Chatime Opens Shop in the Annex!

Last Friday, Mary from Mary’s Happy Belly was kind enough to invite me to join her at Chatime Annex’s media launch. We not only got to tour the newest location—which is stellar given its close proximity to UT, residential buildings, and offices—but we also got to learn a little bit more about the company and its philosophy.

At the heart of it, it’s about making good tea (one part of their slogan of “Good Tea, Good Time”). At all the locations, they brew each kind of tea according to unique times and temperatures, and the tea leaves are imported from Taiwan. The toppings, like pudding and grass jelly, are also made fresh in-house!

One of the things I have always liked Chatime is the customization aspect of their drinks. Matt and I like ours with less ice, 50% sweet, and it’s awesome that they do that for their customers.

Chatime AnnexGood Tea Good Time

During our visit, we sampled their most popular drinks, as well as some of their more unique offerings!

Most Popular Drinks
  • Chatime Milk Tea with Tapioca
  • Taro Milk Tea with Pudding
  • Roasted Milk Tea with Grass Jelly

The Roasted Milk Tea with Grass Jelly is actually my favourite drink from Chatime, and ever since Matt got me hooked on it, I crave it all the time. The Chatime owners also explained something that I had lamented about in an earlier post: I thought that the taro milk tea seemed powdery. It’s actually because they use real taro, which has that grainy texture, whereas I had mistaken it for powder! It’s good to know that it was because it was fresh taro!

Unique Offerings

chatime

  • Chatime Red Bean Milk Tea
  • Hazelnut Chocolate Milk Tea
  • Brown Rice Green Milk Tea
  • Japanese Sakura Sencha
  • Chocolate Mousse
  • Wintermelon Mousse
  • Taiwan Alishan JinShyuan Tea

*The adorable bubbletea cake in the middle is a chocolate cake with green tea mousse from Kelly’s Baked Goods!

They were all very good, but for me, the most interesting were the wintermelon mousse (kind of savoury-sweet) and the Japanese Sakura Sencha (very refreshing!) I also enjoyed the red bean milk tea, which you can’t go wrong with!

Two of Chatime Ontario's Owners, Kenton and Thomas

Two of Chatime Ontario’s Owners, Kenton and Thomas

Overall, it’s cool to see that Chatime has done so well in Ontario and in Canada, which is truly a job well done on the part of owners Kenton, Vincent, and Thomas. I think I value predictability and stability too much to ever be an entrepreneur, but it’s fascinating to hear the stories behind those who are!

Chatime Annex on Urbanspoon

Where We Ate: Portland Variety

More than ever, Instagram has become a source of new restaurants to try. Portland Variety was one of these finds! Conveniently located at Portland and King (former home of the now-closed KiWe Kitchen), the restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating. The drink menu is pretty interesting (they have a proper mixologist and all), and there are plenty of shareables to choose from. We liked pretty much everything we tried!

What We Ate

  • Housemade ricotta with honey, hazelnuts, and pears (soooo good!)
  • Salt cod brandade (loved it!)
  • Roasted bone marrow (the crispy top was a nice touch)
  • Grilled octopus
  • Eggplant confit
  • Beef tenderloin carpacio with Parmesan shavings
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Bite-sized beignets with chocolate sauce (airy, vanilla cream-filled goodness)
Housemade Ricotta

Housemade Ricotta

Salt Cod Brandade

Salt Cod Brandade

Roasted Bone Marrow

Roasted Bone Marrow

Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus

Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio

Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio

Eggplant Confit

Eggplant Confit

Mini Beignets

Mini Beignets

Portland Variety Cafe on Urbanspoon

Favourite Spots: Chicken Rice at Doner Kebab House

This post is going to be a short but very necessary post. When Matt and his friends first started raving about the chicken rice from Doner Kebab House, I was pretty skeptical about it, but now I’m a believer: honestly, that stuff is like crack. Chicken? Goood. Rice? Goood. Housemade garlic hot sauce? Extra gooood.

It’s right by Ryerson and a short walk away from Yonge-Dundas Square, so if you’re in the area, get yourself some chicken rice (or don’t, because then you’ll be like me and crave it all the time). Even if you don’t love it, you really can’t go wrong with a good, filling meal for $8.50!

The good stuff

Chicken Rice!

Doner Kebab

Look for this sign!

Donair Kebab House on Urbanspoon

Station Cold Brew Coffee Co. Launches at Brunch TUM!

Last week, fellow blogger Mary from Mary’s Happy Belly (who also happens to be a colleague and foodie friend) forwarded me an email about Station Cold Brew Coffee Co.’s official launch at the August TUM event. After contacting Mitchell Stern, the Marketing Director at Station Cold Brew, we were extended an invite to their debut! In my opinion, the brunch-themed TUM event was a big disappointment (more about that later), but we really enjoyed the cold brew coffee!

A little about cold brew coffee…

Cold brewing coffee (which, coincidentally, my friend J was talking to me and Matt about it a couple of weeks ago) involves steeping coffee grinds in cold/room temperature water for about 12 to 24 hours. Eliminating the heating process also results in coffee with lower acidity and a subtly sweet flavour.

Station Cold Brew Coffee Co.: Thumbs Up

Station Cold Brew

The crew at Station Cold Brew was very nice, especially Mitchell, who introduced himself to us. We learned that in addition to BOOM Breakfast & Co. and Cheesewerks, their coffee will soon be available at the various Fresh locations in Toronto. I was super excited to hear that because I’ve been wanting to bring Matt to Fresh ever since I went last time… now we can go for the food and cold brew coffee!

We bought a cup of their coffee, which was really cold and refreshing, especially given how hot it was outside today! We had it with a little bit of milk and agave. And as their guests, we each also got to take home a cute, little personalized 8 oz. stubby of coffee (they’re currently chilling in the fridge as I write, but Matt and I each took a sip before I started this post!) Definitely a must try!

Personalized Stubbies of Coffee

Personalized Stubbies of Coffee

Brunch TUM: Thumbs Down

We’ve been to TUM events, and I definitely stand by the idea of supporting local eateries and chefs, but this brunch event was a big disappointment for us. As a brunch-themed event (and marketed extensively that way), you’d think that there would be actual brunch food. One vendor had eggs, but that was the closest it came to brunch! There were also only about 8 food vendors, which doesn’t offer much variety. Not worth it, in my opinion.

What We Ate

All of these vendors were hard at work at the event and the food was good, so I definitely want to give credit where credit is due, but at the same time, nothing we tried really blew us away.

Brunch TUM

  • Babi & Co.’s Babi on a Bun (braised pork belly on fried buns with pickled cucumbers): These were nice and crispy—very good!
  • Good Pho U’s Banh Mi: These were okay, but I still really like the ones from Nguyen Huong in Scarborough best!
  • Empanada House’s Empanadas (fried with chipotle shrimp and cheese inside): I wish there was a bit more filling! The chimichurri was good though.
  • Bombay Street Food’s Spicy Beef and Spicy Veggie Pate (served on a bun with a side salad): This was good, as was the side salad, but unfortunately, it made the bun very soggy.

It was a gorgeous summer day in Toronto though, so it was hard not to be happy just being out and about in the city! Hope you all had a happy weekend 🙂

Bring on the Ice Cream! Bang Bang Ice Cream & Bakery and Sweet Olenka’s

Just like cupcakes, froyo, and macarons were popping up everywhere just a while back, ice cream sandwiches have been the biggest thing lately! So far, we’ve tried them from 3 different places: Moo Milk Bar (see this post), and more recently, Bang Bang Ice Cream & Bakery and Sweet Olenka’s. Let the ice cream sammie adventures begin!

Bang Bang Ice Cream & Bakery

Bang Bang Ice Cream

Ginger Cookie + Bellwoods Stout Ice Cream; Birthday Cake Cookie + PB&J Ice Cream

Bang Bang has become really popular as of late, so Matt and I had to wait in line with the many others hoping to try their ice cream sandwiches. Luckily it was a nice night and the line moved fairly quickly. They make all the ice cream sandwiches on the spot and there are various options to choose from. In addition to picking between a half sandwich (1 cookie) or a full sandwich (2 cookies), you can also opt for a macaron ice cream sandwich or an ice cream puff. There are also a variety of ice cream flavours and cookies to choose from! Matt had the PB&J ice cream with a birthday cake cookie, while I went with the Bellwoods Stout ice cream and a ginger cookie. We also got an Everything cookie (chocolate, peanut butter, pretzels, and oats) to go, which we had with some vanilla frozen yogurt the night after. Delish! 🙂

Bang Bang Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Sweet Olenka’s

Sweet Olenka's

Pear Caramel Ice Cream; Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich

The Queen West location of Sweet Olenka’s is literally around the corner from Bang Bang, so there’s plenty of ice cream goodness in the area! We went today, and the decisions were endless—they have handmade ice cream, ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, chocolates, and baked goods! While their ice cream sandwiches are also handmade, they aren’t made-to-order. To be honest though, that really didn’t matter because their salted caramel ice cream sandwich is absolutely AMAZING! We shared that and the pear caramel ice cream, which was also really good (think refreshing and sweet at the same time). We’ll definitely have to go back!

Sweet Olenka's on Urbanspoon

Where We Ate: Taste of Toronto

Me and a group of my friends from Western have been taking turns planning monthly outings. For the month of July, my friend A organized a trip to the Taste of Toronto food festival.

The 4-day event, held at the Fort York National Historic Site, gave visitors an opportunity to try various dishes from a number of Toronto restaurants, shop and sample from different vendors, participate in cooking classes and wine tastings, and listen to live music.

We went on Saturday during the day, which turned out to be pretty good because it wasn’t too crowded and the lines were manageable. The weather also held up, which is awesome because it was almost all outdoors!

What We Ate

  • SplendidoFresh oysters with apple and jalapeño
  • Khao San RoadCrispy rice salad (rice, ginger, cilantro, sour pork sausage, lime leaf, and roasted peanuts)
  • El CaballitoPollo con mole (cemita bread, mole poblano, pulled chicken, white onion, and avocado)
  • Rose & SonsRose and Sons BLT (Dr. Pepper bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, feta, and herb mayo)
  • The McEwan GroupBymark’s lobster poutine
  • Richmond StationCharcuterie with pickles
  • WeslodgeWagyu hot dog (house bun, beet mustard, and beef cheek marmalade)
  • Hopgood’s FoodlinerSmoked mackerel on oatcakes

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What We Bought

  • Philip’s Ice PopsI had to  buy a homemade lemon-ginger rosemary popsicle!
  • Nutra FruitThe vendors were from Québec and super nice. The chocolate-covered cranberries and the cranberry-based vinaigrettes were to die for!
  • A $5 wine tasting: We spent 20 minutes learning about and tasting 2 reds and 2 whites from California and New Zealand—not bad for $5!

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The Good

  • It was pretty well-organized for a first-time event! I guess it helps that it’s been held in other cities and that major sponsors were involved.
  • The number of vendors/restaurants: There were quite a few food & drink vendors and restaurants, which meant that there was lots to see and that we had a good selection of eats to choose from!
  • The free food samples: Highlights include the butter chicken bison from Carmen Creek Gourmet Bison, which was melt-in-your-mouth good, and Woolwich Dairy’s lemon & lime goat cheese.
  • The free drinks: 1L bottles of Bloo juice, Nespresso coffees, San Pellegrino‘s sparkling clementine drinks, and Pure Leaf teas.

The Bad

  • Crowns: Like many food & beverage festivals, they had their own currency, cards that you could load with Crowns (1 CAD  = 1 Crown). I guess it’s easier to manage than change/credit/debit, but it’s a hassle for patrons!
  • The prices were still a bit steep—not unlike events from Toronto Underground Market, SLURP Noodlefest, the Food & Wine Expo, and the like. We paid for $50 for 2 people (which included 2 general admission tickets plus $12 worth of Crowns), but dishes ranged from $6 to $8 each, which is pretty pricey!
  • While we were fine during the day, I heard from others who went to the night events that the lines were very long!
  • Port-a-potties: Fortunately, they weren’t too bad during the day, but they definitely aren’t my favourite!

Overall though, it was good food with good friends, so I can’t complain too much! 🙂

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Where We Ate: Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse

To celebrate Matt’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, I treated him to dinner at Jacobs & Co. The restaurant is housed in a very large and sleek space, but I personally found the atmosphere to be a bit pretentious. The drinks were also really expensive, which was expected, but there were beers we normally get for half the price elsewhere, which is ROBBERY to me!

The service, however, was impeccable. All levels of staff were attentive and knowledgeable, especially our main server. We were definitely well attended to, which made it a good experience!

What We Ate

Jacobs Jacobs

  • Oysters: We opted for a mixed selection of east coast oysters, but we liked the Lucky Limes from PEI best!
  • Jacobs Caesar Salad with White Anchovy: This was prepared (perfectly) tableside—so much fun to watch and absolutely delicious. A must!
  • Duck Fat French Fried Potatoes + Potato Gratin: The sides come in half portions, which is great because you can try a couple of things. I really wanted their Brussels sprouts, but they were out that day!
  • USDA Prime Black Angus T-Bone Steak, Dry-Aged 125 days: 25 oz. of melt-in-your-mouth goodness! The server noted that the 125-day dry-aged steaks weren’t for everyone because it has a mushroom, Parmesan-like quality to it, but we loved it! Bonus: if you want, they can carve it up for you. Makes for easy sharing!

We even had a bit of surprise at the end! In another post about Auberge, I had mentioned how the restaurant had paid attention to a note I’d added in the Special Requests box of my Open Table reservation. This time, I included a request for a table in a quieter spot (if possible) because we were celebrating my husband’s birthday. Not only was this request granted, but they also came out with a little birthday dessert at the end of our meal! Very nice touch.

The overall verdict? The steak was perfection, and the service was on point, so we’ll definitely be back again!

Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Where We Ate: Gusto 101

This past month, Matt got shingles. It was the first time in almost a decade together that I’ve ever seen him that unwell. For him, it was debilitating in the form of extreme headaches and discomfort, so he was in bed for a good week. During that time, it really made me miss and appreciate all the things he does at home and to take care of me.

With all that said, I was ecstatic (and relieved) when he was finally feeling better this week, so we went out to celebrate at Gusto 101. The restaurant only takes a limited number of reservations each day, but we managed to grab a couple of skylight bar seats on the rooftop patio.

Source: Gusto 101

Rooftop Patio (Source: Gusto 101)

It was perfect weather for patio dining (and for sangria and beer), and the food definitely hit the spot… so yummy!

What We Ate:

Arancini (green pea risotto and buffalo mozzarella with red pepper sauce)

Arancini

Arancini

Rigatoni Lucani (rigatoni with braised lamb, tomato, and green olives topped with pecorino and gremolata)

Rigatoni Lucani

Rigatoni Lucani

Diavola Pizza (pizza with spicy sundried tomato pesto, calabrese salami, 
smoked provolone, and roasted peppers)

Diavola Pizza

Diavola Pizza

Gusto 101 hasn’t disappointed yet!

Gusto 101 on Urbanspoon

Sushi-Making at Wabora: Fun, but Not Worth It

This past Saturday, Matt and I headed to the Thompson Hotel to try a buytopia deal: $40 for a 2-hour sushi-making class at Wabora. The verdict? Meh. Don’t get me wrong—it was a fun date activity, the chefs were friendly, and we learned some basic sushi-making tips, but I personally don’t think it was worth the $40.

In any case, we still had a good time. Matt is definitely more creative than I am when it comes to (his are the two on the top in the photo below)! I was pretty preoccupied with not slicing all my fingers off with the sharp sushi knife, so thankfully, I came out with all 10 intact. ^^’

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What We Made

  • Chicken Teriyaki Roll: A grilled chicken, cucumber, carrot, and avocado roll topped with miso sauce and teriyaki sauce
  • Crispy Crunch Roll: A crabmeat, cucumber, and avocado roll topped with spicy salmon, crispy shredded potato, spicy mayo, and sweet-spicy sauce

Would I go again or recommend it to others? Maybe not. But I’ll end with this: it reignited my appreciation for sushi chefs because I got to witness first hand that it’s not as easy as it looks. Sushi-making requires practice and skill, and for those who’ve watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, it can be an art. It’s something I’ll have to remember the next time we go out and have amazing sushi!

Wabora on Urbanspoon

Where We Ate: The Happy Hooker, Moo Milk Bar, Fishbar, and 416 Snack Bar

The Victoria Day long weekend + our 2nd wedding anniversary have made this weekend a downright splurge-on-food long weekend… we’ll really need to be on our best behaviour this coming week! We kicked off the weekend with dinner at Auberge du Pommier, one of our faves. Some of our other eats:

The Happy Hooker

Small space with a simple menu, but affordable and perfect for grabbing a quick bite! The lobster roll was good, but I think the hot lobster roll with butter at Neptune Oyster in Boston has set the bar really high for all the lobster rolls in our future. The fish in both the tacos were by far the highlight of our meal at The Happy Hooker.

What We Ate
  • Mahi mahi and Cali baja tacos
  • Lobster roll
  • Baja fries

The Happy Hooker
Happy Hooker on Urbanspoon

Moo Milk Bar

Not to be confused with Momofuku Milk Bar (which we still haven’t tried yet, here or in NYC), Moo Milk Bar is located in The Beaches and is a cute little bakery with fresh cookies, flavored milk, and other sweet treats. Matt and I headed there after seeing this Toronto’s Finest Instagram post on Moo Milk Bar’s ice cream sammies. Their cookies are pretty darn good, but the flavoured milk was a bit disappointing (the banana chocolate milk mostly tasted like banana).

What We Ate
  • Ice cream sandwich (red velvet cookie with chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream)
  • Cookies (cookies & cream and caramel ganache)
  • Banana chocolate milk

Ice Cream Sammy!Milk and Cookies

Moo Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

Fishbar

The last time we went to Fishbar, we only had oysters and drinks because we’d already eaten dinner. This time, we got to try a few other dishes, which were really yummy! They were offering oysters at happy hour prices, which was great, but the fried smelts and mussels were our picks.

The only downsides to the meal were the slow service (which some reviews on Yelp have echoed)—some of our orders were mixed up or forgotten, and our empty water glasses were never refilled throughout the meal—and the couple next to us. The guy was clearly a person who thought he knew everything about everything and was not afraid to voice it… constantly. He also kept getting out of his seat, walking across to the other side of the table, and cuddling his date (Matt was convinced that he was doing it just to cop a feel). It was so bad that at the end of the meal, Matt practically ran out of the restaurant!

What We Ate
  • PEI mussels in a tomato chorizo sauce
  • Fried lake smelts with sea salt and lemon
  • Oysters (Malpeque and Acadian Gold)
  • Crab cakes with an apple and jalapeño slaw

Fishbar

Fishbar on Urbanspoon

416 Snack Bar

After dinner, we decided to head out for drinks. This was only our 2nd time going to 416 Snack Bar, but both times, we had the luck of sitting at the bar right where we could see the food being prepared. It’s almost mesmerizing! That and the good service, solid music, and casual vibe made it a good way to end the night!

What We Ate
  • Foie torchon with mini toasts
  • The mini Reuben sandwich
  • Korean fried chicken
  • The small board (which, this time, consisted of a lettuce wrap, battered shrimp, sausage, cheese, and taro chips)

416 Snack Bar
416 Snack Bar on Urbanspoon

 

A TON of good eats this weekend, but as I said, we’re going to have to pay for it! We don’t want to forget our commitment to being healthy, so we’re getting back on the squat challenge and trying to head outdoors again if the weather cooperates. Time to work all of this food off! ^^’