Happy Year of the Pig!
I do admit that while I identify a little less with pigs than dogs, traditions are closely adhered to regardless. (I'll have you know: I almost pulled a muscle tackling dust purgation of the entire house unaccompanied.)
As with other years, we made our annual visit to the Chinese New Year Market. This time around, we arrived early enough that parking was not an issue. Thank goodness.
There comes a time where one must engage in a trade off between efficiency and sanity. While meticulously packing up my study setup is more than just time-consuming, the need to present myself as a proper human being to the rest of the world surfaces on occasion.
In a world where working acquaintances are widespread and unemployed vehicle-equipped companions are few, making last-minute plans almost never follow through. This wasn't a huge deal to me, since I had a few solo activities to accomplish and was more than ready to engross myself with. (Amongst these was the latest episode of Real Thai, which had aired several days prior. Of course, it had taken a considerable amount of willpower to filtrate out the spoiler screencaps.)
Few spots in Markham are open before noon on weekends. Thankfully, Platform happens to fall within the sector of early openers.
I made my way over around the 9:40 AM mark, then proceeded to ease myself into one of the two small booths situated towards the back of the café. This area was not only dimmer than the table I had selected previously, but also much chillier. As these tables were camouflaged from sight from the bar area, bells had been provided to alert the counter staff of any requests.
Seeing as I had just set down my belongings, I strode up to the barista to inquire about the possibility of turning down the A/C in the back. She seemed troubled by this request.
"You can just ring the bell." came her blunt response. "I don't think so but I can ask the owner."
Of course, she never did head towards the kitchen to ask.
Instead, she suggested to move to a (larger) table near the front, closer to the blinding UV rays penetrating through the front windows. "When it gets busy, I will have to ask you to move though." she added.
There were no outlets at my table, but the Office suite doesn't drain much juice anyway.
A Pour-Over of Hatch's Ethopia blend was requested, along with a Western Sandwich. Its name was a tad misleading, in my opinion; the constituents of the sandwich did not feature Texan-style seasonings or cowboy-esque additions. Rather, it promised a classic brunch buffet omelette placed between thick cuts of toasted ciabatta. Diced bell peppers, red onion, and Black Forest ham were the primary components of the omelette; at its centre was a slab of Kraft cheddar Singles that was more runny than it was gooey/stringy.
It was odd to see the oils separating from the runny cheese mixture, then seeping into the remainder of the sandwich. Cheddar - especially heavily processed renditions of it - is arguably my least liked cheese variety, and I can't say that the scene left too positive of an impression.
Just as countless others are reminiscing about their accomplishments within the past twelve months, I am subconsciously acting likewise. I've arrived at the conclusion that the latter half of the year progressed speedily without any signs of halting, whlie the first two quarters were sluggish and largely uninteresting - except for Kipling and graduation of course!
The Year of the Dog was a pivotal period in my life, overloaded with emotions and brimming with extreme ups and downs. I was periodically rewarded with several GOT7 sightings and a DAY6 World Tour, yet also flung into an unknowingly toxic work environment. New friendships were made, while old ones were strengthened (or withered, for whatever reason).
2019 lies not far away, and I anticipate its many offerings. As someone who believes strongly in the concept of fate, there is not much else to kick back, observe the flow of the year's happenings, and react accordingly. (AND hopefully continue the Maritimes Madness series.)
Many would have assumed this roundup to consist mainly of meal snippets. And I have no reason to deny this hypothesis, for it is completely accurate.
1) Experimental Pound Cake (as led by Cooking Tree)
2) The inescapable CoCo runs
3) GOT7 - Present: You & Me
Despite my initial reluctance to purchase yet another repackage, the availability of a locally-organized G.O. (as well as Jinyoung's all-too-persuasive teaser images) convinced me otherwise.
That said, this may be my last time joining a group order, for I always seem to have better bias luck with sealed orders.
4) More CoCo!
5) A late lunch of mild Chipotle at Mississauga's busiest shopping centre
The very notion that a separate entity on this planet is capable of sharing similar interests with you is wonderful in itself. Being able to further identify with that interest to a likewise degree of dedication is just incredible. This realization first hit me whilst engaging in late-night spam sessions with a certain potato across the border about our shared affection for GOT7. The second was when I came across a written piece that I could not have agreed more about.
Even prior to our somewhat substantially-sized paintball gathering, stenoodie and I had been planning a catch-up session for some time now. Once the details had been ironed out, we set out for downtown - her heading from the east, and me heading from the west.
I was first to arrive at Cafe Cancan, where I learned that those without nimble fingers would have to resort to bar seating on a first-come-first-serve basis. The entirety of the seven tables available had been reserved in advance, likely via OpenTable.
Space was scarce inside the dainty-looking French bistro, so reservations were of great significance. I was made aware of this in an adequately friendly manner: it was evident that the restaurant looked towards serving patrons that understood the value of their dishes as opposed to garnering hype and lineups as a fad eatery.
Dining on high stools was not the issue for me, nor was the empty promise of a brunch menu. (Apparently, the brunch menus were rotated only on weekends.) Rather, it was the lack of space for my weighty backpack. Those that entered the premises donned posh getups, ranging from sleek over-the-knee boots to fitted knit dresses, so this was less of a problem for the majority of diners. As a commuter with many-a-task to complete, the bulky bag could not be eradicated.
A coat rack was positioned next to the bar area, while hooks had been installed underneath (as I later discovered). This definitely provided more room for movement, despite not being the most comfortable of arrangements.
Stenoodie joined me shortly after my arrival, at which point we evaluated the menu. Shortly afterwards, we were informed that a reservation had been cancelled, permitting a shift from the bar to a table. What luck!
I dove for the booth seat, as I could rest my backpack without bothering other patrons. Admittedly, the adjacent tables were seated quite closely, but not to an unbearable extent.
As a matter of fact, it was the music blaring overhead that proved bothersome. Over the course of the meal, it became increasingly difficult to converse in peace. Noise levels had surged in order to be heard over the escalating jazzy tunes.
I requested a Mimosa to start, in spite of the absence of a brunch menu. Following our meticulous review of the available selections, we opted to share a 2-Course and 3-Course Prixe Fixe meal. The former enabled the user to choose any two dishes from the Hors D'Oeuvres, Entrées, and Dessert sections, while the latter one from each. In fine print was a more flexible - yet much extravagant - à la carte alternative for specific items.
The table setting comprised of a delicate centrepiece of dried yellow buds, utensil sets encased within stark white cloth napkins, and shiny blush glasses - very reminiscent of Planta's slightly taller cups but tinted dusty pink to match the decor of the cozy eatery. Other noteworthy details included: subtle leopard print tiling on the ceiling, fans operated via a pulley system (versus the typically concealed electric source), stout cylindrical lampshades, and bar stools whose back designs matched the cushions at the tables. Marble tabletops were witnessed at every dining surface. All design elements contributed a strong sense of cohesiveness, ensuring that classy, cultured vibes resonated throughout the space.
Of particular interest to me were the light fixtures, for I had not laid eyes on such a style in my previous eating endeavours. Moreover, I appreciated that the intensity of illumination could be adjusted (diffused) to suit both daytime and evening hour ambiances.
View the full album HERE !
The Mimosa arrived first - without a single garnish, if I may add. The glass had been filled below the commonly accepted line and the insides were a tad foggy, as if its contents had been swirled around several times before making its way to our table. At a mere ten dollars, it definitely wasn't the priciest cocktail I've seen in the city. That said, its profile was rather lacking; while refreshing, fizziness was scarce. Over the course of the meal, the denser Prosecco seemed to have settled to bottom third of the glass, resulting in sweet sips of orange juice followed by an astringent buzz. Uniformity would have been preferred.
Joining us this season are Brown and Cony, in the preposterously huggable Mix/Match Costume Edition(s). (These Korea exclusives were brought to me by none other than the fabulous orangecane, who risked over fifty percent of her limited luggage space to haul these back upon my imploring request.
As with previous years, a large turkey was prepared leading up to the festival holiday. The side dish count was reduced due to the lower number of attendees this time around, yet nonetheless satisfactory and delicious in their own respects.
Zucchini, shrimp, baby potatoes, and fruit salad are common constituents of our annual feast, though takeout sushi platters are sometimes witnessed as well. But the real star is, of course, the perfectly browned poultry.
When a Scarborough native reached out to inform me of her sojourn in Sauga, I jumped at the opportunity to suggest bingsoo.
< Pictured above and below: Wonton Soup, Beef Brisket and Wonton Noodles in Soup, Fried Fish Skin, Blanched Veggies >
Given that her schedule had cleared up significantly earlier than expected, we ended up grabbing lunch first. It was none other than my all-time round-the-corner fave, Wonton Chai.
The parking lot was utter chaos, but we were seated quickly once inside the restaurant. Meals were also delivered at an alarmingly swift rate.
We headed over to the K-Town of the west end shortly after.
For my third visit to Snowies, I was keen on trying the Matcha and Grape bingsoo flavours. We shared a Small bowls of each, along with a nutty sencha by the name of Movie Night.
The Matcha Bingsu was absolutely adorable with two almond slivers secured to the top of the ice cream scoop, mimicking ears. Underneath was a firmly pressed portion of red bean paste - the same formula I had adored on the Injeolmi last time. More almond slivers and handmade mochi bits were scattered along the surface, and between each layer of flaky ice was discernible matcha powder. Chewy mochi isn't the standard topping for matcha bingsoo, though its nuttiness and engaging consistency complemented the specimen well.
A flavour I hadn't expected to enjoy a great deal was the Grape Bingsu; pairing green grapes and mango syrup sounded peculiar. But the reality was quite different than I imagined. While The Cups' fall exclusive fell short of expectations, Snowies' proved far superior in terms of execution.
Despite being a tad too sugary for my liking, the overall combination was intriguing and tasting. Halving the grapes also eased the consumption procedure.
Since the dessert cafe permits customizing bingsoo bowls, it may not be a bad idea to consider swapping vanilla ice cream for green tea next time around.
Diana's Oyster Bar was a distant (and not particularly pleasant) memory for me. I hadn't bothered with the various varieties of oysters at the time, nor had the open bar piqued my interest. Besides the immensely delicious crabcakes, it was the sole instance where I had met someone adopting both the entities of a food enthusiast and makeup/style fiend
A few years (and two cases of plan fall-out) passed before we finally agreed on meeting up again.
Said social media user is based in Markham, and having put Pacific Mall errands on the back burner for some time now, it was essentially killing two birds with one stone.
I pulled into the parking lot a few minutes past noon, then swiftly met up with her to discuss the plan. The initial route consisted of restocking my K-Beauty inventory, next lunch, and lastly churros for dessert.
Alas, our appetites trounced the desire to shop; we retreated back to the car, then made the painstaking drive to Nichiban Sushi 4 U, our pre-determined (read: pre-researched) midday meal of choice.
Being the impatient one of the two, I committed the terrible mistake of U-turning into the adjacent gas station, nearly annihilating a cyclist in the process. Upon discovering that the asphalt lots did not connect, there was no other option than to turn back onto Kennedy and loop into the correct plaza.
One ought to note the narrowness of the Nichiban plaza, for it only capable of one-way traffic when the compact lot hit capacity. It was thankful that loading time has passed, and that no trucks were parked in the main passageway during our visit.
Nichiban was a sliver of a casual Japanese restaurant, and apparently geared more towards takeout orders than dine-in. Though, it also appeared to be popular amongst those that worked in the vicinity.
My friend - a seasoned feaster in the Milliken Heights area - did not hesitate to suggest the 888 Combo to share. The twenty-four-dollar platter had been named appropriately: it included eight slices of sashimi, eight specialty rolls, eight pieces of nigiri, along with the standard offerings of miso soup and side salad.
Both starters were mediocre. Adding to the fact that traffic volumes were on the low end, it seemed odd - and slightly stingy - to me that we were not offered a starter set each. Such small details go a long way in leaving a lasting impression.
The nigiri and sashimi specimens were determined by the chef, but we were given the option to choose our preferred style of specialty roll. Black Dragon was my pick, on the basis that marinated eel has been included on the list of constituents.
How could one possibly go wrong with tempura and unagi, right? WRONG.
In hindsight, it probably wouldn't have mattered which specialty roll was chosen. Quality was consistently terrible throughout.
There is no shortage of Christmas markets in Toronto, and adding to the list is Nathan Phillips' Holiday in the Square.
Operating during the late afternoon hours (on every day of the week except for Monday), the event includes a range of family-friendly activities such as skating and kids' rides, along with independent vendors and unique food stalls. There were even fire pits for warmth, though no heaters in sight.
I dropped by the event on four different occasions: lunchtime and after-work hours on Thursday, and then again on Friday. The holiday fair was slated to commence operations at noon on both days, but majority of the vendors were unprepared for the scheduled opening. Friday was the only day where many began rolling in to set up at the half past mark.
At around 4:45pm, Nam Wan's hot Thai Tea was declared unready for serving. As such, myself - along with two other lucky visitors - scored a complimentary cup of warm Thai Tea with condensed milk. Albeit the amount of sweetened condensed milk we observed them spooning into the tiny plastic cups, the combination yielded a super-satisfying beverage of optimal sweetness. I opted out of whipped cream - and the complimentary rose bud garnish - thus acquiring a tad more tea to fill the cup.
My next stop was Tiny Tom's sky blue truck. Retailed at $6.50 by the dozen, one could choose from four flavours: tried-and-true Icing Sugar, harvest-ready Apple Cinnamon, fun-and-festive Icing Sugar/Cinnamon, and slick Chocolate. I veered toward the safest selection; the starter pick of Icing Sugar proved absolutely delicious, especially when served piping hot and fresh.
The next day welcomed the curtain-opening of several vendors. It was at this point that purchases were made at Señor Sock and fraktals (a Coffee & Tea Expo discovery!). Originally eyeing the dark chocolate buttercrunch, I ultimately left the stall with a 100g bag of milk chocolate and a 375g bag of dark chocolate - a bonus gift from the man who I had interrupted in the midst of setup procedures.
Nam Wan remained shuttered until the late afternoon hours, when the skating rink gradually reached full capacity. With a fellow foodie in tow, I suggested grabbing two cups of Nam Wan Hot before retreating into City Hall to soothe our numbed limbs and digits.
Incoming is another mid-month round-up - ninety percent of which is food-centric, of course. No further introductions are necessary for these entries.
1) Mocha from good ol' Pilot
2) 7 Baker
This minimalist version of Bake Code chose an unexpected location for its first standalone shop. Just a brisk walk from Wellesley station, at the southwest corner of Yonge and Wellesley is 7 Baker. "Modern" and "upscale" are two words that would depict it artfully; "overpriced fusion bread" would be my take on it.
Ornate pastries and (undoubtedly gimmicky) buns were the main focuses of the boutique; a compact drink menu was also available, but the selection wasn't particularly appealing (especially given the plethora of bubble tea shops in the vicnity).
Nutty Espresso, Salted Egg Yolk Charcoal Bun, and a Matcha Lava Croissant were taken to go. These items alone came to a grand total of twenty-two dollars following tax; the first and second picks were priced at $6.99 apiece!
Salted Egg Yolk Charcoal was an interesting savoury option: despite being dry and somewhat chalky, the yolk alluded great depth of flavour. The bun itself was disappointing, with its components reeking of stale starchiness. Had I been blindfolded, I would have been unable to distinguish between a day-old production and its supposedly trendy, all-black profile.
The Matcha Lava Croissant was as crumbly as could be and utterly lacking in grassiness. Its appearance was rather lacklustre (the flaky strip of green appeared highly artificial), while the custard contained within was more reminiscent of vanilla than green tea. That said, the moderate amount of matcha was a hit with fans of regular croissants.
Nutty Espresso was, hands down, my favourite of the trio. Coating its exterior were crushed nuts and a sticky, caffeinated. Inside was a sweet, delectable filling oozing with aromatic properties. The bun remained dry, though the filling compensated for this slightly.
Regardless, $6.99 remains too hefty of a price tag for the carby invention.
3) Regular CoCo run Feat. Pearl Roasted Milk Tea
4) Labothéry x 7 Baker (The PATH)
It hadn't occurred to me that Labothéry had joined forces with the Asian fusion bakery to commence operations inside downtown's underground network until a day after visiting Wellesley station over lunch break.
Half of the interior was allotted to Labothéry's various syrup test tubes, while a condensed assortment of 7 Baker's best-sellers were on display on the shelf across.
Unable to resist the buzz of the atmosphere, I picked up a Darjeeling Milk Tea Bun, a Plain Croissant, and yet another Nutty Espresso.
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.
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.