Toronto: New Winter Menu at Azure!

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Winter’s right around the corner! As much as I’m dreading the cold, I’m also looking forward to eating some nice comfort food, from stews, pastas, mashed potato, soup – anything that will keep me warm when it’s chilly outside! Which is why I was so excited to try the new menu at Azure, the restaurant at the InterContinental here in downtown Toronto. Launched October 19, their winter menu features a mix of hearty comfort foods, from short rib pasta, truffle fries, steak as well as healthy options! I knew that I would have trouble figuring out what to order because a lot of dishes looked so good. Thankfully, I was able to try a few of them for dinner and breakfast, all of them outstanding!

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My sister and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, from the warm service, to the delicious food – we truly loved our experience at Azure.

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First up for dinner was a delicious Caesar Salad, a great start to the meal with a light, creamy garlic dressing and fresh romaine lettuce leaves. We then tried the Brisket and Short Rib Mafalda, a lovely pasta with cabernet braised beef ragout, demi-glace cream, pearl onions, sour cream and garlic confit. This was one of my favourites of the evening, with the beef so soft and tender, with the sauce tasting tangy, creamy and well balanced. I could definitely eat more than one order – it was that good!!!

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My sister and I are total steak lovers so of course, we had to try both of the steaks that were on the menu: the Beef Tenderloin from Wellington County, and the Canadian AAA Dry-aged Beef Striploin. Both superb dishes, depending on what type of cut you prefer. I personally loved the tenderloin, which was juicy, well cooked and came with tahini sweet potato puree, vegetables, garlic confit, balsamic & caramelized onion butter and jus.

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The striploin, which was incredibly tasty, came with brussel sprouts, double smoked bacon, spiced fries, and au jus.

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The next day, we sampled a few things from their breakfast menu, like their Banana Bread French Toast, with cinnamon apples, pecan crumble and maple yogurt. What a unique dish, and the first time I’ve come across banana bread being used for French toast! It was incredibly delicious and something I would get again. I highly recommend this if you have a sweet tooth!

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I also tried their Eggs Benedict, with an English muffin, peameal bacon, and breakfast potatoes. A solid take on a well loved classic, I enjoyed the perfectly cooked poached egg and the hollandaise sauce that was a good balance of rich yet slightly lemony flavours.

If you’re in the area or looking for a place to eat before a game at the Rogers Centre, definitely make it a point to stop here!

Azure
225 Front St W
Toronto, ON M5V 2X3

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Four decadent desserts from Cheese Garden!

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There’s a Japanese café near me called Cheese Garden that’s known for their super delicious Japanese pastries like cheesecake and tiramisu. I was given a few to sample and WOW!!! I was so blown away by how delicious they were! You can tell the pastries were made from really high quality ingredients, each all so unique. I really don’t know any other place that offers desserts like these, so I highly recommend checking them out.

First up is their Yuzu Pistachio Double Fromage Cheesecake, a new limited time pastry that they created to celebrate their 2nd anniversary. Absolutely LOVED this – when you bite into it, you immediately taste the yuzu citrus and slight pistachio flavour, which go so deliciously with the rich and luxurious cheese notes. There are a ton of layers in this pastry, each complimenting each other very well:

  • The cheesecake base is made of pistachio sponge cake – super soft and delicate
  • On top of that is a rich, smooth, baked pistachio cheesecake, with some sugar roasted diced pistachios added into it
  • Above that is a rich and creamy yuzu mascarpone cheesecake
  • The cake is finished with a layer of pistachio sponge cake crumbs, sprinkled with gold flakes and decorated with a cute yuzu shaped chocolate button

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Make sure you grab this because it will be on sale only from October 13 to November 4, with 50 available per day, limited to one cake per person! If you drop by any of their locations from October 13 to 14, you can get 50% off one pastry item (this promo does not include the Yuzu cheesecake).

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The next pastry I tried is the Baked Cheese Tart. It’s freshly baked, filled with decadent molten cream cheese. I heated it up in the oven for a bit, and really loved the crispy outer shell of the puff pastry. The crust was a nice contrast to the delicious centre: gooey, salty, and sweet.

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I also really liked their Double Fromage Cheesecake, with layers of mascarpone, baked cream cheese, sponge cake, and coated with sponge cake crumbs. The cheese flavour tasted so delicate and delicious. Make sure you take a bite with all the layers – it’s a great combination of creamy vanilla and Japanese cheesecake flavours. Just slightly sweet and perfect. When you get this make sure you eat it at room temperature because it is usually stored in the freezer.

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Finally, one of my favourites from the desserts, their Uji Matcha Tiramisu. I am a huge sucker for anything matcha, and I enjoyed this so much! Soft, creamy, and bursting with matcha! It’s made with premium Uji matcha powder, matcha cream, double layers of fluffy cream cheese and specially made ladyfingers. This is a must buy!!

Make sure you try the Yuzu Pistachio Cheesecake, or any of the desserts really, especially because of the promo that they’ve got going on this weekend!

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Cheese Garden
5291 Yonge St, North York, ON M2N 5R3
www.cheesegarden.ca

Bar Altura: Modern Italian in Toronto

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I’ve been craving Italian food lately, and was really in need of some really solid pizza, pasta – anything!! Luckily, a few days ago I was invited to try a curated menu at Bar Altura, a newly opened spot that puts a modern spin on Italian classics. I was really looking forward to trying out their dishes, especially since it’s from some of the same people behind Kay Pacha. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

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First off, I really enjoyed their drinks! The attention to detail that they put into their cocktails are crazy! Out of the drinks that I tried, I LOVED the Pasquale’s Daughter, made with cucumber, ginger, butterfly pea infused vodka, Cointreau and lemon juice. Super delicious and refreshing, with a good balance of slightly sweet and tart flavours. The little tapioca like pearls at the top of the drink are made of Aperol, and has an interesting jelly like texture – so cool!

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I got to try a bunch of appetizers, with one of my favourites being the Caprese, featuring peeled tomatoes stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and pecorino. Its a nice and juicy bite full of fresh flavour! What a unique dish, definitely never seen Caprese made like this before!

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The Arancini was also delicious, stuffed with cheese and topped with tomato sauce.

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I really enjoyed my bite of the Carpaccio, made with lamb saddle, fava bean, pecorino and mint.

Other bite sized portions were served including Sardines (house cured, wrapped in Yukon gold potato string), “tu vou fa L’americano” (olive oil poached Nova Scotia lobster, Campari and Vermouth), and Spaghetti al Pomodoro.

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Now onto the mains. My highlights were the Cavatelli all’Ortolana, featuring house made Cavatelli, summer garden vegetable ragu, pecorino and fior di latte. I really enjoyed the bite to the pasta, and the freshness of the vegetables. This was delicious and went well paired with a rosé. I would love to see how they make a short rib ragu, or a meaty and indulgent pasta dish.

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Their take on porchetta, La Porchetta, was very soft and tender, featuring slow roasted pork shoulder, cotechino, puffed rind, caponata, apricot and amarena agro dolce.

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I would definitely come back, I loved their twist to classic Italian dishes, featuring such unique flavours. The space is so beautiful and bright – grab a spot by the window, it’s perfect for a date!!!

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Bar Altura
571 Queen St W
Toronto ON M5V 2B6

Southern Brunch Indulgence @ The Carbon Bar

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It’s finally summer, and in fact this Canada Day long weekend is about to have super hot weather at over 35 degrees C!!! I can’t wait, I live for this! Summertime calls for lazy weekend brunches (RIGHT?!) and let me just say, I just visited the perfect southern inspired brunch spot this past weekend! I am still dreaming about the suuuper refreshing Blood Orange Mimosa…and pretty much everything that I ordered at The Carbon Bar. From the apps to the mains, the dishes were really well made, plated beautifully and indulgent!!

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If you’ve been following my blog for awhile now, you’ll know that I LOVE comfort food, and The Carbon Bar is really comfort food at it’s finest. My best friend and I started off with Smashed and Fried potatoes (with kimchi, parmesan and green onions) and Jalapeño and Cheddar Pork Sausage – both so delicious! The potatoes were crispy, cheesy and super rich in flavour, and well balanced because of the kimchi. The sausage on the other hand was deliciously tender, succulent and cheesy with a nice amount of spice. I really enjoyed the fact that these sausages were made in house!

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Up next were the Buttermilk Pancakes + smoked bacon, with wild‎ blueberries, Ennis Farm maple syrup, and lemon yogurt – SO YUMMY! The buttermilk pancakes had a delicious lemon flavour to it, and were really light and fluffy. This is a hefty portion, but I highly recommend it if you’re craving for some delicious pancakes. The highlight of this was the juicy, thick cut bacon, made in house as well. You really can’t go wrong with that!

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Who doesn’t love juicy and succulent fried chicken?! Their version of Chicken ‘N’ Waffles featured buttermilk fried chicken, citrus crema, chili + honey + garlic sauce, and it was absolutely amazing! The chicken was really well seasoned, and super crunchy! The waffles were also on the crisp side too, and tasted delish with the honey + garlic sauce.

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OK now for my favourite dish. At this point, I had already mentally unbuttoned my pants, and basically was in food heaven. I really loved the Huevos El Carbon, served with warm tortillas, black beans, two eggs sunny, Manchego cheese, chorizo, guacamole, charred pico de gallo, coriander and a charred lime. This is the dish that I highly recommend and would definitely come back for. It’s a fun dish – you can build your own tortilla the way you want it, and is also perfect for sharing. I really liked how the rich flavours of the beans, chorizo, and egg were well balanced with the freshness of the coriander, lime and charred tomatoes. Topped off with some guac, it was perfection! My mouth is legit watering as I type this!!!

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So, have you called them to book your spot yet!? Well when you do, don’t forget that they are offering a FREE mimosa if you snap a photo sharing your brunch experience + tag @TheCarbonBar! Definitely take advantage of this, their mimosas are bomb!! I truly enjoyed my brunch at this super chic spot, the service was also amazing – you won’t regret going!!

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The Carbon Bar
99 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M5C 1S1

An e11even (almost) summer feast + patio!

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Ahhh, my absolute favourite time of the year is coming up, which (fingers crossed) means tons of sunny days and hot weather!! I grew up in the Philippines, where the weather goes up to 40 degrees C, so I really live for the summertime! Here in Toronto we’re already getting a bit of that summer weather, and I was lucky enough to be invited to sample a few dishes and drinks from the newly opened patio at e11even. I was REALLY looking forward to it, after being very impressed by how delicious the food was from my last visit.

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Let me tell you right now that my experience exceeded my expectations – I got to try some super delicious dishes and tasty cocktails! I’m already thinking about my next visit and cannot wait!

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The first dish that my boyfriend and I tried was the Crab Cake. Beautifully presented, the crab cake was crispy, with huge chunks of super fresh crab. It was so tasty and delicious, especially with the tangy mustard remoulade and the slaw, both adding flavours and textures that really elevated the appetizer. Our meal started off on the right note, and I had a feeling it would only get better!

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Well, I wasn’t wrong. The weather was perfect at 20 degrees C, not too hot with a light breeze; the perfect weather for cocktails. I first tried their Aperol Spritz, which was executed very well, with the right balance of flavours and sweetness: a mix of Aperol, rhubarb liqueur, Prosecco and a splash of fresh orange juice. Delicious and absolutely refreshing! My second drink was their Georgian Mule, a unique spin on the Moscow Mule, made with Peach Ciroc, Amaretto, Ginger beer and Lime. Okay… I am in LOVE with this drink. It’s a surprising first sip, with sweet fruity flavors that really complement the Ginger beer and lime. I would happily drink this over and over!!! This is a must order, and one of the reasons why I’m going back to this spot very soon.

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I got to try a few other mains, starting with the Albacore Tuna Sandwich. At first glance, you’re hit with super vibrant colours that just screams summer — it’s an open faced sandwich with an Asian slaw, yuzu aioli, and topped with sesame seeds. I loved that this dish was very light and fresh, it’s the perfect size for lunch. The fries that accompanied this were really tasty thin cut fries that aren’t too crunchy (my favourite kind) and nicely seasoned too!

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The Maple Burger with Guinness cheddar was delicious, huge (tall) and juicy, topped with shredded lettuce, tomato and diced pickles. Overall, it’s a really solid burger, and I loved how the thick slices of double cut bacon adds another layer of texture and flavour to the dish.

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When the server dropped off the 10 oz Steak Frites with peppercorn sauce served with Truffle Parmesan Fries, I knew that I was in for a real treat!! I mean, WOW, just look at how beautifully presented this dish is! And yes, I’m still dreaming about it. It’s a perfect medium rare steak that’s well seasoned, very juicy and tender, and is wonderful paired with their peppercorn sauce. The peppercorn sauce tasted so rich and was bursting with savoury beef flavor, similar to au jus, and I couldn’t get enough of it. The Truffle Parmesan Fries totally wins in the sides department too. It’s HEAVENLY – crispy fries with a strong truffle taste, tossed with grated Parmesan cheese and some parsley. Tip: make sure you dip the fries in the peppercorn sauce, you won’t regret it!!! I’m legit still dreaming about this dish. It’s A MUST GET and one that I will order over and over again!

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I didn’t think the meal could get any better, but it did! They served us one of their classic desserts, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and my mind was blown. This is one of the best desserts that I have had in a long time. The texture of the warm pudding was exquisite, very light at first bite, then your taste buds tingle with the incredible toffee flavor (think heavy caramel notes). To top it off, this is served with vanilla bean ice cream which adds a layer of creamyness and goes extremely well with the rich and sweet caramel flavor. This is a dish I would 100% recommend, definitely do not leave e11even without ordering it!

Another incredible meal yet again at e11even, and what I loved most is that they delivered in quality and freshness with both the dishes AND the drinks. I can’t wait to go back and I encourage you to visit and take advantage of their patio this summer!

e11even
15 York St
Toronto, ON M5J 0A3