“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.

 

 

 

 

Oh. Hey. Hi. PHOTODUMP. :)

Delicious, delicious photodump.

Image

1. Hello. Bacon, onion, and spinach quiche. I know, so fancy. I made these because my eggs were going to expire and these quiches were supposed to last me a few days. However, after they came out of the oven, they smelled too good. So I ate one. And then another.

And then I ate all of them.

No regrets.

2. My vegetarian friend made too much spaghetti sauce so she gave me a bag of frozen sauce and I finally got a chance to use it. It was so hearty with some things that I’ve never put in pasta sauce before, like zucchini. Hahah. I had gotten home from one of my ridiculous days and was just starving. All I needed to do was boil pasta, brown some ground beef, and then dump in some sauce. Thanks Zizi!

3. I had some leftover pulled pork that I had made from the day before and a nice organic brie loaf and some cheese. What else to make but an inside out grilled cheese filled with pulled pork? I made one sandwich and left the ingredients on the counter because I knew I was going to make another one. And then I did.

And then every once in a while my mom comes over and cooks me food. Which is amazing. I mean, some of this Vietnamese fare, you just can’t get at a restaurant.

4. Bun thit nuong. She made me all the things and I just assembled it. The grilled beef though, I think I used this recipe off the internet. It turned out really nice, especially with a bit of lemon tang. Other than that, we’ve got nem nuong, carrots (no daikon -sadface-), cucumbers, and green stuff and vermicelli noodles.

5. Bun reu cua. She taught me how to make this and this pleases me. :D It’s an egg, tomato, and shrimp-based soup with vermicelli noodles and served with mixed greens with chili pepper and salt on the side.

Not going to lie, it’s been rough. Working too much, not sleeping enough, and not enough time to eat! That being said, it’s rare that I’ll fully get to go out and eat at delicious restaurants, and I can barely afford to either. The first three photos are from Utopia Cafe on College, west of Bathurst.

6. Utopia Nachos With tons of awesome melted cheese, chicken, beef and other nacho staples. They also serve with a side of salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. But, as always, there’s never enough salsa or guacamole, and they do charge if you ask for more (which we found out on the bill). Though the middle of the nachos are great, the edges were sadly neglected crispy chips. The nachos are piled on top of this crispy baked pita which was really nice as well. $15

7. Steak & Cheddar Burrito The burrito was a bit on the smaller size (this coming from eating Burrito Boyz burritos, those things are MASSIVE), and was served with a side of spinach salad (even though I’m pretty sure I ordered coleslaw.. but didn’t realize this till right now), and black bean rice. The burrito, though, was really good. The mayo was excellent and tangy, the meat juicy. The burrito just seemed a bit sparse and empty, like there wasn’t a lot of filling inside. The salad was great and featured a nice balsamic dressing on top. I was sharing the plate and did not try the rice. Overall, this was an okay dish, I probably wouldn’t order it again, but I hear the burgers are amazing.  $12.50

8. Flourless Chocolate Cake The waitress had told us that they were newly just trying out desserts at Utopia but they got this cake bang-on. Definitely couldn’t have eaten this by myself (oh who am I kidding, yes I could have.) Flourless means gluten-free, which is great for the new gluten-free diet trend* and for those who are sensitive to gluten or have gluten allergies. However, being flourless means they replace the flour with… more sugar. So diabetics, hyperglycemics, and people with generally high blood sugar should beware. Other than that, it was really good, it was a flourless batter thing on the bottom (I’m guessing made out of butter and sugar primarily), nice and crumbly, topped with thick chocolate fudge. Served with a side of whipped cream and berries. Very delicious. $5

9. This is the Riverside burger from BQM Burgershoppe. They have 3 different locations in Toronto, and the one I’ve been to several times is the one on Queen, east of Spadina, right near my school. The burgers are great, nice and juicy patties that aren’t too small. I was craving burgers and onion rings so decided to kill two birds with one stone. It was great, with lettuce, tomato, bacon, cheese, and garlic aioli, but while being great at the time, it did create some painful carnage on the roof of my mouth. BQM onion rings are really really crispy, which are great if you’re biting into them individually. Overall though, always a great experience here. Tiny seating areas though! Riverside Chuck Burger $9

*

Deliciously G-Free by Elisabeth Hasselback. ISBN 9780345529381

I’ve been seeing a lot of gluten-free diet books coming out at the bookstore lately, the most popular one being Deliciously G-Free by Elisabeth Hasselback, who everyone has been telling me was on that Survivor show that I never watched.

Okay, so what is gluten? It’s a protein found in a lot of wheat, rye, barley and other things. So, obviously, people with Celiac’s disease can’t actually eat gluten products because it causes their intestines to go all kinds of painful crazy. But what people don’t know, is that there’s a lot of people who are also gluten-sensitive. Humans ourselves can’t actually process gluten and wheat that well. It has less nutritional value and is a pro-inflammatory. So basically, giving up gluten is a really healthy choice and great for people who don’t have Celiac’s disease or a gluten allergy. It’s just one of those trends that I’ve been seeing popping up lately.

**

In other news, I saw this new beautiful book on display yesterday:

Meat Free Monday Cookbook ISBN: 978-1906868697

It’s this huge campaign going on in the UK started by Paul McCartney and his family, showing us that just by eliminating meat from our diet once a week has great environmental and personal benefits and effects. I’m a meat person, I really am, but this cookbook is actually amazing. And really beautiful.

What they do is they create a whole meal-plan for you, for each Monday in a year. If I recall correctly, they provide Breakfast, 2 snacks, a lunch, and dinner recipe for each day, which makes it incredibly easy to switch over to a meatless day. I mean, I know one of the major excuses for not participating is, “I wouldn’t know how to cook meatless” and now you do.

They also sort the recipes by season much like one of my other favourite cookbooks, Martha Stewart’s everyday Food Light, which makes it great when you’re shopping for your ingredients because all of them are in season, which means they’re cheaper and they taste better too!

Everyday Food: Light ISBN: 978-0307718099

Other than that, my favourite food blogger is coming out with a new cookbook on March 13, called Food From My Frontier, which is chock full of simple recipes, and knowing Ree (not personally), everything is going to be delicious!!!! :)

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Simple, Scrumptious, Satisfying ISBN: 9780061997181

Cheerio and happy eating! :)