Winterlicious 2017: Insomnia Restaurant & Lounge

img_4324 When I was browsing through the restaurant list for Winterlicious 2017, I was looking for something trendy and brand new to me – someplace I haven’t been, or even seen in the city before. Glancing at the various restaurants, Insomnia was one of the ones that stood out, so my friend and I agreed to take a chance and make our reservations.

My first impression upon walking into the restaurant was that it was a really neat space. Mason jar candles on the tables and string lights on the ceiling lit the lounge, and the bar was just a gorgeous sight to see. I couldn’t wait to see if the food was as appealing as the atmosphere.

img_4328 Winterlicious menus typically only give you a few choices, so I’d decided on my dinner before I even got to the restaurant: Pulled Pork Tacos for an app (pictured above), Insomnia Burger and salad as my main (right), and the Chocolate Truffle Cake for dessert (below). Honestly, I’d thought I would get the sorbet instead of such a chocolate-heavy cake, but the drink I ordered (Purple Haze martini – SKYY vodka, blue curacao, melon liqueur, cranberry juice, fresh squeezed lime juice, grenadine, apple, lime) was pretty sweet and fruity, so I wanted something that would allow for a change of pace.

The burger was cooked well, although if I went back, I’d ask for it cooked a little less (I’m a medium-rare kind of girl). But it was really yummy! And the cake was exactly what I needed to finish off the meal. But the two best parts for me were the drink and the pulled pork tacos.

img_4329I’ve already decided that I want to go back to Insomnia, and when I do, I’m making the Purple Haze martini my regular drink. It is so deliciously fruity and tart, I loved it. I also fell so hard for the pulled pork tacos that I’d probably just go back and order a bunch of them for my meal instead of just one as a  teaser app. It was so delicious, I could have had three or four!

Overall, I was really impressed with the menu items and the relaxed yet trendy atmosphere at Insomnia. On our way out, both me and my friend agreed we’d have to go back at some point. I look forward to the day I’ll be able to visit again and have more of those freakin’ delicious tacos, or take a seat at the bar and enjoy a couple more Purple Haze martinis!

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Toronto Christmas Market 2016

I’ve never been to the Toronto Christmas Market before. And I live here. But this year, I’m trying to make Christmas about spending quality time with the people I love and not getting caught up in the stress of finding the perfect gifts, and honestly it’s just been so much better. So one of my besties, Nikki, suggested for our Christmas, we go to the Toronto Christmas Market. And my god, it’s so beautiful.

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The market is set up in the Distillery District, which is one of my favourite spots in the city. It’s so artsy and the architecture is so traditional – it’s the perfect place to set up a cozy Christmas scene and have it look like it’s a small town. There are tons of booths set up around the District, as well as food vendors, carnival rides, and of course, the giant Christmas tree. (You can sort of see my shadow, but that tree is gigantic!)

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It wouldn’t be a trip to the Distillery if you didn’t get your photo with the heart! There are a number of art installations that are always in the Distillery, and it’s sort of tradition to take your photo under the heart. But there are pretty pink Christmas trees in the background because of the Market setup!

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I don’t know what this says about me, but my favourite part of the entire market was the donuts. Uncle Betty’s diner had a booth selling various flavours of mini donuts, so we tried their maple bacon donuts. And let me just tell you – those are the best things I’ve ever eaten. The salty and sweet flavours worked perfectly together, and the donut itself was so fluffy that it just melted in your mouth. I would go back just for the donuts.

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It was pretty busy for a Wednesday night, though, and I can’t imagine how busy it is on weekends, or closer to Christmas. I’d say check it out on a weeknight, if possible. (Note: It runs until Dec. 22nd and is not open on Mondays).

Have you stopped by the Christmas Market this year? What were your favourite parts? Did you pick up any fun Christmas swag or try any fun dishes?

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The Lockhart: Toronto’s Harry Potter Bar

img_2380When I heard that there would be a “Harry Potter bar” opening up downtown Toronto, I knew I had to check this place out. The Lockhart (1479 Dundas Street W.) has been around for only about a year now, but it’s definitely made its mark.

I don’t live in the city, so I didn’t think this bar would be a place I frequent, but I’ve been there a handful of times, and it’s always a place I’ll return to.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: The Lockhart isn’t super Harry Potter-themed, but has the nuance of a Harry Potter feel. There are HP Funko Pops lining the shelves with their “Potions and Elixirs”, and if you take a walk down to the bathroom, you can see they encourage geeks like myself to contribute their HP graffiti to the chalkboard walls. But it isn’t over the top, screaming HARRY POTTER, and I love that about it. It’s still a place someone can chill with a friend and grab a drink. Which is the real reason I really go here – the food and drinksthumbnail_fullsizerender.

Take a flip through the “potions and elixirs” menu to find some great drinks named after some of my favourite nerdy characters. I’ve tried the ‘Gin Weasley‘, but the ‘Dr. Manhattan‘ is still on my to-drink list. As pictured to the left, my first drink at this stop was the Nom de Guerre (the purple drink, which includes cinnamon infused tequila, Port, Triple Sec, and ginger ale), which was honestly one of my favourites so far. And it was the only drink I needed that night.

img_3087Of course, it wouldn’t be a Harry Potter bar without Butter… er, Better Beer (Advocaat, butter washed cinnamon nutmeg infused tequila, house ginger beer, ginger ale, with a toasted marshmallow). And as seen in the photo below, one of my regular drinks is the Lockhart Caesar. I’m a fan of caesars, but they have to be done right, and I’ll come to The Lockhart forever if they continue to make their caesars this wonderfully thick and spicy.

I love that the bar puts extra effort into making these drinks as beautiful as they are delicious. Each drink comes in a mason jar or specialty vessel – the Nom de Guerre was served in a tall very Potter-like chalice, and the Better Beer looks like something out of Game of  Thrones. I can’t help but want to take a million photos of everything they serve and post to Instagram, because it’s all so gorgeous.

I’ve definitely sampled more from the drink menu than the food – mostly because a lot of their food has shallots or shrimp (two things I am allergic to) – but the dishes I have tried are so yummy. The photo below is of the Royal Toast. The whipped cheese is so light, and the tomatoes just make this an amazing side to whichever cocktail you choose. I’ve also had the Evanesco Chocolate (hot caramel poured onto chocolate shatter melts with vanilla sponge cake & berries underneath), which is to die for. I’m not huge into heavy, chocolaty desserts, so this was perfect.

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img_3092Besides their delicious menu, The Lockhart has regularly scheduled events to spice things up. Every Saturday and Sunday they hold brunch from 10:30-2:30pm, and every second Tuesday, the bar holds a Harry Potter trivia night!

It’s great if you want a night out with your fellow Potterheads, or you just want to catch up with an old friend over some delicious potions. This bar is such a creative space that is both down-to-earth and simply magical; I highly recommend checking out The Lockhart.

 

 

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Eat Better, Live Better, Feel Better by Julie Cove – Book Review

Eat Better, Live Better, Feel Better: Alkalize Your Life...One Delicious Recipe at a Time

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada
Pages: 304
Publish date: March 1, 2016
Rating: ★★★

I’ve kicked off 2016 with the mindset that I need to eat more healthily, and be more aware of what I’m doing to my body, so when I got the opportunity to review Cove’s new book, I jumped at the chance.

Julie Cove’s Eat Better, Live Better, Feel Better talks about how important it is to pay attention to what you eat, and how to alkaline your diet. Cove discusses the effectiveness of the alkaline lifestyle and how you can cut out foods that are more acidic to help bring your body’s energy to a healthy balance. The alkaline lifestyle is what Cove is trying to sell in this book, giving four main chapters before a slew of delicious-looking recipes that describe how to start out moving toward balancing your body’s pH and eventually maintaining this lifestyle.

Personally, I don’t think that the alkaline lifestyle is something I’ll be pursuing anytime soon due to the fact that a lot of the foods are things I’d have to spend a lot of money on, that as a student, I don’t have access to right now. Also, I like my “acidic” foods and don’t want want to totally get rid of them. But that being said, I did love learning about which foods, even ones most people think are healthy, contribute to your body’s acidity. And I also loved flagging my favourite recipes in the book, because a lot of them do truly look so refreshing and yummy!

Going off of the yummy recipes, I have to say how beautiful this book is. Every recipe has a photo (which I found very helpful, because I eat with my eyes a lot of the time), and gorgeous Instagram-perfect pictures of Cove’s kitchen fill the pages of this book. I love all the beautiful colours, and just imagining diving into a super fresh salad or smoothie!

Overall, I wasn’t entirely convinced of switching to an alkaline lifestyle, but Cove’s book gave me a lot of health-conscious ideas of things to try in the kitchen, which I will definitely be exploring – so this book earns a solid 3 stars from me!

Eat Better, Live Better, Feel Better can be found online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Cook. Nourish. Glow. by Amelia Freer: Book Review

Cook. Nourish. Glow

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada
Pages: 352
Publish date: January 19, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

I was able to attend Penguin Random House Canada’s #DigitalDetox event, at which Amelia Freer was a special guest. Event attendees were able to try some of the recipes in Freer’s book and speak with her about how to cook and eat in a way that would nourish rather than just satisfy. So it comes as no surprise that when I got a copy of this book at the event, I went home and pulled out the sticky tabs. This would be one to read with a highlighter.

But let’s take a step backwards for a second. For those who don’t know, Amelia Freer is a nutritional therapist to the stars, and her book Cook. Nourish. Glow is all about how to eat more healthily. Freer includes some of her favourite recipes, as well as pages explaining why certain foods will have a certain effect on your body, and why you should be careful of what you eat. These pages are adorned with beautiful food photography that looks good enough to eat, making the importance of eating healthy look colourful and delicious, rather than plain or unappealing.

As I mentioned earlier, I did read this book with my colourful sticky tabs, marking pages of the recipes I thought looked the most yummy and refreshing. The entire book is lined with rainbow markers now. I found a lot of the recipes were fairly accessible to people who may not be experienced in the kitchen (such as myself), and that even some of the recipes with ingredients that may be hard to find could easily be accomplished another way, so the recipe isn’t entirely intimidating.

I loved the fact that Freer’s book has so many types of recipes to try. If you’re a health-newbie, such as myself, you may want to try some of the more simple salads, dinners, or even some more desserty treats. But if you’ve been a health nut for a while and are comfortable making these creations yourself, Freer provides recipes to make your own dressings or stock pantry items.

I’m hoping to treat my body with a little more respect and stop eating so much junk, so I can’t wait to open up this book in the kitchen and try out some of the recipes! Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive or tasteless, and Cook. Nourish. Glow is proof of all the ways you can eat healthy, delicious food that also improves your life.

Cook. Nourish. Glow is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Event Recap: #DigitalDetox with Penguin Random House

Last Thursday, January 28, I was invited to join book lovers at the Penguin Random House Canada office to celebrate a month of #DigitalDetox – a campaign the company ran throughout January, encouraging readers to step away from their screens for an hour a day and indulge in books and other creative endeavors.

The event perfectly summed up the entire feel of #DigitalDetox. There were different stations set around the room where guests were encouraged to relax, reflect, and get refreshed with healthy snacks and drinks. The recipes of these nutritious snacks came from the new cookbook Cook. Nourish. Glow by Nutritional Therapist Amelia Freer, who was the special guest in attendance that evening.

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(some of the yummy snacks from Cook. Nourish. Glow. and beverages from Greenhouse Juice Co. available to taste (my favourite was the wake up juice!))

Probably my favourite station was the colouring book table, where friends and fellow book bloggers Christine and Nikki joined me in colouring in a page of the Lost Ocean colouring book. Colouring has definitely been one of my favourite ways to kick back and relax recently, so being able to colour and chat about books with my besties was a great way to detox!

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(Christine enjoying the colouring table, and my awesome jellyfish art!)

Some other relaxing stations included a board where guests were invited to write questions down that they would like answered by Cheryl Strayed, author of Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, and a table where guests could indulge in samples from Butterme Body organic body scrubs.

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(Tiny Beautiful questions and body scrub station)

Overall, the whole event was amazing! I loved sampling all these organic products and reflecting a little bit on who I am and what I want to accomplish this year. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not at all health-conscious – in a terrible way. I do not take care of myself, ever. This #DigitalDetox event, and the campaign in general, has allowed me to reflect on that, and makes me want to step up my self-care game for 2016!

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And I have to say, the swag bag we got at the end of the event really helped me move forward with this new “resolution”, as it were. We got copies of Cook. Nourish Glow. (review to come!), a joy journal where you can write down one good thing that happens each day (staying positive is important, and something I need help with), some edible organic treats, as well as some of the Butterme Body scrub, and comfy socks. This event really got me excited to start taking better care of me, and make every month #DigitalDetox month.

Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady: Book Review

Seven Spoons: My Favorite Recipes for Any and Every Day

Obtained: Penguin Random House, ARC
Pages: 279
Publish date: April 21, 2015
Rating: ★★★★

I have never owned a cookbook before in my life. I don’t cook anything that doesn’t come in the freezer aisle and have microwave instructions. That’s why I got this book; it’s time for Michelle to learn how to cook. And this book is my new playground.

Seven Spoons is written by Tara O’Brady, a food blogger who is so passionate about what she does. This book has great stories about her dishes and instructions that are easy enough for me to follow (which to me, was the ultimate test). The recipes are nicely organized by meals, snacks, or staples, and a lot of them include great Asian or Indian flavours that I am a huge fan of.

When I was told at the Penguin Random House Blogger Preview that O’Brady took all her own photos for the book as well, I was sold. The photos of the dishes are absolutely gorgeous and make you want to devour everything on the pages.

After experimenting with five of the recipes in this book, I only have a few criticisms. First, the recipes don’t tell you how much time they will take on the top of the page, so you have to read through the entire recipe to figure it out. Also, as I mentioned above, the recipes have a lot of Asian or Indian flavors and some of the ingredients may be tricky to track down if you don’t live around any specialty grocery stores. But I can’t see why you couldn’t replace some of those ingredients with your own choices.

Below you can find photos of the dishes I made, or that my friends and family made as I ate. And I can honestly say that they were all really tasty. I’m going to add a star rating to the dishes as well to give you a better idea of my thoughts.

IMG_20150412_184945Feel-Better Curried Soup with Crispy Chicken (p. 109)
★★★★★

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Mushrooms and Greens with Toast (p. 91)
★★★★★

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Salad Rolls with Sesame Dressing and Tamari Dipping Sauce (p. 75)
★★★

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Roasted Red Pepper, Almond and Feta Salad (p. 186)
★★

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Avocado Toast (p. 96)
★★★★★

Overall, I am super pleased with this cookbook and I cannot WAIT to try more recipes. If you’re a first-time cook like me, or a more experienced home chef, I really recommend Seven Spoons.