{Review} Aroma Epresso Bar Markville Mall

Website:  http://www.aroma.ca/
Address: 5000 Highway 7, Markham, ON
When I visited: Several times between Dec. 2014 and Jan. 2015, lunch
Rating: $, 4

The location of Aroma Espresso Bar at Markville Mall could not have been more strategic. The coffee shop is close to the hectic Walmart superstore which makes it an attractive spot to shy away from the crazy lineups for a coffee and food break. Plus, Aroma Espresso Bar was one of the few places to eat on the west side of the mall.  Great planning Aroma!

Aroma Espresso Bar Markville Mall interior

Aroma Espresso Bar Markville Mall interior

Aroma Espresso Bar Markville Mall

Aroma Espresso Bar Markville Mall

I don’t normally review coffee shops but Aroma has food with a great selection of salads, breakfast (all-day), sandwiches and baked goods. Some locations even have an alcohol licence!

Pastries

Pastries

After several visits, I have had a chance to sample a few breakfast items and drinks. I am not a coffee connoisseur but enjoyed the regular coffee, latte and iced Americano. This is important because they need to stand by their name as an “espresso bar”.

As for the food, the steak sandwich was a stand out. Although the bread was not toasted, it held the meat very well. The steak was thinly sliced, well seasoned and tender. The red peppers, onions, Swiss cheese and sauce gave it the right amount of liquid to the sandwich, and it was not too soggy. Aroma’s got it spot on! The sandwich is normally served as a half but a whole sandwich costs about $11 before tax.

Steak sandwich

Steak sandwich

If sandwiches are not your thing, the Shakshuka makes for a hearty breakfast with two sunny-side up eggs on top of a rich tomato and pepper sauce served with tahini with fresh baked bread. The tomato salsa-like sauce was a tad on the sweeter side for my taste buds but the dish was very filling and worth the $9.60.

Shakshuka

Shakshuka

Overall:

Finally, Toronto has a coffee shop that also serves good food and baked goods. The coffee prices will be comparable or a tad more to your local Starbucks but they make good coffee and worth a visit. I haven’t been to other Aroma locations, but the Markville location is a great spot to drop by before or after some shopping. There is no doubt that I will be visiting this location again.

Aroma Espresso Bar - Markville Mall on Urbanspoon

{Review} Prenup Pub has over 70 different taps from around the world

Website: http://prenuppub.com/
Social Media Handles: @PrenupPub (Twitter)
Address: 191 College Street, Toronto, ON
When I attended: December 2014, Bloggers dinners
Rating: 3.5

I had a chance to visit the European inspired gastropub on a weeknight and the placed was packed. The restaurant is in the heart of University of Toronto’s downtown campus and it was evident that students were the prime clientele.

Prenup Pub Front

As for the interior, there were two floors with separate bars. I liked the added touch of elegance from the fancy chandeliers and sections with comfy seats.

Prenub pub

Bloggers dinner table

The menu is typical of many pubs with steak frites, pizza and burgers with a strong European flair including a Belgium stew and wurst salad . I think the stand out of the restaurant is the variety of beer, with over 70 different taps from around the world!

As for the dinner, this was one of the quickest blogger dinners I had experienced. I felt like I was speed eating as 8 dishes including dessert wwre served within a span of an hour or less.

Thankfully, I had a sample all the dishes presented to me. Here were my favourites:

1. The Wurst Salad with sliced sausages, tomato, garlic, parsley, dill pickles, marinated with olive oil and German mustard. I love my meat, and this was a tasty way to incorporate into a salad to make it hearty and filling.

Wurst salad

2. The Mussels of the Day with a sweet chili tomato sauce, topped with green onions. I enjoyed the tomato broth accompanying the plump mussels.

Mussels

3. The PreNup Pizza with  grilled vegetables, caramelized onions, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, oregano and mozzarella cheese. I enjoyed the puff pastry dough to provide a flaky crust.

Prenup pizza

4. The pork schnitzel with mustard and horseradish, served with fries and topped with mushroom sauce. I enjoyed the thin and crispy crust on the schnitzel.

Pork schnitzel

5. The tiramisu was the highlight of my meal as it was ultra creamy and really hit the spot after all the savoury dishes.

tiramisu

Other items I tried included the Waterzooi (Belgium stew), madame monsieur waffle and beer braised lamb.

Overall:

With the prime location, there’s no doubt that this pub will be a popular restaurant for students and those who love a good beer and some tasty eats.

Thank you for my friend Vicky @momwhoruns and Prenup Pub for the invitation.

Prenup Pub on Urbanspoon

* The meal was complimentary but the opinions in my post are entirely my own.

{Review} Second ‘Fresh Burger’ location downtown Toronto

Website:  http://www.fresh-burger.com/
Address:  543 Church St., Toronto ON
When I visited: December 2014, lunch
Rating: $, 4

Having been to the original Richmond Hill location (read my review here), I wanted to know if the burgers were consistent and as tasty as I remembered it.

The newly opened Church and Wellesley location replaced the old Acme Burger. The interior is spacious, with ample number of booths with lots of sunlight shining in. I loved seeing the sack of potatoes at the front of the restaurant which are used for the fresh cut fries.

Fresh burger Church and Wellesley

Fresh burger Church and Wellesley

Fresh burger interior

Fresh burger interior

During my visit, I had the pleasure of meeting the owner Jacques Kavafian once again. I ordered the 4 oz fresh burger, topped with cheese, tomato and freshburger sauce and added caramelized onions and sauteed jalapenos, and shared a poutine with my friend.

The burgers were as juicy as the first time I had it in Richmond Hill and consistently stayed true to itself. The focus is on the taste of the freshly ground 100% lean Canadian AAA Sirloin that is grounded fresh daily.

 

6 oz prime, Double Freshburger & poutine

6 oz prime left and Freshburger on the right, plus poutine

For up-to-date information, follow Fresh Burger on Twitter (@FreshBurger2) and Facebook . They have a BOGO burger deal that expires Jan. 31st, 2015 so check it out soon (coupon here)!

Overall:

For a simple good quality burger, Fresh Burger provides a tasty bite at very reasonable prices. A customer can get a combo for less than $10. The Fresh Burger’s philiosophy works!

Fresh Burger on Urbanspoon

* The meal was complimentary but the opinions in the post are my own.

 

Mary’s Happy Belly Digest December 2014: A Year In Review

Wishing you all a healthy, delicious and happy new year!

I officially hit my first year of food blogging and seeing that 2015 is just a day away, I wanted to take this moment to highlight my year and talk about what’s ahead.

  • I started blogging at the end of November 2013 as a way to document recipes. As I started getting invites to restaurant openings and food festivals throughout the year, this was completely eye opening for me. The blogging stemmed from passion and it was not about the business side of things, and it still remains the same. I appreciate every invitation.
  • Many have said that I was lucky for have met many celebrity chefs or that I was lucky to be invited to media events. It did not happen overnight and it continually takes hard work and connections to succeed in blogging.
  • In February of last year, I organized my first blogging event for the Hyatt Regency. I had no idea at the time, but I can pinpoint that it was what helped me tremendously in getting more followers.
  • In one year, I have met a ton of celebrity chefs and was even taught from one of my idols Chef Susur Lee on how to make dim sum at his restaurant Luckee. That was memorable!
  • It’s hard to pinpoint the best culinary moment, but if I had to, it would be my experience on the Pressure Cooker competing and having Chef Eric Greenspan as my mentor. The experience was heart pumping fun!
  • And last, I was really proud that I raised over $2800 for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and attended the culinary showdown in November. It was an incredible way to end the year and another bucket list item. Chef Vikram Vij was one hilarious and talented chef. Thank you for all the supporters!

 So what can you expect from me in 2015?

I will continue to showcase my love for food through my blog posts. There will be a contest soon as a way to celebrate my first year of my blogging success.

Thank you to all my supporters or for those who happen to stop by. Happy 2015!

{Review} Gonoe Sushi

Websitehttp://www.gonoesushi.com/
Address: 1310 Don Mills Rd., Unit 1, Toronto ON
When I attended: December 2014, 8 people, dinner
Rating: $$, 5

I visited Gonoe Sushi over 7 years ago and I can’t believe it had taken me this long to return. The narrow restaurant embraces the traditional Japanese restaurant interior with private booths and a few large tables.

What led us here was a search for a non all-you-can-eat Japanese uptown Toronto for a family birthday celebration. Our usual go-to restaurant is “Gal’s Sushi” but the restaurant had been rammed during our last few visits and we wanted a quieter space for the kids. Gonoe provided a much calmer atmosphere and more attentive service than Gal’s. The restaurant even gave us edamame and salmon belly on-the-house.

Our group ordered a combination of appetizers, bento boxes, rolls and sashimi boats and was totally impressed with the quality of the fish and presentation. There’s no doubt that I will return and will re-order our favourite dishes of the evening including:

1. Large sushimi boat (75 pieces) $84.95 split between 4 people. The price is a steal for the amount of fish and the variety.

Large sashimi boat

Large sashimi boat

2. The rolls, including spider roll with soft shell crab ($9.95) and flying dragon roll ($12.95) with shrimp tempura, crab and spicy sauce wrapped in unagi and avocado.

Rolls at Gonoe

Rolls at Gonoe

3. The beef teriyaki dinner ($16.95). I enjoyed that the beef was not smothered in the artificially sweet sauce. The presentation was compact and pleasant.

Beef teriyaki bento box

Beef teriyaki

Overall: 

Gonoe hit the mark in providing a family friendly atmosphere, attentive service and amazing food reasonably priced. This may be our new family favourite for family birthday celebrations.

Gonoe Sushi Japanese on Urbanspoon

{Review} Wild Burgers got game!

Websitehttp://www.wildburger.ca/
Social Media Handles: @wildburgrr (Twitter & Instagram) and Facebook /wildburgerinc
Address: 709 Mount Pleasant Rd, Toronto ON
When I attended: December 2014, Bloggers dinners
Rating: $$, 5

Read on as I will give you a discount code to my readers just in time for the holidays to receive a FREE upgrade to a combo with the purchase of any burger. That’s a sweet deal!

Toronto needs a restaurant like Wild Burgers, a sustainable gastro-burger concept serving wild game meat. Chef Suman Roy first imagined the concept and the menu 11 years ago. More than a decade later, the restaurant at Mount Pleasant and Eglinton Ave. is now a reality.

With many burger joints in Toronto, what makes Wild Burgers stand out?

First off, they serve rabbit, ostrich, bison, venison, elk, kangaroo and wild boar burgers and each gourmet burger is less than $15 before tax. Of course, the restaurant did not forget about the beef and vegetarian options as well.

Secondly, the meat is locally sourced where possible. The beef and lamb are organic from Belanger Organic Farms and the meats are hormone and antibiotic free. Even the oil used for frying is recycled as a feed stock for bio fuel.

And last, the burgers and sides are amazing. The burgers are well seasoned, flavourful and juicy!

I had an opportunity to try samples of the sides, sharing plates, burgers and desserts with some of my top pics below.

I loved the sharing plates served on a wooden board. Wild pickle & things poutine had deep fried pickles, hand cut P.E.I potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion rings, sauteed onions, Korean chicken, kimchi, jalapenos, Canadian blue cheese, Thai sweet chili sauce and sundried tomato pesto. At first, I thought “who decided to throw a whole bunch of things together and then call it a dish?” Yes, this was totally a mish mash of ingredients but it tickled my tastebuds in so many ways. I loved it!

Wild Pickle and Things Poutine

Wild Pickle and Things Poutine

 

The wild poutine supreme with beef was another tasty plate.  This poutine included sauteed onions, kimchi, jalapeno peppers, Canadian cheese curds, jalapeno havarti with gravy and cilantro sauce. Yes!

Wild Poutine Supreme

Wild Poutine Supreme

Make sure to dip the fries in the house-made sauces including the spicy blackberry, sundried tomatoes and cilanto jalapenos. My only hope was that there would be a very spicy hot sauce in-house, as I like things spicy.

As for the burgers, I had a chance to try samples of the Indian lentil burger, venison, portobello and tuna, camel, kangaroo, the wild and spicy burger (beef) wrapped in bacon and the wild burger (beef) and I really enjoyed each of them in their own way. Surprisingly I  did not get burger fatigue after SO many burgers. Comment below if you want to know more about a specific burger that I tried.

My top 3 picks from the tasting:

‘The Wild Burger’ which is the Canadian Artisan beef burger with herbs and spices, blackberry sauce and aged white chedder. The signature burger deserves recognition with the meat served medium rare during the tasting.

The most popular burger goes to the ‘Middle Eastern Camel Burger’ and I agree with the people’s choice. I had a camel burger once and was thrown off by the dry patty. This one was different, the camel burger spiced with chilis and zaataar was juicy and came with a cilantro sauce, brie, baby spinach, mango and dried fruit salsa and onions.

Middle Eastern camel burger

Middle Eastern camel burger

Another stand-out for me was the ‘Birch Venison Burger’. I loved the blue cheese, crispy onions and fried egg that accompanied the flavourful burger.

Birch Venison Burger

Birch Venison Burger

What better way to enjoy some red meat, then some red wine. The Chateau Des Charmes wines from Niagara-on-the-lake was a nice compliment to the meal!

Wines with our meal

Wines with our meal

During your visit, make sure to give them my personal offer code ( YBB-01-10 ) to receive a FREE UPGRADE to a combo with a side and a fountain drink, with the purchase of ANY burger.  I will let you know when the code expires on my blog.

Overall:

I haven’t raved about a burger joint for a long time. I want to spread the Wild Burger love because I can’t wait to go back! The flavours and spice blend in each burger is carefully thought out. The sides are a must including the deep fried pickles or extreme beans, and the sharing plates.

*Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @themary_tang for delicious updates.

Wild Burger Inc. on Urbanspoon

Thank you to the Wild Burger team for the invitation and allowing my guest and I to try out a variety of dishes from the menu. The meal was complimentary but the opinions in my post are entirely my own.