• [Fitness] ClassPass Toronto

    ClassPass is a fitness subscription service that gets you "unlimited monthly classes at the best fitness studios and gyms in Toronto. With just one monthly subscription you can work out at Studio Lagree, Track Fitness, Barreworks, Quad Spinning, Hard Candy Fitness, IAM Yoga, Body Harmonics, Barre3, Yoga Tree, Spynga, Core Studio, and over 80 others all over the city!" for a low price of $99 per month."

  • [Food Post] Paramount Fine Foods

    Paramount Fine Foods is a popular Middle Eastern and Mediterranean chain of restaurants with several locations in Ontario. Their newest location on the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Bay Street in Yorkville just opened up yesterday. Additionally, the new 4,500 square feet location is the first full-service halal restaurant in the Yorkville area.

  • [Tech + App] Grabb

    Grabb is a free Toronto-based mobile app that allows users to pre-order and pre-pay for food. The app is easy to use with its user-friendly interface that allows users to browse through the list of restaurants and their menus, select their order, and then securely pay for their order with just a few clicks. Additionally, the app also features a virtual queue, where you are able to see how many other people using the Grabb app are ahead of you.

  • [Food Post] Han Ba Tang

    Han Ba Tang opened up earlier this summer, and is one of the latest additions to the Yonge and Sheppard area. The name translates to meaning "one full round" in Korean and is like a Korean-styled izakaya (or pojangmacha). I was invited to their bloggers' media tasting to preview some of their menu items.

  • [Food Post] Jacobs and Co.

    Jacobs and Co. Steakhouse has a very sizable steak selection which are visibly displayed in a glass container at the front. The glass contains dry-aged beef with information tags on them (name, date, etc ...) for customers to choose from.

  • [Food Post] Sake Bar Kushi

    We were provided with a few items from their regular menu and June specials menu. Not only do they serve kushi (skewered poultry and non-poultry), but they also offer a great variety of tapas styled dishes that are meant to be shared

  • [Travel] Satsuki and Mei's House from Totoro

    My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 animated production written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It's a childhood favorite of many people and I have seen many shops dedicated to selling Totoro merchandise while in Japan.

  • [Food Post] Canoe Restaurant + Bar

    Canoe is one of Toronto's critically acclaimed restaurants offering upscale Canadian cuisine. It is located on the 54th floor of Toronto Dominion Bank Towers in the financial district. As it is relatively high up; its beautifully designed dining room offers a spectacular view of the city's skyline.

  • [Food Post] Au Pied de Cochon

    One of the great appeals of the restaurant is their extensive menu. The menu at Au Pied de Cochon offers concoction of dishes that entails the uses of animal parts that are not always found in other restaurants.

  • [Travel] Day #15 in Japan [Koyasan]

    A shukubo is an accommodation that allows you to stay in a Japanese temple or shrine for the night, and enables you to experience the culture. You are given your own personal room, and there are multiple washroom facilities throughout the temple.

Shamrock Burgers

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Shamrock Burgers was established in 1970 by Mr. Danny Maleganeas, and has since grown to four locations (3 in Ontario, and 1 in Alberta). I was kindly invited to check out the original location in Scarborough, ON, a couple of weeks ago. I arrived to the restaurant after work, and was greeted by the manager, Michelle, and the owner of the Shamrock Burgers franchise, Greg. Previously, I was in contact with Mike, who handles their social media, and he had prepared a few of their popular menu items for me to taste that day. I was surprised at the amount of food that was presented to me, as I thought that it was super generous of them to do so. 

 

Shamrock Burgers is a local burger joint whose core menu consists of homemade fast food items such as burgers, fries, prime rib steak on a bun, chicken wrap, poutine, chicken souvlaki, and much more. Their goal is to offer a "fun, friendly and interactive rock and roll experience coupled with great homemade food to their customers". Overall, they have stayed true to their initial principles of using quality ingredients, and providing fresh made to order meals.


The ordering process was quite straightforward. Consumers would order and pay up front at the cash register. It's also interesting to note that Shamrock Burgers has kept the same recipes for both their homemade burgers, and onion rings since they first launched in the 70's. Both items have proven to be a staple, and are one of the most popular items on the menu.


I find that onion rings ($3.69) at many fast food restaurants are misses, as they are heavily battered with insanely thin strips of onions. The homemade ones found at Shamrock Burgers are rather good, as there was a good balance of batter, flavor, and it was crispy golden brown.


The poutine ($5.39) was a solid side, and filled with a generous amount of cheese curds, and gravy. Some of the fries on the bottom were a little soggy, as this wasn't the first item that I tried, but it was still very good.


Shamrock Burgers' menu consists of several burger options and combos. The one that I got to try was their Rock Star (6 oz) ($6.79) burger. If you decide to opt for a combo instead, it comes with fries or onion rings, and a small soft drink. I was pleasantly pleased with the size of the burger, and it was generously topped with all of the works as well. The burger itself was definitely not lacking in flavor, as the beef patty was well-seasoned. The 6 oz burger was juicy, and came with two strips of crispy bacon, and fried onions. They also have over 20 free toppings to choose from, which is always a nice bonus.

Shamrock Burgers are also part of the Vicinity loyalty program, where 10 points earn you 1 free class rock burger (1 burger = 1 point).


I thought that the Greek salad ($4.99) was pretty standard.


 I liked how the menu was not limited to just burgers, and fries. Rather, the menu offers a little more variety than the average casual burger joints in the area, as they also have prime rib steak on a bun, chicken wrap, chicken souvlaki, and Philly cheese steak. Another item that I tried was the grilled chicken wrap ($6.95). Large sliced chunks of grilled chicken were nestled in a mix of tomatoes, onions, and sauce, and then wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. Personally, I liked that they did not skimp out on the chunks of chicken, and it was juicy.

 

The last item on their menu that I tried was the Double Decker Grilled Cheese ($12.99); one of their two new 8 oz gourmet burgers. It was quite massive that I couldn't finish it up at the restaurant, so I had the rest packed up to go. The beef patty was sandwiched between lots of toppings, bacon, melted cheese, and 4 slices of golden brown bread. The bread had a decent amount of thickness, so the ratio between the bread slices, and patty wasn't too bad. This was an overall tasty grilled cheese burger, and definitely filling. 


Shamrock Burgers' interior was small with only a few tables, as a majority of their local customers order take-outs. Overall, it was a fast-casual atmosphere with a mixture of "rock and roll" and Irish themed decor. Additionally, since the restaurant has been an institution in the east end of Scarborough, they also have memorabilia framed photos of the local youth hockey teams (throughout the years) hanging on their walls when you enter. It's a little nostalgic, especially if you grew up eating at the establishment. 

In regards to the service, both the staff, and owner, were very friendly and accommodating. I saw many regulars coming in and out of Shamrock Burgers with their take-out orders, as the staff knew their names, and made small talks. Shamrock Burgers is quite far from my residence, but it's an overall solid family-owned fast food establishment. Hopefully, they will open a location downtown sometime in the future, as I definitely would visit again. Lastly, I would like to thank everyone at Shamrock Burgers for their warm hospitality throughout my visit.


Address: 6109 Kingston Rd, Scarborough, ON M1C 1K5

Social Media:

Website: http://shamrockburgers.com/

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

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Crave Healthy Habits

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If you're craving for a healthier alternative to the traditional fast food in the downtown core, then I highly recommend Crave Healthy Habits. They are a chain serving healthy fast food with three locations all located downtown. The company aims to offer healthy food choices that are both nutritious and tasty, yet at affordable prices. I recently had the opportunity to visit the location that's on the concourse level of the Richmond-Adelaide Centre to check out some of their offerings. This specific location was more of a take-out counter, and most of their customers work within the PATH. They recently opened up their third location at the TD Centre this past week. This new one has a few seats available if you wanted to dine in.


I liked that Crave Healthy Habits' meal boxes consist of organic, locally-sourced ingredients, and are made fresh to order. I believe that it's a solid option for vegetarians, vegans, and healthy eaters alike. One way that they have stood out from their competitors is that they have perfected the par-steaming technique to prepare their hot boxes. Par-steaming enables the vegetables to retain its nutrients, while still leaving them crunchy, and flavorful.


Their menu consists of two main options; steamed boxes (hot) or cool boxes (cold). Each box comes with your choice of either organic quinoa or brown rice, and two in-house dressings that are meant to complement all of the ingredients together. There is also the option to add a protein (chicken breast, salmon, tofu or tempeh) to the box for an extra charge.

I preferred hot foods, so the steamed boxes stood out to me. I opted for the Californication ($8.19) - napa cabbage, snow peas, corn, rainbow peppers, alfalfa sprouts, peanuts, sesame seeds + fresh coriander, quinoa or brown rice, which came with honey sesame + thai peanut. Customers have the choice to add a protein to their box; grilled chicken breast, salmon, tofu, or tempeh. I chose to add salmon to my steamed box, which was marinated and grilled in-house. I really enjoyed the salmon, as it was seasoned perfectly, and cooked to my liking. All boxes come with two signature dressings that are carefully crafted to enhance the flavor of the food. The Californication box was definitely enhanced by the two accompanied sauces, which added a very tangy flavor to it when mixed.



I also got to try the Il Padrino ($9.50) - zucchini pasta, massaged kale, brussels sprout, pico de gallo, sweet potatoes, pecans, cilantro, lime juice, which was accompanied by garlic free basil pesto + extra virgin olive oil. The zucchini pasta was a great alternative to carbs, as this caters to a lower-carb and gluten-free diet. The salad was also well-portioned with fresh quality ingredients, and a generous amount of tempeh (traditional soy product).
 




There are also a few breakfast options available at Crave Healthy Habits. I got the Yogurt Parfait ($3.54) - house-made yogurt, honey, pecans + seasonal fruits. This gluten-free dessert contained low-fat yogurt topped off with fresh fruits, and nuts. This would be an excellent item for a healthy breakfast on the go.

everyday snack/breakfas


Overall, Crave Healthy Habits was a clean and friendly spot to quickly grab a healthy meal, or snack. The 120 Adelaide Street West location is opened Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 4 pm, and closed on the weekends.

Social Media:

Website: http://www.ucrave.ca/

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

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[Brunch] A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro

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I was invited back to A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro to try their updated brunch menu a couple of weeks ago. The dining room was rather spacious, and I loved the natural light that illuminated through the windows. The overall ambiance was modern, cozy, and bright. A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro is located on the third floor of the Gardiner Museum, and is a great spot to grab lunch or brunch. My guest, and I, were quickly seated by the hostess, and perused the menu while we waited for our server. The brunch menu featured a variety of classic brunch choices such as pancakes or waffles, grilled cheese sandwich, eggs and sausages, egg benedict, smoked salmon benny, etc ...


The restaurant is open for both brunch and lunch, and offers a Bistro inspired menu. Additional, the dining room was beautifully decorated with an elegant atmosphere. The space used to house a cafe run by Chef Jamie Kennedy until 2013 when Toronto caterer, À la Carte Kitchen, was handed control over it. Since then, they have transformed the space, and serving up delicious food. Please note that if you are a member of the Gardiner Museum, you will also receive 10% off on food items.  


 Brunch at A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro began with a plate of bread accompanied by EVOO and Za'atar spice (Lebanese spice). I have never been a fan of dipping bread in olive oil, but the Lebanese spice made such a difference in the taste, and texture. It just simply blended well with the olive oil, and bread.


The soupe du jour was the chilled cream soup with green peas ($4). 



 For my brunch item, I opted for the egg benedict - soft poached egg, English muffin, pea meal bacon, hollandaise, and home fries ($19). The execution of the egg benedict was simply done, but it was done well. The beautifully poached eggs were carefully placed on top of the English muffin, and oozed as it was pierced by my fork. The hollandaise was a great addition, and blended well with the ingredients used on the egg benedict. However, I'd have liked if they added some greens to the dish, as I thought the portion of the side salad was too much for me alone. 


Photo courtesy of Derek Genova from A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro
Photo courtesy of Derek Genova from A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro
I also got a side order of salad ($6), as I needed some greens with my meal.


 J got the daily special, which was appropriately titled The One That Couldn't Get Away - 2 pieces of crab cakes on a bed of greens ($18). Crab cakes are often composed of crab meat and various other seafood ingredients, and seasoning. The ones from A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro contained a mixture of salmon, halibut, sea bass, and lobster tail. The crab cakes were crisp and golden on the outside, while moist on the inside. Additionally, J thought that the portion was rather generous, and he had a filling meal.



The overall component of the dishes were good, and we had an enjoyable brunch at A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro. Food came out at a slower pace, but the service was amazing. Our server, Andre, was incredibly attentive, funny, and efficient. He was overall a very personable guy, and we felt comfortable around him. I'd like to thank all of the staff from A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro for their warm hospitality, as we felt very welcomed.

Photo courtesy of Derek Genova from A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro
Lastly, A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro is also participating in this summer's Summerlicious ($18 for a three course meal - lunch only). More information here.

Address: 111 Queens Park Toronto, ON, M5S 2C7 (Gardiner Museum, 3rd Floor)
 

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

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[App] Ritual

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 Cashless payments have become more prominent these past few years, as the world is now more digitally advanced. Personally, I have several apps downloaded on my iPhone to make life easier for myself. So, I was interested in using the app when I was first introduced to Ritual, a new mobile food ordering app. The Toronto-based app, Ritual, was launched earlier this year. The one thing that stands out about this app among their competitors is that they're catering more to the urban professionals working in the downtown core of Toronto.

The app aims to eliminate the amount of time needed to wait in lines, and to make the overall takeout process more seamless. Most young professionals (like myself, and others) have only an hour for lunch, and I am sure they do not want to spend most of their lunchtime waiting in lines. This would be where Ritual would come in handy, as ordering lunch can be done in three simple steps (as shown in the cartoon below).


Ritual allows users to conveniently pre-order and pre-pay for their food on the app. The Ritual app for iOS and Android eliminates the need to wait in lines, as customers can easily order the food from their work desk, and then simply go pick up. It's easy to use as you choose your restaurant, order the food, and pay with the app. There is no service fee, but Ritual does have a discretionary tipping option (if you want to tip the restaurant's employees). Presently, Ritual is strategically focusing on downtown Toronto, as they have partnered up with several popular restaurants within the Queen West, King West, Entertainment District, and Liberty Village areas. Some of the participating restaurants are Banh Mi Boys, Khao San Road, Fresh, P & L Burger, Mean Bao, Rose City Kitchen, Milano Coffee, Kinton Ramen, Babur, and many more. For a full list of participating restaurants, click here.

Another great thing about the app is that they sometimes offer special menu items (secret menu) with some of their partnered restaurants. These items are only offered if you order through the app. 



Additionally, the app uses location services, so it will give you a list of the closest restaurants within the vicinity of your current location. I was given the opportunity to try out the Ritual app for lunch, and one of the closest restaurants to me at the time was Banh Mi Boys. All payments are made within the Ritual app, as your credit card information are safely encrypted, so there are no need to bring out your wallet or cash.  Overall, I found the Ritual app to be user-friendly, and has well designed functions.

Ordering was super easy! I browsed through Banh Mi Boy's menu, and selected my food items. I was then taken to a screen where I customize my orders (spice level), and also had the option to add sides. I completed the transaction, and was quickly taken to the "Review" page where I was able to see the total owed, and had the option to tip as well. Once that was completed, I clicked on the "Place Order" button below, and waited for the real-time notifications to let me know when I should leave the office. The whole ordering process was quick, and my food order was ready for pick-up as soon as I arrived at the restaurant.

Banh Mi Boys



         



Milano Espresso Bar





The One That Got Away




 To get started, just download the free Ritual app on the Apple Store, or Google Play, set up your account and profile, and plug in your credit card payment information. Don't forget to turn on the phone's location services, as Ritual uses your current location to prepare orders at the right time so your order will be ready when you arrive.

Lastly, Ritual encourages all users to use social media by using the hashtag #myRitual to showcase their food. Feel free to check out all uploaded photos IG using this hashtag at https://instagram.com/explore/tags/myRitual/.

Social Media

Download: App Store
Instagram: https://instagram.com/ritual_co
Website: http://www.ritual.co/ 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ritual_co

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was completely subsidized by Ritual. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

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