FEAST Restaurant Review + A Love Letter to My Favourite Gypsy

Restaurant Review, Toronto

In the hustle and bustle of prepping for my trip to Bald Head Island, I had the bittersweet experience of saying a temporary goodbye to Saar, who has just departed on another stretch of world travelling. She has had a pretty huge impact on my life in the two years that I’ve known her, and even though she just left, I already can’t wait for our next reunion. Who knows where it will be… Bali, Thailand… I’m sure it will be one of her favourite places somewhere in this beautiful world, and she can give me the grand tour!

Ever since Saar included it in her ‘5 Musts for August‘ post I’ve been dying to try out FEAST (Fabulous Eats for the Allergic and Sensitive Types). This being our last get-together for the next little while, it seemed only appropriate that we pop in. We took a lovely stroll down Crawford, through Trinity Bellwoods Park, to West Queen West, where you’ll find Feast.

FEAST: Fabulous Eats for the Allergic and Sensitive Types

"'Best pastry I have ever had gluten-free or otherwise. Thank you for existing.' Savoury pocket pies, vegan donuts, come in and taste what everyone is talking about."

When you first walk in, you’ll notice that Feast is more like a specialty grocery store than a sit down eatery. Along one wall are shelves stocked with chocolates, oils, and other tasty-looking goodies, all blessedly free of common allergens. There are a few bar stools and a counter looking out the front window. The space is light and airy. We were quickly offered samples of the store’s housemade coconut butter – which tastes pretty close to real butter, actually – and nut butters (chocolate sunflower butter! What, what?). 

Store menus: "What's brewing" "What's in the pantry" "What's in store"

In the glass case by the front counter were an assortment of pocket pies: Jerk Chicken, The Beefeater, and Vegan Curried Black Bean. I went with the black bean pocket pie this time. The pastry was perfect (tender, chewy, and totally convincing for those who are still a bit leery of gluten-free flours) but the filling left a little bit to be desired… a bit more spice or a dipping sauce would have been a lovely addition here. 

Vegan Curried Black Bean pocket pies in display case

In a cooler next to the counter are some interesting beverages, including Toronto-based Vams’ kefir water and kombucha. 

Vams Kombuch & Kefir Water (lime + turmeric, beach, ginger, spirulina + lime)

We sat down in the bar stools by the window, and smiled at everyone who walked by. It was great.

A tender and flaky vegetarian pocket pie ready to be devoured.

For dessert, I picked up a pair of coconut caramels, which were sooooo yummy. Up in front is their Tropical Caramel (coconut and pineapple, sprinkled with sea salt), and in the back is one of Feast’s Chocolate Krispies (cacao nibs and puffed rice cereal). 

Dairy-free vegan coconut caramels

After lunch, we explored some of the surrounding stores. Next door to Feast is “Type”, a beautifully curated bookshop. It was perfect for vegging out in with a satisfied tummy. Saar and I grabbed seats in the children’s section at the back and read picture books to one another. 

Type Bookshop (view of fiction section and displays from the back of the store)

Before long, we headed back out into the sunshine to check out some more of the neighbourhood (a very pretty and trendy neighbourhood at the moment) and to grab some green juice.

"She's an explorer, a daydreamer, and never turns down an excuse to wear flowers in her hair. She believes in magic, likes the challenge in finding the perfect dress, and always mixes in her favourite vintage tee with a dash of delicate sequins. There's no problem a swipe of lipstick can't fix, and she's always up for a midnight adventure."Floating books display

While at Feast, I had also grabbed one of their Triple Chocolate Love donuts. We plopped down under an oak tree in Trinity Bell Woods park so I could dig in. Also very yummy, but really more cake-like, if I remember correctly, than any donut I’ve ever had.

Me and My DoughnutLove you, buddy. <3 (Saar. Not the donut. Okay, also the donut.) 

A reflection of the Chicago skyline in the kidney bean

Chicago Photo Diary

Personal, Photo Diary, Restaurant Review, Travel

A few weeks ago, I attended a yoga intensive (run by Eat Breathe Thrive, definitely worth checking out!) in Chicago with my beloved buddy, Saar. We had a wicked time, so I put together this photo diary to share some of the adventures we got up to!

Since we were to spend our trip trapped inside for the better part of the weekend, we made sure to dedicate Friday to wandering the city. We took the Metra into downtown Chicago on Friday morning, and immediately set off in search of food (two foodies/nutritionists, what do you expect?).

The Metra pulling into Lake Forest Station

Star-shaped detailing over a freeway in downtown Chicago

the Union Station sign in downtown Chicago

Before we left, I had done a search of healthy food options in the city, and it wasn’t long before we happened across one of them – ‘Protein Bar’, where I picked up a ‘Millenium Perk’ (chocolate protein, espresso protein, choice of milk, and house-made cocoa malt) to tide me over while we explored.

IMG_7064

Millennium Perk (Chocolate protein, espresso protein, choice of milk, and house-made cocoa malt)

The elevated Chicago transit system, criss-crossing through the downtown streetsI fell a bit in love with Chicago’s public transit system, particularly its somewhat industrial appearance. The L tracks crisscross all over the city, looking super cool. We traipsed through Millenium Park where we briefly listened to some majestic orchestral music (I think there may have been an orchestra practicing for an upcoming performance), tripped in and around the giant mirrored kidney bean (AKA. The Bean, or Cloud Gate), and slowly grew ravenous.

An adorable little vintage-looking van. It sold doughnuts!

An alley filled with fire escapes. Everywhere!

This giant red sculpture...Looks kind of like an abstract dinosaur

Highlights some of Chicago's beautiful skyline

The huge mirrored kidney bean in Millenium Park

I'm bent over backwards for an upsidedown reflection in the kidney bean!

The super cool and slightly hallucinogenic reflections underneath Cloud Gate

A reflection of the Chicago skyline in the kidney bean

The Chicago skyline reflected in the mirrored kidney bean; looks like it is in a raindrop!

Huge and beautiful magenta flowers

Saar was practically falling over when we decided to find some lunch. Pretty much everyone we encountered over the course of the day were so friendly and we were soon directed to another one of the restaurants I had looked up that morning, a vegan joint called Native Foods. We both loved it there. I had a spicy tortilla soup, a huge glass of lavender lemonade (I have to try to recreate this…it was SO good), and a giant refreshing ‘Ensalada Azteca Salad’ which was jam-packed with cilantro (my kryptonite). After lunch, we did a bit more wandering through the city before hopping back on the Metra to attend the first night of the intensive.

The entrance to Native Foods

A bowl of tortilla soup garnished with strips of tortilla bread and cilantro

Fresh avocado, jicama and cucumber salsa atop quinoa, romaine and our award winning mango-lime vinaigrette. Topped with currants, toasted pumpkin seeds and cilantro

Our way home at the end of the weekend was another adventure all on it’s own; a misadventure, shall we call it? As we were heading through Michigan, the area was hit with a major rainstorm and consequently crazy flooding. They began closing off all the major freeways in the area, and this eventually led to us spending 24 hours in a car.

Water starts pouring over concrete barrier on the side of the highway

Flooding beneath an overpass

We exited the freeway in Detroit and spent about 4 hours in a grocery store parking lot wolfing down our few remaining road trip snacks (popcorn, an avocado stuffed with the last of our salsa), and watching the hilarious documentary ‘Kumaré’. At some point in the middle of the night, after unsuccessfully trying to get some sleep, we figured out a route to get us to freeways that had cleared up and got back on the road. Although Saar doesn’t drive, she was fully committed to staying up with me and keeping me awake and alive. What a trooper. I got home very early that morning and was too wired to stay asleep for very long, and for some reason felt compelled to go to a yoga class. This was a goofy decision; I spent most of the class deliriously giggling at everything my instructor said.

Anyway, I think that’s all for now. I’m sending tons of love to those communities affected by the flooding. I hope that they are well on their way to rebuilding their homes and their lives.

More soon, xx.

My Raw Food Birthday

Food Philosophy, Personal, Restaurant Review

Over this weekend, I celebrated my twenty-third birthday. Repeatedly. And it was splendid. There were many inspiring conversations, tasty eats, and whopping love hugs. I got to spend the day with two of my best buds: Saar – one of my favourite Europeans and fellow nutritionists – and Erik, the beloved boyfriend. We spent some time in the sunshine and had lunch at Raw Aura in Port Credit. Raw Aura’s menu is gluten-free, vegan, and completely raw with nothing being heated above 43C, although there are a few menu items that are served hot. I’ve always admired raw vegans for their inventiveness in the kitchen, especially in the dessert department!

Raw Aura's menus for smoothies, wines and spirits, desserts, and main courses.

What Makes Raw Food So Great?

The majority of people can definitely use more raw veggies and fruit in their diet. Here’s why:

  • Greater nutrient density: Many vitamins such as vitamin C, thiamine, pantothenic acid, and folate are heat-sensitive and are damaged by cooking. Including more raw food in your diet means eating food with a greater nutrient density.
  • Enzymes: Raw fruits and vegetables are rich in enzymes that aid in digestion by helping to break down nutrients. Like the vitamins mentioned above, enzymes are also easily damaged by heat and as a result, are easily destroyed in the cooking process.
  • You can fill up without feeling bloated: Feel free to fill up on as much non-starchy raw vegetables as you want. You’ll be doing your body a solid! The majority of my salads take place in a mixing bowl bigger than my head, and I never feel bloated, icky, or guilty afterwards.
  • Increased regularity: Another reason why you’ll be feeling less bloated? By filling up on fruit and veg, you’ll be getting an awful lot of fibre in your diet. This is a good thing! We should be aiming for at least 30 grams per day of insoluble fibre which will help keep your digestive system chugging along nicely. Which means a lot less poop hanging out in your intestines and contributing to that distended tummy look. Is it okay for me to say ‘poop’ here? Duh, I’m a nutritionist. I can comfortably talk about poop whenever the heck I want. 
  • Less packaging: Replacing the packaged foods in your diet with more produce will dramatically decrease your contribution to the world’s landfills, which we can all do a little more of!

I’ve been to this restaurant a handful of times in the past, but I always end up getting the same thing: the Cinnamon Toast Crunch smoothie (which actually tastes just like the cereal of it’s namesake), and the Burstin’ Burrito.

My meal: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Smoothie (almond butter, dates, banana, cinnamon, and maca), and the Burstin' Burrito (raw soft sun-dried tomato and carrot tortilla stuffed with lettuce, tomato, red onion, guacamole, and refried pumpkin seed beans, garnished with cashew sour cream and side salsa)

The smoothie was a blend of almond butter, dates, banana, cinnamon, and maca. While I normally love this smoothie, it is very decadent and was probably not an optimal choice after a few days of indulgence! I think that I usually get it without the dates, and I forgot to make that request on this particular occasion…

Another shot of my smoothie with my friend, Saar, sipping on green juice (kale, celery, cucumber, romaine lettuce, parsley, lemon and ginger) in the background

Saar also ordered the burrito which was it’s usual scrumptious self. Check out the drool-worthy description they had on their menu: “A soft sun-dried tomato and carrot tortilla stuffed with lettuce, tomato, red onion, guacamole, and refried pumpkin seed beans, garnished with cashew sour cream and side salsa.”

Another shot of my raw vegan burrito, slathered in cashew cream and garnished with a side salad

Erik had the felafel wrap which contained some sprouted chickpea felafels in a collard green wrap with tzatziki and other vegetable goodies.

Erik's sprouted chickpea felafel wrap in collard greens

I finished lunch off with a bright and energizing green juice (kale, celery, cucumber, romaine lettuce, parsley, lemon and ginger – could have used some cilantro!) before Saar handed me an incredibly sweet birthday letter that she had written me. My eyes were burning and I was trying not to cry at the table. We headed outside where she handed me a large and mysterious cardboard box.

The giant mystery cardboard box containing my birthday present from Saar

My birthday present from Saar: vanilla whey protein powder from Genuine Health, and homemade gluten-free vegan pepernoten (a Dutch Christmas treat!)

Little bundles of Dutch pepernoten (wrapped in brightly coloured foil)

Inside was a container of Genuine Health Proteins+ vanilla whey protein powder which I can’t wait to try! I always buy chocolate protein powders, so it will be fun to get some variety into my green smoothies. She had also baked me three different kinds of vegan pepernoten, this spicy Dutch cookie which they normally have at Christmas. Don’t worry Saar, I promise I’ve been sharing a little bit!

A close-up of spicy Dutch pepernoten. Great with tea!

Saar and I in a giant whopping love hug

When I got home from lunch, I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and hanging out with my family. My mom and younger sister, Abbey, made a beautiful dinner of curried salmon steaks, a giant salad, and roasted asparagus.

My birthday feast (roasted asparagus, salad with tons of cucumber, curried salmon steaks)

After dinner my youngest sister, Allaina, presented me with this naughty chocolate caramel apple! I cut it up into slices and shared it with everyone for dessert. I will never tire of the fresh fruit and chocolate combination. If you’re going to indulge, make sure you do it in style!

Birthday dessert from my baby sister, Allaina: an enormous chocolate caramel apple with rainbow sprinkles. Don't worry, I  shared.

Anyway, that’s all for now. If you’re Canadian, like me, I hope you had a lovely long weekend. Happy Canada Day! Anne xxoo

Dinner at Live

Restaurant Review

Life can get a little bit crazy sometimes. Maybe you’ve taken on some extra responsibilities at work, picked up a night class, or have some other big project on the go. But what about your personal life? It’s during these extra hectic times in our lives that we also need to make sure to chill out on occasion and spend some of that precious down time with the people we love.

Let me just say, my life has been a little bit crazy as of late. But last night, I had the pleasure of meeting up with my friend, Nicola, for dinner at Live Food Bar in Toronto. Nicola and I have been friends since high school, and in the last year, she’s been been frantically finishing school as a design student before jumping right into her first graphic design gig. It was great to see her after so long and get caught up over a healthy and delicious meal!

Driving around in Toronto in the pouring rain at dinnertime was stressful, to say the least. I managed to find parking on a nearby side street, and made the trek through the rain to Live. Stepping into the restaurant was like being wrapped in a cozy blanket. The atmosphere in Live was bright and warm. The staff were very welcoming and friendly, and didn’t seem to mind my lame jokes. For instance, when I was joined by Nicola some time after my arrival, she decided she wanted to order the Pulled Burdock Wrap for her main but having no idea what burdock was, she decided to ask our server. She explained that burdock was a root vegetable that aids the body in cleansing. “By cleansing,” I asked, “do you mean it makes you poop?” (Side note: Nutrition school trains you to be oddly comfortable talking about poop, whether or not you are talking to a complete stranger.)

Should you find yourself at Live Food Bar, definitely try:

The Butterscotch Ripple Smoothie. BUTTERSCOTCH RIPPLE. How can you go wrong with that? This was a heavenly combination of coconut cream, banana, coconut sugar, date, lucuma, maca, and vanilla. I practically inhaled this, it was that good.

creamy and frothy glass of Butterscotch Ripple smoothie in front of one of the brick walls at Live Food Bar

The Hush Puppies. We decided to get these balls of sweet potato, cornmeal and quinoa, covered in maple glaze as an appetizer. These were awesome; so awesome I forgot to take  a picture. They came with a wasabi mayo which gave them a subtle kick to cut the sweetness, and were delightfully crispy on the outside, kind of like falafel.

The Black Bean Burrito. This burrito was quite unlike any burrito I’ve ever had before. It had some traditional ingredients: black bean hummus, brown rice, guacamole, corn & tomato salsa, spinach, and chipotle mayo. You could put guacamole on pretty much anything and I would love it. But the really stand out thing about this dish was that they pressed the burrito so that it had some crispy crunchy goodness to it.

crispy black bean burrito garnished with sauerkraut, drizzled hot sauce, and cashew sour cream

Dessert. I went for the Chocolate Hazelnut Bar which was a bit pricy considering how it was the size of my thumbs put together. Totally worth it though, because it was packed with hazelnuts, and rich enough that I didn’t feel like I needed anymore. I also picked up two Chocolate Cherry Cookies to enjoy with the boyfriend when I got home. I’m definitely going to have to try to recreate these at some point. They were not too sweet and go really well with a nice cup of tea if you’re feeling naughty.

Basically what I’m saying is: Go to Live. You will like it there. And with that, have yourselves a wonderful and inspiring weekend! I hope it is filled with tasty delights, lots of love, and relaxation.