Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Esquinas De Argento

Last month a new Argentinian wine called Esquinas De Argento made it's debut at LCBO stores across Ontario.  Esquinas De Argento represents the vibrant city life on the streets of Buenos Aries.  The street structure is organized in a grid pattern that forms a network of esquinas (corners) that reflects the energetic sights and sounds of urban life in the city.  ‘Esquinas – where life happens.’

The winery, Bodega Argento, is situated at the foothills of the Andes Mountains in the Maipú area of Mendoza’s Central Region where the vineyards benefit from the high-altitude desert climate, strong sunlight exposure and pure glacial melt-waters. Winemaker Silvia Corti and her team at Bodega created two distinct wines from Argentina that both posses fruity notes with a smooth, mild and easy-to-drink style. 

The Cabernet Sauvignon is a versatile red that is perfect to bring to any gathering in the fall and winter months. It pairs lovely with lamb, beef and other grilled meats and is very velvety and smooth on the palette. It is full-bodied with aromas of blackberry, vanilla, earth and woody spice.

The Pinot Grigio is very crisp and refreshing with flavours of white nectarines and peaches.  It is best paired with seafood, light pastas, grilled chicken and many cheeses. It is dry and medium-bodied with delicate floral aromas.

I had the opportunity to try out both wines at the Esquinas de Argento launch last month at El Almacen in Toronto.  El Almacen Café is a small gem on Queen St West that specializes in mate which is made from the naturally caffeinated leaves of the celebrated South American rainforest holly tree.  Yerba Mate has the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the rapture of chocolate all in one beverage. The tea is prepared by steeping the dried leaves and twigs of the mate plant in hot water (not boiling). It has an herbal, grassy taste with some varieties somewhat reminiscent of certain types of green tea. The traditional way to drink yerba mate is communally from a hollow gourd with a metal straw.

El Almacen also serves some South American eats such as the popular Argentinian cookie alfajores, empanadas, chorizo dishes, and more.

Esquinas De Argento can be found at LCBO stores for less than $12 a bottle, so pick one up now and unleash the taste of Buenos Aries!

El Almacen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Saturday Dinette

Saturday Dinette is a modern diner that opened up in the Riverdale/Leslieville area a few months ago.  The diner offers a healthier take on classic comfort foods with dishes that incorporate local and worldly produce. Owner/chef Suzanne Barr has always been an avid foodie and has spent many years working in New York as a sous chef and vegan baker. She served as the executive chef for the raw-food supper club The New Deal, worked across the world as a private chef, launched Pepper andSprout Food a platform to educate and promote healthy food choices, and now opening her ideal restaurant, Saturday Dinette.

The small diner seats 30 making the ambiance quite intimate and cozy. The space is littered with feminine art, vintage kitchen equipment, old-school vinyl and lovely hanging light bulbs strung across the ceiling. The creativity and flair is fluent throughout the diner which truly makes Saturday Dinette a welcoming neighbourhood gem. The diner has also implemented a great employment programme for staffing women from the YMCA Toronto who have an interest in the restaurant industry.

The food at Saturday Dinette ranges from ribs and burgers for the meat lovers and millet burgers and blackened tofu for the vegetarians.  Comfort foods such as beef brisket, savoury baked pies and liver & onions are some local favourites. Fries are not an option at this diner instead you can order candied plantains, polenta cakes, roasted vegetables or herbed smashed potatoes to accompany your meal.  Saturday dinette also serves cocktails, local beers and wine. 

I sampled some of the dishes during the opening of Saturday Dinette and everything was loaded with impeccable flavour. I was really impressed with the creativity that went into each dish and would love to go back to try some of the other menu items that Suzanne has created.

Tarragon Polenta Cake

Zucchini Latkes with Pear Compote and Sour Cream

Fatty Sticky Ribs with Toasted Sesame and Green Papaya Slaw

80/20 Beef Lamb Burger  – Two Patties, Beet Mayo, Daikon Slaw and Candied Plaintains

Cardamom Chocolate Bark with Sweet + Salted Popcorn

Saturday Dinette is open for lunch and dinner, with brunch service on the weekends.

Saturday Dinette on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 10, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide 2014

Christmas is right around the corner and for some of you this is the most exciting time of the year and for others it's just an added stress.  Regardless of your sentiments for Christmas, the fact remains that it's only a few months away and you need to gear up and start deciding on what to buy for the loved ones in your life.  My advice to you is to start your shopping early and if possible, do it all online.  Malls in November and December are a nightmare and I try to avoid them at all costs.  I’ll be starting my shopping within a few weeks and wanted to share with you some suggestions I came across while attending a Christmas in July event at the Beverly Hotel and a few other items I've stumbled across this year that have peaked my interests.

For your mother or mother-in-law:

Mom’s have a weird obsession with soaps so buying her a set of luxurious soaps is the perfect idea.  Don’t waste your money on the strong-scented cheap soaps from Bath and Body Works, instead spend the extra cash and wow her with beneficial soft-scented soaps made with high quality ingredients. All of the soap at Perth Soap Company are paraben and phthalate free and are gentle on the skin. The cleansing bars are enriched with Argan Oil, are pH balanced, contain more than 30% moisturizing ingredients and are infused with specialty fragrances that embody luxury. The 3 scents available are Moroccan Spice, Milk and Honey and Rosemary Mint.  All of the scents are equally wonderful and just having them out on a dish in your bathroom will make the space smell incredible.  Perth Soap Company also carries a great 100% Moroccan Argan Oil which has many beneficial properties that your mother will love. The oil is rich in antioxidants, omega fatty acids and vitamins e & a. 

When it comes to cooking, my mom continuously impresses me with her natural ability to make absolutely amazing meals. My sister and I always tell her to open up a small restaurant but of course she thinks we are crazy. For a kitchen savvy mom like mine, a good quality set of pots, pans and bakeware is an absolute necessity in the household. You cant go wrong with purchasing her some items from the newly designed Circulon® Prime collection.  Designed to be a kitchen essential, the new Circulon® Prime range combines quality and versatility to bring a refreshing new choice of cookware that delivers a superior cooking experience. This is made possible by Circulon’s Total non-stick system, a patented hi-low circular groove technology that enhances non-stick durability. The system promotes a healthy lifestyle by delivering high performance food release without the need to cook with oils and fats. Further, each pan is induction cooktop suitable, oven and dishwasher safe, and comes with a lifetime guarantee. I tested out their 10 inch skillet and absolutely loved it. 

For your father or father-in-law:

The Carnivore Club helps the Ron Swanson-type of men in our lives by delivering them boxes of quality curated meats. This genius idea is the world’s first curated meat of the month club featuring artisans from around the world. Each month members receive an impressive faux-wood box filled with 4-6 handcrafted cured meats from top artisans. Each month’s box is themed around one producer specializing in a particular style of cured meats: French Charcuterie, Italian Salumi, Spanish Chorizo, South African Biltong and Artisanal Jerky are but a few. You’ll never receive the same product twice so you can happily expand your tastes monthly with an exciting new box.

For your girlfriend:

If you want to gain mad bonus points with your girlfriend this season, then buy her some nice underwear that has a little oomph to it.  As nice as it may be to surprise her with some Victoria Secret lace thongs, impress her this season by buying her a few pairs of these super comfy state-of-the-art undies by Knixwear.  Every pair of Knix Wear features the Fresh Fix Technology™. A thin yet super absorbent gusset, it wicks away moisture and naturally eliminates odor, keeping you feeling fresh and dry all day long - without the feeling that you're wearing anything other than your most comfortable pair of undies. They come in a variety of colours and styles and really do make the perfect stocking stuffer for any lady who appreciates quality underwear. I really love that these undies come in a cute reusable tube that can be turned into a pen holder or make-up brush holder afterwards.

For your boyfriend:

Amazing Clubs

Amazing clubs is a creative company that delivers monthly gift boxes full of one-of-a-kind gourmet products. There are a variety of boxes to choose from ranging from gifts for the avid coffee lover, the hot sauce fanatic and even for those who have a deep love for peanut butter. Some of the boxes ideal for the man in your life are the beer and wine boxes.  Monthly shipments of unique brands that cannot be found in stores are sent out monthly allowing any beer or wine enthusiast to bask in obscure brews.  Just sign-up and pick the category of box that you fancy and then choose how long you want the membership for. You'll never end up with the same item twice and each item has been sought out from around the world so you'll be sure to receive only the best products out there.

For a friend:

My Beauty Tea

My Beauty Tea is an online Canadian business that specializes in high quality loose leaf teas.  All of the teas contain natural flavoring enriched with flowers and fruits for a naturally sugar-free blend.  These teas come in a variety of flavours and there are green teas, black teas, white teas, rooibos, yerba mate and herbal to choose from. You can order these online along with some pretty neat tea accessories as well.  A favourite of mine is the Mermaid Blend which is a fruit tea containing hibiscus flowers, rosehips, apple cubes, orange peels, pineapple fruit, coconut shreds, flower blossoms and natural flavor. Any friend would be more than happy to receive a new stash of Canadian tea blends to add to their collection. 

Happy Shopping!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Delicious Food Show 2014

October is shaping up to be a fantastic month for foodie events in the city! I’m especially looking forward to The Delicious Food show taking place from Friday October 17th to Sunday October 19th at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto.  This will be my first time attending the Delicious Food Show and it's definitely a must-attend event for anyone who loves delicious food or spends endless hours watching the Food Network! This 3-day event features hundreds of exhibitors, cooking demos, tastings, hands-on workshops, book signings, and appearances by the Food Network and international celebrity chefs.

Chef’s such as Chuck Hughes, Robert Mooking, Tyler Florence, Mark McEwan and many more will be in attendance at the Exclusive Chef Series which is a unique culinary experience that will allow visitors to get the inside scoop on how to master cooking tricks and tips by participating in a hands on workshop and demonstration personally taught by their favourite celebrity chefs.  Tickets can be purchased for the workshop of your choice here:

There will also be a Food Network celebrity stage where you will be able to see your favourite Food Network celebs and discover new brands, cooking styles, and get better acquainted with the chefs. The schedule can be found here: 

Indigo will have a booth set-up so that you can meet your fav chef and have your favoured cookbook signed.  Jamie Kennedy, Mario Batali, Chuck Hughes, Jennifer Bain and more will all be a part of the book-signing festivities so be sure to check out the schedule and bring along your sacred cookbook, cooking utensil, shirt, arm, whatever you like!

Another fun feature is Abbeys Kitchen Stadium Pavilion.  Throughout the weekend 8 of Toronto’s top chefs will be featuring their talent by offering food items for $5 each in the pavilion. Guests have up until 4 pm Saturday afternoon to test out the amazing dishes and then vote for their favourite.  The top four chefs will be invited on stage to compete live in an action-packed cooking competition before a panel of celebrity judges on the Sunday afternoon. The winner will go home with a prize and bragging rights as the champion of Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium.  Check out the chefs that will be cooking up some creative eats: - I'm particularly interested to see what Nathan Middleton form HOTB has up his sleeves.

There are such great features at the show this year and even more enticing goodies like a line-up of food trucks, an after-party at the Gladstone with Nadia G on Oct 17th, hands-on cooking work shops, naturally delicious section focusing on healthy living, and much more.

Buy your tickets ($20) now to the Delicious Food Show as tickets are going fast AND enter below for your chance to win a pair of tickets to the show this year! 

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Aroma Espresso Bar


Good food and good coffee make me a happy lady but finding a coffee shop in the city that does a worthy job at BOTH can be hard to find. I've been to many places that serve excellent coffee but the food options range from overpriced bagels to calorie-packed muffins or the sandwiches will be great but the 5 dollar latte is unbearable. Although there are some gems that I frequent often, one place that is always consistent in quality, price and food variety is the popular café, Aroma Espresso Bar.

Aroma Espresso Bar graced Canada in 2007 with it’s first location opening up in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood.  Since then many locations throughout the GTA have opened up. Aroma offers an extensive beverage menu along with gourmet sandwiches, baked goods, salads, soups and much more. The atmosphere at Aroma is very welcoming, making this modern café a great place to sit and relax with friends, family, alone or even for a business meeting. You can always count on a freshly prepared meals and don’t have to worry about servers, tipping or any of the other time-consuming encounters within the food service industry.

Since I’m a big fan of the many things Aroma has to offer, I've compiled a list of the Top 5 Reasons why Aroma is my go-to spot for a quick & delicious meal.

1. Drink Menu

Aroma carries plenty of hot and cold beverages that are crafted carefully to your liking.  Aroma is of course known for their coffee which is a blend of Arabica beans from South America and Africa. The beans are roasted at their in-house facilities in Israel using the Torrefazione Artisan method which is done slowly by hand.  This traditional method results is a fresh and refined taste, which makes Aroma coffee aromatic, smooth and delicious! I tend to go for the lattes at Aroma which are always rich and creamy, or the signature aroma coffee which is a long shot of espresso, Aroma pralines, steamed milk, a scoop of fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. Their cold drink list has some great concoctions as well like the Ice Lemon Mint.  It’s slightly tart but very refreshing, a perfect summer drink. With every beverage order you receive a small rectangular piece of chocolate. It’s a small gesture that doesn't go unnoticed especially with chocolate lovers like me. I always look forward to it!

New to some Aroma locations is the Spiked Signatures menu that features some of Aroma’s signature beverages infused with alcohol. I’ve tried their Iced Mojito which is their signature Ice Lemon Mint drink with your choice of rum or vodka and their Ice Aroma with Baileys.  These drinks are an added bonus to all of those who frequent Aroma, especially the after work folks. Beer and wine are available as well.

2. Fresh/Made to Order
The sandwiches, breakfast, and salads are all fresh and made to order at Aroma.  You don’t have to sift through a fridge full of plastic-wrapped sandwiches in hopes that they haven’t been sitting there for a week ugh.  Instead you choose from a selection of freshly baked breads and your sandwich is crafted together by the chefs for ultimate freshness and flavour.  The salads are assembled fresh as well so in case there are ingredients you don’t like, you can ask for them to be removed.   For breakfast you can choose from hot items such as the Power Breakfast which is two eggs any style, mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, carrot, olives, feta cheese, cream cheese, avocado spread, and a side of freshly baked bread or something simple like the hot Organic Oatmeal which is full of oats, brown sugar, raisins, dried apples, flax and sunflower seeds. My favourite sandwich is the Philly Steak Sandwich or Grilled Chicken Breast.  The aroma sauce that they use is unbelievably good! I also really love their Mozzarella Salad which consists of mozzarella cheese, tomato, red onion, garlic croutons, arugula, tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing. The portions are quite generous as well so you don’t have to worry about leaving unsatisfied.

3. Healthy Choices
A lot of cafes have high-calorie and high-cost items using thick breads, processed deli meats and condiments overpowering your sandwiches. Aroma uses freshly baked breads with multigrain, gluten-free, white and whole wheat options available. You also have the option of buying a personal sized sandwich and pairing it with a soup or salad for a perfectly-sized lunch combo.  A lot of their beverages are also available in lighter options if you’re looking to cut calories. Power foods such as kale, Portobello mushrooms, and quinoa are incorporated in many of the salads at Aroma for an extra nutrient-packed meal. You also have the option of adding protein to any of the salads.  

 4. Baked Goods 

I’m a huge fan of sweets and pastries and luckily Aroma has a variety of baked goods ranging from cookies, brownies, croissants, squares etc.  The baked goods are made from whole wheat grains and natural products, and contain no preservatives, dyes, or trans fat. A top contender in the baked goods category are the incredible Alfajores.  These light and fluffy Argentinean cookies are filled with rich dulce de leche and are highly addictive!!  They also make a mean chocolate croissant for those extra-indulgent days.
 5. Catering  
Aroma offers catering so your lunch meetings won’t be boring! My work often uses Aroma (Bay & Dundas) for catering and everyone always raves about it.  Their breakfast and lunch platters are affordable and fresh and you can customize your order easily.  We have never encountered issues with Aroma’s catering services and everyone we've worked with has been pleasant and on time.  This is a huge bonus for us, as the worst is food arriving late for a meeting.  We have even used Aroma for large events with over 200 people in attendance and they've managed to do a wonderful job.

These are just some of the reasons why I personally love Aroma! If you haven’t already experienced Aroma or just want to get back there to try some of the above mentioned eats, then enter below to win a $50 gift card! This is a great giveaway all thanks to the wonderful people who work at Aroma.

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