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

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 – 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

30 Before 30

take your businessto the next level!

After reading La Petite Noob’s 30 Before 30 List I felt inspired to create one of my own. I’ve spent the last few months adding and editing this list, curating a balance between things I’ve always wanted to do and things that I don’t want to do but should.

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Since today is my 28th birthday, I have EXACTLY 2 years to cross as many of these things off this bucket list as possible.

  1. Try Battleaxe throwing
  2. Go a WEEK without coffee
  3. Complete my manuscript and send to literary agent
  4. Travel to Europe with my Hubby
  5. Make exercising a priority (work out 3-4 day per week, min.)
  6. Try a Soul Cycle class
  7. Get an essay or fiction piece published on Hazlitt
  8. Stop buying clothes that are “too old for my age”
  9. Send more notes/birthday cards/and thank-yous via mail
  10. Have a tech-detox once a month
  11. Although appearance isn’t everything, there is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. Go for regular manicure, pedicures, and haircuts.
  12. Learn how to do my makeup properly (are there Sephora workshops for this?!)
  13. BE. MORE. CONFIDENT.  (Doubt myself less)
  14. Stand up for myself (stop being so goddam accommodating)
  15. Go on a writing retreat with Buddy
  16. Learn how to be more like my mother
  17. Land/work hard for my dream job
  18. Take a cooking class
  19. Spend more time with my grandparents
  20. Take more photos and actually develop them
  21. Volunteer for a cause that means something to me
  22. Vote (since I never have)
  23. Go on a roller coaster – I’ve been terrified for years!
  24. Take another writing course
  25. EdgeWalk at the CN Tower
  26. Drink more water
  27. Make more time for friends
  28. Learn how to curl my own hair
  29. Practice Patience
  30. Write all about it

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 – 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

the unbreakable Vanessa schmidt.

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Photo Cred: Amanda DiPasquale

Yesterday Alex and I binge watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. I instantly fell in love with Kimmy’s character. Her happiness, determination, passion and positivity is infectious! She reminds me of a younger version of myself; specifically when I interned at Random House. When I was doing everything and anything I could get my hands on. When I was going to events, networking, and enjoying the city. Kimmy reminds me of that girl Amanda DiPasquale featured on her Everyday Beauty series so many years ago…

“She has an exuberant, uncynical view of life that is extremely rare in young people…”

“There is no FOMO for her; no desire to be at some crowded, fake event or win a popularity contest. She’s honest, and you can see no fear in her lovely almond-shaped golden eyes.

“In a Thought-Catalog world of jaded twenty-somethings, Vanessa is all, hey people, life is great – let’s take it on!”

I remember the first time I read Amanda’s post, I was all ME? That’s ME? That’s how people see me? I was blown away by the positivity and support in this post and it kept me going on the toughest of days. Now, almost four years later, I don’t recognize the girl in the photo. The girl these words were written about is practically a stranger. Was I really that fearless? Passionate? Hardworking?

I’m not sure when I began to take life so personally or why I turned my mid-twenties into a suck-fest but it has to stop. As my husband so eloquently put it “You’re unbreakable too. Stop being broken. Stop letting life get you down!”

Unbreakably yours,

Vanessa xo

Anxiety Update – Back with a Vengeance

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I don’t want to write about this but I should because sometimes a step back means taking a leap forward. I hoped that my previous post about anxiety would be my last. I truly believed that I had gained control over it, that I would never have to deal with the severe heart palpitations, nausea, aches and pains, headaches, and panic attacks again. I didn’t have the slightest inkling that it would come back, that I would need to take my medication again. I believed with every ounce of my being that I wouldn’t sit at my desk and have to feel like I was drowning, gasping for air.

Oh, how wrong I was.

A few weeks ago my mom noticed a change in my attitude and I noticed the small signs of my anxiety coming back. It happened slowly, a few sleepless night, the dread of looming Mondays, and a shorter temper. Then suddenly I was over the edge. I became filled with fear and worries. My anxiety wrapping its arms around me like an old friend. I tried my breathing exercises, repeating my mantras, and working out more but to no avail. After yet another panic attack and a conversation with my husband and mom, I decided it would be best if I went back on my anxiety medication.

What I am now trying to figure out is what my trigger is. Why did it come back?  How come I could keep it at bay for months and then it returns with a vengeance?

Helplessly 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

The Bride’s Diary – In Retrospect

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Although my day as a bride has come and gone, I want to share one more instalment of The Bride’s Diary. One more blog post to document the three regrets I have from the BIG DAY.

I wish I hadn’t asked the seamstress to make my dress as tight as humanly possible. As mentioned in my previous post, it fit perfectly in the morning and then by dinner time it was so tight I could barely breathe! There were moments where I felt light-headed and dizzy because of it.

I wish we had planned out our photos more; shots and timing specifically. I had this notion in my head that I only wanted candid photos; very few posed shots, no cheesy old-fashion photos. I don’t regret my insistence on candid photos, they came out beautifully and as my husband tends to pull a Chandler every time I say SMILE, the candid photos were the best option.

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GIF Credit: Apparently Ashley

HOWEVER, it wasn’t until a week later that we realized we don’t have any photos with our guests, our immediate families (parents and siblings), or grandparents. Yes, there are candid photos of us around those people but no “proper” photos that will make our grandparents happy. To be honest we barely have photos of the two of us! I cut the photos short because I wanted to spend time with the guests.

One more tiny regret; we had originally chosen Brad Paisley’s Little Moments as our first dance but agreed to change it to some song by U2. It was lovely but it just didn’t feel like it was our song. Urghh.

I’m sure that every bride has a few regrets so I won’t dwell on them. The important part is that the wedding was as amazing as I hoped it would be, even if it wasn’t perfect.

Regretfully yours,

Vanessa xo