Where We Ate: Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (Toronto)

When we were all at Western, my girlfriends and I had a lot of nights out. It’s gotten a little harder since we all started working, but yesterday was an exception: my close friends A and K were both celebrating November birthdays, so we all got together for a night out of girl talk, good food, and plenty of drinks!

Last night’s dinner was at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village, which I’d heard about many times over the years, but had never gotten to try. It turned out to be an amazing meal! The industrial loft-like space, which boasts an open-kitchen concept, has a very airy, comfortable vibe.

Our server was also very friendly and helpful, which added to the overall experience. I know this sounds obvious, but it makes a huge difference when servers and restaurant staff are knowledgeable, approachable, and genuinely nice—it makes for a more memorable dining experience (which is why restaurants like Auberge du Pommier and Volos are among my faves).

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What We Ate

I caught a cold earlier this week, so my tastebuds were a bit off (a stuffy nose = a lack of a sense of smell or taste) but I still thought that everything we ordered was really flavorful! A quick thank you to my friend J for supplying the food pics from last night!

To share:

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  • Gnocchi poutine: gnocchi, oxtail gravy, and cheese in a skillet… need I say more?
  • Shrimp & crab cakes: crab cakes can be hit or miss, but these were super flavorful and perfectly cooked… so yummy!
  • Mildred’s home-baked cheddar & thyme biscuits with pecan and apple butter: yum!

Our mains:

I had the bison short ribs, which were super tender. Everyone else’s choices looked amazing too!

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  • Bolly cauli: roasted curry cauliflower with quinoa, caramelized onion, spinach, and grapes
  • Grilled flat iron steak: grilled steak with frites, cherry tomatoes, and herb-crushed peas
  • MTK burger: a medium-rare burger with tomato relish and crispy onions served with kale salad
  • Bison short ribs: bison short ribs braised in red wine with herbed polenta and garlic-sautéed greens

Dessert:

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  • Mildred’s famous profiteroles: these were soft, light, and delicious! They were also stuffed with Lindt milk chocolate ice cream and drizzled with chocolate and caramel, which definitely helped the cause. They were even nice enough to bring out 2 special ones for the birthday girls!
  • Venus bar: I want to say that’s what it was called, but it’s not on the online menu, so I can’t remember exactly! This looks small but should definitely be shared… it was super rich and decadent. It had some banana marshmallow fluff, a chocolate and peanut butter center, and a taffy-like bottom.

What We Drank

As sick as I’ve been this past weekend, I was definitely ready for a drink after a long week. We had 2 bottles of wine to share, both of which were great choices!

  • Belstar Prosecco: This prosecco was very light and not overly bubbly, which was a nice way to start off our meal!
  • McManis Viognier 2011I’ve never had a viognier, but this was really good! It was also very light and easy to drink. Best of all, our server informed us that it was available at LCBO, which is awesome because it always sucks when you have an amazing wine or beer at a restaurant that you can’t get at the liquor store. Will definitely try this again!

The Verdict

I would definitely go again! I now want to go back for brunch (which MTK is well-known for), so it’s now on my list of places to try. We all also had such a great time that we agreed that more get-togethers are in order, so we’ll be trying to set aside some time each month to hang out more often. More food adventures and good times to come!

Mildred's Temple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I’m Going Honey Badger to Shed My Insecurities

I think part of the journey to being happy is feeling good about yourself, which hasn’t always been easy for me.

I’ve always been taller-than-average compared to most girls, especially in Asia, and I was really overweight at one point in my life, so I always felt like a giant when I lived in Hong Kong (I still do!). Hong Kong is also fairly unforgiving in that there is a constant ideal for girls to look a certain way, mainly stick thin. I vividly remember one time when a lady—a complete stranger—came up to me and called me a “pork chop”. Even some old-fashioned relatives and acquaintances haven’t hesitated to tell me that they thought I looked fat.

Summer 2002: taken the day a random stranger called me a “pork chop”
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I’m not saying that people should lie, but those types of actions weren’t very constructive, and they stung every time. I also think they contributed to self-esteem issues that I still deal with to this day. Things have gotten better over the years, though. I still have my “I feel fat and ugly” moments, but I don’t hate my body or how I look. I’m not quite at that point where I don’t have any insecurities or where I’ve fully learned to love myself, but I think that I need to, especially if I wanna make sure this happy jar stays full. 🙂

A Story About My Freckles…

When it’s especially hard to feel good about myself, I sometimes think back to this one time, many years ago when I was still in Hong Kong.

To give you some background, a lot of Chinese women are obsessed with having flawless white skin. One day, I was walking in a drugstore, when a cosmetics salesperson approached me and promoted a cream that could get rid of all my “unsightly freckles” (to be honest, I don’t even have that many, and they’re mostly sprinkled across my nose). I was pretty ticked off because A) she immediately assumed that I hated my freckles and wanted them gone and B) she pretty much insulted me in the process.

What she didn’t know was that she couldn’t have been more wrong. I actually happen to like my freckles. If you know me and have seen my parents, there isn’t a clear consensus as to who I resemble more. I think it’s because I’m genuinely a hybrid of them both in terms of appearance. One thing all 3 of us share in common, though, is our freckles, which is probably why I love mine so much.

So while I really wanted to tell that lady to shove that cream where the sun don’t shine, I simply told her “No, thank you—I like my freckles.”

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Rockin’ the freckles on my nose on our wedding day

The point is, I gave zero f*cks about what she thought that day. So every time I think of that particular incident, I remember that how I choose to look like is up to me, not someone else. Other people are entitled to have their opinions, but in the end, who makes the decisions about me? Matt sometimes jokes that I’m all honey badger, but in all seriousness, that mentality is probably useful for blocking out the people who only know how to cast judgement and for ignoring all that negativity. Those people can go f*ck themselves.

I feel a little insecure even just sharing this post (I’m laying it all out there!), but maybe someone out there will read this and know that they aren’t alone if they’ve ever felt fat or unpretty. I’m far from shedding all my insecurities, so I can’t really be a voice of reason, but if you’re reading this and if you’ve ever felt like I have and are trying to get past it, I’m sending you all my encouragement… I’m going through that same journey!

Where We Ate: Zen Japanese Restaurant, Cha Time, The Fuzz Box (Toronto)

This weekend was definitely a food-filled one, starting from Friday dinner all the way through to our nephew’s 1st birthday party on Sunday, where there were a lot of good eats! That’s maybe while I’m feeling a bit sluggish and lazy today, so I apologize for babbling (more than usual) in this post 😉

Zen Japanese Restaurant

Matt had seen positive reviews for Zen Japanese Restaurant, but we weren’t able to make reservations the two prior times we tried. We didn’t really think about it again until we saw a photo of delicious-looking sashimi on my close friend J’s Instagram account, which piqued our interest to go again!

So on Friday, we headed to Scarborough with our good friends D and K to give it a try. The place is incredibly small, but all the best places seem to be! Matt and I shared the grilled ika, omakase sashimi, and Tokujyo Zushi, all of which were really fresh and very yummy. The fresh scallops were definitely the winner!

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We also had their homemade mandarin pie, which was surprisingly light and delicious. I am also a sucker for Asahi Black, so whenever it’s available, it’s on my must-order list!

Mandarin Pie

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Zen Japanese on Urbanspoon

Cha Time

One of my coworkers mentioned bubble tea that day, which got me craving taro milk tea. So after Zen, we headed to the Cha Time at Yonge and Finch, where the line was out the door! Luckily, the wait wasn’t too long, and we managed to get a table. It was pretty insane that there was a steady stream of customers while we were there… at $5 a pop on average, they’re probably earning a killing! Interestingly, they have a bunch of locations around the world, and a few locations have popped up in Toronto/the GTA.

Cha Time

Matt ordered the roasted milk tea with grass jelly, while I had the taro milk tea with tapioca. Matt’s was good, but I wish I could say the same for mine! The powder wasn’t mixed in well, so it just tasted really powdery. It was also way too sweet! They do give you a lot of options (more or less ice, % of sweetness, etc.), so if I ever do give it a second chance, I may opt for a less-sweet, tapioca-less version of what I had.

Chatime North York on Urbanspoon

The Fuzz Box

As I mentioned in this post, there are a few places in Toronto that sell Halifax-style donairs. The Fuzz Box is one of them, so Matt and I went to go try with a big group of our friends. In terms of how it compared to Hopgood’s Foodliner, I think that you get a lot more bang for your buck at The Fuzz Box (which, in case you’re wondering, is inspired by the name of the owner’s band), and I could see people going there after a night of drinking or for a quick inexpensive meal. Although the ones at Hopgood’s were smaller and more expensive, I personally liked them better. I found them less greasy and not as oversauced, but I definitely still think that the donairs from both places were good in their own ways. I would go back to both!

The Fuzz Box on Urbanspoon

The Pilates Hundred Challenge

I love browsing Flipboard, and one of my favorite categories is the Health section, which I was flipping through yesterday when I saw an article on the Pilates Hundred Challenge. Matt and I completed the 30-Day Squat Challenge earlier this summer (3,295 squats in 30 days!), so I thought, why not?

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Today was Day 1, and I made Matt—who had already done ab exercises today, poor guy—do it with me. It was fun! The hardest part was controlling my breathing, especially during the stretch of inhales, but I suspect that it’ll get better with practice. I’m interested to see how it goes over the next 9 days, but I think this has encouraged me to look into other Pilates exercises… bring it on!

Where We Ate: Hopgood’s Foodliner and barVolo (Toronto)

Meals out with our friends T and W always lead to awesome food adventures! One day I’ll have to write about our awesome dinner at Hawker Bar that ended with dessert at Chococrêpe, but last night was one of those kinds of nights. We ended up at a couple of different eateries, which was a lot of fun!

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Stop #1: Hopgood’s Foodliner

Matt and I have wanted to try Hopgood’s for a long time now, and we’ve heard good things from people who’ve been there. We were all super stoked (especially after T sent us this video from VICE’s Munchies series earlier in the week)!

What We Ate

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  • Halifax Donairs: There are apparently a few places in TO that serve Halifax-style donairs—also on our list to try—but the Hopgood’s version is really good! I enjoyed the slight heat in the creamy sweet sauce (that’s what she said).
  • Charred Octo & Pork Sausage with Romesco Sauce: I love octopus, and the sauce was yummy!
  • Boss Platter: This was one of the specials of the night, and it was by far the most decadent of the three “mains” that we had. There were oysters, Digby scallops, foie gras on blood sausage, and rib cap steak with chanterelle mushrooms and bacon. Everything was done to perfection, and I thought it was delicious!

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  • Banana Cake with Custard, Nutella Ice Cream, and Meringue: We love bananas, custard, Nutella, and meringue, so what’s not to love about this dessert? It was light and wasn’t too sweet—the perfect end to our meal!
  • Malt Ice Cream with Donuts: T and W ordered this off the specials board, and apparently the donuts were amazing (very crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside)!

What We Drank

Hopgoods-BeerHopgood’s has a nice selection of craft beers, and we liked all the ones we tried. I tried the La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout (I personally enjoy the darker beers), and this was absolutely delish! It was not as bitter as a lot of other stouts I’ve tried, and the malty, chocolatey, coffee taste does come through. It’s from Microbrasserie Charlevoix in Quebec, so I’m not sure if it’ll be readily available in Toronto, though after a quick search, I saw this article saying it was actually available for fall… I hope it’s not too late!

Hopgood's Foodliner on Urbanspoon

 

 

Stop #2: barVolo

We kept the craft beer theme going at barVolo, which I’ve also heard of in the past. This place has a crazy number of beers on tap: there was a huge chalkboard with 26 different types of draught beers (each was listed by a letter from A to Z, which then corresponded to the letter on the tap), along with numerous bottled varieties.

This was a nice, cozy, little place, which was great for just hanging out and sampling some beers. We also got to try their charcuterie board, which was yummy and good for munching on while drinking!

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Bar Volo on Urbanspoon

Matt and I are totally going to have to eat healthy during the upcoming week, but we don’t regret splurging a little this Saturday… good eats with good friends = good times! Hope all of you had just as fabulous of a weekend 😀

Fine Dine-In Fridays: King Crab and Veggie Risotto

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This time we just winged it, but last time we used a variation of this recipe

This is a bit of a no-brainer, but one of the most budget-friendly (and healthiest) ways to cook is to use a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. For the most part, fresh produce is inexpensive, and one bunch or package of vegetables can often be used for multiple meals.

Case in point: almost all of the veggies in tonight’s risotto were from other meals made earlier this week. We included some spinach from a bunch that we also used for chicken-spinach patties (based loosely on this recipe) and as part of a quinoa salad. We also used some pea sprouts and honey mushrooms that were used as sides for other meals.

Even the parts of the risotto dish that weren’t fresh were budget-friendly in that they were already in our pantry—we had previously purchased the frozen peas and Arborio rice from this meal! So really, the only items purchased specifically for this meal were the king crab (a splurge), the no-salt-added chicken broth, and an onion (half of which is in the fridge for another meal!).

Overall, this probably equated to less than $20 per person for this meal, which could potentially be a lot more if we went out to a restaurant!

Extra Splurge: Matt also surprised me by bringing home gruyère and pâté, which we put on these delicious raisin-walnut cinnamon mini crisps from ACE Bakery. I love almost all types of cheeses, but I have a special place in my heart for gruyère and any strong, sharp varieties. Because most of these are a bit on the saltier side though, I can only have it once in a while now, and tonight was one of those times! Little slices of heaven…

“It’s like crack!”: Me sampling the cheese in Napa Valley (and feeling the shame after nibbling the goodness off the rind)

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As a side note, I’m super excited for tomorrow; we’re hitting up Hopgood’s Foodliner in Roncesvalles Village. Stay tuned for the post-meal blog post!