December is by far one of my favourite months in the year. Reflecting back, I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is dealing with change – something that is irrevocably tied with the uncertainty of the future.
Most people tend to dislike change, understandably. It’s uncomfortable. It makes what was once familiar no longer, and our perception of the future ambiguous. But lately, I’ve come to the realization that change can be good. It’s uncomfortable at first because it was nice to have latched onto something for so long that when it’s gone, it creates a sense of emptiness. But in reality, that disappearance or shift isn’t a bad thing. It’s just different. And that notion of something being different initially sets off alarms in our brains, signaling it as negative. But it’s not. Things have just changed, and maybe for the better. It may take a bit of time to get used to, but eventually, it will. And once it does, everything will be even better than it was before.
And sometimes it’s nice to just take a breather and get away for a little. I did a small road trip to Montreal this past weekend ad had a great time exploring this new city, trying new things, and eating different foods.
With that being said and in spirit of the holiday season, these are a few of my favourite things that I’ve come across this month (in Toronto and Montreal)
Notorious G.R.E from IQ: This smoothie tastes as good as it is for your body. It’s made of spinach, kale, cucumber, parsley, celery, lemon juice, chia, coconut water and pineapple. For those who don’t usually like greens in their drinks, the tropical fruits in this mix perfectly balance and hide the more bitter taste of the greens.
Soy dark hot chocolate from Marche: The hot chocolate here is made with real blocks of dark cocoa. I get it with soy milk, as it nicely balances the sweet and bitter tones of the cocoa, creating the perfect cup of dark hot chocolate.
Chai latte with soy from Mos Mos: As you may or may not already know from previous posts, I am a big, big fan of Mos Mos in the Path. I recently tried their chai latte with soy milk, and would definitely add it to my list of must-try drinks from this place.
Latté from Strange Love: this is a lovely cozy café near the intersection of King and Spadina. I recently went there to get an almond milk latté and stayed much longer in their seating area than anticipated. It’s a great spot to hideaway from the cold; will be back to try some specialty drinks on their menu.
Artichokes from Buca: I recently went to the Yorkville location, and was overall quite impressed with the food and service of this Italian restaurant. In particular, I loved the crisp artichokes. They were fried to perfection, and carried a sweet taste from the prosciutto san daniele, saba, and parmigiano reggiano. I also strongly recommend the black cod, which was cooked so well it literally melted on my tongue like sweet butter.
Raw espresso cacao bar from Crave: This was the most amazing vegan brownie I’ve ever had. It has a bold, rich flavor from the espresso and cacao with a subtle nutty taste. Definitely makes for a good pick-me-up mid-afternoon!
Gingerbread cupcake from Prairie Girl Cupcakes: This beloved cupcake shop in the Path makes great cupcakes to start with, and their gingerbread holiday version is spectacular. The batter carries just the right amount of spice, and the topping is sweet and rich – paired together, they create the most delightful festive treat.
Good Thins, the beet one: these crispy air-like crackers are crimson in colour, with a strong savoury beet taste. Quite unique to other crackers on the shelves, I’d recommend giving this flavour a try!
Da Geppetto – Casoncelli ai Funghi Porcini: This beautiful new restaurant on Temperence makes some of the most wonderful Italian dishes in Toronto. I highly recommend trying the handmade Casoncelli filled with porcini and ricotta, butter, sage, and topped with parmigiano sauce and black truffle shavings. The pasta itself is cooked al dente and the filling is buttery and rich; make sure to save room for dessert though – the mini Nutella bombes are also delicious.
Montreal eat picks: Schwartz deli meat
Since the 1920’s, Schwartz has been making phenomenal smoked meat in Montreal. Their sandwiches are piled high with layers and layers of delectable deli meat, and the texture of these layers combined with the smoked flavour is absolutely remarkable. The restaurant itself is quite small and reminded me of the famous pizza place in Naples- always bustling and crowded even at two in the afternoon. However busy, making a stop here is a must when visiting Montreal. Their poutine and coleslaw are also amazing and worth a try while you’re here.
St. Viator bagels
One of the oldest places making authentic Montreal style bagels, St. Viator makes all sorts including my favourites, rosemary & salt and all-dressed. I recommend visiting the Mont-Royal location as there is a café seating area serving bagel sandwiches such as smoked meat and BLT. If you do visit, order along with your bagel a Colombian French-pressed coffee, which carries an impressively aromatic tropical citrus taste.
Things to do:
Four seasons spa: Nothing compares to this spa experience, especially in the deadpan of winter when the weather outside is dreadfully freezing. I got the aromatherapy relaxation massage using lavender oil; not only was the aroma heavenly but the massage itself was incredible, perfectly targeting all the tense areas. The facilities are also luxurious, clean, and the service highly attentive.
Second city – The Good the bad & the ugly sweater: I am a big fan of Second City, and their holiday special show was absolutely hilarious. The sketches exaggerate the situations we often find ourselves in during the holiday, yet remain highly relatable. Definitely worth watching for a good laugh! Fun fact: the star of Heartland got cold-called up to the stage as an audience guest during the show that I attended.
ROM FNL: I love visiting museums, and the Friday Night Live experience at the ROM takes it to the next level. Drinks and finger foods are available for purchase as guests wander around; the grand hall is also converted to a dance floor. Definitely a fun way to explore and learn (or not) about all the different exhibits! I went while the Christian Dior exhibit was playing, which showcases many of the designer’s stunning pieces.