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It seems like this past week has been heartbreaking both locally and nationally. It began with the suicide of a colleague’s friend, continued with the murder of Quebec soldier, Patrice Vincent, the terrorist triple shooting in Ottawa and murder of another soldier, Nathan Cirillo from my hometown of Hamilton, and concluded by the death of two Burlington teenagers. My heart cried for these people and their family and friends who lost a loved one so suddenly.
As the news of more deaths came with each passing day, so close to home, my heart sank further and further. Speaking to the murders of the soldiers, definitive acts of hate and rage against our country, they sought to tear down our spirit. However, the outpouring of love and support, both from Canadians and others worldwide, came as a swell. It rose up loud, strong, telling the attackers that we as Canadians will not be afraid. We will honour the dead as heroes, and we will not let the perpetrators gain the infamy they so crave.
Tomorrow, Hamilton honours Nathan Cirillo, and Canada stands by his side. Our community coming together with love makes me proud to be Canadian. No, I was not born here, but Canada is my culture and my pride.
I’m the kind of person that, no matter how long I’ve been out of the country, gets a knot in my throat and a bit teary-eyed every time the border or airport security guard says “Welcome home.” Canada is my favourite country. I’ll travel anywhere and everywhere, but I’ll never settle anywhere but here.
I just wanted to put that out there, and share this chilling video of the Highway of Heroes tradition, honouring fallen soldiers along Canada’s largest autoroute. I cried for our heroes, for our country, and at the amazing show of love and patriotism.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
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.
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.
Contrary 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 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 – 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 – 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
St. 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.