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Monastery Bakery & Deli

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I have heard on multiple occasions from multiple friends about Monastery Bakery & Deli in Oakville, Ontario.  So after a morning stand-up paddle session, my teammates and I took a “field trip” out to Monastery Bakery for coffee and a bite.  I didn’t realize it was more a market than a bakery cafe but regardless, it lived up to my expectations!  The front portion of the market houses the deli, ready made food section, Italian groceries, cheeses, pastries and coffee.  However, the magic is really in the back room – a room full of bread and baked goodies, racks of them!  Everything from homemade bread sticks, croissants, loaves of bread, baguettes, danishes, turnovers, donuts and panettone.  Yes, fresh panettone!  With so much variety, I had to hold myself back but vowed I would come back.  So on this initial trip I tried the bread sticks, croissants, spinach and feta stuffed phyllo and mini chocolate danishes.  The best however, were the fresh baked Italian cookies and biscotti – buttery, crumbly and not too sweet.  My favourite were the biscotti dipped in white or dark chocolate.  They weren’t too hard and the chocolate gives it the right touch of sweetness, the perfect treat!

Monastery Bakery & Deli in Oakville, Ontario.

Monastery Bakery & Deli in Oakville, Ontario.

Danishes, elephant ears, cinnamon buns and chocolate croissants.

Danishes, elephant ears, cinnamon buns and chocolate croissants.

Racks of donuts and fruit turnovers.

Racks of donuts and fruit turnovers.

Loads of their signature croissants.

Loads of their signature croissants.

So many different types of bread sticks - garlic, cheese, sundried tomato and olive.

So many different types of bread sticks – garlic, cheese, sundried tomato and olive.

Loaves of artisan bread.

Loaves of artisan bread.

Housemade hot deli sandwiches.

Housemade hot deli sandwiches.

Hot homemade pasta dishes.

Hot homemade pasta dishes.

More pasta dishes.

More pasta dishes.

So many varieties of Italian cookies and cakes.

So many varieties of Italian cookies and cakes.

Housemade pasta packaged for easy cooking at home.

Housemade pasta packaged for easy cooking at home.

Spinach and feta filled phyllo pastry.

Spinach and feta filled phyllo pastry.

A box full of Italian biscotti and butter cookies.

A box full of Italian biscotti and butter cookies.

Italian panettone made fresh in house.

Italian panettone made fresh in house.

Life is Sweet – A Cupcake House

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After a beautiful Sunday morning OC1 (outrigger canoe) paddle session, We decided to hit the Toronto Beaches’ high street, Queen St. East for a morning coffee.  There’s a bakery that I’ve been following on Instagram for awhile and wanted to stop by and finally try it out but found out it was closed.  So taking a stroll down the street, we found Life is Sweet – A Cupcake House.  With its vibrant turquoise front porch, we decided to take a peak.  They’ve turned a house into a bakery and shop keeping the house structure in place.  In the hallway, staircase and back room are shelves and displays of beautiful housewares like dish towels, cake stands, homemade soaps and greeting cards.  When you walk in the front foyer, you’re greeted by a counter full of baked goodies.  There’s a lot to choose from and all looked delicious.  We ended up going with a half dozen mini-cupcakes, it is a cupcake house after all – and seeing that they are “mini” I felt less guilty eating them…lol.  My favourite was the earl grey tea cupcake which had a very subtle earl grey flavour however, it was contrasted with a bold and citrusy orange buttercream full of actual orange zest – a unique flavour combination I haven’t seen before.  I love neighbourhood joints like this, so happy I dropped in!

Life is Sweet - A Cupcake House.

Life is Sweet – A Cupcake House.

The entrance to the cute Life is Sweet bakery and gift shop.

The entrance to the cute Life is Sweet bakery and gift shop.

The bakery counter.

The bakery counter.

A counter full of delicious baked goods.

A counter full of delicious baked goods.

An order of iced coffee (unsweetened, no milk) and some cupcakes to go with it.

An order of iced coffee (unsweetened, no milk) and some cupcakes to go with it.

A half dozen order of mini cupcakes.

A half dozen order of mini cupcakes.

Earl grey with orange buttercream mini-cupcake.

Earl grey with orange buttercream mini-cupcake.

Chocolate mini-cupcake with mint buttercream.

Chocolate mini-cupcake with mint buttercream.

Inside the shop.

Inside the shop.

The back room full of beautiful items for the kitchen and home.

The back room full of beautiful items for the kitchen and home.

Restaurant of the Month: L’Ouvrier

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Last week, Summerlicious came to a close in Toronto and this year three teammates and I tried L’Ouvrier, a restaurant located on trendy Dundas Street West neighborhood.  The restaurant front is very unassuming with the name only visible on a wooden sawhorse.  The interior reminds of those gallery spaces in Soho, New York.  Cement floors, white walls and eclectic art displays around the dining room.  L’Ouvrier means working man in French and I love how they make simple items important to the blue collar worker into art, like ziplock bags of nails, screws and washers.  Just like the interior, the summerlicious looked just as good.  Starting with an amuse bouche of roasted beet and goat cheese, then a steak tartare made with local beef, homemade potato chips and shavings of Monforte cheese, a local Ontario farm.  My main, a deliciously tender pulled pork shoulder with the tang of cider vinegar and the sweetness of apple.  The best part, the broccoli, charred and topped with melted Golden Blyth farm cheese.  Also good, the side of fried grits.  Grits made into a patty, cut into squares and then deep fried – all topped with popcorn!  We ended the meal with a deconstructed baked alaska and stewed strawberries and rhubarb-prosecco sorbet.  I would definitely go back again.

The discreet entrance to L'Ouvrier.

The discreet entrance to L’Ouvrier.

Inside the beautiful space of L'Ouvrier.

Inside the beautiful space of L’Ouvrier.

Some pinot grigio to start the night.

Some pinot grigio to start the night.

Amuse bouche courtesy of the chef - roasted beet and goat cheese.

Amuse bouche courtesy of the chef – roasted beet and goat cheese.

My appetizer - "AAA" Ontario steak tartare, ramp aioli, monforte dairy, potato chips and chives.

My appetizer – “AAA” Ontario steak tartare, ramp aioli, monforte dairy, potato chips and chives.

B.C. Albacore tuna tataki, salsa verde, local corn and basil.

B.C. Albacore tuna tataki, salsa verde, local corn and basil.

My main - Braised Ontario pork shoulder, cider glaze, fried grits, buttermilk ranch, broccoli and golden blyth cheese.

My main – Braised Ontario pork shoulder, cider glaze, fried grits, buttermilk ranch, broccoli and golden blyth cheese.

And did I mention the popcorn?

And did I mention the popcorn?

Baked Alaska - flourless chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream, caramel and burnt meringue.

Baked Alaska – flourless chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream, caramel and burnt meringue.

My dessert - Stewed Ontario strawberries, Hewwitt's dairy cream, crunchy meringue and a scoop of rhubarb prosecco sorbet.

My dessert – Stewed Ontario strawberries, Hewwitt’s dairy cream, crunchy meringue and a scoop of rhubarb prosecco sorbet.

Interior decor of L'Ouvrier.

Interior decor of L’Ouvrier.

Summer BBQ

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I’ve been to a many a summer BBQs in my life, including many hosted by my parents when growing up, but nothing like the one my friends S & I hosted this past weekend.  It was a food gourmand’s paradise.  This BBQ had a bit of everything – from smoked meat to marinated pork belly to meatballs.  I literally starved myself all day in anticipation and boy, am I glad I did.  My favourite dish of night, the homemade bao!  I’ve tasted good bao at restaurants but nothing like this.  The pork belly was soaked in a homemade marinade, sliced and then seared on the BBQ.  Also inside, sliced boiled eggs marinated in a housemade soy dressing and pickled daikon, carrots and cucumbers.  Topped with cilantro and all sandwiched within the bun, made with a homemade dough and steamed fresh.  It was absolutely refreshing, hitting all the sweet, salty and sour notes.  Bao wasn’t the only dish served, there was a smorgasbord of meats: smoked chicken, smoked BBQ ribs, BBQ chicken wings with a homemade rub (with jerk spice notes) and asian style  meatballs.  To top it off, grilled pineapple – golden pineapple tossed in brown sugar and cinnamon then grilled on the BBQ, a great ending to a fantastic night of food and friends.  Thanks S & I!

Homemade bao stuffed with marinated pork belly - delicious!

Homemade bao stuffed with marinated pork belly – delicious!

Inside the bao.

Inside the bao.

Asian meatballs and BBQ wings.

Asian meatballs and BBQ wings.

Spicy chicken wings with homemade spice rub.

Spicy chicken wings with homemade spice rub.

Homemade pork and chicken satay.

Homemade pork and chicken satay.

Smoked BBQ ribs.

Smoked BBQ ribs.

Smoked chicken and ribs.

Smoked chicken and ribs.

A closer look at the smoked chicken and its bark.

A closer look at the smoked chicken and its bark.

Homemade potato and macaroni salad.

Homemade potato and macaroni salad.

Inside the smoker.

Inside the smoker.

Wahlburgers

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One of the great things about people knowing that I write a food blog is that I get recommendations.  And this one came from my colleague S who asked if I had ever heard of Wahlburgers.  I mean, who knew that one of the Wahlbergs – yes, the same Wahlberg family that has to two famous brothers, you know, the one from NKOTB and the other from the Funky Bunch (I know, I just aged myself…..lol), opened a chain of burger joints serving up their version of the classic american burger.  The interior has a very sleek sports bar vibe with a mix of high table tops, booths and TVs.  The bar cocktails, called Wahlcoctions, are great.  I had the Cherry Coke, one of my favourite soft drinks, except here its made with alcohol – cherry vodka, grenadine and diet coke.  And although I was at a burger joint, I decided to try something different and ordered the Thanksgiving Burger – made with ground seasoned turkey topped with stuffing, housemade orange cranberry sauce, roasted butternut squash and Wahl sauce.  Because there was so much in this burger it was hard to eat but I managed, and it was tasty!  Definitely a great place for a quick bite.

Wahlburgers in Toronto.

Wahlburgers in Toronto.

The sports bar look of Wahlburgers.

The sports bar look of Wahlburgers.

Cocktails - Cherry Coke and Blueberry Pie adult shake.

Cocktails – Cherry Coke and Blueberry Pie adult shake.

The Our Burger served with crispy fried and thinly sliced onion rings.

The Our Burger served with crispy fried and thinly sliced onion rings.

Jenn's chicken sandwich is a seared chicken breast, caramelized onions, lettuce and honey garlic mayo - served here with sweet potato tots.

Jenn’s chicken sandwich is a seared chicken breast, caramelized onions, lettuce and honey garlic mayo – served here with sweet potato tots.

The Thanksgiving burger served with yukon gold fries.

The Thanksgiving burger served with yukon gold fries.

Deconstruction of my Thanksgiving burger.

Deconstruction of my Thanksgiving burger – turkey, stuffing, cranberry orange sauce butternut squash and Wahl sauce.

Mud Pie adult shake made with kahlua, creme de cacao, vanilla vodka, chocolate and vanilla ice cream; and a classic chocolate shake.

Mud Pie adult shake made with kahlua, creme de cacao, vanilla vodka, chocolate and vanilla ice cream; and a classic chocolate shake.

Baka Gallery Cafe

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I haven’t seen my friend M in a few months and its been just as long since I’ve ventured into her neighborhood of Bloor West Village.  Upon her recommendation, we decided to hit a up Baka Gallery Cafe, a local cafe serving not only the typical coffee and pastries but also breakfast, lunch and dinner.  A modern, white space inside with a good sized patio and a second floor dining room with a bar, it was a busy afternoon with the cafe full of customers.  When I first walked in I noticed the cafe was open to mobile phone store attached to the front of the cafe – apparently its owned by the Baka Mobile store.  I ordered an iced latte and the sausage bagel, one of their three breakfast entrees.  You can’t see the sausage patty in the photo, dwarfed by the fried egg resting on top, but its there.  Made with pork and fennel, fried and then topped with the fried egg, a slice of havarti, roasted tomato and served on a toasted poppy seed bagel.  M’s arugula salad looked really fresh, with tons of strawberries, walnuts, cashews and feta.  The food is definitely decent but what makes this place great is the local vibe it exudes.

The entrance and patio of Baka Gallery Cafe.

The entrance and patio of Baka Gallery Cafe.

The counter inside Baka.

The counter inside Baka.

Window seating at Baka.

Window seating at Baka.

The 2nd floor seating space of the cafe.

The 2nd floor seating space of the cafe.

A large iced latte to stay.

A large iced latte to stay.

A beautiful summer salad.

A beautiful summer salad.

Sausage bagel.

Sausage bagel.

Copacabana

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This post is really for all the carnivores out there.  Brazilian steakhouses have been in Toronto for a while now but it was only recently that I finally made my way to one.  Copacabana opened another location recently, its first, in the heart of downtown.  So naturally, I couldn’t resist.  Knowing nothing about Brazilian BBQ I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious this form of BBQ was.  Various cuts of beef, chicken, lamb and pork are grilled on large skewers and then walked through the dining room to be cut table side for diners.  My absolute favourites of the night was Picanha Brazil, Copacabana’s signature cut and the parmesan filet mignon – these two cuts were mouthwatering delicious with so much flavour and meat so tender!  They were perfectly grilled to a medium rare.  In addition, when you do go, you MUST try the cheddar, cranberry bread baked with a coconut topping.  I know bread can be filling but trust me, its worth at least a slice.  And the best way to finish the meal, with grilled pineapple.  So beautifully caramelized on the outside, I had 5 servings of the pineapple – it was that good!  I will definitely be back.

Inside the downtown locale of Copacabana.

Inside the downtown locale of Copacabana.

The bread station.

The bread station.

The cold station full with a variety of cold cuts, cheeses and salsa.

The cold station full with a variety of cold cuts, cheeses and salsa.

The large salad station with so many different and unique salads.

The large salad station with so many different and unique salads.

Picanha Brazil - Copacabana's signature meat.

Picanha Brazil – Copacabana’s signature meat.

The parmesan filet.

The parmesan filet.

Delicious prime rib.

Delicious prime rib.

Leg of lamb off the spit.

Leg of lamb off the spit.

Grilled chimichurri steak.

Grilled chimichurri steak.

Yummy cheddar and cranberry bread topped with coconut.

Yummy cheddar and cranberry bread topped with coconut.

Grilled pineapple.

Grilled pineapple.

Additional breads.

Additional breads.

Fried bananas for dessert.

Fried bananas for dessert.

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