Monday, August 20, 2012

Savouring the summer at Square One PLUS win a $100 gift card!

Monday, August 20, 2012

We've noticed something lately: Shopping centres across the GTA are starting to up their food game. We're seeing updated food courts and a number of classier adjoined restaurants opening up that are a step above the typical fare we used to find around malls 10 years ago.


This month we stopped by Earls Kitchen and Bar and Panera Bread at Square One to check out "Savour the Season", Square One's initiative to promote the shopping centre’s restaurant offerings. In addition to Earls and Panera Bread, summer-inspired dishes are also featured now until Sept. 3 at Alice Fazooli's, Canyon Creek Chophouse, Jack Astor's Bar and Grill, Moxie's Grill and Bar, and Open Kitchens by Richtree. And of course the nearby Whole Foods Market has a number of seasonal fruits and veggies, including the Ontario plums pictured at the end of this post, if you want to cook, bake or preserve some of your own seasonal treats.

Earls makes all their food in-house from scratch. I know - not what you'd expect at a mall - but a very pleasant surprise indeed! In keeping with a summery theme, I ordered the featured daily soup - that day it was a tomato-based tortilla soup with strips of tortilla, queso and avocado - and along with it I ordered the Dominical Fish Tacos (pro tip: if you get the main size of the tacos rather than the appetizer size, you can add the daily soup for just $1.00).


I highly recommend the tacos - the Valentina crema was a bit citrusy and also had a kick of warmth / spiciness to it, the fish was grilled perfectly, and the corn / mango / tomato / avocado salsa topped off the fish with a nice creaminess from the avocado, sweetness from the corn / mango and the acidity in the tomato that balanced the overall flavour out nicely. I loved the addition of julienne cabbage on the bottom of the taco coated in the Valentina crema - it added an excellent crunchy texture. The dish was inspired by food in Dominical, Costa Rica; Executive Chef Reuben Major and his chefs travel quite a bit to help inspire their dishes. I washed it down with a decidedly summery Pineapple Ginger Margarita. 


Mark had a classic steak with bourbon demi-glace, garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal veggies - the zucchini (in season right now) was especially delicious. With that Mark tried the Whatchamacallit Merlot as it seemed a most fitting accompaniment to his steak.


And now for the best part of the meal: DESSERT! I can honestly say their seasonal berry dessert was among the best berry desserts we've ever had - we generally like more chocolate-y treats and don't usually go for the berry option, but with blueberries in season we figured it would be a good choice. The super-rich and decadent cream cheese mousse was sandwiched between discs of light, airy, crunchy almond-y perfection (almost like a cross between a meringue, a crumble and a cookie) with blueberries and strawberries dotting the plate.


To accompany the dessert, we had our first ever Blueberry Tea (this is not literally blueberry tea - rather it is Amaretto and Grand Marnier served in a brandy snifter that you add tea to - usually Orange Pekoe, but we had a common variation on it which is made with Earl Grey). When combined, the smell is quite fragrant and reminiscent of blueberries, hence the name. The two went very well together. Overall the meal was great value;  Earls makes for a nice pit stop during a shopping trip with your friends but is also a destination in its own right for a family get-together to squeeze in some summery fun before the season's done.


We had first enjoyed Panera Bread on a trip to Chicago a couple of years ago. We ate various souffles and other freshly-baked treats pretty much every other day for our breakfast - it was a great way to start our vacation days. Upon our return, we had wondered why we'd never been to one in Ontario. Well now we finally can say that we have! While we weren't there for breakfast and thus missed the souffles, we grabbed a Frozen Mango drink along with an orange scone and a pecan bun. The orange scone had orange zest in the glaze, which gave it a really fragrant smell and an extra kick of orange flavour; it all felt very tropical and summery as we sipped on the Frozen Mango drink (between the orange and the mango flavours, if I closed my eyes long enough I could almost dream I was on a beach...)! AND THEY SELL MUFFIN TOPS! How much fun is that?!


In terms of seasonal offerings, I always like to take a look at this handy chart of what's in season in Ontario - take a look next time you're out shopping or dining and want to find out what seasonal and local treats you can get your hands on.



We want you to enjoy an experience like ours at  Square One, so we wanted to share that you could win a $100 gift card to your favourite Square One restaurant! Simply go here to enter. Best of luck to ya; tell us all about it if you're the big winner!

Yours in food,


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