The night had been a restless one. A strict schedule was in place for the next day after all.
Having missed their arrival in the city due to despicable work happenings, I was determined to send the five boys off to their next stop.
It's honestly a sin for airport-bound buses to run every 15 minutes on weekdays, yet only hourly on weekends. Approximately one hour and ten minutes of idling later, DAY6 was spotted disembarking their van.
The staff and members moved swiftly towards the security line, and minimal enforcement was necessary. Besides me, there were only a handful of girls capturing the scene in silence on their handheld devices.
Not a single DSLR-equipped being was in sight - a distinct difference to GOT7's movements around the globe.
It's hard to believe that we're already halfway to 1000 entries - and that's just with the Out & About local exploration series. Five hundred is a nice number, and a fitting entry to dedicate to munching with orangecane and indulging in relevant fangirl discussions.
Korean Fried Chicken, also referred to as the modern "KFC", was an item that had been exempt from her individual adventures abroad. A bit of research later, we became aware that there was one more contender (besides The Fry) serving up these authentic morsels of satisfaction in the west-end suburbs.
Sikgaek was a destination I had originally pinned to my to-go list after coming across images of their Spicy Chicken with Cheese. Review of the menu revealed an assortment of fried chicken, kalbi and bulgogi dishes, along with a plethora of traditional Korean fare.
The interior of the restaurant was homey, and guests had the option of dining in the main dining hall, or in partitioned rooms for enhanced privacy. Amenities were orderly and shiny, though a bit spotty from years of fatigue.
We were first provided with a small, Stainless steel pot of barley tea. Unlike the chipped ceramic varieties found in Chinese diners, the dented pouring apparatus was light and easy to handle. The provided double-layered cups proved efficient in insulating warmth, such that one could enjoy the warm liquid without succumbing to minor fingertip burns.
We shared a Half Yangnyum and Half Pa Dak combo, which rang in $33 before tax. My favourite starter, UhMukTang (aka fishcake soup or oden), was also selected. The boiled/buttered squid had also piqued my interest, but none of the squid-centric dishes were available.
< Pictured above and below: Half Yangnyum and Half Pa Dak combo (양념 반마리 + 파닭 반마리), UhMukTang (어묵탕) >
A trio of banchan were served shortly after orders were taken. These comprised of kimchi, crunchy bean sprouts tossed in sesame oil, and salty, picked onion slices. Cubes of heavily pickled (read: extremely sour) white radish (무) also made its way over in preparation for chicken consumption. Mr. Chimaek's mixed white/pink radish remains the winner.
UhMukTang arrived first. Contained within the stone pot were soggy triangles of flat fishcake, a handful of springy fishballs, and a hard-boiled egg amidst a clear, bubbling broth. The starchy contents were decent, as was the hard-boiled egg, in spite of its tacky, powdery yolk. The broth, on the other hand, was worth commending: adequately seasoned and absolutely comforting, it easily overtook Daldongnae's disappointing rendition.
Two baskets of piping hot chicken surfaced approximately ten minutes later.
The rise of weekly visuals is a sure sign that I've been indulging in snacks too often as of late. And, mind you, these treats don't come cheap in the Downtown Core.
Yang Tea Shop opened up extremely close to my daily operation quarters, so it only seemed right to pay a visit after recuperating from moderate food poisoning. It has since replaced Ken Oh's cramped interior with a spacious waiting area and a total of six seats along the west perimeter of the establishment.
With emphasis on different brews of tea and their unique, complex properties, a row of tea domes were situated along the bar-style seats - with a hot pink sticky note invitation to boot.
Having skimmed their online menu in advance, it was apparent to me that my preferences would lie with either the comforting Signature Tea Latte or avant-garde Tea Boss Nitro Latte.
The latter was unavailable at the "early" hour of 12:15 PM; the preparation process involved a chilling procedure that yet to be completed. "After 1 PM" was the better bet, or so we were told.
For a somewhat chilly day, my partner-in-crime took to a hot Okinawa Milk Tea, refuting her usual mango tendencies. A sip of the beverage informed me of its sweet and utterly soothing characteristics. The inclusion of brown sugar was apparent, but not overwhelmingly so. Chunks of unblended milk powder remained, however.
My own Tea Latte - made with the standard organic 3% milk - had been requested at 30% sugar, which fell short of my desired sweetness level. The concoction was a tad bland, though otherwise enjoyable with its prominent tea aromas.
On a second attempt to try the Nitro Tea Latte, I was told that the beverage had sold out for the day. It was merely nearing 3 PM at this point.
Disappointed - yet not disheartened - I opted for an iced Marble Boba Latte at 30% sugar. Having familiarized myself with the slickness of One Zo's Brown Sugar series, choosing the smallest size seemed the conservative choice.
Iced beverages were available in three sizes: Small (360 ml), Medium/Regular (500 ml), and Large (700 ml). Drinks that were served hot were limited to Medium and Large sizes only.
For the Marble Boba Latte, the small cup was more than enough in my opinion. Primarily comprised of milk, the drink did not bear any essence of tea; the included brown sugar tapioca had been a syrupy choice of topping, so a Small was sufficient without resulting in signs of satiation.
This was, by no means, an economic cup of bubble tea. At $5.80 before tax, I could have easily scored myself a Junior McChicken meal at good ol' McD's.
Finally, on the third consecutive day, the Tea Boss Nitro Latte was obtained at 1: PM.
Following the recommended temperature and sweetness levels - those being Iced and 50% sugar -
a Medium Nitro Tea Latte was secured with glee. This transaction took place on the day immediately succeeding Halloween, when not only spooky decals had been removed from the premises, but the tea domes as well.
Steering clear of toppings, I was able to experience the depth and profile of the beverage without interruption. Each sip was delicious - smooth yet stimulating; subtly sweet yet refreshing. I wouldn't hesitate to repurchase this item, though did contemplate the reason behind odd twitches of stomach pain after its consumption.
The stability of the shop's Wi-Fi network is decent (read: able to load V Live with minor stuttering), as one should hope for a tea house of its caliber. Washrooms are located at the foot of a steep, narrow staircase, though I cannot provide comments in that regard as yet.
Be aware that the entrance is slowed outward and paired with a ledge. Black tiling was chosen for this aspect - a design detail to be aware of (especially on rainy, slippery days).
A trip to Chinatown fell upon a different day. Cravings for egg waffles were high on the list.
After visiting Dragon City Centre, I chanced by a name that was somewhat beknownst to me: Yi Fang.
The tiny sliver of a shop housed a narrow staircase and drink crafting bar/cashier area. Two small tables, as well as a wooden near the top of the stairs, were the main dine-in accommodations.
October probably ranks in at my second favourite month of the year. Fall temperatures and warm-toned foliage are tremendously soothing to me, as is a whiff of freshly baked, cinnamon-dusted apple pie and festive Thanksgiving meals.
That said, these past few weeks have been a conflicting period. Brimming with feelings of stress, anxiety, fury, and all-around helplessness, times at work have been anything but enjoyable. Majority of this month has been spent in vain, in a destination where I belong not, surrounded by those who wish away my existence as intensely as the arrival of an oncoming hurricane.
Life hasn't been fun, but drowning myself in food adventures has aided in minimizing the misery of a lengthy commute plus occupation woes.
It pains me to say that Atlantic Canada posts remain on indefinite hiatus. For now, let us recall some of the happenings in the latter half of the month.
1) Cuppa Tea
Having hiked to Yonge and College once before and returned with a richly flavoured HK Milk Tea in hand, I opted to try an iced variation of their signature drink.
Wait time was a tad longer than previously, which was a given considering the higher volume of customers. The interior remained stuffier than I would prefer, though there wasn't seating available anyway should I had time to dally.
When viewed side by side, the hot variation appeared darker than that of the iced. But the trademark sweetness persisted, regardless of hue.
2) CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice (B-Trust Supermarket)
Mississauga welcomed a third location of the Taiwanese bubble tea shop within the Golden Square plaza. As part of Grand Opening promotions, there were complimentary Pearl Milk Teas distributed to the first 100 customers in line, as well as a Buy One Get One deal for the next 50 customers afterwards.
Surprisingly, many opted in for BOGO deal as opposed to the free Regular Pearl Milk Tea. I, however, was more than happy to take advantage of this attraction.
As part of Korea Week hosted by the University of Toronto, a K-Pop Night & Taste of Korea event took place on the fifth and final day of the cultural celebration series at Nathan Phillips Square. It was heavily advertised within the office throughout the week, and, luckily, wasn't very far from our working quarters.
The late afternoon hours proved chillier than we had anticipated; both of us were seriously under-dressed for the long lineups that awaited us.
Two rows of food-centric vendors made up the free sampling display. One row featured traditional Korean classics from renowned festival frequenters such as P.A.T and Galleria, while the other comprised of fusion dishes such as Elk Tteokbooki and Pierogi with Kimchi.
We joined the lineup for the first row, and were handed paper plates, plastic utensils, and Styrofoam cups. These items were intended for sampling use throughout the course of the booth visits, but were later found to be a challenge to wield amidst frigid conditions and overbearing winds.
On average, each booth provided two to three samples, ranging from rice cakes topped with coconut flakes to kimchi to mini bulgogi burgers to hodo kwaja. My personal favourite was eomuk - otherwise known as fish cake - in piping hot broth, for it was delicious and hearty in the simplest manner possible.
For reasons why the trendy dessert parlour chose not to name their Canadian outpost by the name of "Taiyaki Toronto" remains absurd to me. I suppose the business idea had been limited to New York City at the time of conjuring, however it is still a firm belief that a unique name should have been adopted for the first out-of-U.S. expansion.
The first day of their Grand Opening proved hectic though otherwise manageable.
Wait times averaged fifteen minutes: five minutes to reach the cashier and ten to receive our custom Soft Serve Signature Taiyaki. Our entire visit spanned twenty five minutes.
Customers had the option of plucking a Signature creation from the list, or embarking on the Build-Your-Own route. With the exception of Black Sesame and Houjicha soft serve, all menu items were available.
My preference lay with Matcha Soft Serve, while my dining partner-in-crime's was a dairy-free Mango Sorbet. Mine was topped with Strawberry Syrup, Condensed Milk, Oreo Crumbs, and "Unicorn Sprinkles", while hers with Strawberry Syrup, a handful of Rainbow Sprinkles, and a chocolate wafer stick.
The two fish-shaped specimens came to a grand total of sixteen dollars. At this point, it would be worthy to mention Taiyaki's exclusivity towards cashless payment. I greatly appreciated the seamless inclusion of Square as a primary payment method.
The cones themselves were quite tasty, despite being tricky to consume. Soft serve portions were abundant, which was both a blessing and downfall. Too shallow were the cones to prevent spillage, and too warm were they to prevent rapid dissolution of the contained swirls. The taiyaki cones proved crisp initially, but gradually dampened with time. I found myself gobbling down the dessert within minutes as to ensure minimum waste production.
Ultimately, we declared the fish delicious but unworthy of the eight-dollar price tag. Our hands were also left in a sticky, unpleasant state, a situation that prompted us to take to the single stall bathroom to amend. The washroom was spacious, but abnormally dusty and grimy for the first day of operations.
Pre-inflated Unicorn Floaties were distributed as part of the grand opening promotions. Useful they were not; however, bragging rights were earned as curious onlookers peered at the all-too-adorable contraption tucked underneath my arm (and sedate all-black ensemble).
I want this to stop.
These three phrases have been on constant replay in my mind for the past three weeks. An unfamiliar work location, in conjunction with unfavourable management and toxic surroundings, have been acting as a frictional force in my day-to-day activities, gradually eroding the remnants of my sanity and spirit.
It's one thing to be completely engrossed in one's work to the point where sleep deprivation and nonexistent personal space can be neglected. That would depict the lifestyle of a workaholic - a title that I could never adorn myself with.
So with the bits and bobs of hard-earned leisure time throughout the week, I've resorted to food for relief. And GOT7 too, of course.
1) Congee Queen
A recent discovery has been made: not only does the Heartland restaurant serve incredible congee and flavourful Chinese dishes, they also offer a heavenly Beef Brisket and Tendon Noodle in Soup. Wonton Chai has been our go-to destination for such comfort food for months, yet Congee Queen proved itself a worthy contender with supple, braised beef and generous chunks of buttery collagen. The broth is probably a tad slicker than preferred, though one cannot deny that its depth.
Custom noodle bowls à la Deer Garden Signatures are also available, and drinks such as HK Milk Tea can also be requested for an additional $1.25.
2) Biscotteria Forno Cultura Union Station
A compact outpost of the King West bakery, this smaller rendition retails bite-sized biscotti and carby Italian delicacies - at prices fit for a local souvenir shop. Service levels are also reflective of the aura: two French-speaking attendants sprang forth at the entry of any customer, gushing with detailed explanations of the products on display.
On a chilly fall morning, I took to purchasing an Italian croissant stuffed with prosciutto and Swiss cheese as breakfast. It rang in at $4.50 prior to taxes, which wasn't too extreme given the quality of the product. Italian croissants, where in butter was replaced with olive oil, were equally as addicting as their French counterpart; the substitution ensured moistness, flakiness, and minimal crumb production. Adjacent sweet and savoury variations were also available at the same cost.
3) Downtown exploration randoms Feat. Phoenix Cafe's obscure location on Edward St.
4) Regular Sulley inventory checks were conducted at the Eaton Centre.
5) A medium Strawberry Bingsoo from Wafflian was a bargain at $6.99 plus tax. Known to stray from synthetic strawberry works whenever possible, there is significance to my approval towards the item.
6) After many morning visits, the green-purple combination was finally spotted adorning the Toronto Sign. (It was orangecane who had first made me aware of the duo's importance.)
7) McD's Monopoly has officially begun!!
8) More Sulleys were spotted at Square One!
9) Pappa Roti Square One
Pappa Roti's Square One location has finally opened its doors to the public. Despite being delayed by approximately 2.5 months, the Ontario flagship shop did not disappoint. The Signature Coffee Bun (and dine-in ice cream sets) had primarily circulated the Spadina shop, whereas the Mississauga outpost carried a vast selection of pastries was vast, ranging from chocolate croissants to savoury egg viennoiseries.
Closer to home were Coffee Buns that not only emitted a stronger, bolder aroma, but baked goods that were are indulgent as they appeared. It is, however, necessary to note that these breads are associated with a cost not dissimilar to an independent downtown pâtisserie. That said, the interior design was less ostentatious and, in reality, more Manzano-like. Homey seating was available on the premises, but I did find the dense concentration of greasy fumes and utter lack of ventilation in dire need of being eradicated before the area could be considered a comforting hangout destination.
10) McDonald's crunchy, cream cheese-slathered bagels may be my new favourite morning pick-me-up. Their Caramel Pumpkin Spice Latte isn't shabby either.
Artisan bread is no newcomer to the Toronto food scene. Specialty bakeries serving up vegan and gluten-free offerings have been prominent sightings throughout Queen West and Kensington Market for some time now; next came fad items, such as cream cheese-smothered rounds and supposedly upscale sorts of Euro-Asian buns.
With the gradual passing of the charcoal craze and influx of Cantonese-inspired munchies, Hong Kong cafés have been popping up like dandelions in May,and not simply in the designated Chinatown districts. One Pear Cafe on Dundas was amongst the pioneers of the food genre in the tourist-heavy Yonge/Dundas area; needless to say, its prices are also reflective of its prime foot traffic coordinates. Consequently, I never bothered to pay the shop a visit, in spite of its close proximity. A slightly lengthier trek would readily present me with access to Pineapple Buns and HK Milk Tea at a mere fraction of the price.
Observed in the spot just north of CoCo's Downtown Yonge location, Bake Island presented itself as a no-frills Chinese bakery capable of catering to both bo lo bau (菠蘿包) purists as well as trend-hunting urban citizens. The space was compact, yet varieties were vast: from classic Coconut Cocktail Buns (雞尾包) to delicately garnished Strawberry Buns to redolent Cheese Garlic Buns, not an inch of their shelves were left unstocked. The layout was almost identical to that of my local Chinese bakery, with the exception of their modern sliding bread trays.
With a subway station nearby and the Ryerson SLC within a thirty-second walk, the bakery/café hybrid was located along a very convenient strip for both students and out-of-town-ers. Taking this into consideration, prices were found to be reasonable at first glance.
On this visit, I obtained two items of interest: a Carbon Cheese Bun (one of the many "hip" options available) and a Coconut Cocktail Bun (a representative of Hong Kong casual eats). Swiss roll cakes and individual/whole cakes were also on display near the cashier. The beverage bar, which constituted as the café portion towards the back of the establishment, retailed an expansive array of milk teas and cha chan teng regulars.
The Carbon Cheese Bun rang in at $2.50 before tax - respectable given its utterly gimmicky (and potentially pretentious) appearance. One ought to note, though, that the bun was dry and did not taste the teensiest bit "carbon-y". It was an interesting profile dissimilar to the golden, eggy surface of typical HK style creations.
Contained within was a basic cream cheese filling - neither heightened nor modified with synthetic additions. Satiating after-effects were experienced after consumption, but, speaking on a general note, it wasn't a terrible product. The bun was undeniably worth a one-time trial, though perhaps with a side of steaming green tea to purge fullness and aid with digestion.
A narrow rendition of a Coconut Cocktail Bun was priced at $1.80 - very fair given that even uptown bakeries have raised their prices as of late. The gritty coconut filling was bountiful, while the transformed shape rendered it easy to consume without much mess. Regrettably, the bun exhibited similar signs of dryness to the Carbon Cheese Bun.
I doubt freshness would have played a signficant factor in the bread, for several new batches were witnessed adorning the shelves during my stay. The lack of moisture may simply be a result of improper moisture adjustment during the cooler winter months.
I also requested an Iced Half & Half (yuan yang) to go; this set me back $4.00, with tapioca included. Hands down, this was the most disappointing item of the excursion: not only was it overly sugary and watery, the tapioca was blatantly soggy and did not possess cohesive properties. In the cup was a greater amount of ice than preferred, yet I did not complain since the beverage was excessively sweet to start. It wasn't too intense in terms of boldness nor caffeine content, making it suitable for insomniacs. That said, I will not be repurchasing this. Optimism remains towards their hot Hong Kong Milk Tea.
On a final note, please be advised that cash and debit are the suggested methods of payment, as credit cards incur an additional charge of fifty cents. (That's 30% of a bun!)
The next day, I made a beeline for Yonge and Carlton, where I had witnessed a police takedown (involving a total of five officers) just twenty-four hours prior. Cuppa Tea had taken over Jule's old location - or an adjacent site anyway. It was difficult to distinguish the spots as my sole visit to the bubble tea vendor had taken place a few years back while building restoration operations were underway.
Prices were steep here: $3.99 for a Pineapple Butter Bun (波羅油), $4.99 for a Signature Milk Tea, $4.59 and up for egg waffles, and $6.99 for Mango Sago.
In spite of this, I remained eager to try their Signature Milk Tea. The beverage was offered in one size and delivered in a heavily decorated glass bottle. One could choose between iced and hot variations, though I did question whether the glass would be able to resist the heat should I order the latter. The cashier assured me that the drink would be served "at a drink-able temperature", and that all would fine.
What is WATERLICHT? You may ask.
I hadn't the foggiest idea either until a friend made us aware of the event. orangecane is away on vacation, so it was up to me to determine whether it would be a hit or miss, based off of promotional images.
It seemed interesting enough. Thus, I remained within the core after work hours to join the group in their bizarre endeavour.
The event was set to commence at 7 PM, but engaging in activities with a large group meant inevitable delays (read: wasted time). I idled at CoCo until quarter to six - approximately thirty-five minutes later than I had anticipated. It wasn't until 6 PM that the group slowly began to process their sausage orders at WVRST.
With DAY6's Youth Tour nearing, I opted to cut costs by bringing a packed meal. Exotic meats and duck fat fries weren't all that appealing to me. Neither was the loud, dingy environment and utter lack of hooks.
If it wasn't apparent enough, the choice of venue did not fall within my preferences.
We arrived at the outdoor exhibit just before 8 PM.
The Bentway, otherwise known as the upgraded underside of the Gardiner Expressway, is a common location for events nowadays. To be frank, it was nothing more to me than concrete blocks surrounded by tall weeds. Such areas notorious gathering spots for the homeless, though I suppose the high volume of traffic, event staff, and security personnel had kept them at bay for the evening.
View the full album HERE !
WATERLICHT combined synthetic gusts of smoke with beams of blue LEDs, yielding a ripple effect reminiscent of water. The intent was to draw attention to "climate change" and "rising sea levels", but, as far as I could see, the meaning behind the piece was clouded and obscure. It was nowhere as beautiful as the scene I had envisioned.
As per the explicit foreshadowing in my last entry, we headed straight for Barrie the next morning.
Chelsea Chocolates has earned itself a spot on our itinerary for the past several visits. As our regular runs take place in the late afternoon, the we've always missed out on the factory tours held between 9 AM and 3 PM. We made it a mission to attend this time.
Behind the boutique area is an integrated preparation area equipped with more tools and machinery than thinkable for an independent chocolate shop of its size.
As crafting and packing operations were underway, we were informed of chocolate tempering specifics as well as the science behind various cocoa-based creations.
It was learned that storebought chocolate bars contain about 8% cocoa, with the remaining percentage assumed by some sort of "filler" ingredient. Chelsea Chocolate's in-house creations contain 52-53% cocoa (or some amount along those lines that I cannot recall precisely).
Who Am I?
I'm the one that talks fashion and K-Pop randoms behind Quirky Aesthetics, the one who contributes honest opinions about commercial beauty items on Review Junkie, the one that obsessively shares photos of food on Pinterest, the one that loves her DSLR more than her own being and the one that wants to work in the transportation sector for a living.