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A Lot To Live Up To: The Burger’s Priest

If you’ve started reading this blog over the last year, it may come as a surprise to you that I spent 8 years as a vegetarian. I wrote all about my decision to eat meat again in this post.

For eight years I was that vegetarian who said I never missed meat. And I really didn’t. I was that vegetarian who would scrunch my nose up at anything meat related. I was that vegetarian who told my meat-eating friends that veggie burgers were just as good as the real thing.

About this last point – they are not. I must have been ill with a carbohydrate induced fever. I’ve already apologized profusely to many of my friends for force feeding soy burgers and hot dogs on them. For complaining when they spit them out. For insisting that a frozen patty was comparable to a juicy beef burger squeezed between two soft buns.

Ohgosh. I’m drooling again.

Since the re-introduction of real burgers in my life, I have become a bit of a connoisseur. Of all the ways to eat animal meat, in burger form is hands down my favourite way.

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Luckily for me, one of Toronto’s best burger joints happens to be close to my neighbourhood. The Burger’s Priest is a teeny-tiny indoor grill located in this rough transitional area between Leslieville and the Beaches, aka “no man’s land.”

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The self-proclaimed “All American cheeseburger joint” offers five kind of burgers with the option of fries or cookies on the side. The place is small and cramped with a handful of stools against the wall. Line-ups are often out the door.

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My roommie and I arrived on Saturday night after a brisk and chilly walk over. Something we hoped would be made up for with a mind-blowing hamburger. Luckily, we were able to snag a couple stools rather than return to our apartment with cold burgers in tow.

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I went for the most basic version – the cheeseburger with all the toppings – ketchup, mustard, mayo, tomato, onion, pickles, lettuce.

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A thin crumbly patty topped with a processed cheddar slice, between a soft white bun.

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Let’s talk about the meat. It was amazing. My roommie got the double double with two patties, and I regret not doing the same. Just the one thin patty didn’t seem like enough. The beef itself was melt-in-your mouth. Cooked to perfection (not too little, not too much). It was fatty in the sense that the juices dripped everywhere, and I saw them vigorously shake salt over each patty before cooking.

I cannot however claim this to be the best burger of my life (like I did with the pancake). I wasn’t into the processed cheese or bun. Both were cheap tasting and dumbed down the amazing beef enclosed inside. It reminded me of a burger you’d get at a charity picnic, minus the crappy patty.

Thus, The Burger’s Priest only makes it to my Number 3 spot. In case you are wondering, I have dozens of Top 3 foodie experiences floating around in my head. Burgers being one of them. Normal?

The Number 2 spot goes to this bison burger I had at the Elk & Oarsmen Pub in Banff back in June.

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Fresh ground seasoned bison patty topped with melted pepper jack cheese, butter leaf lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayo. This burger came on a crusty white bun. The bison meat, while typically dry from being so lean, was thick and juicy. The best part was the seasoning. It was seasoned just like sausage. If I had ever doubted bison as a viable burger meat, I was now a believer.

And the top spot? My favourite burger of all time?

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My mom’s of course!!

Actually, this particular burger was eaten on July 13, 2009. What made it so special was that it was my first real hamburger in 10 years. To quote from my blog at the time (I know, here I go quoting myself again):

Ohmygoodness. Words cannot even describe. I cannot believe my tastebuds and body have been missing out on this for so long! (ahem, more than a decade!) My mom and I picked up some ground hamburger at a local store in Cap-Pele, a small Acadian town not too far from here. So we assume it was good beef. My mom said she mixed it with an egg, some oregano, and a piece of flax bread, and then just cooked it on the stovetop.

Let me put it this way: I will never again compare a veggie burger to a real hamburger. There is no comparison.

 

I believe we can pinpoint my love for hamburgers to that specific moment in time. In all fairness, The Burger’s Priest had a lot to live up to. Clearly, it will be hard to find a burger in Toronto that will change my life the way my “second first” hamburger ever did.

I just ask one favour to all my vegetarian readers out there. Please, please, never tell your friends a veggie burger tastes like the real thing. Learn from my mistakes :)

 

Question of the Day: What’s the best burger you ever had?

A Sweaty Bikram Yoga Review

As mentioned last week, I started doing Bikram yoga. I got one of those group coupon deals for 10 days of yoga for 10 bucks. I’d originally planned on going every other day, but I only made it to three. For ten dollars, that’s still a pretty good deal!

I tried out the two studios owned by Bikram Yoga Toronto. Twice in the Beaches and once on Bloor. Both locations had really friendly and welcoming staff, but the latter has the nicer studio. The floors at the Beaches location remind me of a kitchen linoleum, whereas the Bloor location has nice wooden floors.

Logistics aside, I really want to talk about my experience with hot yoga. Specifically, Bikram.

First, a little about Bikram.

  • It’s done in a 40 C (105F) room with 40% humidity.
  • It consists of 26 “asanas” or postures and two breathing exercises that are done twice in a row.
  • It’s 90 minutes long.
  • The combination of heat and postures are supposed to be good for blood circulation, delivering more oxygen to joints, muscles and organs.
  • Sweating is supposed to be detoxifying. One instructor pointed out the more you do bikram, the less salty your sweat will get.

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Now, I know a lot of you are wondering about the heat. Honestly? I didn’t mind it! I loved getting so sweaty, and detoxifying or not, I really did feel refreshed and rejuvenated after.

One thing about Bikram is the postures aren’t that difficult. There are no vinyasa flows or really hard warrior sequences. For the most part, they are static  poses that don’t get your heart rate up. Doing them in a normal room probably wouldn’t seem that trying, it’s really just the heat that makes it difficult.

I also never pushed myself as hard as I do in other classes because I wanted to be careful not to overdo it in the heat. In some ways I guess I was missing out because of this. Also, it’s hard to go deeper into poses when your sweating and sliding around everywhere!

Even though I liked the heat, I have to say I did not enjoy the posture series. Which for me, is key. It did get a little better with each class, but it was never something I looked forward to. I often found myself counting down the poses to just “get it over with.”

My least favourite is surprisingly the Pranayama breathing we started each class with.

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It’s this really strange throaty breathing where you have to tilt your head back. I’m sure this gets better the more you do it. But for me, I couldn’t take breaths deep enough and it hurt my neck. The instructor would say “I know this hurts but…” As a trainer, I just don’t dig the idea of purposely putting strain on your neck.

Half of the class consists of standing postures. Other torturous ones included awkward pose…

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Followed by a forward bend where you put your hands under your heels, press your elbows into your calves and press your chest against your thighs.

I clearly had to bend my knees to do this. But if you listened hard enough, you could hear me swearing under my breath going into this pose.

Svanasana in Bikram happens halfway through the class when you transition to floor postures. In most yoga classes, I breathe a sigh of relief when we move to the mat. Not in Bikram.

The 17th posture had us place our arms underneath our body with palms facing down. My arms screamed in pain every time we did this. Another instance when the instructor would say “I know this hurts, but…” We would then lift our legs off the floor. You wouldn’t have to listen hard to hear me groan and curse during this one.

Finally, some people are blessed with the ability to do backbends in yoga. I am not. It’s something else I find incredibly painful and fear for my back while doing them.

Someday I will reach my feet in camel pose. But it certainly was not happening in Bikram.

Because you do two sets of every posture in Bikram, you get a slight rest between each. For the laying series, you have to flip around and lay in svanasana for a few seconds between each posture. It felt like I was flipping on to my back every 30 seconds a million times over. I know this seems like a petty complaint. But doing that in 40 degree heat actually made me feel the most sick and dizzy in class. None of the actual postures tired me out as much as that constant flipping over onto my back.

In all, it’s quite clear that I will not be returning to Bikram. I’m definitely happy I tried it. Like I said, it’s not the heat that bothers me, I just don’t get anything out of the posture series. I’ve done Moksha hot yoga before and really enjoyed the flow of that one. The room is slightly cooler and the postures aren’t set in stone like Bikram.

After years of complaining about sun salutations and vinyasa flows, can you believe I actually missed my chaturangas??

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I can’t wait for my next Ashtanga class :)

 

Question of the Day: Have you done Bikram? What’s your favourite kind of yoga?

The Best Pancake I’ve Ever Had

The year is 1991. I am 5 years old. It’s a Saturday morning and I’m in the kitchen with my dad anxiously awaiting the rest of my family to emerge from their beds. He’s making his Saturday morning specialty. I’m hanging around like a shadow hoping he lets me take part in some step of the preparation.

My dad’s Bisquick pancakes were probably my favourite thing to touch my lips until my mom started making homemade hummus. Sometimes he would let me dump the prepared powder into the bowl. Sometimes he would hand over the whisk and indulge me while my small arms clumped the mixture. The best days were when he let me add his secret ingredient to the bowl – wheat germ.

Flash forward three years to 1994. I’m eight. Bob Marley’s Catch A Fire is playing in the background as my dad and I are preparing the weekend’s pancakes for the family. I’ve now mastered the art of making the accompanying frozen orange juice. But my whisking skills could still use some help. I see the pancakes bubbling on griddle and tell my dad it’s time to flip them. He’s impressed I know this. The art of pancake making finally clicks as I boast to my sisters, yet again, that I made the pancakes myself.

Flash forward to 2005. I’m 19. After a late night, I’m up early and eager to get in the kitchen. My friends are sleeping soundly in the living room and I’ve got an excuse to whip up my favourite pancake recipe. This one from scratch, a hand-me down from the mother of an ex-boyfriend. Followed exactly, apart from the addition of wheat germ, my dad’s ingredient.

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The year is now 2010. I’m a month away from being a quarter century old. I’ve traded my Babysitters Club books in for Harry Potter books. My taste for pancakes haven’t evolved much either in the last two decades. I still think Bisquick makes the best ones. But my healthy eating habits have me using things like oatmeal, cottage cheese and egg whites.

When I heard Mitzi’s on College had the best pancakes in Toronto it immediately shot to the top of my “to brunch at” list. It’s a long and extensive list and the top spot should be quite coveted.

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I met up with Kristin and her husband here for a late Sunday brunch. I arrived starving per usual after a CPR course. I was quite pleased to see they had a proper waiting area as most brunch places have lines out the door on weekends.

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I drooled over the specials and briefly toyed with the idea of trying something else. French toast? Smoked chicken omelette? Smoked salmon scramble?

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But in the end, it was the pancake my heart was after. Mitzi’s Famous Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancake: Topped with apple cider caramel and toasted shaved almonds. Served with home fries, fresh fruit, pure maple syrup & fresh whipped cream.

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I thought it strange that it was just one pancake with a few potatoes and pieces of fruit. But my eyes deceived me, for this thing was a beast.

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The texture was light and fluffy. They must grind the oatmeal as it was comparable to soft cornbread. The maple syrup wasn’t drizzled over top, but rather saturated into the pancake. Every bite had a hint of sweet maple, made even sweeter by the caramel topping.

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Can we talk about how thick it was? Taller than my fork! Kristin and I had a serious discussion about this. We think it might be done in small pans that are put in the oven. It took me a while to eat. Not only because of its sheer size, but because I wanted to savour every sweet fluffy bite.

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When you’re eating the best pancake of your life you don’t hold back. This is one Toronto foodie experience I will never forget. As another decade passes, I won’t think about calories, sugar, or serving sizes. Much like I didn’t when I was a kid. Rather, I’ll remember that rainy Sunday afternoon on College Street when I ate the pancake that trumped my dad’s.

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Shout-out to Mitzi’s coffee. A delicious blend they roast themselves.

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And my dining mates. Thank you for the awesome afternoon! For indulging me in pancake talk, between talks of hometowns, sailing and of course, sardines ;)

 

Question of the Day: How do you like your pancakes? Fluffy? Crispy? Sweet with maple? Topped with fruit? Mitzi’s may have changed my mind with their thick pancake. Previously, I preferred thin crispy cakes dipped in maple and molasses.

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