Monday, February 16, 2015

Alokozay Vanilla Tea Cupcakes

Although my first love is coffee, tea comes in as a close second as the many varieties and flavours out there are endless comfort in a cup.  I've recently discovered a new tea brand called Alokozay Tea that carries a variety of black teas, green teas, flavoured teas and herbal infusions.  Their teas are top-quality so that each cup you brew produces the utmost natural flavours of the leaves.  Alokozay also carries a special tea called Ceylon which is a prized form of black, green and white teas sourced from Sri Lanka.

I ended up trying two types of Alokozay Tea, the Vanilla and Lemon Green Tea.  I ordered the two boxes online at and was very impressed to see the variety of teas that Alokozay has to offer.  The tea is sold in boxes of 25 and 100 sachets, as well as loose tea in tins. The website is very easy to navigate and all of the tea categories are laid out in a user-friendly manner.  The teas are also very affordable, a box of 25 vanilla tea bags were only $2.99. The check-out was simple and the boxes arrived in the mail 3 to 5 days after I placed the order. You can also purchase the tea in Ontario stores at Metro, Food Basics, Adonis and Bulk Barn across Canada

While most people think of only drinking tea, you can actually bake with tea or incorporate it in many different recipes for subtle and unique flavours. I decided to use the Alokozay Vanilla Tea to spruce up ordinary cupcakes into delicious vanilla tea cupcakes! Anyone can make these cupcakes and it’ll cost you less than $12 to make !  

Alokozay Vanilla Tea Cupcakes

-          1 box of Betty Crocker white cake mix
-          3 large egg whites
-          2 tbsp. vegetable oil
-          3 sachets of Alokozay Vanilla Tea steeped in 2 cups of boiling water
-          2 cups powdered sugar
-          2 tbsp. soft butter
-          2 tbsp. milk
-          ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Steep 3 Alokozay Vanilla Tea bags in 2 cups of boiling water for about 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and let the water cool to room temperature.  To speed up the process you can put the water in the fridge.

Once the water has cooled down, follow the instructions on the back of the cake box.  Most cake box recipes call for 1 to 1 1/3 cups of water added to the cake mix.  Use the steeped tea to fulfil the water amount that the box calls for. Beat all of the ingredients (cake mix, steeped tea, eggs, oil) in a mixing bowl for 2 minutes on medium speed.

Line a cupcake tray with liners and fill each liner with ¼ cup of batter

Bake the cupcakes according to the time on the box (350 degrees for about 20 to 23 minutes).

Remove cupcakes from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

For the icing, combine all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy.

If you're interested in making these cupcakes yourself or just want to discover some of the many teas Alokozay has to offer, you can print off this coupon for $1 off of any box of Alokozay Tea. After you've tried out some of the teas make sure to Tweet #TEAdays or Facebook Alokozay to let them know which flavours were your favourite!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Drinking Guide to Toronto

Almost everyone that likes to go out and party appreciates a good, quality drink. For a long while, USA and Canada have been infamous for their poor beer and wine offer. For example, if you go to South Europe, it is almost impossible for you to drink a bad wine. It’s the same story with the beer in Central Europe. No wonder that Europeans frowned, for such a long time, at the offer that North America has. In a situation where an individual likes to go to the bar or to the club primarily to drink, and when that same bar has bad choice of alcohol, it is obvious that he will find some other place to visit. Luckily for Toronto, it changed its ways in the recent decades. Like many other cities in Canada and America nowadays, it is much easier to get any type of high quality beverage in this beautiful city.

Toronto is known for its industry and commerce. It was like this since the first settlements were created on this territory. Same with the industry, a large number of local bars started appearing. They were mostly situated around the industrial complexes and warehouses, in order for the workers to have an easy access to them.

One thing that Toronto is good at is its cocktail offer. It has been like this for quite a long time. Again, similarly to their southern neighbors, this is an aspect of the night life in which they excel. Even if we exclude all your standard cocktails, which you can find in every bigger city in the world, there are numerous local types and mixtures that are characteristic only in this city. The place which will sweep you off your feet is one of the best lounges in Toronto named D.W. Alexander. Some of the best cocktails that you can try in Toronto are made in this lounge. The interior and the atmosphere can only improve the overall drinking experience and make you an instant fan of this establishment. This is a great example of a bar that gives you an authentic taste of good, local drinks.

Big impact of the globalization on Canada can be viewed through their alcohol offer. As previously mentioned, until recently, North America didn't have good exposure to foreign brands. Lately, there are more and more foreign beers (by that I mean quality beers) as well as wine. This small revolution led to a big number of local bars that serve only one of these alcohols, in some cases together with a good menu. It is a commonplace to see mini breweries all over the city. We can recommend Toronto to all the people who like to have a cold one during a warm summer day.

Currently, one of the best places to visit in Canada is definitely Toronto. Great night life, lots of different social and cultural events, as well as good alcohol offer, makes it a great destination for all of you that like to have a good weekend.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival 2015

It’s time to get out of winter hibernation and partake in a truly Canadian event at the 2nd annual Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival.  This outdoor event is your chance to embrace the cold weather and warm up by sampling craft beer from some of the best Ontario breweries.

The event is on Saturday January 31st from 11 am to 5 pm at the Roundhouse Park.  Chances are the weather will be frosty, so be sure to bundle up in your favourite scarf, toque and special gloves that will grasp your beer sampling cup tightly.  Tickets to the event are only $20 and then each beer sample at the event will cost $1.  As always these beer festivals are a great way for Toronto folks to get familiar with the many Ontario craft breweries who are passionate about traditional brewing. So far the list of breweries in attendance are:
·         Steam Whistle Brewing
·         Amsterdam Brewing
·         Beau’s All Natural Brewing
·         Big Rig Brewery
·         Black Oak Brewing
·         Block Three Brewing
·         Cameron’s Brewing
·         Flying Monkeys Brewery
·         Great Lakes Brewery
·         Highlander Brew Co.
·         King Brewery
·         Lake of Bays Brewing
·         Left Field Brewery
·         Maclean’s Ale
·         Mill St. Brewery
·         Muskoka Brewery
·         Oast House Brewers
·         Publican House Brewery
·         Railway City Brewing
·         Side Launch Brewing
·         Thornbury Cider
·         Underdog’s Brewhouse
·         Wellington Brewery

A variety of food tucks will be in attendance such as: Bay of Quinte Cheddar Ale Trail, Mr. Corn, Ninutuk Maple Sugar, Pappas Greek, Smoke's Poutinerie, Sugar Mamma's and The Pizza Truck.

If the food and beer isn't enough to entice you to leave your couch and Netflix behind, there are also some perks and activities to get you into the wintry spirit.
  • The first 500 guests will receive a limited edition 2015 Roundhouse Beer Festival toque
  • Prizes will be awarded for the best retro ski and winter gear
  • Live brewing demonstrations
  • Giant jenga, tug-of-war and ice carving
  • Roasting marshmallows on outdoor fire pits

All photos by Jeff Rogers
Advance tickets are sold out but limited door tickets will be available. Arriving bright and early will be your best bet to ensure entry to this fun-filled event.

Hope to see you brave Canucks at the Roundhouse Beer Festival on the 31st, use the hashtag #rwcbf to showcase your flushed-cheek selfies!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wahlburgers Toronto

For those of you who aren't familiar with Wahlburgers, it's a casual comfort food restaurant founded by the three Wahlberg brothers Mark, Donnie and Paul.  These talented brothers not only act, dance, sing, and have their own reality show (Wahlburgers) but they also know a thing or two about a damn good burger.  Ever since they were kids, they've always had a passion for burgers, comfort food and making girls scream (Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch YEAH!!) and so together the boys opened up their first Wahlburgers location in Hingham, MA in Oct 2011. 

The brothers were very excited to finally open their first franchise in Canada this past November 2014 inside the Soho Metropolitan Hotel making it the first North American expansion outside of the original restaurant in Hingham. The location seats 120 and offers a casual atmosphere with a sports bar, seated dining area and fast service counter. 

Photo by George Pimentel

Photo by George Pimentel

The menu includes a long list of burgers (custom-grind using 100 percent Canadian beef), sandwiches, salads, tater tots, fries, mom’s macaroni salad, and onion rings. Alcoholic beverages are available such as as adult frappes, wahl-coctions, wine, beer and mixed drinks.  A cool feature that is available only at Wahlburgers Toronto is a beer made by Mill Street Brewery exclusive to the Toronto location, it's called the ‘Wahlbrewski North’ and it's one helluva an IPA!

Here’s what I tried:

Thanksgiving Burger (Mark’s Choice)
Fresh ground season turkey, stuffing, Paul’s orange cranberry sauce, roasted butternut squash and mayo $9.95

This turkey burger isn't around just for Thanksgiving; this bad boy is always on the menu and happens to be my favourite item so far.  I usually don’t order turkey burgers because they tend to be dry but this one was quite juicy and full of flavour! All of the toppings really added different flavours and textures and the combination was just incredibly delicious! The taste of the squash especially added exceptional flavour to the burger.

O.F.D (Originally from Dorchester)
8 oz. beef patty, house made tomato jam, bacon, Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms $11.95

This big burger was pretty good but not as flavourful as I thought it would've been. The tomato jam was good but quite mild, I would've liked a dollop of BBQ sauce to give this burger a bit of a kick.  The patty itself was thick and juicy and cooked to perfection! 

Sweet Potato Tots $3.50

These are served with a nice chipotle sauce and are pretty addictive.  I've always been a tot fan so it was nice trying them out in sweet potato form. 

Alma’s Macaroni Salad
Elbow macaroni, red onion, sweet peppers, parsley & mom's creamy mayo dressing $4.50

This is a classic recipe by momma Wahlberg that the brothers loved while growing up. It was pretty basic tasting and I felt that there was not enough dressing on it.  Perhaps I just got a batch that was lacking dressing...

Truffle Cookie
Gluten-free chocolate truffle cookie $1.95

These warm little cookies look plain but TASTE amazing.  I need to figure out if I can buy these by the bag because they are ridiculously addictive.  They remind me of a flourless chocolate cake, but in a little cookie form.  Highly recommend for a sweet treat after your meal.

Overall I had a wonderful experience at Wahlburgers and everyone that worked there was a complete delight.  I would definitely return to Wahlburgers especially with friends from out of town who want a feel for the city. Starting this month Wahlburgers will incorporate Canadian-themed dishes as part of the ‘burger of the month’ program and hopefully when they’ve perfected the ‘greatest poutine ever’ we will see something like that on the menu.

Photo by George Pimentel

Wahlburgers on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lobster Monster

Who would've thought that the large marine crustacean once deemed as ‘a disgusting bottom feeder’ and only eaten by the poor would climb it’s way up the social ladder to become a true delicacy, a fancy meal, a ‘Just got paid’ kind of dish.  Lobster in this day and age is a luxury and while I’m reluctant to cook it myself, there is a number of worthy seafood restaurants in the city that serve up the real deal. One new place that takes lobster to the next level is the newly opened Lobster Monster in the Yonge and Lawrence area.

Owner’s Steve and Marianne Woo are passionate about lobster and aren't afraid to get down and dirty with the clawed creatures. They incorporate the succulent meat in a variety of comfort food items creating some classic dishes such as lobster mac and cheese and lobster grilled cheese . You can also order lobster in the old-fashioned way where it is steamed in boiling salt water.

I arrived at Lobster Monster with a moderate appetite and left in a serious food coma.  Marianne reminded me of my mother as she was very proud of her cooking and wanted to make sure that I was completely satisfied with my meal.  Every now and then she would come out from the kitchen and chat with the customers which really added to the dining experience, it felt like she had invited us to her home for dinner.

We started the night off with a pint of beer and a bowl of clam chowder and lobster bisque.  Both items were piping hot and served with biscuits and garlic bread. I really liked the clam chowder because of the rich flavour and heaps of baby clams and potatoes in the mix. The lobster bisque was just as good and was the perfect bowl of comfort for the chilly evening.  At this point I already felt the food coma kicking in…

Lobster Bisque & Clam Chowder - $7 for a cup

Next up was the bruschetta which was incredibly fresh.  The bread was very soft and the homemade tomato mix on top was delicious. 

Bruschetta - 4 for $6

Next item was the lobster spring rolls. These look like a traditional spring roll but were stuffed with chunks of lobster and veggies.  They were quite tasty but you really do need the homemade voodoo dipping sauce that they come with, its sweet, spicy and tangy!

Lobster Spring Rolls - $10

Then it was time for the lobster mac and cheese, one of my favourite items! Marianne brought out this huge bowl of it and I looked at it with fear and love.  I ate the entire bowl of this creamy pasta and loved the tender chunks of lobster meat with it.

Lobster White Mac & Cheese - $15

Next was the traditional lobster poutine and the poutine topped with clam chowder.  How I was still alive at this point is a miracle but then again poutine is my weakness.  Both poutines were pretty decent, I liked the traditional much better than the clam chowder poutine only because the chowder one was quite hearty.

Lobster Poutine and Clam Chowder Poutine - $16

Marianne tried to hint at some dessert from their list of homemade desserts but unfortunately I couldn't fit it in my already expanded stomach.  There were some tempting desserts though that I will have to try next time.

I loved the experience at Lobster Monster and will be making my way back soon for a proper lobster meal, bib and all.

For the full menu and location check out the Website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (lobstermon) pages.

Lobster Monster on Urbanspoon