Charlie’s Chopsticks Grand Opening

Charlie's Chopsticks Logo

My little brother got the chance to be a part of the creation of a new fresh take out restaurant! How very exciting. I got the chance to go in and sample everything and share my experience with you.

If you have passed 970 Upper James (right near the Linc) recently, you may have noticed this little shop open up in the sex shop plaza. Leading up to their grand opening, they have been giving out samples of all their menu items for everyone who walked in.

Charlie’s Chopsticks is a custom asian open concept kitchen that caters to those who want to eat well, healthy, and quickly.

Sushi Cut

Charlie’s Chopsticks offers three main items: Rolls (Sushi & Summer), Rice Dishes, and Drinks. When you walk into the store, you’ll immediately see the counter with the main ingredients that you can choose to customize your meal.

Sushi roll charlie's chopsticks

The first thing I had was the sushi roll. I really like how you really just get to choose whatever you want to make your own custom sushi roll just the way you like it. I think you can have a maximum of 5 items, which is a ton to fit inside one roll. I chose to put my favourite items: salmon, crab stick, cucumber, sweet egg, and mango. It was pretty cool to watch them roll my sushi.

sushi cutter

This blew my mind the most. They put the sushi roll into this machine and it cuts it all up for you. WHAT?! So cool. Where do I get one for my house? My carrots would be such even sizes.

Charlie's Chopsticks Sauces

This is the part that gets really interesting. In addition to the soy sauce that you usually get with sushi, you have a range of other sauces you can try too. Their spicy mayo is particularly interesting. It’s not just the Kewpie Mayo (or baby mayo, as we call it in my house) & Sriracha combination that you basically get everywhere else, but this has a great hint of ginger to it as well. I loved it. One of the workers encouraged me to try the wafu sauce as well, which is a Japanese sesame dressing, and I’m glad I did because that tasted great with the fresh sushi. I don’t have anything else to compare the wafu sauce to though, but it was great.

There is also a few secret sauces. The two of my favourite being Honey Peach and my absolute favourite: Maple Ginger. I just could not get enough of that Maple Ginger. Just the right amount of sweetness and savouriness.

Custom Summer Roll Charlie's Chopsticks

The next thing I tried were the Summer rolls that they offered. Patrons of Vietnamese restaurants may know them as fresh rolls. They are basically any ingredient you like, wrapped up in a rice paper wrap. It’s light and yummy. Traditionally, in my home, we add vermicelli into it as well, but this way you get more fun stuff and less filler. I had mine with lettuce, mango, sweet egg, cucumber, avocado, ginger beef, and a little slice of clementine, which the employee strongly suggest. I never would have guessed to put the clementine it, but the sweet burst of flavour was a great enhancement.

Charlie’s Chopsticks even offers traditional Vietnamese nuoc mam, or fish sauce. Please don’t let the name scare you away because it tastes NOTHING like fish. It is a fish sauce mixed with garlic, lemon, and a few other things that I don’t know because I haven’t asked my mother how to make it yet. But seriously, this sauce is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, and the salty lemony garlicky flavour compliments these rolls like nothing else. I think it’s the greatest compliment when I say these rolls taste just like we make them at home.

I won’t lie. I stood there and tried a few other rolls, a few with strawberries for colour, and of course, fresh bacon. The owners order many of the veggies local and the bacon come straight from Mennonite farmers in Hamilton’s Farmer’s Market.

I have never had bacon this good.

I don’t know what it was about it, but dang. It was just crispy enough with a bit of chew, my perfect texture. The taste was beyond anything else. Damn, I was just about ready to hop off the bacon train, but that piece of bacon in one of my many fresh rolls was just BEYOND.

meat dish

Lastly, I tried the rice dish. You get to choose your meat: chicken, beef, or pork, and then you have the piece of meat basted with whatever flavour you like (I got chicken with maple ginger, and beef with teriyaki). It goes through the oven (though I think they might be replacing that with a grill), and gets served with a bowl of rice and your choice of veggies. Again, I highly recommend trying the fish sauce with this dish.

Charlie’s Chopsticks will be serving bubble tea (with choices of grass jellies, fruit jellies, tapioca) and fresh fruit smoothies.

All in all, while the food is not gourmet or out of the box, it is good, wholesome, fresh food, which is definitely hard to find in today’s fast food industry. Their prices are awesome for a quick lunch, or a light, healthy dinner. The best bit is that they’re open late every night (past midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) and they do delivery as well. Who HASN’T sat there thinking, oh, I could totally do sushi right now, but balked at the time, drive, price of sushi restaurants? And who really wants to put pants on to go buy some crappy day old grocery store sushi?

Charlie’s Chopsticks officially opens TODAY (!) October 18, 2014, at 11 a.m. and the first 88 people in the doors will receive a voucher for 30 free items. Spread the word, #hamont, the new take out is here.

Facebook – Charlie’s Chopsticks

Instagram – @CharliesChopsticks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beast Restaurant

Deep Fried Pickles

Beast Restaurant – 96 Tecumseth St, Toronto

I heard such great things about Beast’s brunch since Dave (@1goatroti) and Adrienne (@AdrienneDLR) went there a few weeks ago. So of course, I had to come and try since I found out they had a dish called the Beastwich.

Above is our appetizer. Boyfriend can never say no to deep fried pickles. I loved these ones because they were sliced, not quartered like other places usually do them. The breading was beautifully seasoned and retained their crunchiness. They served this with a homemade ranch sauce. So delicious, I actually wanted a second order and we hadn’t even started eating our real meals yet.

omelette

We ended up ordering one of their specials, which was the meat omelette, made with beef tongue and sauerkraut (boyfriend’s favourites). It was served with a nice fresh salad and a buttermilk biscuit. I didn’t like the omelette too much, but the salad had a yummy balsamic dressing. The biscuit was perfectly buttery and salty, and we kept eating it even after we were extra stuffed.

poboy

I don’t know what it is with the word po’boy, but I am a sucker for them. I had a softshell crab po’boy at Porchetta and Co about a month ago, and I swear I might have died right then and there. This was a deep fried oyster po’boy with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and pickles, served with a side of homemade bbq chips. The chips were nice, light, and crispy. The po’boy was soft and cheesy, and while it was deep fried, the veggies kept it tasting fresh and light. The only thing wrong with it was that I realised I forgot that I don’t like cooked oysters. But I’m sure if you like them, then you would love this sandwich. The oysters themselves were huge and meaty, encased in a beautiful coating of fried dough.

beastwich

There’s a third?? How many were you?? It was just me and boyfriend, but of course I had to have a third meal. There were too many choices to just end up with two! And how could we not have the beauty that was called the “Beastwich.” Deep fried chicken atop a buttermilk biscuit, fried egg, cheese, and topped with sausage gravy, served with homefries.

I love sausage and biscuits so much. After the first time having them in Atlanta, I was hooked. The chicken was so moist and deliciously deep fried. Everything together was soft, and moist, and savoury, and heavy in the best way possible. This is exactly what I expect from a sandwich called Beastwich.

Altogether, our bill came up to about $60 — three meals, an appetizer, and a $5 caesar — which wasn’t too horrible, but at the end of my birthday month, our bank accounts are tapped out! I would love to come back and try their dinner though; they have some really yummy looking things on the menu.

“It’s my birthday month.”

Birthday FreebiesContrary to what others might say about me, I don’t really like being the centre of attention, and as such, I don’t really like throwing a birthday party for myself. If I do have a big party (which I have for the past couple of years), it’s because I want all my friends to have fun. That being said, I use my birthday as an excuse to get anything I want, and I celebrate all month long.

This year, I spent my birthday walking around downtown Toronto to collect all my birthday freebies that different companies offer! Starbucks gives you a big fancy birthday drink, Menchies gives you a free froyo cup (up to $5) and as most girls know, Sephora gives you different birthday gifts every year. Yes, all of these perks come with memberships, but they’re all free to sign up, so why not!

A couple other places that give you free things are Tuckers Marketplace and Wok of Fame (free buffet dinner), Booster Juice (free drink coupon), Pickle Barrel (app/dessert with purchase of entree), What-a-Bagel (free 6 bagels with purchase of 6 bagels), and Spoonful (1/2 price buffet dinner). There are a bunch on this list that I found online.

Lou Dawgs

Lou Dawg’s – 589 King St W., Toronto

So I woke up on the noon of my 24th birthday with a hankering for BBQ. I had been having flashbacks to our outing that had included the Lancaster Smokehouse in Kitchener, so I headed out to the closest place to the condo, Lou Dawg’s BBQ. I’ve seen a few Lou Dawgs around, and the Belly Monsters informed me that they weren’t bad. I had a breakfast birthday beer followed by their two meat platter — pulled pork and brisket — which came with two sides — coleslaw and baked beans, my weakness. I also ordered a cheesy jalapeno cornbread, because really, who can say no to that combination? The platter ($14.99) is a great value and it comes with a bun sliced in half for you to make sandwiches if that’s what your heart desires.

Now, I don’t know why I broke my rule of never ordering pulled pork at a restaurant. It is always disappointing and this one was no different. It tasted like what I can make in my slow cooker. I put it in the bread with my coleslaw, which made it marginally better.

The brisket was a little better. Soft, delicious, but sitting in a pool of grease and fat smothered in barbecue sauce. However, when you drain the fattiness at the bottom from the meat, it is actually quite delicious. They also serve the bbq with two different sauces on the side. The hot sauce is not so hot.

The cornbread was a muffin with pieces of japaleno in it. It was really yummy but disappointingly dry. The cheese on top was crispy and chewy and delicious. I did love the coleslaw and baked beans though. The beans were smokey and perfectly sweet. The coleslaw was the right about of tangy and crunchy. The sides were definitely the highlight of the whole lot, along with the funny and upbeat bartender/waiter.

boston pizza

Boston Pizza – 2915 Eglinton Ave W., Mississauga

Yes, I do not only eat at independent restaurants. We actually eat at chain restaurants quite often when we’re trying to please everyone and just need a quick bite. This night was just some wings and desserts. These Caesars were probably the worst Caesar I’ve ever had. The bacon was bleh. There was too much vodka, and not enough tomato flavour, or any other flavour really.

The big round thing in the middle is what they call a “Doughcano.” It’s their chocolate explosion cake wrapped in pizza dough, baked, then topped with whipped cream. It was chewy, with thick fudge in the middle, and oh man. It was perfect. Chewy, sugary, and a huge hit of chocolate if that’s what you’re craving. my only complaint is that the cheesecake tasted and felt more like marshmallows than cheesecake.

The panookie on the right is always a good bet. A giant chocolate chip cookie that’s pan-fried, then topped with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate and caramel sauce. A nice dose of sugar. The edges are crispy and the inside is chewy.

d hot shoppe

D Hot Shoppe – 4155 Fairview St, Burlington

D Hot Shoppe is a Caribbean/West Indian restaurant that has been recommended to me over and over again by both Dave (@1goatroti) and Justin (@the_Jmoney). On the left is a goat roti drenched in medium gravy and on the right is a doubles, which is a deep fried dough traditionally stuffed with curried chickpeas. They put chutney in it and I asked them to put chicken in it too. They do not look appetizing to someone who’s never had them before but DANG. So good. I’d go eat here twice a week if I were nearby. If you can handle spice, I would still recommend getting the medium. I thought I was soo strong and ordered the hot level the first time I ate at D’s and I regretted it for a few days as it burned through my digestive tract. It was still delicious though.

French ToastPhoenix Chinese Restaurant – 4040 Creditview Rd, Mississauga

A pretty normal Chinese restaurant where you can get your noodles and rice and sweet and sour pork. That beast up there is what they called French toast with peanut butter. It is a pretty dense, sweet bread with peanut butter spread in the middle, deep fried, and then you smother it in more butter and maple syrup. It is deadly. It is delicious.

St Louis

St. Louis Bar & Grill – 6485 Mississauga Rd, Mississauga

My friend Audrey has been obsessed with Caesars lately, and rightly so. They’re delicious. I love it when my caesar comes with a pickled bean. Yum yum.

The burger was quite good, but I just needed a second to rave about these sweet potato fries. Ultra yummy with just the right about of crispiness and potatoeyness still in the middle. They even serve it with a spicy mayo — perfect.

MilestonesMilestones – 10 Dundas St. E. (Yonge & Dundas), Toronto

The Tuesday Peach Bellini special at Milestones is great! It’s like a slushie made of Tim Horton’s peach drink, but not as disgustingly sweet. Then it’s topped with a flavoured vodka, and apparently an animal of the deer variety. The boys were feeling too manly to order one for themselves even though they really really wanted one.

The white chocolate cheesecake is BEYOND. Just beyond beyond. Soft, sweet, decadent, light, with some coffee underneath, whipped cream at the top. Smooth. Take-me-home-to-yo-momma delicious. Tuck-me-into-a-bed-of-rose-pedals-and-make-love-to-me delicious.

Couple Photo

And lastly, the dude that made my birthday outings possible by spoiling me.

I hope all your birthday wishes come true around the world! If they don’t, make them happen.

 

 

 

 

Taco, ma cherie

Paris Party Table
Earlier this June, we were invited to a friend’s surprise engagement party. It was beautifully decorated and Paris themed, and it was a great night full of good food, good drink, and good people. They told the couple that it was a going away party for one of our friends who was supposedly moving away to San Francisco. The look of surprise on their face when they were trying to figure out why we were shouting “Surprise!!!”, why their family was there, and why everyone was staring at the nondescript couple waltzing in late to the supposed going away party was unforgettable.

Taco Dip

 

I had wanted to do a French-inspired tarte tatine, but everyone wanted taco dip instead, and who is to blame them? I love making taco dip because it’s super easy, and super delicious. We ended up eating leftover taco dip for almost three days straight; it was awesome.

Bottom layer to top:

  • Refried beans mixed with pickled green chilies
  • Taco meat (ground beef mixed with taco seasoning)
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream mixed with taco seasoning
  • (This is where I would usually add guacamole but my avocados were too hard.)
  • Salsa – this one was from a jar to save time but I usually like to make it myself
  • More cheese
  • Pico de gallo – I use the Pioneer Women’s recipe
  • Lettuce
  • Top off with more pico de gallo, shredded cheese, and pickled jalapenos to make it look nice.

What happens when you’re shopping last minute is that you don’t can’t always account for the groceries not having what you need. In this case, there were no ripened avocados and only one jalapeno! I settled for pickled jalapenos on top and bought some other hot peppers to mix into it. Unfortunately, the peppers weren’t well labeled and I bought scotch bonnets instead of habaneros. I mixed the scotch bonnets into my pico de gallo in lieu of the jalapenos and it turned out great; it gave the dip a bit more of a kick than usual.  Serve with any corn chips you like. We tried the Tostitos lime chips and they were off the HOOK!

I found it surprising that within minutes of bringing the dip in, someone had eaten the “decorative” scotch bonnet on top, and I didn’t hear anything about it. These south Asians are terrifying with their spice tolerance.

Pickle Jalapeno Backs

Last year, I took almost the same group of people to Montreal for my birthday, where I introduced that to a drink I had found on my trip to New York — The Pickleback. It is a shot of house whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice; you can watch me do the shot here. The shot lined up above was purely spur of the moment when I realised that we had a bunch of whiskey and a whole empty jar of pickled jalapeno juice. So we poured them, and drank them, and they were delicious! I like alcohol when I can’t taste it. :)

Here are a few pictures from that night! There was so much food leftover and as usual when there is alcohol involved, the pictures get blurrier and blurrier as the night wears on.

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A big congratulations to Hamsa and Jehan, both on your future life together and also the most beautiful proposal story I’ve ever heard (hello, he took her to Paris to propose. Excuse me while I swoon.) With an engagement party like that, I can’t wait till the wedding.

St. Jacob’s Market, St. Jacob, Ontario

DSC_0067

It was a most beautiful day for my first trip to St. Jacob’s Market. It made for a nice break from our Belly Monster rampage, in which we hit up 9 different food destinations in 12 hours.

flowers

St. Jacob’s Market is Canada’s largest year round Farmer’s Market. In reality, it’s like a farmer’s market, food market, and flea market, all rolled into one beautiful package. interior

There was an outdoor farmer’s market AND an indoor one, where all of the butchers were.fritters

We came to walk around, and many were telling us that we MUST try the apple fritters, and try we did. We purchased half a dozen fritters, as well as this fritter special — two apple fritters, vanilla ice cream, and caramel sauce. Soft, sweet, creamy, hot, and cold, all rolled into one most magnificent package.

popcornSt. Jacob’s, Ontario is probably the cutest quaint little town you’ve ever seen. Its countrysides are farmed by a population of Old Order Mennonites, and on the way out of the market, we even saw a horse running full-speed on the side of the road, pulling a carriage. It was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, straight out of a Lurlene McDaniel novel.

 

Opal Carew – Total Abandon

Opal Carew - Total Abandon

Opal Carew – Total Abandon

After 50 Shades of Grey, the erotica genre really exploded and became mainstream. Everyone and their mother was reading about Ana and Christian, and it really was kind of gross, like watching pornography with your mother and your kids’ teachers. I don’t read erotica, but many of my coworkers do. I’m told that Opal Carew was one of the dirtiest writer, so of course this had to be my pick for my erotica read.

The Spiel

A woman gives up sex for a year after her divorce. On the anniversary of the divorce, she gets drunk with her friend and comes up with a list of her most desired sexual fantasies. She experiences a sexual awakening as she missions to cross off all the dirty deeds on her list, in explicit detail.

Why should I read this?

If you like erotica, then you will love this book. There are sex scenes every other page, with a loose backstory, and it touches on many of the most common sexual fantasies. Threesomes, voyeurism, bondage, dominance, and submission are common themes.

Pitfalls

While the sex scenes are great, I found the characters unrealistic and the love story subplot ridiculous. While I understand that these books are a fantasy of what women want men and sex to be like sometimes, I could not enjoy the book due to my chortling at how one dimensional all the characters were, and how unrealistically they evolved. It’s like watching a really cheesy horror movie.

Myself, I prefer Judith McNaught’s books, because while there are good sex scenes, the plots are much more captivating. There is character development, and there is real conflict and resolution. Her characters are wild, funny, passionate, and charismatic, as opposed to the characters in Total Abandon who were purely sex-driven.

Conclusion

Read this if you want to read some porn (or erotic literature), but don’t read it for plot or characters beyond their physical appearances, because there are none.

This is the book 2 of my 50 Book Pledge.

Modern Dating Pitfalls or Playing Victim?

While crawling through the mudpit that is Facebook, I came upon a link to a blog post titled, “18 Ugly Truths About Modern Dating That You Have To Deal With.” from Thought Catalog, and written by Christopher Hudspeth. I’m not sure if I’m just not sympathizing with the dating pool these days because I’m not in it, or if the people who follow these nuggets of advice are dooming themselves to the single life if they are actively trying to find a significant other. I’ll admit, I got quite lucky with finding my boyfriend, but I’d also been single long enough that I didn’t beat around the bush. I didn’t overanalyze everything, I was myself. But I also don’t discount the fact that I found someone who I really connected with, and judging by all my friends now who are unable to find someone who isn’t crazy, those chances were really slim. I won the lottery.

Moving on, reading that article, I couldn’t help but think to myself, the people who take this advice and act on it are only making themselves seem like the crazy ones. Maybe if they lived in the moment and actually tried to find someone they enjoy hanging out with — someone compatible — they’d see that not everyone is trying to screw you over. Maybe try to determine if you can be someone’s friend first — enjoy spending time with them without overthinking everything — before jumping into labels.

The person who cares less has all the power. Nobody wants to be the one who’s more interested.

I’m not going to lie. I used to think like this too, but really, who wants to be in a relationship where both people are afraid to love fully. Both are trying to show the other how little they care. Isn’t that the opposite of a fulfilling relationship?

The only reason people repeat this mantra to themselves is that they’re afraid to unveil themselves, and fully invest themselves into a relationship. This one hit me closest to home because when I was following this “rule”, it was because I had been hurt in relationships before and I was trying my best to not be hurt again. However, in trying not to get hurt, I also didn’t let the other person in enough to make us both as happy as possible. Sometimes it’s hard to take the leap, but once you do, you’ll find that everything gets easier. You live with the belief that your significant other is there to make you happy and you are there to make them happy. If you’re too scared of getting hurt and you’re holding yourself back, the other person isn’t getting to know the real you anyway. And who wants to spend the rest of their lives behind a facade?

Of course this can go the other way, and you can misjudge them, and it will hurt so much. We’ve all been hurt before, but we all know that with time, hurt will heal. However, when they hurt you, do you want to think back to the weeks/months/years that you were together shielding yourself and not having the most possible fun and feeling the most love? Either way, you’d get hurt. One way, you’ll at least loved fully and felt love. The other way, you’ve spent the whole relationship being bitter and paranoid, not really enjoying the relationship because you’re afraid that they’ll turn at any second. And for what reason? To say “I knew it” at the end?

  • The only difference between your actions being romantic and creepy is how attractive the other person finds you. That’s it, that’s all.
  • The text message you sent went through. If they didn’t respond, it wasn’t because of malfunctioning phone carrier services.
  • Social media creates new temptations and opportunities to cheat. The private messaging and options for subtle flirtation (e.g. liking of pictures) aren’t an excuse or validation for cheating, but they certainly increase the chances of it happening.

Many of the “modern dating truths” represented really are just about how shitty some people are. I used to overthink it if a guy didn’t like me back, but then I got to thinking. Why would I want to be with someone who doesn’t want me? And that has become my mantra for nearly everything. You don’t want to be the only person putting forth an effort in any relationship. If that person doesn’t want to be with you, your relationship would be superficial. You deserve to be with someone who wants to be with you. Someone who wants to make you happy. Sometimes it feels like that person is impossible to find, but there are so many people out there, and I’m sure, so many decent people.

One quote I came across online that really aided in me cutting out toxic relationships is, “Don’t treat someone like a priority when they treat you like an option.” Don’t ignore the signs. Often times, courtships fail because people aren’t clear about what they’re looking for. You’re not going to be able to dig a serious relationship out of someone who’s just looking for a fling.

All the advice given in the article are about people playing games. They blame the other person for how hard it is to find a significant other. However if you’re following these “rules” and thinking the worst of the other person right off the bat, aren’t you adding to the problem? Maybe you’re unconsciously pushing them away. By thinking they’re playing games, you obviously try to counteract that by playing games right back. Bringing a bitter mentality just brings people down and wards them all away. Would you want to date a negative Nancy?

If you’re looking for a serious relationship. Don’t play games. It’s exhausting, it gets you nowhere, and it’s basically starting a relationship based on lies. Ignore the people who do play games. They aren’t worth your time. There’s just so many ways to break a relationship through modern technology and not enough ways to keep them together. How do we avoid playing games with people? I think the problem is people jumping into getting to know someone as a boyfriend before getting to know them as a person and a friend. It just doesn’t work. It makes it too awkward, and too much pressure. I try to get to know someone as a friend before seeing if there’s a romantic link. To see if the conversation flows smoothly and if you have the same outward views on the world.

Over the years, I’ve listened to countless friends’ dating horror stories. People who have looked online for love, who’ve exhausted their supply of friends’ friends, to no avail. My advice has always been the same.

  • Don’t overthink it.
  • Be yourself.
  • If you like them, put yourself out there. Be forward (but not aggressive). If they don’t respond to it, fuck it, your relationship wouldn’t be that great anyway. Find someone who loves you for you (however cheesy that sounds, it’s true.)

My friend S put the last few points better than I could. People need to get over themselves. You’re not a princess that deserves to be spoiled. You’re not any better than anyone else. It’s not about one person spoiling the other, it’s about finding a partnership that works. You’re not going to find the person that’s 100% perfect. You’re going to find someone who’s 70%-80%-90% compatible with you, and you work at the other percentages with compromise and communication. Because relationships are not rainbows and fairy dust, they are work, but it’s so worth it.

Good luck out there, all you brave brave people of the single world. Don’t be bitter, and I hope you find the person who’s willing to work at being happy with you.