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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A Streetcar Trip Outside My Comfort Zone

The long weekend rolled in and I realized we had no plans. I was scheduled to do tours on Friday and Saturday but that still left my days wide open. After doing a quick little search to see what was going on in the city, I decided it was finally time to venture away from my usual haunts in downtown all the way out to The Beaches.

The Beaches is a neighbourhood east of downtown and since I live Northwest of Toronto’s core, I don’t often venture out too far east. The Beaches was unexplored territory and since trips to the beach are generally a summertime activity, I figured it would be a good idea to have this adventure before the summer months leave us and we roll into fall.

We made our trip down and out very slowly, having a later start in the morning since I’d be working late in the evening. After grabbing a quick bite to eat (which will be featured in another post) our adventures moved on Queen Street East as we ventured into an area known as The Beach Village. Here you’ll find an array of beautiful houses and cutesy shops.

  

We wandered inside antique shops, stores full of arts and craft supplies, and we even decided to stop in at a little bakery. Brick Street Bakery has a very rustic vibe to it with dark wood accents and low lighting. There’s a little four seater table at the front window for anyone looking to get off their feet while enjoying a treat or two.

We decided to just grab and go, eating in the doorway next door while we waited for a little sun shower to move along. Our treat of choice was a soft and gooey blueberry cinnamon bun. And lucky for us it was a good choice.

After checking out what the street had to offer we headed down to the actual beach. It was a windy day with a lot of cloud cover so Woodbine Beach wasn’t as busy was it likely would have been on a bright sunny day. But there were still lots of people about, enjoying the fresh air and taking in a game or two of beach volleyball.

Woodbine Beach is lined with a long beautiful boardwalk and peppered with Muskoka chairs. We didn’t actually make our way out onto the sand or into the water but just hanging by the boardwalk was nice and relaxing. It was also perfect for people/dog watching. We parked ourselves on a park bench for a little while and just enjoyed the summer breeze.

From the beaches we moved into Woodbine Park in order to find The Toronto Food Truck Festival. Over 40 food trucks rolled into the park for the weekend with foods ranging from authentic Belgian waffles to Southern-style BBQ plates. There were tons of options to choose from, which of course just made my life more difficult.

The only thing I found disappointing about the Food Truck Festival was the lack of small snack plates. Most of the trucks were serving full menu items priced between $10-15. We had been hoping to grab a bunch of little plates under five dollars so we could try more. Unfortunately only a few stands had anything close to that price range.

Since it was only three o’clock and we had already had lunch we weren’t hungry enough to gorge ourselves on anything like the chicken and waffles in a waffle or the bacon wrapped poutine burger. Instead, we order a twisted potato and an order of original apple fritters with vanilla ice cream from two different trucks. The two items together cost about $15. It was a bit of a pricey snack but they were both delicious in their own way.

The neatest thing about the twisted potato was the different kinds of gourmet ketchup offered to go with it. We sampled each of their unique flavours; bacon, mesquite, ghost pepper, and dill pickle. The dill pickle had the most flavour but I really enjoyed the mesquite (it had a barbecue taste) and the ghost pepper (it had a hot sauce taste). The bacon was a little disappointing as it didn’t really taste much different than plain old regular ketchup.

Of the two treats we sampled, the apple fritters were definitely the more memorable of the two. I learned in the first bite that old style apple fritters apparently have thick apple slices inside and icing sugar covering the top. Dipping these warm pockets of apple goodness in the runny vanilla ice cream was an absolute delight.

After making our way back out of the park we decided to check out more of Queen Street East simply because it’s an area we haven’t explored before. We walked back in the direction we had come from in the morning, taking a look into more of the stores we had passed by after lunch. I quickly began to recognize a lot of restaurants from lists that I’ve scrolled through on BlogTO including a little unique coffee house called The Sidekick.

The name hints to a super hero theme which is executed perfectly through the inclusion of a small comic book shop on the inside. Exposed brick and chalkboard menu signs are complimented by hanging tesla bulbs and the inclusion of a number of comic figurines and statues. In the back corner there’s a small fireplace surrounded by comfy chairs and a board game selection for patrons spending a bit of extra time in the cafe.

 

Our stop at The Sidekick was brief but it was a nice way to rest tired feet before wandering into a gastropub for dinner. A quick look at my watch told me it was time to head back downtown in order to get to work. We decided to walk rather than hopping on the 501 streetcar and the trek put me over 20,000 steps for the day before I headed in for my Saturday night tour shift. We adventured well and now that we’ve seen how easy it is to get out to The Beaches and the surrounding neighbourhoods I’m sure we’ll be back.

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10 Ingredient Jambalaya

I will be honest: this summer hasn’t exactly been a good one for meal plans and new recipes. I was doing really good at trying new things in the beginning but as things got busier and busier I found that easy old crockpot recipes became my best friends. Unfortunately my best friends weren’t always the most exciting. One can only eat so many deconstructed cabbage rolls and pots of chilli before they get kind of sick of what they’re eating. I’m someone who always likes to try new foods and this typically extends to my home cooking as well as eating out. Sadly, there isn’t always enough time.

Monday was another pot of crockpot chilli but since I had absolutely nothing to do on Wednesday I decided to venture out a little bit. I didn’t pick a new recipe but instead decided to try something I haven’t made since the winter months: jambalaya.

I am a glutton for southern style cooking, especially anything with Cajun roots. New Orleans is on the top of my bucket list and it’s not just because of The Princess and the Frog. Jambalaya is one of those dishes I just love to order at restaurants and while I was still in university it was something I learned how to make at home. I’ve experimented with recipes over the years and have finally come up with my fast and dirty way to make a heaping pot of the good stuff. So of course, I figured I’d share it with all of you.

Not so surprisingly I failed on measuring my ingredients so I just kind of eyeballed it the best I could to come up with this simple 10 ingredient list for making my version of Jambalaya.This is a spin off of traditional Jambalaya which uses broth instead of tomato paste.The cauliflower rice was a new test for me in order to lower the carbs and calories in this dish and it turned out great.

  • 1/2 a medium sized onion diced
  • 2-3 bell peppers diced
  • 1 stock of celery diced
  • 10-15 chicken strips
  • 12-15 shrimp
  • 4 turkey sausages (missing in mine this time; the store was sold out)
  • Tomato paste (156ml)
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • Cajun seasoning to taste
  • 4 servings of rice or one head of cauliflower (or both)

Directions

Cook your turkey sausages in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (flipping once halfway through). While the sausages are cooking begin to prepare the rest of your ingredients; dicing the vegetables, peeling the shrimp, and cutting chicken strips into bite sized pieces. Once the turkey sausage is cooked cut these into bite sized pieces as well.

If you’re using cauliflower you can either grate it into cauliflower rice like I did or use a food processor (which is probably 10 times easier). If you’re using regular old rice proceed to boil your rice as normal. As you can see I’m pretty lazy (and I suck at cooking rice) so I just use minute rice.

Next, cook the vegetables and meats together on medium heat in a large pot on the stove top, stirring occasionally. After five minutes add the tomato paste. Fill the empty tomato paste can with water and pour this into the pot as well to change the consistency of the tomato paste. Stir the paste and water in until all the vegetables and meats are coated. Proceed to add hot sauce and cajun seasonings to taste. I prefer mine on the spicier side but it’s all up to you.

Finally, mix in cooked rice or grated cauliflower rice. Cook on low for 5 more minutes and then serve.

Prep and everything included this meal should take no longer than an hour to make. The recipe is for approximately 4-6 servings. It did four for us but Matt’s servings are large so it probably could be spread into six especially because we used both the cauliflower and the regular rice. If you give this one a try let me know, and as always if you have recipes to share please leave them in the comments below! I’m off to eat a big bowl of this now so:

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Lessons from a Shopping Bag

Today, a moment of growth came from a plastic bag full of snack foods and hair dye.

It’s a strange place to find real life character development and yet as I sat down on my couch with my freshly purchased goods I realized I didn’t feel guilty about them at all. I wasn’t worried that I was falling back into old habits where anything and everything was fair game, I just knew that today was not a day to worry about my diet. I had bigger things going on.

It’s easy for me to become obsessed with the efforts I’ve made to change my lifestyle. I spend hours upon hours looking at weight loss blogs, scrolling through workout videos, and planning meals. I put a lot of effort into trying to be healthier and dropping another pant size. There are progress photos, meal preps, step counting, and a whole bunch of other things that eat up time and energy. Some days I’m on top of everything and others I struggle. I used to make myself feel really bad about those off days but I’m starting to learn that my version of a healthy lifestyle doesn’t always include food logs, sweaty sports bras, or even a proper portion of vegetables. Part of this lifestyle is allowing myself those days when I’m not so concerned, knowing well that I’ll get back on track tomorrow.

Recently, I had the privilege of reading a post from one of the bloggers I follow that really got me thinking. The lovely Sara of Truly Sara talked a little bit about why she doesn’t like the phrase “Cheat Meal” (you can read the post here). While I’ve often used “Cheat Meal” or “Cheat Day” on my social media as a catch all for those days when I’m not counting calories or tracking ‘points’, I do really agree with what Sara had to say. The phrase can often make us feel bad about the food choices we have made, and we can often feel like a failure just because of what we put into our bodies.

I started thinking about this post again today as I finished off a ten pack of nuggets and half… okay, two thirds of a McDouble from McDonalds. Today was not a day I had planned to indulge; in fact there was healthy food in the fridge already made and ready but it just didn’t happen. Today was a rough one for me both physically and mentally; things were going on in my life that I needed comfort for and I found that comfort in food.

Do I unhealthily use food as a coping mechanism sometimes? Yes, I do but it’s not the end of the world and that’s the lesson I took home with me today, along with a plastic bag full of goods.

What I’ve come to understand to be important is to remember that I am in control. Just because I had a bad day today and decided to make it better by eating McDonalds and getting junk food for the evening does not mean I’m suddenly a failure. In fact, I haven’t even done anything wrong. I acknowledged that my feelings were negative, and I knew that tonight the food would help with that. Today that was worth it, other days it won’t be so I won’t make the same call. I won’t do this every time I have a bad day and that’s the triumph in it. I believe it to be a lesson worth sharing.

So much of life is about balance, and everyone’s balance is different. It can be difficult to do but finding your balance rather than basing your life on someone else’s can be incredibly empowering. Whether you call them cheat days, indulgences, or just don’t worry about the labels, you don’t have to feel bad about making those choices. If it made you happy, even for a short period of time, that’s what truly matters; not the size of your jeans, the calories you counted, or anything else. Your happiness is worth more than all of that combined.

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