Bar Isabel

Last week, one of my friends and I decided to hit up Bar Isabel, a new restaurant and bar on College street just east of Ossington in Toronto. I’ve been hearing lot’s of great things about the place from my friend @jbsmith. Her boyfriend Josh is responsible for all the great drink creations there.

We arrived just around opening time (6pm) on a Wednesday and there was already people lining up to get in. Since we didn’t have time to stay for a full meal, we opted for some drinks and appetizers. What I really liked from the get-go, was everyone’s welcoming and friendly attitude. The place was nicely decorated. The wood and colored lights gave a very homy feel to the place. Only a few minutes after we sat down, Bar Isabel was already packed!

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The menu was simple but very well divided. They had a big choice of starters then vegetables, meats, seafood, bar snacks, cheeses, cured meats and desserts. Being a vegetarian, I appreciated seeing a “vegetable” section. I know that next time I go, I will have a few different plates. Everything on the menu is also very reasonably priced. One of the things I loved most, were the slogans on their drink and food menus.

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We each ordered some tasty drinks and for our appetizer, we opted for a selection of three cheeses from the chef for $16. Our really kind waiter asked us if we wanted bread with the plate and we said yes, not knowing that there would be a surprise in store for us on our bill. Being a pretty big cheese fan, I was expecting a decent cheese selection from the chef. The cheese we did get was good but pretty standard for a cheese platter, nothing too creative or different. The thing that made us really less stoked was to see we had gotten charged $4 for the bread the waiter had offered us. Now, usually if you’re going to offer a cheese platter on your menu, you’d want to offer some type of bread, cracker, jam, fruit, nuts, biscuit or something to go along with it without charging the customer but apparently not at Bar Isabel. Though the bread was really delicious, it’s absurd to think they’d charge a customer especially when ordering a cheese platter. That unfortunately left a bad taste in my mouth… though not enough to never return. I undoubtedly want to give this place a fair chance: get some more drinks, mains and desserts next time.

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All in all, mixed feelings about my first experience at Bar Isabel. Maybe I just wasn’t lucky with the cheese so I definitely want to try a full meal next time because I’ve heard so many amazing things about them. Have you been to Bar Isabel? If so, how was your experience?

Kale Chips Recipe

I love finally being home for a few weeks. This will allow me to start cooking a whole lot more. One of my recent favorite snacks, is homemade Kale Chips. Though I love getting some at the store, there’s nothing quite like making your own.

Wednesday I received a whole bunch of kale in my Fresh City Farms basket and decided to make some yummy kale chips to go with my dinner last night. They are SUPER easy to make 🙂

All you have to do is pre-heat the oven at 350, cut up kale in small pieces.

Drizzle olive oil or as I did, flavored olive oil (I went for the hot pepper oil) over the kale and add salt and pepper. Some people also add yeast to the kale to add a crunchier texture but I find that they taste fine without it too!

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Put it in the oven for 10-15mins, until cripsy and dark green.

The perfect healthy snack!

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Carmen – Cocina Española

While wandering home from work last night, my boyfriend and I stumbled upon a brand new Spanish restaurant on Queen West called Carmen – Cocina Española. As we sometimes do, we looked inside, took a quick glance at the menu and gave it a shot. It had been a really long time since I had eaten Spanish food. Toronto’s renown for Italian, Portuguese, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian and even Tibetan food but rarely do I stumble across Spanish restaurants. I like Spanish food not only for its unique flavour but also for their varied vegetarian tapas.

We started our meal with some delicious Bodegas red wine that was decently priced. Though we were both tempted to share a traditional paella (they make a vegetarian one too!), we were told that it would take at least 45mins to make since it’s made for scratch. So instead, we opted for sharing a bunch of tapas. The first one we ordered was fried green tomatoes with feta cheese, peppers and corn. We followed that up by Jimaca shells with creamy avocados and finished off by the traditional Spanish omelet. My favorite dish out of the three vegetarian ones we ordered was without a doubt the fried tomato. I loved the combination of sweet and spicy. The avocado was also delicious but a little small for the price.

All in all, the food was super tasty but it was a little pricey. A restaurant like Grand Electric, which is pretty much the hippest joint in town right now, charges $3.75 per taco and they’re pretty filling. These tapas weren’t nearly as filling and cost upwards of $6. The ambiance was also really laid-back. I really dug the bar and more café-type front and the lounge and comfy back dinning area.

If you’re looking for a new spot to try out around Trinity Bellwoods and don’t mind paying a little more for your dinner, pay Carmen a visit!

 

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Favorite eats in LA

I just got home on Sunday night from my vacation on the west coast. As a vegetarian (going on 10 years this year, hellz yea!), I love traveling to California because they have such a great selection of veggie or vegan-friendly food. They’ve also got lot’s of farmers markets and great organic and local products to offer.  During my vacation, I always try to hit up new places to eat and this time was no different.  Here are three of my favorites in the LA area:

1 – Flore Vegan

Located in Silverlake, just east of Hollywood, this small vegan restaurant is absolutely amazing! I ordered a vegan “Club Sandwich”, which included tempeh bacon, battered baked tofu, eggless mayonaise, avocado, tomato and sprouts, all served on fresh sourdough bread. It was accompanied by a delicious little salad.  I also had one of their amazing vegan treats: I ordered a peanut butter and chocolate cupcake, which was hands down the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten. I like this place because unlike some vegan restaurants, Flore really fills you up and is relatively inexpensive for all the food you get ($10.95 for the club – photo shows only half of the club :p). They apparently also serve a delicious brunch. I highly recommend going for a visit!

2 – Bulan Thai Vegetarian Kitchen

Bulan Thai has two locations: one in Silverlake and another on Melrose Ave. in LA. Their dishes are creative and super tasty. I ordered the vegan “Hot Wings”, which give Sadie’s (One of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in Toronto) a run for their money. They are veggie chicken wings deep-fried and flavored with special hot sauce. I also ordered the vegan “Tasty Sweet & Sour” dish, with tofu, veggies and their yummy sweet & sour sauce. There are so many different things on their menu: Soups, Noodles, Appetizers, Rice, Curries, etc. It’s hard to pick out something to eat. I like this place not only for the food but also for their great service and friendly staff.

3 – Venice Beach Wines 

You wouldn’t even know this place existed if you were just walking by on Rose Avenue. Located in Venice Beach, this small tiny wine bar is a great place to discover new wines and eat lot’s of fantastic cheeses and food. They’ve got wines by the glass starting at $7, an extensive selection of beers and a delicious food menu featuring charcuterie, mini paninis, cheese, pizzettes, etc. I couldn’t resist getting some cheese (those who know me know I live for cheese), so I ordered the Beemster and Triple Cream St André, which were served with jams and warm baguette. Both cheeses were great, the portions could have been a little bigger for the price but for the quality of cheese they served, it wasn’t bad at all. I also ordered a mini panini – pear, aged cheddar and truffle oil. Wow! What a combo! I think I ate that thing in just a few seconds.  They’ve also got tons of options for non-vegetarians as well. I also loved the ambiance and warmth to the place.  Definitely worth the trip!

So there they are! If ever you’re in the area, I hope you’ll pay them a visit.

Have a lovely Tuesday!

Mel

ps. All this food talk is making me hungry… is it lunch time yet?