December favourites pt. 2

I know, I know; I already wrote a December favourites post. But I’ve encountered such a number of wonderful products and activities since that I thought I would mention them in a part two. For Christmas this year, my family went to Horseshoe Valley in Barrie to do some skiing/snowboarding and to enjoy the spa facilities (and use up our remaining RMT benefits for the year.) It’s such a great time to get together with the family despite the cold weather… although I am also quite excited to escape to Cuba for the next few days.

Hope you are all enjoying your holidays! At the bottom is also a short list of the things that I would like to try in the new year (mostly restaurants haha).

Food:

Christmas buffet at Horseshoe Resort: This amazing buffet only happens once a year at Horsehoe; it’s $55 per person and well worth the price. There is a massive assortment of seafood such as smoked salmon, mackerel, trout, oysters, and a large variety of hot dishes including carved roast beef, butternut squash ravioli, turkey, and roasted root vegetables. The dessert spread is just as elaborate, featuring housemade sticky toffee pudding, cherries jubilee flambé over vanilla ice cream, crème brulee, and cheesecake. This is definitely a Christmas buffet worth trying. I know for a fact that a dinner spread as decadent as this could not be found for the same price in Toronto.

Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy chocolate fudge brownie: What a time to be alive, my vegan and lactose-intolerant friends – this amazing ice cream is made with almond milk and is nothing short of phenomenal. There is a strong aroma from the almonds, and the pint is loaded with lots and lots of gooey brownie bites. Finally a decadent alternative to the typical sorbet served as the non-dairy option.

Apple tempura from Ichiban Fish House: This is one of my family’s favourite places for sushi in Richmond Hill; we often order a medium sushi boat and side vegetable tempura to share. What’s special about Ichiban’s tempura is the type of vegetables they fry, which includes juicy shimeji mushrooms, asparagus, and even apples.

Activities

Horseshoe Resort Spa: I recently got an RMT at this spa and quite enjoyed my experience; the masseuse was well-knowledgeable and used heat pads and a remote reclining chair as part of the experience. Any spa services also include access to the pool, hot tub, and sauna.

Shopping at First Canadian Place (FCP): I never realized until recently how great the shops were in First Canadian Place; there’s a Drake General Store, Indigo, M Boutique, Papyrus, and many, many more. It makes it quite convenient to do some quick gift shopping on the weekdays since FCP is centrally located within the Path. I scored some great last-minute deals at Indigo and the Drake General Store.

Vinyasa Flow at Yoga Tree: I highly enjoyed Yoga Tree’s vinyasa yoga – an active, flowing class that helps improve strength and flexibility. What’s different about this class is that students place their mats in two horizontal lines facing each other rather than towards the mirror, creating a harmonious sense of unity within everyone in attendance.

Things I would like to try in the new year (in no particular order):

  • General Assembly Pizza
  • Assembly Chef’s Hall
  • Byblos
  • Make my own ravioli (with butternut squash stuffing??)
  • Mitzi’s café for brunch
  • Get pasta at that little Italian stand at St. Lawrence Market
  • Buca in King West
  • Try a Pilates class
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October favourites

October was a busy month for me, and a month of change. I wrapped up my first case of my first full-time job, and officially graduated from university (woo!)

Here are some of my favourites that I’ve come across this fall month.

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DRINK PICKS

  • Jimmy’s Coffee chili dark hot chocolate: This creamy dark hot chocolate has a nice (mild) hint of spice, perfect for the cold weather. Jimmy’s coffee on Portland and King is also quite a cozy spot to tuck away during this rainy season.
  • Rise ginger kombucha: This fizzy drink is a great afternoon pick-me-up, carrying a nice kick from the ginger and a strong sparkle as well.
  • Kupfert and Kim cappuccino with coconut milk (& maple syrup): Coconut milk complements coffee incredibly – and paired together with some maple syrup, makes for one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had.

FITNESS PICKS

  • Yoga Tree’s Flow in the six: Most yoga classes play soothing, wordless music in the background (which is nice) but what’s even better is the Flow in the six class at Yoga Tree, where Drake songs are played all throughout class. There’s just something about doing a chaturanga to rap that I find quite satisfying.
  • Yride at YYoga: I tried the spin class at this yoga-focused studio for the first time, and was quite happy with my experience. Picture a more cheerful hippie version of Soul Cycle.

FOOD PICKS

  • Hello 123: This new vegan bar, which recently opened on Queen St W, is created by the same people behind Kupfert and Kim – and it’s absolutely amazing. I had the charred cabbage and ceasar, which was seared to perfection alongside some sunflower seed croutons. The cocktails here are also super strong.
  • Impact Kitchen Mineral bowl: The power bowls here are locally sourced and come in a variety of different flavours. My “Mineral bowl” had kimchi, soft-boiled eggs, kale, sesame tossed kelp noodles, and radish. This is a great spot to get a healthy lunch on the east side of Toronto.
  • Planta restaurant: I loved everything about this restaurant from the beautiful decor to the amazing food and the friendly service. I got the Moroccan salad and iced coffee with coconut milk, and they were both absolutely delicious. I can definitely see myself coming back to try some of their other dishes.
  • Taco farm tortilla chips: I tried these for the first time from the Kitchener Farmer market (although Taco farm has its own brick-and-mortar location in Waterloo too), and their tortilla chips were absolutely amazing. It’s made with only three ingredients (oil, corn flour, and salt), yet has a great taste and crunch.
  • Nadege champagne macaron: A small macaron jam-packed with the fragrant taste of champagne – basically your favourite celebration drink in the form of a tiny dessert.

MASSAGE (RMT) PICKS

  • H20 Float: I’ve heard so many things about hydro float therapy (good and bad) that it was about time that I tried it out for myself. Essentially, you float in a pool of super salty water (either in a closed pod or open-concept tub), where your body floats effortlessly to release any tension, pain, or anxiety. I did the 1-hour session and my body felt surprisingly relieved and my skin extraordinarily soft afterwards. It was also so relaxing that I fell asleep halfway through my float. I loved my whole experience and the facility (super clean, professional); I would recommend others to try this at least once.
  • Step up massage: This massage center is no-frills and quite low-key (located next to a Burrito Boys on Adelaide) but delivered a great RMT. The service was professional, and the oils and hot towels used throughout the session provided a great experience that I would recommend to others looking for a massage place downtown.

Best Foods in Toronto

One of the things that I appreciate most about Toronto is the diversity of foods available. From Thai to Cuban, I can probably do a world food tour in this one city. I used to have a “one time restaurant” rule, where I would try to go to a restaurant only once so that I could try more places. However, I’ve recently found myself wanting to return to some restaurants in Toronto, just because of the great food and service, and I’ll know what to expect walking in. Here’s a list of some of my favourite places to eat around the city and what to order.

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BRUNCH

  • La Cubana: This Cuban diner offers a refreshing cultural take on the classic idea of brunch, serving Cuban sandwiches, rice dishes, and smashed plantains for a deliciously hearty meal.
  • Maha’s Fine Egyptian Cuisine: The wait line for this popular brunch spot tends to be ridiculously long, especially on weekends, yet still justified by the amazing (and value) Egyptian dishes. The food is as colourful as it is delicious.
  • Saving Grace: This homey restaurant is the Saturday morning spot to get a good home-cooked brunch in a warm, cozy setting. They have daily features as well as classic morning staples, including banana pancakes, French toast, and egg scrambles.
  • Starving Artist: Everything at this joint is served on waffles, whether it be eggs benedict on miniature waffles or bacon sandwiched inside a warm square waffle. The creative dishes here combine unconventional flavours, yet still turn out delicious.

 

MEAT/SEAFOOD:

  • Jacob’s Steakhouse: Renowned for its steak, Jacob’s has an impressive range of cuts available, and the chef here is sure to cook the steak exactly the way it’s been requested. Their Caesar salad also makes for a great starter, and it’s prepared table side.
  • Trattoria Nervosa’s Capensate: Four juicy seared scallops are served on top of a chickpea puree and kale salad, dressed with an artichoke vinaigrette and sprinkled with pistachios. The large scallops are cooked perfectly and their taste contrasts nicely with the earthy complements.

 

NOODLE & RICE DISHES

  • Gusto 101’s Mafalde ai Funghi: This complicated-sounding pasta features portobello, porcini, crimini, oyster mushrooms, parmigiano, truffle paste, and a light cream sauce. It’s rich and creamy, and although it did have a strong fungi taste, it wasn’t overwhelming.
  • Mama’s Dumplings: This unassuming restaurant in Chinatown makes the best fresh handmade noodles and dumplings. Try the beef noodle soup and veggie dumplings.
  • Momofuku Daishō Rice Cakes: Their rice cakes are pan fried, forming a crispy exterior while remaining soft and chewy on the inside. They’re mixed together with spicy pork sausage, Chinese broccoli, and tofu.
  • Pai’s Khao Soi: Khao Soi is my favourite Thai dish, ever. It’s a thick curry-based soup with egg noodles and meat, topped with more crispy egg noodles. I also recommend trying the squash fritters and Thai milk iced tea at this restaurant.

 

SALADS:

  • Lee’s Singaporean Style Slaw: This massive salad features 19 different ingredients; the flavours are explosive and complicated, yet work delightfully well together.
  • Piano Piano’s Chopped Salad: This salad is made of many different ingredients but still maintains a good flavour balance; it consists of of salami, olives, feta, brussel sprouts, oregano, crisp polenta, and dandelions.

 

SUSHI

  • Jabistro torched sushi: The torched sushi here is done perfectly; Jabistro’s fish is extremely fresh and contrasts well with the slight seared taste.
  • Japango Butterfish Sushi: True to its name, the butterfish is so fresh it literally melts on your tongue like butter.
  • Miku torched sushi: This restaurant by the waterfront is famous for its torched sushi. I would recommend getting the Miku set course dinner to celebrate a special occasion; it’s pricier but worth it for what you get.

 

SWEETS

  • Bang Bang Ice Cream: The cookies and ice cream here are made in-store, and feature fun, creative flavours like London Fog and burnt toffee. I recommend getting an ice cream cookie sandwich so you get to try both the cookies and the ice cream here!
  • Canoe’s Butter Tart: The ‘deconstructed’ presentation of the butter tart here is a creative twist on the classic favourite, and the view from this upscale restaurant isn’t half bad either.
  • Emma’s Country Kitchen Donuts: This homey brunch spot features creative weekly specials for donuts, with flavours from maple bacon to lemon meringue.

 

TACOS:

  • El Catrin: This eccentric restaurant in the Distillery District makes the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. The cod is lightly battered, crispy, and oozes with fresh fish on the inside. El Catrin also features the option to add fried crickets in an order of guacamole; I’ve never tried it… but hey, maybe one day.
  • Seven Lives: This iconic spot in Kensington Market serves some of the best tacos in the city, as demonstrated by its wait line that always seems to be trailing out the door. I recommend trying the Gobernador and Baja fish taco.

 

VEGAN:

  • Doomie’s: This “vegan junk food heaven” serves burgers, fries, poutine, and even delicious deep fried mac & cheese balls.
  • Fresh Restaurant’s Quinoa Onion Rings: These humongous onion rings are coated with quinoa and battered to a deep golden perfection.
  • Kupfert & Kim: I’m not vegan, but I enjoy going to Kupfert & Kim quite regularly. Their salad boxes are filling, tasty, and pair nicely with kombucha.