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Check Ya Later T.O.

Well my friends, I officially say goodbye to Toronto Thursday morning. I’m taking a train to Ottawa for my final check-in with my surgeon on Friday. Then I fly home on Sunday where I’ll be staying… For good!

When I first decided to move home around Christmastime, this is certainly not the goodbye I had anticipated. I planned on working until the last minute and tearing the city up in my spare time.

Instead, I’ve spent three of my last six weeks in Ottawa recovering from surgery and meeting with doctors. The days I have spent in Toronto have been noticeably low key. Read: no partying in the big city (not that I, ugh, like to, ugh, party or anything).

In some ways though, my injury has been a bit of a blessing. I haven’t been able to work or workout during these last weeks. Instead, I’ve spent many hours walking around the neighbourhoods of Toronto soaking it all in. I’ve spent a lot of time in my own neighbourhood, which I never really did before. I leave feeling quite relaxed, even if it’s without a bang.

Tuesday night, my roommies and I hosted a “Susan’s Leaving” potluck.

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This is the only picture of the three of us! Megan, me, Jocelyn. Ignore me awkwardly holding my injured arm.

As a side note, I’m wearing this sweater. I love it. Expensive, and worth every single penny. Makes staying warm with my injured arm a million times easier.

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Anyways, the potluck. We ended up with tons of great food, despite the fact that everyone showed up with bread.

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I think we had four loaves? Earlier in the day, Meg had the last minute idea to cook meat. Thank god she did. These pork chops were the only protein we had! Ever notice that no one brings protein to potlucks?

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Pardon the blurry pics. This isn’t everything, just a few highlights!

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Balsamic strawberries. Saucy chickpeas.

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My best hummus yet:

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2 cans chickpeas + 1 jar Classico pesto + 2 cloves garlic + a dash of lemon juice + a handful of fresh basil leaves. Seriously, make this now. So flipping easy.

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Tabbouleh! I had a bag of bulgur in my cupboard I’d been stressed about using up before I leave. Now instead of a bag of bulgur, I have a ginormous bowl of tabbouleh. Not sure how I feel about that trade-off.

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Beer!! Can you believe I have not had a single drink since the Maritime Kitchen Party? My accident happened the weekend after that, and drinking since then has been dicey. I made sure I didn’t take any painkillers for 24 hours before this party so I could indulge in a brew! Callie brought me this Blue Moon from the States. I may or may not have squealed when I saw it :)

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My plate! A little bit of everything. Of course, the best part was dessert…

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These cookies made by Callie were definitely the highlight of the party. A soft chocolate cookie stuffed with marshmallow fluff and topped with a peanut butter frosting. Basically, my dream cookie.

Afterwards my friends and I went to a sketchy bar down the street called The Duke. Best known for a fatal shooting that happened there a few years ago. It’s a class act. We spent most of the night talking about journalism-y things seeing as most of us are ex J-schoolers. I’m going to miss my old university friends here in Toronto!!

But if there’s one place that I had to go to in my ‘hood before leaving, it was Strat’s.

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Stratenger’s was one of the first places I ate at in Toronto (read here) and now it will be my last! It’s not necessarily a classy joint either. Just a big, comfortable bar with pretty good food.

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I’ve only ever had their salads, but I’ve heard lots about their pizzas. Cooked in a stone pizza oven. Today was the day to try one!

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Megan and I split the Tandoori Chicken with spicy chicken pieces and hot peppers. Wonderfully spicy, flavourful sauce, lots of cheese and extra crispy crust. Pretty damn good actually.

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Nothing too exciting for my last day in Toronto, but it’s just the way I wanted it. These last nine months have been some of the most intense of my life. I’m looking forward to being home again and getting back into the relaxed pace of the Maritimes :)

As side note, thank you for all the encouraging comments on my last post. I just want to say, I did not write that post for sympathy. I know you all know me better than that. It was just a topic weighing very heavily on my mind, and writing it out felt good!

See you from Ottawa!!

Schooled

Remember when I proclaimed The Grilled Cheese the coolest restaurant idea in Toronto? I still maintain that proclamation, but that doesn’t mean School Bakery & Cafe doesn’t come pretty darn close.

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Located just on the outskirts of Liberty Village, School was a bit of an afterthought on my Toronto Bucket List. Reader Joanne suggested it in the comments and I was reminded of reading reviews on it a while back.

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Being on the other end of the city (it’s way out West, I come from the East), I wasn’t sure if I’d find the time to make it there. My friends and I already had Sunday brunch plans for this week. Which meant I’d have to be motivated enough to get there on my own for a solo weekday brunch.

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Until we realized that we could brunch on Saturday too. What a novel idea – both days of the weekend! I immediately suggested this place and my friends agreed upon seeing the spectacular menu.

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We arrived around 12:45pm to a line-up out the door. Waiting for brunch in this city is just the norm. That’s why it’s always best to go with a small group of friends. The smaller the party, the faster you’ll get seated!

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I loved this place the second we made it inside the door. Unlike other cramped brunch places in the city, School is made up of two large rooms. Including a garage-type door they open up for a patio in the summer. There’s also the open kitchen concept, which I lovelovelove.

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The decor of School is just that – reminiscent of being in a school down to the very last detail. Chalkboards and books line the walls. It’s even inside an institutional looking building that reminds me of an actual school.

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Let’s not forget the projectors playing silent Betty Boop cartoons…

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Or the apple centerpiece on every table…

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But the menu is where School really shines through, not just the loose-leaf it’s printed on.

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It’s divided into two sections. Sweet n’ Fruity:

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Salt n’ Savoury:

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My friends, this was a hard decision. I studied this menu like any good student would. I went back and forth between Super Cheesy French Toast, Smoked Salmon Endive Salad, or maybe the Upstream Benni?

Roommie Megan went for the first choice – Super Cheesy French Toast.

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With double smoked bacon, maple syrup and greens. This was probably the thickest sliced French toast I’ve ever seen. Still incredibly light and fluffy though. The gooey cheese was actually the perfect compliment to the eggy bread, and the maple syrup made it the perfect blend of sweet & savoury.

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The boys went for the Melted Gooey Four Cheese Omelet Soufflé. They said it was a lot like a fluffy egg pancake.

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And what did I finally decide on?

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That would be the Spiced Benni on Cheddar Chive Biscuit served with back bacon, chipotle hollandaise and home fries.

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I asked for the hollandaise on the side as I don’t actually like it. But I spread a little on top just to get the spiciness of it. The eggs came out perfectly poached and runny. The bacon in thick slices. Then there was the biscuit.

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Hands down, the best part of the meal was the biscuit. It was even a little spicy. The perfect size and shape for the benni, and didn’t turn to mush under the bacon and runny eggs.

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The home fries were spectacular to boot. Crisp and slightly black on the outside, soft on the inside. Not too greasy and the perfect two-bite size.

Apart from their brunch, I’d also heard good things about School’s bakery. Something I was easily convinced of as soon as I tried their biscuit. So just as we were about to get the bill, I asked for an extra treat to-go. Something I drooled over as we stood waiting to get in earlier.

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That my friends, is a Nutella scone (also pictured earlier in the post). I spent all afternoon walking down Yonge St. with it in my purse. Like, from Lawrence to Bloor stations. Just over four miles. I thought for sure I’d destroyed this thing of beauty during my wanderings, ripping into it immediately when I got home.

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The scones had been just pulled out of the oven when the waitress gave this to me. I popped it in the microwave for a few seconds. Long enough to make the chocolate flavour stand out and the nutella on top to melt. It was very soft for a scone without the sweetness of a cake. A little spice in there too. This, and a side of celery may have been my dinner on Saturday…

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Overall, School gets a passing grade. I will say the wait to get our food was longer than acceptable, and they did mess up one of our orders. The price is also a little high for brunch. I don’t normally spend 20 bucks on breakfast (or err, “second breakfast” in this case). Still though, totally worth the trip and price for the one-time experience.

I have one more Toronto brunch review to do, then I plan on doing a post featuring my top brunch spots and dishes. You’ll just have to wait to see how School shaped up compared to the rest of the class ;)

Celebrations & Grilled Cheese

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

It’s been quite the week for holidays:
March 14: Pi Day (aka 3.14)
March15: Ides of March
March 17: St. Patty’s Day!

I hope you’ve been able to celebrate at least one of these. I did on Monday. It all started on a very spring-like day and a trip to Toronto’s Kensington Market.

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Going to Kensington is like being transported to another country. It’s a few square blocks in the centre of the city filled with bright colours, loud music, and open storefronts filled with cheap merchandise. It also reeks of patchouli, if you catch my drift.

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Our destination was a place I’ve been dying to go to ever since the first week I moved to Toronto.

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Yes, a place dedicated solely to the art of making grilled cheese sandwiches. Probably one of my favourite restaurant ideas ever.

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It’s this little spot with picnic tables inside and outside. Brilliant woodworking throughout and a wall of creepy pickled items.

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My partners in crime for the day included my sister Sara. Too cute that she’s sipping on a box of apple juice – it’s what our dad always packed in our lunches as kids!

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And of course my roommie Megan, who has courageously joined me in eating my way through my Toronto Bucket List.

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Now, I’ve always been a bit of a grilled cheese purist. Bread, butter, cheese. Anything else is just a regular grilled sandwich. Regardless, I was pretty pumped to see how creative they’d get with the menu. Let’s go in for a close up, shall we?

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They all came served with lightly seasoned salt & vinegar chips and a tasty dill pickle. Mind you, we had to wait a long time for the sandwiches to arrive. I had no idea a grilled cheese took so long to assemble?

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Sara ordered the Dill-licious: dill havarti, basil pesto, sundried tomato, onion along with the addition of turkey.

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I tried a bite. Holy flavourful!

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Megan went for the Mushroom Madness: Cheddar, grilled portobello, cremini with the addition of tomato.

I had mushroom on the mind as well, going for the Grill Worx: Provolone, swiss, portobello, roasted red pepper, onion.

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On thick sliced white bread, buttered and crisped to perfection. A perfect bread-to-cheese ratio and all quality tasting cheese. My only complaint is that my toppings were piled high in the centre of the sandwich and not spread around evenly.

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My dad says buttering the outside of the sandwich instead of the griddle is the key to a good grilled cheese. They don’t quite live up to his grilled cheese, but I’d say definitely second best! Also worth the $6 price tag. With the chips and pickle, this meal made for a very satisfying lunch.

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But as I said, this outing occurred on Monday. And we all know what Monday was ;)

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Just up the street on Augusta Ave in Kensington is a place called Wanda’s Pie In The Sky. A bakery with a variety of offerings, but specializing in one of my favourite foods – pie!

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My sister and I ordered one slice to split and they gave us one giant slice split in two!!

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We opted for strawberry rhubarb flavour because I’d never had rhubarb before. I must admit, it wasn’t my favourite. A little too bitter and not enough crust.

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We continued on through Kensington, stopping to buy some ridiculous $5 sunglasses on display. A perfect way to celebrate Pi Day if you ask me :)

As for St. Patrick’s Day, I’m back on painkillers for the time being. I’m off to celebrate with friends, but there’s no green beer on tap for me. Regardless, I still showed my green…

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Thank you to Janetha for the awesome handmade “fashion sling”! I definitely perked my spirits this St. Patty’s Day :)

 

Question of the Day: Did you celebrate any of the holidays this week?

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