Archives for category: Reviews

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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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.

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

Last Thursday, I met a bunch of friends for dinner at Tabülè near Yonge and Davisville to celebrate my friend (and ex-housemate) Sarah’s birthday. I had heard great things about this Middle-Eastern restaurant, and that they had just opened a second location in Leslieville – so I had high hopes.

I’ll start with the bad news first: the service was pretty pitiful. After being quite sassy to us for the first hour or so, the waitress eventually warmed up, but it was another half hour after that before we finally got our appetizers. Having eaten a snack not too long beforehand, I didn’t order one, but an order of pita and baba ghanoush (babaganüj) disappeared quickly from our table.

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My entrée, however, was something I definitely did not regret. Diverging from the safe chicken skewer option (sorry friends…you know it’s true), I ordered kefta banadura: charcoal-broiled ground mixed lamb and beef in a tomato garlic sauce. I don’t even like lamb – I ordered it primarily because the sauce sounded tempting – but this dish made me like lamb. That’s how good it was. I had every last bite of the meat and drained every last drop of the sauce with my spoon. The flavours were amazing.

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For my side, I had ordered müjaddara: rice and brown lentils topped with grilled veggies – also a choice I was thoroughly satisfied with.

Verdict: 3/5 stars. In other words, do not stay sassy, waitress – and work on your tardiness too.

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Two nights ago, my mom came home from Smith College for her “reading week” and my brother returned home from his current job placement in Nevada. As a belated celebration for my graduation, and to celebrate our reunion as a family (+ Pat!), we went for dinner last night at Gusto 101.

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They only take reservations at 12pm and 6pm, so by the time we got there around 6:40, there was already a line – but the estimated hour wait was only about 20 minutes. The only downside was that we couldn’t enjoy the beautiful weather by eating on the rooftop or front patio.

And trust me, this was the ONLY downside.

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First things first: drinks. Gusto has their own house wine on tap which they sell for $1/oz., but everyone jumped at my suggestion of red wine sangria.

In usual Parsons style, we got a variety of different appetizers to share…

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#1 This kale salad was UH-MAZING. It was the item I was least enthusiastic about ordering, but the one I enjoyed the most. The lemon vinaigrette, currants and toasted pine nuts gave it great flavour. I was glad we ordered three…

#2 Char-grilled octopus with organic micro salad and olive tapenade (not pictured).

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#3 Prosciutto pizza. ‘Nuff said.

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#4 Beef tartare with fig compote and ricotta cream. Delicious. I don’t really want to think about what beef tartare is per se, but I do want to eat it.

We all ordered our own entrées. Notable mention: the day’s special, a pork sandwich (made from a pig that was roasted the day before) with a side of slaw and fries or veggies. Ordered by Blake and Pat:

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And, of course, the pièce de résistance: Fettuccine ai Funghi, or in English, fettuccine with portobello, porcini, and oyster mushrooms, truffle paste, and a light cream sauce. Ordered by yours truly, lover of mushrooms:

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Leftovers are for today’s lunch!

We didn’t get dessert, but the mini portions I spotted from the open kitchen look perfect for those of us who insist we only want to “share”.

Verdict: 4.75/5 stars. Nothing to complain about food-wise, but it was too loud for my liking and the stairwells rather dark. The noise may just have been because of the restaurant’s popularity…but I want to be discerning.

Stay hungry!

Caj

Recently I found out that my hairdresser “left the hair profession”. Um, what?! You can imagine my disappointment (or panic), especially if you have a big mass of curls like I do. It took me long enough to find someone that wouldn’t make me have triangle-hair the first time around, and I was desperately in need of a haircut.

Enter: the Curl Ambassadors. Located on Harbord, this is a salon dedicated exclusively to cutting curly hair – all the staff have curly hair as well. After an extensive online sign-up process (including answering questions about my curl type/hair length/density etc.), I had my first appointment on Friday and was hugely impressed.

One of the things they do is ask clients to describe what shampoo/conditioner and other products they use. They then use the closest products they have to these, so that the client’s hair ends up looking exactly as it would on a normal day. Hair is then cut from dry so that you can actually see the length and shape. Honestly, I don’t know why more salons don’t do this – this seems like a no-brainer. Sure, you can cut my hair while it’s wet but once it dries into its normal curly self it will look TOTALLY different, and typically not in a good way.

What really struck me was the friendly and relaxed vibe of the salon. I wasn’t even encouraged to buy any products, as I am happy with my own, and my hairstylist actually talked me out of the conditioning treatment I had booked because she said I didn’t need it. My haircut took almost twice as long as normal because the products she used the first time weren’t “true to my natural curls”, so we had to start from scratch, but it still wasn’t rushed at all. She was super thorough, insistent on me walking out with my curls looking as they always did (or better). Bonus = their “Fringe Benefit” service: if you aren’t completely satisfied with how your hair looks post-cut, you can go in again within two weeks to have it fixed up, free of charge.

If it wasn’t already obvious, I highly recommend this place to all my curly-haired sistas out there. (And if you do end up trying it out, don’t forget to name-drop me when you go!)

Stay sassy,

Caj