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

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Foodie Friday – Featuring Montreal

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As you may have noticed from my Instagram or Twitter feed, Alex and I spent the last three days in Montreal for part two of our honeymoon.  Although I had every intention of shopping and cooking in the loft (hotel) we stayed in, we decided that it might be better if we enjoy all of the amazing food that Montreal has to offer.

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Brunch at Maison Christian Faure

After a five-hour drive all I could think about was coffee and food. We checked into our hotel and found the closest bistro. Maison Christian Faure is bright, white, and a breath of fresh air. Their cappuccino was the best I had during our trip and their club sandwich the most filling. I have to admit that Alex ordered the better dish: a ham, cheese, and mushroom croissant. The croissant was made of buttery dreams and magic (or whatever croissants are made of). It was fluffy, crunchy, and savory whereas my sandwich (although tasty) had cold chicken and hard-boiled eggs. Definitely not as magical. The sandwich did come with crispy chips and a fresh salad though.

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Alex’s ham, cheese, and mushroom croissant.
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My club sandwich

Dinner at Tapas 24

Full disclosure; since I work for Serrano Imports (an importer of Spanish cured meats and specialty items) I take any meals at Spanish Tapas restaurants very seriously.

Tapas 24 has an extensive tapas menu and loads of drinks to choose from. They have two ways to order, either you pick and choose from the menu or you give your waitress your budget and she comes up with your perfect menu. We chose the former since I can proudly list off any of the items with the correct pronunciation.

I’ve been to several Spanish restaurants in Toronto and was happy to see what Montreal had to offer. The jamon croquettes and boquerones (white anchovies) were delicious and the bread with manchego cheese divine, but the highlight of our meal was the sausage and seafood paella. The protein was cooked to perfection while the rice still had a bite to it. It was perfectly seasoned and exactly what we needed to fill us up.

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from left to right: salchichon iberico, jamon iberico, and chorizo iberico – Also, BREAD ❤

jour deux (day two)

Breakfast at Tommy

If I was a place and not a person I would be Tommy: simple, classic, and highly caffeinated. Picture white walls, high ceilings, and a leafy chandelier mixed with three floors of industrial looking chairs and tables and couches taken directly from an Anthropologie catalogue. The smell of coffee creates an intoxicating hazy smog begging any who enter to order a cup or two. Did I mention they had a mix of modern jazz and amazing oldies meant to serenade all of your troubles away?

OH! We went very simple for breakfast and munched on a Nutella brioche and croissant while downing a few strong and tasty cups of joe. I promised myself that if I ever find return to Montreal I will spend a few days sitting in Tommy, writing to my heart’s content.

Lunch at Le Magasin Général du Vieux-Montréal

On a desperate hunt for soup and salad, we stumbled into Le Magasin Général du Vieux-Montréal which is a store of awesome trinkets, as well as, a place to eat. Think exposed brick, hipster severs, and a live piano player stuffed in between crowded tables.

Unfortunately, on this cool April day in Montreal the restaurant we stumbled into didn’t have a soup of the day as the menu made us believe. So, as per usual, I settled for a club sandwich and salad. The chicken was warm and meaty, the salad and veggies utterly fresh and expertly dressed. The meal was so good that I forgot all about the soup and  the fact that I planned on taking a photo to chronicle meal deux on jour deux in Montreal.

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Dinner at Bevo

If you’re looking for a good plate of pasta, look no further than Bevo. The lasagna tasted like Nonna’s (bechamel sauce anyone?) and the gnocchi hit the spot. For me, pasta is all about the sauce and although their sauce didn’t taste like my mom’s it was definitely an authentic Italian tomato-based sauce.

I would recommend trying pizza, as that is what they’re known for. Nearly every table around us got a pizza and as I sat there and watched them eat, I had serious regrets ordering pasta. If you happen to be in the area, FedEx me a slice?

jour trois (day three)

Lunch at Montreal Poutine

The only time I ever crave fries with gravy is Thanksgiving.  We have this decade-old tradition of heading to Downey’s Farm and getting fries from the food truck on their grounds. They used to be my favourite spot for fries, until the other day when I tried Montreal Poutine.

Crispy fries, thick gravy, and creamy cheese curds – what more can you ask for on a gloomy Wednesday? Good service maybe? Well, you’re in luck because the staff at Montreal Poutine is just as wonderful as their fries! Go. Just go. You won’t regret it!

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Dinner at Joe Beef

Where do I even begin to explain the experience of dining at Joe Beef? If you’re looking for fresh ingredients, incredible service, and a completely new dining experience, Joe Beef is the place.

We only managed to squeeze in a last-minute reservation thanks to my boss: a spot at the bar at 7:00 PM on a Wednesday. I’ll admit that I was less than thrilled to be propped up at a crowded bar but now that I’ve eaten there, I wouldn’t have dined any other way.

Two minutes after being seated we were on first-name basis with every server, bartender, waiter, and busboy within reach. Each person met us with grins and firm handshakes, as if they wanted to get to know us (and everyone else sitting nearby because that is exactly how they treated each customer).

Our waiter/bartender slowly and generously went through the entire menu with us, as it’s written on a chalkboard above the bar and in French.  His knowledge was extensive and incredibly impressive. He even recommended which dishes we should try and knew which wines we would enjoy most.

We ate like pigs kings. We tried six of the appetizers before moving onto our mains. I tried things that I have never eaten in my life – like chicken liver mousse and tartare! Each dish was presented with such beauty and purpose that I couldn’t help but dig into delicacies that I never thought I would try (I’m a food lover but not a very adventurous one).

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Calamari stuffed with sausage in a lobster bisque sauce etc. etc.
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Lamb tartare and chickpeas etc. etc.
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Jambon, fresh mozzarella, and asparagus

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Alex’s main – it was demolished before I got to taste it
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Bone marrow and mashed potatoes (I WOULD GO BACK JUST FOR THIS)!!!
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Lobster spaghetti, need I say more?

Between dishes we chatted with the staff and other customers sitting beside us. We shared drinks with them, laughed with them, and enjoyed nearly three hours of food, great music, and honest conversation. I would go back to Montreal JUST for the atmosphere at Joe Beef. Every person on staff looked happy, like they were having fun, like they loved their jobs, like they were unapologetically living their best lives! Have you ever felt that way about work or witnessed anyone at work who did? I haven’t and their vibe was completely infectious.

I’m not sure if every evening at Joe Beef is as unbelievable as the evening that Alex and I shared but I like to think that they are. I like to think that every guest at Joe Beef leaves  feeling full, satisfied, and optimistic about their own future.

Thank you for everyone working that night for an evening to remember! A special shout out to Chef Marco; thank you for a meal that I’ve actually run out of adjectives trying to describe.

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – The Buccella’s go to Batch

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Last week Alex and I headed to Batch located on Victoria Street in Toronto.  Alex happened to find them after Googling best brunch in Toronto. It was a beautiful morning so we took our time and enjoyed the drive. I couldn’t help smiling when we walked into the restaurant; it was bright, clean, rustic and modern, warm and inviting. It was exactly the place I was looking for.

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Batch has a wonderful menu with loads of options plus an intense beer list for any beer-lover out there. As you know, I’m more of a coffee-drinker than a beer-drinker so I ordered a coffee. It came in the most photo-worthy cups and had a bold dark flavour.

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Me, in my happy place.
I ordered the Eggs Benedict with smoked brisket while Alex ordered the Roasted Turkey Sandwich. I’ll admit that my eggs were overcooked and I missed the messiness of a runny yolk BUT the flavour of the dish was on par. The brown butter hollandaise sauce was creamy and light while the brisket was smokey and spicy in all of the right ways. The English muffin was everything: crispy, crunchy, and soft. It came with a side of arugula salad and pickled onions which complimented each other nicely and cleansed my palate.

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Alex’s sandwich was HUGE and even tastier than my meal! The black pepper bacon and cranberry aioli made the sandwich. Everything was incredibly fresh and the bread nearly melted in your mouth. The fries were crispy but not greasy and salted to perfection.

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Did I mention that the service was amazing?  We were left alone when we were in the middle of conversation but checked up on when I needed a refill of my coffee. And our server was incredibly friendly and hilarious. If I lived closer I would definitely make a weekly reservation!

Have you been to Batch? Let me know in the comments.

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – B-day Dinner at Fabbrica

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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…

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

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – Fish & Chips

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The first time I had fish & chips I was eight-years-old. It was our first night at our new house and we ate on the floor in our empty dining room. I don’t remember how the meal was or if I really enjoyed it, but I do remember sitting in an unfamiliar house and still feeling a blanket of safety wash over me.

Fast forward twenty years and I find myself craving fish & chips when I need to feel comfort. I remember having it as my last meal when I interned at Random House and being super emotional afterward. I was so sad that I got Alex to pick me up at the subway and hold my hand all the way home.

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I tend to order it whenever I’m in a pub, diner, or drive-bar. Ideally, the fish should be flaky and well-seasoned. I should be able to tell that I’m eating REAL fish. The batter should be crisp, golden, and not too thick. There should be a balance of fish and batter – a ratio of one to one if you please. The fries should be thick, golden, crispy, and lightly salted. I don’t mind a bit of grease but I cannot stand when you can tell that they were fried in old oil.

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Last week for date night, Alex and I went to Fionn MacCool’s where I immediately ordered their fish & chips (if you go on a Wednesday it’s only $9.99!).   Although the white wine sangria I started off with was the star of the evening, the fish & chips were flaky and tender with batter that was crisped to perfection! I would have liked the fries to be less soggy and more crispy but the overall meal was great.

What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s your favourite pub or dive-bar? Let me know!

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – Girls Night

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Whenever I go out for dinner I try to head to the city, but last Friday I  wanted to stay close to home. A girlfriend of mine and I had loads to catch up on so I wanted to go somewhere with great food, good prices, and the understanding that they wouldn’t kick us out if we were there for hours. I settled on Bolton Pizza Panini, which reminded me so much of Caruso Gourmet Pizza that my heart cried when I sat down at the table.

But I digress…

I ordered the penne alla vodka while Lina had the chicken parmigiano with seasonal veggies. As someone who eats home-cooked Italian food on a daily basis, Bolton Pizza Panini is the closest thing to eating at home. I’ve never had a bad meal there, whether it be take-out OR dine-in. The food is always fresh and seasoned perfectly while the service is nothing short of awesome.

Considering that I knew I was going to write about my dinner, I should have paid more attention to the food. I should have taken photos and Instagrammed my meal. BUT I was focusing intently on the conversation I was having with Lina (you may remember her from such posts as Girls Night Out with Fresita and SPiN).

We talked about dreams, goals, and perhaps taking some incredible risks in order to find the careers we both want. We decided that we’re far too young to settle for jobs that don’t make us happy 6 days out of 7. We both desire jobs that challenge us in a way that drives our passions, which means that a typical 9-5 might not be for us (the curse of being creative I tell you!). We’ve even picked up copies of Careergasm to help us on our way.

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So maybe this Foodie Friday wasn’t just about good food but about the company you keep while you’re eating. They say that food brings people together and I have to agree. Some of my fondest memories, personal breakthroughs, and biggest breakdowns happened around the dinner table, surrounded by people I love. So if you’re ever in a rut and need to figure out your life, have dinner with a dear friend – you won’t regret it!

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – I don’t belong in the kitchen

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I don’t belong in the kitchen but you’ll find me in there anyway. I burn toast, under-cook eggs, over-cook pasta, and don’t put enough salt on anything. My go-to meal is avocado toast and scrambled eggs.

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I shouldn’t be allowed to hold sharp knives or peelers (I nearly lost a nail the other day) BUT as a 27-year-old adult, I feel as though I need to learn how to cook. I need to learn how to cook well and fast. My plan is to begin with easy meals and progress very slowly to more intensive ones. I’m not even going to give baking a try – not any time soon.

A few Sunday’s ago I decided to make the easiest soup in the world; a minestrone. Apart from all of the chopping and the peeling of the potatoes it was pretty straightforward.

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot, throw in chopped onions
  2. Once caramelized, add in chopped carrots and celery – let those cook for a minute
  3. Add in the canned diced tomatoes and beef stock (if you need more broth, add water)
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Let that simmer and add in your diced potatoes, chopped zucchini, green beans, and Romano beans
  6. Let this cook until the potatoes, zucchini, and green beans are soft (but not mush)
  7. Add in a bunch of spinach – once that’s wilted you’re ready to eat!

I understand that the above isn’t a recipe and I didn’t provide an ingredient list. It doesn’t have measurements or proper terminology but that’s how I’ve always watched my mom cook. She rarely measures anything and tastes the food as she cooks. She cooks from her heat and that is how I hope to cook some day.

What are your favourite homemade meals? Let me know!

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – Family Business(es)

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I’ve been surrounded by entrepreneurs and numerous men and woman who have taught me the importance of passion and a good work ethic my entire life. Many of my family and friends have inspired me to dream bigger, work harder, and continue to write lists filled with goals.

Recently two dynamic duos in my family have opened their own food related businesses and I’m using this week’s Foodie Friday to spread the word!

Core Fresh Bar

Core Fresh Bar is a company started by two of my cousins. They create, bake, and sell all natural, vegan, and gluten free treats. Their variety of treats include energy bites, cookies, granola, and the breakfast cookies. I’ve tried their  Brownie Energy Bites and Choco-Coffee cookies. Both are moist, flavorful, and the perfect snack before bed or after a workout. Learn more about Core Fresh Bar and their beliefs here. Let me know if you place an order!

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Mi Meals

Mi Meals was started by my sister and brother-in-law. They are two trained chefs who work in different restaurants but have always wanted to create their own menus and meals together. They have a passion for creating dishes that are delicious and healthy. They’ve wanted to start their own business for years and finally decided to take the plunge! Their meals are for people on the go who don’t have the time or energy to shop, prep, create, and cook their own meals. They have various options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and I’ve tried them all (over the years). You can find them on Instagram – tell them I sent you! 

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Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

 

Foodie Friday – Carbs & Cake

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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.

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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.

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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.

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What’s your favourite restauarant in Toronto?

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

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo