Saturday, 28 May 2016

Karelia Kitchen

My friends came here for brunch a few years ago and raved about Karelia Kitchen, so when I saw that they had a Groupon for a Nordic-Style Afternoon Tea for $12 for two people - I jumped on that deal.  The Fika tea starts at 3pm and ends at 5:30pm and the Groupon covers two desserts and two pots of tea. 
We got there around 3pm and they were still serving brunch and lunch on the weekend. 
20160528_145000 20160528_145007
We ordered our tea and some late lunch. 
We got two teapots - the tall one was ginger spice and the smaller pot was the orange grapefruit and mint rooibos.
The ginger spice had a lovely initial scent and flavour, but then tasted very gingery. 
The orange grapefruit and mint rooibos was really nice - I would definitely order it again. 

Karelia open faced burger 
The burger was delicious! The burger had lots of flavour and there were crispy bacon strips on the open faced burger and probably some of the most amazing mustard and sauce I've had on a burger. It was so finger-licking good. It was quite pricey though at $18. 

Cherry cheesecake with pistachio crust and Strawberry Torte
The cherry cheesecake was light and fluffy and was totally different from the typical NY cheesecake.  I loved the crust of pistachios! 
The strawberry torte was also really good with a delicious crust and some very sweet strawberries. 

Overall: A really great afternoon tea at Karelia Kitchen! The food is a little on the pricier side, but it was very yummy and there's a lot of items that I want to come back and try. The service was great in the tiny restaurant and the teas were delicious. 

Karelia Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Aroma Espresso Bar

Freebie alert! Aroma Espresso Bar (one of my favourite salad and sandwich places) announced that they would be giving away free smoothies between 2pm and 6pm on May 25th. 
20160525_150625Kale and Mango & Beet and Mixed Berry
Both smoothies were pretty good.  I'm not sure I'd order it at regular price, but at least I've tried it! 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Wilbur Mexicana

I've definitely been feeling the pinch lately, so when my friends wanted to go out for dinner and catch up after our recent vacations - I asked them to pick a place a little easier on the wallet.  My friend suggested tacos at Wilbur which are under $5 and I jumped on board. 

Top: Chicken Tinga, Baja Fish and Carne Asada tacos and chips
The chicken tinga came with a crispy corn tortilla, guacamole and cotija cheese; the baja fish had a corn tortilla with beer battered mahi mahi, cabbage, pico de gallo and chipotle crema and the carne asada had a flour tortilla with pico de gallo, crispy onions and queso fundido. 
The tacos were good! I would have preferred the fish to be a little crispier in their batter, but the carne asada was good and chicken tinga was distinctive, different and had a bit of heat.  I also really liked the selection of sauces on the side. 

Overall: Fun place to grab a quick bite to eat, but it can definitely get quite busy and hard to grab a table. 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Modo Mio Italian Bistro

I've been on the search for a good Italian place and so I decided to buy Modo Mio Italian Bistro's Groupon - $30 for $60 worth of food for 4 people. 
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It's a cute little bistro on Avenue road (with lots of other Italian options - including Il Fornaro)
All the tables had these adorable salt and pepper shakers! 

Bruschetta and Grilled Calamari
The bruschetta was on toast (not garlic bread 😞). However, the bruschetta topping of tomato, onions, olive oil and basil tasted fresh. The grilled calamari was very good and I loved the pesto sauce on top as well as the arugula in the middle and the grilled peppers. Quite a hearty appetizer!

Mussels with herbs and lemon
The white wine sauce was actually very heavy and the mussels were a little tiny (maybe not really seasonal?) and there was a little too much sauce even to soak the bread with. 

Chicken parmigiana sandwich 
The breaded chicken and tomato sauce were both okay, but the sandwich felt like it needed something else since it felt a little one-dimensional in flavour and taste.

I found the pasta little too mushy and the sauce had a lot of cheese flavour rather than cream.  The pasta felt a little boring and I think it needed something to kick up the sauce a bit. 

Maverick pizza: grilled steak, arugula, onion, mushroom, cherry tomato
As you can tell, there was lots of arugula on top, but not as much steak.  The pizza had a nice thin crust, but there was no base sauce other olive oil.  Overall, it was an okay pizza, but it was a little hard to eat and divide since it wasn't pre-cut. 

Linguine clams
The pasta was a little too buttery and salty, especially since there were salty clams in their shells as well.  The dish had lots of olive oil and a very salty white wine sauce (which may have also been made saltier by the pancetta). 

This was probably the best pasta of the three we had.  I loved the 7 layers of pasta, it was delicious and so easy to eat.  The meat sauce was decent, but it lacked a little something for extra punch of flavour.

The waitress told us that the tiramisu was a homemade recipe from the owner's mom and it was definitely pretty tasty from the first bite, but as you kept eating it felt like it was missing something.  I think I would have liked more cream/mascarpone cheese

Overall: The Groupon was good value (since everything was 50% off) and we ate a lot of food! The food was okay for the most part and everything here was pretty reasonably priced.  The service was great - the waitress was really attentive and helpful. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Blaze Pizza

Blaze Pizza is an American pizza chain that offers all you want toppings for one set price of $10.45. 
They opened up their first Canadian location at Yonge and Dundas last year. 
20160510_122209 There were a ton of varieties on a thin crust pizza.  I loaded mine up with red & green peppers, mushrooms, sausage, chicken, onions cheese and pesto sauce before they baked it in their oven. 
The pizza was really good! And I love their pesto sauce - yummy! 

Overall: Great value for money and really delicious pizza! I'll definitely be back. 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Mary MacLeod's Shortbread

May 8, 2016
Another Groupon purchase - $12 for a dozen cookies. So I decided to give them another shot. 
One of each - original, chocolate, double chocolate, whole wheat, cranberry almond, butterscotch, coconut ball, mint chocolate, orange chocolate



This time around I found the cookies were super crumbly and the flavouring seemed a lot more subtle. I didn't like them as much because they were just so delicate that they literally crumbled before you could get a good bite in. 

If i had to pick a favourite, then I would pick the orange chocolate, which had a more pronounced flavour and it wasn't as crumbly.

August 10, 2012
I adore cookies and one of my favourite cookie stores is Monsieur Felix and Mr. Norton.
I first saw the Mary Macleod brand of shortbread cookies at Holts Gourmet and I got curious about the brand. So, I did a little research and found out that Mary Macleod's Shortbread is a well established business serving customers (in Toronto and all over Canada) since 1981. 
A local brand! I couldn't wait to try out another famous cookie company based in Canada.

Dozen cookies $17

Clockwise from the Top: Dutch Chocolate, Traditional Shortbread, Chocolate Chunk Shortbread, Orange Chocolate, Mint Chocolate, Cranberry Almond Shortbread, Toasted Coconut. Middle: Hazelnut Shortbread

I didn't rank the cookies in order of the taste because I don't consider myself that knowledgeable about shortbread cookies. My preference is for harder shortbread cookies; so, I created a "Crumbly scale" just to rank how the cookies crumbled relative to each other. 
Crumbly scale: 
1 = dissolved immediately to 10 = rock solid
(numbers are in brackets)
Clockwise from the bottom:
a) Dutch chocolate: I really liked what the smooth and bitter dark chocolate flavour brought to the shortbread cookie. It was rich and decadent. (8)
b) Traditional: I loved it! Recipe was classic and delicious. (9)
c) Chocolate chunk: Fantastic! After eating it, I know why this is her most popular cookie. It has great flavour with the mixture of chocolate into the shortbread batter. (7)
d) Cranberry almond: The cranberries in the batter made it a unique and memorable cookie. Unfortunately it was a little too crumbly for me. (5)
e) Hazelnut: Really good, great hazelnut taste with the chocolate chunk dough (5)
f) Toasted coconut: I thought this was a great spin on the shortbread cookie and it worked out nicely in my opinion. (8) 
g) Mint chocolate: It even smelled like mint chocolate! After I took a bite, the mint left a lingering aftertaste. I didn't think the chocolate was as nicely done as the Dutch chocolate. (6)
h) Orange chocolate: Orange scented, but I wasn't a big fan of it for the same reasons as the mint. (6) 
i) Whole wheat Walnut
Great nutty taste, but it was super crumbly and it broke apart really easily (2)

Overall: Mary Macleod's offers a huge variety of shortbread cookies, all of which are such a treat! My favourites here are the Chocolate Chunk and the Traditional - yum.

Mary Macleod's Shortbread on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Sushi Kaji

We've heard so many good things about Sushi Kaji and it's always ranked as one of the top Japanese places in Toronto. We came here for a milestone event (rather than just a casual dinner) since it costs
$130 per person for the tasting menu with the sashimi plate (or $100pp without sashimi plate). 

It was actually located in a rather unassuming location (we drove by it before we realized we passed it). When we walked in, the restaurant was quite nice and had a peaceful feel with enough space between all the tables so that you didn't feel crowded (and it was mostly reservations only). 

Butternut squash with a surprise in the middle and edamame
This first dish really set the playful tone of the whole omakase experience. It was intriguing, fun and yet had a hint of familiarity (with the edamame beans).

Octopus with a yuzu sauce
Very yummy! Who knew yuzu and octopus could go along together so well?

Sea bream, mackerel in back and amberjack
The fish was fresh and beautifully plated. I liked that the mackerel wasn't salty and the sea bream had a slightly gummier texture and the amberjack was nice.

Sea bass in seaweed sauce
The fish had a nice crispy skin, a sweet flavour and flaky flesh. The seaweed sauce was delicious too!

Sea urchin
Not the typical sushi presentation! The sea urchin was really rich, tasty, creamy and decadent. 

20160507_190542 Crispy fried noodles in broth
This was tasty but rather small for the noodle portion of the meal.  The noodles were nice and crispy, but a rather strange combination with the broth. I'm not sure I was 100% behind this idea.

Unagi with yuzu
The yuzu sauce hits again! It added a nice citrus punch to the sweet unagi on rice.

Octopus sushi
It was quite sweet. 

Sweet scallop and nice touch of sauce on top
The sauce enhanced the sweetness of the scallops by providing a bit of a salty and savoury contrast.

Squid sushi
Cute and fun! 
Salmon roe

Bluefin tuna
The tuna was so slippery and fresh - yum!

Diced toro with green onions
Toro is the fatty tuna belly (also known as some of the most expensive and amazingly delicious  sushi/sashimi) and as yummy as it is by itself - it's actually quite nice with the green onions (like when I had it in HK).  Unfortunately, I felt like this was rather poorly executed because the seaweed was badly wrapped around and the sushi just fell apart.

Torched toro with sauce on top
This was a much better Toro experience! It was fun and different (and still amazingly yummy).

Sea bream sushi with seaweed on top
The sea bream was really yummy and it had this light sauce that enhanced the flavour.

Unagi and cucumber rolls
It was good, but the sushi wasn't very nicely wrapped in this case either.

Mackerel sushi
Interestingly enough, this was saltier than the sashimi we had earlier.

Vanilla  ice cream, mixed jelly and fruits in syrup
A nice note to end with - the dessert was sweet and tasty.

Pear sorbet and condensed milk
I liked the origami paper presentation, but the dessert seemed very small in comparison to the other dessert options and it was only okay.

Roasted green teCrème brûlée 
Another crème brûlée in a week! It was good and really incorporated the roasted green tea flavour.

Overall: A really nice experience at Sushi Kaji with lots of interesting and playful dishes. The service was really good as well - I just wish the portion sizes were a little bigger (or that there were some more courses).