Archives for category: Toronto Explorations

You might be wondering why I tried a juice cleanse in the first place.  Three reasons:

1. Usually I’m pretty good at recognizing when I haven’t been eating well and making healthier choices, but lately I’ve been struggling with that and generally turning to food (and not the fruit and veggie kind) for comfort.  I hoped that a cleanse would help kickstart me on a healthier path both physically and psychologically.  Plus, why not see if there is any truth to all the health and beauty claims?

2. Ever since Greenhouse Juice Co. opened, I’ve become a juice convert.  I absolutely love their products and their brand.  It’s hard for me to pick my favourites, but I really love Gold Rush (pineapple, cucumber, lemon, and ginger) and Deep Roots (beet, carrot, apple, celery, and lemon).  East of Eden (romaine, kale, celery, apple, and lemon) is also a good choice – I just go for whatever I’m feeling that day.  Also: for every ten bottles you return, you get a free juice AND a free yoga class.  Also: their smoothies are SO good.  Drinking “The Rio Deal” is like sipping a ginger cookie through a straw.

3. I’ll try just about anything once.  Not crack though.  You’re on your own there, Mr. Ford.

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^From left to right: Clean-Zing, East of Eden, E3 Live Booster, The Good, Almond Milk, Reishi Booster, Deep Roots, Chia Seed Hydrator. Each with its own health-enhancing properties.

So, without further ado, here is a peek into my day-to-day experience…

Day 1

8:30am: Pick up my juices at Greenhouse, feeling excited to begin my new adventure.  The first juice of the day, “Clean-Zing”–water with lemon, maple syrup and liquid cayenne, à la Master Cleanse–is not my favourite but I have had it before and am more or less used to the flavour.  Either way, nothing can sway my motivation at this point.

9:30am: Take obligatory Instagram photo of juice lineup (see above).

10:00am: Crack open the first actual juice of the day, East of Eden.  I am happy to start my day off with a juice that I know I enjoy – it fuels my motivation, and I’m already counting down to my next juice.  Let’s be real, though: that’s mostly because I’m hungry.

12:00pm: Apprehensively contemplate the E3 Live booster, a blue-green algae shot that resembles swampwater and is supposed to improve mood, brain function, and hair/skin/nail health.  I am pleased to discover that it has next to no taste.

Craving: All the Easter chocolate I see while walking through Shoppers.

1:00pm: Time for The Good: romaine, spinach, cucumber, celery, lemon, and Himalayan salt.  I’m a little nervous about this one too–it’s the only juice I haven’t tried before due to its being made entirely of vegetables–but it’s surprisingly good.  I really like the hint of salt.

Craving: Sushi.

3:15pm: Almond Milk o’clock.  This isn’t just any almond milk – it’s made with coconut oil, vanilla bean, and dates for extra sweetness (or are they all? I wouldn’t know).  The first time I had it it was a little watered down, but this batch is AMAZING, almost like a milkshake.  The vanilla bean is a seriously welcome addition and I feel like I’m having a well-deserved treat.

3:45pm: Feeling horrible and sweaty post-downing 500mL of almond milk in under half an hour.  Pace around before putting my head on the desk in an attempt to rest before my 5:00 physio appointment.

4:20pm: In the car driving to physio and yawn-yawn-yawning all the way there.  Doubting that I will make it through my hour-long appointment.

6:30pm: Made it home!  Time for my Reishi immunity booster, which I became scared of when I learned that it’s a mushroom extract.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE mushrooms–they are my favourite vegetable and yes, to me they are a vegetable and not a fungus–but I want to eat them, not drink them.  Luckily, just like the E3 booster, it goes down like water.

Craving: A bagel and cream cheese.  Can’t remember the last time I’ve craved this.

7:15-8:15pm: Sipping Deep Roots while watching a couple episodes of Scandal.  Feel a pang of jealousy as I smell my dad heating up some of our friend Martha’s homemade chicken noodle soup.

9:00pm: Decide that I can’t put off drinking the Chia Seed Hydrator (alkaline water, chia seeds, lemon, and maple syrup) any longer.  Shake up the bottle and brace myself for my first sip.  Want to gag at having to swallow mouthfuls of slimy chia seeds whole.  Feel more jealousy as dad takes an oatmeal raisin cookie out of the freezer.  Force myself to drink 3/4 of the bottle before dumping the rest down the drain and calling it a day.

Craving: A salad topped with canned tuna.  If you know me well, you will now understand just how much I hate this chia seed thing.  Canned tuna is the one edible thing on this earth that I despise.

Bedtime: Apart from the hour post-almond milk-guzzling, I felt completely normal today.  It is 11:00pm and I still have a lot of energy, actually, even though I didn’t sleep well last night.

Day 2

8:00am: Wake up as I always do, hungry and excited for breakfast.  Alas…

Craving: Breakfast cereal.  Any kind will do.

Then: This apple cinnamon bun from Piroshky Piroshky (sigh):

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12:15pm: This algae shot tastes a little worse today.  Ugh.

12:40pm: Losing faith in my willpower.  I really want solid food.

1:15pm: Everything tastes really intense today – The Good is really salty.  I’m thinking I could really appreciate the flavours and textures of that bagel and cream cheese right now.

Craving: Any food ever that appears on my Instagram feed.

3:00pm: Mmm.  Almond milk (consumed more slowly this time).  Looked forward to this one because not only is it the tastiest of the bunch, it’s also the most filling.

5:30pm: My thumbs are purple.  That’s pretty standard for me though.

7:00pm: Take Epsom salt bath as suggested by Greenhouse + the internet.  Prop my laptop on the counter so I can multitask by watching Homeland.

Craving: Teriyaki salmon and broccolini?  I don’t know, solid food.

8:25pm: Tonight was supposed to be bad, but I still feel completely normal.  Just really, really thirsty.  Does that even make sense?

Craving: Anything and everything that my dad is eating right now.

10:00pm: Starting to feel like I might have the beginnings of a sore throat – you know that annoying scratchy feeling?

Bedtime: Honestly, other than the throat thing I still feel fine.  Maybe that just means I didn’t have a ton of toxins to begin with?  I find that hard to believe, but who knows.  I’m not complaining.  I’m probably jinxing myself for tomorrow though.

Day 3

7:30am: Wake up with a worse sore throat than before.  Jinx confirmed, or this cleanse is finally working its magic.

8:00am: Search the house frantically for my phone before finding it in the pocket of the vest I am wearing.  Feel generally weak and kind of like I have cold sweats.

Craving: No food – just a nice hot cup of tea.

8:30am: Pick up my juices from Greenhouse, substituting the Clean-Zing for the Long John (a hot version of the same thing).  The flavour is even more powerful in hot form, but it energizes me and soothes my throat.

12:00pm: I’m sweeeeepy.  Someone bring a fuzzy/furry blanket to my office please.

12:10pm: Look in the bathroom mirror and notice that my lips are tinged green from juice.  That’s a good look.

2:30pm: The salt in this drink makes me so.  Thirsty.

Craving: Everyone’s Instagram food.

4:00pm: Feelin’ pretty spritely as I leave the office.  Oh, almond milk, I will miss you.

5:45pm: Rudely awoken from my nap on the couch by the phone ringing.

6:15pm: This is definitely my shitty day.  The sore throat is back in full force and I feel phlegmy (sorry), weak and tired.  Ugh.  I had really been hoping to end off on a good note.  This calls for more Scandal.

6:30pm: Spitting into Kleenexes between each sip of Deep Roots.  Again, sorry, but if you came into this post thinking it would be all sunshine and roses, you were mistaken.

7:45pm: Soothing myself with some herbal tea.  It occurs to me that I haven’t craved caffeine once in the past three days – guess I’m not as dependent on it as I thought.

8:30pm: I just want to get into bed.  But that chia seed thing is beckoning…ugh.

9:30pm: Wow, I actually finished the bottle.  I also popped an Advil for my sore throat – I wanted to avoid it but I also want to sleep.

10:00pm: Just as I am getting ready for bed, I have a renewed sense of energy/general health.  Of course.  Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all!

Day 4 and Final Verdict

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^ I woke up like dis.

My sore throat has abated and I’m feeling good, just hungry.  Though I had some rough patches, overall I felt pretty normal during the cleanse.  My main complaint is that I had a hard time sleeping, probably because I just had so much energy every night.  And/or maybe I’m not yet used to the time change.

As for the other health benefits: My skin is definitely the clearest and softest it’s been in a long time.  I feel more positive and cheerful.  And maybe it’s a placebo effect, but I also think my hair is shinier, teeth are whiter, and vision is clearer.  More than anything, I’m proud of myself – I never would have guessed I’d have the willpower to follow through with this so completely.  I feel accomplished and like I’ve truly done a good thing for my body.  And I do feel motivated to continue down a healthier path.

Let’s see how that goes…breakfast, anyone?!

Stay glowing,

Caj

P.S. Because you’re probably curious, this healthy splurge cost me $65 per day (before tax).  I think it’s a great investment, but definitely one I’ll be making less-than-frequently.

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Life has been busy: full-time work, 13 applications, appointments, Christmas shopping, birthday planning, and trying to find a little time for me.  For the record, I have been doing pretty well with most of my end-of-year goals: I planned all of my Christmas gifts, including stocking stuffers, by December 1st (and bought all of them by December 3rd); I’ve been working diligently on my applications, though my phone is admittedly still in my presence for 25% of that time; and I like to think I’ve generally been more happy and positive. As soon as I come to terms with the fact that my knees will always be cracky and crunchy (yum!!), it will be back to Barreworks for me.

Last night, Fiona and I finally made it to Friday Night Live @ the ROM, which we’ve been trying and failing to go to for about 4 weeks now. It was the “Season Finale”, and even though all the online tickets had sold out, we committed and lined up at the door. Little did we know the line would wrap halfway around the block. After waiting for an hour and a half–to the point that I could no longer feel my fingers, toes, or lips (thank you, Raynaud’s)–some wonderful saviours came around selling 2 extra tickets and we jumped at the chance.

Inside, we were greeted by this familiar dino:

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…delicious food choices, including these lobster-, thai beef- and roasted beet-stuffed buns from Hot Bunzz:

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…comforting drinks and giant sea creatures:

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…wildlife photography (we didn’t quite make it inside the gallery, hence the reflection):

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…impromptu Shakespeare (photo credit to Fiona’s Instagram):

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…and live music. Unfortunately, the bat cave was closed, so we did some exploring instead and came across a gallery of minerals, gems, fossils and meteorites:

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…before roaming among the dinosaurs and other various extinct species:

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^ This is a prehistoric sloth. You read that right–those adorable little lazy sloths we all know and love used to be…this. I can’t.

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^ Giant armadillo and turtle.

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^ Friends we made on the staircase.

On our way back to the main floor, we came across a room where people were designing miniature castles on iPads, which where then actually created for them using 3D printers. They look like espresso machines, but those things are pretty freaking amazing.

To cap off the night, we made our way to the sugar waffle table where we aggressively made sure that we received two of the final dozen of the night. Feeling like Leslie Knope, we smeared the whipped cream over the top and ate our waffles with our hands while people twerked all around us.

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Stay curious, and keep exploring!

Caj

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these reviews.  I had big plans for myself to try out a ton of new brunch places in the last couple months–brunch being my absolute favourite–and then write a post reviewing all of them, but I only ended up going to one.  What a shame…

If I could only choose one, though, I think I picked the right place.  Six of my friends and I headed out to Saving Grace on Dundas West one morning at 11am, and miraculously got a table within 15 minutes (apparently unheard of there, because it’s such a popular spot).  I spent roughly 10-15 minutes going back and forth between the regular and specials menus, ultimately settling for the coconut-black sesame waffles from the specials:

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…With a side of sausage. Clearly, they were to die for. I was the only one to go the sweet direction: other popular choices at our table were the savory french toast, old white cheddar sandwich, and open-face brie (brie, pear, walnuts and honey on baguette).  Everyone was perfectly happy with their meals.  The service was kind of slow, even for our coffee and lattes, but the staff was friendly and accommodating.

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^ Isabelle’s breakfast. I can’t remember what it was, but it looks delicious, and that’s what matters, right?

Verdict: 4/5. If they improve the speed of service, that would take it up another notch for me (and improve the usually-long wait times). My only other real complaint is that Dundas West is such a trek (for me, at least).

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Smith isn’t new for me – I went for my third time with my mom on Sunday – but it’s become one of my favourites. It feels trendy yet cozy, has a great hidden patio for warm weather, is relatively close to my house, and most importantly has all of the things you really want for brunch: scones, eggs benedict, waffles, frittatas, crepes, huevos, and your classic eggs-toast-home fries-bacon/peameal/sausage meal. They’ll just usually fancy it up a bit, and I can’t complain about that.

This Sunday, my mom got the “Smith” (see classic meal described above) and I got this wonderful concoction:

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^ The brisket hash: poached eggs, beef brisket, and breakfast potatoes cooked and served in a cast-iron skillet with béarnaise sauce and salsa. It was amazing but super filling, so I brought the leftovers home, and alas they have since disappeared… The woes of living with your parents. I can’t blame them, though.

Verdict: 4.5/5. I really like this place. I even celebrated my birthday there last year (mimosas and all). I’m hesitant to give anything a 5 (even Gusto 101, though I may have to revise that), but I highly recommend Smith. It’s well-decorated and homey, the service is friendly, and the food will leave you satisfied.

Monday morning sucked even more last week than usual: Kyle headed back to Campbell River after a 10-day visit. Those 10 days were great not only because I got to spend time with him, but because I had the opportunity to do things and go places in the city that I wouldn’t ordinarily do or go. Of course, I also threw in a bunch of my tried-and-true favourites for good measure…

The first weekend, we headed to Kingston for Homecoming part 2. Here are the highlights from our week in Toronto:

Sunday

After we arrived back from Kingston, Kyle and I headed downtown to the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts to see The Weeknd in concert. The concert was initially supposed to be at Massey Hall, so we were disappointed at first about the venue change, but The Weeknd more than compensated. His performances have been inconsistent in the past–low energy or pitchy at times–but this time his voice was bang-on (conjuring memories of MJ) and his repertoire of dance moves, spins and jumps was hilarious/also MJ-reminiscent. It was both surprising and amazing.

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Also worth a listen: his opening act, Banks. Listen to this and this. I promise it’s worth the click.

Monday

First stop was the brand-new Ripley’s Aquarium: a definite highlight of the week. We especially loved seeing the various sharks, rays and jellyfish. I spent the last 20 minutes of our visit sticking my hand in a pool with 15 other people waiting for a stingray to pass by…worth it!

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Afterward, we celebrated our one-year anniversary at the 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower. Definitely on the pricey side, but hey, there’s nothing like it and it’s something you have to check off your bucket list as a Torontonian or tourist.

Tuesday

We hit up Kensington Market for grilled cheese @ The Grilled Cheese (duh) and browsing in various vintage, clothing, paper and record stores. Yes, paper stores…I’m a huge nerd when it comes to journals, notebooks, stationery, greeting cards and anything of that nature. Kid Icarus is a personal favourite.

 

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^ Trying on kewl hats in Blue Banana.

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Wednesday

We had lunch with my Nana, and cooked this dinner!

Thursday

Kyle introduced me to one of his go-to spots in the T-dot, Cafe Crepe. After a brunch of savoury-sweet goodness, we walked along West Queen West all the way to Trinity Bellwoods Park. We stopped in at Dark Horse, various clothing stores, Type Books and The Paper Place (more paper-related excitement for me. Far-away friends, expect just-because letters in the near future).

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Next came the Ai Weiwei: According to What? exhibit at the AGO. To be perfectly honest, Kyle and I found it a little…well, overrated, but some of it was interesting to look at. We were just a little more impressed by the good ol’ Group of Seven.

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Friday

Lunch at the Mill St. Brewery (complete with raspberry beer and pumpkin ale of course) followed by exploring of shops, boutiques and galleries. We stepped into SOMA Chocolate just to look around but were so overpowered by the incredible smell that we couldn’t possibly leave without buying treats. I went for the dark hot chocolate and Kyle got a bar of solid milk chocolate. Mmm…it’s the simple things.

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From there, we hit up the Mesopotamia exhibit at the ROM, being the nerds that we are–it was preeettty kewl–and then met Jaclyn and Pat for dinner. Our last-minute change of plans to eat at Strada 241 (Gusto 101 was full) proved a happy accident. The food did not disappoint: simple, authentic and flavourful Italian in the heart of Chinatown. The calamari, grilled Caesar salad, pizza and three different pastas we tried were all richly satisfying.

Saturday

I tried to take Kyle to my favourite hang-out spot, Snakes & Lattes, but apparently doing so without calling first is a no-no on a Saturday afternoon (there was a 2-hour wait). I took him to another favourite spot of mine, Fresh, for a late lunch instead (hello, all-star salad).

Sunday

To round out Kyle’s visit on his last day, I took him to the Brickworks for the monthly Junction flea market. There weren’t as many vendors as last month (must be the chillier weather), but there was still enough for us to get thoroughly engrossed in: vintage prints, hats and mittens, knick-knacks, boozey cider, and a big wool sweater from the ’70s that is now a part of my wardrobe.

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Finally, no week in Toronto with any member of my family would be complete without a trip to Playa Cabana. That guac, that tequila and those beef shortrib tacos…you have to eat it to believe it.

And now…
I’m back to reality and the daily grind of work and grad school applications. Such is life! Grateful for the adventures and the company while they lasted. 🙂

Stay curious,

Caj

The Junction flea is a monthly flea market held in, you guessed it, the Junction (on Dundas just west of Keele). Looking at the Evergreen Brick Works website, I discovered that the flea market also pops up there on occasion – including today. Given that the Brick Works is only a short, picturesque walk away, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity on such a beautiful day.

It’s no surprise that the Brick Works is kind of my happy place. However, considering how close it is and the amazing events they hold (including the weekly Saturday Farmers’ Market and monthly Toronto Underground Market), I don’t go nearly often enough. I hope to change that.

I grabbed a coffee at the café and met Fiona in the Pavilions to explore the flea market. Turns out I didn’t need to get that coffee, because they had a booth in the the market, along with a number of other yummy treats.

There was lots to look at:

^ I knew my friend Tory would love this owl earring-holder.

So many great vendors and so much to ogle…

We both fawned over a lot—candles, lip balms, prints, $20 cashmere sweaters—but in the end Fiona and I both purchased some jewelry and I also picked up a great pair of sunglasses for 10 bucks!

After so much browsing/shopping, we had worked up an appetite…

^ I had “la chicken”. How French of me, I know.

^ Spiced pumpkin & maple butter tart gelato from Be Good Gelato. So delish!!

The next Junction Flea at the Brick Works is Sunday, October 27th. I highly recommend it – such a great way to spend an afternoon!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend.

Stay sassy,

Caj

My friend Alisse is visiting from DC, so on Wednesday night Marina and I met her for dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar. The Momofuku restaurants in New York City are world-renowned, and the first non-NYC outposts opened in Toronto’s Shangri-La hotel last September.

The Noodle Bar is the cheapest and most student-friendly option, located on the main floor:

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There are two more restaurants and a bar upstairs, as well as the freshly-opened Milk Bar that sells famously unique sweet treats (including “cereal milk”..!).

To start, the three of us ordered the corn with black garlic/parmesan/ranch and two pork buns to share:

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These were definitely a unique take on pork buns. I was expecting the kind of pork buns you get at a dim sum restaurant, and ultimately I would have preferred those. We barely got through one bun between the three of us – I would have preferred a more moist cut of pork, like the kind that comes in a dim sum pork bun, rather than the fatty cut of pork belly.

imageThe corn was good, but I prefer the dressed-up corn that I’ve had at Mexican restaurants like Playa Cabana: slathered in queso fresco, chili and lime. The one thing that confused us most was the “black garlic” – it didn’t taste like anything and we started to wonder if it was squid ink. Ha.

I was impressed, however, with the speed of service. We received the pork buns almost immediately after ordering, and our main courses hardly two minutes later. As per its name, the Noodle Bar’s specialty is ramen noodles, so we each ordered a different noodle dish for our mains: Alisse the ginger scallion noodles (with shiiitake mushrooms, cucumber and cabbage), Marina the dan dan mein (noodles with spicy pork, dry scallops and peanuts) and myself the Momofuku ramen:

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^ Ramen noodles with pork belly & shoulder, two fish cakes, a poached egg, cabbage, scallions and nori seaweed.

I loved my ramen. The mix of flavours was amazing, especially after mixing in the egg yolk and the mystery red sauce in the middle. I stole bites from Alisse and Marina’s bowls as well, and each dish tasted so different, but equally delicious. I was impressed.

We couldn’t leave without a trip to Milk Bar upstairs. We grabbed a basket to stock up on treats in the little shop:

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I had to try the two most-famous treats: a slice of crack pie and a compost cookie. Marina also picked up a blueberry & cream cookie and b-day truffles, which we shared. These were essentially balls of slightly undercooked cake batter with rainbow sprinkles, aka deliciousness.

Marina and I carried the rest of our treats to nearby David Pecaut Square—beside Roy Thomson Hall—where we watched a screening of Sleepless in Seattle courtesy of TIFF in the Park. I’d never done anything like it before and it was such a cool experience. The park was packed with people sitting on blankets spread on the ground, quietly watching the movie. I was worried that the screen might be hard to see from the back or that the audio wouldn’t be loud enough, but neither was an issue. Also, it was my first time seeing the movie and I loved it. This view of the city skyline didn’t hurt either:

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While watching, I ate my piece of crack pie (so named for its addictive qualities). The closest thing I can compare it to is a giant butter tart – without raisins or pecans – and with oats mixed in. More deliciousness.

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I couldn’t handle eating my compost cookie after all that food, so I saved it for last night. The name doesn’t sound appetizing, but it is apt. Compost cookies contain the following: graham cracker crust, rolled oats, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, potato chips, mini pretzels, and coffee grounds.

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The cookie was still soft when I unwrapped it – brownie points (lol) to Milk Bar. I hate crunchy cookies and will warm them up in the microwave until they are gooey and/or falling apart.

I was most skeptical about the coffee grounds and potato chips, but the cookie just tasted lightly coffee-flavoured, and every once in a while I got a bite with a little extra crunch. There is definitely a great mix of textures and flavours in this cookie: soft and crunchy, sweet and salty.

Stay tuned – I plan to make my own compost cookies sometime in the future, and will post the recipe!

Stay curious,

Caj

P.S. TIFF in the Park is on every Wednesday night until the end of August, playing classic romance movies such as Casablanca, The Notebook, and Roman Holiday. Check it out!

I enjoyed my first restaurant review-writing exploit so much that I had to do it again, which wasn’t difficult to orchestrate given my obsession with trying new food spots in the city.

A couple of weeks ago, after catching a movie in the Manulife Centre, my parents and I went to Wish at Yonge & Charles to try out their Summerlicious menu (more specifically their $25 dinner). The restaurant was decorated in a fresh and unique way, reminiscent of a beach-house or cabana:

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We all started with the Wish summer salad. It was good, but a little underwhelming – not all that creative and I would have liked more avocado (duh). For our mains, my mom and I ordered the rhubarb-glazed pork loin and my dad opted for the wild mushroom tart:

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The pork was juicy and flavourful and the potato-parsnip mash and grilled spinach were nice accompaniments, but I could have used more of the sides. The mushroom tart was tasty too and I liked the presentation, but they were a little skimpy on the “pool” of sweet pea-ricotta puree.

For dessert, we decided to each order something different so that we could share all three options: the carrot cake cupcake, the rocky road blondie and the lemon tart. All tasty, but my favourite was the lemon tart – refreshing for summer!

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Verdict: 2.75/5 stars. Everything for the most part tasted good—except for the glass of wine that my mom had to send back—but I just wished (no pun intended) that they had gone the extra mile. Their normal menu does seem more promising, though – I may go back to try one of their many burger options.

Side note: I have been to both of Wish’s sister restaurants—7 West Café and Smith—and am a fan of both. 7 West serves almost anything you can think of and is great for university students (open 24/7), and Smith has a great little patio and a perfect brunch.

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The following Wednesday, my friend Britt and I went to earth in Rosedale, also for their $25 Summerlicious dinner. It was the hottest day of the year, so Britt ordered the chilled courgette soup (courgette = zucchini) for her appetizer. I tried the tomato salad:

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It was very fresh, and the smoked paprika aioli added a nice kick of flavour.

For the main course, I ordered the arctic char and Britt got the summer vegetable Cobb – like a Cobb salad but with a quinoa base instead of lettuce. The arctic char was good, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the combination of flavours in my meal overall, mostly because there was a lot of fennel which to me tastes kind of like black licorice (of which I am not a fan).

For dessert we both ordered the pistachio custard with chocolate mousse and dacquoise. Not necessarily the most photogenic dish, but I loved it: a combination of chocolatey and nutty flavours is always right up my alley.

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Verdict: 4/5 stars. The flavours of my main course may not have been ideal for me, but everything tasted fresh and I liked knowing that everything I was eating was local (there are also lots of options for vegetarians). As well, I appreciated that the portions were smaller than what you’d find at your typical restaurant, because I was able to fully enjoy all three courses instead of being full halfway through the second.

Stay hungry!

Caj

On Monday night, I experienced something that I believe every Torontonian should get a chance to experience in his or her lifetime. Or rather, in the next 10 days, since that’s how long the Magnum Pleasure Store will remain in Toronto for.

At the end of June, Magnum – the ice cream bar brand – opened its first of a series of international pop-up shops at Yonge & Bloor. They are here until July 28 and are open Monday-Saturday from 12pm-10pm and Sundays from 11am-7pm.

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When—not if—you go, there will most likely be a line and a bit of a wait – Isabelle, Marina and I waited for roughly 20 minutes – but it is worth it. Go with good friends and the time will fly by.

Once you get to the front of the line, the very friendly and helpful staff will walk you through the whole process of creating your own customized ice cream bar. It goes like this:

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Step 1. Choose what flavour of ice cream you want: chocolate or vanilla bean.

Step 2. Choose what kind of chocolate you want the ice cream to be coated in: white, milk, or dark.

Step 3. Choose from 21 unique toppings for your ice cream bar. The options range from crushed popcorn to rose petals to bacon bits to Nerds, and you can have as many as you’d like. A friendly staff member will mix your choices together in a cocktail shaker before covering your bar in them.

Step 4. Optional (but why not at this point): choose a kind of chocolate (white, milk, or dark) to have drizzled overtop of your creation.

Step 5. Pay ($6), snap some obligatory instas, and enjoy!

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Our works of art. My creation (bottom left): vanilla bean ice cream coated in dark chocolate and topped with toffee bits, dried strawberries, crushed macarons and honeycomb and drizzled with milk chocolate.

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A close-up. You wanna go now, don’tcha?!

So do it! Time’s a-tickin’!

Stay hungry,

Caj

On Sunday morning, Jaclyn and I headed to a Barreworks class at the Queen West location and then continued on to Liberty Village for brunch at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. Neither of us had been, but we had both heard good things and wanted to try it. In fact, I had never been to the neighbourhood at all, so we took the 30 to 40-minute wait for our table as an opportunity to do a little exploring.

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Liberty Village is definitely a trendy area that attracts a lot of young people. I have to say that I liked the semi-industrial vibe and how it felt somewhat removed from the rest of the city – however this definitely makes it less convenient to get around.

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Our first stop was Balzac’s for a caffeine kick:

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Next, we checked out West Elm, a furniture and home decor store where I wanted to buy nearly everything. Sure I’m excited about the independence aspect, but the main reason I’m looking forward to getting my own place down the road is so that I can decorate it to my heart’s content.

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By the time we were ready to go our table was ready, so we happily headed over to Mildred’s where we split an order of “Mrs. Biederhof’s Legendary Light & Fluffy Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes”. This is a good descriptor, but a picture is worth a thousand words:

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DROOL. Needless to say, this Caj was a happy Caj. We also walked through a market on our way back to the car.

More neighbourhoods await exploration! Any takers?

Stay curious,

Caj

This past weekend was my first one in Toronto in a month, so I was determined to get out, see friends and try new things (during the week I have admittedly been a bit of a hermit).

My brother, Blake, was home for the weekend. On Friday night we wanted to try a new restaurant, and opted for John & Sons Oyster House at Yonge & St. Clair. We were immediately excited upon entering because we spotted Rick Hoffman, the actor who plays Louis Litt on Suits, at the bar. He is one of my favourites on the show, so I was dying to say something, but I didn’t want to intrude on his casual evening with his friend/date.

Sadly I didn’t take any photos of the food – I was too busy enjoying it. To start off, I tried two oysters and Blake had four. They have several varieties from different areas on the west and east coasts, each described according to their flavour (brininess/saltiness, “watermelon” or “cucumber” finish, etc.). For my main, I chose the yellow thai curry mussels. I love the sweeter flavour of yellow curry, and the frites they came with were great too. Blake ordered the tuna “BLT”: layers of panko-fried tomatoes, seared tuna, pancetta and greens. Hearty and fresh-tasting.

I definitely ate well that night – after going out downtown, my friend Britt and I made a stop at Burrito Boyz on Adelaide. It was my first time there, and my (giant) chicken burrito was more than satisfying.

I also have to mention the cab ride I took earlier that night. It was CRAZY. Five minutes after I called Beck Taxi, a cab with multicoloured flashing lights pulled up outside my house. It was amazingly and elaborately decorated inside, there were 10 current-issue magazines on the back of the chair in front of me, and the Gangnam Style music video was playing on the TVs on the back of the headrests. The cab driver offered me 10 different packs of gum and a Tootsie Pop. Needless to say, I was loving life. His name is Akber Batada and he drives the famous “Cosmic Cab” (he showed me his feature on Breakfast Television and has been featured on six other news channels). He doesn’t usually take calls, so I just lucked out that he happened to be in my area. He made my day!

Saturday night, I met Steph and Tory at Cadillac Lounge in Parkdale. It was a trek ($40 cab ride), but was worth it for something different and was a fun night out. The karaoke crooners kept us very entertained, and they make a mean plate (or skillet) of nachos.

Stay curious,

Caj