• [Food Post] Tsujiri Toronto

    Tsujiri Toronto's first North American outpost opened earlier this week near Bay and Dundas amid much fanfare. This is their first foray into a market outside Asia, but they are planning on expanding to other cities in North America in the future. I had the pleasure of getting a sneak peek of some of the products that Tsujiri Toronto has to offer a day before its soft opening, and got the chance to chat with one of the managers, Tylor Shek.

  • [Food Post] Nordstrom Eaton Centre Opening Gala featuring Daniel et Daniel

    The gala opening epitomizes what Nordstrom is all about - great customer service and consistency of the brand. Hence why they partnered with Daniel et Daniel to be the official caterer of the Nordstrom Opening Gala, as both companies share the same ideals and business ethics.

  • [Food Post] Waterloo Food Tour

    The Region of Waterloo is home to many regions that inspire start-ups (such as Thalmic Labs), housing, and of course many restaurants. The Region is developing and propelling a movement alike many urban areas, by bringing innovative ideas and talented people together, whilst keeping the scenic and spacious rural landscape. Andrew Coppolino of www.waterlooregioneats.com (@WatRegionEats on Twitter) gave us a tour on behalf of Waterloo Region Tourism, with 4 set destinations in mind for the day.

  • [Food Post] Ebisu on Queen / Ebisu Toronto

    Ebisu Japanese Restaurant originated from Vancouver, as its first location opened in December of 2006. There are two locations in Vancouver and one in Richmond, along with two restaurants under the Kamei names. The brand itself is very well-known in Vancouver, and they hope to expand it in Toronto with this new outpost.

  • [Food Post] Dave and Buster's Oakville Grand Opening

    However, over the last two decades, much has changed, including the demise of arcade and game centers due the emergence of mobile phones and Netflix. The health movement over the last six years has also made Dave and Buster's traditional burger and fries menu far less appealing than what it was. With that being said, they have changed their food menu, and the options are now more diverse. The menu is rather extensive with items like shareable appetizers, side salads, beef steaks and ribs, pasta, sandwiches, and so much more.

  • [Food Post] Morals Village Mississauga

    Morals Village is a hot pot restaurant chain with over 600 locations in China. They opened their first Canadian location in 2015, and has since grown at a relatively rapid pace. About 1.5 weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Morals Village Mississauga Grand Opening Event. The Mississauga location is their 5th Canadian location, and they have plans to open another in Ottawa. With that being said, Morals Village prides themselves in providing top-notch quality and Szechuan cuisine influenced flavour with their hot pot offering.

  • [Event] The Royal Dinner with Chef Michael Bonacini

    The Royal Winter Agricultural Fair is now open until November 13, 2016 at the Exhibition Place, Toronto. Start the holiday season early by attending one of the largest combined indoor agricultural fairs and international equestrian competitions in the world. The fair takes place every November in Toronto, and it is where guests can enjoy the best in agriculture, local food, and equestrian competitions from across the country. There are so many things to do, and see at this year's The Royal Winter Agricultural Fair.

  • [Food Post] CNE Media Preview 2016

    Every Sunday, Montecito offers a brunch buffet starting at 11 am to 3 pm. Brunch isn't new at Montecito, but they recently revamped their brunch buffet, and added several new items to the menu. The 12,000-square-foot Montecito opened up its doors late 2014, and is a partnership between Hollywood director Ivan Reitman and Chef Jonathan Waxman.

  • [Travel] Satsuki and Mei's House from Totoro

    My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 animated production written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It's a childhood favorite of many people and I have seen many shops dedicated to selling Totoro merchandise while in Japan.

  • [Travel] Day #15 in Japan [Koyasan]

    A shukubo is an accommodation that allows you to stay in a Japanese temple or shrine for the night, and enables you to experience the culture. You are given your own personal room, and there are multiple washroom facilities throughout the temple.

Good Earth Coffeehouse

Good Earth Coffeehouse is a Calgary-based chain of coffee shops with several locations in Calgary. The first location opened in Calgary in 1991, and they now have over 45 locations throughout Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

Earlier this year, they expanded into the Toronto market with a new location on Jarvis and Dundas Street East. They are situated in a prime location as it's steps away from the Eaton's Center and Ryerson University. Students and workers in the area can grab a coffee and a quick bite in the morning.




The new location is an open-space concept with lots of natural light, and has a decent seating capacity. Good Earth Coffeehouse also offers free wireless Internet to their customers, so people are welcome to use it to work or study.



The coffeehouse is dedicated to providing the best quality food and beverage products to its customers and believes in exceptional coffee quality.
"The coffee scene in Toronto is constantly evolving and diversifying. We are excited to launch Good Earth in this market," said Nan Eskenazi, Founder, Good Earth Coffeehouse. "Good Earth prides itself on offering exceptional coffee and fresh food with a down-to-earth attitude, making Toronto an ideal market for us to grow into."


Good Earth Coffeehouse's coffee and espresso menu are based upon the Italian tradition of espresso drinks. They chose the Italian tradition because of its integrity, simplicity and authenticity with respect to espresso drinks. I didn't get their coffee, but I will try it next time. Instead, I opted for their Caffe Latte (frappes) ($4.75) from their cold handcrafted drink menu. It was a nice smooth drink that contained a good helping of caffeine.



Good Earth Coffeehouse serves fresh-baked goods, hot breakfast, soups, salads and various hot and cold drinks. Some of the sweets that they offer are cinnamon rolls, cookies, rice krispies squares, and more. 




I also got the Honey Lemon Squish ($2.75) - fresh lemon zest, wildflower honey, and cream cheese filling as a treat. 


Aside from their coffee and pastries, they also offer a small selection of breakfast items like the Southwest Breakfast Wrap ($5.50) -  egg, hash brown, cheddar, fresh spinach and salsa




Good Earth Coffeehouse is a great addition to the neighborhood, where you grab and go.

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Address: 198 Jarvis St, Toronto, ON M5B 2B7

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.



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Fastvenues x Cadillac Jenkins

I had the pleasure of joining both Jacky and Christine at Cadillac Jenkins courtesy of Fastvenues last month. Fastvenues is a community marketplace for people to discover and book set-menu meals at restaurants online. The company was founded in early 2016. and has since partnered up with several local restaurants to provide curated dining experiences.


 
Fastvenues simplifies the process of eating out by allowing diners to book an experience of one's liking, choose the meal, and pay for the bill in advance (including tax and tip). All you have to do is pay online, go to the restaurant and dine without needing to bring out your wallet. It's easy and convenient for any occasions like catching up with friends, casual dinners, and even dates. The one thing is that packages must be booked at least 24 hours in advance, so that the restaurant are aware of the reservation.

The process was seamless, as I found the website to be relatively user-friendly for the average user. Restaurant options are displayed clearly to the right, while the advanced search option is located to the left. You can use the search option to narrow your results to find a restaurant that fits your criteria. Once you have a restaurant that you would like to book, you can log in or register an account to start the payment process.


Cashless payments have become more prominent over the years, as the world is now more digitally advanced. With Fastvenues everything is paid in advanced online, and you get a breakdown of the costs prior to paying. Simple!

We were given the opportunity to dine at Cadillac Jenkins; a Caribbean-inspired restaurant serving up unique eats, libations, and music on Queen St W. I'd say that their dishes are more elevated version of Caribbean cuisine. Price-wise, I'd say it's one of the pricier options ($60 total), but there are other budget-friendly options as well on Fastvenues.

We booked the $45 "The Experience" package at
Cadillac Jenkins, which was a four-course meal. We started off with our first starter, Lobster Trini Doubles - butter poached lobster, chana. Doubles are common street foods in Trinidad and Tobago, and they are often stuffed with curried chick peas between two flat fried bread. This was my first time trying doubles, and I really liked the flakiness and softness of the buns. An excellent start to a meal. 


Next up was the Jerk Pork Tacos - two soft corn tortillas, 36 hour marinated pork shoulder, Pico, smoked taco sauce, lime black pepper crema. The pork shoulder was well-marinated and flavorful considering it was marinated for 36 hours. Additionally, even though it was another starter, it was quite filling. 



I was looking forward the most to our main, which was the Crispy Skin Jerk Chicken - rice and pea risotto, grilled scallions, pepper sauce. The jerk chicken was really good, but I would have liked it a little more spiced. I thought it was slightly too mild for my taste buds. The hot sauce that accompanied our Doubles starter would have been the perfect side accompaniment to the jerk chicken dish.



Last up was dessert, which changes daily. Our meal ended off with the Rum Cake with Whipped Cream and Chocolate Sauce. It was a layer of delicate, yet rich rum-flavored cake with a generous helping of whipped cream.


The overall booking process was simple, as all I had to do was create an account and book the reservation. The website's interface was user-friendly, and it was super easy to navigate and make a payment. However, I believe that there should be better communications between Fastvenues and the partnered restaurants. None of us were asked for any documentation (or our names) to confirm the reservation when we walked in. This may cause confusion or complication if the dinner took place during the weekends or holidays, where it may be busier.

I'd also suggest that the restaurants provide a menu of the curated set-course meal. It doesn't have to be fancy (just on white paper), so that diners know what they're eating instead of checking the menu on their phones for each course. Fastvenues is still a new company that is continuing to update and renovate their system, so I am looking forward to what they offer in the future. Overall, they are an excellent way for people to try unique dining experiences in the city of Toronto.

Thank you Jacky for the invitation! 

Fastvenues

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Cadillac Jenkins

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Address: 930 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1G6

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.
 
 

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[Paris] Ladurée Paris Champs Elysées

Ladurée is a very popular French luxury bakery and sweets maker house in Paris. They have several locations in France, and also worldwide, including London, Tokyo, Hong Hong, and more. I actually passed by a Ladurée in Tokyo back in 2013, but regrettably didn't know about the brand. I only learned about them when I was doing some research for our Paris trip (so sad).


Our hotel (Elysées Bassano) was centrally located in Champs-Élysées, and we came across Ladurée on our way to dinner at Léon de Bruxelles. I was planning on going to Ladurée the next day, but couldn't help getting some macarons before dinner.


 The shop was pretty chaotic, as it was super busy that Friday evening.  I read some reviews where people were asked firmly to not take any pictures inside many Ladurée Paris locations. Fortunately, the staff that day were really friendly, and they were okay with us taking photos (we asked first). I have noticed that a lot of fancy pastry shops based in Europe frowned upon photography ... it's pretty much free advertising!

Anyway,  I got a box of 6 macarons (€17.50 / $24). I got the following flavours; pistachio, rose, iced mint, coconut, Marie Antoinette tea, and strawberry candy "guimauve". I enjoyed all six flavours, and the shells were lightly crisp with smooth filling that was flavorful. I prefer Ladurée over Pierre Hermé cause they are more sweeter. 





 Compared to Toronto, macarons based in Europe are not very wallet-friendly. They average out to be about $4 CAD per macaron, so choose your flavors wisely. I really liked the macarons from Ladurée Paris, so we got more boxes as souvenirs at Charles de Gaulle Airport on our way back to Toronto. JJ couldn't believe that we spent a little over $100 on macarons alone that morning, as he's not a fan of macarons. They all made it back safely with no cracks (except the one box that we ate on the plane).

We actually almost missed our flight back to Toronto, cause I had to wait for the macarons to be packed. It wasn't just Ladurée where service was lax and slow. We experienced it in several restaurants and cafes in Paris, so I think that's just the norm. Our Air Canada flight was at 11:00 am, and we had to be at the boarding gate by 10:40 am. We were running down the corridor like crazy expecting the worst - since it was already 10:55 am. We got to our gate, and to our surprise the line just started moving. People were now being boarded! I know a lot of people complain or hate flying with Air Canada, but in that moment ... I was so happy. We were on-time to board our flight =) It was a super risky move, but luck was on our side that very morning. 


Address: 75 avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008


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Kinton Ramen on 7 (Hwy 7 Markham)

Kinton Ramen is a popular chain of ramen restaurants with several locations in Ontario. Earlier last month, they expanded uptown to Markham with a new outpost in Commerce Gate Plaza. Uptowners can now get their ramen fix instead of having to come all the way to North York or downtown.  
 


I had the pleasure of being invited to Kinton Ramen for their soft opening, where I got to try several appetizers and a bowl of ramen of my choice with a guest. Upon entering the establishment, I noticed how much larger the space was compared to their other locations. The interior design however remains consistent, as it was sleek and modern with their signature wooden furnishing. A perfect blend of traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern appeal.



Kinton Ramen on 7 differs slightly from the other downtown locations, as this one offers several popular dishes from the Kinka Izakaya menu like the kakimayo and gomaae. Uptown guests now have the option to eat ramen or share several items from the izakaya menu. It's really the best of both worlds! 

We started off with two orders of Kinka Original Ramune ($3.50), a favorite of mine. Ramune is a popular carbonated soft drink originally sold in Japan, but it is also available worldwide. The drink is widely known for its distinctive codd-neck bottles design, where you need to use pressure to open the bottle. The drink available at Kinton has been re-branded with the Kinka logo, and for every bottle sold, Kinka Family donates $0.50 to SickKids. So drink for a good cause!



What I like about Kinton Ramen is that the quality of their food is fairly consistent despite multiple locations. Additionally, the portion size is very filling, as I have never left Kinton Ramen hungry.  

I opted for the Original Pork Ramen ($10.99) - sea salt, scallions, nori, seasoned egg, pork, as my bowl of ramen. I also decided to add some additional topics including corn, bean sprout, and seaweed. My ramen came out pipping hot with a mountain high of toppings, savory broth, and topped off with two seared pork belly with a good meat-to-fat ratio. If you're not into the original pork broth, the ramen menu includes other bases like shoyu (soy sauce), miso (soy bean paste), spicy, and extra pork. Additionally, noodles are available both thick and thin, and I chose thick. The broth was rich and well-balanced (not too salty).  Like I mentioned previously, it was consistent with the quality that I often receive from the Bloor location (the one I frequent most).  



From the choices of several starters and appetizers, I decided to start off with the Hot Karaage ($8.30) - spicy fried chicken. The plate consisted of several pieces of large, and juicy chunks of lightly battered chicken covered with hot sauce.


We also got the ikapiri ($7.90) - deep fried calamari with spicy ketchup and wasabi mayo, from their Kinka Izakaya menu.


One of my favorite Japanese snacks has to be takoyaki, which I had plenty of in Osaka, Japan this past December. The takoyaki ($5.50) contained five deep fried octopus balls with tonkatsu sauce and mayo. There was a reasonable amount of octopus pieces stuffed into the flour-based batter. I enjoyed it!


I was pretty full from my meal, but I will always have room for desserts so I got the Matcha Cheesecake ($4.50) - baked matcha green tea cheesecake. The texture of the cheesecake was creamy with light matcha flavor. It wasn't overly sweet like Western desserts. I ended up eating the entire cheesecake slice, as my fiancé was too full - so I didn't have to share =) 



The only issue that I had was that it took a while for the last two appetizers to come out. We actually cancelled our gyoza order, as we were full from finishing our bowls of ramen. The gyoza from Kinton are really my favorite, but I was too full at that point. The one thing that they do need to improve on is probably the disorganized service, and servers need to be more attentive. Despite the minor setback, Kinton Ramen on 7 did not disappoint, as we had an overall pleasant dining experience.




Address: 505 Hwy 7 East, Unit 54-58, Markham, ON L3T 7T1

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.


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[Prague] Naše Maso

We spent three nights in Prague, and Naše Maso was on our list of eats based on its high rating on Yelp. It's a butcher shop located a few minutes away from the Old Town Square. They offer high quality meat, and cooked items as well. We ended up getting two of their most popular items, the dry-aged hamburger and spicy sausages.


The Dry-Aged Hamburger (159 czk / $8.19) took about 15 minutes to be ready, but it was worth the wait. The burger was freshly made, and there was a good bun to meat ratio. Overall, it was enjoyable meal and the meat was full of flavor. I only wished that they had toasted the bun a little longer, as it was kind of lukewarm when I got it.


 We also got an order of two Italian Sausages (75 czk each / $3.86 each), which were pretty good.




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Valentine's Day Cocktails with Carbon Bar and East Thirty-Six

Celebrare Valentine's Day with that special someone with one of these cocktails from Carbon Bar and East Thirty-Six.

The Carbon Bar - Ma Cherie


Ingredients: 

5oz Woodford Reserve
5oz Cherry Heering
5oz lemon juice
75oz simple syrup
25oz cherry syrup

Directions: 

Shake all ingredients
Fine strain in flute
Top with 4oz Mumm Napa sparkling wine
Cherry and lemon zest as garnish



East Thirty-Six - His 
Cupid's Bow 

1oz Dillon's white rye
.5oz chestnut liqueur
.5oz amaro Montenegro
Amarena cherry garnish


East Thirty-Six - Hers
Raspberry Truffle

1oz absolut vodka
.5oz chambord
.5oz chocolate liqueur
House made raspberry coulis
Garnish: truffle with an almond inside




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[Amsterdam] The Pancake Bakery

The Pancake Bakery is a popular pancake house in Amsterdam. It's located in the historic Jordaan District, just a few doors back down from the Anne Frank House. While reading the online reviews, and glancing over the menu prices; I realized that it was definitely a tourist trap. However, it started raining extremely hard and we wanted a quick bite before our Hop On - Hop Off Boat Tour so we decided to try it anyway. 



Looking through the menu, they offer a good selection of both sweet and savory pancakes. J got the pancake with peaces, cherry liquour, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream (€12.95 / $18.03)


I wasn't too hungry, so I opted for a plate of poffertjes with butter and sugar (€5.25 / $7.31). It was really good that I ended up getting a second plate of it. These Dutch mini pancakes were so fluffy and buttery. 


The service wasn't abysmal like some other restaurants in Europe, but it wasn't that good either. Just a note that they will not give you tap water - bottled water only!




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Neal Brothers Foods Kettle Chips

Since 1988, Neal Brothers Foods has provided families all over Canada with a variety of snacks and sauces. Who are the Neal Brothers? They are two brothers who started making croutons out of their mother’s home in Aurora, ON, in the 1980's. The product proved to be quite popular with the locals in the area, and the brothers quickly expanded their company once they moved to Toronto. From their humble beginnings, Neal Brothers Foods now offer a wide range of healthy snack options made from organic ingredients.


 "Food is family and we truly believe it has the power to bring people together," said Peter Neal, co-owner, Neal Brothers. "Our range of products has natural and organic ingredients you can feel good about enjoying with your loved ones. So let's eat!" 


A couple of weeks ago, I received a care package from Neal Brothers Foods containing four different kettle chips to try. The savory kettle chips are made with all natural and quality ingredients, which are a great alternative to potato chips. It's something that you can munch on while watching a movie, studying, or just when you're craving for some chips.

 

 Spicy Srirachup - Out of the four options, the spicy srirachup chips was my favorite. You can definitely taste the heat of the sriracha along with the sweetness of the ketchup. It was a nice contrast of flavors and well-balanced as well.

Montreal Steak Spice - Montreal steak spice is a spice mix used to flavor steak that was based on the pickling dry-rub mix used in preparing Montreal smoked meat. So, it was really interesting that the Neal Brothers were able to create a kettle chips flavor using the mix. The chips had a nice meat flavor, and you can taste the garlic, dill and chili flake with every crunch.


Maple Bacon - The Maple Bacon was a very clear representation of Canadian flavors - maple syrup with bacon. The chips are seasoned with maple and brown sugar to create a sweet flavor with smoked notes of bacon. I really enjoyed this flavor as well, as it's such a unique chip flavor. 


Pink Himalayan Salt - Personally, I have never tried Pink Himalayan salt before, but I have read that it was one of the cleanest salts available. The Neal Brothers Foods' kettle chips was lightly salted with the mineral dense sea salt. It gave it a nice salty flavor without being overly loaded with sodium, which can cause water retention.


I also want to note that I love the packaging with all of the bright colors. It's very eye catching, especially when you walk by the products in the grocery stores. Neal Brothers Foods Kettle Chips can be found in the snack aisles at Loblaws, Longos, Sobeys, and Metro. Happy snacking!!

About Neal Brothers Foods:

Started by brothers Peter and Chris Neal in their family kitchen in 1988, Neal Brothers Foods was founded out of a passion for great tasting, “better for you” snacks. Their commitment has always been, and remains steadily, to offer food products that are healthier than the norm, using the best ingredients to achieve that, no matter the cost. One of the most popular items in the Neal Brothers lineup, all natural, non-GMO, kettle-cooked chips are now available in the U.S.

Disclaimer: Neal Brothers Foods Kettle Chips were provided for review. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.


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