Foodie Friday – Where I’ve Been

I took a break from blogging but hat doesn’t mean I took a break from eating and exploring the city (two of my favourite things). Recently I’ve been to iHalo Krunch, Sud Forno, Ricarda’s, and Baro.

After seeing black and purple ice cream on my Instagram feed for months, I decided to see if my husband would be interested in trying it. After several failed attempts (and by that I mean we refused who wait in a lineup that went to the end of the block) we finally got to hold two charcoal ice team and ice cream cones in our hands. I don’t know what I was expecting but after the first few licks a wave of disappointment flooded over me.

Yes, the ice cream was tasty, yes the photo I got was pretty rad, yes the cone had an interesting flavour BUT there was nothing special about it. The ice cream tasted like regular soft serve, the charcoal stained my teeth (which NO ONE on social media warns you about), and I could have purchased quite a few coffees for the $13.00 we spent on two cones. I’m not trying to rag on iHalo; the shop is minimalist and adorable, the staff is super friendly, and the service is quick and painless. The idea of charcoal ice cream is awesome and I understand the fascination behind it. I think I’m just bitter about being sucked into another social media trend and not getting the instant gratification I was promised.

One morning we headed to Sud Forno on Yonge for breakfast. My husband and I love having bread, sweets, Nutella, croissants, and muffins for breakfast so Sud Forno was just up our alley! This location is big, bright and beautiful. I instantly fell in love with the high ceilings with crisscrossing wooden planks, the tiled floor with various Italian wording throughout, the lush blue booths, and stunning light fixtures. From their stacked bar and hot/cold table to their freshly baked bread wall (yes you read that correctly) they have everything you need for a quick and delicious breakfast or lunch. I haven’t been to their second floor dining space but I can only imagine what beautiful Italian dishes are created up there!

Recently we tried out a Mediterranean inspired restaurant on Peter Street. Ricarda’s is another giant space with ample lighting, comfortable seating, a bar, dining area, and a lounge. They have a breakfast, dinner, lunch, jazz brunch, and tapas menu plus an extensive cocktail list AND bakery. I started my meal with a (much deserved) aperol spritz and it’s the best one I’ve had all summer.

We chose some very familiar dishes; a lemon saffron linguine with calamaretti and mushrooms, pappardelle with duck ragu, a flatbread (which was really a pizza) with mushrooms artichokes, chard, and truffle oil. I have ZERO complaints about the food, atmosphere or service. In fact, the service is what stood out most to me. There was always someone around to answer a question or show you where to find the bathroom. The staff was kind, professional, and knowledgable and they knew when to come to your table and when to give you space.

Last but certainly not least is Baro. I’ve been wanting to try out Baro since it opened and I am so glad we did. If you’re looking for a vibrant, fresh, and colourful restaurant to drown out your crappy work week, Baro is the perfect place to go to on a Friday night. The atmosphere is electric, the music on fire, and the staff super friendly.

We shared five dishes from their menu and not one disappointed! My favourite are actually not photographed; simply since they were eaten faster than I could think to pick up my phone. The fish tacos, wings, and empanadas were AMAZING! I also loved the Chori Papa (chorizo, potato, peppers, chipotle golf, and goat cheese on tortillas).

If you can only try out just one of these I would recommend Baro. It makes for a memorable night with a satisfied stomach.

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Advertisements

Seeking Value

After watching a minimalism documentary on Netflix and rereading The Minimalists first book, I’ve become obsessed with the role things and people play in my life. If something or someone doesn’t add value to my life, what’s the point of keeping it around?

I’d been playing around with the idea of getting off of Instagram for almost a year but I couldn’t pinpoint why I didn’t actually need it until I thought about what it did to or for me. When I would ask people for advice they would say things like:

You’re a writer, you should definitely keep your account active (I recently got an essay published and it wasn’t because of my social media. None of my accounts were even linked to the post)

Aren’t you like a blogger? Don’t they need Instagram? (I’m a writer who happens to have a blog. I am not a interior designer, artist, fashion blogger or influencer. I don’t need Instagram.)

You spent years acquiring those followers (And? I don’t interact with any of them. If they need to get ahold of me, they can find my website OR they’ll already have my contact information.)

How will you connect with people? (I will email, call, or text. I will stay in the “know” by reading magazines, blogs, and by experiencing since I’ll have more time to do so.)

Are you crazy? (If feeling alive, unburdened, and in control for the first time in years is crazy then yes.)

I’ve been battling anxiety for a few years now and it’s become blatantly clear that some of this anxiety is due to my use of Instagram (and social media in general). I start my day scrolling through news feeds over my morning coffee, check them again several times during the day (even while driving), and spend my evenings with one hand glued to my phone. I couldn’t go to bed without one final look at Instagram.

Every so often I’ll log onto my Rogers account to see how much data my husband and I have left until our next billing cycle. Last week I noticed that we only had 3 GB to last us fourteen more days. 3 GB for some people is a lot but as my husband is always on the road for work with little to no access to wifi and my office space doesn’t have wifi, it isn’t a lot for us. Since I really didn’t need access to social media while at work I decided to turn off the cellular data for my two most used apps, Twitter and Instagram.

It didn’t take long for me to see how productive I could be at work without social media around to tempt me. I decided that I would keep the cellular data off while at work; it made me more present and exponentially more focused. On the Friday evening of that week, we went to dinner with another couple and I actually didn’t need my phone. I was fully present and took an active role in the conversations being had. Yes, I took a few photos of the food but I didn’t post them and then continue to look at my phone to see how many likes I got. When we got home that evening, I checked Instagram before bed and the more I scrolled the faster the feeling of happiness left me. The high I had from great conversation and a delicious meal was practically forgotten.

Fast forward to the next morning and I decided to delete the actual apps from my phone. This would mean no social media on my phone at ALL. I spent my Saturday actually writing, reading, talking to my parents, and playing with my nieces instead of saying I would and being glued to my phone. My mind didn’t feel as heavy or cluttered as it normally did and I was able to write a blog post, finish a book, and continue planning out my novel. It felt amazing to be doing things instead of looking at what other people were doing.

The more I thought about Instagram the more I realized that it wasn’t adding value to my life. It wasn’t helping me find a new job, it wasn’t giving me time to pursue my passion for writing, it wasn’t connecting me to people in a way provided growth or change, and it certainly wasn’t making me happy. So what was the point? That Sunday, without hesitation I quickly deleted (and not just deactivated) my Instagram account. I’d keep Twitter so that I’d still have a platform to connect with writers and share my work.

Although I know it won’t be easy, I’ll have pangs of regret surface and I may even feel like I’m missing out, I will eventually stop reaching for my cell phone for no reason. I will get used to life without feeling the pressure to post a picture or taking it personally when someone does something that I don’t have the funds to do myself. With the promise of minimal distraction I will be able to put more time and energy into the things I really enjoy and that will add the greatest amount of value to my life.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – B-day Dinner at Fabbrica

foodie-friday

I’ve been to Fabbrica several times over the years. Alex and I went during Winterlicious in 2013 and we’ve gone back for lunch or dinner dates. My sister even hosted my niece’s Baptism there as well. It is one of my favourite restaurants for many reasons but most important is their consistency. Whenever I’ve gone there the atmosphere, food, service and even wait staff has been consistent. For me, that’s super important. It doesn’t mean the menu shouldn’t change or that the decor should be the same forever, but the customer should still be able to see the heart behind the meal in front of them.

IMG_3378

I am a huge fan of familiarity and feeling at home when I’m out. At Fabbrica I recognize the cooks on the line, the hostesses, and the men and women who’ve taken my order or cleared my plate. On top of that, I’ve never had a bad meal there. So when Alex said he was planning a birthday dinner for me and he booked a table at Fabbrica, I was ecstatic.

IMG_3392
I can always count on my sister to take photos of her food when I’m too busy! Thanks Jess ❤

We started with the charcuterie board (paper-thin cured meat for the win), warm olives, mushroom pizza (their crust is heavenly), and bread.  As my main, I ordered the ricotta gnocchi with fresh tomato, basil and burrata and a side of rapini. The gnocchi were light as air and the portion very generous. The entire table got something different and it was nice to see everyone sending over forkfuls of their dish for someone else to try. Sharing food is a beautiful thing.

IMG_3387

When all of the plates were licked clean and wine glasses empty, the lights dimmed and the waiter appeared with a dessert board of full of cannoli and a sundae (vanilla gelato, fried banana, butter toffee, hazelnut, strawberry, hot fudge) with a candle burning brightly on top. The cannoli tasted of lime, pistachio, and chocolate, paired with their lavazza cappuccino it was the perfect ending to a terrific meal.

IMG_3377

Thank you to everyone at Fabbrica for making yet another amazing meal and to my friends and family who joined me for dinner, I love you!

 

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – The Lockhart

foodie-friday

If Fred and George Weasley opened an underground bar for underage Wizards on the Hogwarts grounds, I like to think that it would look something like The Lockhart Cocktail Bar on Dundas. It’s small and dark, filled with numerous trinkets and antique-store finds. It has character and warmth. I’ve been bugging my husband to take me there since it opened and this week we finally went! We got there just after 5:00 PM so it was pretty empty, save for a few other people looking for magic after braving the cold.

March 23 - Longo's - 1 4

I immediately connected to their Muggle WiFi, took photos, and ordered some Harry Potter inspired cocktails and a few snacks. Alex had the Campfire Old Fashioned while I ordered the Real Tea; both drinks were tasty and made with precision. Their drink menu is amazing – the names alone will warm any Harry Potter fan’s heart.

To munch on  we ordered the herbology 101, flame roasted eggplant, and buttermilk fried horntail. What I love about trying new places in Toronto is that my taste buds are always surprised. Each tapas dish dripped with flavour, freshness, and a combination of seasonings I’ve never had before. The star dish was the fried horntail (chicken) it was sweet, savoury, and even a little tangy. I’m not quite sure what their batter is made of but it is heavenly!

I would definitely return to The Lockhart for drink and snacks (I still want to try their chocolate frogs). I would recommend it to anyone who has a love for Harry Potter, great drinks, friendly staff, and a little bit of magic…

6

What a beautiful place… to be with friends. – Dobby

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Adventure is calling – his name is Alex

unnamed

 My husband and I often take separate cars when we make plans during the week since we meet up right after work. On our way home from whenever we are, Alex calls me as soon as we get in the car. We talk as I follow him home or he follows me. With our work schedules being rather different, it seems that these conversations (brought to you in part by Bluetooth), are the longest and most intense ones that we have. The only thing better would be being in the car with him.

On our way home from date-night last week the traffic was haunting; try turning onto highway 50 during rush hour and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I noticed a few cars turning down a street that I’d never traveled down before. I assumed that they were trying to avoid the traffic so I asked Alex if we should follow them. To that he said “Up to you babe.”

“Fuck it. Let’s try.” I said with a confidence that rarely makes an appearance, especially when it is really needed. On we drove. Paved roads turned into dirt ones, assumed roads lead to un-assumed ones. We came across buildings we didn’t know existed, new suburbs and abandoned farms, and a  deranged patch of land with sheds (or miniature homes) littered about. The entire way I kept asking Alex if we should keep going and to that he said “Fuck it babe, you only live once!”

After a series of steep hills and roads that wound so tightly I could barely stay on them, we ended up at a dead-end, nowhere near our home. I stopped the car and looked over at Alex sitting in his. The smile on his face was from ear to ear as he began to laugh. I immediately began to giggle.

Maybe it was the DELICIOUS white-wine sangria I had with dinner or the excitement in finding secret hidden places among the trees, but I felt sheer and utter joy. Nothing clouded my mind, I felt in control and calm and lost and safe. Life should be filled with these little adventures, where you enter into the unknown and find little pieces of yourself that you may have lost along the way.

You only live once.

Adventurously yours,

Vanessa xo

 

Foodie Friday – Carbs & Cake

foodie-friday

It came to me in a moment of panic. I was sitting at my desk on a Friday afternoon contemplating my next move (something I tweet about regularly) when it hit me. I have been surrounded by food my entire life and nearly every job I’ve had has been connected to the food industry.

I spent ten years as a waitress in the best mom -and-pop pizza shop in Bolton and for the last two years I’ve been a Customer Service Coordinator for a Spanish cured meat and specialty food importer. On My Pen, My Voice I had the pleasure of working with Brand & Buzzing on several projects that had me headed to the city to try out new products or new restaurants.

No matter how hard or fast I run from the food industry I cannot get away.  It seems that I’m only running in circles. Instead of fighting it I’m going to embrace it! Foodie Friday is all about my love of food. Let’s be clear:  I am not a chef, baker or cook. I have absolutely no culinary training but when I taste a dish that has my taste-buds singing or experience wonderful service I have to talk about it. So, let’s talk.

1

Last weekend my sister turned 30! In order to make it a little more memorable, myself and her husband planned a dinner for her in the city. After calling around to several restaurants we settled on Terroni on Adelaide. I’d been to Terroni dozens of times and never had a bad experience. They easily accommodate large groups and allow you to bring your own cake (with a $4.00 per person serving fee) and balloons without issue.

What I love about Terroni on Adelaide is their warm and welcoming atmosphere. Espeically their entrance and main dining room. I was a little disappointed when were shuffled upstairs by the hostess and brought into the room where they must have all of their larger groups. It looked like a cafeteria to me and didn’t have the sophisticated and special vibe I was hoping for for my sister’s big day. Thankfully being in a room full of other large groups meant that we could be as loud as we wanted to.

The cafeteria vible was completely forgotten when our appetizers showed up. I have never had a bad meal at any Terroni location and last Saturday did not break that streak. From appetizers to pizza to pasta to their drool-worthy cappuccino, everything I ate was delicious and fresh. The portions are large and quality abundant so you’d better arrive hungry.

4
Pappardelle alla Iosa – a homemade spicy sausage, mushrooms, green pea pasta paradise

Perhaps my sister’s favourite part of the evening was the cutting of her cake. A special birthday had to be accompanied by a special cake! I found Nicole from Lipstick Baker on Instagram and after a few brief emails we came up with the perfect cake. A coffee inspired masterpiece made of red velvet cake and the sweetest fondant I’ve ever tasted. The cake didn’t just look fantastic it tasted wonderful too! It was fluffy and moist, yet rich and filling. Check out her Instagram account for some more of her amazing work.

3

What’s your favourite restauarant in Toronto?

I’m looking to try somewhere new for my birthday.

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Saying Yes!

img_6281

I can see the CN Tower in the distance on my drive to work. For a split second it’s as though I’m headed in the direction of my dreams. I’m headed to a place that is big enough to fit my aspirations. A place where it’s okay to still be figuring it out. A place where my bubble can burst and I will be flooded with new experiences, people, and places.

In the spirit of soaking up new experiences and driving toward my dreams, this week was dubbed “the week in which Vanessa does not cancel on plans made and also does not decline any invitation”. It’s not that I’m a flake per say, but plans always sound so exciting until I actually have to put on a bra and leave the house. This week I did not say no, I did not say maybe, I did not concoct and intense diversion or pray for a snow storm. I simply said yes, got dressed, and went out.

I went out almost every week night. I stayed out late and woke up early. I enjoyed dinner with my new aunts and cousins, watched episodes of Impractical Jokers (which is highly addicting!), went to a new restaurant with my old love/new husband (who put on cologne for the first time in YEARS since it was our first date night in months), hung out with my cousin Ashley, AND even traveled south of Steeles to join in on a podcast with Sociphoria and Amanda DiPasquale (from Be The Next Her). It was amazing to chat with Amanda, Amanda, and Patrick about social media, writing, creativity, the impact of full-time jobs on creative endeavors and much more! I don’t want to say anymore about it but I’ll post a link to Instagram and Twitter once it drops.

After a full week of saying yes I am anything but tired. I’m hopped up on the energy and positivity from the conversations I had with some pretty incredible people. Is this feeling available through intravenous?

Most Assuredly yours,

Vanessa xo

 

Mini-Honeymoon in Toronto

I’ve learned recently that the two questions newlyweds receive most are:

  1. Where are you going on your honeymoon?
  2. When are you having kids? (Please stop asking me this)

img_2072

With Christmas right around the corner and the simple fact that more than a week off work for myself and my husband wasn’t viable, we decided to spend a few days in Toronto. Alex was in charge of booking the hotel and stumbled on a great deal from The Shangri-La Hotel. I have only been to the Shangri-La once before for a book event years ago BUT I’ll tell you one thing, I COULD GET USED TO LIFE AT THE SHANGRI-LA! Apart from the stunning atmosphere, the location, and the luxurious suites, the service there is above anything I’ve ever witnessed. From friendly hellos, to offering to bring our coffee upstairs, to prompt room service, and giving impeccable directions, the entire staff knows how to treat their guests. If I ever decide to splurge on another staycation, I’d LOVE to have a girl’s weekend down there and really enjoy the pool and the spa too!

unnamed-2
Views from our sweet suite! 

We thought we would be all touristy and hit up the ROM, the AGO, and maybe even the Aquarium BUT we were completely exhausted from the wedding night and all of the stress leading up to it that we vegged out as much as we could. I even took a bath, A BATH, for the first time in years I sat down in deliciously scented warm water, closed my eyes, and sat in silence. Best weekend ever.

Apart from relaxing, we ventured out during the day, trying out new restaurants, coffee shops, and simply enjoying the gorgeous November weather. We had lunch at BOSK, dinner at Bestellen, and a late lunch with a few friends on Sunday at Patria.

We were blown away by the beauty and taste of each meal we had. I would recommend all three restaurants to anyone who finds themselves in the city and in need of a good meal.

img_2111
QUANTUM COFFEE FOR THE WIN – best hot chocolate in the city! 

Since Toronto is not foreign to us and we’ve spent many evenings walzting around town , our honeymoon seemed more like a regular weekend than something extravagent (the only difference was being referred to as Mrs. Buccella! <3). That may sound awful but it’s exactly what I love about us; we find joy in the simplist of things, in quiet evenings, excellent meals, and time with each other. Here’s to many more adventures as husband and wife!

Restfully yours,

Vanessa xo

The Bride’s Diary – ONE WEEK TO GO

the-brides-diary1

It’s safe to say that I’ve been rather distracted lately. Apart from all of the last-minute wedding details (which my mom has graciously taken charge of) there’s also this heavy cloud of confusion weighing on my heart.

Let me explain…

The confusion has nothing to do with the wedding. That is the only thing that I am certain of at the moment. What I’m unsure of is where I’m headed. I’ve had several conversations with people in the last few weeks about my writing, life, and my future. I scroll through LinkedIn and Indeed like my life literally depends on it. I click-through vacation packages on Expedia like I can actually afford to go on every trip I have in mind. I frantically search for apartments for rent in Toronto since the condo Alex and I purchased won’t be ready until 2018. The truth is that I’m feeling rather lost, UNaccomplished, and as if I haven’t taken enough risks. No amount of coffee or wedding plans have been able to distract me from this feeling.

unnamed

My current boss said something that I just can’t shake – she said that she hopes that I’m living- really living. That I take chances and have no regrets. She wants me to keep writing and following my dreams. My old boss used to say that to me all the time and I can’t help but wonder why people keep telling me this. Can they tell that I’ve been distracted? That I’ve thrown my passion project to the side without any regard for my dreams? Maybe.

Good news is that the entire universe seems to be pushing me toward my dreams. I received an email from a literary agency in Toronto asking if I had anything I want to share with them. Thankfully, I do and I am going to use every waking hour I have (after the wedding) to put together the book I’ve been writing on and off for what seems like years. Perhaps the more I work on it the less I’ll feel like I’m failing…

So with one week to go until the wedding, THIS is what I’m preoccupied with!  OY VEY!

Preoccuppiedly yours,

Vanessa xo 

Three Books to Read this Fall

unnamed

Although sitting on the dock in the warm summer sunshine with a fancy cocktail in hand is a great way to enjoy any book; I prefer reading in the Fall. Sitting by the window with a view of the red, orange, and yellow leaves, a book propped up on the fuzzy blanket covering my legs, an a warm cup of coffee in my hand is absolute perfection.

I must admit that I have been reading a lot less than usual. I find that the same books is in my tote bag for months at a time, whereas in previous years there would be a new book every week and a half. I’ve read so slowly that even my fiancé has noticed, You’re STILL reading that book? he’ll ask. I’ll lower my head in defeat and remark I blame the wedding planning. Either way, I’ve found some wonderful books that I think you all would enjoy!

Year of YES by Shonda Rhimes – After feeling a bit down and out-of-sorts I ordered the Year of Yes in the hope that it would inspire me to get my ass in gear. Shonda Rhimes tells it like it is. She doesn’t sugarcoat her own shortcomings and reminds her reader that we’re all human, we all have quirks, and we all get scared. Although she lives a very wonderful life (she’s the creative and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal. Plus the executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder and The Catch). She is a TV writer who gets many invitations to swanky parties, TV appearances, and loads of talks. One Thanksgiving while complaining about another invitation to an event that she turned down, her sister told her 6 words that would ultimately change her life You never say yes to anything. 

Year of Yes follows Shonda’s most difficult challenge – to say yes to everything. To say yes to all of the interviews, events, parties, travel opportunities, speeches etc. Her journey is an incredible one filled with honesty and an anxiety I can relate to. As a writer Shonda prefers to be out of the spotlight and whenever the spotlight hits her there is a lot of sweat, heart palpitations and tears. I COMPLETELY understand this. But it isn’t her anxiety that I learned the most from, it is a line from the commencement speech she gave at Dartmouth University: LESSON ONE: DITCH THE DREAM. BE A DOER. NOT A DREAMER. 

I once considered myself a dreamer but I now know that I’d rather be a doer. I can dream my whole life away and not work to get what I want. The key is to begin, to keep moving, to strive. To be a successful person you have to put in the work.

Thank you Shonda, thank you.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue – I bought this novel on a whim at Wal-Mart because I had seen it all over social media. I wasn’t convinced that a novel about a girl who hadn’t eaten for 4 months and believed that she was surviving off of manna from heaven would be the kind of book I’d be into. Was I ever wrong! Suspense, mystery, love, a surprise around every corner – this novel had my mind going a mile a minute.

The Fate of Tearling by  Erika Johansen – A few years ago I received a copy of The Queen of Tearling from HarperCollins Canada. I immediately fell in love with the story, the characters, and Erika Johansen’s writing. Last month I read the second instalment (The Invasion of Tearling) and was immediately transported back to Tearling with a bit on sentimentality in my heart. The Fate of Tearling is the final novel in the trilogy and although it had been a few years since I read the first one and a months since the second, I was able to pick up exactly where the story had left off. There’s just as much corruption, magic, and mystery as the first two books but there is also a whole lot of explanation. Questions are answered, fates revealed, and boundaries crossed. I would recommend reading the entire trilogy – you won’t regret it! **This book hits shelves November 29, 2016**

Which books are you looking forward to this season?

Bookwormingly yours,

Vanessa xo