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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.

Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival 2015

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A few weeks ago, I participated in the Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival hosted on Toronto’s Centre Island.  When I paddle in races I don’t typically allow myself to eat during the day, with the exception of some fruit as I like to feel light on race day.  However, its not everyday that I get to race at one of Canada’s largest dragon boat festivals on a team put together as part of a cultural exchange between the City of Markham and the City of Nanhai in China.  A number of members on the team discovered a booth selling delicious lobster rolls using lobster from the Maritimes.  So naturally, I had to go and try it.  Driving all the way from Halifax with the lobsters, the Maritime Pasty Co.’s lobster roll was really tasty.  Large chunks of fresh tender lobster simply served on butter toasted hot dog buns, so simple yet so good!  And of course, I had to wash it down with dessert – some snow ice from Cha Me Cha.  Growing up one of my favourite Japanese desserts was shaved ice and yes, I even owned a Snoopy hand-cranked shaved ice machine – did I just admit that?  Come to think of it, where did I store that machine!  The ones served up by Cha Me Cha are Taiwanese where the ice itself is flavoured (Strawberry, Melon or Taro) and topped with flavoured cubes of soft mochi (sticky sweet rice) and juice filled tapioca.  Refreshing and perfect to have on a hot day!

On the ferry heading to Toronto Centre Island.

On the ferry heading to Toronto Centre Island.

The Maritime Pasty Co. - travelled from Halifax.

The Maritime Pasty Co. – travelled from Halifax.

Maritime Pasty Co's menu.

Maritime Pasty Co’s menu.

One of the best lobster rolls I've had recently.

One of the best lobster rolls I’ve had recently.

Shaved ice machines - love the panda machine.

Shaved ice machines – love the panda machine.

Melon flavoured snow ice with all the fixings.

Melon flavoured snow ice with all the fixings.

Strawberry snow ice with mochi cubes and tapioca.

Strawberry snow ice with mochi cubes and tapioca.

Cha me cha booth.

Cha me cha booth.

Denmark: Fotex

Everyone who knows me knows that wherever I go I must visit a grocery store at least once during my trip.  I love walking up and down the aisles looking at the different products, discovering what flavours are popular or in season at the moment.  You really get a feel for what the locals are buying and eating.  One of the grocery chains we discovered in Denmark was Fotex.  In this particular location, I spent almost two hours combing the shelves and found some awesome products.  Items like Heinz American Hamburger sauce (aka “Big Mac” sauce), Heinz curry mango sauce (which I brought home with me) and Wasa’s cracker sandwiches made with cream cheese and chocolate.  I’m a chip lover and I love the unique flavours you can find and this was the first country where I found Lay’s Ketchup chips outside of Canada!  I also discovered that the Danish like their salads, I found an entire refrigerated section dedicated to this product.  Everything from shrimp, tuna, herring, mackeral, pickle and egg salad to only name a few.  I only wish I was able to try them all :)

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Fotex grocery store.

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Lay’s Brazilian Salso flavoured chips with Lionel Messi.

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First time I’ve seen Lay’s Ketchup chips outside of Canada.

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Love the brand, Toast Factory processed cheese slices.

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So many different salads.

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Skyr yogurt.

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“Big Mac” sauce bottled!

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Heinz’ curry mango mayo.

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I love Wasa but Wasa sandwich crackers with cream cheese and chocolate!

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Love the variety of grainy crackers.

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Muesli, another favourite of mine.

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Schweppes Lemon Zero, tastes like Sprite.

 

California: Brentwood Country Mart

One of the gems of Santa Monica is the Brentwood Country Mart.  Its a collection of shops, most are specialty and local in nature, with an upscale farmer’s market vibe.  We first visited the Farm Shop, a restaurant slash artisan market with a fabulous bakery making a plethora of delicious pastries and baked goods.  I tried a number of yummy items but the bacon cheddar scone was especially memorable, moist with chunks of bacon and chives.  On another day we went to Caffe Luxxe for a pick me up.  Something new for me, I ordered the Shakerato – like a shakened sweetened latte lined with a chocolate sauce, so good.  Finally on my last day in California, we made a final stop before saying our byes to friends at Sweet Rose Creamery.  An organic ice cream shop making unique flavours from scratch and in small batches.  I had two scoops, one scoop each of earl grey and Rasputin stout.  Both were subtle flavours but completely identifiable.  My friend MA got fresh mint with homemade chocolate chips and to be honest, it was the most refreshing mint ice cream I have ever eaten!  It really was bursting with fresh mint – I’d definitely go back again.

The Farm Shop in Santa Monica.

The Farm Shop in Santa Monica.

The Farm Shop.

The Brentwood Country Mart collection of shops including the Farm Shop.

My breakfast before the drive to Joshua Tree National Park - Iced drip coffee and Bacon Cheddar scone.

My breakfast before the drive to Joshua Tree National Park – Iced drip coffee and Bacon Cheddar scone.

Homemade granola bar.

Homemade granola bar.

Strawberry streusel croissant.

Strawberry streusel croissant.

The bakery in the Farm Shop.

The bakery in the Farm Shop.

Delicious cinnamon bun from the Farm Shop bakery.

Delicious cinnamon bun from the Farm Shop bakery.

A slice of coffee cake.

A slice of coffee cake.

Caffe Luxxe at the Brentwood Country Mart.

Caffe Luxxe at the Farm Shop.

The Shakerato from Caffe Luxe.

The Shakerato from Caffe Luxxe.

Inside Caffe Luxe.

Inside Caffe Luxxe.

Sweet Rose Creamery at the Farm Shop.

Sweet Rose Creamery at the Brentwood Country Mart.

Inside Sweet Rose Creamery.

Inside Sweet Rose Creamery.

My double scoop of organic ice cream - one scoop of Old Rasputin Stout and one scoop of Earl Grey tea ice cream.

My double scoop of organic ice cream – one scoop of Old Rasputin Stout and one scoop of Earl Grey tea ice cream.

Field Trip: Strawberry Picking

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For the past 18 days now I’ve been on a “no dairy, no sugar (natural or artificial), no grain” challenge with my dragon boat team. So I thought to take advantage of the summer season, I wanted to go strawberry picking. I remember fondly, strawberry picking as a child with my mom – bringing home baskets of fresh berries for her homemade jams! Last weekend, along with my colleague S and her family we went to Forsythe Family Farms located north-east of Toronto. It was my first time at this farm and the strawberry field looked small but boy, was it full of ripe, juicy strawberries right for the picking. We then stopped by a local farmer’s market shop, Hy-Hope Farms, on the way back home that specialized in homemade pickles, salsas, jellies and preserves. I picked up a jar of Green Tomato Chow (like a relish) and a jar of Red Pepper Jelly (perfect on top of cheese and crackers)! With my fresh produce in hand (including fresh cut rhubarb from S’s garden), I decided to bake from scratch, a strawberry rhubarb crumble pie to take to a Canada Day BBQ! Everything just tastes so much better straight from the farm!

Forsythe Family Farms

Forsythe Family Farms

My pickings for the morning - 2 whole buckets of ripe strawberries.

My pickings for the morning – 2 whole buckets of ripe strawberries.

Hy-Hope Farms.

Hy-Hope Farms.

Pick your own lettuce and kale at Hy-Hope Farms!  Fill a bag as much as you can for only $3!

Pick your own lettuce and kale at Hy-Hope Farms! Fill a bag as much as you can for only $3!

Homemade jars of relishes and jellies by Hy-Hope Farms!

Homemade jars of relishes and jellies by Hy-Hope Farms!

My crimped homemade pie shell ready to be filled.

My crimped homemade pie shell ready to be filled.

Fresh cut rhubarb from my colleague S's backyard garden.

Fresh cut rhubarb from my colleague S’s backyard garden.

Strawberry rhubarb pie filled and then topped with a sweet crumble topping before going into the oven.

Strawberry rhubarb pie filled and then topped with a sweet crumble topping before going into the oven.

Fresh out of the oven, my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

Fresh out of the oven, my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

A close up look at my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

A close up look at my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

 

London: Borough Market

Back in August 10, 2012, I wrote my first post on Borough Market and I love this market so much that I make it a point to go every time I’m in London.  What makes this visit different from the others is that I made a point to eat more food!  And nothing was a disappointment!  So, I’m going to keep the post short because I think the pictures speak a thousand words.  Enjoy!

Borough - entrance

Entrance to Borough Market – located under overground trains.

Borough - pastries

Beautiful and yummy pastries!

Borough - cakes

Cake anyone? So many different kinds to choose from.

Borough - nougat

One of my favourite sweets to eat is nougat and never have I had fresh made nougat so when I found this vendor, I had to get a slice…..it wasn’t cheap but it was well worth it! Delicious!

Borough - meringue

Another favourite (I have so many) – reminds me so much of my trips to France!

Borough - brownies

You can’t go wrong with brownies, a signature item at Borough Market!

Borough - paella

Curries and paella.

Borough - sangria and pimms

I love the British, they like to drink while shopping!

Borough - Pimms

A Pimm’s cup while I walk the market, perfect for brunch!

Borough - chorizo sandwich

The infamous chorizo sandwich. I first had it in 2006 and it tastes just like I remembered it back then!

Borough - close up of chorizo

Beautiful chorizo sandwich – so fresh and tasty!

Borough - duck confit

Making fresh duck confit sandwich.

Borough - duck sandwich

Duck confit sandwich – look at all that duck meat! What a deal for 5 pounds!

Borough - pies

Traditional British foods – scotch eggs and meat pies!

Borough - alfajores

Gorgeous and yummy alfajores from Portena in Borough Market! Delicious Argentinian foods!

Borough - mushrooms

An array of mushrooms!

Borough - truffles

You guessed it…..black truffles! And you know I took a whiff of the jar!

Borough - saucisson

Delicious saucisson! I need to figure out where I can get these in Toronto :)

Borough - Belper Knolle

Delicious belper knolle cheese…..really sharp taste!

Borough - bread

Yummy bread sticks!

Borough - turkish delight

So many different kinds of turkish delight!

Borough - portuguese tarts

An abundance of portuguese tarts.

Borough - pedibus

How cool is this? I saw these guys on a “PediBus” pedalling around the market. I’ve added this to my bucket list for my next London visit!

 

London: M&S

Canadian grocery stores are getting better (thank you President’s Choice) but the department stores definitely need to catch up when it comes to food halls.  Oh, how I miss the good old days before Marks & Spencer decided to close its doors in Canada.  So every time I go back to London, I hit M&S as many times as I can.  Most of the time its a quick stop to grab lunch at a great deal with sandwiches starting at 1.45 pounds, so many different gourmet flavoured crisps (we call them chips) and my favourite, the sausage roll!  And I love their packaging – the British are so great at their marketing!  If you’re looking for some ideas for souvenirs, their biscuits, candies, etc. are fantastic as gifts…..and yes, I even bring home a couple of bags of crisps (its my weakness)!  Check out some of the awesome things I found on this trip!

M&S Limited Edition Fish & Chips flavoured chips.

M&S Limited Edition Fish & Chips flavoured chips.

Lobster Cocktail flavoured chips.

Lobster Cocktail flavoured chips.

Bags of mini biscuits.

Bags of mini biscuits.

M&S - clotted cream ice cream

Clotted cream ice cream!

M&S - sausage roll

My favourite item at M&S, the traditional British sausage roll made with puff pastry and pork! YUM!

M&S - meringues

M&S has such unique products like these cute goodies, meringues!

M&S - inside

Inside M&S food hall.

M&S - sandwiches

So many different kinds of sandwiches! The ploughman, chicken and sweetcorn and coronation chicken are some of my favourites!

M&S - ready to eat cakes

Love the packaging!

Ready made cakes, how cute are these!

Ready made cakes, how cute are these!

The original M&S chocolate Whips!

The original M&S chocolate Whips!

Yummy chicken sweetcorn sandwich!

Yummy chicken sweetcorn sandwich!

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