Winterlicious 2015 – Scaddabush (plus a chance to win a prize)

I’ve always thought that Italy has a bit of an edge on food, elegant and classy flavours that are timeless, like a William Shakespeare play or a Chanel 2.55. Earlier this week I got a sneak preview of Scaddabush’s Winterlicious menu and the two items that piqued my interest most were the salads. I’m all for indulgence but when done well, the lighter side of things can be just as decadent.

Have you ever opened a restaurant menu, glanced at the salad section and wondered who orders them? Me, I am that person. I love eating them and not just because they are supposed to be healthy, but because they can be so yummy. At home my salads are packed with protein, crunch, delicious dressings, colour and texture, and never bland.

The trouble with most restaurants, unless you go to a very specific place that relies on their salads, this dish is usually the most disappointing pick even though they deserve the same love as every other item on the menu. Encouraging people to eat greens, means making them as dynamic and appealing as all the other things on offer and yet most restaurants just throw that opportunity away, serving up leaves and an unimaginative drizzle. Give me a restaurant that knows how to whip up some mean greens and you will find me going back again and again for more.

Scaddabush Caprese Salad

In this instance, Scaddabush may have to take out a restraining order on me. Their Winterlicious menu has two beautiful salads which I could not resist ordering. A caprese salad (freshly made in-house mozzarella, Campari tomatoes, baby arugula, herb oil and basil) and for mains, a Tuscan Salad with grilled shrimp (baby green kale, arugula, marinated raisins, toasted pumpkin seeds, semi sun-dried tomatoes, cipollini onions, Pecorino cheese and balsamic lemon vinaigrette). You just know a lot of thought has gone into them.

Both salads were so lovely, fresh and vibrant. Each has unique notes that really stand out. The caprese, sweet and sharp balsamic dressing married with soft creamy cheese, plump red tomatoes, peppery leaves and every now and again my tongue was kissed with basil.

Scaddabush Tuscan Salad (Winterlicious 2015)

The Tuscan looked like a beautiful green nest covered in white Pecorino moss and had a fierce and zingy dressing. I loved all the different components, especially the sundried tomatoes, raisins and cipollini onions. Every bite was something different because I kept trying out different combinations.

Scaddabush Winterlicious Jail Island Tomato & Caper Salmon

They also treated the hubby to some Jail Island salmon. Crispy on the outside, succulent and soft flaking pink within, lying there in its tomato caper glory on a bed of seasonal vegetables alongside parsley butter potatoes, it is wonderful for those seeking healthy but hearty satisfaction.

Having said that though, whatever you do, don’t leave without trying their chocolate gelato, it is tastes amazing and life is too short.

Scaddabush Winterlicious 2015 Chocolate Gelato

Check out Winterlicious 2015 at Scaddabush from January 30th – February 12th. Lunch $18 (plus gratuity & taxes) and Dinner $25 (plus gratuity & taxes.)

GIVE AWAY TIME: I’ve teamed up with Scaddabush to brighten up your January. I’m giving away two gift cards worth $25 dollars and it couldn’t be easier, just follow me on Twitter or Instagram for a chance to win, I’ll be posting more details them later today. Good luck! (Toronto based only.) 

That in-house mozzarella though

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My hubby and I recently attended a menu tasting event at Scaddabush, a restaurant named after the Italian slang word for a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

My first memory of Italian food is about twenty years or so old. I don’t think I was even into my first set of double digits in age, but then my Dad had us eating avocados and shellfish before we really understood that it was Sebastian from The Little Mermaid we were enjoying so much.

It was on the Isle of Man, we had decided to take a coastal drive, my father, my younger sister and I. We drove along the Island’s roads adjacent to the Irish Sea, making our way to Laxey of all places. My Dad is a real foodie, he loves all cuisines, has a serious sweet tooth, which he has passed down to my sister and I, and is never one to turn down a food adventure or not seek it in this case.

As we went down that teeny tiny road towards the beach, we passed a little restaurant – windows lit up with warm orange light and though we were supposed to be having dinner at home, Dad just decided to stop.

I still remember the first time I tried garlic bread that was flat and round, pizza that looked at though it had been made on tandoori naan and fresh pasta. In movies, I’ve heard people talk about the first time they tried heroin, nothing has ever lived up to that first experience of Italian food at La Mona Lisa.

We haven’t been to La Mona Lisa for many years now but some food memories just stay with you and it still plays on my mind whenever I order food in an Italian restaurant. It’s not as if I haven’t had great Italian food since then but nothing close to how that experience felt, studying the menu, bewildered by all the new words, asking Dad about items on the menu and watching him trying to figure it out (there was no Google back then), before waving the server over. Then, waiting for the food to come out, unsure why everything was the way it was but determined to try it all the same and having Manx ice cream after the entire event.

A few months a go, I went on a date with the hubby to Scaddabush after which we signed up to their social club. I love this place because there is nothing better than a restaurant that makes in-house mozzarella and with that tomato jam? I’ll happily concede to my hips and wave goodbye to any thoughts of abs.

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So about a week or so ago, I signed us up to one of their social events that took place a few days ago (thank goodness I follow the 70/30 rule, there were seven courses to try). Upstairs the vibe was super cozy and upbeat. Another reason, I love the Scaddabush interior is because it reminds me of The Elbow Room in Karachi (the only place in the world I have had lasagna to die for), rustic and inviting.

Honestly, I don’t remember the names of all the dishes, but I remember how good they were. The taste testing started with artichokes and calamari. Went onto freshly baked focaccia and warm olives, a mozzarella cheese bomb that oozed onto fiery peppers and tomatoes, followed by bite sized meatballs, pizza, and pasta and ended with a chocolate jar cake. Ahmed shamelessly ate two and went to the gym the next day.

Steve Silvestro, their executive chef, kind of paid homage to all my taste buds and challenged them with the delicious and the unexpected, sweet (honey drizzled onto a pizza with truffle oil) salty, sour (I didn’t know I could like olives so much) and spicy (the calamari had a kickass sauce on it). As course, after course came out, I felt closer and closer to home, that little restaurant close to the beach I love, and the little girl who fell in love with Italian food.

December Dates

The holiday season brings out the lover in me. It’s something about those festive activities that become beautiful stolen moments and end up being wonderful impromptu dates. Not just with your significant other, but friends and family too.

These moments happen all year round too, of course, and are just as wonderful, but I cannot deny loving dates set against a backdrop of twinkling fairy lights, Christmas music, seasonal food and the hope of snow. So here are some of my favourite places and ways to spend time with the special people in my life.

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The Christmas Market

Toronto’s Christmas Market is in the beautiful Distillery District, which just oozes with romantic nostalgia of the past and brings so much flavour to the tradition of these German markets. In the UK, my sister and I would always do them together, it was our thing, depending on which city we were in at the time, we would always eat way too much free stollen and pretzels.

I think they are gorgeous places to go on dates because they engage all your senses. There is much to see and do, with divine smells wafting from cute little wooden shacks, you can try different foods together while cozying up to each other and making your way along cobbled paths. Toronto’s Christmas Market has lots going on during the week and at the weekend. Peruse the stalls, get some hot drinks and find a warm spot in front of their outdoor bonfires.

Love & Pizza

If there are two things that go hand in hand, it is pizza and my love of it. When I was living on the Isle of Man, Isola was and still is one of my favourite restaurants in the world. It is small but the food is really good. My favourite floor is their cellar, which is part of the restaurant and is decorated with barrels, lovely artwork, soft light and candles. I took Ahmed there last year while we were visiting the Isle of Man, sharing a pizza (or two) is my favourite way to celebrate loved ones.

The first time I went to Lil’ Baci in Leslieville, I got that homely feeling. You are greeted with the smell of pizza and a warm glow. The restaurant and patio have a lovely ambience, and it is always a great evening with your significant other or friends. Their pizzas are really good especially with the chillies they serve on the side. While we mostly go in the summer because we enjoy walking to Leslieville, it’s stunning there right now with all the pretty lights. Lil’ Baci is the perfect chilled out or dressed up dinner date spot.

All day, everyday

I walk past 7 West a lot on the way to ballet school. The other day they were putting up their decorations and it looked even prettier than usual through the windows. I love this coffee shop, it’s my favourite place to make time stand still while I sip on something warm. The best part is you can go whenever you want because it is always open.

Snow White

Last year was my first winter in Toronto, my skin just wasn’t prepared for the harsh weather and I learnt the hard way. This year I was on top of my game, these products will make sure my skin stays hydrated, moisturised and glowing. It is all about trial and error, I really make sure products work for my skin before investing in them and I would suggest you do the same, find things that suit you. One of the reasons I love Sephora is because you can try before you buy. It’s going to be cold one, so gearing up does not just mean boots and warm coats, treat your skin with the same love. Here are some of my tricks.

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Cleansing & Exfoliating

With all that wind blowing around, I need a deep clean. I love Purity by philosophy, because it doesn’t dry out my skin. I will also exfoliate a few times a week, I use St. Ives Apricot Facial Scrub, because it’s a family classic and a beauty steal. It’s also great as a body exfoliator.

Hydrating & Moisturising

Heating dries out your skin like crazy, that’s why I love to use serums and hydrating infusions in conjunction with a moisturiser. My skin tends to be a little wary of most moisturisers, but Ren’s Vita Mineral Daily Supplement leaves it feeling velvety. Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair, is a top-selling cult beauty product and I will tell you why I bought it.

When I was at Sephora, the girl showed me just how well it retains hydration by applying it on my arm and then spritzing the area with mist. We did this for a few serums, whilst most of the serums retained the water, it turned into droplets, not covering the entire surface, leaving tiny bits exposed. That didn’t happen to the area with the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair, needless to say I bought it there and then and have been really happy with it. I’ve struggled with dehydration lines on my forehead, they are now gone.

The La Mer Hydrating Infusion is a steal for some drops of that potent Miracle Broth when you consider the rest of the luxury line. I don’t want a strong serum for the day, so this infusion works wonders for me and lasts ages.

Treatments

I got into the GLAMGLOW range last year when I was getting married. I use all their masks, but their ThirstyMud is so yummy and it leaves my skin feeling nourished and looking dewy. You can smother it all over your face a couple of times a week before you go to sleep and let it work its magic or sometimes while I am watching my favourite Netflix show, I like to cut holes for my eyes and breathing passages in some cling film and lay it over my face while the mask seeps in.

Winter can sometimes leave my skin looking grey and dull, I recently got a sample of Ren’s 1 Minute Facial from Sephora and love it. It brightens up my skin, so it’s great for a night out when my face needs a glowing boost.

Also I don’t leave the house without my Carmex or my First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, it does what it says, hydrates, calms and smoothes, both are handbag friendly so it’s worth carrying them around in the winter. Don’t forget to use an SPF.

For skin as fresh as snow, it’s also about what you eat, some glowing recipes are coming soon, but in a nutshell, I find I crave warmer meals in the winter, a vibrant and heart salad just won’t cut it. I love roasting beets, onions and sweet potatoes to have alongside a warm lentil salad. Green juices go hand in hand with summer but on cold mornings I want some hot relief, perk up your morning cup of hot water and lemon with some healing cayenne and honey. Gluten free oats and quinoa flakes, with steaming hot nut milks, avocado, coconut oil, berries and super foods like maca, spirulina and wheatgrass can bring good health too. Okay, so it’s not a green juice but it’s also full of nutrients, hits the spot and leaves you feeling ready for the day.

Sleeping Beauty

Little did I know that on this cold, somewhat snowy Saturday afternoon in Toronto’s Queen West, the idiom beauty is only skin deep would be driven home by learning how to make some gorgeous beauty products but also discovering how deeply damaging some chemicals in everyday products can be.

Maya Goldenberg, a Toronto based eco-beauty professional, did an engaging, inspiring and insightful workshop peppered with funny jokes and oodles of her lovely personality at BEVLAB over the weekend. I was lucky enough to attend and it was one of the best afternoons I’ve had in a while.

BEVLAB, in their own words is a “an open studio, laboratory, bar, and café space meant to serve as an interaction node in the city.” It really is a hub for provoking thought, their creation, the “cloud” is a cool experience and if you live in the city you should check it out. So in this evocative environment, we turned our thoughts to eco-beauty, some delicious homemade apple turnovers so kindly baked for us by Goldenberg herself and some hands on chemistry.

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Goldenberg opened with the idea, that for her, luxury is health and her passion lies in creating eco-beauty products and educating people about what really lies in all our favourite beauty buys on the shelves of popular drugstores. Goldenberg tells us that we can learn about this easily by downloading a free mobile app called Skin Deep, which allows you to scan barcodes of products and get information about them and see where they fall on the Enviromental Working Group scale. Another app Goldenberg referred to, Think Dirty, similar but also gives you cleaner product options.

During what Goldenberg called the “doom and gloom” part of her workshop, she told us about common chemicals in numerous products found in most households, everything from hand soap, to sanitizer to shampoo that all contain harmful toxins. Goldenberg explains, that on average, a woman, uses up to twelve products before she leaves the house, that means in one morning we have already been exposed to over a hundred toxins and on average, a man, uses eight.

Here are some common ones to be aware of (you can find the dirty dozen here):

  • BHA & BHT (found in moisturisers, makeup) may cause cancer, interfere with hormone function and harmful to wildlife and fish.
  • DEA, MEA & TEA (found in creamy preparations and foaming products) can react to form cancer – causing nitrosamines and also harmful to wildlife and fish.
  • Parabens (used in most cosmetics, skin care) may interfere with hormone function and associated with breast cancer, fully intact parabens have been found in the middle of breast tumours.
  • Parfum or fragrance (used in unscented products, often as the last ingredient) some ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity.

Okay, so why should you worry? A lot of us do our best to nurture our skin from within, which of course is so important, by eating clean. Limiting intake of salt and sugar (or substituting them with better choices) and enjoying an unprocessed diet rich in fruit, vegetables, healthy grains, fats and proteins can all contribute towards a glowing and healthy complexion.

Skin is the the largest organ of the human body, taking care of what we put into it is crucial, given that sixty percent of what we put on our skin gets absorbed into our body and goes to our bloodstream. You would think that beauty products that are sold are all exposed to some type of safety testing before they come into our hands and yet it seems that isn’t the case. According to one article  “there are more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals in the marketplace but only 5 percent have ever been tested.”  That’s a lot of unknown toxins being dumped into your bloodstream.

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While we got to dabble and create some lovely products, a tinted lip balm, some deodorant and yummy sugar scrub with quality dōTERRA oils, making their own beauty products isn’t for everyone. You could check out these companies though, Goldenberg loves Sappho Organics and one of my favourite lines is Skin Essence, their Ocular Eye Serum is amazing and goes a long way or check out Tata Harper. There are also plenty of other home remedies you can try, for instant skin brightening try washing your face with gram flour, mashed up avocados make a great mask as does a dollop or two of honey and there is so much pampering to be done with a teaspoon or two of baking soda, everything from a foot soak to a face scrub!

While I have always tried to look for products that are mostly natural, Goldenberg’s workshop really woke me up. What I took away from this experience is, being mindful and aware of what you are buying and making informed choices can make a big difference to the environment, your skin and what goes into your body. Isn’t that beautiful?

The Essential #TIFF Handbag

Toronto’s streets are alive with the scent of TIFF! We found ourselves traipsing through King Street West yesterday after a little foraging in the Entertainment District.

If you are dashing in and out of festivities, watching movies, stargazing and partying during TIFF this year, throw these bits and pieces in your bag to keep you going and glowing like a pro.

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Magnesium

The one thing you will need plenty of is magnesium. Studies have shown, that a lack of it, could leave you with lower levels of energy, that may lead to fatigue, weakness, anxiety and irritability. The last thing you want at a film festival when you want to look and feel your best!

The body keeps using magnesium so eating magnesium-rich food throughout the day will keep you on top of your game.

Give your body a head start in the morning with a leafy green juice. Why not try cold pressed green elixir from Greenhouse Juice Co? They have one that is full of The Good stuff.

Keep up your momentum by throwing some seaweed and nuts in your bag to munch on through the day.

Sparkling Skin

Don’t just leave glowing skin to the stars. Drink Dr. Stuart’s Skin Purify, this little goodie bag has the highest essential oil content possible in a packaged tea.

Stay fresh-faced with Juicy Bamboo Natural Cleansing Cloths. Soaked in organic honey and vitamins, these beautifying wipes are free of cruelty, alcohol, synthetic fragrance, parabens and sulfates.

Keep your skin soft, supple, loaded with nutrients and vitamins with The Hydrating Fusion by La Mer, laced with their transforming Miracle Broth.™

Sweep some Mac Beauty Powder over your face as a soft blush or overall finish and make skin, your highlight of the night.

Leave Your Mark

Be unforgettable with a scent from Jo Malone. Start with something light and flowery for the day, like Blackberry and Bay and add some drama with the hues of Pomegranate Noir as the sunsets on festival street.

Screen Siren

Don’t let the carpet be the only red at TIFF this year. This season’s hot ticket is crimson tones. A scarlet accessory or flush on your lips will take your outfit from day-to-night in a flash and ensure you are camera-ready. My favourites are Maybelline Colour Sensational Lipstick in Hollywood Red or a bright cashmere scarf, perfect for those Indian summer evenings so typical of September in Toronto.

Hollywood Classic

Black sunglasses, enough said.

 

 

The Little Horse

Walking up and down King Street West, pre-Metaphorphosis (a hugely acclaimed play adaptation of Franz Kafka’s famous novel), when freezing cold, looking for a nice place to run into for a quick tipple leaves a lot to be desired, it’s all so ‘samey.’

Having finally stepped into a pink cove a few steps away from the Royal Alexandra Theatre, to make a quick call, I found myself in the cosy glow of El Caballito. Not one for tacos, I glanced down the menu, the offbeat ‘antojitos’ (little cravings) even caught my eye and the fact that they serve fresh juices.

On entering this candle-lit gem, one is cushioned in a warm and hazy feeling underground, which reminded me of the buzzing atmosphere at some of the joints I used to frequent in London’s Soho. Sitting tucked away in a corner, you see the friendly staff going about the day engaging with customers.

I’m told that El Caballito is just two weeks old and currently in its soft opening, hence no fresh juices for the time being. I was more than happy to go with sparkling Mexican water to wash down house made totopos (plantain, sweet potato and taro chips) alongside fresh salsas (Macha, Roja, Verde and Cruda). Which by the way, were not only delicious but a welcome and much needed deviation from the usual corn chips and finely diced tomatoes served up in the name of Mexico.

The grand opening is on February 5th and at weekends, I’m told it turns into more of party with a DJ, hard not to believe with the 64 different types of tequila they offer daily served traditionally in the tall thin shot glass known as a, you guessed it (I hope), caballito.

A breath of fresh air to King Street West, El Cabillito is quite different from the average Mexican joint downtown Toronto has come to know. I’ll be returning for some of Executive Chef Elia Herrera’s other delectables and a drinks menu more interesting than the rest. For taco addicts, my research indicates that this place, brought to us by the culinary heads behind Little Anthony’s and Estiatorio Volos is being hailed as home of the midnight taco, something to think about at your next meeting.