Sip Slow, T.O.

Spilling the beans on coffee and dishing out on Toronto restaurants.

deKEFIR

deKEFIR specializes in the kefir items and kombucha drinks. Both foods are fermented and alleged to have a variety of health benefits. I encourage you to read more about these potential benefits on your own.

The first thing I tried at deKEFIR was the the black cherry kombucha. Wow, does this have bite! I was not prepared for the pure strength of the taste that would accompany. The staff told me that the drink is naturally carbonated. I did not listen, and I subsequently made a gigantic mess all over my desk and in front of my coworkers.

I wanted a second opinion. As well, I thought I needed some expectation management of my own. I returned back to deKEFIR the next day for another try and this time I brought my colleague.

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The staff there are absolutely lovely. They helped us to navigate all the choices. We both gave the kombucha drink a try.

The kefir looks like frozen yogurt. My colleague  and I also decided to get one each. They have a selection of toppings that you can sprinkle on top. On his initial impression he said, “It tastes like a mix of two things that I like, cheese and ice cream, so I can’t figure out why I dislike it.” My opinion was in stark contract to his: I loved it.

I was expecting he would be equally critical of the kambucha, but he really liked it. Just to demonstrate how much fizz there is we filmed a short video of opening the drink. We did not shake it or anything else before filming. This drink is just very carbonated. Not to mention they package the drinks like they are little potions. Watch a video on that here.

This place is interesting and the health benefits are intriguing. I will no doubt be returning.

Front Street Foods

Why I have gone all summer without visiting the vendors at Front Street Foods is a mystery to me. This place is f***ing awesome.

The selection of vendors is across from RBC at the corner of York St. and Adelaide Street West. It takes place one level about the ground. There are signs directing you to the upstairs venue.

The market happens from June 13 – August 5. It is open from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Tuesday and 11 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday to Friday.

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photo credit: domenic s

In the blistering heat I decided to opt for a paleta over food. I headed over to this super cute vendor, Loco Paletas Inc.

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photo credit: domenic s

The girl working at the cart was friendly and really cool. We got to talking and she told me about her blog on clothing and coffee. I went to check it out and was really impressed. You can check her stuff out here. She has a tumblr too, which you can view here.

I purchase the peach and ginger paleta for $4. It was good. You could tell it was made with real fruits.

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photo credit: jessica h

My friend got a beef brisket from TOBEN. He said that aside from being a bit cold (maybe it was for the best, at the day was very hot) the brisket was a yummy lunch.

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photo credit: jessica h

I decided to continue the trend of dessert > food and we went over to Sugar Mammas  foodtruck for some homemade donuts. I got the powdered sugar mini donuts for $6.50. Side note: if you google Sugar Mammas there are a surprising amount of dating websites that come up.

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photo credit: domenic s

Anyways to get back on topic, these donuts are AMAZING. My friend compared them to the funnel cakes at Wonderland, but I do not think that is doing them justice. They are made fresh in front of you. I brought the rest of these back to the office and people went nuts for these.

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photo credit: jessica h

Lastly we went to Station Cold Brew Coffee Co. and got iced lattes. They lattes were $6 each. They were also great and went super well with the mini donuts.

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photo credit: jessica h

The selection of vendors at this event is top-notch. I am kicking myself for not spending more time there this summer. This will be a go-to lunch destination next summer.

WestJet Airlines

Friends! I am writing to you from the clouds! I am currently on a WestJet plane and I thought I would write a review of the food, beverages and overall service thus far.

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photo credit: jessica h

WestJet has wifi available for purchase through WestJet Connect. It can be purchased in increments of 30 minutes, 3 hours or the entire flight. I paid $8.99 to get three hours of wifi. The entire flight package was $12.99. You must download the WestJet app or install Adobe Flash prior to your flight as you will not be able to do so in the air.

Here is my wonderful and stunning travel partner:

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photo credit: jessica h

Now let’s talk food. I ordered the cheese tray for $6.99. It includes cheese, crackers and some apple slices. I also ordered the complimentary coffee and biscotti.

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photo credit: jessica h

The food was surprisingly good. There was a selection of cheese and the apples came vaccum sealed. I would compare this box to the cheese and apple box offered at Starbucks. The coffee on the other hand was definitely not Starbucks caliber. I didn’t finish my cup.

Mom and Dad, you can be proud: I have been trying to make friends on the flight.

The gentleman sitting beside me shared his displeasure over his tic tacs. He ordered the tapas box which is said to include a variety of items: pita chips, dried fruit, garlic chips, tics tacs and more. The total box cost was $9.49. Read the description here:

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photo credit: jessica h

This is the ultra miniature package of Tic Tacs they gave him.

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photo credit: jessica h

Aside from it only being a few measly Tic Tacs, we were also highly suspicious of the olives in the tapas box. The olive package felt very squishy and we were skeptical that it might contain a sauce, or perhaps, a giant sponge.

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photo credit: jessica h

To our relief, the package contained real olives.

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photo credit: jessica h

He was even kind enough to offer me one.

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photo credit: jessica h

I finished-up the snacking session with the complimentary biscotti. It was not bad and it certainly boded better with me than the coffee.

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photo credit: jessica h

We will be landing shortly. As you can see, the wifi is a big bonus. It was a little slow when I uploaded these pictures, but overall I can’t complain. Stay tuned for a series of blog posts on Seattle!

Sam James Coffee Pocket takes all my laundry money

I am really annoyed with Sam James Coffee Pocket and here’s why: Sam James Coffee Pocket takes all my laundry money. The tiny coffee place is carved into the wall of The Path just outside St . Andrews Station only accepts cash and I just can’t resist the temptation.

Same James has other locations around Toronto that are equally tiny. I have frequented the ones near Christie Station and Toronto St.

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photo credit: Jessica H

Despite the tiny spaces these coffee shops occupy they have a big taste.

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photo credit: Jessica H

Sam James has a variety of brews. When you order your coffee they will let you know which brew they are using that day. Now I am going to be a bad, bad foodie and tell you that I don’t taste the differences between the different blends.

You know when you take a sip of coffee, and without knowing anything else about it, you just know that it’s good coffee? That’s the experience that I get with Sam James. I can’t tell you the exact notes, but I can tell you that it takes full (as opposed to watery) and just, well, damn good.

On this particular day my friend got their Americano.

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photo credit: Domenic S

I usually get a regular coffee, but this was after lunch (and my second coffee of the day) so I went for a Mocha.

Their Mocha is a perfect blend of chocolate and coffee. Neither is too over-powering.

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photo credit: Domenic S

I am a big fan of this place. If you have the opportunity, give it a try.

Toronto Patio Series: Pour House

I’m going to preface this blog by saying that my friend & I consumed our share of alcohol. To be fair, it was spread over many hours in the afternoon. This blog is going to be the start of a new series of blog posts every Friday that feature patios and other drinking spots around Toronto.

Alright let’s get started: Pour House Pub and Kitchen is located on at 182 Dupont St.  The owners (FAB Restaurants) own other spots around Toronto including: Foggy Dew, Against the Grain, Brazen head and a couple others. My friend, Sam, had been raving about Pour House for a couple weeks, we decided to  stop-by on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

First up, I ordered a watermelon mojito ($8.50). I already written extensively about my sweet tooth here and here. It contained captain morgan white rum, watermelon, lime and mint. This was a really tasty drink.

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photo credit: Sam R

Ahhh so refreshing….

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photo credit: Jessica H

My friend had a few generic beers that aren’t worth naming. Our first food item were these AMAZING lettuce wraps ($12). The topping was made of quinoa, veggies, cranberry and curry. You scoop the topping into the lettuce leaves. My friend said it reminded her of dal. We both have a passion for indian food and really enjoyed these wraps. A great summer food choice.

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photo credit: Jessica H

sam scooping lettuce wraps

photo credit: Jessica H

My next drink choice was a lemon margarita ($10). It contained el jimador tequila, lemon and cointreau. Despite the strong ingredients, this drink tasted very balanced.

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photo credit: Sam R

My friend got a Bacon Ceasar. Yes, that is an actual piece of bacon in her drink. She said that aside from the strip of bacon as decoration it was a regular ceaser although still very tasty.

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photo credit: Jessica H

For my main course, I ordered the pear and spinach salad ($14) and paid to upgrade it to include grilled salmon which was around another $7. The salad included tomato, cucumber, pomegranate seeds, goat cheese and poppy dressing. The salad was decent. It was good and I would order it again, but it didn’t blow me away like the lettuce wraps.

pear and spinach salad with salmon

photo credit: Sam R

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photo credit: Sam R

The staff–although very cute–seemed like they may have been new. They took away my salad when only half of it was eaten and without offering to wrap it up. Not a huge deal but something that could be improved.

My friend ordered the chicken. She said that she enjoyed it.

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photo credit: Sam R

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photo credit: Sam R

Listen, I warned you that there was going to be a lot of drinking pictures. Okay. Next up, Sangria:

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photo credit: Sam R

With all the fruit they put in their drinks you sort-of forget it’s alcohol and feel like you are doing something really healthy for yourself. The sangria contained absolut peach vodka, prosecco, lemon, oranges and cucumbers ($9). It was refreshing and a good drink.

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photo credit: Jessica H

The last thing we got was the cider bomb ($11). I wouldn’t recommend going this route unless you are really a cider person. You pour a shot of this stuff into the cider. To be honest, I’m not sure what type of alcohol it was. Neither of us finished this drink.

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photo credit: Jessica H

They had another drink on the menu that I really wanted to try–cotton candy old fashion–it’s white rye with lemon poured over a ball of actual cotton candy. Unfortunately, they didn’t have it in stock. Hopefully the next time I am there!

The last thing we got was peanut butter pie pops ($8 for two). My god, were these ever good.

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photo credit: Sam R

I’m not sure why the word “pie” is in the name. There is nothing pie-like about them, but they are so, so good!The popsicle is a frozen cream cheese base, covered in nutella and peanuts, dipped into whipped cream. Ugh, so good!

sam with pie pop

photo credit: Jessica H

Final thoughts: yes, check this place out. Top items were: lemon margarita, lettuce wraps and peanut butter “pie” pops.

Nadège

Going to Nadège makes your unfortunate afternoon sugar-cravings feel like a regal affair.

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photo credit: Jessica H

When I enter the sweets-boutique in the PATH I can’t help feeling like Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette—all I want is to be surrounded by delicate, buttery pieces-of-heaven 24/7. Is that sooo much to ask?

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Life is hard. Still-shot is from movie Marie Antoinette.

Nadège has a total of four locations which are all in Toronto: the PATH, Rosedale, Yorkdale (inside Holt Renfrew) and Queen West.

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photo credit: Jessica H

Nadege is actually a French baby name that means “delicate, moist and tender” in Arabic.

The upscale dessert shop can be quite pricey at approximately $2.50 for a single macaron or $5.00 for two. A box of 16 macarons is $38.

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photo credit: Jessica H

My friend was like a little kid in a candy store.

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photo credit: Jessica H

They have a selection of bright chocolate bars too.

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photo credit: Jessica H

Did I mention that their packaging is gorgeous?

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photo credit: Jessica H

I mean, just look at that baby-box for your two tiny macarons!

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photo credit: Jessica H

I got a cappuccino in my travel mug and my friend got a latte.

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photo credit: Jessica H

I am known for having a sweet tooth (okay, ravenous-fang). I found the combination of the cappuccino and macaron to be a step too decadent even for me. However, the combination of coffee and maccarron is just right.

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photo credit: Jessica H

I enjoyed two macarons: cotton candy and raspberry chocolate.

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photo credit: Jessica H

YUM!

Hot Black Coffee

Do you like the combination of bright red and glossed concrete? If so, you will love the interior at Hot Black Coffee. The relatively new coffee spot is located at 245 on Queen West. Based on the bold colour choice, café name “Hot Black Coffee” and sign outside that reads “Best.Coffee.Ever.” I am going to guess that subtlety is not their thing.

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Photo credit: Domenic S.

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Photo credit: Domenic S

One immediately nice feature of the shop is that you can help yourself to water of both the sparkling or flat variety.

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Photo credit: Jessica H.

Sticking with their bold theme, the coffee shop proudly displays their brews from the ceiling.

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Photo credit: Domenic S.

The shop has a wide variety of sweets.

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Photo credit: Domenic S.

I ordered the cortato – a mixture of a latte and macchiato.

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Photo credit: Domenic S.

To my relief, their cortado proved they aren’t “all bark and no bite.” The heavenly little drink gave their over-confidence legitimacy.

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Photo credit: Domenic S.

My friend, Domenic, ordered the same. Domenic is anti-milk when it comes to his coffee (you’re at home at Hot Black Coffee, Domenic), but the cortado even managed to persuade him to come over to the dark side (err… light side).

Domenic observed, “the milk cuts the sourness of the bean and gives the drink a very nice, creamy finish.”

One last thing to note, the staff at this shop are extremely friendly. Definitely give this place a try.

M SQUARE

M Square Coffee Co. is a slick, cool coffee spot in the downtown core. The shop has a masculine-vibe: the interior is dark, rich colours combined with smooth wooden surfaces and marble counters. It is a favorite of mine in the PATH and how can anyone debate that when their barista, Anskar, makes lattes like this:

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Photo credit: Jessica H

I went for a coffee break with a friend and we decided to try the Asseffa roast from Ethopia and Hartman roast from Panama from the coffee brand Phil & Sebastian. Both are made with a clever.

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Photo credit: Jessica H

The process to use the clever was quiet lengthy (approximately 10 minutes) so make sure you have budgeted enough time.

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Photo credit: Jessica H

The coffee is served out of beakers on little wooden trays. This is nice because my friend and I were able to trade beakers and try both brews.

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Photo credit: Jessica H

The glass beakers get pretty hot, so we had to pour quickly.

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Photo credit: Jessica H

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Photo credit: Domenic S.

The Hartman had a very fair, light quality to it. The Asseffa had a lot more strength and boldness. It was not labelled as having notes of dark chocolate, however it tasted that way to me. I preferred the Asseffa while my friend preferred the Hartman.

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Photo credit: Domenic S.

I adore M Square’s lattes. They have a richness and body that that I really enjoy. I will return to try more of the clevers when I have larger chunks of time.

Glorious Patio and Brunch in Midtown

On a blistering hot day, my friend, Vanessa, and I crawled Yonge looking for a cool patio to relax in partially-covered sunshine.

It was around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and we imagined drinking refreshing Sangrias while trying to catch a bit of breeze.

We rejoiced when we found Bar Centrale — part of the Terroni’s near Yonge and Summerhill. Terroni’s is a favorite Italian-restaurant among many Torontonians (myself included). They are well-known for their pasta and pizza, less people know that they also serve brunch.

To our disappointment, cocktails are not served at 10:30 a.m. Maybe it was for the best…

We opted for a coffee instead.

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Photo credit: Vanessa J.

The prices are very fair. They are comparable to much less fancy breakfast places across the city.

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Photo credit: Vanessa J.

I decided on Scandanavian-style pancakes ($10).  Instead of being flat, the pancakes are little balls of dough similar to the homemade dounuts you might have had at a fair. You dip the pancakes into jam or nutella.

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Photo credit: Vanessa J.

What’s different about Bar Centrale’s pancakes is that they contain orange-zest in them. They are also dusted with icing sugar.

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Photo credit: Vanessa J.

There is no maple syrup with the pancakes. I confess, I did miss that part of the pancakes. It may be available by request though.

The only critique I have for the scandinavian pancakes was that it felt like a lot of  the same taste and texture. It would have been nice to have a few fresh berries on the side to refresh the palate.

When I saw Vanessa’s order, I immediately knew I made the wrong decision. She ordered Torta Rustica ($13) which is a pasty filled with ricotta cheese, black olives, capers and a poached egg on top.

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Photo credit: Vanessa J.

Vanessa described her meal like this: savory with just the right amount of saltiness, a delicious pastry that wasn’t the least bit soggy and a poached egg that wasn’t too cooked or too runny.

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Photo credit: Vanessa J.

Overall, I would highly recommend this summer spot. And try the Torta Rustica.

Butter Coffee

Butter coffee is exactly what it sounds like. However, the taste the accompanies the thick drink may surprise you.

I debated for several weeks about trying butter coffee at Picnic. I was concerned about wasting $4-5 if I didn’t like it, but I was even more afraid of what would happen if I did like it: another unhealthy dessert addiction.

As it turns out, whether or not butter coffee is unhealthy is still up for debate. Some argue for the benefits of consuming healthy fats and feeling fuller.

I gave in to curiosity and placed my first order…

The first step to making butter coffee is preparing the espresso.

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Photo credit: Jessica H.

The espresso is then added to a blender with cubes of rich butter and coconut oil.

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Photo credit: Jessica H.

They three ingredients are blended until they make a froathy mixture.

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Photo credit: Jessica H.

The smell of butter coffee is not unlike the buttery smell of popcorn at a movie theater.

If you drink the coffee while it is still hot, the oils are perfectly blended. However, if you wait too long the oils in the coffee can start to separate.

I expected the coffee to have a creamy taste and texture. To my surprise, the coffee had a sour taste with a thick and heavy consistency.

On my initial impression, I will not be switching my morning brew to butter any time soon.

I decided to give butter coffee one more shot on a different occasion. This time, I paired it with a delicious nutella and banana slices sandwich from Picnic (a favorite of mine in the PATH).

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Photo credit: Jessica H.

The thickness of the nutella goes well with the thick, buttery coffee. If you are going to try butter coffee, I would recommend making this pairing or pairing it with another food which is slightly heavy.

On a side note, the friend whom I went with decided to skip on the butter coffee. However, she did thoroughly enjoy her smoothie which contained nutella, strawberries and banana.

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Photo credit: Jessica H.

Overall, I think butter coffee is definitely worth a try-even if only out of interest.

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