Grand Electric

There’s something I need to admit to all of you out there.

I love tacos. I really do. It all started way back when I didn’t know any better and I would beg to go to Taco Bell at any time of the day. Mind you, this was back when I didn’t know how to drive, didn’t know how to get anywhere, and relied on older family members to cater to my intense pregnant-like cravings. What do you want to eat? Insta-answer: Tacos. Nothing but.

Getting a little older, I learned of the magic of Old El Paso taco seasoning and ground beef. So there I was, high school student and little brother, mixing up beef and powder, white flour tortillas, poorly cut lettuce and pre-shredded cheese. I was more than satisfied. I was happy.

Then comes college, the first time I was ever really constantly out of my house. I spent my days and most of my nights downtown Montreal going to school, doing homework, and eating and drinking with friends. The first time I hit up bars and restaurants, for no special reason other than we were tired and hungry and too far from home. Places like Mesa 14 opened up a whole new world of Mexican cuisine. The Three Amigos were my three amigos. Tacos that were prepared fresh and hot to my liking, with no pre-shredded cheese or canned salsa. Surely, this cannot get better. And then we went on vacation.

We actually went to Mexico. The land of chili, lime, and cilantro. Sure we were on a resort with the standard buffet fare, but then we ventured to the village markets, off resort property. I’ve been to Mexico twice now, and both times, the best food is off the resort. Sure, you’re risking food poisoning and germs that your body isn’t used to. But, let me tell you, it is all worth it.

And now where do we stand? My love affair with this wonderful beacon of hand-sized heaven. We stand, my friends, with the gourmet. The daring. The trendy. We stand among great chefs that do more than ground beef and seasonings. More than just your plain and packaged flour tortillas. We stand with pork belly, jalapenos, fancy things like “aioli”, with individual tacos that cost more than a meal at McDonalds.

On a chilly Friday night, we stand in front of Grand Electric Bar.

1330 Queen Street West, Toronto

 

I don’t know how to describe this place with any words other than super hip. The first time we tried to go, we made the mistake of getting hungry before deciding on the restaurant. The wait was to be 1.5 hours. This time, even though we arrived about 15 minutes after opening, the wait time was the same. I hear you have to line up before they open to actually sit at 6pm. The restaurant is decorated in vintage wood with the menus and specials written up on chalkboard. The whole place had a rustic western feel to it, like I was in a smoky saloon that had Jay Z performing all night. In addiction to the lovely warm feeling of the place, loud rap and hip hop was playing all night. The ambiance was amazing.

We sat at the bar, which was great because there was a lot of room for our dishes.

Tip: There are hooks underneath where you can put your coats/purses.

We ordered some drinks, bourbon and tequila and they were mighty strong. So, a warning, if you aren’t used to not-girly drinks that don’t taste like sugar.

Guacamole and chips with a large slice of pig fat in the middle. The guac and salsa were pretty standard, nothing crazy, but delicious all the same. They had sprinkled some sort of salty cayenne seasoning on the chips which really enhanced the flavours of the dish together. I took a bite of the pig fat because I had never tasted it before, and well, it was pig fat. Really delicious but too rich and oily for me to be eating the whole thing.

Tuna ceviche on a fried tortilla covered in cilantro, radish, onions, and jalapeno aioli. This is raw tuna so don’t order if you’re squeamish about raw fish. This dish was nice and Saney went crazy all over it.

“The tuna ceviche is booooommmbbbb. It’s sooooo good.” – Verbatim

The tacos!!! They were a little small but it was to be expected. However, their size is not at all proportionate to the flavour they pack. Each one was super decadent and flavourful. You can’t help but savour every bite. From the top going clockwise, we’ve got: Fish taco, pig tail, beef cheek, and pork belly. The fish tacos were topped with some slaw, chives, onions, radish, and if I recall correctly, mayo. The beef cheek had a guacamole and fresh jalapeno (not pickled!) topping and the pork belly had a cilantro and steamed pineapple topping. Everything was tender to a fault. Juicy. Extravagant. A delight. And definitely gone too fast. I was very excited to try to pig tail and it was unlike anything I’d ever had before. Almost a cross between foie gras for texture and crispy BBQ pork. The beef cheek was almost like pulled pork, but a great deal more delicate. Extremely juicy. The pineapple on the pork belly gave this taco a whole other dimension. It enhanced the smoky flavour and gave it a nice tang.

Oh what I would do to eat here again. I definitely need to eat here again.

Next up was the fried chicken that had a fancy name. It was probably Pollo Frito. Let me begin by saying that this photo does not at all do this dish justice. The chicken wings were piled high, topped with a mixture cilantro, chili peppers, jalapeno, and cooked lime, and then drenched in this sweet, sticky, spicy, garlicky sauce. It was heaven. There was no effort to share, it was eat as much as you can before it’s all gone. The chicken was crispy and tender. Drenched, but maintained it’s exterior texture. It was like magic. The spice was subtle but definitely there. It wasn’t overpowering to the point where you want to stick a fire extinguisher in your mouth, but it was enough to satisfy. Everything tasted fresh and the flavours married each other so well. Best chicken wings ever.

I want this in my mouth right now please okay thanks.

If I could, I would eat here all the time. I would brave the mildly cold Toronto winters, the stinky summers, the terrifying nights. I would do it all for Grand Electric. (It’s legal to marry a restaurant, right?)

Fusia Dog!

Fusia Dog!

Located on Duncan and Queen just south of the Pita Land. Fusia dog. I feel like they should have a theme song. It’s just cute little store with a small sitting area and a friendly Philipino-looking couple running it. Oh and they have an amazing menu with asian fusion fast foods that I’d never seen before!

I ordered the Peking Duck Quesadilla (seriously, who wouldn’t?) while my buddy ordered the Mediterranean. When we sat down, the nice lady offered us some free samples of their Power Slaw and Roasted Red Potato Salad.

The Power Slaw was basically just veggies and nuts and shredded cheese with a bit of mayo. It was a bit dry and tasted more like raw vegetables than any kind of coleslaw I’d ever had. The red potato salad, however, was so nice! Sweet and smokey while not being too heavy. It reminded me of the kind of potatoes that you get alongside your kimchi at Korean BBQ places.

My Peking Duck Quesadilla! Mmm, even though I’m not a big fan of bean sprouts, I didn’t mind them here. The quesadilla was nice and crispy and stuff full of veggies and sweet, juicy duck. It was a perfect refreshing and light lunch. Didn’t fill me up that much, but that’s because I have the belly of a sumo wrestler. Another perk, they serve Boylan’s here! I was very reluctant to share any bite of this with my friend, but alas, manners. The only thing missing from this is  the classic daikon that makes the perfect Peking Duck.

They served the Mediterranean dog on a toasted poppy seed bun in the cutest little banana leaf boat! Topped with feta cheese and roasted onions, peppers, and zucchini, I had a bite of this and it completely blew my mind. Surprisingly hearty, extremely juicy, and everything just melted so perfectly in your mouth. I’m not even a big fan of cheese but the contrast between the soft veggies, the saltiness of the feta, the hot dog underneath, and the sweet egg poppy seed hot dog bun, to die for. There is a reason this dog runs for $8!

I only saw these while on the way out, but you read that correctly. Skor Pretzels. I’m already planning my next trip there: The Fusia Dog, with daikon and carrot salad, wasabi mayo, kimchi, and coriander, with a side of Skor Pretzels and a Black Cherry Boylan’s to wash it all down!

Food Truck Toronto

These past few weeks have been something of a mission for me. I was walking home one day when, lo and behold, there was a big white truck sitting in a parking lot. There were quite a few people lining up in front of said truck and … getting food? What sorcery is this? Looks like I stumbled upon a fabled food truck. I’ve heard so much about them, but always in other cities. Places like San Diego and Los Angeles. I had never seen one in real life before, yet here it was. Naturally, I got in line and from that first bite and conversation, I was hooked. Cue adventure time.

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Food Cabbie // @FoodCabbie // Facebook

Food Cabbie has been around for about 5 months now, with the chef (a very nice man!) coming from California and bringing with him American cuisine with a touch of Mexican flair. They have different sandwich specials each day, each sounding taster and tastier than the last. I can’t believe that I’ve been living a block away, yes, ONE block, and I had never seen this place until last week. Of course, to make amends, I visited them twice last week and will probably go tomorrow too. That philly cheese steak is looking extra tempting. Food Cabbie is parked on Queen St. E between Shuter and Dalhousie from Monday-Friday 11-5!

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Lunchtime rush!


The Ortega Cheeseburger // $6.50

Pico de gallo (my weakness), sour cream, lettuce, and secret burger sauce. The description alone is what intrigued me, I mean, who has ever put sour cream on a burger? Worth a shot. The burger was nice and juicy, basically leaking into my mouth (this is a good thing, people!). It was nice, tart, and fresh with the bun lightly toasted but soft. Filled me up quite nicely, too!

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The Carne Asada Burrito // $6

Smoky grilled steak with refried beans and tomatos. It’s like they channelled my soul when creating this menu. I’m a sucker for refried beans. And steak. And burrito. A proper burrito where they grill the outside as well! I can’t say how many places I’ve been to where the tortilla is just flimsy and doughy, completely ruins the whole integrity of my meal. But this, this was amazing. Enjoy my gross photo of a half eaten burrito and cry if you haven’t had a Food Cabbie burrito! Yum. :)

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Caplansky’s Deli Truck // @CaplanskyTruck // Website

Right next-door to the Food Cabbie is where Thunderin’ Thelma is parked. Yes, the truck’s name is Thunderin’ Thelma, named after the owner’s Nana, which I think means grandmother. Caplansky’s Deli was featured in Toronto Life’s April 2012 issue along with Food Cabbie and 8 other GTA-serving mobile eateries. As the chalk-based menu suggests, their items change up every so often with items such as the Brisket and Smoked Meat being staple.

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Look at this picture of their coleslaw. I love coleslaw.

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When you see something called Maple Beef-Bacon Donuts, you don’t just walk away. You look the man in the window in the eyes, nut up, and order these strange little creatures. At about a dollar each, depending on how many you buy, you can’t really go wrong. Unless you have blood suger problems, in which case you do what you do. The outside was nice and crispy while the inside was a bit doughy. It does give you a satisfying bite though. These balls were dense and bacon-y and sweet, dripping in a thick maple syrup. It reminded me of something like baklava and that really sweet syrupy indian dessert. Different, strange, not bad. Definitely couldn’t eat more to 3 by myself.

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BBQ Brisket Sandwich // $7

Let’s talk about this amazing sandwich for a second. Or five. Or forever. First of all, onion bun. AMAZING. Secondly, the brisket was nice and soft. Savoury and smokey. Not too sweet as some BBQ sandwiches tend to be. So much meat on one sandwich that it’s incredibly satisfying. What sets this sandwich apart from others for me? The super crunchy and crispy deep fried onions sitting there between the meat and the bun. Such a nice contrast between the softness of the bun and the meatiness of the brisket. So so so yummy. An incredibly dangerous sandwich. Guaranteed if you try this you’ll be coming back for more and more and more.

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With my appetite whet by these two food trucks, when I heard about the FoodTruckEats pop-up in Liberty Village, I just had to be there. It rained mighty hard in the morning but after my meeting, I trekked out the with my umbrella, and my hole-y flats, and my hungry hungry belly. 3 food trucks were featured that day for three hours between 11AM and 2PM: Caplansky’s Deli, Blue Donkey Streatery, and

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El Gastronomo Vagabundo // @ElGastronomo // Website

Unfortunately, my meeting ran late so I only had time to stand in line for one truck, and I’m so glad I chose this one. Although Blue Donkey is supposed to be mind-blowing, El Gastronomo’s feature was something I just couldn’t turn down. There were tons of people standing in line and waiting for food, and the air was electric. Or it might have just been me, but the rain had temporarily let up, food smells are wafting up in the air, the excitement was building up. I. Was. PUMPED. BRING IT ON.

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Biltong Belly Tacos // 2 for $8

Twice-cooked “Biltong” pork belly, jalapeno aioli, pickled daikon on corn tortillas. Is your belly crying yet? Because it should be. These things were amazing. I don’t think the above photo does it much justice because in my eyes, it looked like this. I’m pretty sure I heard an angelic choir singing somewhere. I was just going to take it on the streetcar and eat it, but no, I was too excited. Who cares if I was late for work, this was clearly more important, and it was so worth it. I sprinkled lime juice along the tacos and dug in. The pork, oh gosh the pork. Crispy. Tender. Not fatty like other servings of pork belly. Seasoned with this mysterious biltong pixie dust. I’m pretty sure I looked insane as I sat down by myself snarfing these down with a weird smile on my face. But then it was gone. How did these two tacos go by so fast? I don’t know. It was simultaneously the best moment of my life as well as the worst. Gone so fast. I was so tempted to go grab another one, but we all know where that leads us. Sitting curbside, constantly refreshing twitter, clutching onto the food truck’s bumper begging for more, draining our bank accounts, “Will dance for El Gastronomo.” Right, guys? Heh… heh..

Seriously. Amazing.

Definitely not my last food truck experience. These last few weeks have been amazing, and it’s just the beginning. I plan to try every last one of the GTA food trucks.

From what I glean, there is a bit of struggle in the city of Toronto whereby food trucks are not allowed to operate on pay-to-pay parking lots for more than 10 minutes to sell food even if they’ve bought all the necessary permits, and adhere to regulations that are even more strict than restaurants. So! Go and sign this petition so that Toronto can have more of this wonderful food, all the time! :)

THE PETITION

What You Can Learn Walking Around

So I went on a bit of a quest for Toronto’s best baguette for a small dinner party that I was hosting. Crawling around the internet, I found 3 places that were recommended. Celestin, Jules, and Pain Perdu. Both Celestin and Jules were pretty close to each other, on Mount Pleasant between Eglinton and Davisville. So I headed up there. Walking a bit, I saw this cute little cheese shop, so I went in. Oh boy. I just wanted some balsamic vinegar, and yeah they had some. The worker knew what I was looking for and I had told him I just wanted a small bottle. So he tried to sell me a small bottle of balsamic vinegar… for $120. HA. Did he even look at me? Okay okay, I understand this face and exquisite style could throw you off, but seriously, I don’t think I would ever pay $120 for an 18 oz. bottle of balsamic vinegar, so I feigned interest in some pâté and then walked out when he wasn’t look.

The pâté wasn’t actually too bad. I’d had a craving for a little while and it was only $5. It would have gone very well with the french bread I was buying. But, I weighed it out and it was already 3pm and dinner was at 6pm. Already had huge steaks at home waiting to be cooked.

I walked further down Mount Pleasant to Celestin to find it was closed for renovations. A few doors down, Jules was closed on Mondays apparently. So I decided to go to Pain Perdu, which was all the way across town. After a few mishaps on public transit, and an hour later, I bought my baguette at Pain Perdu at Christie and St. Clair. Having forgotten to eat breakfast that day, I decided to buy a little raisin pastry that they had there.

Best decision I’ve ever made.

The pastry was, as I texted to the boyfriend, “soooooooooooooooo good. Slightly buttery, nice and flaky and crispy but like, not crumb-y. Light glaze and had raisins but not too raisin-y. Sooo good I wanted to go back and get another one. ”

Verbatim.

The baguette was alright, I’ve had better. The dinner went well. I did learn a few things while walking around Toronto, especially in areas that I’ve never really been to before.

  • The southbound Mount Pleasant bus turns on St. Clair. I should not have disembarked.
  • There is a ravine looking forest area on St. Clair between Yonge and Mount Pleasant.
  • There is also a large cemetery and a cool vintage store that sells antique Toronto maps and prints.
  • Yonge & Eglinton area is quite nice. I would still like to live on the Danforth. Greek food all day, e’eryday.
  • Jules is closed on Mondays.
  • Pain Perdu pastry is heavenly. This is my new “bring visitors to eat.”
  • With the new TTC price hike, for the monthly metropass to be worth the $104, I need to use it 41 times. I’ve begun to keep track of my usage because I’d like to know if I use it enough. Also, I love statistics. Statistics and Lyfe Jennings.
  • The black guy that sat next to me on the subway may or may not have been a hobo. He was quiet smelly.
  • There are streetcars that run on both Bathurst and St. Clair. I was unaware.
  • There are quite a number strange people that ride the Bathurst streetcar.
  • Honest Ed’s is amazing and wonderful and completely dangerous for me if I stay in there for too long.

 

Guu

Guu is located on Church Street between Gerrard and Carlton. They just opened up a new location on Bloor a few months ago, I think.

I’d heard of this place from a few different sources, all of them singing praises, except for the part where the wait times can range anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours. Yeah, apparently it’s worth the wait, but I’m not the kind of person that’s willing to wait that long to eat dinner.

That being said, this place was unlike any other restaurant I’ve ever been to, because I’m not the classiest person ever. It seems like the place that trendy 20-35 year olds would go to, because it is a very fun place, well decorated, with a great theme. The place itself, from the outside was made of an unpolished granite with wooden accents. The wood, well done as it was, was able to avoid looking cheap and rustic. There was a giant wooden door, easily over 10 ft high, and when you enter, every worker there (probably over 20 people) turned to greet you in Japanese. Exuberant hellos and smiles. That’s just a warning for first time visitors because I was definitely caught off-guard.

Luckily, our wait was less than 5 minutes because we were meeting some of my cousins and friends there, a total group of 7 people.

This place specialized (or rather, only really served) Japanese Tapas. Small Japanese dishes, meant to be shared. I didn’t get to take a lot of pictures, because my phone was dying and the place really didn’t look like a place that I should be taking pictures at. Also, because I was with people that I didn’t really know too well. I digress. These little plates, deceiving as they are, pack so much flavour and food into them, by the end, we were rather full. Or I was at least. But we did order 26 plates in total, plus a pitcher of Sapporo.

Some of the dishes that stood out were the Unagi (freshwater eel) on rice, beef udon, tuna thingy, black cod, bacon wrapped mushroom. They even had amaebi (sweet shrimp) which isn’t available at a lot of places. Oh and the avocado with shrimp and salty stuff. Man, there were so many dishes that I don’t even remember them all. They were mostly very good though, and even the ones that weren’t good, weren’t bad at all.

Everything was very well presented, the food was amazing. The menu and their brand identity were great. Very illustrative and expressive brush strokes that identify with the Japanese culture. However, some didn’t like it because it was a bit difficult to read, albeit not that much. But then again, these were the same people that preferred Comic Sans.

._.

In the end, our total came up to about $200 + $20 tip, so about $30 a person. Well worth it. Great atmosphere, great food, great company.

PILLOW FIIIIIIGHT

Now, I always hear about these crazy things happening in Toronto, and I decided to say, “Fuck it.” I don’t need a partner to go to these things with me. I always found it more liberating to do the things I want to do without dragging an unwilling victim with me. Not to say I’m glad that I didn’t, but it’s nice not to have to worry about whether the other person will resenting me for being gay.

I digress. Giant. Pillow. Fight. It was a public event that I found out on Facebook, where anyone and everyone is invited to go come to Yonge-Dundas Square at 8pm on April 2, 2011, bring your own pillow, and unleash your fury at the next bystander unawares.

Not only is it a lot of fun, it was for a good cause, kind of. The event said that there were going to be trucks coming around and collecting the pillows from the fight to give to the homeless and needy. I didn’t see any, but I did see piles of pillows on the side with volunteers collecting from the other people.

Guy in a red spandex suit. Blonde pig-tailed girl in pink pyjamas. Asian dude with a big camera and striking a weird pose. Aahh, Toronto.

There were all sorts of people there. Mostly teenagers and young adults ready to get their freak on. At one point, I heard the unmistakeable fury of a battle cry. I look over to my left and there was this lanky boy, being carried on the back of his friend, with his fist thrusted into the air, clamped around a pillow.

“Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarge!!!!!”

The whole thing was quite a sight to see. Yes, that's a giant fish.

 

As many people that were there to fight, there were many people, or just passers-by, who stopped to watch the spectacle. There were also photographers, with their external flashes, and ring flashes, and fancy rigs. Observing the observers. I’m so meta. Hahahha.

Here follows some footage of the fight. It’s as if you were actually there!!!

As well as the throngs of people lashing out at each other with padded sleeping aids, there was a percussive group called the Samba Elégua. They were loud, they were energetic, they were foot-stompingly amazing. They’re music permeated the entire square, and you can hear the beats from blocks away. The crowd that formed around them pumped with the music and you couldn’t help but smile. It felt like you were just part of one organism, throbbing, and moving, and living.

I’m not even high.

It’s amazing feeling like you’re one part of something greater. Living life in the midst of others. Everything you see, has been seen, is being seen, by someone else, in a different perspective and in a different context.

Either we’re alone in the universe, or there’s life out there, somewhere. Either way, it’s the biggest thing for our heads to be wrapped around. Alone in the universe. Think about it. In this gigantic universe, further than our technologies allow us to see. We are not a speck in the universe, our planet is not a speck in the universe, our GALAXY is a tiny speck of sand in the universe. We are so insignificant, but can we really be the only ones here?

And then if you look at the other end of the spectrum. What if there’s life somewhere out there? Either they’re out there, way more advanced than we are. What kind of technology would they have? Are they yet exploring space? How do they do it? What do they look like? Or maybe they’re as primitive as we are. Another level 5 planet on the other side of the universe, with a species just starting out and looking up at the stars, wondering if life exists outside of their planet. ALIENS. They are as alien to us as we are to them. We are aliens.

Anyway, that’s just something I’ve been thinking about lately. Doctor Who helps stave off some of that curiosity, even if it is just fiction. Speaking of Doctor Who, the season premiere for the Series 6 is on April 23rd. However, next Monday, April 11, they’re doing a prescreening for the series in New York City, followed by a Q&A session with the cast and writer. Aka Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, and Steven Moffat are going to be in the same building.

So, excuse me while I take a short road trip to New York.

HELL YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

That’s right folks, yours truly will be in the same room as the Doctor. AHHHH!!!!

I will touch him. (Let’s hope they don’t read this before I get a chance to do it or else I’ll come off as reaaaally creepy. HA!)

It’s going to be great. I’ve never been to New York before so this will be an adventure and a half!!! I will of course blog about it. And hopefully have a picture with the cast. As well as have them sign my copy of Series 5, that my loving SO bought for me. BAHAHAHHAHAHAHHA. I am so excited.

Mmm… The Things I Eat.

Fuck, I love food. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. You may say you love food, but nuh uh girl, you don’t love food like I love food. Ha! I’m sure I’ll find something more interesting than food to post for you sometime soon, but I don’t think there’s anything more interesting than food. Food, food, food, food.

This recipe was based on another Food Wishes video. I found this video while I was on my 3-week sojourn in Vietnam, and you do not know the intense fire that burned in my belly. I craved lasagna, day and night, day and night, day and night. It was only when we got back to Canada and organized a family fiesta night that we were able to create this delicious looking thing. Let me tell you, it damn well tasted as good as it looks. It was 239874x more delicious than it looks.

Caramel pudding, or ‘flan.’ I don’t know about you but I love this stuff. Maybe it’s the taste, maybe it’s the texture. More likely, it’s a combination of the two. It’s like a baby crème brûlée, and boy do I like my crème brûlée. I’m glad this thing is cheap, meaning they serve it at most buffets. I load up on more than my fair share of this. I could eat it all day.

Free food at work. For lunch, I made myself a steak sandwich. A goddamn steak sandwich! On fresh-out-of-the-oven italian Ciabatta, a medium steak, some roasted onions and peppers, lettuce, and honey mustard sauce. *drool. I know what I’m having for lunch tomorrow.

Natas or “Portuguese egg tarts” are another thing I have to be careful around at work. If I don’t watch it, I’ll end up eating a billion of them. These are egg tarts, but they’re not like the asian egg tarts. Their custard is thicker, not as sweet, with a slight hint of cinnamon. Their surrounding pastry is light, flaky, crunchy, chewy, all around delicious. But they’re only like that if you get them fresh in the morning. If you’re lucky, they’ll stay like that till the next day. But seeing these arrive first thing in the morning, all fresh and warm and whatnot, is heaven.

Churros in Kensington Market. I’d only ever had churros once before at the Montreal Jazz Festival (I think), and I was jonesing for more of them after once passing by a sign advertising them in K-market. Finally, after a few months of procrastination, I went to get some. The two on the right are filled with chocolate and the one on the left is just plain. They were deliciously crispy, warm, and soft. Totally worth it. It was only a few days later that I learned this was the place that sold Kimchi Empanadas. It is my mission to go have a couple this summer, but hopefully before that.