1) Gorgeous gradients in the morning sky
4. Exploring Port Credit on a lovely Sunday afternoon
With the final days of my Toronto term coming to an end, the month of April passed by alarmingly quickly. The past four weeks comprised of hectic schedules, splurging on food items, and an abundance of early sunrise shots. Enjoy!
1) Gorgeous gradients in the morning sky
2. Extra-stale, self-proclaimed "Japanese cheesecake" from Papa John's, which has discouraged further visits since.
3. Trying out a VR driving game and touch-less colouring activities at the Towards Tomorrow by Toyato pop-up in Square One
4. Exploring Port Credit on a lovely Sunday afternoon
It's official: the Toronto expedition has finally come to an end.
No longer will my mornings commence before the sun rises.
No longer will my day involve a lengthy commute.
No longer will I need to abide by a strict early evening curfew.
With a mix of relief and subtle yearning, I heave: It's all over now.
Taking into consideration that it was, in fact, my last day, I decided to purchase all of my meals; it started with a Greek Yogurt Parfait and Maple Latte from the McCafé at Union Station, and followed up with a Smoked Salmon Quiche and Baked French Flan from Brioche Dorée. I'm normally quite frugal when it comes to purchasing to-go food items, but splurging had just felt right for the occasion.
I later met up with a close friend of mine in North York, where I re-visited/introduced her to several spots that had left positive impressions on me.
Soban Cafe has undergone renovations since my visit approximately one year ago. The shiny granite tabletops, sleek grey booths, and minimalist wall decor were a much welcomed change from the peeling, spongy seats and brown, wood-and-brick-themed aesthetic of their previous design. The tables remained as glare-prone as ever, but the new seats were undeniably more comfortable; additionally, I also appreciated that the slimmer light bulbs gave off less of a yellow tint than the previous ones.
The café's menu has also changed, though it is debatable whether it has been modified for the better good. Having expanded in beverage and dessert options and more clearly laid out, the new menu featured better quality images as well as severe surges in price. The shaved ice desserts were no longer offered in two sizes, and were fixed at $8.99 each; I also didn't witness the availability of combos anymore, though I could have been more focused on the rest of their options.
We ordered a Cookies 'n' Cream Frappe and a Mint Chocolate Frappe, each a hefty $6.49. Sipping on the high-calorie, sugar-laden drinks, we chatted away, earning questioning looks from the two waitresses from time to time. (It was stated on the menu that the seating time limit was two hours. Quite frankly, it seemed odd to even impose a time limit in a café setting - were cafés not meant for casual loitering and conversation?)
Besides steamed baos, soft-shelled tacos - specifically those filled to the brim with fresh guac and battered fish - have also been the gustatory craze of late. And while I have few opinions on "authentic" Mexican cuisine, I feel decidedly strong about the quality of my tacos.
La Carnita's John Street location is all bricks-and-mortar, with little besides a black-and-white skull logo to distinguish its presence from the neighbouring buildings. At 11:30 AM, the two-floor restaurant is relatively empty, making it a good spot for casual conversation. Fast-forward some twenty minutes later, though, and the situation is entirely different: putrid noise pollution fills both floors.
I had the opportunity to feast at the Mexican street food eatery at a table of eight people. Reservations had been made in advance, and we were introduced to a corner spot on the upper level upon arrival, for reasons miles beyond my understanding. As mentioned previously, both floors were barren at the time, making the more spacious booths a much more practical seating area.
It was clear as day that 2x2 metre booth clearly did not have the capacity to seat the entire party comfortably, yet the sloppily-dressed, sweats-donning waitress had the decency to argue that it was more than enough, and that they were even able to seat larger parties of ten people at times.
Casting a quick but worried glance around the table, I could only blink in horror at the statement that had just been uttered. Either the guests she had been serving were all regularly underfed, or she was spouting cows' manure in the most matter-of-fact voice possible.
I heaved in anticipation at the inner tremors I would be experiencing during this visit. Even sitting at the edge of the booth, it became a challenge to suppress feelings of claustrophobia.
They all appeared to be relatively standard dishes: the salad was overdressed and contained an excessive amount of cilantro (which is saying a lot since I happen to greatly enjoy the vegetable); the chips and dip weren't any more extraordinary than their more economically-priced storebought counterparts. The trio of Frituras bore an unmistakable resemblance to arancini, though I can't quite comment on anything beyond their appearance since I didn't try them.
Our group also ordered several alcoholic beverages to accompany the meal, though I preferred to try a refreshing Agua Fresca instead. The invigorating blend of watermelon and mint was a nice contrast to the heavy flavours of the food.
It's been some time since the Montreal-based dessert chain opened up in the Distillery District, though I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to try it out during my visit to the Toronto Christmas Market last year.
Strolling along Queen West earlier in the year, a "Coming Soon" sign had been witnessed plastered behind glass walls. It was at that moment that I vowed to stop in for my own dose of chocolatey goodness should Cacao 70's Fashion District location open for business before the conclusion of my Toronto term.
It officially opened mid-month on April 14th - quite the blessing if you ask me.
The quaint interior instills a sense of peace from the bustle of the streets outside, yet the glass exterior enables customers to enjoy the liveliness of downtown Toronto without the chaos and cigarette smoke. For those less concerned about the amount of natural light accompanying their meal, a dimmer dining area - complete with the yellow-tinted ambiance detested by photographers alike - can be found towards the back of the restaurant.
A wooden podium-like structure acted as the landing area for customers to order takeout smoothies, as this location offers brunch from 10 AM to 4 PM on all seven days of the week, or provided them with the option of choosing from the many available tables and booths for dining in. We opted for the two small tables situated near the front of the restaurant and were promptly provided menus: a large laminated sheet listing their breakfast and brunch options, a smaller laminated sheet featuring the various types of drinking chocolate offered, and a thicker Sweets booklet bound with a pink hardcover backing that solely listed their dessert items.
The All-Day Breakfast items were undeniably appealing, but a tad pricey in my opinion. A small section of the menu managed to catch my eye during a quick scanning: Pressed Crepe Sandwiches were unheard of, and instantly became something of interest to me.
We ordered a Feel Good About Yourself and The Roast Beef, with the former containing a no-fail combination of turkey (deli slice-style), mushrooms, thinly-sliced tomatoes, and Swiss cheese and the latter a series of roast beef and Cheddar cheese layers. Both were accompanied with a side salad of baby greens dressed in some sort of poppyseed vinaigrette.
I have a candid confession to make, and not a simple one at that either.
Weeks have passed in contemplation of the correct method of presenting my woes in a manner not to be incorrectly perceived as haughtiness, or worse, ungratefulness.
In reality, there is no inaccurate way of expressing my frustrations; my observations are subjective, but my intentions pure and unbiased.
The Toronto leg of B.A.P's Live On Earth Awake, organized by KpopMe, was a disgusting mess of unruly, undisciplined Tumblr addicts wallowing amongst the highest level of disorganization. There, I said it.
In the depths of my stomach, I had felt something ominous. It crept up slowly every so often, but never fully exposed itself. The ticket sales themselves had been a huge joke: an online lineup for over two hours during regular working hours (Friday at 10 AM) for a randomized "Best Seat Available" selection.
While tickets for the Vancouver show had been sold from Ticketmaster, one of the most reliable ticket retailers, the Toronto show was sold exclusively utilizing a laggy, inefficient system set up by Massey Hall / Roy Thomson Hall. Not only did the website crash several times on different browsers, majority of the time, the page wasn't even capable of loading.
While frequenting the downtown core, I knew that Roy Thomson was only a five minute walk from where I would be. Yet, as luck would have it, the only type of tickets that were not sold in physical form were for Elite Baby seats. As the highest tier available, these ticket holders would have access to General Admission seating and a High Touch session with the six group members following the show.
Needless to say, all of the above claims regarding the ticket "perks" were proven false come showtime.
I boarded my train sometime after 6 pm, camera-less and sporting my B.A.P wristbands with a considerable amount of pride.
"The doors won't be open until 6:30 pm" was a statement that had been declared by KpopMe prior to the concert. Thus, I headed to the Eaton Centre for dinner first, regrettably losing one of my much-adored wristbands along the way.
It was 7:10 pm when I arrived at the concert venue. To my utter disgust, there was an unbelievably lengthy lineup waiting to enter the doors of Massey Hall.
But lineups aren't always horrible. Some move particularly swiftly, while others are, unfortunately, not so speedy.
I was able to catch the wandering glance of a friend, who had already been hovering outside for a solid twenty minutes. "I'm going in now!" she called out to me as she neared the door. "But I have a normal ticket though, so you might need to join the other lineup!"
Puzzled, I asked one of the nametag-donning middle-aged men, "Where is the Elite Baby line?".
He gestured to proceed around the corner. Not even five steps past this corner was the longest, most poorly arranged lineup I had ever witnessed. It twisted and turned beneath temporary pillars and through construction barriers, trailing onwards past St. Michael's hospital, until it finally ended some hundreds of wide-eyed adolescents later at a dreary section of Victoria St.
I was aghast. The concert was to officially take place at 8 pm, yet those that had purchased the priciest tickets were still stuck outside, greeted with below-seasonal winds and homeless people. This degree of disorganization was far worse than their American concert I had the opportunity of seeing three years back.
The line eventually divided into two smaller lineups, and ticket holders were rudely shoved into the venue after a hostile bag check. While I had two members of security threatening to toss me out of the venue over the mere possession of an unopened water bottle, they had casually permitted those with small-format cameras to pass, despite having full knowledge of the imposed photography and videography pan. Why was this happening??
Once inside, none of the Elite Baby ticket holders received their pre-purchased merchandise packages, nor was there time to visit the washroom prior to the show. No more gentle than the attendants at the doors outside, we were shoved into the concert hall with about two minutes to spare.
The show did not commence at 8 pm as advertised though. However, that was the least of my concerns - I was seated in the spot I had rightfully purchased and had not missed a second of the performance.
The concert hall dimmed shortly afterwards, airing a short introductory video to create hype among the audience. Misty streams of gas began to cloud the stage. And all of the sudden, the first four rows of the audience stood up.
I, along with several other girls in my row, stood up in confusion. The group had not entered, nor had they demanded anyone to stand. And before I knew it, the entire General Admission floor was standing, for reasons beyond me as it had been completely clear that we had paid for seated spots.
But the first few rows refused to regain their seated position. As if on cue, several girls from the rows behind us ran up the front of the stage, while others hopped over the seats and stood in front of our row. The show soon commenced with the members confidently striding onto the stage in single file.
At this point, the sole security guard situated at the front of the stage showed absolute disconcert for any of the girls' actions. He enforced one point and one point only: "Don't block the cameraman."
The unruly pre-teens were certainly alright with that. One by one, they pulled out their phones, each lifting higher than the other for the purpose of obtaining the "best" footage of their idols. It was a repulsive sight.
I fumed. This was not fair play.
While I had specifically shelled out a few hundred to sit in the fifth row for this concert, I could not comprehend why I had been forced to remain standing behind rows upon rows of rambunctious, ill-mannered citizens simply to gape at the group's performances between bobbling heads, shaky hands, and a sea of low quality LED screens.
WHY HAD SECURITY NOT ENFORCED THIS TREACHERY?!?!?
I missed out the solo performances.
I couldn't see what happened on the stage.
I wasn't able to make out the members expressions through the few gaps I was peering through.
Instead, I found myself standing in a rundown theatre, with a solid, screaming barrier of electronic recording devices that had no place in a concert hall.
I had paid to see one of my favourite groups perform in front of my very eyes, not to witness the barricading of the stage for the sake of obtaining fancams to post on the Internet.
This was a concert, an experience only capable to be fully enjoyed upon interaction between the audience and the performer.
For the first time in my endless history of concert participation, I questioned why I had even bothered to attend.
Did I mention that two of the girls had even plugged portable batteries into their phones for the sake of prolonging their low-res footage? They only cast eyeroll-accompanied glares in my direction when I politely asked them to lower their belongings from my direct line of sight. Well then.
The concert itself was breathtaking. It was unreal to witness the boys of B.A.P sing and dance in such close proximity. Since their performance at The Warfield in San Francisco, the group has matured significantly. Their performances this time had been shifted to fan interaction; through the selection of their newer, more carefree songs, as well as reduced intensity of dance segments, the six members were able to reserve energy to put towards maintaining smiles and cheerful dispositions as the show progressed.
Of course, I was nowhere thrilled when I discovered that Zelo's dance solo involved interactions with the floor of the stage, as the phone camera-barrier had shielded it completely from view. Even those from the more economically-priced balcony levels were capable of seeing the segment without obstructions, yet my viewing rights had been forcefully removed by the other attendees.
Lastly, I should add that the High Touch portion following the concert was, in fact, not a High Touch at all. Elite ticket holders were instructed to remain in their seats after the hall had been re-illuminated. Without any further information, we soon found ourselves being shuffled out of our seats and roughly ushered into the adjacent hallway.
Lo and behold, the boys of B.A.P were standing right there! In one of the narrowest hallways I've ever sauntered through so confused, they were there, giving out high-fives to fans while being separated by, for lack of better terminology, lineup poles.
It could have undeniably been one of the most wonderfully fleeting moments of my life, yet I had been utterly confused to the point where I can't even recall the members' faces. Likewise, they had probably been equally confused.
I mean, wide-eyed teenage girls were being rushed by them in a blur of high fives - who wouldn't be?
The moment had concluded before I even became aware of my surroundings, and all I could remember was someone trying to snatch my phone and thrust me forward for hand-shaking instead of high-fives.
Talk about some lovely organizational skills.
Elite Baby ticket holders were finally able to obtain their pre-purchased merchandise following the unauthentic "High Touch" session; the package consisted of a copy of B.A.P's Carnival album (randomly signed), an official towel banner (and pouch), and two randomly-included Polaroids. While I was content enough to obtain a signed album and official merchandise, I overhead several younger girls complaining that they weren't able to choose the signed copy of their choice. At this point, I was seriously questioning their purpose for attending - was it to record low quality fancams for the purpose of bragging, or to obtain physical evidence of their so-called participation in this event to summon jealousy on social network platforms?
As a concluding statement, I can truthfully declare the following:
I have never attended a concert so poorly planned as such. From the ticket sales to seating arrangements to enforcing discipline among fans, to organizing a simple high-touch event, KpopMe's supposed hard work and much-endured efforts resulted in nothing more than a repulsively disorganized meetup.
The lack of properly executed planning was an exhibit of utter disgrace to a group of insurmountable popularity such as B.A.P, and an even bigger disappointment to those that purchased tickets in hopes of being able to properly enjoy their performance without interference.
I'm not complaining; I'm simply stating the facts.
If you've ever spent a ridiculous amount of time meticulously planning out every step of logistics for an event, you'd likely be able to relate to the hard-hitting smack of utmost disappointment associated with the emerging of unforeseen circumstances. Quite commonly, such circumstances forcibly result in cancellations or postponing of the proposed event.
Originally stated to be held towards the end of March, then moved to mid-April, and finally confirmed for late April, the Grand Opening of Diana's Markham location was an event that I had anticipated greatly and held high expectations for.
A significant amount of coordination was required for the trip: regional and local bus schedules were analyzed, appointments were moved to less convenient hours, and efforts were made to allocate the most appropriate equipment for the job. With few details provided to us prior to the middle of the month, coordination between various parties (and their own respective schedules) was not an easy task to accomplish.
A series of last-minute discussions led to a commute to North York amidst sunny but chill weather, and then another trip to Markham.
Upon my arrival, I noticed that the parking lot wasn't exceedingly occupied. However, it was later discovered that the interior of the restaurant was relatively chaotic in contrast.
Grander, and with less optimal lighting situations, than expected, Diana's Oyster & Grill Bar exuded an ambience unlike majority of the restaurants in the vicinity. Granite tabletops, stone plate-lined walls, and hanging lamps illuminated with incandescent bulbs filled the seating area; surrounding the perimeter of a square bar area were comfy booths with tea light embedded in a spherical gradient table pieces.
The event ran between 1 pm to 3 pm, and featured an ice centrepiece adorned with freshly-shucked oysters and shrimp, multiple platters of hors-d'oeuvres, and an open bar with options of wine, beer, and soft drinks.
Among the bite-sized offerings were Oyster Shooters (oysters and tomato juice), Salmon Sliders, Grilled Salmon Kabobs, Octopus Bruschetta, Crab Cakes and Calamari with Aioli dipping sauce, Sesame Salmon and Tuna Tartare Cups, and, of course, fresh oysters.
All of the items were fantastic, and despite the repetitive use of salmon in many of their dishes, each retained a unique blend of flavours and varying textures. Needless to say, I was mindblown. Another one of my favourites was the Crab Cake - ideally sized and emitting hints of lemon with every bite, the fluffy, meaty interior was, hands down, the most delectable crustacean-based appetizer I had ever tasted.
The day has finally arrived! After my previously futile attempt to obtain the matcha and chocolate variations of the ever-fluffy Angel Hat cake, I jumped at the chance to re-visit the perfectly pink cafe exterior when a friend expressed interest in meeting up.
We were first greeted by one of the maids (or maid costume-donning waitresses/hostesses, however you'd like to refer to them); through her walkie-talkie-like device, she informed the staff upstairs of the arrival of two guests. We were then directed to head upstairs to the cafe area.
Lining the corridor of the stairway were framed photos and graphics of Uncle Tetsu's cartoon character, each delicately positioned to ensure cohesiveness of the overall design. At the top of the stairs was a second baking area - the first one was at ground level, allowing passing pedestrians to steal glances at the bakery/cafe's intense crafting operations.
Directly across from the upper level baking area was the entrance of the cafe. Much larger than I would have ever expected, the cafe consisted of a wide display case and front counter (for takeout orders), extremely spacious seating area, and a third baking area towards the back. Couches, booths, vivid pink tables, and smaller wooden tables were distributed throughout the area allowed for the comfortable accommodation of parties of all sizes.
The team of maids and preppily-dressed waiters welcomed us enthusiastically, calling out with an audibly loud "いらっしゃいませ！/Irasshaimase!". It was Guu-like in nature, but expressed their energy in a more refined manner and did not impose on the conversations of already-seated customers.
As we eased into our surroundings, we gradually took notice of the amount of detail of the interior decor: the walls were a combination of pastel pink and coppery orange brick, while the ceiling featured a ribbed grid design reminiscent of a white chocolate Ritter Sport bar.
I've come to the conclusion that sidewalks in metro Toronto will never all be at grade at the same time. With over sixty years of history behind them, there's bound to be some areas of severe settlement.
This simply means that there ought be to some degree of caution exerted when strolling along major arterials while distracted. That, or be prepared to suffer the effects of seriously painful ankle-rolling.
I suppose uneven sidewalk surfaces appear less fearful when the mercury rises, as even I became more willing to walk the streets when the sun made its appearance in the early afternoon.
One of our lunch hour missions to obtain gelato from Kekou's Queen West location was abruptly suspended due to our failure in reviewing their store hours beforehand. Armed with a decent knowledge of the shops in the vicinity, I suggested making a quick run to SOMA before our break time was up.
I've witnessed many reviewers raving about the chocolate shop's creamy gelato, but hadn't tried it firsthand until our impromptu visit. Their homemade selection wasn't nearly as immense as I had hoped though; it mainly comprised of milky or nut-based flavours.
We agreed on obtaining small cups of Roasted Hazelnut and Fior De Latte after a brief sampling, and took to the back of the store to savour the already-melting desserts.
As stated in my previous entries (1, 2), I despise ice cream and soft serves that fail to maintain their shape and consistency. The watery texture is unappealing - it forces the user to accelerate the consumption process, making it difficult to truly enjoy the contained flavours. The Fior De Latte gelato embraced similar properties, but a subtly sweet creaminess was still able to be perceived before my green plastic cup contained nothing more than a white, soupy mess.
In addition to indulging in sweet treats, warm days also call for the obligatory bubble tea run (I mean, it's important to stay hydrated right?!) and potentially Uncle Tetsu if the lineup is short.
Heading southbound on Dundas, I gradually found my way to the Birdman's pop-up shop at Queen and University.
How adorable are these wooden carvings?!? Between the larger, tan-hued ducks and tiny, light beige birds, I knew that resistance was futile; I picked one up immediately. "Birdman" was extremely friendly, and advised airing out the bottom part of the stump before resting the bird on other pieces of furniture as the wood had not yet completely dried.
He also offered to sign the bottom of his wonderful handcrafted creation, which he was charging a mere ten dollars for his extensive efforts.
I'm Canadian. This statement alone should prompt words of comfort and sympathy for the seemingly endless months of snow and harsh weather we receive during the winter months.
So when Mother Nature decides that it's finally time for spring to make an appearance over on the East Coast, you really can't blame us for ditching our regular stroll through the mall for some Vitamin D-absorbing action by the waterfront.
The destination of choice: Port Credit
If you happened to be driving westbound on Lake Shore that balmy afternoon, there was a possibility you spotted a blue cardigan-sporting being sprawled out on the rocks with her camera gear in tow. Approximately thirty minutes passed before I moved from my preferred hangout location; it was undeniably comfortable for a simple arrangement of sedimentary material.
By the time my friend had secured a parking spot in decently close proximity, I was already reeking of that awkward burnt "sun smell".
Be prepared - the first half of April has unarguably dine-out-intensive.
1. Homemade Matcha White Hot Chocolate w/ a Toasted Black Sesame Rim (inspired by Sweet Jesus) + Mango Sticky Rice
2. Partially demolished Chocolate Chip Cookie from Starbucks
3. Spotted at Square One: an adorable monkey coin pouch from Fossil
4. Oatmeal Raisin Cookie from Starbucks (Thank you, Starbucks, for finally bringing another oatmeal cookie variation to Canada!)
5. The ghastly scene that was witnessed by southern Ontarians towards the beginning of April
6. Gong Cha
Hands down, Gong Cha's North York location is my go-to bubble spot when I happen to have a few minutes to spare near Finch terminal. To date, I've probably visited this spot more than ten times! (While not an amount comparable to Chatime, it's important to note that Gong Cha isn't exactly in the vicinity of my neighbourhood.)
A vast contrast to the Markham shop in Metro Square, this (mainly) Korean-operated franchise has always maintained superb levels of customer service and astounding quality in all of their beverages. I've yet to find discrepancies in ice and sugar levels; milk tea drinks are never overly creamy either.
Wintermelon Tea is a personal favourite, though I've recently had the opportunity to try out their new selection of milk foam toppings. The Roasted Oolong Tea with Black Sesame Foam was as fragrant as it was indulgent - definitely a great option for those craving a slightly savoury version of milk tea, yet hesitant to forgo the refreshing taste of brewed tea.
The environment is largely dim, with spacious seating ranging large group tables to smaller two-person tables to a bright red sofa at the front. Music is usually of good taste and unobtrusive to customers looking to have a casual conversation. My sole complaint is that Wi-Fi can be finicky at times, even though it is password-protected.
7. Star Wars displays spotted at Union Station
8. Obtaining a morning boost at McCafé (Union Station)
9. A soggy Chocolate Bun purchased from Kin-Kin Bakery out of impulse
10. Red Bean Float from Tsujiri
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.
WHAT DOES "QUIRKY AESTHETICS" MEAN?
Quirky = a term that commonly refers to something/someone distinctly different and unique
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