Archive for August, 2011

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Toronto Café Tour: Mylk Uncookies

August 19, 2011

Usually, I like to keep my Toronto Café Tour reviews short and sweet: that’s part of the idea behind the series. But since today’s review is of Mylk Uncookies, a Cabbagetown café specializing in raw and vegan treats (!!), I thought I’d say a little more than usual, in appreciation of their accommodating menu, and their awesomeness. I’ll still keep to the same format as normal, though. Anyway, here’s what I thought…

Latte: One of the things that sets Mylk Uncookies apart from other cafés is that they make their own almond milk (or ‘mylk’, if you’re a fan of vegan lexicography). And fittingly, this almond milk gets used in their lattes. Although I usually prefer soy milk in my lattes (I’ve had some pretty lousy experiences with (boxed) almond milk lattes in the past), I was more than willing to give MU’s in-house blend ($3.75) a shot, and I was very pleased with what I got. The flavor of my drink was definitely different from a soy latte, but not in a bad way. The almond milk had a fullness and richness that you don’t usually find in boxed almond milks, and it made for a really drinkable and satisfying drink. I also appreciated the nonobjectivist latte art.

Wifi: Yes!

Atmosphere: The interior of Mylk Uncookies is bright, clean, spacious, and welcoming (if a little predictable in its decor). There are plenty of tables and comfortable chairs, as well as a bookshelf sporting a few boardgames, making this a perfect place to come and while away a few hours, alone or with friends. (And, if you’re wondering, that graphic novel sitting on my table is a copy of Jeffrey Brown’s Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations, a thoroughly wonderful book.)

Food: As if the in-house almond milk lattes weren’t a big enough draw already, Mylk Uncookies also offers a wide array of vegan and raw treats. Their menu is not entirely vegan (as I was misled into believing from this Torontoist review), but I’d say about half of what they have on offer is, which is awesome. When I visited I chose two treats from their display case…

…this peanut butter chocolate bar ($2.75)…

…and this lucuma macaroon ($2)!

Starting from the bottom and working my way up, I thought the lucuma macaroon was very nice. It was super petite, but also very dense, making it a surprisingly filling treat for its size. I think I would’ve preferred if it were a little dense and more chewy, actually, but the taste was awesome. And it’s raw! So even more awesome!

The peanut butter chocolate bar was also very good. I’m a sucker for the peanut butter chocolate flavor combination, so this was an easy sell for me. Again, the taste was superb, but I would’ve preferred the bottom peanut butter layer to be a little chewier; the top chocolate layer, on the other hand, was divine.

In addition, they had a few other vegan offerings in their display case when I was there: a cocoa macaroon and a little vegan cheesecake round. Normally they seem to have some more breakfast-y vegan baked goods as well, but these were all well sold out by the time I got there in the afternoon.

Final Verdict: So, if it’s not obvious already, I really liked Mylk Uncookies. It was more than worth the thirty-some-odd-minute bike ride it took me to get there from Christie Pits, and despite the distance, I fully expect to be back. You should visit too! You won’t be disappointed.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Summer Corn & Coconut Soup (from Choosing Raw)

August 18, 2011

Sometimes, things just work out perfectly. Like when one of your favorite food blogs just so happens to post a new recipe in the morning which not only looks delicious but also calls for precisely the ingredients you have left over from your dinner the night before. Anyway, that’s my story with the summer corn and coconut soup you see below, whose recipe was just posted on Choosing Raw earlier this week. Having a couple of ears of corn remaining from my weekend farmers’ market and a half a can of coconut left over from my zucchini farfalle dinner party, I was already well on my way to having this soup on my table. With the simple addition of an onion and a bell pepper, I had all I needed to whip up this easy breezy summer soup!

All I have to say here is that this soup is really great, and you should definitely try it out for yourself. I really liked the pairing here with the coconut milk and curry powder. I added a fair amount of pepper to mine to give it an extra kick, but it would totally work with a mellower flavor profile, too. Plus, it is very good just slightly heated up (and it’s not even that bad chilled), which makes it an even more appropriate dish for summer, which is, of course, the perfect time for it, seeing as corn is so super delicious (not to mention super affordable) right now.

So I hope you guys give this soup a try as well! It really is a snap to make, and it’ll make these last days of summer healthier and happier (and, I guess, cornier). Ciao!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Restaurant Review: Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches

August 17, 2011

Hi folks!

If you live in Toronto, you may already know about Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches, a casual little second-floor sandwich shop located in the Mirvish Village / Koreatown area on Bloor West. The ostensible premise for the restaurant is a quirky one: Every sandwich on the menu is named after a song by contemporary altrock supergroup Wilco! Admittedly, some of the sandwich titlings work better than others: the ‘Secret of the Sea’ is a tuna salad nicoise, and ‘She’s a Jar’ is an almond butter sammy, but ‘Hell is Chrome’ is, inexplicably, a deviled-egg salad (not that I have any idea of what sort of food would better fit that song title). Nonetheless, I love the concept, especially seeing that I’ve been a Wilco fan for ages. It’s a lot of fun to be able to decide your lunch based on what song you like—and a big help to typically indecisive menu-orderers like me.

But quirkiness alone does not a good sandwich shop make. How, then, do Sky Blue Sky’s sandwiches stack up? First off, it should be noted that there are a lot of them. Indeed, one of the biggest draws to Sky Blue Sky in my opinion is the sheer variety and creativity of their menu. Even setting aside the fifteen meat-, fish-, or egg-based sammies, there are still eleven veg*n options, two of which are always vegan, and many more of which could easily be made so, by switching up the bread or leaving out the cheese. But even more importantly, the staff has always been friendly and knowledgeable when I’ve asked about what’s vegan and what’s not, which is very, very appreciated.

Secondly, Sky Blue Sky sandwiches are cheap. Nothing on the menu is more than $5, and I think this price tag has to be kept in mind, because, although the sandwiches are plenty good, I have to say that they’re not out-of-this-world good. Take, for example, the sandwich I got at my last visit: the ‘Via Chicago’, or “roasted onions and chickpeas with a hint of curry topped with mango chutney and a tomato on French bread”…

Sounds good, right? And it was. However, it definitely had a few flaws: For instance, the temperature of the sandwich was inconsistent, with the toasted bread and onions being warm and the chickpeas and tomato being cool. Also, the mango chutney flavor did not really come through at all for me. But then again, it was a $5 sandwich, and named after one of my favorite Wilco songs. So I really can’t complain.

I had a similar reaction to the sandwich I tried on my previous visit: the ‘Wishful Thinking’, Sky Blue Sky’s take on a portobello burger. Again, the sandwich was good, but it sorta feel flat for me in the end, and did not taste much better than something I could’ve put together at home. But for $5, it was a really good deal.

Sky Blue Sky has a few things beyond sandwiches on the menu, as well: a couple of soups if you’re looking for a starter, and a few sweet treats if you’re looking a little dessert. Again, the same generalization that applied to their sandwiches applies here: the soups and sweets are not incredible, but they are good and affordable, and the staff can helpfully tell you which are vegan and which are not.

Finally, the restaurant definitely scores points for its decor: its walls are appropriately covered with framed Wilco posters and concert banners, and the entire space feels very cozy, with a wide array of seating options (many in front of a second-story window overlooking Bloor) and a couple of bookcases filling out the space. And no, the stereo doesn’t play Wilco the whole time, in case you were wondering.

So that’s my take on Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches. While it may not offer the most extraordinary sandwiches, my overall experience there has always been very enjoyable, and when you’re on a $5 lunch budget, you could certainly do much, much worse (especially on Bloor West). And as Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy himself said upon his visit to the restaurant, “Lunch was really good, but, to be honest, I prefer their earlier, more experimental sandwiches.” Check out Sky Blue Sky for yourself!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: Tequila Bookworm

August 16, 2011

Sorry for the recent deluge of café reviews here; I’ve finally been getting around to backblogging previous visits as part of my summer series. Today’s café is Tequila Bookworm, located on Queen West between Bathurst and Spadina.

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Latte: Before I say much about my drink, I should clarify that Tequila Bookworm is actually a bar/restaurant/café, and I’m not really sure which identity they’re trying hardest at. At any rate, I hope it’s not their café one, because the latte I got was pretty flat-out bad, as you may be able to tell by the above picture. The only upside was that it was also fairly cheap, costing only $3.15.

Wifi: Yes!

Atmo: So perhaps I was really the one in the error, choosing to visit in the late afternoon on a Friday, but when I was there Tequila Bookworm definitely felt like a bar, and not at all like a café. There was fairly loud music playing the whole time and the entire atmosphere was just not at all relaxing. I have no idea what it’s like midday, but I have to imagine it’s better.

Food: They have a full menu, but I didn’t bother to look.

Final Verdict: Based on this initial experience, I have to say that Tequila Bookworm is not for me. Even if the atmosphere is more comfortable and café-like during the early afternoon, the latte itself was such a disappointment that I have no reason to come back and try again. If there are any die-hard TQ fans out there, though, please set me straight! You’ll probably be able to get me to go back—I succumb fairly easily to peer pressure.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Vegan Dinner Parties Made Easy: Zucchini Farfalle

August 15, 2011

Hello faithful readers!

Today I have a quick and easy recipe to share with you, which I think is perfect for any end-of-summer vegan dinner parties you may be throwing. The dish is Creamy Zucchini Farfalle, as recently featured on Vegan Dad’s wonderful blog. From start to finish, the whole thing took me no more than 45 minutes to prepare, and the preparation itself is very simple (it requires a blender, but nothing more complicated than that): First, you make a creamy sauce out of tofu, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, and boiled zucchini; and second, you mix that in with some farfalle (bowtie) pasta.* And that’s it! The taste is there, too: perhaps not out of this world, but a solid pasta dish with a full-bodied vegetable flavor. I think this recipe works especially well for dinner parties where you’ll be serving both veg*ns and omnis, as it’s a very accessible dish and does not feel like a imitation of anything traditionally meat-based. And summer really is the perfect time for it, as not only is it light and fresh, it also makes good use of the surfeit of local zucchini you can currently find at summer farmers’ markets.

Though actually, I should point out that I did not in fact use zucchini when I made this dish, because it’s late August in Ontario, and as far as I can tell from my local farmers’ market, late August in Ontario seems to be the season of wacky looking summer squashes, and so I used this wacky looking summer squash in lieu of some less wacky zucchini (what can I say, sometimes I just buy vegetables that look neat):

The recipe worked just as well with this. Keep it in mind for your next vegan dinner party—I hope you and your guests enjoy it!

Until we eat again,

Willie

*Did you know? Despite the fact that farfalle is commonly known as bowtie pasta in the English-speaking world, its name is actually derived from the Italian word for butterfly, farfalla. Though one may quite naturally assume that the English misnomer is the result of an alternative interpretation of the pasta’s shape, in truth the name dates back to the early 19th century, when dried and pressed butterflies were actually worn as fashionable bowties. (Pressed moths, being slightly less extravagant, were sold as an affordable women’s brooch.)†

†Not actually true.‡

‡Though farfalla is the Italian word for butterfly.

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Toronto Café Tour: Capital Espresso

August 14, 2011

Who’s in the mood for a Toronto café review? Well I got one! Today’s location is Capital Espresso down near Queen West and Lansdowne, and it’s wonderful! Here’s why…

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Latte: Okay, so obviously this latte art is beautiful. But that doesn’t count for much. Fortunately, this latte, which cost a reasonable $3.75, was very good, despite being a bit small. I was also happy to see that Capital Espresso uses So Nice soymilk in their lattes, my preferred Canadian brand of soymilk. They even use So Nice’s speciality “Barista Blend”, although I’m not really sure what makes that different. Anyway: awesome latte.

Wifi: Yes!

Atmo: Wonderful. Several nice wooden populate the spacious inner space, offering plenty of room to work or relax. Just the sort of atmosphere I look for in a café.

Food: There were only slim pickings on their menu, and by the time I got there in the afternoon, there was nothing left in the case. Capital Espresso really seems to be more about the espresso, and that’s fine.

Final Verdict: Two thumbs up! I really couldn’t be much more pleased by my visit to Capital Espresso, and I look forward to the next time I’ll be back.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: The Communal Mule

August 13, 2011

Back again with another quick Toronto café review, this time from The Communal Mule, on Dundas West right by Trinity Bellwoods Park. Here’s what I thought…

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Latte: $4.79! $4.79 for a single soy latte! Now, they did charge 50 cents extra for the soy milk, but I’m against that on principle, so it’s no excuse. $4.79 is exorbitant. However, the latte did taste very, very good. Creamy, but with a great espresso flavor. So I didn’t feel like I got totally ripped off. But $4.79. Seriously.

Wifi: Yes! (However, I did notice it being a little slow on my smartphone.)

Atmosphere: Small, but still felt spacious. Not very crowded and fairly quiet when I was there. Good number of tables and chairs. Fairly hip, but that’s how I like it.

Food: A moderate assortment of baked goods, none clearly marked as vegan however. Looked good though. Not that I had any more money to spend after that latte.

Final Verdict: Why is the Common Mule sooo expensive?? Well, the price tag does probably limit the clientele and keep the place from being overrun, which is a good thing. But I cannot afford $5 for a single soy latte, even though theirs was delicious. But if you’re looking to splurge a bit, the Common Mule isn’t a bad choice.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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