Three Unbelievable Brunch Dishes 👌

Good afternoon! Hope your weekend has been wonderful so far. My week has been absolutely amazing, much better than I could’ve imagined – and I’ll show you why!

First, one of my favourite authors, Victoria Aveyard, came to Canada for her book tour! She visited Chapters Metrotown in Burnaby. Of course, I’m in Australia until the end of June, but my sister Seline had the opportunity to meet the lovely Victoria, get her books signed, and listen to Victoria’s Q&A. Victoria Aveyard is the author of the Red Queen quartet, and her newest book – series finale! – War Storm was released recently.

Also: another massive bowl of chai from Three Monkeys Cafe. I’m addicted.

In case you haven’t noticed, I am on a MISSION to try as many chai lattes as I can. This morning, I hit up Northey Street Farmers Market, an organic market, which is known for a cozy shack called Chai Cafe. There, I had a very enjoyable mug of chai, one of the spicier ones in Brisbane. The owner told me that she adds fresh vanilla beans, turmeric, and a plethora of other spices, to create a recipe she learned in India. This chai was one of the top two I’ve had so far… and by that I mean it’s the second-best. 🙂

The Northey Street Markets are lovely! Quite a bit busier than the other markets, perhaps due to its size, with lots of friendly dogs and children. It’s a very family-friendly place and I wish I came with the intention of grabbing a sandwich and doing some people-watching.

After my walk at the Northey Street Markets, I went to the Green Edge Vegan Market and Grocery Store. I’m on the lookout for some enchilada sauce (without too many additives or preservatives), and after visiting two or three different specialty grocery stores – I still haven’t found any.

From there, I tried to take the 450 to go home, caught the 150 bus instead, and ended up in South Bank! It was a wonderful accident, because I’ve had Pourboy Espresso on my bucket list for the longest time. It was destiny – I had to eat here!

Mainly, Pourboy Espresso has been on my must-visit list because of their famous Belgian hot chocolate, made with Callebaut dark Belgian chocolate and organic milk. I love how it was served in this little kettle with extra chocolate chips. It was flavourful and sweet, but the chocolate and milk were not mixed together very well. The first 1.5 cups were milky, but near the bottom of the kettle, the chocolate was much more concentrated and un-melted.

For my brunch dish, I ordered the cheesy jalapeño waffles, which were topped with mashed avocado, grilled cherry tomatoes, and two poached eggs. I was worried the waffles would be too spicy, since the waitress said they were quite spicy, but it turned out to be okay. I loved the generous scoop of avocado, since I haven’t had avo for a while, and the eggs were poached very nicely. The entire dish was fresh and flavourful, and it was sprinkled with some coarse salt that boosted the taste of everything. Overall, a solid brunch dish that I would recommend!

The table to my right savoured a slice of lemon sour cream pound cake with lemon curd, and it looked delicious. On top of that, my server talked about how much she loved this dessert. For those of you who have read my blog for a while now – you know that I’ve never been a fan of citrus desserts. In fact, I hate lemon. I think orange ruins chocolate. Grapefruit desserts should be called breakfast. I’m all about the nutty desserts. The chocolatey desserts. The richer, the more decadent, the creamier – the better. So, ordering this fresh and fruity LEMON dessert was out of character!

But it was good. Really good. Paired with that lemon curd, this slightly-warm, crumbly, buttery cake with blasts of flavour from the toasted walnuts, this was a fantastic way to end my meal.

“We noticed the lady to our right, munching on this cake and gushing about it,” the man beside me had mentioned, “so we had to order it, too. It’s just a ricochet of lemon pound cake.”

A couple days ago, I spent my morning at Corner Store Cafe. I’ve been to Corner Store Cafe a couple times before. Literally, a couple. The first time, I had a lamb flatbread and a smoothie. The second time, I enjoyed the polenta waffles with smoked salmon and a mug of chai. This time, the chai was calling my name again.

For my main dish, I knew I wanted the mushroom quesadillas. These quesadillas were filled with gorgonzola and stracciatella (Italian buffalo milk) cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and spinach. It was set on a bed of pumpkin puree, and topped with two fried eggs and pebre salsa. According to Wikipedia, pebre salsa is a Chilean condiment made of coriander, chopped onion, olive oil, garlic and ground or pureed spicy aji peppers. The dish was a blast of flavours and textures, incredibly filling, and I was in love with the cheesy centres and doughy tortilla.

For dessert, I wanted to try their daily special – a middle eastern fruit bread pudding topped with sliced fruit, and two scoops of orange marmalade ice cream. This was much bigger than I’d expected, and the giant slabs (yes, there were three slices) of bread were layered with figs, dates, raisins, and bananas.

Every bite was fruity and paired well with the zing of the ice cream. I liked how some parts of the fruit bread were crispy and caramelized, while the middles were creamy and pudding-like.

You can probably imagine, that after a mug of milk tea, a veggie-filled quesadilla with two eggs, and then a massive loaf of bread pudding with two scoops of ice cream – that I was very full. 🙂

IMG_E0001

Photos of South Bank, Brisbane! Gotta do the touristy stuff here, too.

  • L: a dessert restaurant in South Bank that I want to try!
  • R: photo from the bathroom of Banneton Bakery that took me right back to my summer in Paris, France. I remember all of these stops, and miss Paris so much. Thinking about my time there always makes me happy – and simultaneously leaves me in disbelief. I can’t believe that the 16 year-old me took my younger sister to live in Paris for a month.

Another amazing brunch happened at Pearl Cafe. I’ve wanted to visit Pearl Cafe for ages, and it’s been at the top of my food bucket list for months. For some reason, I thought it would be far away, but it was only a 30-minute bus ride from home.

Here, I didn’t think twice before ordering the crepe, which was filled with fried egg and spinach. It was such an easy choice because the server told me that the crepe was her favourite item on the menu, and she eats it every single day after her shift. Can’t argue with that! The topping is saffron and radish, with fresh prawns and a zingy marinade. Honestly, a spectacular dish, and it was exceptionally tasty with freshly-cracked black pepper and a squeeze of lemon. I can see why Pearl Cafe is so popular!

For dessert… you guys. You guys.

“Tea cake”, to me, sounds boring. I just think of some plain old yeast bread, maybe studded with a couple raisins. Pearl Cafe’s tea cake, however, is on another level. This massive slice was buttery, had incredible crumb, and was loaded with caramelized rhubarb. Yes, caramelized rhubarb! Even better, there was a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. I devoured every crumb, as usual, and would eat this a million times. I’m already planning my next trip back to Pearl Cafe.

Back to the chai! I stole this paragraph from a popular Brisbane food and travel website called The Urban List:

There’s a lot of chat being thrown around by a bunch of heathens trying to tell me that flavoured sugar powder is a worthy substitute. Where’s the LOVE? Where’s the AUTHENTICITY? Nothing compares to the spicy aroma of a freshly brewed pot of proper chai; you feel that shit in your soul, and Brisbane’s got it on lock.

Couldn’t’ve (had to google how to spell that!) said it better.

Anyways, the award for the #1 chai I’ve had in Brisbane so far goes to… the Baker’s Arms! Their chai is a homemade blend, steeped in organic milk and honey. It was rich, had excellent tea flavour, and had subtle sweetness from the honey. I enjoyed this tea with a side of sunshine, before grabbing a tasty meal next door. My only complaint about this chai is that there wasn’t enough. I can’t wait to go back for this!

No, you aren’t having deja-vu; I posted about this incredible peanut butter hot chocolate on my last blog post. It was so good that I had to go back for another mug. Look at those chocolate shavings! That foamy milk! Those granules of sea salt!

Another place I’m dying to visit, and a quote that hit me yesterday. I haven’t been performing very well on a couple recent exams and essays, and surprisingly, don’t feel too discouraged. It’s a weird feeling because I feel like I should be angry or upset about the grades, but I’m not. Interestingly, I’m not in denial about it either… I’ve just accepted it and feel okay with it. I know I didn’t study as much as I normally do, and my grades reflected that, but I’m trying my best. I don’t know – it’s so strange!

Plus, most of my time has been going to – you guessed it – aerials. 😉 I revamped the page, by the way, so y’all should go check it out.

Couple other things – my friends and I are having lunch at Wordsmiths, a cafe on campus, tomorrow. I’ve starred all the items that I think would be delicious, but I haven’t decided which one I’m going to order. I’m leaning towards the soup of the day, depending what it is, but the baked ricotta (it has pumpkin in it!) and vegetable lasagna also sound delicious. Wish I could find photos for all of them, though.

And… I’m back to studying!

By that, I mean I am going to start now, though I should’ve started days ago.

Bye!

A Typical Day in the Life

Hey! Today I’m going to share what a typical Friday looks like, for me.

6:30: wake up and have tea

IMG_E6942

Most mornings, I wake up naturally around 6:30. Since I have a big window in my room, the sunlight streams in every morning. I’m definitely a morning perso

n, and love starting my day with a mug of tea. I brought my own milk frother from home, so I can make my own tea lattes using Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea, milk, honey, and vanilla extract.

7:00-9:00: cleaning at Zama Yoga

I’m very lucky to live three minutes from a wonderful yoga studio called Zama Yoga. I’m volunteering there as a Karma Yogi, which means that in exchange for vacuuming, mopping, and dusting the studio for two hours each week, I get free yoga! It’s a great deal, especially because I’m a yoga fanatic… on a budget. For two hours, I wipe the kitchenette sink and counters, take out the garbage, and make sure the mirrors, walls, and floor are neat and tidy. My favourite part is rolling up the yoga straps, and making sure the bolsters (yoga cushions) and blocks are organized.

9:30-10:30: Hatha yoga class at Zama Yoga

After my cleaning shift, I do a yoga class. On Fridays, this class is Hatha yoga, which is a relatively gentle branch of yoga that combines strength-based asanas (postures) with poses that challenge my flexibility. After a series of sun salutations and other flow sequences, we reach the best part of class – the savasana. Savasana, or corpse pose, is normally done at the end of a yoga practice, and involves lying on the back, with arms and legs spread. It’s very restorative, especially with the use of a bolster. I’d hate to brag about this, but I’m pretty good at savasana.

10:30-11:30: prepare for school

After the yoga class, I head back home and get ready for my classes of the day. Sometimes, I have a snack, and other times, I catch up on some readings. Today, I focus on a sociology reading for a course called SOCY2179. This fascinating course focuses on the role of sex, drugs, and disease for human health. We recently completed a series of lectures on the history of sex; with the help of numerous intriguing readings, I can certainly say that my eyes have been opened with regards to sexually-transmitted diseases, social injustice, and how they have affected human health over the year.

11:30-12:00: go to school

Time to head to class! I quickly change my clothes, put on closed-toed shoes (once I wore sandals to school on a lab day, and had to go back home just to change into my sneakers), and pack my backpack. The ride to school is about fifteen minutes, but sometimes a little longer when the buses are busy.

12:00-1:00: Biology lecture

My only lecture of the day is called Arthropods and Human Health (BIOL3009). In this course, I learn about disease-carrying organisms, such as mosquitos, ticks, mites, and lice – and how they influence human health. I have a special passion for this field because I’ve spent long periods of time in Kathmandu, Nepal, and various cities in Cambodia. Prior to visiting these third-world countries, I did a lot of research into vaccinations for mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever. Before my trip to Nepal, I received six needles! Anyways, today we talk about a deadly tick called Ixodes holocyclus. This tick carries a bacteria called Barrelia, and can cause paralysis (and death) in its hosts. While it primarily targets bandicoots, I learned that Ixodes holocyclus is the most dangerous arthropod (insect) in Queensland.

1:00-2:00: lunch

Time for lunch! Today, I have cauliflower rice with some other veggies, and sliced chicken left over from the day before.

2:00-5:00: Biology practical

In today’s practical, I team up with friends to identify arthropods. We have to classify the insects, and then work on a report to submit next week.

5:00-5:45: study on campus

Next, I find a quiet area on campus. I’m particularly a fan of the Michie Building, which always seems to have comfortable, sunny spots. Today, I work on an assignment for my Health Psychology course. I am creating a presentation on an

intervention for chronic kidney disease, so I work hard to make the PowerPoint look organized and professional.

5:45-6:00: go to Harveys for dinner

Dinnertime! I hop back onto the bus and go to the valley, the suburb where the training centre is. I love walking in Brisbane, especially at this time, because it isn’t too hot, nor is it too chilly. It is also lovely to see the sun setting over the river.

6:00-7:00: dinner

Dinner today is at a restaurant called Harveys, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their menu features snacks like pâté and charcuterie, as well as fancy soups, salads, and regal main courses. I also love their dessert listing, which includes figs with honeycomb ice cream, Catalan custard, semolina syrup cake, and more. I order the dark chocolate tart with caramel ice cream, dates, and crème fraîche after my main course.

7:00-7:30: go to CIRCA

After a quick walk down one of my favourite streets, James Street, I arrive at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art. On the third floor of this modern, beautiful building is C!RCA Training Centre. I also change my clothes, putting on a leotard and capris leggings that protect the backs of my knees during poses that may cause rubbing.

7:30-9:30: training

I have been training in aerial arts for almost two years, mostly in the aerial silks (and a few months on the aerial hoop). My favourite apparatus is the straps, which requires a lot of shoulder strength, stability, and flexibility. While I’m very much a beginner when it comes to this challenging discipline, I’m very determined to improve my skills at the C!RCA Training Centre in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. Every Sunday, I take a private lesson with a talented, encouraging straps instructor called Ben. This trick, which is called a meat hook, is one of my favourites!

9:30-10:00: take the bus back home

Pretty self-explanatory. On the bus, I like to listen to music and look out the window, which helps me relax as I head back to Toowong, the suburb where I live. Today, I’m really feeling the upbeat tunes by Maroon 5, which I haven’t heard for a few years.

10:00-10:15: take a shower

I have a special sponge that I bought at a convention in Brisbane, and it always makes me excited to wash my face. Since I slop on the sunscreen every morning, it’s helpful to have a gentle exfoliant to clear up my skin. A cold shower always makes me feel refreshed, even if I’m sweating again after towelling off!

10:15-11:15: study or do my assignment

I’ll be honest, I probably don’t do as much studying as I should at nighttime. In reality, I’m probably browsing social media or watching YouTube videos; in my head, I’m revising my notes on the social determinants of health. Well, it’s the thought that counts, and at least I thought about studying.

11:15-11:30: text my sister, wind down for bed

My sister, who lives in Canada, is currently in her senior year of high school – she is graduating soon! Seline is my best friend, and my number one favourite person in the world. We text each other way too much, whether it’s about books, movies, school, or something only the two of us understand.

11:30: sleep!

I fall asleep within ten seconds of lying down and closing my eyes. I actually tested this. Good night!

#tbt | The Time I Ate Around the World… in Toronto

By the way, friends, this is a repost of a post that I’d published on BuzzFeed last spring. 🙂 For those of you who haven’t seen it (or, perhaps, wish to revisit?!) – I hope you enjoy!


Hi, everyone! My name is Cindy, and I am a 19 year-old food fanatic living in Waterloo, Ontario.

I study Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, and recently finished my first work term. Because I am in the co-op program, I alternate between four months of school and four months of work. From January to April, I worked full-time as a clinical assistant at the Toronto Health Centre in downtown Toronto. It was my first time living alone in a big city, and I was super excited to say goodbye to exams and studying - and start exploring the incredible food scene!PS: my food blog, The Flying Foodie, celebrated its third birthday a few months ago. What started out as a gallery for my oatmeal photos has blossomed into a site for restaurant reviews, stressed-student rants, yoga progress photos, and travel notes. Ask me about the time I lived in Kathmandu (Nepal), St-Eustache (Quebec, Canada), or Paris (France)!

I study Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, and recently finished my first work term. Because I am in the co-op program, I alternate between four months of school and four months of work. From January to April, I worked full-time as a clinical assistant at the Toronto Health Centre in downtown Toronto. It was my first time living alone in a big city, and I was super excited to say goodbye to exams and studying – and start exploring the incredible food scene!

PS: my food blog, The Flying Foodie, celebrated its third birthday a few months ago. What started out as a gallery for my oatmeal photos has blossomed into a site for restaurant reviews, stressed-student rants, yoga progress photos, and travel notes. Ask me about the time I lived in Kathmandu (Nepal), St-Eustache (Quebec, Canada), or Paris (France)!

 

Good food for a good mood.

Most people would agree with me - there are few things more beautiful than a steaming, crispy stack of onion rings or a gooey molten chocolate cake. Food, however, can do more than cause us to salivate, or perhaps whip out a camera. As I discovered after three months of exploring Toronto’s incredibly diverse food scene, I realized that food is able to connect anyone with any culture.The challenge: visit the most authentic restaurants for cuisines that I have never tried before. As a Chinese girl from Coquitlam, British Columbia, I grew up with Chinese dishes and Korean food. For that reason, I tried to avoid those cuisines during my four-month stay in Toronto.

Most people would agree with me – there are few things more beautiful than a steaming, crispy stack of onion rings or a gooey molten chocolate cake. Food, however, can do more than cause us to salivate, or perhaps whip out a camera. As I discovered after three months of exploring Toronto’s incredibly diverse food scene, I realized that food is able to connect anyone with any culture.

The challenge: visit the most authentic restaurants for cuisines that I have never tried before. As a Chinese girl from Coquitlam, British Columbia, I grew up with Chinese dishes and Korean food. For that reason, I tried to avoid those cuisines during my four-month stay in Toronto.

5 simple rules:

1. Cafe or restaurant must be within 35 minutes (by streetcar) from the downtown core.2. Go to every cafe/restaurant by myself to fully enjoy the meal experience.3. No sponsorships, no paid reviews, etc.4. No judging the food by the customer service, the design of the restaurant, or any other external factors. Food is food.5. Food must be as authentic as possible!

1. Cafe or restaurant must be within 35 minutes (by streetcar) from the downtown core.

2. Go to every cafe/restaurant by myself to fully enjoy the meal experience.

3. No sponsorships, no paid reviews, etc.

4. No judging the food by the customer service, the design of the restaurant, or any other external factors. Food is food.

5. Food must be as authentic as possible!

Canada: Canoe Restaurant

One time, I asked an upper-year student and Torontonian what the best thing about Toronto was - in the winter. Without hesitation, her answer was "Winterlicious". Winterlicious is one of Toronto's culinary celebrations, where over 200 restaurants in the city offer reduced-price meals.Anyways, Canoe was one of the first restaurants that came to mind when I heard "reduced-price". Located on the 54th floor of the TD Centre tower, Canoe is renowned for its stunning views, innovative meals, and stylish restaurant design. Being the master procrastinator I am, I emailed Canoe the day before Winterlicious began, and was happily surprised when I was told that I could make a reservation for lunch the next day.My meal began with two types of fresh, seedy bread and a tasty mustard-like spread. For the appetizers, I was served a plate of foie gras with crispy shards and blackberry jam, and smoked cod rillettes with cornichons. The sweet, rich molasses crumbles on top added excellent contrast. For the main course, I had paccheri pasta with chili oil, fried capers (the best part!), fresh cheese, and braised greens. Of course, dessert was the most anticipated part, and it certainly did not disappoint. Creamy caramel mousse, vanilla creme, stewed Muskoka cranberries, and pumpkin seed brittle were the ideal contrast to the sugary date pudding.And yes, I ate all of this by myself. And finished it.

One time, I asked an upper-year student and Torontonian what the best thing about Toronto was – in the winter. Without hesitation, her answer was “Winterlicious”. Winterlicious is one of Toronto’s culinary celebrations, where over 200 restaurants in the city offer reduced-price meals.

Anyways, Canoe was one of the first restaurants that came to mind when I heard “reduced-price”. Located on the 54th floor of the TD Centre tower, Canoe is renowned for its stunning views, innovative meals, and stylish restaurant design. Being the master procrastinator I am, I emailed Canoe the day before Winterlicious began, and was happily surprised when I was told that I could make a reservation for lunch the next day.

My meal began with two types of fresh, seedy bread and a tasty mustard-like spread. For the appetizers, I was served a plate of foie gras with crispy shards and blackberry jam, and smoked cod rillettes with cornichons. The sweet, rich molasses crumbles on top added excellent contrast. For the main course, I had paccheri pasta with chili oil, fried capers (the best part!), fresh cheese, and braised greens. Of course, dessert was the most anticipated part, and it certainly did not disappoint. Creamy caramel mousse, vanilla creme, stewed Muskoka cranberries, and pumpkin seed brittle were the ideal contrast to the sugary date pudding.

And yes, I ate all of this by myself. And finished it.

Indigenous Canada: PowWow Café

A Pow wow (literally meaning "spiritual leader" in Narragansett), I learned, is a social gathering for numerous different American-Indian communities - a place to sing, dance, meet new friends, and honour their culture. Pow Wow Cafe is one of Toronto's few Indigenous restaurants. I thoroughly enjoyed this creative variation on eggs benedict, with two poached eggs, goat cheese, and dill topping a large slab of bannock, or frybread (fresh from the fryer). The richness of the cheese, egg yolk, and fried dough contrasted well with the fresh, tangy salad made with ingredients from the market.

A Pow wow (literally meaning “spiritual leader” in Narragansett), I learned, is a social gathering for numerous different American-Indian communities – a place to sing, dance, meet new friends, and honour their culture. Pow Wow Cafe is one of Toronto’s few Indigenous restaurants. I thoroughly enjoyed this creative variation on eggs benedict, with two poached eggs, goat cheese, and dill topping a large slab of bannock, or frybread (fresh from the fryer). The richness of the cheese, egg yolk, and fried dough contrasted well with the fresh, tangy salad made with ingredients from the market.

Latin America: Bloom

Since Winterlicious is a two-week event, I had time to visit a couple restaurants. Bloom, in Bloor West, was the second of the three. They serve Nuevo Latino cuisine, which is essentially a beautiful blend of Latin American and Spanish cuisine. I savoured their soup of the day, which was loaded with wild foraged mushrooms, roasted poblano peppers, and tiny chunks of potato. The main course was two charred corn fritters, chili jam, a mushroom and onion escabeche, and fresh greens topped with chopped tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. The corn fritters were unbelievable - hot, crispy, and so flavourful with the sweet chili jam. I wish there were more fritters. While I waited for my dessert of guava bread pudding with vanilla crème anglaise, I enjoyed a cup of tea with milk and cane sugar. The dessert was a lovely way to end the meal. Though I didn't detect any guava flavour, the golden-brown dessert was the perfect size, served warm, and just sweet enough.

Since Winterlicious is a two-week event, I had time to visit a couple restaurants. Bloom, in Bloor West, was the second of the three. They serve Nuevo Latino cuisine, which is essentially a beautiful blend of Latin American and Spanish cuisine. I savoured their soup of the day, which was loaded with wild foraged mushrooms, roasted poblano peppers, and tiny chunks of potato. The main course was two charred corn fritters, chili jam, a mushroom and onion escabeche, and fresh greens topped with chopped tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. The corn fritters were unbelievable – hot, crispy, and so flavourful with the sweet chili jam. I wish there were more fritters. While I waited for my dessert of guava bread pudding with vanilla crème anglaise, I enjoyed a cup of tea with milk and cane sugar. The dessert was a lovely way to end the meal. Though I didn’t detect any guava flavour, the golden-brown dessert was the perfect size, served warm, and just sweet enough.

Lebanon: Tabülè

Tabülè Middle Eastern Cuisine has four locations around Toronto, and each one is known for cozy Lebanese dishes, plenty of veggie options, and cultural flair.I’ve always been a huge eggplant lover, but this Eggplant Vegetarian Plate easily takes the cake for the best eggplant dish I’ve ever had. The eggplant was reminiscent of tempura, lightly crispy on the outside yet steaming hot and creamy inside. The tahini dressing was lemony, rich, and full of sesame flavour, while the müjaddara, or lentil-rice base, was hearty and flavourful.Dessert was just as impressive. The waitress recommended the custard, and I was eager to give it a try! On the side, I had two scoops of gelato (smaller than I’d expected): one vanilla halva, the other pistachio. The Künafa Ashta, the phyllo pastry layered with custard and topped with rosewater syrup, blew my mind. Warm, lightly-sweetened custard with tiny curds and a rich milky flavour, topped with crisp “threads” (like vermicelli noodles) and a honey-like syrup and crushed pistachios. This dessert was certainly one to remember. A must-try if you ever visit Tabülè!

Tabülè Middle Eastern Cuisine has four locations around Toronto, and each one is known for cozy Lebanese dishes, plenty of veggie options, and cultural flair.

I’ve always been a huge eggplant lover, but this Eggplant Vegetarian Plate easily takes the cake for the best eggplant dish I’ve ever had. The eggplant was reminiscent of tempura, lightly crispy on the outside yet steaming hot and creamy inside. The tahini dressing was lemony, rich, and full of sesame flavour, while the müjaddara, or lentil-rice base, was hearty and flavourful.

Dessert was just as impressive. The waitress recommended the custard, and I was eager to give it a try! On the side, I had two scoops of gelato (smaller than I’d expected): one vanilla halva, the other pistachio. The Künafa Ashta, the phyllo pastry layered with custard and topped with rosewater syrup, blew my mind. Warm, lightly-sweetened custard with tiny curds and a rich milky flavour, topped with crisp “threads” (like vermicelli noodles) and a honey-like syrup and crushed pistachios. This dessert was certainly one to remember. A must-try if you ever visit Tabülè!

Thailand: PAI

PAI, named after a village in Northern Thailand, was recommended to me by a coworker, and I was skeptical because I am pretty confident in my Thai-cooking skills. Upon arriving at the basement-esque restaurant, however, I realized I was in for a treat. The restaurant owners also manage Sukhothai and Sabai Sabai in Toronto.I ordered the green curry with chicken (other options include shrimp, beef, fish, pork, tofu, or vegetables), a hearty dish that contained bamboo shoots, kaffir lime leaves, basil, green pepper, and luscious coconut milk, and served with steamed jasmine rice. Although it was lunchtime, I was able to order from the dinner menu (Gaeng Kiaw Wan) and have the green curry served inside a coconut. My favourite part of the meal was scraping the coconut meat out of the coconut. One thing I do wish, however, was that the waiters and waitresses made daily dessert specials clear to everyone.Note: I went to PAI on a weekday afternoon, and it was packed; I didn’t get a table and sat at the bar. I can only imagine how busy it would be on weekends, or during the dinner rush. Make reservations accordingly, or come early!

PAI, named after a village in Northern Thailand, was recommended to me by a coworker, and I was skeptical because I am pretty confident in my Thai-cooking skills. Upon arriving at the basement-esque restaurant, however, I realized I was in for a treat. The restaurant owners also manage Sukhothai and Sabai Sabai in Toronto.

I ordered the green curry with chicken (other options include shrimp, beef, fish, pork, tofu, or vegetables), a hearty dish that contained bamboo shoots, kaffir lime leaves, basil, green pepper, and luscious coconut milk, and served with steamed jasmine rice. Although it was lunchtime, I was able to order from the dinner menu (Gaeng Kiaw Wan) and have the green curry served inside a coconut. My favourite part of the meal was scraping the coconut meat out of the coconut. One thing I do wish, however, was that the waiters and waitresses made daily dessert specials clear to everyone.

Note: I went to PAI on a weekday afternoon, and it was packed; I didn’t get a table and sat at the bar. I can only imagine how busy it would be on weekends, or during the dinner rush. Make reservations accordingly, or come early!

France: Too Many!

From watching French children's TV shows to taking French courses in university, there's something about the French language, culture, and food that attracts me unlike anything else. In fact, if I had to pick a favourite food (my least favourite question, EVER) - it would be chocolate almond croissants.During my time in Toronto, I was lucky to visit Chabrol after a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum. Chabrol, located in a lavish part of town known as Yorkville, was a teeny-tiny cafe that serves beautifully simplistic French cuisine. I enjoyed a gratin of escarole, celeriac, and savoury. A gratin is a dish topped with breadcrumbs and melted cheese, to create a lightly-browned crust. After my sizzling hot gratin had been devoured, I ordered the apple tart with calvados sabayon. The apple tarts at Chabrol are made fresh to order, using homemade puff pastry, and require 30 minutes of advance notice. I enjoyed every bite of the classic meal.Aside from Chabrol, I also enjoyed visiting Delysées, Nadège, The Tempered Room, Patisserie LaCigogne, Maman, and Thobors. Some of my favourite treats include chocolate praline croissants, coconut eclairs, pistachio eclairs, pistachio croissants, and a tiramisu white chocolate cake.Public Service Announcement: pistachio croissants from Delysées are out of this world. Stuffed to the brim with creamy, nutty pistachio filling, and perfectly “shatter-y” butter topping - it’s truly the best pistachio croissant I’ve had.

From watching French children’s TV shows to taking French courses in university, there’s something about the French language, culture, and food that attracts me unlike anything else. In fact, if I had to pick a favourite food (my least favourite question, EVER) – it would be chocolate almond croissants.

During my time in Toronto, I was lucky to visit Chabrol after a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum. Chabrol, located in a lavish part of town known as Yorkville, was a teeny-tiny cafe that serves beautifully simplistic French cuisine. I enjoyed a gratin of escarole, celeriac, and savoury. A gratin is a dish topped with breadcrumbs and melted cheese, to create a lightly-browned crust. After my sizzling hot gratin had been devoured, I ordered the apple tart with calvados sabayon. The apple tarts at Chabrol are made fresh to order, using homemade puff pastry, and require 30 minutes of advance notice. I enjoyed every bite of the classic meal.

Aside from Chabrol, I also enjoyed visiting DelyséesNadègeThe Tempered RoomPatisserie LaCigogneMaman, and Thobors. Some of my favourite treats include chocolate praline croissants, coconut eclairs, pistachio eclairs, pistachio croissants, and a tiramisu white chocolate cake.

Public Service Announcement: pistachio croissants from Delysées are out of this world. Stuffed to the brim with creamy, nutty pistachio filling, and perfectly “shatter-y” butter topping – it’s truly the best pistachio croissant I’ve had.

El Salvador: Latin American Emporium

Waterloo, where are your cheap authentic ethnic eats at? At the Latin American Emporium in the Kensington Market, I enjoyed some incredible Salvadorean food - a pupusa, horchata, and a fried plantain with creamy cheese. The tiny eatery is located in the back of a grocery store, and it is the most unassuming place that likely flies under the radar.What is a pupusa, you ask? It is a thick, handmade, corn tortilla stuffed with a savoury filling, and often served with tangy, slightly-spicy coleslaw. I love how the corn tortilla was chewy, yet melt-in-your-mouth. Horchata is a traditional drink made of rice milk, blended with sesame, cinnamon, vanilla, and cocoa powder (all my favourite ingredients in one incredible drink). Despite the plantain being a bit oily for my taste, you can’t really go wrong with an entire meal that costs less than $5.

Waterloo, where are your cheap authentic ethnic eats at? At the Latin American Emporium in the Kensington Market, I enjoyed some incredible Salvadorean food – a pupusahorchata, and a fried plantain with creamy cheese. The tiny eatery is located in the back of a grocery store, and it is the most unassuming place that likely flies under the radar.

What is a pupusa, you ask? It is a thick, handmade, corn tortilla stuffed with a savoury filling, and often served with tangy, slightly-spicy coleslaw. I love how the corn tortilla was chewy, yet melt-in-your-mouth. Horchata is a traditional drink made of rice milk, blended with sesame, cinnamon, vanilla, and cocoa powder (all my favourite ingredients in one incredible drink). Despite the plantain being a bit oily for my taste, you can’t really go wrong with an entire meal that costs less than $5.

Cuba: La Cubana

A Cuban brunch spot in Roncesvalles (with another location at Ossington), called La Cubana, serves up some mean baked eggs. I’m always hesitant of baked eggs, because, well, they’re baked eggs. It takes a 10-second google search, some good cheese, and a couple eggs to make a decent baked egg dish - fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the creative twist added to this brunch classic at La Cubana. The baked eggs were mixed with sofrito (a sauce with garlic, onions, paprika, and tomatoes in olive oil), yuca (also known as cassava, a root similar to sweet potatoes), queso fresco (creamy, un-aged white cheese), and topped with avocado. On the side, there were rice and beans, tostones (slices of plantain that have been fried two times, making them chewy and firm), and coleslaw. The mildly-spicy rice and beans were my favourite part, because they paired well with every other flavour, from the creamy queso to the yuca and crispy cabbage. Next time - donuts for dessert!

A Cuban brunch spot in Roncesvalles (with another location at Ossington), called La Cubana, serves up some mean baked eggs. I’m always hesitant of baked eggs, because, well, they’re baked eggs. It takes a 10-second google search, some good cheese, and a couple eggs to make a decent baked egg dish – fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the creative twist added to this brunch classic at La Cubana. The baked eggs were mixed with sofrito (a sauce with garlic, onions, paprika, and tomatoes in olive oil), yuca (also known as cassava, a root similar to sweet potatoes), queso fresco (creamy, un-aged white cheese), and topped with avocado. On the side, there were rice and beans, tostones (slices of plantain that have been fried two times, making them chewy and firm), and coleslaw. The mildly-spicy rice and beans were my favourite part, because they paired well with every other flavour, from the creamy queso to the yuca and crispy cabbage. Next time – donuts for dessert!

Finland: Karelia Kitchen

If I could skip class and go for brunch right now, Karelia Kitchen would be the place. I browsed their menu while sipping a Nordic fog, which was a fun twist on the London fog tea latte. I wanted the "Oka Grilled Cheese" made with milk bread, caramelized pear slices and lingonberry jam, but ultimately settled on the "Potato Pancake", which came with hot smoked trout, beet and horseradish cured gravlax, and a single poached duck egg. Friends, this was easily best gravlax I have ever had. Period. Sweet, tangy, and beautifully tender, no gravlax shall ever compare.For dessert, I was happy to order their famous carrot cake. You need to take a look at their Fika menu, which is full of cakes, cookies, tarts, and pies. It was tricky to choose the carrot cake, especially with things like "Buttermilk Sponge Cake with Almond Praline", "Saffron and Pistachio Coffee Cake", and "Flourless Chocolate and Almond Fudge Cake" on the menu, but the couple next to me wouldn't stop gushing about the carrot cake, so I had to try it for myself. They were right. Moist (sorry), with tangy and fresh cream cheese icing and a side of various fruit, I demolished the entire slice.

If I could skip class and go for brunch right now, Karelia Kitchen would be the place. I browsed their menu while sipping a Nordic fog, which was a fun twist on the London fog tea latte. I wanted the “Oka Grilled Cheese” made with milk bread, caramelized pear slices and lingonberry jam, but ultimately settled on the “Potato Pancake”, which came with hot smoked trout, beet and horseradish cured gravlax, and a single poached duck egg. Friends, this was easily best gravlax I have ever had. Period. Sweet, tangy, and beautifully tender, no gravlax shall ever compare.

For dessert, I was happy to order their famous carrot cake. You need to take a look at their Fika menu, which is full of cakes, cookies, tarts, and pies. It was tricky to choose the carrot cake, especially with things like “Buttermilk Sponge Cake with Almond Praline”, “Saffron and Pistachio Coffee Cake”, and “Flourless Chocolate and Almond Fudge Cake” on the menu, but the couple next to me wouldn’t stop gushing about the carrot cake, so I had to try it for myself. They were right. Moist (sorry), with tangy and fresh cream cheese icing and a side of various fruit, I demolished the entire slice.

India: Banjara, Mother India, Gandhi’s

Ah, Indian food. When I lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, palak paneer was my go-to meal. Savoury, rich spinach stew, studded with chewy chunks of paneer cheese, there's nothing to hate about it. In fact, saag paneer was one of my #1 favourite things about Toronto. I visited three Indian places:* Banjara (plate, with naan bread on the right): I loved their vegetarian platter, which came with curry-spiced rice, vegetable pakora, lentil dahl, palak paneer, rice pudding, and aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato curry). This came with generously-buttered naan, and the variety in this meal was a lovely surprise. I loved all of the flavours, particularly the palak paneer, which had extra onion. Would highly recommend Banjara to anyone looking for a different dinner experience.* Mother India (little photo in the middle, on the bottom): This roti from Mother India on Queen West was stuffed with pureed spinach, tender potatoes, and some chunks of paneer cheese. I had a big craving for Indian food after a patient told me about Mother India, and it needed to be satisfied! This roti was less spicy than the one from Gandhi's, and the dough more malleable.* Gandhi's (big photo on the left side): These rotis involved bigger chunks of paneer, less "filler" of potato, and brighter green spinach. The only downside was that the stew was a little salty for my taste. It was also a giant serving, which I demolished... and felt sick after.

Ah, Indian food. When I lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, palak paneer was my go-to meal. Savoury, rich spinach stew, studded with chewy chunks of paneer cheese, there’s nothing to hate about it. In fact, saag paneer was one of my #1 favourite things about Toronto. I visited three Indian places:

Banjara (plate, with naan bread on the right): I loved their vegetarian platter, which came with curry-spiced rice, vegetable pakora, lentil dahl, palak paneer, rice pudding, and aloo gobi(cauliflower and potato curry). This came with generously-buttered naan, and the variety in this meal was a lovely surprise. I loved all of the flavours, particularly the palak paneer, which had extra onion. Would highly recommend Banjara to anyone looking for a different dinner experience.

Mother India (little photo in the middle, on the bottom): This roti from Mother India on Queen West was stuffed with pureed spinach, tender potatoes, and some chunks of paneer cheese. I had a big craving for Indian food after a patient told me about Mother India, and it needed to be satisfied! This roti was less spicy than the one from Gandhi’s, and the dough more malleable.

Gandhi’s (big photo on the left side): These rotis involved bigger chunks of paneer, less “filler” of potato, and brighter green spinach. The only downside was that the stew was a little salty for my taste. It was also a giant serving, which I demolished… and felt sick after.

Venezuela: El Arepazo

El Arepazo is a surprisingly large Kensington Market eatery, dedicated to the arepa. Arepas, a staple of Venezuelan and Columbian cuisine, are round, gluten-free cornbread sandwiches. Fried or baked, they are sliced crosswise like a pita bread and stuffed generously with all kinds of vegetables, salsas, beans, hot sauce, cheese, and meats. My arepa, called "Veggie The Works", was stuffed to the max with avocado, tomato, crispy fried plantains, melted queso fresco, and black beans. The fried plantains were my favourite part, and I noticed that the queso tasted like halloumi. I had to eat this sandwich with a fork because it wouldn't stay up, and as I neared the end of the sandwich, there was at least 1/4 of an avocado smashed in there. It was a fantastic sandwich made with truly fresh ingredients, but next time I will add a sprinkle of salt and some hot sauce.

El Arepazo is a surprisingly large Kensington Market eatery, dedicated to the arepa. Arepas, a staple of Venezuelan and Columbian cuisine, are round, gluten-free cornbread sandwiches. Fried or baked, they are sliced crosswise like a pita bread and stuffed generously with all kinds of vegetables, salsas, beans, hot sauce, cheese, and meats. My arepa, called “Veggie The Works”, was stuffed to the max with avocado, tomato, crispy fried plantains, melted queso fresco, and black beans. The fried plantains were my favourite part, and I noticed that the queso tasted like halloumi. I had to eat this sandwich with a fork because it wouldn’t stay up, and as I neared the end of the sandwich, there was at least 1/4 of an avocado smashed in there. It was a fantastic sandwich made with truly fresh ingredients, but next time I will add a sprinkle of salt and some hot sauce.

Ethiopia: Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant

I am the least coordinated person in the world. Eating this, at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant, was a struggle because my fingers have a hard time tearing, scooping, and wrapping. Throughout the meal, I wished for a fork and knife. Despite my lack of coordination, I loved the collard greens, split peas, lentils, chickpeas, and vegetables. The "base" of the meal is an injera, which is a flatbread from East Africa. It is made with sourdough and has a distinct sour flavour, paired with a foamy, sponge-like texture. It is a national dish in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and is commonly made of teff flour or wheat flour. It's hard to tell in these photos, but this meal was massive - and came with another injera (no toppings) on a different plate. Also, if you go with a friend, there is an option to get "enough for two", which involves an even bigger injera and more toppings.

I am the least coordinated person in the world. Eating this, at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant, was a struggle because my fingers have a hard time tearing, scooping, and wrapping. Throughout the meal, I wished for a fork and knife. Despite my lack of coordination, I loved the collard greens, split peas, lentils, chickpeas, and vegetables. The “base” of the meal is an injera, which is a flatbread from East Africa. It is made with sourdough and has a distinct sour flavour, paired with a foamy, sponge-like texture. It is a national dish in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and is commonly made of teff flour or wheat flour. It’s hard to tell in these photos, but this meal was massive – and came with another injera (no toppings) on a different plate.

Also, if you go with a friend, there is an option to get “enough for two”, which involves an even bigger injera and more toppings.

Egypt: Maha’s

I know I said that I wouldn't judge the food based on anything other than the food itself, but you should probably know that I waited for an hour and a half for this meal. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and fellow brunchers were waiting outside. The clock moved super slowly, and I watched as diners took their sweet time and people behind me in the line-up walked away to get Pizza Pizza.You can probably guess that by the time I was seated, my expectations were sky-high. Maha's, however, did not disappoint. I didn't hesitate to order some Egyptian black tea and the Cairo Classic, a traditional breakfast dish with fava beans with tomatoes and onions, sliced hard-boiled egg, a falafel, a scoop of homemade feta cheese with tomato, balady bread (Egyptian flatbread, with two layers that can be torn), and salata baladi (Egyptian salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers). The foole, mashed fava bean stew, was spiced beautifully, and paired so well with the charred balady bread, crispy falafel, and fresh vegetable relish. Their menu is quite extensive, with all kinds of delicious dishes like date grilled cheese and vegan lentil soup.My only complaint, aside from the long wait? More falafel, please! Definitely one of the best I've ever had.

I know I said that I wouldn’t judge the food based on anything other than the food itself, but you should probably know that I waited for an hour and a half for this meal. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and fellow brunchers were waiting outside. The clock moved super slowly, and I watched as diners took their sweet time and people behind me in the line-up walked away to get Pizza Pizza.

You can probably guess that by the time I was seated, my expectations were sky-high. Maha’s, however, did not disappoint. I didn’t hesitate to order some Egyptian black tea and the Cairo Classic, a traditional breakfast dish with fava beans with tomatoes and onions, sliced hard-boiled egg, a falafel, a scoop of homemade feta cheese with tomato, baladybread (Egyptian flatbread, with two layers that can be torn), and salata baladi (Egyptian salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers). The foole, mashed fava bean stew, was spiced beautifully, and paired so well with the charred balady bread, crispy falafel, and fresh vegetable relish. Their menu is quite extensive, with all kinds of delicious dishes like date grilled cheese and vegan lentil soup.

My only complaint, aside from the long wait? More falafel, please! Definitely one of the best I’ve ever had.

Russia: The Tempered Room

кулебя́ка, or coulibiac, is a Russian puff pastry filled with salmon, rice/buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. At The Tempered Room, the coulibiac was given a special twist and filled with flaked trout instead of salmon, and quinoa instead of rice. There was also kale inside - not sure how authentic that is.Because I went a little crazy (it is a patisserie, after all), I bought lots of croissants and a tea latte, so I just ate half of the coulibiac. I thoroughly enjoyed each bite of this unique pastry, and thought all the flavours worked well together. The trout was cooked just-right, and the pastry crisp and buttery.

кулебя́ка, or coulibiac, is a Russian puff pastry filled with salmon, rice/buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. At The Tempered Room, the coulibiac was given a special twist and filled with flaked trout instead of salmon, and quinoa instead of rice. There was also kale inside – not sure how authentic that is.

Because I went a little crazy (it is a patisserie, after all), I bought lots of croissants and a tea latte, so I just ate half of the coulibiac. I thoroughly enjoyed each bite of this unique pastry, and thought all the flavours worked well together. The trout was cooked just-right, and the pastry crisp and buttery.

Philippines: Platito Filipino Soul Food

If there's one thing about Toronto that beats Vancouver and Waterloo by a mile, it's the existence of BlogTO. There are too many good things I could say about BlogTO, but perhaps my favourite thing is that BlogTO publishes annual lists: the 'Best Of' lists, which involve anything from shawarma shops to stationery stores. But that's not the point. BlogTO also creates little trailer-like videos that showcase new restaurants, and Platito Filipino Soul Food caught my eye right away.This is the ginataang hipon, which featured crispy fried shrimp (in the shell, which I wasn’t a big fan of), green beans, fried squash, coconut milk, and squash puree. After the entree, I couldn't control my excitement about the ube waffle. Ube, which I learned is pronounced 'oo-bay', is mashed purple yam. The waffle was topped with more ube ice cream and macapuno, which is a type of coconut with chewy, jelly-like strands. Online reviews were adamant about how the ube waffle was overrated and unexceptional, but I beg to differ. This dessert, as confirmed by my lovely food-loving coworker, was perfectly-cooked. It struck the balance between sweet and salty, creamy and chewy, hot and cold. It's meant for two people, but trust me, you won't want to share. I would sit in a car for 1.5 hours to drive back to Toronto for one of these.

If there’s one thing about Toronto that beats Vancouver and Waterloo by a mile, it’s the existence of BlogTO. There are too many good things I could say about BlogTO, but perhaps my favourite thing is that BlogTO publishes annual lists: the ‘Best Of’ lists, which involve anything from shawarma shops to stationery stores. But that’s not the point. BlogTO also creates little trailer-like videos that showcase new restaurants, and Platito Filipino Soul Foodcaught my eye right away.

This is the ginataang hipon, which featured crispy fried shrimp (in the shell, which I wasn’t a big fan of), green beans, fried squash, coconut milk, and squash puree. After the entree, I couldn’t control my excitement about the ube waffle. Ube, which I learned is pronounced ‘oo-bay’, is mashed purple yam. The waffle was topped with more ube ice cream and macapuno, which is a type of coconut with chewy, jelly-like strands. Online reviews were adamant about how the ube waffle was overrated and unexceptional, but I beg to differ. This dessert, as confirmed by my lovely food-loving coworker, was perfectly-cooked. It struck the balance between sweet and salty, creamy and chewy, hot and cold. It’s meant for two people, but trust me, you won’t want to share. I would sit in a car for 1.5 hours to drive back to Toronto for one of these.

Hungary: Eva’s Original Chimneys

Speaking of BlogTO, I also found out about Eva's Original Chimneys through their Facebook page. Located on Bloor and surprisingly cashless, Eva's Original Chimneys is super popular with locals and tourists. I visited mid-January, and the line was already extending out the door and onto Bloor. Known by most Torontonians as "donut cones", these treats are actually Kürtőskalács (Hungarian), or "Chimneys" in English. The dough itself is crispy on the outside, yet fluffy and tender inside. It was fun to twist the dough outwards, in a spiral, as I devoured the ice cream. This was a large serving and reminded me of a carnival, probably because of the generous sprinkle of cinnamon sugar with a touch of salt. I was sad to find people eating just half, and then throwing it out - don't do that! There's a big chocolate truffle ball at the bottom of the cone, serving as a plug so the soft serve doesn't drip through the apex of the cone.

Speaking of BlogTO, I also found out about Eva’s Original Chimneys through their Facebook page. Located on Bloor and surprisingly cashless, Eva’s Original Chimneys is super popular with locals and tourists. I visited mid-January, and the line was already extending out the door and onto Bloor. Known by most Torontonians as “donut cones”, these treats are actually Kürtőskalács (Hungarian), or “Chimneys” in English. The dough itself is crispy on the outside, yet fluffy and tender inside. It was fun to twist the dough outwards, in a spiral, as I devoured the ice cream. This was a large serving and reminded me of a carnival, probably because of the generous sprinkle of cinnamon sugar with a touch of salt. I was sad to find people eating just half, and then throwing it out – don’t do that! There’s a big chocolate truffle ball at the bottom of the cone, serving as a plug so the soft serve doesn’t drip through the apex of the cone.

Iran: Pomegranate Restaurant

This was the Fesenjaan from Pomegranate Restaurant on College Street. It was a smooth, rich stew of ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup, studded with boneless chicken breast and topped with pomegranate seeds and slivered almonds. With the stew, there was a "relish" made of chopped cucumbers and onion, basmati rice with a scoop of saffron rice, and lightly-dressed greens. I have never tasted a flavour quite like the stew, and loved how it blended sour and nutty flavours. This tasted great with the rice, but I wish there was more of the saffron rice.For dessert, I tried the ice cream topped with rosewater and rose petals, pomegranate, and more pistachios. The ice cream was a bit hard and too icy for my taste (I like my ice cream melty!), and the rose flavour was disappointing.

This was the Fesenjaan from Pomegranate Restaurant on College Street. It was a smooth, rich stew of ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup, studded with boneless chicken breast and topped with pomegranate seeds and slivered almonds. With the stew, there was a “relish” made of chopped cucumbers and onion, basmati rice with a scoop of saffron rice, and lightly-dressed greens. I have never tasted a flavour quite like the stew, and loved how it blended sour and nutty flavours. This tasted great with the rice, but I wish there was more of the saffron rice.

For dessert, I tried the ice cream topped with rosewater and rose petals, pomegranate, and more pistachios. The ice cream was a bit hard and too icy for my taste (I like my ice cream melty!), and the rose flavour was disappointing.

Portugal: Carousel Bakery

The St. Lawrence market is a must-see for anyone touring Toronto, and these custard tarts and probably the second most famous food to enjoy there (followed by the peameal sandwich). I thoroughly enjoyed this custard tart from Carousel Bakery, which was flaky and charred outside, yet tender and creamy inside. I would have eaten ten of these, and would highly recommend it.

The St. Lawrence market is a must-see for anyone touring Toronto, and these custard tarts and probably the second most famous food to enjoy there (followed by the peameal sandwich). I thoroughly enjoyed this custard tart from Carousel Bakery, which was flaky and charred outside, yet tender and creamy inside. I would have eaten ten of these, and would highly recommend it.

Japan: Tsujiri, Millie, Miku

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I never carry my wallet with me, and the reason is simple: I can't be trusted with money when there are ice cream stores near by. Tsujiri is a famous matcha ice cream store on University/Dundas, directly across the street from where I worked. The menu is loaded with a variety of drinks, sundaes, and small baked goods. I love their sundaes and have tried them all, and my favourites include the ones with cornflakes, red bean, shiratama (rice balls), and matcha chiffon cake. The sakura blossom cookie in the first picture was oddly salty, but paired well with the subtle sweetness of the matcha and vanilla. I always ordered the 50/50 vanilla swirled with matcha, but they recently swapped out the vanilla for hojicha, which is a type of Japanese green tea roasted over charcoal.Millie desserts are also delightfully Japanese with a twist. I adore their crepe cakes, which they are known for, but the black sesame gelato and coconut gelato will hit the spot for any gelato purist who loves unique flavours.Finally, Miku! Expanding from the Vancouver location and known for their upscale, contemporary sushi dishes, Miku was another one of my top spots for a Winterlicious meal. I enjoyed octopus tartare, flame-seared aburi sushi, and the tastiest ebi fritter. Overall, a fantastic meal with a classy twist.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I never carry my wallet with me, and the reason is simple: I can’t be trusted with money when there are ice cream stores near by. Tsujiri is a famous matcha ice cream store on University/Dundas, directly across the street from where I worked. The menu is loaded with a variety of drinks, sundaes, and small baked goods. I love their sundaes and have tried them all, and my favourites include the ones with cornflakes, red bean, shiratama (rice balls), and matcha chiffon cake. The sakura blossom cookie in the first picture was oddly salty, but paired well with the subtle sweetness of the matcha and vanilla. I always ordered the 50/50 vanilla swirled with matcha, but they recently swapped out the vanilla for hojicha, which is a type of Japanese green tea roasted over charcoal.

Millie desserts are also delightfully Japanese with a twist. I adore their crepe cakes, which they are known for, but the black sesame gelato and coconut gelato will hit the spot for any gelato purist who loves unique flavours.

Finally, Miku! Expanding from the Vancouver location and known for their upscale, contemporary sushi dishes, Miku was another one of my top spots for a Winterlicious meal. I enjoyed octopus tartare, flame-seared aburi sushi, and the tastiest ebi fritter. Overall, a fantastic meal with a classy twist.

Belgium: Petit Déjeuner

Ah, my first restaurant experience in Toronto! Described by Google to be a "brick-lined bistro serving Belgian-Canadian comfort food made with seasonal ingredients all day", Le Petit Déjeuner has plenty of weekly specials and an extensive, customizable menu. I was debating between two dishes, this one and the "Apple and Brie Panino" with slices of matsu apple, dijon and melted brie, but I think I made the right choice. These authentic Belgian waffles were airy and light, with subtle sweetness that paired well with the runny poached egg, sour coleslaw, and sharp, savoury salmon.

Ah, my first restaurant experience in Toronto! Described by Google to be a “brick-lined bistro serving Belgian-Canadian comfort food made with seasonal ingredients all day”, Le Petit Déjeuner has plenty of weekly specials and an extensive, customizable menu. I was debating between two dishes, this one and the “Apple and Brie Panino” with slices of matsu apple, dijon and melted brie, but I think I made the right choice. These authentic Belgian waffles were airy and light, with subtle sweetness that paired well with the runny poached egg, sour coleslaw, and sharp, savoury salmon.

Poland: Café Polonez

One patient at the Toronto Health Centre, a gentle Polish lady, always told me about how she cooks her own cabbage rolls and mixes up her own pierogies. I was super envious, but quickly realized that living in Toronto meant that I, too, could enjoy some incredible Polish food! Cafe Polonez in Roncesvalles is a homey, family-run establishment with quite an extensive menu. They have a different soup special for each day of the week, and are known for their famous pierogies.I've had pierogies before, and these were just as delicious, filled with cheddar and mushrooms. As usual, they reminded me of Chinese jiaozi or Nepalese momos. I loved the addition of sour cream, and the freshness of the pierogies was noticeable. My potato pancakes had the best crispy edges, and was not too salty. Of course, the cabbage roll was equally tasty. Mine was topped with a mushroom gravy, and filled with wild rice and minced mushrooms. The menu calls this dish Golabki nadziewane grzybami, w sosie grzybowym.

One patient at the Toronto Health Centre, a gentle Polish lady, always told me about how she cooks her own cabbage rolls and mixes up her own pierogies. I was super envious, but quickly realized that living in Toronto meant that I, too, could enjoy some incredible Polish food! Cafe Polonez in Roncesvalles is a homey, family-run establishment with quite an extensive menu. They have a different soup special for each day of the week, and are known for their famous pierogies.

I’ve had pierogies before, and these were just as delicious, filled with cheddar and mushrooms. As usual, they reminded me of Chinese jiaozi or Nepalese momos. I loved the addition of sour cream, and the freshness of the pierogies was noticeable. My potato pancakes had the best crispy edges, and was not too salty. Of course, the cabbage roll was equally tasty. Mine was topped with a mushroom gravy, and filled with wild rice and minced mushrooms. The menu calls this dish Golabki nadziewane grzybami, w sosie grzybowym.

Chile: Jumbo Empanadas

Empanadas, which originated in Spain or Portugal, are stuffed pastries that are baked or fried. The Spanish verb "empanar" means "to wrap, or to coat with bread". Empanadas are essentially a pocket of dough folded over stuffing, which may be cheese, meat, or vegetables. Jumbo Empanadas have great, CHEAP empanadas, cute Chilean pastries, and various other Chilean eats. I also tried a humita, which, as Wikipedia tells me, is a Native American dish from pre-Hispanic times, consisting of masa harina and corn, steamed or boiled in water. I loved the simplicity of the humita, which was fresh and sweet and tasted incredible with the acidic salsa.

Empanadas, which originated in Spain or Portugal, are stuffed pastries that are baked or fried. The Spanish verb “empanar” means “to wrap, or to coat with bread”. Empanadas are essentially a pocket of dough folded over stuffing, which may be cheese, meat, or vegetables. Jumbo Empanadas have great, CHEAP empanadas, cute Chilean pastries, and various other Chilean eats. I also tried a humita, which, as Wikipedia tells me, is a Native American dish from pre-Hispanic times, consisting of masa harina and corn, steamed or boiled in water. I loved the simplicity of the humita, which was fresh and sweet and tasted incredible with the acidic salsa.

Italy: Mattacchioni, G for Gelato

Gelato falls under a category called 'Cindy's Top 3 Biggest Weaknesses'. As in, if I see a gelato store, I'm going in and coming out with at least two scoops. This one, from G for Gelato, satisfied my craving during one long walk. I ordered two scoops here: one being the chocolate almond fudge, and another being pistachio-walnut. Sweet, chocolatey, and nutty flavours are the ideal match, in my opinion, so this cup of gelato nailed it.Mattachioni is a cozy spot known for authentic Neapolitan pizzas. I ordered the apollonia, which was topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, arugula, and fresh stracciatella. I learned that stracciatella is a creamy cheese produced by Italian buffalo milk. I enjoyed cannoli (Italian pastries, literally meaning "little tube") for the first time, and thought it was fantastic. The creamy filling was flavoured with lemon, and contrasted well with the bubbly, golden-brown fried shell.

Gelato falls under a category called ‘Cindy’s Top 3 Biggest Weaknesses’. As in, if I see a gelato store, I’m going in and coming out with at least two scoops. This one, from G for Gelato, satisfied my craving during one long walk. I ordered two scoops here: one being the chocolate almond fudge, and another being pistachio-walnut. Sweet, chocolatey, and nutty flavours are the ideal match, in my opinion, so this cup of gelato nailed it.

Mattachioni is a cozy spot known for authentic Neapolitan pizzas. I ordered the apollonia, which was topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, arugula, and fresh stracciatella. I learned that stracciatella is a creamy cheese produced by Italian buffalo milk. I enjoyed cannoli (Italian pastries, literally meaning “little tube”) for the first time, and thought it was fantastic. The creamy filling was flavoured with lemon, and contrasted well with the bubbly, golden-brown fried shell.

America: Sweet Olenka’s, Bakerbots, Barque Smokehouse

I ate my weight in gelato and ice cream during my time in Toronto with no regrets! Two of my top dessert places include Bakerbots and Sweet Olenka’s. At Sweet Olenka's, I devoured a scoop of chocolate Oreo ice cream, and a scoop of vegan salted caramel, which was made with coconut milk. Bakerbots, less than a block off Bloor, is a quiet, petite cafe known for creative ice cream flavours and freshly-baked cookies. It’s a DIY-sort of place, where you can choose your cookie and two scoops for the filling. I selected the caramelized peanut butter cookie, a scoop of totarn (ube, or purple yam) ice cream, and a scoop of cinnamon toast ice cream. With the chewy, crisp-at-the-edges peanut butter cookie and rich, flavourful ice cream, I have to admit that this is one of the Top 3 desserts I’ve ever tasted in my life.Another day, I enjoyed a phenomenal brunch at Barque Smokehouse, where I enjoyed cornbread topped with citrus-smoked salmon, two poached eggs, and BBQ hollandaise, the crispiest roast potatoes, and a kale salad with carrots, cabbage, and pear.

I ate my weight in gelato and ice cream during my time in Toronto with no regrets! Two of my top dessert places include Bakerbots and Sweet Olenka’s. At Sweet Olenka’s, I devoured a scoop of chocolate Oreo ice cream, and a scoop of vegan salted caramel, which was made with coconut milk. Bakerbots, less than a block off Bloor, is a quiet, petite cafe known for creative ice cream flavours and freshly-baked cookies. It’s a DIY-sort of place, where you can choose your cookie and two scoops for the filling. I selected the caramelized peanut butter cookie, a scoop of totarn (ube, or purple yam) ice cream, and a scoop of cinnamon toast ice cream. With the chewy, crisp-at-the-edges peanut butter cookie and rich, flavourful ice cream, I have to admit that this is one of the Top 3 desserts I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Another day, I enjoyed a phenomenal brunch at Barque Smokehouse, where I enjoyed cornbread topped with citrus-smoked salmon, two poached eggs, and BBQ hollandaise, the crispiest roast potatoes, and a kale salad with carrots, cabbage, and pear.

 

What will my next food adventure be?

My eat-around-the-world experience, although incomplete, gave me valuable insight into the rich and diverse culture of many countries I hadn’t considered before. I can’t wait to try cuisines from even more countries, including Sri Lanka, Haiti, Hawaii, and Romania…

 

Any thoughts? What are your favourite “unique” eats from around the world?

Fact: You can never have enough delicious food.

Before Brisbane

Good Friday morning, everyone!

I’m writing this from 40,000 feet because I am currently on a flight from my home in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) to Brisbane, Queensland (Australia). It is a 15-hour flight, and I just have an hour to go. I just ate a large square of chocolate peanut butter banana snack bread that I packed, alongside a tasty red bean moon cake that my Grandma bought for me.

It was a mostly peaceful flight – only a little turbulence and one little crying baby. I got as much sleep as I could in these tiny Economy seats (probably 7 hours?) before working on some projects on my laptop. I didn’t bring a book with me this time, though I wish packing either Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, or it’s sequel, Glass Sword.

Now, one of my favourite things to do on an airplane is to go on a virtual rant of all my thoughts and expectations of the place I’m headed. It makes for a fun list to look back on, once the experience is over.

  • I am most excited about aerials. I can’t wait to learn aerial straps. I know I’m probably not strong enough at this point to do any real tricks on the straps, but I figure the worst that can happen is I get stronger for the silks. My goal is to take 10 lessons, one per week, throughout my time in Brisbane.
  • I am taking 5 courses, which are science/health/psychology related. I hope I still have enough time for training in aerials and yoga, so if academics becomes too much, I will drop a course.
  • For my classes, some have tutorials and practicals. I am a little confused about it since every week seems to be different, according to the weekly schedule online. It doesn’t seem to follow Waterloo’s A-B-A-B weekly schedule. I hope this is clarified during orientation.
  • I hope my roommate, Jessica, and I will become good friends (like how Madhulika, Arsalan, and I still stay in touch from our 2 years together in Waterloo)
  • I live roughly 25 minutes from school, which is a bit of a long walk in the heat.
  • The only things I have for note-taking are my laptop and one notebook, plus some colourful pens. I’m looking forward to note-taking and studying, since it’s been 7 months since I was last in school.
  • In Australia, I am going to eat very healthy, light foods because it’s summer!
  • I live 3 minutes from Zama Yoga, so I’m excited to do lots of yoga. They have Pilates, Barre, Hot Vinyasa, Dance Cardio, and one that I think will be my favourite – Warm Slow Flow Yoga.
  • I am looking forward to making new friends and getting to know new people.

Other things from lately:

Family had brunch at Brown’s Social House. There, we enjoyed nachos before everyone’s main dishes came. My entree was the prosciutto eggs benedict, and this was one of the best English muffin benedicts that I’ve had (I normally like biscuit benedicts). The flavour of the hollandaise was very unique, and I adored the Cowboy Salad on the side, which was topped with plenty of walnuts, chopped dates, edamame, black beans, carrots, grape tomatoes, and feta cheese.

Seline and I did plenty together. We love reading in Chapters, and scanning the summaries of novels to see which ones might be great. Also, I got a manicure with her! Seline helped me choose the colour, which is pink with lots of shine. Manicures always make me feel so clean and polished (I didn’t even intend this pun).

Seline’s birthday was on Saturday, February 4! We celebrated with lots of helium balloons and a Dairy Queen ice cream cake that read “Have a claw-some purr-thday, Christopher Shaw!”. Inside joke.

Another day, I went to the gym and then to Ikea with my dad, where we purchased a lovely chef’s knife which is currently also on its way to Australia. I can’t wait to use it!

Finally, I had an excellent sushi dinner with my sister, Seline, at her favourite Coquitlam sushi place called Sushi Karis. I had the fatty tuna aburi sushi and snapper aburi sushi. Seline had the beef ramen, and then we ordered three rolls. All the rolls were delicious, but I’m such a sucker for seared scallops that I’d say the Master Roll was my favourite.

  1. MASTER ROLL – California roll topped with seared scallops and mustard sauce
  2. VICTORIA ROLL – Yam tempura sushi with avocado and unagi sauce
  3. SPIDER ROLL – Soft-shell crab on top of a California roll, made with black rice (this gave it a striking appearance, but the flavour was the same)

Now I have to fill out my landing card details, so until then!

IMG_E5860

Cooking, Baking, and Books | Lately

Good Sunday morning!

I’ve been back in BC for a little over a week, and things have been going so smoothly. I’ve been relaxing at home with the family, seeing friends, and spending time with my sister, who has just started her second semester of her last year of high school.

Some eats:

  • braised ribs with vermicelli noodles, carrots, quail eggs, Chinese greens, brown rice
  • coconut curry with chicken breast, cauliflower, edamame, and steamed green beans
  • coconut curry with chicken breast, cauliflower, edamame, and steamed green beans
  • purple rice, tofu with ground pork and scallions, steamed broccoli, carrot scrambled eggs
  • butter noodles with fried chicken breast and poached egg

 

  • purple rice, tofu with ground pork and scallions, steamed broccoli, carrot scrambled eggs, baked fish
  • honey garlic chicken wings and drumettes, lotus root patties with ground pork, sautéed green beans
  • satay chicken, tofu with ground pork, sautéed vegetables with scallion oil, rice

Another day, Mom and I baked an almond flour cake, that we topped with frozen sliced peaches, berries, and sliced almonds. This tastes so good, and I love the texture that almond flour lends to baked goods.

After a lovely dinner (lobster ravioli for me, steak and fries for Seline) at Joeys, Seline and I watched the Death Cure, the third movie in the Maze Runner trilogy. I first watched it in Taiwan, but was happy to see it in theatres again, this time with my sister. I was (and still am!) a lover of James Dashner’s writing, even when the Maze Runner books first came out back in 2009. I felt like the movies did the books justice, and loved the action. This series, in my opinion, made the best movies compared to Divergent, the Hunger Games, and other YA book-to-movies.

A book that I read yesterday, by Tommy Wallach, has been stuck in my mind. I love books full of unpredictable twists. Another afternoon, I made a collage of things I like and value. You can see the aerials and yoga, the studying, a map and camera to represent travel, some of my favourite quotes, my bookshelf, and of course, my family.

Seline and I spent some time with her friend at the local mall, where I devoured this taro and oolong tea soft serve, which was topped with sweetened condensed milk. In between the layers of soft serve, you’ll find plenty of pureed taro and whole red beans.

Since today is Seline’s birthday, we are going to Brown’s Social House to celebrate. We have a lot of exciting things planned for today, since she is turning 18. 🙂

  • 10:00 buy helium balloons
  • 12:00 lunch at Browns
  • 4:00 Juillet Cafe?
  • 5:00 Diva mani/pedi
  • 6:00 dinner
    • mushrooms, onions, garlic cooked and mashed with shredded gouda and spices, into puff pastry wheels
    • mashed potatoes
    • corn on the cob
    • bread machine bread
    • chicken
    • garlic green beans
    • Dairy Queen cake dessert
  • 8:30 I, Tonya movie

Have a lovely rest of the weekend!

Taiwan, Cambodia, Macau | Trip Summary

Coquitlam, Canada

Early January, my sister and I did some hilarious (i.e. stupid) things, and I got an eyelash perm. I also packed up my travel bag with plenty of homemade baked goods, books, popcorn, and info sheets with health tips. Read more, and find more photos, here.

Taipei, Taiwan

Before I knew it, we were in Taipei after a twelve-hour flight. Though most of the first days were uneventful (we had errands to run), it was exhilarating to be back in Asia, and I loved browsing the markets. Read more about it here.

One of the highlights of my time in Taiwan? We visited a famous Taiwanese breakfast house, where I tried savoury soy milk, and ate egg pancakes, “shao bing”, Chinese crullers, and more. We also visited a temple, some old friends, and had a seafood meal with my two of my six great-aunts. I also got a massive taro ice cream (hands-down one of my favourite ice cream flavours, next to pistachio and chocolate-hazelnut). Then, we flew to Cambodia! Read more about it here.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

In Cambodia, we arrived at our hotel in Phnom Penh. I loved our hotel room, and the restaurant downstairs, where I enjoyed baked snails, risotto, and other incredible dishes. Dipping my toes into the pool was so special, and then we headed to an authentic Cambodian restaurant. Read more about it here.

We spent one sunny morning at the Royal Palace, where we took some of my favourite photos. I also enjoyed the lunch we ate at Daughters of Cambodia, a café that trains young women trapped in the sex industry. Then, we visited the beautiful National Museum. Read more about it here.

At Khéma, a stunning French restaurant, the three of us enjoyed a spectacular meal. I also loved taking photos outside our hotel, in the beautiful, yet busy, streets of Phnom Penh. We visited a market in the morning and had a lovely brunch together. Read more about it here.

Dad and I visited Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple built in 1372 to mark the centre of Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. There were so many photograph-able places. In the afternoon, we took a tuktuk to a Cambodian restaurant, and I saw a little gecko in the bathroom! Read more about it here.

Our last day in Phnom Penh involved another visit to Daughters of Cambodia, some time by the hotel pool, and tasty tapas. After a breakfast buffet in the hotel, we took a six-hour bus ride to Siem Reap, a city in Northern Cambodia. We ate an unforgettable seven-course meal at EMBASSY, a French restaurant with a Cambodian twist. Read more about it here.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Finally, I got to check off “Angkor Wat and Angkor Archaeological Park” from my bucket list! We woke up at 4:00 AM to buy tickets and watch the sunrise. Despite a torrential downpour, I was thrilled and amazed to get a glimpse into these legendary temples surrounded by forest. Read more about it here.

The next morning, Dad and I did some exploration before enjoying breakfast at the hotel. I tried jackfruit for the first time, before we completed Angkor Archaeological Park’s Grand Circuit, visiting temples in the outskirts. This was one of my favourite days of the trip, and made me realize that I’d love to visit more historical world heritage sites. Read more about it here.

Kep, Cambodia

After a final meal in Siem Reap, we took a night bus back to Phnom Penh, had breakfast at our old hotel in Phnom Penh, and took a three-hour to Southern Cambodia, where we enjoyed our time in a resort in Kep. We completed a short hike in Kep National Park, and I had the best fish dish with spicy garlic coconut sauce. After brunch the following morning, Dad and I visited Bokor National Park, where we saw the Old Palace (built by French settlers prior to 1920). Read more about it here.

Since Kep is famous for their peppercorns and fresh crab, we took advantage of the situation to devour plenty of prawns, crab, and fish! I loved wandering around our resort, where there were plenty of bright, colourful plants to photograph. One afternoon, Dad and I visited the caves of Kampong Trach, which was a little disappointing since they were dry (it is dry season), and there was no waterfall. I also made a list of things I had the opportunity of eating for the first time in Cambodia. Soon, our Cambodia adventure was over, and we found ourselves back in Taipei. Read more about it here.

Macau, China

A trip to the night market kicked off our one-day stay in Taipei, and then we were off to Macau, the City of Dreams. We ate a scrumptious dinner at Bene, an Italian Restaurant near Sheraton, our hotel. I also made the mistake of ordering (and solo-eating) two large desserts. 10/10 would do it again, though. The next day, I had a delicious quiche before a lovely spa treatment, and we had dinner at the famous Din Tai Fung. Read more about it here.

Delicious buffet meals and incredible dim sum were enjoyed in Macau, and we had the opportunity to see some wonderful performances. I also got to do the Sky Walk on Macau’s highest tower! Read more about it here.

Taipei, Taiwan

During the last few days I spent in Taiwan, I enjoyed a variety of night market treats, had a tasty meal with family, and watched The Death Cure. Read more about it here.

On one plane ride, I had the opportunity to compile a list of tips for those travelling with elderly parents or grandparents. Like I mentioned in that post, many special memories were created during our trip to Cambodia, and I gained a valuable appreciation for my grandfather. Most importantly, the time that we spent together was a gift that I will cherish for a lifetime. Read more about it here.

Then we were back home! 🏡