Market 707

My friend and I tried to go to this area for weeks! It’s an incredibly innovative market made up of vendors using makeshift shipping containers as their kitchens. There are some benches, chairs and tables around the area but for the most part, people have just ordered and eaten there food at home. I, however, would encourage everyone to sit down somewhere and have conversations with the vendors if it’s not busy or to bring a friend. It’s quite suting that this market is just on the side of the Scadding Court Community Centre.

The slow eaters we were, my friend and I were one of the last few customers around the area still chomping, trying to finish our food. It was nice to see that all of the vendors knew one another. They formed their own community as the vendors of Market 707. They came out of their kitchens, had lively conversations with one another and helped each other close up for the day. This is why I love food. It brings joy to people and creates communities. Granted, it has been the cause of some disagreements and wars, but for the most part, food seems to always bring people together. And what a delectable sight it can be!

 

Always,

K

 

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Waterfront Night Market

This was my first time going to the Waterfront Night Market and what a blast it was! Aside from the immediate whiff of the smelly tofu at your first step into the festival the Asian inspired street food was great! We arrived a little before 7pm and soon after the festival was flooded by people. Not exclusive to Asians but also diners of different nationalities and ethnicities this food festival sponsored by none other than T&T Supermarket (among 3 other sponsors?) offered a good variety of Asian street food found in Toronto. Although, I should say that I was looking for some bahn mi and could not find a stall that served some. Nonetheless, it was great to taste some good food-emphasis on the good seafood! Granted, Taste of Toronto was happening the same weekend, the turn out was awesome. These are some of the dishes I’ve tasted and some photos of the festival.

But of course, what’s a food festival without music and an eating contest? Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to watch my friends perform on the last day but I’m certain they did amazing! Click the hyperlink to their youtube site here: The Quan. You may also recognize the ever lovely Ms Victoria Marie and Axel Villamil. Check them out!

 

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HIBISCUS CAFÉ

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Do you fancy vegan cuisine and around the Kensington Market area at Toronto? If so, this is an awesome little place for you! Emphasis on the little because it is a pretty small space. From what I can recall there’s only about 9-10 tables. Worry not, you can order ahead and come over for pick up.

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My friend and I ate right beside the giant window of the café. It was quite a beautiful sunny day so of course the sun lit up the whole café with ease. The whole place felt light, airy and simply quaint. They also had an awesome display at the front of the café behind the cashier. These shelves had an eclectic mix of vintage cameras, jars, rocks and candles. Aside from the charming and cozy ambience that the café had, they served great vegan dishes even meat lovers like myself would appreciate.

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I had the pleasure of trying one of their savoury crepes with some vegan cheddar cheese, spinach, mango chutney, chopped pecans and poached pear. As you can imagine, I was quite hesitant tasting the ‘vegan cheddar’ considering I wouldn’t know exactly what the ‘cheese’ is made of, or whether you can qualify it as a cheese without the dairy aspect. Also, cheddar anything with some kind of chutney was definitely an odd mix. Initially thinking of the sharpness in cheddar cheese and how it may compliment sweet-spicy-tangy chutney? Well friends, all of the components got along together quite well. The vegan cheddar was not as sharp as I though it would be and it definitely had that oowy-goowy melted cheddar texture that blanketed the inner surface of the crepe. Although for me, the star of this dish was the mango chutney. It harmonized the components together as it has sweeter notes to compliment the pear, spicy notes to compliment the vegan cheddar and tangy notes to compliment the spinach. To give the crepe more body, I would suggest incorporating some avocado slices inside as well, instead of just using it as a garnish. I think avocadoes’ creamy texture would go well with the crunchy pecans and sooth the spiciness of the chutney.

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In addition, I forgot to mention that this restaurant is gluten-free! They used a vegan buckwheat batter for the crepe itself. Of course it doesn’t taste like your regular crepe batter. In fact, the crepe had a distinct, yet subtle buckwheat flavour. So, what does buckwheat even taste like? It tastes like a deep nutty flavour; some may also say it has earthy accents. This taste accentuated the pecans well.

For dessert, they offer a variety of sweet crepes as well as some vegan ice cream. Now, I make this kind of a habit. I usually ask the wait staff taking my order to pick a dessert for me consciously knowing that he/she may order me the most expensive dessert. Fortunately, no one has done that to me yet. That being said, I did ask for our waiter to choose between the ice cream flavours for me. So, he decided to scoop me some of his favourites, almond butter chocolate chip and pistachio ice cream. Boy was I glad I let him do that! I was going to pick something completely out there like earl grey ice cream. Both were filled with pistachio pieces and almond pieces. I immediately understood why he said his favourite was the almond butter chocolate chip. It wasn’t too sweet like some regular chocolate ice cream. It tasted more like mild dark chocolate almond ice cream. The sweetness was coming from both the nuts and the chocolate. Meanwhile, this pistachio ice cream was not green! Ordinarily, every time I would get some pistachio ice cream it has a light creamy green colour. There’s did not. I would imagine that they used coconut milk/cream instead of regular milk/cream. And so, this kind of competed with the pistachio flavour, almost to the point that it balanced it out. Yet it was distinctly a pistachio ice cream because of the myriad of crushed pistachios found in every bite. So it literally tasted like I was eating some pistachio nuts instead of an ice cream.

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Because this is a review, there are a couple of minor negative aspects. For instance, this place needs to expand. There’s just not enough room for diners, which was probably why they take orders for pick-up. Being in the heart of Kensington Market, I anticipate that their rent is a little high and so there needs to be some compromises made. I would suggest using the open space at the front of the restaurant for extra seating. Also, sturdier furniture would be appreciated. The ambience was great and all but it resembled more of a picnic indoors instead of a café. See, I’m not suggesting on buying uber expensive furniture, just something that doesn’t feel like it would easily fold or turnover with a heavy plate. I should also mention that their crepes are on the pricey side, about $10 or so per plate. But I think it is understandable with the ingredients that they chose to put in. Needless to say, the price may be a deterrent to some people.

Overall, it was a pleasurable experience. The service was pretty good and I would say that they have some daring flavour combinations. I would recommend this for people out and about looking for an awesome alternative lunch option.

 

 

Best,

-K

 

P.S. Here is a sample of their menu online: http://hibiscuscafe.ca

The name of the restaurant tickled my interest. References suggested that the hibiscus flower had multiple meanings but is commonly symbolized for ‘delicate beauty’. I think that speaks volumes about the restaurant once you’ve experienced dining there! Check them out and tell me what you think! J

 

Winterlicious 2014

What can I say that hasn’t been already said? Good food + good company = happy K.

That’s the extent I’m going to do math here. It was my first time attending any Winterlicous/Summerlicious Toronto and I’m glad to say that I will definitely do it again! Kudos to the organizers of the event, chefs and other contributors! Although it was definitely cleverly planned, keeping in mind the commerciality and consumerism in Valentine’s Day.

My friends had the chance to participate in the previous events and told me ahead of time about their dislikes in terms of restaurants and the process itself. I had a pretty good idea before choosing which places I wanted to venture of just because I’ve read some reviews and heard about other places already. Here are some tips for anyone attending the next Summerlicious/Winterlicious Toronto with me:

  1. Know when you can make reservations. Tables will be reserved and you might not be able to go to the restaurant you actually wanted to dine in at the date and time you wanted to go.
  2. Consider if you have or don’t have a budget. As a student, my friends and I picked restaurants according to how much we are willing to spend for the meal as well as which restaurants were giving the best deals. For instance, it’s a good opportunity to dine in some high-end restaurants during the period if you’re down on paying $45 for the meal. It’s a good price considering how much it will cost originally. However, if you don’t want to spend as much there are various other excellent options. Both of the meals I went to with my friends were under $30!
  3. Do your RESEARCH! There were 200+ restaurants from the list they provided online and they were organized and presented well. You could view the different restaurants alphabetically or by cuisine. I recommend using the categorization through cuisine. It gives you a good idea of what they have and allows for you to pick what you’re more comfortable with or more daring to try. Once you’ve decided on which cuisine you may want to explore, don’t be scared to GOOGLE them. There is a plethora of sites dedicated for online restaurant reviews or even apps you can download on your phone. Make use of them! However, I do understand that different people have different palates and opinions on things and so I would also recommend to ask any of your friends who may or may not have eaten at the restaurant. Don’t just ask about the food too. Service is a huge aspect when dining. You can have an awesome meal but if the service is bad it does ruin a pretty big chunk of your experience, and that’s what ultimately determines whether you want to be a repeat patron or give good recommendations.
  4. FORGET about your diet and INDULGE yourself even for a little while. When you’re dining in, there’s time in between courses for your stomach to digest the food and so you may even feel full sooner. I’ve read somewhere that it takes about 15 minutes before it registers in your brain that you’re full. So the time between courses when you just chat around with your friends or even eating slowly so you can A. savour the flavours B. enjoy your meal and C. enjoy your friends/family/significant other’s company. Besides, being on diets is overrated. It’s a lifestyle change that needs to take place not just your eating habits; that’s where it starts.

We went to Southern Accent and Bodega. Both places were conveniently located within the vicinity of our campus (University of Toronto, St. George Campus). I would definitely recommend these places for anyone visiting out of town or if you just want to have some good comfort food. The service staffs were good and the ambience of the restaurants genuinely embodied the kind of cuisine they were putting out. I really appreciate a restaurant that knows its identity. For instance, Southern Accent screamed New Orleans culture. The rooms were cozy, vibrant and a little eclectic. It wasn’t a surprise to hear that the owner spent a lot of time in New Orleans absorbing its culture from every facet. After all, it’s the restaurant is over 30 years old. Meanwhile, Bodega took me back to my short time spent in Paris. White linens, deep blues and warm acorn stained woodwork from the fireplace to the bathroom stalls! Clean, simple and sophisticated. It’s a very charming place.

Best,

-K