Touring Toronto: From Croissants to Creepy Fish

Good morning, friends! How has 2016 been treating you so far?

My new year has been going smoothly for the most part, and I’m enjoying every second that my dad is staying here with me in Waterloo. On Saturday, we took a semi-day trip to Toronto. The journey began at 5:30 AM when we hopped into the car. The drive was long, dark, rainy, and unfamiliar, but we made it to Nadege Patisserie safely and excitedly.

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Nadege is famous for their croissants and art-like dessert pastries. They also have a large array of sandwiches, and the combinations that caught my eye included fig + goat cheese + arugula and one with smoked salmon and cucumber. The croissants were freshly baked that day, too. They open at 8:00 and we we found a parking spot at around 7:35, so it was a long and torturous wait.

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I felt like I was back in Paris, where sandwiches like these are king. Look at how those baguettes are just bursting with filling. This is about as Parisienne as it gets here in Canada!

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Macarons, petit choux, and cakes were lined like pieces of jewelry in the display counter. The colours were gorgeous! Which one would you order, if you had to choose?

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I really, really wanted one of these individual-sized cakes. How pretty are these guys? The donut looked really tasty, as did the modern pecan pie.

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They also have these alphabet chocolate bars, which came in a variety of super unique flavours, like Wasabi for W, Yuzu for Y, and Sesame for S. Dad and I were the first customers, and we took a seat near the gift display case.

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We ordered four pastries: three for me and one for dad!

Pecan pie croissant, award-winning almond croissant, and raspberry pistachio croissant and hot chocolate for me // cappuccino and chocolate croissant for Dad.

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Dad ordered the hazelnut chocolate praline croissant, which he described as flaky, layered, soft, and with a crispy crust. The chocolate was firm and not too dark. He enjoyed it and would order it again 🙂

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My breakfast was nothing short of spectacular, either! I asked for all three to be cut in half and enjoyed half of each one.

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The almond croissant was doughy and had great crisp on the outside. One thing I noted was that the inside layers of the croissant seemed to be underbaked, as the layers of puff-pastry were still clearly visible, thick, and quite chewy. It wasn’t too sweet and had a decent amount of almond paste, though I wish there was more! It was very well made and so flaky. Not one of my top 5 almond croissants, but a tasty one nonetheless. I wish I could try the chocolate almond croissant, too.

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This one was a truly special pastry. It was the #1 favourite of the lady behind the counter, and for a good reason. The pistachio paste was not too sweet and had the most “pistachio-est” flavor and a great smooth texture with teeny grains. The berries on top were clearly very fresh, and I loved how chopped pistachios on top gave it a bit of crunch.

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The pecan pie croissant is one of Nadege’s most popular. I was a little disappointed, though, to see that the filling involved only one tiny “roll” of pecan pie filling – I was expecting the pastry to be bursting with sweet nuts and brown sugar filling. My favourite part about this croissant was the crunchy caramelized pecans on top, which were drenched in a brown sugar sauce and baked until slightly charred (yum) and super crispy.

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The lady behind the counter also came to our table to give us a salted caramel macaron! I took a bite and gave the rest to Dad. We both really liked it, and I thought it tasted like a Werther’s candy. Ooooh, I love those. I can see why their macarons are some of the best in Toronto. The outsides shattered in my mouth, but the insides were perfectly chewy and the filling had excellent flavor. I’m still not a huge macaron person, but this was definitely one of the best I’ve tried.

I had a sample of a chocolate madeleine, which was tasty and had hints of lemon, before hopping back into the car. Then, we were off for the Ripley Aquarium, our first destination!

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On the way there, we saw skyscrapers, crazy traffic, and the CN tower. I haven’t seen massive buildings like this for a long time! They don’t exist in Waterloo. 😛

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The CN tower was, well, tall. Even taller in person. Looking up at it reminded me of the time Seline and I toured the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. I am always so amazed at what humans can build. Anyways, we went into the Ripley Aquarium at 9:00, right when it opened. Since it was so early on a blustery Saturday morning, the aquarium was practically empty. We didn’t have to line up for a second!

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Fish are super cool to me. Dad loves carp and koi (what’s the difference?) but I prefer looking at stranger fish that look odd or do bizarre things.

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Like these guys! I’ve never seen anything quite like these platypus-like fish. And we were lucky enough to watch these crabs play – or maybe fight? The big one gave the little one a short piggyback ride before they both toppled over, which we thought was so cute and funny.

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Then I caught a family portrait of some sad-looking eels and preppy tropical fish. I could honestly watch tropical fish for hours. Each one is so unique and so beautiful. One thing we observed was that they not only look different, but also behave differently.

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Some fishies were really photogenic and loved being near the glass, where it was a lot easier to capture photos of them. Other ones strayed near the back or circled the coral and anemones.

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We stood in front of this tank for at least twenty minutes because there was just so much to look at!

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The Ripley Aquarium is probably most famous for their “conveyer belt” tank, where you can stand on this very, very slow belt and go into a tunnel-like tank. This tank had thousands of fish, all swimming in schools, and at least twenty sharks.

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I seriously wonder how this shark eats his food. Having that big sawlike “beak” (snout?) seems useless. I’m curious as to what he actually uses it for.

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Every sight was incredible. I wish my eyes could take pictures for you!

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Whoa. This is one of my favourite pictures because I love how rays of sunlight are streaming into the tank.

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We found Nemo (and about 500 other Nemoes), his dad, Dory, and all his tank-mates! Plus, in the tank next door, a kind of creepy-looking fish that wouldn’t budge from its position in the sand.

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If I had to describe lionfish in one word, it would probably be “exquisite”. These beautiful fish remind me of poisonous butterflies that are dazzling but deadly. Some species can grow up to half a metre long!

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Seahorses are another one of my favourite sea animals. In Grade 3, my class had an animal research project where we had to write reports about the behaviour, habitat, diet, etc. on a unique animal. I chose the seahorse, but there weren’t any library books about seahorses so I had to switch my animal into the chickadee. And I was really sad about that because I thought chickadees have really stupid names – and they don’t even make a “chickadee” sound! Random, I know… but seahorses are just so cool to me. They remind me of delicate pieces of jewelry or fragile dolls.

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I did do a project on the leafy sea dragon in middle school. These guys look so different in person. They are truly masters of disguise!

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I couldn’t decide which photo of this jellyfish I liked best! I worked at the Vancouver Aquarium before going to the Sunshine Coast and Paris over the summer, and I learned there that “jellyfish” is actually a wrong term – without gills or fins, or even BRAINS, they aren’t actually fish. So we have to call them jellies. Same with starfish, which aren’t fish either. So we should refer to them as sea stars. Did you know that? 😀

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One tank was literally the size of my entire apartment unit, no exaggeration! The lights that illuminated this tank changed colour every couple of seconds, so the jellies went from being yellow to pink to green. It was fun to watch and take selfies with the mirror. Smile, Dad!

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After a quick browse through the gift shop, we walked across the street to the CN Tower.

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The view from the top was incredible. We could see the Toronto islands, which I had no idea existed.

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The elevator ride was fast and exciting, because the walls were glass. My ears popped twice with all the pressure!

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The CN Tower has a glass floor section near the top, where you can stand on “windows” on the ground and see all of Toronto beneath your feet. I loved this, and so did some children who were there. It was mostly the adults who didn’t want to stand on the glass panel!

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After the CN Tower, and getting lost in the Downtown Core for around twenty minutes, we finally found The Westerly, where we had brunch at 2:00.

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I ordered the eggs benedict, as usual. This one came with salad and pan-fried potatoes. I love bennies that are made with biscuits – this one had a warm cheddar biscuit and gravlax.

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Mmm, the biscuit was so yummy. I demolished my entire plate and felt pretty uncomfortable afterwards.

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Unfortunately one of my poached eggs were more soft-boiled than poached, so there is no sexy drippy egg-yolk photo for you guys today. 😦

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Dad ordered the burger, which was stuffed with bacon, red onion, and white cheddar – all his faves. He finished his whole plate, too, including the rosemary-dusted French fries. We both loved our meals!

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We headed home after lunch, when it was around 3:00. I really wanted to visit the Eaton Centre (Toronto’s biggest mall), Whole Foods (… yes) and the ice rink in front of City Hall. But Dad was getting worried that the weather was worsening, and he wanted to be home before the sky got dark. So we buckled up and drove another 1.5 hours back to Waterloo. Basically, I had another 1.5 hour nap. 😉

We had SUCH an awesome day!

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Thanks, Dad! Maybe we can do this again sometime… soon. Need more croissants. 😉

Summer in Quebec (PART III)

Bon matin everyone! How are you? Today was a bit of a crazy day – I was up at 5:00 for a super-early morning skate at 5:45. I had a bit of chocolate banana bread + peanut butter and a glass of milk before I went. After practice I devoured a sludgy green/brown spinach and berry smoothie, a slice of toast with Earth Balance, 2 scrambled eggs with vegetables and cheese, AND lemon pound cake with yogurt. All of that, and I could STILL eat more. Whew!

Moving on! Here are some more meals that I had in Quebec. See Part I here, and click here for Part II.

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Raspberry lemonade from Olive and Gourmando. I TOLD you this was my favourite place in Part I of my Quebec trip! This lemonade was so REAL – it wasn’t artificial at all, and I loved how the sweet/tart flavours were balanced. On the right is probably the best brownie I’ve ever eaten. Cakey but still dense, fudgy, and so, so rich. They use real Verona chocolate and the difference is insane! You can definitely tell that the quality is 10x better. It was loaded with dark chocolate chunks and the crusty top was cracklin’. LOVED this dessert.

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More from the Old-Montreal cafe! The “Poached Eggs on Your Face” sandwich, loaded with, uh, poached eggs, proscuitto (Italian bacon), sriracha, and incredible cheese. Plus an almond croissant and a hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was basically a liquid brownie – definitely the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. It was a tiny cup but oh-so-rich. The croissant was just OK. I think Matchsticks (Vancouver) and Thomas Haas (Vancouver) make better almond croissants. The spicy sandwich was yummy though. I should’ve just had half!

The other photo is the chocolate and banana brioche that I bought for nibbling on the road. Imagine a flaky croissant-like pastry in a cinnamon bun shape, loaded with banana flavour and bursting with creamy chocolate chips. That’s what this was! It was insanely good but I was so full from my breakfast (… see left) and I brought it with me. Smuggled it into La Ronde, too!

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Had a crepe at this amusement park. I felt sick the whole day! I can go on the “scary” rides, but I don’t like how they make me feel after. I still went on all of them – including a backwards roller coaster and a STANDING roller coaster! This crepe was pretty bad quality and filled with gloopy mayo, canned mushrooms, and processed cheese. The crepe itself was crummy too. Didn’t like this lunch at all!

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My lovely Quebec parents took me out to St-Joseph du Lac, a city near Oka. It is a famous “apple town” where I had a vegetable omelet with cheese, roasted potatoes, and two slices of toast with peanut butter and strawberry jam. This omelet, LOADED with peppers and olives, was fantastic. The potatoes were some of the best I’ve had – so tender.

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POUTINE! This was at La Banquise, a traditional Quebec restaurant that’s open 24/7. People usually get their fries at 2:00 AM as a hangover helper, but we went at 5:00 PM for a nice dinner. 🙂 Originally I didn’t want to eat here and planned to go home, but I wasn’t allowed – YMCA rule. So I sucked it up and decided to eat the fries… when in Rome, right? I was stuffed from the manicotti from lunch but still ordered a large Taquise poutine (Mexican-style) with guacamole, tomato, sour cream, and feta cheese. Because I don’t like cheese curds, I swapped ’em for feta. I also ordered a chevre burger. This had a layer of caramelized onions and apples – delicious. It was a fantastic dinner but I felt greasy after. We watched the Montreal Impact soccer game after this dinner and the burger/fries kept me full all night.

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The BEST chicken stir-fry ever. It was coated in a sweet and spicy sauce and packed with soft vegetables. Served with minute rice, green onions and sesame seeds, this dinner was unforgettable! I recreated it at home and it tasted pretty much the same. Loved this! I can post the recipe if you’re interested – let me know in the comments. 🙂

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This is Cafe Vasco da Gama. I read about the reviews for this duck + fig confit panini and knew that I HAD to go. So after work one day, I took the bus and then the subway to find this gem in downtown Montreal. Unfortunately I fell asleep on the train and missed my stop by twelve stations – I had taken it all the way to the end! I was so angry/scared/disappointed but then found the right train and finally found this restaurant. I got out of work at 5:00 and didn’t see the restaurant until 7:30… too much effort for a sandwich?

NOPE! This was SO flavourful and I loved the crusty-ish bread. The fig was sweet and paired perfectly with the tender duck. I also had a cup of mushroom soup, which I totally want to try making. It was completely smooth and so mushroomy. I loved it! Another hour and a half home… I was whipped!

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At the end of Family Weekend, my family took me to L’Academie, a beautiful Italian restaurant in the Sherbrooke area of Montreal. I had a lasagna with rose sauce and a nibble of my Mom’s seafood potato broil. The lasagna on the menu intrigued me – it had a layer of hard-boiled eggs! The waitress claimed it was super delish and that I wouldn’t taste the egginess. She was right! I think the eggs made it even more delicious. I loved the cheesiness and the slightly sweet tomato sauce.

Also had “pate chinois”, a traditional Quebecois dish like Shephard’s Pie. We ate this dinner with my sister and my twin student’s friend. We spent the afternoon in the pool/hot tub and then came back to have this supper + watch Youtube videos. This was made with a layer of ground beef, corn, onions, and then topped with mashed potatoes + paprika and baked. Topped with ketchup and eaten with a veggie salad. My parents put SO much effort into making/buying what I wanted to eat. ❤

The last photo is pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. I stole nibbles of this all night. It was basically a sugar pie topped with toasted pecans. After popping it into the microwave, this pie was so warm and incredible with vanilla ice cream. One of my new favourite desserts!

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Nice dinner with my friends and the coordinator at Madison’s Grill. We ate there with some mentally handicapped people and it was pretty fun. Didn’t actually feel like volunteering because we sat at different tables – weird! I had salmon with garlic mashed potatoes and pineapple salsa. The dipping sauce was good and I had it with everything!

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Dad made French toast for us all! Topped with maple syrup, banana slices, and berries.

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One day after work, I ate alone at Crabhouse Serafim, an organic place in Old-Montreal. You could choose 3 courses and I had the seafood chowder, some bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (unpictured), a tagine with zucchini “pie”, covered with cheese, and a coconut chocolate date cake. It all sounds delicious but it was only okay… pretty diasppointing! 😦

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But THIS was good! A passionfruit tart from Maison Christian Faure in Old-Montreal. It’s a beautifully modern pastry school and I had this fruity, creamy tart with a big hot chocolate. I was so full after eating at Olive and Gourmando though (see above) that I could hardly finish! … but of course I did.

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The Brulerie du Vieux St-Eustache was one of my favourite places. As you might have already seen in my other Quebec posts, I had lots of sweets… and most of the goodies were from this bakery near the bus transfer place. Needless to say, I’ve sampled all of their muffins!

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And… onto the train we go! Breakfast, for FIVE DAYS, was a toasted English muffin (I added peanut butter), scrambled eggs with ketchup, bacon (gave to friends) and hashbrowns. I usually had orange juice or water.

Lunch was usually a salad with hard boiled eggs or cheese and garlic bread. Mashed potatoes on the side – not very yummy. But we also got a white chocolate cheesecake with a brownie crust and raspberry syrup! This was delicious.

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Dessert and dinner: vegetarian chili with beans and mashed potatoes, strawberry shortcake. 🙂

 

Quebec was, without a doubt, one of the BEST TRIPS EVER. I’d love to know about your vacations – what was YOUR favourite trip? What did you eat there?

CLICK HERE to see the first part of my trip, or CLICK HERE to see the second!

That’s it for today! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next post. 🙂