Light and refreshing soups at Pho Vietnam

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Driving down Kennedy road between Forbes and Midland, you cannot miss the rustic wooden sign that bears Pho Vietnam with a big bowl substituting for the O in a whimsical fashion.  Now, just to let you all know, I’m not the kind of person that is gung-ho over soups, especially not the type that would go out of his way to dine at a restaurant that specializes in it. But since my spouse is a passionate lover of soups, I had to succumb and check out this place and I’m glad I did. 

When we first walked in the restaurant was packed, with a mixed clientele. We were encouraged to find our own table by one of the servers and found a nice cozy spot near the window. Our server promptly handed us the menus and came back in nanoseconds with a steamy pot of oolong white tea. I loved the place already. As I studied the menu, I noticed the prices were around $8. They had an array of soups and I must say I was a bit overwhelmed, but opted for a small bowl of the Pho-chicken soup cooked in Tom Yum sauce (trust me get a small).

 A few minutes later the soups arrived with a small plate of fresh mint leafs that looked as if it was just plucked from a plush garden. The chicken was served on the side  as well with nice caramelized  grilled marks ( I could have eaten this on its own.) The broth was clear and flavorful, not overly seasoned, with a touched of heat from the Tom Yum sauce. It was DELISH!.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this place. The service is efficient, and the prices are reasonable. However, don’t expect 5 star service. It’s just a place to chill and enjoy a good bowl of soup.

http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/10/1700246/restaurant/Scarborough/Pho-Vietnam-Family-Restaurant-Toronto

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Healthy and Delicious Green Smoothie

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I always get this question: How do you eat the way you do and stay so fit? Or, what do you do to stay so young? What’s the secret? I really don’t have any magic trick. I enjoy eating food like the next person; however, I do like to take a break from all the fine eating and detoxify my body during the week by making delicious and  healthy green smoothies.

For those who don’t know me, I’m a smoothie freak. So much that I used to work at a juice bar for a few years. I learnt how to play around with fruit and veggies to find that perfect balance of flavors. Like this coconut and kiwi smoothie, which is filled with Omega 3s and fiber. This smoothie not only detoxifies your body but also keeps it energized and full for a long period of time. Here’s how to make this smooth refreshing green goodness .

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup coconut water

3 kiwis, peeled

half of one avocado, peeled

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/2 cup of spinach

2 cubes of ice

3 drops honey

 

Add all these ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and Enjoy!

 

My World Pride Tasty Eats Adventure

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Pi-Tom’s

To escape the sweltering heat at the World Pride Parade in Toronto, my posy and I decided to seek refuge at this corner Thai restaurant called Pi-Tom’s, located at Alexander street and Yonge.

We decided on the patio since we still wanted to take in the festivities. The patio area is very inviting, with big yellow umbrella’s shading every table, potted plants scattered throughout the terrace and soft music playing in the background. And of course to celebrate Pride, the patio was adorned in several rainbow colored ornaments.

We started off with a cold beer to quench our thirst. We tried the Singha lager beer imported from Thailand which was recommended to us by our server (they were handing out tasting samples to all patrons). The golden colored beer was light and crisp with a slight hoppy taste. This was refreshing which made us ah with pleasure.

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The first thing we ordered was the Spicy Fish Cakes ($7.25). These were soft and moist and flavorful. These bad boys had a kick which I assumed were from the specs of green jalapenos. The center was soft and moist with an exterior made of some kind of egg batter. While they were delicious, I would have liked a bit more crunch. Next was the Roasted Duck Curry($13.95). This was killer. This had me scrapping the bowl clean. The dish was composed of basil, bamboo shoot, fresh pepper and lychee. Now, I didn’t get any lychee notes but I did taste the other flavors which meld beautifully together like a perfect symphony. And the gaminess of the duck lent a nice heavy richness to the curry which was the star.

The servers are extremely welcoming and very accommodating.  http://www.pi-tom.com/index.php

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Bar Volo

The Bar Volo is a great place to grab a quick snack and cold one. With the building covered with vines, you could almost walk past it, and if it wasn’t for the buzzing patio, I probably would have done just that. Located on Dundonald street and Yonge, this restaurant/pub is known for it’s eclectic selection of unique beers from around the world. The décor is very woodsy; cool-looking beer bottles are displayed around the restaurant, that has wood paneling, wooden tables and chairs that give it a rustic, laid-back feel.

They had a special Pride menu. I got a prosciutto and sharp cheddar sandwich on a crusty sourdough bread ($8) accompanied with in-house kettle cooked chips. Believe when I say, this was not your ordinary ham and cheese sandwich. This sandwich was packed with flavor. The meat was silky soft with a slight sweet and salty taste that played nicely with the sharpness of the cheese.  And the bread was chewy with a nice rustic crust. Just YUM! I  don’t know want special sauce they used on it, but it was scrumptious too. And it was washed down nicely with one of their unique craft beers.

The place is a little confusing when you first walk in, given that it’s self-seated and the ordering is done at the bar towards the back. Yeah, that had me scratching my head. But the service is friendly. http://blog.barvolo.com/about

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The Bier Market

Another place we checked out was the Bier Market located on Esplanade and Church street. This restaurant has over 150 beers to chose from. Since they had a large selection of beer we decided to get the beer flight ($20), which consisted of 6 small glasses of crafted beer (totaling to 2 pints). They are brought out on a rack and are great for sharing. To accompany the beer we got the meat platter ($18); they have several cured meats to chose from. Later, came the Flammekueches ($15). Basically this is like a flat bread pizza. We got the Porter bacon and potato with Quebec cheese curds, caramelized onions and scallions. This was delicious. But I think the star of the table was the ‘Frites’. These fries are addictive; seasoned to make your taste buds sing they are served with 3 creamy mayo-based sauces. Could I get some more please!

Their patio seating is awesome and the servers are polite and acknowledgeable about the menu. On some nights (check the website or call) there is live music, which we were fortunate enough to catch. http://thebiermarkt.com/

Yummy Mexican Churros: Pancho Bakery

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As I was checking out the food vendors on Wellesley at the World Pride festival, my senses were instantly assaulted by the sweet smells of freshly fried churros. I personally don’t care for these fried pastries because the ones I had in the past were always stiff and cold.  But, my sister-in law had never eaten them before and assisted we must order some. I gave in and placed my one week of healthy-eating on pause. And I am glad I did. We got 3 for $5 and these bad boys were delicious. They were freshly fried, then rolled in cinnamon sugar and piped with silky sauces like caramel, chocolate, nutella, or strawberry. We got one caramel, one chocolate and one plain. The caramel was our favorite. They tasted like a deep fried doughnut with a slight crunch. Definitely worth every cal. Image

Spanish Churros laid out on a tray before frying.

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Freshly Fried Churros

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Churros getting piped with chocolate, caramel, or strawberry.

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If I just made your mouth salivate, you can get your churro fix at Pancho’s Bakery. It’s at various locations in Toronto.

http://panchosbakery.com/

 

Sensational Burgers at Burgernator

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Since Toronto is having their first international gay pride this year, I thought I would make it my duty and work extra hard to scour the streets this week to find the best eateries that this city has to offer for arriving foodies.  I came upon this burger joint painted in charcoal black in the midst of the Kensington Market area called The Burgernator.

This place has such a badass, motorbiker appeal. When you first walk in your senses are instantly bombarded with the smell of smoky beef. The décor has chalked up signs along the walls which hosts their code of ethics for their handcrafted burger. The menu and prices are also written up in chalk. In the back of the restaurant there is an open kitchen where cooks are busy at work.

We placed in our orders and seated ourselves. 10 minutes later, the burgers were brought to our table. The presentation of the burgers were esthetically delicious to the eye, served in a aluminum deep dish baking pan with the standard checkered parchment paper.

I got the bulldozer($9:50)  which consisted of lean ground lamb with Havarti cheese topped with fresh mango salsa, sautéed jalapenos and in-house chipotle Aioli. The patty was juicy and had a nice caramelized crust outer layer. However, the lamb flavor did not come through for me. The  in-house aioli had a creamy peppery, sweet flavor. The jalapenos gave it an extra kick with a little heat.The bun was pillowy soft which held the sandwich nicely together. If you like creamy, cheesy burgers. This is it.

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The Baconator ($13.99). Since this was the house special, my posy and I had to try it. This gastronomical burger was composed of old-aged cheddar, in-house smoked beef bacon drizzled with burgernator sauce (aioli) accompanied by in-house rustic skin cut fries  served with garlic mayo for dipping. This burger had a really nice outer crust, but lacked succulence.  I would have liked it a bit more juicy. The beef baon stripes were thick cut slabs which had a beef jerky flavor that played well with the spiciness of the chipotle sauce. They really were the highlight of the burger.

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The last burger was the Captain Jerk ($8:50). This burger was dressed up with creamy harvati cheese, grilled pineapple and jerk sauce. The patty was moist with a nice outer crust. The thick red jerk sauce was the star of the show here. It had a savory tomato sauce base flavor with just enough heat to set your mouth tingling. And while the pineapple lends a nice mild sweetness, the flavor of it was a little lost. Over all the sandwich was quite delicious.

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And we couldn’t leave without trying their Rocket Fries ($4.99). This was ooey gooey goodness. The fries were smothered in the home-made jerk sauce and aged cheddar cheese, and drizzled with a creamy garlic sauce. This tasted straight-up like spicy pizza fries. The jerk sauce really comes through here, and the salty sharp cheddar cheese sauce stretched with every bite and held everything together in perfect harmony.

 

I will definitely go back. Service was a bit reserved, but still helpful.

Price: Moderate

Hours: Mon -Th 11-9p.m. (Fri-Sat 10 p.m.)

Recommend: Yes

http://theburgernator.com/

Kale and Spanish Chorizo Soup with cornbread.

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This is kind of my take on collard greens and ham hocks which I grew up on as a kid in Detroit.

I wanted to eat a bit healthier this week, so I decided to make this delicious Kale and Spanish Chorizo soup. I heard that Kale is supposed to be packed with nutrients and highly considered as a super veggie. So, I wanted to incorporate this into my weekly diet.

But besides the health benefits of it, I love the taste of kale, so does my hubby. We find that it adds so much flavor to the soup’s broth . It has almost a sweet, earthy taste which compliments the spicy chorizo so well. It’s awesome!

So, here is the recipe that I like to cook whenever I am dealing with Kale. Hopefully your love ones will enjoy it too.

Ingredients:

1 tsp. of paprika

1 tsp. of red pepper flakes

1 tsp. of pepper

2 tsps. of salt

3 bay leaves

2 garlic cloves minced

1 white potato chopped

1 small onion chopped

1/2 pound of Kale

1 cup of pre-cooked Spanish Chorizo or smoked turkey chopped

6 boneless chicken thighs chopped

2 tbsp. of EVOO

8 cups of water

2 cornmeal baguettes or cornbread (unsweetened) store bought.

Heat up soup pot on medium-high heat with EVOO. Sautee chorizo sausage until lightly caramelized. Add onions and stir until it becomes translucent and then garlic. Toast the garlic for a few seconds before adding the spices. Add 8 cups of water, toss in diced potatoes and chicken pieces and bring to boil.  Boil for 10 minutes and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 30 minutes until potatoes softens and season to taste.

Bread Preparation:

Preheat oven at 300. Cut the cornmeal baguette into halves and brush the interior with butter. Have the buttered side faced down on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes until golden brown.

Tip. If Chorizo sausage isn’t your thing, you could substitute it with a pre-cooked smoke turkey drum stick, it will still lend it a smoky depth flavor. And cornmeal baguettes could be purchase at Highland Farms. Or you could simply buy cornbread. ENJOY!

Hey! You gotta try these Meatballs.

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I must say, I’m not all that big on Italian food, unless it’s pizza. I don’t know, I just haven’t tasted a tomato sauce that knocked my socks off like see you on TV.  But, after seeing HEY restaurant featured on one of my favorite food shows, Diners Drive-in and Dives, I had to check them out. Located in Little Italy downtown Toronto, you cannot miss this place with its red logo plastered on the window’s shop. HEY!. It caught my attention instantly. And the humorous sign to come taste their balls is a hoot! 

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The establishment doesn’t have much in terms of décor.  Its is small and narrow almost like a take-out joint with an open kitchen concept. However the ambience has a rustic, old, backcountry charm with wooden worn out signs hung along the walls, and a menu scribbled in chalk on a blackboard.

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Since I heard so much about their balls, I’ll thought I would give them a try. So, I ordered the 3 pork meatballs in their special house sauce ($7).  The meatballs had a nice soft texture that sliced through easily with a fork. It literally melted in the mouth, but I wish it packed a little bit more of a punch flavor wise.. But the home-made Italian sauce made up for it. It had a zesty, peppery taste, and the freshly grated mozzarella cheese melded with the oil’s of the tomato dish was bubbly goodness. I soaked up every drop with my crusty bread, which was lightly brushed with extra virgin olive. 

If pork meatballs isn’t your thing, they also have veggie for you health conscious eaters.

I will definitely go back to try their meatball sandwiches and pasta. 

                                                          

Chef Rod Bowers

http://heyrestaurant.tumblr.com/

Cost: Affordable

Hrs: 6:30 10:00

Recommend: Yes