12-hour typing days just slightly more bearable.

Even though this was a lunch time meal at The Grad Lounge, it had brunch written all over it and I think it may have even bumped a meal off of my current top 5 list of favourites because it was THAT amazing and delicious.  The amazing swiss and bacon quiche with side spring mix salad and crusty baguette wedge.  I gotta say, The Grad Lounge kills it when it comes to their quiches and pies and I don’t even care that quiches are slightly fattening because of the pie crust and egg/custard/cream/milk composition; they’re mouthwateringly good and I would choose a quiche meal over a rice one or sandwich/wrap one any day.  THAT’s how much I adore these.  I’ve had two of The Grad Lounge’s quiches and pies thus far: 1) cheddar broccoli quiche with grilled zucchini and 2) sweet potato and mushroom pie.  I loved them both, but this swiss and bacon one just knocked it out of the park, so much so that I didn’t want to finish my meal because I didn’t want the yumminess to end. 

While the cheddar broccoli quiche was softer and airier and more tofu-like in consistency, the swiss and bacon one was denser and more “solid”, almost like a thick slice of pizza with egg.  It was cheesy, eggy, and full of smokiness from the bacon, and the green onion and chive flavour was a great complement.  We do eggs at home this way a lot, scrambling them with some green onions or chives and sometimes adding bacon crumble into the mix. 

Egg in and of itself is a blank canvas.  Unless you season it, it’s bland so it works perfectly for dishes like these where you can really go crazy with adding things and working with combinations of foods and flavours (things like spinach and feta, broccoli and cheddar, and in this case, swiss and bacon).  The flavour of the baked egg doesn’t end up competing and clashing with other foods.  The cheese flavour was very subtle, but very well done as you can see the cheese bubbled and browned perfectly off the edges.  The whole dish just worked and the crusty baguette wedge was a really nice touch too.  This right here is the epitome of a fantastic brunch dish 😀 

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  They will be closing for the summer THIS THURSDAY (June 30th) and will be open from 12pm-5pm for the next several days, so drop in to get your last fix of the summer and to give Mike and Paul a big thanks for all their hard work.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Sweet Potato & Black Bean Soup, Channa Wraps, and Memories of Wet Boots

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There isn’t a story behind the sweet potato and black bean soup (other than it tastes good!), but there’s certainly one behind the channa wrap.  The channa wrap and I were introduced and acquainted during the cold days of winter 2008.  I was a first year masters student out on the picket line during a strike at school and the channa wrap…well, the channa wrap was merely a warm tortilla with stuffing just waiting to be eaten.  It was a tumultuous relationship from the get-go.  

On those bitter cold, dreary days, the food truck that provided us with these warm morsels of chickpeas for lunch was like a heavenly godsend, a desert oasis if you will.  On other days when I was tired of staring at the same traffic light and trudging along in repititive circles, the channa wrap was a sad reminder of how much I wanted pizza.  That and a warm, dry pair of boots.  I would hold my channa wrap in my mittened hands, sneer at it and think, “I am not in the mood for you today, I have a pool party going on in my boots!”  But that was then and this is now and I am in a much better place.  For one thing, I haven’t crossed that old picket crosswalk in over two years.  And for another, I chucked those wet wafer boots out.

Given our turbulent relationship, the channa wrap and I haven’t been reunited till now.  And I gotta say, the channa wrap tastes much more heavenly when you’re sitting down, enjoying a nice relaxing lunch, and you’re not cold to the bone.  Along with the vegan chili and veggie burritos, the channa wrap is a great vegetarian and vegan permanent, everyday menu item.  One of the things I really like about The Grad Lounge is how they provide a number of healthy vegetarian and vegan meals.  Anyone can claim they’re vegetarian by eating nothing by bread, pasta, and starches, but it’s a much bigger task eating vegetarian in a healthy, nutrient-rich way.  To my vegetarian friends and readers, you know the situation.  You’re at a place and all you can find on the menu is a veggie burger and fries.  Not your idea of a healthy, fulfilling, or satisfying meal.  Vegetarians and vegans alike can eat here without having to make sacrifices on health or waistlines. 

The wrap is full to bursting with soft chickpeas, onions, herbs, and spices, bathed in curry sauce with coconut milk.  It’s soft, warm, hearty, and flavourful with that little bit of curry kick.  You don’t realize just how filling this is until you eat it but let me tell you, it packs a punch and for $4.95 each, that works for me.  I love my legumes, so I had me a bowl of sweet potato and black bean soup to go along with my channa wrap and that rounded out my vegetarian meal quite nicely.  The hungarian mushroom soup has to be my favourite soup at The Grad Lounge, but this sweet potato and black bean soup was really good too.  They have a rotating daily selection of soup and from what I’ve seen, a lot of the soups are stocked with veggies and protein-rich beans, lentils, and other legumes.

Twas a warm, welcoming reunion between me and channa wrap.  Go chickpeas!

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge’s summer operating hours are from 11:30pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.  It is a graduate student space on campus, so please ensure that if you wish to come here that you are either a York grad student with ID on hand, or that you are accompanied by a grad student if you aren’t one.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – The Fruity and Summery Jerk Chicken & Mango Salsa Wrap

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Let’s tick off all the foodie things that scream out SUMMER!  There’s watermelon, ice cream trucks and popsicles, juicy corn on the cob straight off the grill, juicy salads, berries, iced beverages, and one of my favourites, salsa!  Tomato salsa, avocado salsa, it’s all amazing.  You eat it with tacos and burritos, dunk chips and pita wedges in it, and hey, bruschetta wouldn’t be the hot tamale that it is without it.  So imagine my jubilance when I saw a Grad Lounge menu item with MANGO SALSA in it!  A jerk chicken grilled flour tortilla wrap (gosh, don’t you just love the grill marks?) outfitted with fresh romaine lettuce and juicy mango made with diced mango, mango puree, and diced red bell pepper.  I was so thrilled to see this menu item on The Grad Lounge’s daily specials menu board that truth be told, I wanted to pluck it off the daily specials right into the permanent menu because it is delicious.  I may feature a different Grad Lounge meal every week, but that doesn’t mean that I absolutely, positively looooove everything to death.  I enjoy many of the meals but there’s always that handful that really make you do the Elaine thumbs-and-little-kicks dance.  And no, I didn’t do the dance…not outwardly anyway.

Just as I talked about last week in my stuffed peppers post, The Grad Lounge once again made good on their resources.  The jerk chicken is something that they regularly serve on their rotating specials menu, normally with rice, salad, and a roll or corn muffin and they used that same chicken to make their jerk chicken and mango salsa wraps.  The wrap had tender pieces of jerk chicken meat with just the subtlest of heat kick.  I’ve had the jerk chicken meal before and holy jeebus does it live up to its name in spiciness!  It’s awesome how spicy it is, but boy did it make me wheeze and pant!  If you have the jerk chicken meal with rice be prepared for a hot one.  Having said that, the heat is completely toned down for the wrap and it’s more about the tenderness of the meat that shines through, which is important in a wrap.  Meat in a wrap needs to be soft, otherwise it just defeats the purpose and you end up having to tug and pull and gnaw and basically destroy the tortilla. 

The grilled tortilla was warm, slightly crispy, and didn’t fall apart, the romaine was fresh and crunchy, and the mango salsa was fantastic!  It further moistened the chicken, dressed the romaine, and gave the wrap the fruitest of flavours.  And it was the perfect consistency.  It wasn’t liquidy yet there was enough body in it from the diced mango and bell pepper that it made the salsa chunky enough to be considered an actual salsa as opposed to a chutney.  It worked on all levels and I’m so happy I got to try this one out.  I’d say this is definitely in my top 5 list of favourite Grad Lounge meals, right up there with the vegetarian lasagna, lamb curry on rice, cannelloni, and vegan chili.  It’s yummy and so perfect for the sunny summer weather.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge’s summer operating hours are from 11:30pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.  It is a graduate student space on campus, so please ensure that if you wish to come here that you are either a York grad student with ID on hand, or that you are accompanied by a grad student if you aren’t one.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Cannelloni

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The pasta lover in me rejoices!  Tender tubes of cannelloni pasta filled with smooth ricotta cheese and smothered in savoury tomato herb sauce.  Served with a mixed green salad with sun-dried tomato dressing and a crunchy dinner roll.  It is definitely one of my favourite dishes at The Grad Lounge not just because it’s yummy, but I have a real soft spot for warm, comfort food dishes like these.  There’s something about pasta that fills up your heart and your tummy and I look forward to this one whenever it makes it way into the daily specials menu.  And check out the cute steam shot I got down below!

I really enjoy showcasing all the vegetarian and vegan dishes they have to offer, so expect many more to make its way in here in the weeks to follow.  Enjoy!

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele Campus.  The Grad Lounge will be closing for the holidays after this week and will be reopening on January 4th.  Feel free to peruse past posts on The Grad Lounge here and here.