High Tea, MOVING ACROSS CANADA, and More

I haven’t posted for a long time… I know. It’s because the past couple of weeks have been absolutely hectic, between meeting people, moving back to Ontario, and starting classes again.

TLDR of what I’ve been doing recently:

  1. Constructing Ikea furniture very slowly
  2. Reading
  3. Meeting up with friends, like the time I had high tea with my friend Adele in Kitsilano
  4. Other random stuff?

 

Here are more tidbits of the summer. These things happened after my sister and I came back from Charlottetown, PEI, and shortly after I got my wisdom teeth removed. Some bits of the summer include:

  • going for brunch with family at Café la Foret
  • baked a super creamy, rich New York cheesecake using an Allrecipes recipe
  • plenty of delicious Mom-cooked dinners, including tofu, veggies, and more
  • making iron-on bead magnets with my sister

 

  • delicious cooking from Mom – this time with Korean beef stew, pearl meatballs, and butter chicken with mushrooms
  • walking the dog with Mom
  • baking blueberry almond bread with mom
  • delicious brown sugar waffles with powdered sugar, butter, Nutella, maple syrup
  • stewed eggplant with ground pork on rice
  • lovely soft serve from Soft Peaks, which recently opened near my grandparents’ apartment in Burnaby
  • taro and chicken stew with fried egg and zucchini

 

My grandma found these! I wrote them when I was in the tenth grade, about five years ago. This is when I wrote down everything that I ate, separating them into pages by meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner). I think it’s funny because I also RANKED all of the things I ate out of 10, then calculated the weekly and monthly averages.

 

Heirloom Vegetarian is a lovely brunch spot in Vancouver. I went with my family, and I enjoyed a great platter of mushroom hash topped with poached egg and tofu. Mom and I shared two dishes – the other one was a grilled cheese with cauliflower soup. Afterwards, Mom, Dad, and I (sans Seline) shared a tray of four ice creams from Rain or Shine. They were Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Malted Chocolate Honeycomb, Peanut Butter.

 

Another afternoon, Seline and I had high tea with our good friend Adele. It was my first time having high tea, and it was such an enjoyable experience. The place was beautiful, the food was divine, and the company was great.

 

I had two large mugs of London Fog, which Seline drizzled with honey. I ate the vegetarian Grande Adventure, and my favourite savoury bite was the cheese sandwich with apple relish, followed by a tiny sandwich filled with curried egg salad.

 

That same evening, we packed up the car and drove to Aunt Mimi’s home. We went to Mimi’s house because she lives closer to the airport, and she was the one giving us a ride to the airport the next day. This time, Dad, Seline, Grandpa, and I ALL went to Waterloo together.

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Our first meal in Waterloo was Famoso Pizzeria. I had my favourite, which had arugula, gorgonzola, dates, honey, brussels sprouts, and proscuitto. On the side, a Caprese salad.

For the first few nights, we stayed at a lovely AirBnB in Kitchener. The highlight was playing a board game called Blokus.

 

Another day, we dined at Red House. Seline had lamb spaghetti, and I thoroughly enjoyed my summery salad and plantains with queso fresco. For dessert, I had the chocolate tart with whipped ricotta and berries. We did an escape room after this dinner – it was called the Vault. Unfortunately, we didn’t escape in time.

 

Around this time, we got to see the new house. The house was already furnished for one person.

 

We went to the MUSEUM in Kitchener one day, and Seline and I played with this interactive virtual dancing thing.

 

 

Fun moments – delicious dinner of baked cheesy tortellini with veggies from Ennio’s, followed by an incredible dark rum and mascarpone bread pudding with ice cream and Nutella sauce.

Plus cleaning and sleeping on the ground. Which are not fun.

More cleaning, more furniture to construct, and a random waffle topped with whipped peanut butter, honey-roasted granola, and peaches.

 

A couple wonderful meals from Dad and Grandpa’s LAST DAY in Waterloo:

  • L: Timeless London Fog, omelet with roasted cauliflower, black beans, smoked salmon, chipotle lime goat cheese, sweet potato pancake with black beans
  • D: Belmont vegetable crepe with ratatouille filling (eggplant, onion, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash), goat cheese, kale, buckwheat crepe // salted caramel brownie with vanilla creme anglaise, strawberry ice cream, strawberries, gluten-free carrot cake with blueberries, whipped cream, orange glaze

 

Seline and I had a bit more cleaning to do, and we were all done with the apartment. Here it is:

 

We finished cleaning, had an EXCELLENT first day of school (with yummy lunch eaten in the sun), and I celebrated with a giant chocolate chip cookie. I actually got this massive chewy cookie from Proof Kitchen for free as part of my lunch (how sweet is that deal?!), and it was delicious after popping it into the microwave for about 35 secs. Chewy, crisp around the edges, buttery, and exploding with chocolate. Served with a glass of milk.

 

That’s it for today!

A bunch of random things before we end of…

 

Bye!

Brackley Beach

I can’t believe we’re already a week into August. This summer is going by so quickly! Last week, my sister and I revisited Brakish, where I enjoyed the arugula salad with feta, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, cucumber, tomato, raw broccoli, barbecued Atlantic salmon, and raspberry vinaigrette. It’s such a fresh, flavourful, delicious salad, and I’m glad I ordered it again. The salmon was perfectly cooked.

There was some salad left over, so I ate it for lunch the next day, alongside a banana-oat muffin smeared with peanut butter, some blackberries, and delicious sweet and salty trail mix. My favourite parts of trail mix are always the cashews and pecans.

Seline and I were so lucky, because we had the opportunity to go to Prince Edward Island’s beautiful Brackley Beach. Brackley is about fifteen minutes from Charlottetown, and “offers miles of pristine sandy beaches and majestic dunes with various nearby attractions to enthrall all guests to the region“. Seline and I enjoyed wading in the water, reading in the sand, and biking around the area.

For dinner, we biked to the Dunes Studio and Gallery, where Seline had lamb shank in Massaman curry, veggies, and rice. I had two appetizers – one massive seafood chowder with chives, and an incredible cashew pesto flatbread with caramelized apples, brie, vodka-infused cranberries, and scallions (incredible). I also ate so much of their daily bread, which was studded with chillies, cheddar, and chives. It tasted perfect when dunked into the creamy broth.

For dessert, we shared the strawberry shortcake and their daily special, the sticky date pudding. The macerated strawberries tasted awesome with whipped cream and biscuit, and as usual, the sticky date pudding was to die for. It was lovely served alongside fresh vanilla ice cream and berries.

Some things:

  1. Looking at the Dunes menu before going – Seline had the third option, the lamb shank
  2. PEI schedule
  3. List of requirements for a cool scholarship that Seline found

Few more things…

  1. I made a virtual poster for the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children
  2. List of things to do in New Glasgow, another area of PEI. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to go
  3. Thank-you letter for our landlord

Our beautiful PEI home. Goodbye, lovely house on North River.

Seline and I have an obsession with Leonhard’s Cafe and Restaurant. I normally eat their salmon and avocado eggs benedict, which is absolutely delicious, but since we went later in the afternoon yesterday, I felt like something more lunch-y. I ordered the beet and goat cheese tart, which was topped with candied pecans. This is the most delicious tart I’ve ever eaten.

A completely different note – Sal and I love Small Print Board Game Cafe. Our favourite games are kind of lame: Quoridor, Guess Who Disney Edition (!!), something about funding the expeditions, Word on the Street, and Last Word.

Another day, Seline and I went to Piatto Pizzeria. It reminds me of Famoso Pizzeria in Waterloo, which I’ve been to quite a few times. I think I still like Famoso’s pizzas better, because they are more generous with their toppings. At Piatto, I ordered the arugula salad with gorgonzola, candied pecans, dried cranberries, and balsamic. In terms of pizza, Seline had the barbecue chicken pizza with caramelized onions, and I liked my goat cheese, proscuitto, and pear pizza. It was on the salty side, with the goat cheese and proscuitto, so I wish there was more sweet pear.

For dessert, Sal had vanilla bean ice cream, and I had a mason jar of creamy, flavourful tiramisu.

Another evening, Sal and I dined at the Pilot House. It’s one of our favourite PEI places. This time, she had the chicken gnocchi, and I ate the warm Cajun seafood salad again.

Pear and cream cheese pie with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream for dessert. This pie was great, but I’m not a big pie fan.

Yesterday afternoon, Seline and I went to COWS Creamery for our last dose of delicious Charlottetown ice cream. Seline had a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of chocolate, and I enjoyed my Cow-nadian Moo-ple ice cream (maple with swirls of syrup and crushed maple cookies) and pumpkin patch.

One of my favourite lunches was from Mavor’s Restaurant, where I ordered an award-winning grilled cheese sandwich. It was smeared with pear compote and stuffed with ricotta, cheddar, Gouda, and bacon. The bread was also a superstar – it was potato rosemary bread with plenty of butter. I loved this lunch, as well as the little side salad.

For dessert after lunch, Sal and I shared the chocolate lava cake with two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Dinner from Lobster on the Wharf – I had the seafood pot pie with green beans and boiled new baby potatoes with butter and sour cream. Seline had their striploin with mushrooms and onions, plus coleslaw. I also had a lemon-poppyseed salad, which was a little boring.

Dessert was amazing. I’m a huge carrot cake fan, but don’t find good carrot cake very often because I’m a cream cheese icing snob. The cream cheese icing has to be perfect! And this one was. The cake was actually served warm, with the creamy, cheesy icing slightly melted. YUM!

Last but not least, a peaceful lunch at the office, starring peanut butter and banana, croissant, a banana-oat muffin, yogurt, more peanut butter, blackberries, and awesome trail mix.

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Seline and I are flying back to Vancouver (actually, Toronto first, then Vancouver – we have a one-hour layover) TOMORROW! We loved our time in C-town but are excited to come home, too.

A Food-Filled Weekend Getaway

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I train at C!RCA in Brisbane, which is located on the third floor of a contemporary arts and dance centre. It is a beautiful place, and I’m so honoured to train in the same space as world-famous acrobats.

Good morning! Hope you are all having a spectacular week so far.

 

It is now Tuesday, and I spent the morning in class, then meal-prepping. I made a massive, hearty vegetable stir-fry, and ate it with some random protein from the fridge (a cheesy omelet and falafel). Now, for some blogging before I start studying.

Last night, I went to aerials as usual. I’m currently working on a post for my Schulich Foundation media page on my journey with aerial straps.

But more importantly:

my friend and I spent the weekend at Byron Bay!

I mentioned this on a previous post, but my friend – Grace – and I planned a weekend getaway to Byron Bay, which is approximately two and a half hours from Brisbane. On Friday morning, I enjoyed a delicious homemade chai latte, some yogurt with nuts and banana bread, then packed up my backpack and a gym bag. Next, I cleaned up my room and the bathroom. I love coming home from a trip to a clean, cozy place.

Before I knew it, we were on the shuttle bus on our way to Byron!

Our hostel was the Byron Bay Beach Hostel, which was located conveniently in the city centre. We were fortunate to receive a free upgrade, and ended up with our own bathroom and a queen bed (as opposed to two twin beds and a shared bathroom for the entire floor).

This was my first time staying at a real hostel, and I was very pleasantly surprised. 🙂

After dropping off our things, we headed for lunch at Balcony, an oyster bar. I ordered the three-cheese crab mac and cheese, which was topped with garlicky breadcrumbs and plenty of hearty crab. I loved this meal! You guys know that I love anything served on a sizzling skillet. Our lunch was almost as good as our conversation. Grace is super easy to talk to!

After that, we spent Friday afternoon at Main Beach.

That night, there were two minor disappointments:

  1. There was a major power outage that hit Byron Bay just as we were leaving our dinner restaurant. We ended up walking home in the dark, without streetlights, and sitting around in the hostel without electricity. That night, fortunately, the power came back – and you could hear the cheers of everyone out on the beach town.
  2. Our snorkelling tour was cancelled due to the windy conditions. The water would be too choppy for snorkelling. I was so sad about this! Y’all know from my bucket list that I’ve always, always wanted to go snorkelling or scuba diving.

On the bright side, dinner was exquisite. We went to Treehouse, a twenty-five minute walk from the hostel. The venue was stylized to look like a treehouse, and musicians were performing live music. The atmosphere was truly unique, and I was elated to have had the opportunity to try their renowned pizza. The caramelized onions on top were my favourite part! Dessert, similarly, was divine – definitely one of the Top Five desserts I’ve ever eaten in my life.

  • 1/2 thin-crust pizza with béchamel sauce, garlic, caramelized onions, portobello mushrooms, basil, brie
  • 1/2 caprese salad with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella
  • sticky date pudding topped with chocolate chunks, with homemade vanilla gelato

 

The next day was Saturday, and we were up early for kayaking. Our river kayaking trip was led by two experienced kayakers and nature lovers, who came to pick us up from the Byron Bay visitor centre (close to the hostel). We spent the morning on the water, watching the sun rise, and enjoying the company of Aussie wildlife. I particularly liked learning about the Aboriginal history of this region. It was also refreshing to meet other travellers: a pair from the UK, a group of friends from Sydney, and a new-to-Byron couple.

Thanks to all the excitement of kayaking, my stomach wanted some food! Fortunately, we stopped at a cafe, where we were treated to drinks. I ordered a chai latte (deliciously peppery, made with milk and honey) before we headed back to the city.

For brunch, Grace and I hit up Bayleaf Cafe, a consistent and well-known breakfast/lunch place. They are famous for their meals, which straddle the line between breakfast and lunch.

  • 1/2 mango, banana, berry, acai, coconut cream smoothie
  • sweet potato flatbread topped with kale, roasted beets and carrots, cauliflower puree, 2 garlic fried eggs

Is it breakfast? Is it lunch? Mysteries.

Since our snorkelling trip was cancelled, we had plenty of time to explore. We walked to a number of places, including Tallows Beach, Captain Cook’s Lookout, Fisherman’s Lookout, and more. It was absolutely mesmerizing to watch the crystal-blue waves crash into the rocks, and see the ant-sized surfers ride the waves below. I could’ve stayed here for ages, enjoying the sunshine and warm breeze.

Also, I’m grateful for the selfie stick that Dad bought for me before I came to Australia! It might’ve looked silly, but it sure came in handy.

Next up, we walked over to the lighthouse. The lighthouse of Byron Bay is an absolute must-visit – you can’t come to Byron without walking over to the lighthouse. The lighthouse trail led us to a secluded beach called Little Watego’s Beach, and we also stood at the most easterly point of Australian mainland. That was awesome! And probably the closest I will be to my family for the next few months. :’)

I. Love. Sunsets.

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Another afternoon, another disappointment! I got a phone call that night (and an email shortly after) – our hot air ballooning trip was also cancelled. I was devastated about this, because, well… who doesn’t want to go on a hot air balloon?!

Luckily, we got the refund, but I’d rather be floating over Australia. Funny enough, this is the third time that I’ve planned to go on a hot air balloon. Once in Nepal, again in Cambodia, and now. All three times, it’s been cancelled due to inappropriate weather conditions. Is the universe telling me something?!

Dinner, however, was NOT a disappointment! In fact, it was the dead opposite of a disappointment. It was glorious. I made the reservation for St. Elmo’s Bar and Restaurant, which is known for Spanish tapas.

Grace and I shared the following.

  • seared scallops, charred leek and preserved lemon puree, romesco sauce, migas (I’m a big fan of scallops and loved the flavours, textures, and presentation of this dish.)
  • fried potatoes, salsa brava, garlic aioli, smoked paprika salt (had I been dining alone, I would’ve never ordered the potatoes. I’m glad we did, however, because they were hands-down some of the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted. Flavourful but not salty, these slightly-spicy, garlicky, rich potatoes were unforgettable.)
  • seared local cuttlefish, kipfler potato, olives, orange, mint, smoked paprika, saffron aioli (not a calamari fan, but these were quite soft and tender.)
  • slow-cooked lamb, butter-braised asparagus, homemade Greek yogurt sauce, pistachio dukkah (I haven’t had lamb for ages, but this melt-in-your-mouth dish tasted amazing with St. Elmo’s homemade labneh and contrasted with the crunchy pistachios.)

Finally, dessert:

  • hazelnut chocolate custard tart, vanilla crema catalan sauce, strawberry mousse, crispy hazelnut praline (ate this myself and loved each bite. Would 100% recommend, and order again!)

Before we knew it, it was already time to head back to Brisbane. We slept in (had three and a half hours of sleep the night before!) and had a lazy walk around the shops before settling on Dip Cafe for brunch.

I made quite a few substitutions on the Big Vegetarian Breakfast for an incredible customized brekkie. The smoked salmon was unbelievably tender, and the roast pumpkin extra flavourful. I also loved the creamy ricotta on organic sourdough toast, which was sprinkled with a generous amount of pecans and honey.

  • 1 chai tea latte with milk and honey (the best yet!)
  • 1 large breakfast plate with 3 (?) scrambled eggs, 2 pieces halloumi, smoked salmon, 2 pieces organic sourdough topped with ricotta, pecans, and honey, spiced baked beans, arugula with tomato salsa, roast pumpkins and roast tomatoes with wilted spinach
  • 1 scoop Nutella and peanut butter gelato (unpictured)

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Time to head back home! I fell asleep on the bus on the way back to Brisbane. Despite being the Commonwealth Games, our shuttle bus made it back on schedule.

Before coming to Australia, I never followed the Commonwealth Games. I don’t watch all the events, but follow my favourite athletes, including female Canadian artistic gymnasts. I was thrilled to find out about Daley and Goodfellow’s Commonwealth gold. With his outspoken nature, particularly towards athletic diversity and LGBT+ rights, Tom Daley is easily one of my favourite athletes.

Last night, I headed to a restaurant for dinner since I didn’t want to cook. I finally got to check Mu’ooz off of my restaurant bucket list. Mu’ooz is an Eritrean restaurant and social enterprise. As you may know, I adore supporting restaurants and spas with a good cause. I think it’s essential to support people by providing skills, rather than money – it’s more sustainable.

👆 I could write a dissertation on this.

Anyways! I devoured this meal, which was so spicy that I cried (I’m the world’s biggest spice wimp). The dessert was memorable: crispy freshly-fried Ethiopian donuts made with soy milk, flour, and sugar, with a hint of orange, topped with vanilla ice cream. More ice cream would’ve made this even better, but I was full and satisfied. 🙂

  • spicy Eritrean mushroom and red/green bell pepper stew, 2 large pieces sourdough injera, mixed green salad
  • 4 crispy African donuts, 1 scoop vanilla ice cream

I wish you a delicious rest of the week!

#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.

✧ Lately ✧

Does anyone have a cool human body project idea?

A walk back home, taking the scenic route. What an interesting place, right? In my opinion, this doesn’t even look like Canada.

A trip to the library = six new (to me) books. I. Can’t. Wait.

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Deliciousness in the form of Thai green curry and biryani rice.

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Vegetable Biryani

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 small squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 large carrots, quartered and cut into 5-cm  segments
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • S+P
  • 2 cups yellow onion
  • 1 chopped jalapeno
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp golden raisins or currants
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Toss squash, carrots, and bell pepper with 2 tbsp oil, curry powder, and salt.
  2. Roast vegetables until tender when pierced, 20-25 mins.
  3. Warm 2 tbsp oil over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeño, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and cumin. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions begin to brown, 6 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and ginger. Cook until aromatic, 1 minute.
  5. Stir in rice. Cook 1 minute.
  6. Add broth, raisins, and turmeric. Simmer.
  7. Reduce heat to low. Cover. Simmer gently until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 10-12 mins.
  8. Remove from heat. Keep covered until vegetables have finished roasting.
  9. Fold in roasted vegetables and cashews. Season with S+P. Serve.

I went for the most enjoyable walk on Monday evening.

The beach at East Point Park was quite nice. I’m looking forward to a jaunt to Guild Park soon!

Who knew Scarborough could be so pretty?

The sunshine and superb blue skies made a huge difference. This walk really brightened by day, literally and figuratively.

Another day-brightener: I had pizza twice. One slice was ricotta and olive, the other was poached pear with ham and brie. Completely in love with both.

2018 Winter Olympics! Did they come fast or what? The Olympics make me realize that the years go by FAST. I’m looking forward to figure skating! Also, I finished reading the Maze Runner, and now I’ll have to see the movie 🎥

Tonight, I had chili! Topped with cheddar and lime – the best.

Healthy Pumpkin Chili

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup broth
  • 1 large chopped white onion
  • sprinkle garlic powder
  • 2 chopped bell peppers
  • 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup broth
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper
  • 1 lime
  • desired toppings

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic powder until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the bell peppers, cook another 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, beans, pumpkin, broth and spices (excluding the lime until the end). Stir until well combined.
  3. Bring to a slight boil, turn down heat and cover to let simmer about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Turn off heat and stir in the fresh lime juice.
  5. Serve with your favorite spices and toppings.

Have a glorious rest of the week, everyone!

Charcoal Waffles ♡_♡

Mmmm, pizza. It’s been a while since I’ve had truly, truly amazing pizza and this one from Lamanna’s, an Italian bakery and hot table in Scarborough, did not disappoint. Smothered in provolone and mushrooms, the toppings were simple and tasty – but the crust, charred to perfection, was my favourite part.

Dessert? Large gelato with a scoop of pistachio and a scoop of hazelnut (check out that size compared to the little gelato spoon and my water bottle!) – followed by an unpictured lobster tail cream pastry. Talk about an amazing lunch!

Another day, I had lunch at Light Cafe in downtown Toronto, a chic and modern new spot in Baldwin Village.

The truffled mushroom croissant is their specialty, loaded with creamy truffle mayonnaise, sliced tomato, shiitake mushrooms, and lettuce. The croissant was toasted and tasted fresh. Salad was dressed in sesame, and had plenty of fresh tomatoes inside.

The soup was another highlight: rich, creamy, savoury Lobster Bisque!

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For dessert, I had to order the famous Light Cafe dish – black sesame waffles. There were four heart-shaped black sesame waffles, made with charcoal for that incredible colour, a little vial of rich sesame syrup, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a scoop of black sesame ice cream. All of it was devoured. 😇

Waffles with ice cream is hands-down one of my favourite desserts of all time, and bonus points for special-flavoured waffles like ube (purple yam, specialty of the Philippines), black sesame, or red bean.

This is one of my favourite photographs from my trip downtown. I love how 50% of it is that urban traffic look with trees in the back, and the other half is a pretty lake with trees, and apartments in the back. The contrast is cool!

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The reason for my Toronto trip? Stock. Up. On. Muffins. Since I don’t go downtown very often, and I won’t be going often anymore since it’s starting to get chilly, I bought plenty of muffins, chopped ’em into thirds or quarters, and stashed them in the freezer. These are some of the muffins I remember:

  • blueberry streusel
  • blueberry bran
  • plain blueberry
  • blueberry scone
  • lemon poppyseed
  • carrot
  • banana chocolate chip
  • mixed berry and oat
  • cornmeal
  • lemon currant scone
  • ginger scone

There were definitely more, but that’s all for the ones I can recall. 😎 Apparently, I seem to like muffins a lot?

Excitement. In the form of a delicious plate of coconut Thai green curry with broccoli, mushrooms, onion, and carrots – and in the form of a new book. Sci-fi isn’t really my genre, but this one, RUSH by Eve Silver, had me intrigued all the way through.

A trip to the library meant I took lots more snapshots of the books that are on my to-be-read list. I can’t wait to take these out and see if they’re good.

On Mid-Autumn Festival, which is like Chinese Thanksgiving, I had an incredible meal at a buffet called Dragon’s Pearl, with friends of my grandfather. I. Love. Buffets. So what did I enjoy this time?

  • yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes and gravy
  • steamed ginger and scallion fish
  • Japanese sweet egg, bean curd sushi, other assorted sushi
  • stir-fried vegetables, crispy stir-fried noodles
  • peking duck on a flatbread, with sweet and sour sauce and cucumber
  • creamy crab salad
  • crispy shrimp cakes
  • garlic mussels
  • grilled salmon and plaintains

Dessert was just as delicious.

  • tiramisu
  • green tea cake
  • sweet sesame mochi ball (favourite)
  • regular cheesecake
  • unsweetened cheesecake
  • bread pudding with golden raisins, whipped cream on top (#2 favourite)
  • English trifle
  • kiwi custard tart

Do you like buffets? I’m a sucker for variety, so I adore buffets!

One morning, I had some quiet time to myself in the office so I started designing a new poster for the Integumentary System, which is the system about human skin, hair, and nails.

Totally random note here. This is such a beautiful logo! I like graphic design a lot and want to learn more about designing lettering.

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Speaking of graphic design, I’m creating a PDF doc of Anatomy-related study tips. The entire study guide is written out now, but I’m figuring out how I’d like to design the other pages. What do you think?

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That’s pretty much it for today, guys. Hope you all have the most wonderful rest of the week. 🙂