Foundation

Well, we made it through the first week of 2018; I don’t know about anyone else but it sort of felt like things were moving in slow motion. But now that I’ve had some time to settle into this new year it is time to finally blog about health and weight loss again. It seems in the absence of posts there has also been an absence of effort on my part. I knew when I started working full time I would find it harder to keep up with the healthy routines I had started back when I had nothing but time on my hands. I told myself all those steps I was getting by giving tours and running around for my duties as office coordinator were enough to keep me on a level playing field. I was hitting 20,000 steps some days so surely that should have been enough to counteract the fact that I wasn’t traditionally working out anymore. Maybe it would have been had I not stopped being mindful of what I was eating.

The occasional dinner out turned to frequent takeout orders and running out to grab something for lunch rather than bringing a full and healthy meal. I slowly but surely sabotaged myself, and I let it happen by using the excuse that it was just a busy month. But the truth is I’ve been slacking off since August.

I know this post may come as a bit of surprise after just posting about body love last week but just because I’m trying to change things does not mean I can’t have body confidence too. It means I recognize what a healthier lifestyle did to not only empower me but to help me. I’ve noticed some negative changes about my health that don’t centre around my weight gain or the size of my pants. Mostly it’s back pain that has come back to consistently bother me after having disappeared during those months of working out, and there’s a lethargic feeling that I’m sure comes from all the crap I’m eating.

I’m going to be very blunt about this: I’m not stepping on a scale. It was months ago that I read that number in the 180s and I know I’m not there anymore but I’m not going to drive that nail into my own coffin. I’m not a failure for gaining some weight back. I had more important things to focus on and at the time finding balance wasn’t really an option. Now that I’m comfortable in my job (and only working one) it’s time to focus up again and I’m going to do so by building a strong foundation and I am going to do that without beating myself up.

The disappointed and frustrated girl in me wants desperately to put on some hard workout and force myself back into those good habits. I want to eat nothing but chicken and broccoli for the next week just to try and get back what I lost… or in this case lose what I gained. But I know that plan is foolish, I know it will just backfire and I’ll likely end up digging this ditch even deeper. Pushing yourself too hard out of the gate will make you hate something and if you hate something you won’t do it.

So I’m going to start small with a basic foundation that will be the first step back to the awesome healthier life I was living before. In creating this foundation for myself I’ve decided to focus on things I know have helped ease me in before. This comes in three different sections: workouts, meals, and limitations. So lets explore them, shall we?

Workouts

  • Darebee’s Foundation Program to start
  • Using my fitbit every day to track steps
  • Aim for 10,000 steps 5x a week
  • Start swimming again in the morning at least 2x a week

Meals

  • Resume meal prepping to curb impulsive takeout orders
  • Fruits and veggies every damn day
  • Limited snacks, even when they’re ‘healthy’ snacks
  • Weight watchers old point system to help guide me
  • Tracking / writing everything down

Limitations

  • Picking up lunch at work will only be for special occasions
  • Eating out is limited to twice a month
  • No more chocolate, chips, etc. in the house

So there’s the new game plan. I did so well at the beginning of last year and while the changes were slow they were steady. I felt a lot better about myself and I also felt a lot better physically. Lately I’ve been feeling weighed down and I know my eating habits and lack of activity has something to do with that. So it’s back to the base of things. It’ll be a slow start once again but I’m going to stick with it. If anyone has any advice to pass along, I’d be happy to hear it!

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Toronto Eats: Starving Artist

I was looking at the date stamps on my phone and I can’t help but wonder where the last few months have gone. I was warned that the fall/early winter would be busy at my job but I don’t think I expected my life to be this busy as well. As you all know by now, this busyness in the day to day has led to me slacking with this blog a little bit. I hadn’t realized it was that bad until I saw that the pictures for this post have been there since September.

So I guess it’s about high time I talk about some of the best waffles I’ve had in my life.

You should know, this is very high praise for me because I love waffles. I’ve never been much of a breakfast person because of the fact that too often breakfast centres around eggs and I just don’t care for eggs.Toast, bacon, hashbrowns, they’re all pretty excellent but what I love more than them is a really tasty waffle with a bunch of stuff piled on top. Usually stuff that isn’t too healthy.

With that craving in mind, I went about doing my research on where to get some spectacular waffles in this beautiful city of ours. There are always so many places to choose from, regardless of what kind of food you’re looking for. It can definitely make trying new restaurants intimidating, especially since I hate wasting money on bad food. So far we’ve been incredibly lucky; we’ve found great Italian (see: Terroni), delicious pizza (see: Descendant), and fried chicken that was more than just a bucket from KFC (see: Joe Bird). And in Starving Artist on St. Clair West we found damn good waffles.

The restaurant itself had a very cool vibe to it with exposed brick, big bright windows, and those simply basic glass bottles of water for the table that I enjoy for no apparent reason. We walked right in on a Saturday morning with no issue finding a table but by the time we ordered there was quite the lineup at the door. I would say, it certainly helps that we’re almost always early.

When I read that Starving Artist was a place to go for waffles I didn’t really realize what that meant. When we sat down with the menu I opened it up expecting a regular breakfast menu with a few unique waffle items. Instead, I got an entire beautiful menu of unique waffle creations. Benedict waffles, french toast waffles, waffle sandwiches, sweet waffles, savoury waffles, all the waffles a girl could ever hope for. As the warning on the menu says: “Everything is made of waffles. On waffles. Between waffles. Or made in a waffle iron.”

So how the heck was I supposed to choose?

With the knowledge that we were headed to the Wychwood Barns for the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market (you may remember it from this post) right after breakfast, I knew I didn’t want to eat too much because we typically grab a snack or two at the market that gets devoured while we’re walking around. Wanting to try some different things off the menu, Matt and I decided we’d pick two items and share them both. A sweet and a savoury to cover our bases.

Our first choice was off of the signature menu. The Fully Loaded was a pair of potato waffles covered in sour cream, chives and bacon. It came with both a side salad and potato salad but of course these paled in comparison to the scrumptious waffles that were the centrepiece of the plate. It was almost like eating a baked potato but in waffle form which is so much better. The crispy outside of the potato waffles was a perfect contrast to the soft and cheesy mashed potato centre.

I don’t know it if was a typo or intentional, but Starving Artist’s online menu lists cheese twice in the description of this plate and it couldn’t be more accurate. There’s cheese in the potato waffles and there’s shredded cheese on top. I couldn’t have been happier.

Our second choice ended up being a sweet dessert waffle. The dessert waffles at Starving Artist come as a small plate with a single sweet mini waffle. This definitely wouldn’t have been enough as a meal on its own but it was the perfect amount to please my sweet tooth at the end of the meal. It was tough pickings between waffles with roasted marshmallows and waffles with blueberries and cream but in the end we decided to go with the Caramel Pecan Waffle.

This mini dessert waffle was topped with crushed pecans, whipped cream, and caramel. Quite simple but it was nicely done over a sweet waffle loaded with caramel chips. The whipped cream oozed down the side and the crushed pecans provided a nice contrasting crunch. It was definitely a good choice.

There was a final item on our order that brought my experience at Starving Artist over the top. When we walked in I noticed a chalkboard with different specials listed on it, this included meal choices as well as drinks. I can’t remember the exact name of the speciality milkshake we ordered but I knew I had to have it from the moment we walked in. You see, one of my favourite things from Walt Disney World is the Peanut Butter and Jelly Milkshake from Prime Time Cafe. It’s the perfect combination of sticky smooth peanut butter and sweet grape jelly in a thick vanilla milkshake.

And Starving Artist’s take on this drink was pretty much identical to Disney’s.

I love how different flavours just like scents and sounds can bring you back to somewhere. The moment I took my first sip of that milkshake I remembered one of our early Disney trips where my friend Maggi got to come along. Two sixteen year old girls had no business eating that much fried chicken but it was a great time anyway. The speciality milkshake from Starving Artist was a reminder of that great trip and a few others where Prime Time Cafe had been a dinner stop for us.

As I’m sure you can guess, I was pretty happy with our waffle adventure. I haven’t really had the chance to try waffles elsewhere in the city but I sure am glad Starving Artist made BlogTO’s list or I might’ve never found it. I’m also glad to finally get this review out there for you all. I hope you enjoyed yet another adventure in Toronto Eat’s. Now get out there and try some new places!

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A ghost will follow you home

Don’t be fooled by the strange title, this is actually just my latest Toronto Eats post. Still, we’ll get to the ghost part soon enough.

Here’s the thing: I hate paying for pasta. There are some great Italian joints out there but it’s frustrating to me to pay $20-25 for a dish I could make at home for under $10 (and that’s with leftovers). It’s one of those meals that doesn’t seem worth the markup to me because it is so simple to make. I have a few exceptions of course: there’s an eatery in Orillia called Theo’s that has the best chicken parmesan, and there’s Tony’s at Disney World which is a family fave, even though it’s sort of just average. I’m also a big fan of some of the spaghetti combos at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Toronto but it’s one we usually avoid for the mark-up as well.

With that all being said, I think I found a restaurant that was worth the crazy price, and it’s the most expensive of all I’ve tried.

Terroni is an Italian chain that boasts a few locations in Toronto and Los Angeles. I had no idea it even existed until I started giving ghost tours with The Haunted Walk. You see, one of Terroni’s locations in Toronto sits inside the old courthouse. There’s some interesting history about the building, and some spooky stories that you can hear on The Original Haunted Walk of Toronto if you ever decide to come along. In fact, if you go sometime tonight or tomorrow, you may even hear the stories from me personally.

While I’m used to seeing Terroni from the backside in Courthouse Square, last month I decided it was time to venture into the old courthouse to check it out. Matt and I’s anniversary was at the end of the month and so a special dinner treat to somewhere that’s a little out of our normal price range seemed like a great idea.

I will admit, I was more excited to just see the inside of the restaurant than I was about the actual food. The fact that Terroni has maintained much of the old courthouse made the venture into this unique dining establishment a special one. Terroni is quite a grande space, as it turns out, with bars and tables on all four levels of the old historic building. Not every space was in use the evening we went but we did get the chance to look around every floor.

Upstairs features two additional bars separate from the main one downstairs, one which was open and the other closed. They rent out the spaces for private events sometimes or they open it up on busier nights. It was on a Tuesday, after all, and the place was still pretty packed, with people on three out of the four levels. We ventured upstairs after dinner to take a look around, peering into rooms I had heard some interesting stories about from my tours. It’s a beautiful place, and dining in any of the rooms would have been lovely.

But I do kind of wish we had been seated in the basement.

That’s not something I would normally say about a restaurant but Terroni’s basement is quite unique. They have beautiful wine cellars lit by crystal chandeliers that are locked up by cell bars. Yes, you read that right. They’ve maintained some of the courthouse’s old jail cells in the basement, filling them with expensive bottles of wine. The other cells are used as the lavish men and women’s bathrooms.

In addition to this, they have a smaller dining room in the basement that appears to be used for larger groups or private affairs. The ambiance was very different down there, as it seemed little had been done to renovate much of the space. It had the vibe of a winery with dim lighting, wooden barrels, and dark wood features.

In our ventures through the old courthouse there were no ghostly sightings, though we did jump a little when we caught something moving in one of the closed dining rooms from a reflection in the mirror. It turned out to be just another staff member.

While I could write on and on about the unique architecture and decor of Terroni, I think most of you are probably more interested in the food. You’re in luck, because I have quite a bit to share. A lacking lunch led to a rumbling stomach which demanded an appetizer, dinner, and dessert for both Matt and I. My bank account would’ve liked if I exercised an ounce of control but what fun would that be? Besides, it was a special occasion: six years is a long time to put up with my craziness.

Terroni’s dinner menu is split into four main sections and there was a seasonal menu presented for the evening as well. The main sections are as follows; apristomaco (starters), insalate (salads), primi (pasta), pizza (pizza). At lunch time they also offer a selection of paninis which are served until 5pm. It was around six o’clock when we arrived so that helped narrow our choices a little.

It’s funny because charcuterie boards are another thing I often refrain from ordering because of the mark-up. Plus, we make meat and cheese boards for meals at home all the time. But I’d seen pictures of Terroni’s boards online and I was incredibly intrigued. Terroni’s boards claim a selection of local and Italian meats and cheeses. You can order just the cheeses or just the meats, or you could go overboard like we did and get the Tagliere Mezzo e Mezzo which is a selection of both.

I wish I had taken notes on what selection of foods we had received that evening but I was simply too hungry to care. I know the darkest and smallest of the meats was a cured salami and it was not surprising that it was my favourite. There was fresh parmesan amongst the cheeses and one with shaved truffles. Overall, everything was delicious and the honey was a particularly unique addition to the board which was allowed for some unique flavour combinations. This, plus a small basket of fresh bread with oil put off those hunger pangs that I had coming into the restaurant.

For dinner, Matt ordered off the seasonal menu. He picked the Tris di Carne which was a trio of beef tenderloin, lamb sirloin chop, and a house maid duck and pork sausage that was served with oyster mushrooms, peppers and potatoes. It came out as quite a small dish but it was very delectable. The steak was the best steak I’ve ever tasted, Matt could almost cut it with the dull side of his knife, that’s just how tender it was. The lamb and the sausage were tasty as well, and I even enjoyed my taste of the oyster mushrooms.

For myself, I ordered off the pasta menu, which is a surprise given the big blurb I gave at the beginning. But I do have a main caveat when it comes to ordering pasta: if truffles are involved, you will likely rope me in. My obsession with truffles began on my first venture onto a Disney cruise boat. The truffle pasta that was served as an appetizer at Animator’s Palate remains one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

The Tonnarelli alla Norcina from Terroni is pretty high up there as well.

When the pasta comes to the table it really doesn’t look like much, which only affirmed my hatred for ordering the overpriced dish. I worried I would still be hungry afterwards. But the way Terroni serves their pasta is very deceiving. This meal was incredibly filling and I would say I only ate half of it before handing the bowl of perfectly cooked al dente pasta to Matt. There was a generous amount of black truffle shavings and tons of their homemade spicy sausage. It was definitely one of the best pastas I’ve ever had, and it’s not something I think I could make at home.

I was honestly stuffed enough after the pasta that I could have just left Terroni perfectly satisfied but we asked for a dessert menu anyway. Special occasion, remember? As suspected, with any good Italian joint, Terroni offered up a tiramisu, which is my prompt that I have just a bit more space in my tummy. It is probably my favourite dessert on the planet and this one did not disappoint. Served in a unique little pot with circular lady fingers that were drenched in coffee, the tiramisu was light and very tasty.

Matt opted for a unique dessert which consisted of a butterscotch pudding like base with a caramel sauce. But it was markedly different from regular pudding, though we’re not sure why. I failed to take note of what it really was and no google search had provided me with Terroni’s dessert menu unfortunately so we will be left wondering. Unfortunately, at $10 a dish, their dessert was a bit pricey in my opinion, especially for the small sizes, but I’m still glad we ordered them. What’s a celebration without something sweet?

Overall, it was a beautiful way to celebrate our anniversary. I won’t be making Terroni a regular stop any time soon but I’m glad we went. Service could have been a bit more attentive, especially with the volume of servers around the restaurant, but we weren’t in a rush to get out of there and it was nice to just enjoy each other’s company.

So that is another Toronto restaurant in the books. We’ve had some great luck this year and I still have lots to share. I think the food is one of my favourite parts of living in the city; there is always something different to try. So what have you been eating lately?

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Toronto Eats: Pie Pizza Bar

I keep wondering where the time goes. It feels like our lovely little adventure to Fan Expo (read a bit about it here) was only last weekend and yet it’s been over a month since we wandered the convention halls. That means the pictures of some of the most delicious pizza I’ve ever have had have just been sitting in my camera roll for over a  month.

Well, enough of that, it’s time to share.

As I mentioned in my Fan Expo post, we headed out for dinner after the convention, wandering down to Harbourfront as we had a few weeks prior when we’d checked out Joe Bird and The Fix Ice Cream Bar. Queen’s Quay Terminal is home to a handful of eateries and since we were in much need of comfort food we decided to try another one of the options in the building. And what is more comforting than pizza?

Pie Bar Pizzeria is a brand new joint that mixes traditional Italian pizza with some interesting flavour combinations. With options of pastas or pizzas, it’s pretty standard in terms of Italian faire but the unique topping mixes on Pie Bar’s pizzas definitely make it stand out. On their website they claim “While our roots may be Italian, our take on food is a bit quirky, unexpected… a little off the wall. Nonna would definitely not approve.” and after trying some of the joint’s options, I’d definitely say this statement hits the mark.

Their pasta options are limited to spaghetti, linguini, and rigatoni but there are multiple options in terms of flavour and sauces. Interestingly, their Spaghetti Bolognese is made with a mixture of beef and wild boar.

After looking over the pastas I decided I was more in the mood for pizza. Since it had been such a long day we decided waiting for mains was going to be pure torture so we used that as an excuse to get an appetizer. We ended up going with the cheapest item within the “sharing plates” section of the menu: the garlic bread. The cheaper cost did not deduct from flavour; it turned out to be an excellent choice.

The garlic bread was done on fresh-baked pizza bread which was deliciously soft and just covered in garlic. I’m a pretty big fan of garlic bread in general but this one was spectacular. There was just enough garlic butter and the Reggiano cheese was a nice change from the usual mozzarella blend that most restaurants seem to serve.

Held over by the delicious starter, we proceeded to order our pizza choices. Naturally, the blogger in me was extremely happy when we all ordered something different: you know, more things to share.

My personal choice was That’s a Spicy Pie which had a red sauce base (not my favourite in general) fior di latte (cheese), pepperoni and spicy soppressata (meats), and Calabrian chili’s. Despite the fact that I prefer non-tomato sauce based pizzas, this one was actually delightful. The sauce was light and the dough was nice and thin, allowing the flavour of the meats, cheese, and chili to really shine through.

Matt’s choice ended up tasting pretty similar to mine but the addition of honey on top made it more sweet than spicy. He ordered The Angry Bee which happened to be my favourite of the three we tried just because the honey really took the flavours over the top. It had the same Spicy San Marzano sauce that my choice had, along with fior di latte, spicy soppressata, and Calabrian peppers. With the subtraction of the pepperoni and the addition of garlic and honey the similar looking pies departed from each other in their unique flavours.

Lastly, Keeragh had the most unique of the pizzas with a white sauce base, a mixture of cheeses, and a good amount of prosciutto. Simply named Prosciutto, the simple and elegant pie was light and tasty (thanks Kee for letting me have your leftovers).

Somewhere some time ago someone said to me even bad pizza is still good because it’s still pizza. While I don’t necessarily disagree with this statement, I am pleased to report that Pie Bar’s pizzas really are excellent pizzas and not just good bad pizzas. They still don’t top my personal list (that honour still goes to Descendant) but it’s somewhere I’d happily go back to again: especially for the atmosphere.

Just like Joe Bird, Pie Bar is right on the water. We enjoyed our time shaded by a canopy in what should have been the last of the hot weather (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). I’m usually the first person to refuse patio seating but this time it turned out to be great way to relax and unwind after a somewhat overwhelming day. We got some nice pictures in the sunshine, and although we may look a little tired I’m taking that just as a sign of a good day.

I honestly have no idea where the time is going (as can be seen by this 10pm blog post). It’s already almost Thanksgiving weekend which means somehow it’s my birthday next week. I’m about to launch into my first Halloween tours of the season and then once October wraps off I’m off to New York City for the first time. Things kind of feel surreal right now; I’m very, very busy but I’m also happy. I’ll be sure to tell you more about it soon.

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Toronto Eats: Joe Bird

I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve gone to a lot of new restaurants lately. Most of my foodie adventures are prompted by a post or video from BlogTO but this time around the restaurant came before the blog post. It was about a week after we had dinner at Joe Bird that I scrolled past a video about it on my Facebook feed.

The easiest way to describe Joe Bird is that it’s a swanky version of KFC or Popeye’s. The main focus of the menu is chicken; fried chicken, grilled chicken, bbq chicken, and so on. The bottom of the menu is full of scrumptious sides from slaw to cornbread. They also do pitchers of speciality cocktails or if you’re the only one drinking you can order by the glass.

As we tend to do with a new restaurant, Matt and I decided to order a bunch of food off the menu and just share everything. Actually, we decided to order too much food off the menu but that wasn’t discovered until the plates started arriving at the table. It also didn’t help that the couple next to us ordered the corn on the cob, thereby prompting us to add it to our order as well.

For mains we decided to go with two of the different styles of chicken; Joe’s Fried Bird and the BBQ Bird. The Fried Bird came with a side and a sauce so we decided on Potatoes Brava which are a time of roasted potato wedge covered in garlic aioli and bravas sauce. As it turns out this is a Spanish style recipe. Joe Bird does have a mixed Latin and Southern vibe to it. For our sauce we picked the Rooster Sauce which is just Joe Bird’s medium sauce. It was pretty tasty but I now wish we had just ordered the 6 sauce flight so we could have tried all of the sauces.

The fried chicken itself was one of my favourite parts of the meal. It was crunchy on the outside but the chicken inside was not even a little bit dry. The flavour was great even before it was dipped in the Rooster Sauce. The sauce wasn’t exactly my favourite but it was still tasty enough. I only picked apart one piece of my fried chicken because I had left it until the end. I almost wish I had started with it so I could have ate more.

Joe’s BBQ Bird was definitely unique and had a really nice light flavour. It wasn’t smoky like one would expect from most BBQ chickens. The seeds on top of it had a nice crunch and added a little kick of flavour. The salsa and chips on the side weren’t anything spectacular in my opinion, I would have preferred a different side option if that choice had been there.

The Potatoes Brava we ordered with the fried chicken on the other hand was an excellent side. I’m not the biggest fan of wedges but these potatoes were a middle ground between roasted and wedges, and boy they were delicious. I think one key to my heart is definitely smothering whatever you’re making in sauce. 

Of course I had to save the two best for last; corn and cornbread. The corn was done in a Mexican street style much like the one we tried at La Carnita a few months back. Smothered in cheese and sauces it was absolutely delicious. We definitely didn’t need to order it in addition to everything we already had but I’d like to thank the couple next to us for ordering one just to tempt us into it. It was worth the stomach ache afterwards.

I’m ashamed to say I didn’t finish my half of the cornbread because cornbread is one of my all time favourites. Once upon a time on a Disney trip my mother took the pan of cornbread away from my friend Maggi and I because we were going to ruin our whole dinner  by eating the entire serving. Joe Bird’s cornbread was delightful especially with the jalepeno butter on top to make it slightly unique. If we go back I will be making sure I eat my whole piece before I stuff myself to the point of exploding. 

As I mentioned before, we ordered way too much food. With all the sides (and the pre-dinner dessert at The Fix) we would have been fine with just two pieces of each chicken rather than two BBQ and four fried. It doesn’t really seem like a lot but everything together really added up and we were both left feeling quite full, which is always quite a feat when Matt is involved. I’d definitely love to go back and try more of the menu, and with lots of tour shifts coming up in October I’ll be in the neighbourhood once again.

Now it’s time to enjoy a day off and get ready for the next adventure.

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Toronto Eats: The Fix Ice Cream Bar

With my parents safe in Florida and booked on a flight home tonight it’s time to return to our usual scheduled programming. But before I do I’d just like to thank everyone who reached out to me over the last week to check in. I never doubt that I have a loving support network but ya’ll really came out in full force during this hard time and I love you all the more for it.

Now lets talk about food!

I’ll start off by saying that I have been on a real marshmallow fix this summer so when BlogTO posted about a new ice cream joint down by the water that featured an ice cream cone with marshmallow toasted onto the edge I just had to go. Another Saturday in August giving tours downtown meant I had to be in the neighbourhood anyway so Matt and I made a day of it.

The Fix Ice Cream Bar is a walk up ice cream bar that faces Lake Ontario. It is nestled beside its sister restaurant Joe Bird. Bright graffiti draws the eye in before you even get the chance to walk up and look at their selection of treats. On the far side of the bar is a display with faux versions of their different concoctions. There’s both soft serve and traditional scooped ice cream to choose from and they all looked pretty interesting. But I already had my mind made up and glancing over the different flavours did not change it.

The Campfire is one of The Fix’s signature cones. They stuff a waffle cone with burnt marshmallow ice cream but only after they’ve put toasted marshmallow on the edge of the cone. It’s actually toasted with a blowtorch so it mocks a campfire marshmallow perfectly. The burnt marshmallow ice cream has a smoky butterscotch flavour to it which was to die for. To top it all off they stick in a toasted marshmallow and a chocolate dipped graham cracker with mini marshmallows stuck to it.

This creation did not disappoint and while a single serving came to about $9 after taxes it was definitely enough for two to share. It was also delicious enough that I really don’t mind paying the extra to have it again.

We actually went back to The Fix after our Fan Expo adventure and decided to try something new. Unfortunately they were out of chocolate soft serve so I wasn’t able to order Chocontreau (chocolate soft serve with orange meringue sticks, chocolate brownie, and cointreau syrup pipette) as planned. Instead we ended up with the brulee donut “sammich” while Keeragh ordered the Grasshopper. Both were really lovely. The Grasshopper had smooth french mint ice cream, chocolate coating, crushed candy cane, and chocolate pearls. As a mint chocolate chip lover myself, the few spoonfuls I had were enough to tell me I could’ve devoured the whole thing.

The sammich on the other hand was filled with the same burnt marshmallow ice cream that was found inside the Campfire cone. This was actually part of the reason I picked it. Normally I only like hard ice cream if it is filled with candy bits or chocolate chunks but in this case the flavour of the actual ice cream was what brought the sammich over the top. Additionally, they brulee it with a blowtorch which add a nice crisp warmth to the whole thing.

I still prefer soft serve ice cream when it comes to having a chilly treat but I would say the Campfire from The Fix is a close second to the best upscale ice cream I’ve had (which is the Cookies, Cookies, Cookies and Cream from Sweet Jesus). Still, a plain old dipped twist cone from one of the trucks in town still has the biggest place in my heart. Sometimes simpler is better.

We’ve had lots of food adventures in the last few weeks and the pictures are just piled up in my phone waiting to be shared so you can look forward to more Toronto Eats. I am hoping to getting back to more regular posting but I make no promises as life continues to remain unpredictable, no matter how much I write down in my day planner. Thank you all for sticking with me. The adventure continues…

 

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Toronto Eats: Prohibition Gastrohouse

This is going to be a short and sweet share of a little joint we checked out a few weeks ago after our adventure to The Beaches. Following the disappointment of the Food Truck Festival we headed back along Queen Street to find somewhere for dinner. Our return trip included our little stop to The Sidekick superhero cafe, a venture into a dreamy vintage inspired dress store called Doll Factory by Damzels, and eventually a quick stop for dinner before it was time to check in for another night giving Haunted Tours.

On the bus ride to Queen Street East I had noticed an interesting looking pub with an even more intriguing name. Prohibition Gastrohouse caught my eye from the tiny bus window with it’s sleek black exterior and it’s historically based name. I’m a big fan of anything 1920s, and I’m always looking for places that grab their vibe from that era. With the venue still in mind at the end of the day we decided to check out what they had to offer.

Lucky timing sat us right at the big open windows that face the street. The rest of the restaurant is dimly lit with dark tones to match that black exterior but at the window we had the sun shining in (I was thankful for this because it made photographing food a lot easier).

A peruse through Prohibition’s menu shows off a wide range of upscale pub food from salads to burgers, poutine to ribs, and even platters of cheese, charcuterie, seafood or conservas. If you’re looking for an interesting dig in for date night, their Redneck Platter for two sounds quite interesting. At $61 it’s a bit pricier but you do get a good amount of food, which the menu lists off as such: two 36-hour sous-vide & house smoked maple bourbon BBQ beef short ribs, 1/2 southern fried chicken, truffle mac & cheese, and jalapeño-cheddar biscuits. It sounded delicious but since I was leading a tour that evening we opted for sharing something a lot lighter.

Our first choice were the chicken lollipops which are smoked and fried chicken drumettes. I will be honest I wasn’t really sure what the difference between a chicken wing and a chicken lollipop was but upon arriving at the table it became more apparent. The drummettes look like large drumsticks where all the meat is at the bulkier side.

While we normally stick to medium or honey garlic (or a mixture of the two when possible) Prohibition Gastrohouse left us intrigued by some more interesting flavours. On the hotter side of things you had Fervor Reaper Chile, Ghost, and Red Savina but we opted for the mild Georgia Peach & Vidalia Onion as our choice of heat. It was an excellent choice and a nice mix up from our usual flavours. It had the sweetness of a honey garlic wing but it really came through with a peachy taste which we loved. The chicken was tender and the smoked drumettes did just the trick.

To go with our chicken lollipops we ordered the Haute Poutine, which is a spin on traditional poutine using duck confit, duck gravy, and duck crackling. Loaded with cheese curds, this smaller dish was actually quite heavy and therefore very filling. You can order it without the duck as well if you’re looking for a more basic poutine.

Prohibition was a nice stop after a long day of adventuring and it gave my feet the break they needed before tour time. By the end of the night I had hit around 28,000 steps which is definitely on the high end of things. With sore feet but a satisfied tummy I made the trip home, already wondering what restaurant would end up next on the list. It’s been a few weeks since we sat down at Prohibition Gastrohouse so I can tell you there are more reviews coming down the pipeline. But for how, I wish you happy eats and a joyous Labour Day weekend.

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Mother Daughter Adventures – Volume Three

What is this? Two mother daughter adventures right in a row? Well, I figured after a few months of not documenting any, it was fair that I do a double share this week. My mom tends to come to visit every few weeks so we have a lot of adventures to share. Of course, whenever I tell anyone this it is usually met with something along the lines of “you two must be really close” which is then followed by me asking if said person has seen Gilmore Girls and if they have I explain that we’re just like Rory and Lorelai. I mean, I never went to Yale and my mom doesn’t own an inn but it is still a pretty fair comparison.

Anyway, onto the adventure.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent a couple days at my parent’s place last week but on Friday mom and I made the trip back to the big city with a mother daughter date planned downtown.

The St. Lawrence Market is the oldest continuous running Farmer’s Market in North America and it just so happens to be one of my favourite places in the city. I don’t even have to buy anything, I like to just walk around the market floor and take in the energy of the old building. It’s a great place to pick up fresh produce or to try a hot lunch from one of the stalls. From fried fish to peameal on a bun, there was a bunch of different options for lunch or an early dinner. The outside of the building is surrounded by a wraparound balcony with picnic benches that are perfect for enjoying a meal in the sun. If you can manage to snag a table, that is.

This trip to the market wasn’t for a haul of fresh fruits and vegetables, or even a trip to my favourite seafood joint but instead we had booked two at the market’s History and Tea Talk.

On certain Fridays this summer the St. Lawrence Market has hosted this event with different historical presentations and a traditional afternoon tea to follow. For me, it was mostly about the tea but the history talk turned out to be quite nice too.

We learnt about the original market building across the street and how the St. Lawrence Market sits on the spot that the first city hall used to sit. In fact, the Market Gallery where we were seated was part of the original city hall. The larger market building was constructed around it many decades later. The talk carried on with mentions of the city’s first mayor William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s cholera epidemic, and a bout of other historical facts that were rather interesting. Once the talk finished we were directed down half a flight of stairs to The Market Kitchen.

Getting to see The Market Kitchen in person was one of the main reasons I was so interested in taking in this afternoon tea in the first place. It is a spaced that is used for events and cooking classes. The moment I first saw the space online I fell in love and I’m pleased to say that seeing it in person did not disappoint.

The kitchen is found above the North West corner of the St. Lawrence Market. The large market windows overlook Front Street, including Toronto’s Flatiron building. On the other side of the venue there is a large railing that overlooks the shops of the market.

The afternoon tea itself was a modest serving but I did not expect anything extravagant at $15 a person. In fact, for the price I think it was more than a fair deal. Each tea setting was for four people so we sat with a another twosome. There was an array of finger sandwiches, two-bite desserts, and small scones with fresh berries and cream. This was accompanied by a large pot of black tea served on lovely mismatched china.

I don’t know what it is about finger sandwiches but I always find them so much better than actual sandwiches. Perhaps it’s the lack of crust or the fact that there just so itty bitty. Regardless, the small selection of finger sandwiches for the tea was quite lovely, even the plain cheese sandwich was scrumptious.

While the little desserts are normally my favourite part of afternoon teas, it was actually the scones that did it for me this time. While the cream was just normal whipped cream rather than Devonshire cream, it was still quite delicious, especially with the mixed berries on top. In fact, even after the scones were gone, we helped ourselves to a serving of just berries and cream.

It was another adventure well spent with my momma. Afterwards we killed some time by walking to the Distillery District and just hanging out before I had to take off to give a tour that evening.

If you’re in Toronto or just visiting, there is actually one more History and Tea Talk for the summer taking place next Friday August 25, 2017. This one includes a tour into the City of Toronto’s Art Collection art storage vault. To be quite honest, if I wasn’t already making plans to go to the CNE on Friday, I would consider going to this once more.

Of course, there’s always next year.

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Mother Daughter Adventures – Volume Two

With a few days off last week I decided to spend some time in my hometown with my parents and my friends. I hopped on a coach bus first thing Tuesday morning, threw in some headphones and ventured an hour north for a few days. Upon arriving, my mom and I realized we hadn’t really planned anything for our first afternoon together and so a wayward comment led us to venturing another hour further to go have lunch at a tea shop that used to be in Barrie but had since moved to Collingwood. Unfortunately, we arrived to find a sign on the door:

“Closed due to unforeseen circumstances” 

It was a bummer of course, we’d driven an hour only to find out that we wouldn’t be indulging in the delicious scones and Devonshire cream that we had been looking forward to tasting after so long. Our last second plan had been dashed at the last second which meant we had to improvise.

As per usual when it comes to my mom and I, a little mishap turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A heavenly one at that.

Heavenly Cafe can be found in a lovely little strip mall just a short drive from downtown Collingwood. Outside is a small summer patio while inside is a much larger space with an array of different table settings. There are high top tables, regular two seaters, and a few mismatched arm chairs that give the place a very chic vibe.

More interesting (at least to me) than the arm chairs and artwork was the long counter of sweets and treats that accompanied a full menu. Tarts, squares, sugar cookies, cinnamon rolls, full cakes, and macaroons. It was everything a sweet tooth like me could possibly want. Of course, being mindful of our eating habits, my mom and I decided sharing was the best option.

The cafe has a nicely sized menu with different sandwiches, salads, and a number of cafe specialities such as quiche and mac and cheese. After some debating we opted for the croque-monsieur and the french onion soup. The sandwich came with a side salad dressed lightly with a balsamic vinaigrette. The side salad was really nice and it was a good way to make the meal feel a bit healthier and lighter. But of course it was the sandwich that really had my full attention.

If you ever took a tour through my fridge, you’d quickly see that I really, really love cheese. At the current moment I have seven different types of cheese in the apartment. I just can’t get enough of it. This, of course, is why I’m a big fan of a good Croque-Monsieur, and the one from Heavenly Cafe was an absolute delight. The soft bread was covered in a thick layer of melted cheese and it was absolutely delicious. I pretty much devoured my half immediately.

Then there was the french onion soup, which once again I go to for the cheese. Until recently I didn’t really enjoy the soup itself. I prefer soup with a thicker consistency that isn’t just broth but on occasion a really good french onion soup can make me change my mind. The one at Heavenly Cafe hit the spot. The serving size was large, and even between the two of us we just couldn’t finish it, but we made sure all the cheese and soup soaked bread was out of the bowl and into our tummies before finally waving the white flag so we could have room for dessert.

Ah dessert time. Normally restaurants give you four or five options to mull over and the picking is usually pretty easy but when you’re grabbing a bite in a cafe things can get trickier. The counter was lined with glass jars and serving plates displaying a number of different treats. Then there were two glass cabinets stocked full of more yummy meal enders. The cinnamon buns looked unreal but since I had just enjoyed one the previous weekend on our adventure to the beaches, I decided I wanted something different.

We opted for one of the lemon tarts and a glass of milk. Our lovely server swirled some caramel onto a plate underneath the sweet treat and left us with a well sized dollop of whipped cream. Once again, the taste did not disappoint. The tart was not overly sweet and it made for the perfect light dessert.

While it was sad to not get our scones, it is always nice to try somewhere new. Sharing the soup and sandwich made for a lighter lunch and then the tart at the end topped us off perfectly. I would definitely say that Heavenly Cafe was quite a divine experience and I would not hesitate to go back there, though the drive is definitely a long one.

That’s another adventure in the books, and as always when it comes to time with my mom, it was a good one. I would say who knows what we’ll get up to next, but that is in fact the topic of my next post. Stay tuned for more…

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You had me at pizza…

Do you ever build something up in your mind so much that it becomes a disappointment when you finally get to experience it? Well, this is not one of those instances. Months ago I was looking for a deep-dish pizza place to try in the city because I just love deep-dish. To be honest there’s not really a type of pizza I don’t enjoy. Even bad pizza is better than no pizza, right? But there’s just something about the way the cheese and toppings get piled into deep-dish that makes it extra special.

So on a wild night of cravings several months ago I went searching for the best deep-dish pizzas in the city. Unfortunately upon doing this research I was faced with a map of pizza joints nowhere near where I live. But there was a silver lining: BlogTO’s list of “The top 5 deep dish pizza in Toronto” gave me some places to put on my restaurant wish list (which I should type up one day) and on the top of this list was Descendant Pizza.

Unfortunately, Descendant Pizza was one of the furthest joints away from where I live, and since it is in a neighbourhood that I had never ventured to before it wasn’t one that quickly fit into my usual plans. Months passed and then finally, as you would have seen if you read my post from Sunday, we made the venture out to Queen Street East which allowed for a little lunch stop in at Descendant.

And this place was so good it deserved it’s own post.

Descendant is one of those little hole-in-the-wall restaurants. There restaurant itself probably seats about thirty with a few small tables, a hightop rail at the front window, and one large wooden table right through the front door. The smaller tables were reserves and my short legs weren’t in the mood for a high top so we grabbed a spot at the end of the large table.

We stuck with water but Descendant has a fair range of ciders, beers, and non-alcoholic beverages to choose from. Instead of your regular Coke or Pepsi they serve Boylan’s Handcrafted Sodas in a variety of flavours, ranging from Root Beer to Lemon Seltzer.

But our attention was not on the drinks portion on the menu, but rather the Detroit-Style pizzas that Descendant is so well known for. From a regular pepperoni and cheese to more interesting choices like the “Truff-Ghi” (Cheese Blend, Slow-Roasted Garlic Cremini Mushrooms, Double Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Lemon Zest, Fresh Thyme, Grana Padano, White Truffle Sauce) and the “Gatt Daddy” (House made fennel sausage, Mama Lil’s Peppers). We opted for their newest menu item: Electric Avenue.

Our small “Electric Avenue” pizza came in an 8×11 pan and was generously topped with cheese jerk chicken, fresh Pineapple, curried lime aioli, green onion, mama lil’s peppers, and diablo’s fuego hot sauce on the side. The curried lime aioli was generously spread on the top and soaked down through the cheese in the most appetizing way. In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

The fuego hot sauce was a sweet heat that was served on the side. It was excellent for dipping the thick pan-style crust into after you had filled yourself on the abundance of cheese and toppings that were piled onto the middle. And of course, with this choice you know where I stand on the pineapple on pizza debate. Sorry Gordon Ramsey, I’m all about that sweet pineapple taste.

While Descendant is on the pricier side when it comes to pizza (our small was $19+tax), I definitely think the quality and the unique flavours you can get from the small Queen East joint is worth the extra dough (pun totally intended).

A small was a good size to split between two people because the dough is thick and the toppings are plentiful. I’m sure Matt could have ate a small on his own but with plans to go grab desserts and snacks in The Beach Village it made sense to opt for the smaller size. Of course, if we ever end up doing takeout I think we’ll get a large just to have leftovers.

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