Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stay Awake with chocolate

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
We got this box of Awake caffeinated chocolate sent to us and I was debating whether or not an average tasting chocolate bar was worth writing about. But since it combined 2 of my daily food groups, Chocolate and Caffeine, I figured it's a notable product thinking "why didn't anyone come up with this before?"


Awake has 101 mg of caffeine in every bar. That's as much as a 20 oz coffee or 250 ml energy drink!

You might think "great, just what we need, another way to jack everyone up." Indeed the convenience store shelves are already busting out with caffeine delivery systems, but let's face it, there's a huge desire or need for these products in the market, and a caffeinated chocolate bar addresses a particular niche of that market.

I can think of a lot of uses for this. Sometimes too much coffee can be harsh on your stomach, with fizzy drinks even more so. You can't put a drink in your pocket, say when riding your bike, nor in the glove compartment of your car late at night. You might not need that much liquid anyway if you're trying to avoid frequent rest stops. As an aphrodisiac, well...

Awake plans to make a huge marketing push on college and university campuses, and the chocolate bars are already widely available. They use an owl named Nevile as their mascot and you can follow him on Twitter. Focusing on a cute mascot more than the product is an interesting approach like Porter's raccoon or the Geico gecko... there's even a Pinterest board with nothing but cute owls if you like cute owls.

About the product itself: It works.... very well! Don't scarf it down, and keep it away from your kids. Too much caffeine can make you anxious and irritable, but we know all of that already. I won't be consuming this too much, but I know there are a lot of caffeine fiends out there who need it for all-nighters either doing homework or writing reports, when hitting a brick wall at 3 in the afternoon, or just playing video games all night long. To all you folks, here's another arrow in your quiver... get it quiver :)

Posted by: Mark Rodas

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,

Oikos - Christmas in August

Christmas came early to the Thompson Landry Cooperage Gallery in the Distillery District with a holiday themed three-course meal by Celebrity Chef Rob Rossi, Top Chef Canada, Season One finalist, restaurateur and Chef of Bestellen.


Michelle Mawby, interior design expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, and founder of Lucid Interior Design Inc., furnished the Christmas themed decor.


Chef Rossi used Oikos Greek Yogurt to add a new twist to a traditional holiday meal.


Curried Lentil and Yogurt Soup


Harissa and Yogurt, Marinated "Yorkshire Valley Farms" Organic Chicken, Spiced Sweet Potato Mash


Cider Poached Pears, Candied Walnuts & Yogurt

As you can see, Oikos Greek Yogurt can be quite a versatile cooking ingredient, not to mention a tasty and nutritious snack.

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Krups and All-Clad at MoRoCo Chocolat

Sunday, August 19, 2012
We went to MoRoCo Chocolat in Yorkville for the Night of Delight soirée by Krups and All-Clad. Amid the bubbly, chocolate fountains, macarons and s'mores, we got to check out All-Clad's latest cookware and the highly engineered marvels from Krups.


These two luxurious brands don't just look good, they are also technologically advanced instruments that cater to a more discerning clientele. We tried some coffee from the Krups Barista EA9000, which won't be out until 2013. It's equipped with its own burr grinder and digital controls. It's the only fully automatic one-touch-cappuccino machine with automatic rinsing. Pretty fancy. The video below better illustrates the point:


All-Clad specializes in bonding dissimilar metals to take advantage of various thermal and magnetic properties to create its advanced cookware. Depending on which line of cookware you choose, they either have aluminum, copper, or stainless steel cores in up to five layers. Some even have enhanced magnetic outside layers for induction cooking.

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Piola, famosi per la pizza

Piola is an Italian pizzeria chain established in 1986 in Treviso, Italy, with branches the world over.


Their menu features astipasti, pizzas, pastas, and Italian desserts. We really enjoyed their Cinghiale & Cipolle pizza, featuring brie and braised wild boar. The boar was sweet, juicy and gamey.


On Sunday, August 19, at 3PM, Piola will be holding a gnocchi eating contest with the 1st prize being the Birra Morreti Vintage 63 Vespa shown below. Hosted by professional food eater, Furious Pete. Piola will be offering food & drink specials, and they’ll be prizes awarded to audience members as well.


1165 Queen St. West
Toronto, Canada M6J1J4
(416) 477-4652

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mr. Greenjeans, celebrating 32 years

Friday, August 10, 2012
From August 1st-12th, Mr. Greenjeans will celebrate its 32nd anniversary with a special menu of old school classics at 1980s prices! As an added promo, diners who come in from August 1-12th dressed as their favourite 1980s icon will receive an appetizer or a dessert gratis with the purchase of a lunch or dinner main. Mr. Greenjeans opened on May 10, 1980 at the Eaton Centre and has since served 15 million guests at the same location. Amazing!


Enjoy an “Old Faithful” – 8oz USDA chuck burger served up 80s style with a basket of their signature Buffalo chips for only $4.95. Add a Caesar salad for a mere $0.99! Creamy milk shakes are only $2.95, and the “Here Comes the Fudge” sundae, topped with fudge chunks, mounds of chocolate ice cream, and whipped cream is only $3.95.

IMG_9084_MrGreenjeans IMG_9099_MrGreenjeans IMG_9109_MrGreenjeans IMG_9146_MrGreenjeans

I just realized that I've been going to Mr. Greenjeans for the better part of the last two decades. With all the constant changes in the food landscape, and even on Yonge Street and the Eaton Centre itself, sometimes an old standby can be quite comforting indeed. 

220 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M5B 2H1
(416) 979-1212

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lunching around Yorkville

Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Yorkville is known for its poshness, with celebrity studded dinners at Sassafraz or people watching at Remy’s patio. Before the Lamborghinis and Ferraris line Cumberland St. for happy hour, are there any workaday eats and treats for the locals? We set out to find out. Here’s a handful of eats and treats to occupy those summer lunchtime hours.

Caffe di Portici 

At the corner of Scollard and Yonge, across from the Masonic Temple now MTV, Caffe di Portici’s patio and its adjacent park gives a little extra sense of space so rare downtown. Yes, I do realize the area was once called Uptown, but sprawl keeps moving these lines up.


We started with an Insalata di Pasta -- tri-colour fusilli, artichoke, grilled vegetables, red onion, balsamic vinaigrette. It tasted really fresh and healthy, a pleasant surprise for a starter the we almost considered an afterthought.


The real reason we’re here is the scrumptious pizza. They have an excellent crust at Caffe di Portici. Not quite Neapolitan, in that it’s not really elastic, but it has excellent firmness and chewiness. What I do love about their pizza the most is the option to add 2 eggs. Having runny yolks from eggs baked into your toppings is amazing. And the rest of the toppings are kind’a unique too.


We had the Chorizo Pizza -- chorizo, green onions, potatoes, cheddar on tomato sauce + of course 2 eggs. I love potatoes on my pizza. These weren’t your common scalloped potatoes, but nicely seasoned soft chunks. And the chorizo tasted pretty authentic too, with great seasoning and a good bite.

Yoco Froyo 

Yet another Frozen Yogurt place you may ask? Well yeah! The quality of froyo at Yoco doesn’t even approach Menchie’s, but location, location, location. If you happen to be chillin’ in the park right by former mayor Barbara Hall’s giant $250,000 rock, you’d be more inclined to cross the street than ride the 2 or 3 subway stops to the Annex.


Yoco has kind of an Asian twist, as you can also order smoothies and bubble tea. There’s a lot of fruity yogurt flavours as well, and even a green tea flavour. My advice is stick to the fruity flavours, avoid the normal flavours like chocolate or cappuccino as the base yogurt has a more sour note than typical froyo. The mango and green apple flavours were decent though.


Maybe they should’ve spent less money on the fancy Sony LEDs above the yogurt dispensers and a little more on the ingredients.

Metropolis Bake Shop 

The oddly named “bake shop” is actually a Korean lunch spot where you can get your filling yet healthy meal on the cheap. For $7 you can get bibimbap -- rice, glass noodles, beef, carrots, bean sprouts, mushrooms, spinach and a a fried egg + a side soup and kimchi. For the same price you can get a hot soup instead.

The photos below are of pork bone soup, and a spicy beef soup. The soups come with lots of veggies + a bowl of steamed rice and some sides that randomly change from kimchi, to pickled potatoes, to tofu. The pork bone soup actually has tons of meat in it if you’re not squeamish about breaking a pig’s spine apart and picking in between the joints. An excellent flu season meal. The soups are also very hot as they are served in the pot they’re cooked in and vigorously boil for minutes after they arrive at your table.



Metropolis is in the Cumberland Terrace, on the ground floor by the Bay Street entrance. It’s a relatively quiet spot right beside high glass windows that let a lot of light in from Cumberland St.

Crème Brasserie

Crème is tucked away in the Renaissance Courtyarda little alley joining Cumberland St. and Yorkville Ave., right beside the old Four Seasons hotel. It has a great secluded patio that is bright and airy yet shielded from direct sunlight most of the time.




We had a Cappellini with a more than ample amount of fresh mussels, lobster, and calamari. We also had the best salmon dish. It had a very decadently creamy and rich sauce with a lot of buttery and woodsy mushroom taste. The salmon was stuffed with spinach and sat on a bed of perfectly cooked potatoes and asparagus, topped with a juicy slice of tomato. That was a yummy weekday lunch!

To end our Yorkville lunch adventures we have some authentic gelato.


.Gelato Simply Italian 

I don’t know if I want to call it Simply Italian, .Gelato, or just that gelato place. Either way, they have some of the best gelato I’ve ever tasted. Certainly as good as anything I've had in Florence, though there are specific spots in Toronto that do particular flavours better than others. It’s located in this little nondescript spot under a parking structure beside Hemingway’s that used to be a sandwich shop. Looking at the pictures you can only imagine how good everything tastes. I order with my eyes coz all the flavours are in Italian. I mean I have a rough idea of what things are, but since you can see chunks of the fresh ingredients, visuals are a pretty safe guide.



My favourite flavour thus far is Bruttomabuono, which is essentially Ferrero Rocher in gelato form, with tons of crunchy hazelnuts and globs of chocolate hazelnut ribbons in a chocolate base. The vanilla strawberry is also a good bet with loads of fresh strawberries. The hazelnut gelato is also really good. One time they had a balsamic flavoured gelato which was tasty but excessively sweet. There are also heavier frozen custards and lighter sorbets. A good and bad thing about this place is that the flavours always change. It’s good in that you can try different things, it’s bad in that the next time you drop by for something you love, it might not be there any more.

So that’s a brief sampling of Yorkville food in daytime. A little French, a little Korean, a little Italian. It’s a great neighborhood to walk around, with an eclectic mix of shops and places to eat.

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Trevor Kitchen and Bar

Last night we checked out Trevor Kitchen and Bar. Situated along a strip of restaurants on Wellington beside the iconic flatiron building, with its basement location, Trevor might be easy to miss. One could easily walk past it not knowing that it's a worthwhile destination for a foie gras rich meal or a romantic evening.

Trevor offers free corkage with a limit of two 750 ml bottles per table on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We were tempted to bring a bottle to try it out, though not knowing what food we were going to pair it with, we opted to just have a glass of Stoneburn 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, and a glass of Domaine Brusset 2010 "laurent b." côtes du rhône.

We started off with a Kobe Carpaccio – with shrimp and bacon salad, pork crackling and dried black olives; and a Macaroni and Asiago cheese with seared foie gras.


There’s a separate section on the menu dedicated to foie gras appetizers. There’s even an option to add seared foie gras to an entrée for $15.

The Carpaccio was thinly sliced and had a nice hint of olive oil. The mild sweetness and cool taste of the shrimp and bacon salad contrasted deliciously with the salty crunch of the dried olives. The pork crackling added another level of texture and made the dish look more interesting, though as a Filipino well acquainted with Chicharon, it felt lacking in seasoning.


The mac & cheese with foie gras was out of this world! The rich creaminess of the macaroni with a golden cheesy crust alone would’ve been wonderful, but add to that a decadent hunk of seared foie gras that partially dissolved and mixed into the macaroni once you’ve started eating it, plus a swig of red wine, and you can just feel all the pleasure centres in your brain light up.

For mains we had the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with creamed corn & rapini in honey bourbon dressing and the Venison Rib Chop with red cabbage, spring vegetables & cloudberry jus.


The fried chicken tasted good with the creamed corn dressing with the sweetness of the honey bourbon, though I found the batter a tad salty. The venison was mildly gamey and a welcome change from eating beef, though the chef-recommended medium rare kind of looked medium if not medium well, with not much pink to find. That was a fairly substantial piece of red meat.


Another standout however was our chosen side: Truffled Goat Cheese Poutine! Not even a foot away from your nose and you are already fully immersed in the deep earthy aroma of truffles. That olfactory treat was then followed by the rich salty tang of goat cheese, making for one of the best side dishes out there.

Incidentally, the last time I was at this address, a long long time ago, the space was occupied by Bouchon, one of the only places save for Mr. Tasty Fries and Harvey’s where you could get a Poutine in Toronto. Bouchon served up what was pretty exotic back then… Poutine with foie gras!


Dessert was Chocolate & Peanut butter fondant with warm chocolate mousse & chocolate textures. Mmmm… peanut butter + chocolate, lots of chocolate. The textures, though they may not be, tasted like an assortment of chocolate-covered corn flakes and bits or coffee crisp. Sweet, crunchy and yummy.

Overall Trevor was good, with a slight dip in the mains. The apps and sides were unique and very tasty. The service was friendly and attentive.

38 Wellington Street East Toronto, ON M5E 1C7

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Thursday, August 2, 2012

G. Marquis vineyards

Thursday, August 2, 2012
Introducing one of the latest brands of wines to hit the LCBO, G. Marquis.

G. Marquis is all VQA, produced at the Niagara Stone Road vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The brand offers 2 lines, the Red Line and the Silver Line. The Silver Line is 100% Ontario VQA, made from hand-harvested grapes and includes premium Icewines and single vineyard vintages. The Red Line offers 100% Ontario VQA wines that are unoaked, and present a soft, fruit-forward profile.


I tried the 2009 Merlot with some of Stacey’s awesome lasagna! I must say the VQA really comes out. It was smooth and fruity, blanketing my tongue with mellow richness. It definitely goes well with hearty dishes laden with cheese and tomato sauce. Not quite as rich as a Cab, but substantial enough to go well with a good steak.

Pricing and availability are as follows:

The Silver Line

2008 Chardonnay VQA - $16.95 (VINTAGES LCBO)
2011 Pinot Noir VQA - $19.95 (VINTAGES LCBO Essentials)
Ice Rosé VQA - $29.95 (VINTAGES LCBO)
2010 Vidal Late Harvest VQA - $14.95 (Duty Free)
2009 Vidal Icewine VQA - $27.95 (VINTAGES LCBO)
2009 Riesling Icewine VQA - $34.95 (Duty Free)
2009 Cabernet Franc Icewine VQA - $39.95 (Duty Free)

The Red Line 

2010 Riesling VQA - $11.95 (LCBO)
2009 Merlot VQA - $12.95 (LCBO)
2010 Pinot Grigio VQA - $11.95 (LCBO)
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon VQA - $12.95 (Duty Free)