Homecooking Made Easy Peasy With Prepd: Toronto Launch & Giveaway!

Life, as we know it, is becoming increasingly busy. As a young professional myself, I know that time is something, it seems, we have less and less of. To make time for work, friends, family, studies and all the other little things, it seems the trend is to make sacrifices where it matters most! In what we eat! As fast food and “take-out” meals are becomingly more and more readily available to us, cooking wholesome meals at home is becoming a thing of the past. In a world of reality TV and “top chefs”, we’ve been fooled into thinking that cooking a delicious meal is something best left to the experts.

If you’re a Torontonian, as busy as a bee and guilty of slacking in the kitchen, I’ve found you a solution for making delicious, healthy meals at home without costing you your valuable time. Continue reading

Ceili Cottage: My Kind Of Pub

I think I’ve fallen in love again…with Ceili Cottage. It’s my favourite pub in the city, located in Leslieville on Queen Street. Actually, it’s the only pub I’ve ever loved. This Irish local, owned by world champion oyster shucker Patrick McMurray (also the owner of Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill), exudes Irish authenticity, from the food, to the drinks, to the decor, to the live music. I love restaurants with personality. If you take the time to look around inside, you’ll start to notice all the little details. Almost everything in this place has something to do with oysters or Celtic culture, including photos, awards, shucking tools, books, and boardgames. The building, once an old garage , consists of two rooms: the cottage room and the bar room. The patio out front is also REALLY GREAT (with oyster shells embedded into the concrete floor). Definitely a good summertime spot to visit if you’re looking to enjoy good food, drinks, and the gorgeous Toronto weather. They’ve got a great selection of beers to choose from…it wouldn’t be a good pub without good beer, right? They have twelve taps offering a mixed selection of beers from Ireland, Ontario, and Quebec.

“Ceili (pronounced Kay-lee) is an Irish word for a social get-together of music and dance. With that come the food and drink. Our “Irish Local” is a place for friends and families in the neighbourhood to convene for conversation and good “craic” (Irish for good fun).”
I took that bit from the Ceili Cottage website, because I thought it was pretty wonderful. You can find a full menu and more info by clicking on the link.

They serve amazing oysters, which is another reason I absolutely love this place (you must know by now that I’m an oyster lover). Their selection usually includes an oyster from the east coast and Clarenbridge Bay oysters from Ireland. I don’t get the chance to eat Irish oysters very often so this excites me. If you’re an oyster lover, this is your kind of pub.

If you’re lucky you’ll walk in on a flute and fiddle session, which adds some wonderfully lively Irish folk-sound to the experience. Continue reading

Pizza Done Right At Falasca SPQR, An Authentic Roman-Style Pizzeria

I have finally found the best pizza in the city! Falasca SPQR serves some of the most authentic pizza I’ve ever had. This pizzeria specializes in their award-winning (world and Italian competitions) traditional Roman-style pizza. The crust is perfection. Chef Falasca clearly knows the secret to making delicious pizza dough. The golden pizza crusts are thin, but not too thin (about a centimetre thick) and crispy, but not too crispy. (Perfection). You hear the crunch when you bite into your slice, and then you smile as you swallow it.

SPQR stands for Specialita Pizza Quadrata Rotonda, which in Italian means specialty pizza square and round. (Don’t worry, I was a bit stumped too when I first tried to figure out what the four letters stood for.) The square pizzas are served at lunch al taglio (meaning that it is sold by weight). I walked in for the first time on a Thursday afternoon right after the lunch rush, I’ve heard the place gets pretty busy. They have different rectangular pizzas to choose from. Continue reading

Shucking Up A Storm!

You may think it’s a waste of time and money to take an oyster shucking class, and that your pry-it-open-with-a-screwdriver, smash-it-with-a-hammer, or stab-yourself-in-the-hand methods are working just fine, but I’d say learning the proper way is totally worth it.

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Last weekend I took an oyster shucking class at Oyster Boy. It was so much fun. Eating oysters can be quite an expensive hobby. If you’re an oyster lover like me, I’m sure you already know this. Shucking your own oysters is a great skill to have. You can save money by buying your oysters at the market or from a wholesaler and shucking them yourself. But, I’m a believer in doing things the right way, which is why I wanted to learn to shuck from the experts. Impress your friends with gorgeously shucked oysters, that aren’t full of grit/sand.

The classes at Oyster Boy happen every weekend (Saturday and Sunday from 11:00-1:00). Each class holds 8-12 people and each shucker receives Continue reading

Oyster Boy: An Oyster Girl’s Dream

It only took me a dozen oysters at Oysterfest in Toronto two years ago to realize what I’d been missing out on for so many years. I hadn’t eaten raw oysters before that special day, and fell in love with the briny beauties instantly. I didn’t know much about oysters or the oyster community in Toronto back then. All I knew was that I needed to find out where the best oysters were, and have some more!

I AM SO GLAD I FOUND OYSTER BOY.

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It’s not only their AMAZING oysters that make Oyster Boy my favourite oyster bar. It’s also the atmosphere. I love everything about the place. It’s a small, warm, cozy restaurant by Trinity Bellwoods Park on Queen Street West with wonderful food and terrific people. Everyone is extremely friendly, from the shuckers, to the servers, to the chefs. It’s one of those restaurants that you walk into and can feel the love. You feel their love for oysters, for the restaurant, and for eachother. The restaurant is simply, and very well, decorated. The walls are adorned with all things oyster and the sea. You’ll find a beautiful collection of everything from family photos to seaside memorabilia, art, maps, and oyster shells. They’ve even got pretty little oyster shell light fixtures along the walls. You can tell each of these pieces has got a story behind it, and that’s what makes it more special than anything. Take the time to check it all out. Oyster boy is like a small family that welcomes you into their home. I sometimes joke that it’s my second home (and by joke, I mean I sort of wish it was). Everything’s just so great there that it seems silly to go anywhere else. For a while I didn’t even bother trying other oyster bars. I’ve now tried a handful of places in Toronto, and have to say that Oyster Boy remains my fave.

Oyster Boy has built a strong reputation for being one of the best oyster houses in the city. They are also one the main suppliers of oysters in Toronto, catering to restaurants, events, and private parties. Their oysters are always fresh and you’ll find some of the top shuckers in Canada behind the oyster bar. They’re super friendly, and so knowledgable. There’s lots to learn, so ask away! In fact, they hold really great shucking classes at the restaurant on weekends. I did a class a few months ago and it was loads of fun. You’ll learn more than you’d ever dream about oysters and all the tricks to shucking them the right way. The best part though, of course, is eating your first 16 self-shucked beauties.


My first time shucking at a shucking class. Call to check availability and book a class. Booking a class with a group of friends or colleagues for a birthday or work event is a great idea. 🙂

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Our two dozen from my visit last week. These were Plack Pearls (BC), Kumamotos (USA), and St. Simons (NB). Delish. We always ask the shucker which oysters are particularly good that day. If you’re not sure which oysters to order, be sure to ask. The servers and shuckers know their stuff, and they’ll give you great suggestions.

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The St. Simon oyster is one that we order quite regularly. This is a great one to start with for oyster-eating beginners. St. Simons are light, salty, slightly sweet, and delicate…nothing too robust.

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The Black Pearls were really yummy, and they’re gorgeous to look at. The shells were more thin and delicate than most others I’ve seen, and the oysters had frilly black edges. They were a perfect combination of salty and sweet, and almost had a slight watermelon or melon rind flavour to them. We liked these so much that we saved them for last. 🙂

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Kumamotos have always been a favourite of mine. Definitely worth a try…and then another try (and another one). They are small oysters that originate from the Kumamoto region of Kyushu, Japan. They were transported to the United States and are now farmed on the west coast. They have deep cupping, fluted shells (like a little oyster bucket…so cute) and a mild, smooth, sweet taste. They are sometimes described as having a buttery flavour. I’ve also heard them be referred to as a “dessert oyster”. I always say they’re like the cheesecake of oysters…maybe that’s taking it a little too far…I love cheesecake.

IMG_6272Oysters are always served with lemon, freshly grated horseradish, and three housemade sauces. The sauces include a cocktail sauce, a ginger and banana pepper hot sauce, and a shallot and red wine vinaigrette. The hot pepper blend is not too hot, it adds the perfect amount of spice, and the red wine vinaigrette is amazing. Their sauces are the best I’ve had.

There are cooked oyster options too, if you’re not into the whole raw seafood thing. They bake oysters a few different ways, or you can order them fried. I’ve tried the Oysters Royale, baked with crab meat and a sherry bechamel. A really nice change from the classic Rockefellers you find at most other restaurants.

There are so many other oyster varieties I’ve eaten at Oyster Boy. Some of the others include Black Point, Beach Angel, Malpeque, Caraquette, Caspumpec, Cavendish Cup, and Colville Bay oysters. Try some from the east coast, and some from the west. Mix it up!


They have my favourite beer on tap. (Another plus.) Pints of Beau’s (and Jameson) have become our Oyster Boy tradition. It’s what I order every time I’m there. Spicy caesars are good too (with fresh horseradish, yum!).

Although oysters are a main attraction for me, I cannot deny that the rest of the menu is equally delicious! Oyster Boy is a seafood lover’s dream come true. I’ve been lucky enough to try a number of different menu items on my many visits. We always order a couple of other things to go with our oysters.


I am a huge chowder fan and the Sustainable Seafood Chowder here is really good. It’s rich and hearty, and the nice, plump clams are the best part. A lot of the time they have a daily soup special as well, so make sure you ask your server. The daily specials are always tres fab!

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This is a past soup special: Smoked Whitefish Jalapeno Corn Chowder, with fingerling potatoes and topped with seasoned popcorn. It was similar to the Smoked Jalapeno Corn Chowder with Smoked Oysters they served at Soupstock 2012.

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Oyster Boy makes a pretty mean fish taco…and fish tacos rule! The fish is crisp, juicy and has got nice, spicy flavour. The juicy, saucy goodness tends to leak all over your hands and you end up with sauce all over your face, but this is what tacos are about. Ask for some extra napkins and dig in. Enjoy them!

Steamed clams and mussels are both classic seafood favourites, and we order them here time and time again. The mussels are done three ways: classic garlic, white wine, parsley broth, a coconut curry broth, and a smoky tomato chorizo broth. I’ve tried all three. The coconut curry broth can be a nice change if you’re in a curry kind of mood, but you can’t go wrong with the classic. The clams are steamed in the classic garlic, white wine, parsley broth, and usually plump and juicy. (If you ask nicely you could try them in one of the mussel flavours.) Don’t forget to ask for bread to mop up that broth!

They serve whole steamed shellfish, lobster or crab (when it’s available). It’s so much cheaper to steam one of these bad boys at home, but you deserve a treat every now and then! The dungeness crab we had was fresh and perfectly steamed.

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The Sturgeon Ceviche is divine. It’s a great starter, served with crispy taro chips.

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I love oyster boy’s thin-cut shoestring fries. They are to die for, and a great side to add to your meal. They come with a choice of chipotle, lime jalapeno aioli, or a curry sauce on a half oyster shell. 🙂 They also offer yummy onion rings, the size of your hand!

They’ve got other seafood favourites such as crab cakes and fish and chips (I’ve heard the fish and chips are really great), along with some tasty salads as well. They also serve pasta and non-seafood options. (I’m usually there for seafood.) Always check what the daily specials are because they are always AMAZING! They have some really creative delicious choices!

We always stop by late in the evening, so I’ve never had to wait for a table, although I’ve heard it gets crazy busy during prime meal times. Reserve a table to be safe.

I’ve hopefully inspired you to give this place a try. It’s one of my favourite restaurants and I hope you love it as much as I do.

Click here to visit their website. (FYI: I don’t think their menu is up to date.) Like them on Facebook!

Happy seafooding! xx

Mexican Feasting At La Carnita

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There’s almost no better way to celebrate a birthday than with a taco feast. Tacos are one of many pleasures in my life (with an emphasis on fish tacos). All my taco tasting actually began when I declared my life to be a continuing hunt for the best fish tacos in Toronto. I have to say though, there are a bunch of bests. I can’t choose one, that’s silly. There’s so many yummy variations, and I love them all. So naturally, when my birthday-girl-of-a-friend asks if I want to go for birthday tacos at La Carnita…I say HELL YES.

I’ve been to La Carnita a few times and cannot get enough of it! This once pop-up turned perma-restaurant serves delicious Mexican street food and has a great drink menu as well! It’s definitely a Toronto taco hotspot. The food and drinks are moderate to highly priced. I’d say two people could spend within 50 dollars for drinks and a satisfying spread of food (including an app and dessert). Totally worth it though. The atmosphere is super relaxed and they play great music (not too loud). When you walk into the restaurant, you are instantly greeted by the wonderful aroma, old-school hip-hop, and friendly staff. And The charming restaurant is dimly lit with unique light fixtures and full of dark, rustic furniture. The walls are covered in custom free-hand graffiti and murals, and it is always packed. They don’t take reservations, so you just have to pray they won’t be too busy. You can leave your phone number and they’ll text you when a table becomes available for you.

The best way to pass the time while waiting for a table is to take a seat at the bar (if it’s not completely full), and choose a delicious drink from their drink menu. They have great Mexican beers as well as wines and some really unique, yummy cocktails. I order a drink and I’m usually seated before I even finish it. I generally order a mojito…because I love them. However, this time I decided to try something new. Our drink selections:

The boys ordered beers (boys do that), but didn’t end up choosing Mexican varieties. They went for a pint of Muskoka Mad Tom IPA and a bottle of Liberty Ale. We girls opted to try beer cocktails. They were new to us, and quite delicious! My drink was called the Bread & Butter and involved mixing a bottle of Negra Modelo with iced lime juice in a chili and salt rimmed glass. She chose to try the OG Michelada, which was like a delicious spicy beer caesar. This was a mix of Clamato, lime juice, hot sauce, and a cold can of Tecate. If you like caesars, that’s a good one to try. I have a friend who lives and dies by La Carnita’s Who Shot Ya, which is a pink bourbon-based drink, and apparently delicious. It’s a mix of bourbon, ginger, lemon, and hibiscus grenadine. So creative!

As predicted, a table was ready for us before we were even five sips into our drinks. We sat down, got comfy, and began to devise our taco plan of action.

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If I could, I would order everything on the menu. They have a selection of yummy starters. We always start with the crispy housemade tortilla chips (that are dusted in ancho chile powder..yum!). The toasty chips can come with one side, or all three that they have to offer. We always do all three (again, don’t ask me to pick one). They make slight changes to the menu throughout the year. This visit we had a trio of guacamole, a fresh housemade salsa fresca, and a mezcal chipotle pate. I checked out their current menu and they’ve replaced the salsa with a sikil pak (Mexican pumpkin seed dip)…a reason for me to return! Chips are great! Dips are great! We ordered more tortillas to finish our remaining dip. “Umm, NO I’m not done with that!”

I’ve got to go back to try some other starters. I’ve had a swordfish ceviche there in the past that was delish. They also serve Mexican meatballs, avocado mango salad, and Mexican street-corn (when in season) charred to perfection with a Mexican crema drizzled over top.

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Now for the main event…TACOS! La Carnita does a variety of different tacos. All have their own kind of flavour and are yummy in their own way. The restaurant also offers daily taco specials, so there’s a featured taco for every day of the week. One of the features I have yet to try (but I’ve heard all about) is a crispy squid taco that they’ve named Squid The Kid (love their fun taco names). Crispy squid + mango hot sauce + crema + lime cabbage + red chillies + cilantro…sounds like Mexican seafood heaven to me. I’d like to go there when I die, please.

Side note about the strategic food-ordering skills I’ve developed with my boyfriend to maximize how many yummy dishes we can taste in one meal (that I’ve mentioned in other posts)… Our taco eating secret is to order all different tacos and eat half each. This is the best way to enjoy all the different flavours, and not have your jeans burst open during your meal. (If you explode, you probably won’t be able to ever eat again…big foodie fail). We usually do four tacos between the two of us.

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This visit, our quartet decided on two orders of In Cod We Trust, La Carnita’s famous voltron fish taco. I’m not religious, but I definitely believe in cod. 🙂 This taco is a MUST every time I go. (I told you about my fish taco addiction.) Fried cod + voltron sauce + lime crema + pickled red cabbage + cilantro = fish party in your mouth (pickled cabbage is one of my fave taco toppings).

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IMG_5185In Cod We Trust (half-devoured)

We also ordered two Crispy Avocado & Frijoles tacos.  These are so yummy and a great vegetarian option. Beans + crispy avocado + chipotle sauce + queso fresco (cheese) + cilantro = creamy, crispy, beany goodness.

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Another one I always go for is the Tostada De Ceviche. I gravitate towards the seafood options, and I LOVE ceviche. Swordfish + guacamole + coconut + habanero + tomato + cucumber…on a crispy tostada. The tanginess of the ceviche with the guacamole (and a bit of spice) is wonderful.

IMG_5157Tostada De Ceviche (two on the left)

A really good taco, if you’re not seafood-crazy, is the Pollo Frito. Chicken + peanut mole sauce + pickled green cabbage + salsa fresca. My favourite part about this is that the chicken is SPICY. I love a good kick to my food, and this was a very pleasant surprise. The pickled cabbage and spicy kick work wonderfully together.

The Beef Cheek!!! Another taco that offers some good, spicy flavour. Ancho braised beef cheek (tender creaminess) + lime avocado + green cabbage + pickled jalapeno + crispy shallots = spicy, cheeky love wrapped in a tortilla blanket.

IMG_3520Beef Cheek up front, Pollo Frito behind

One of the boys chose to go for the Thursday featured taco, the Cochinita Pibil. This is braised pork + orange jicama salsa + pickled onion + queso cotija. (The pictures tell me there may have been some guac in there too.) Never tried this one, but it looks almost like juicy pulled pork and I was told it was tasty and reminded him of chili.

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When the taco platters start to arrive I get excited for what’s coming. We each bite into our first tacos and smile. So great sharing good food with good people. We spent our time eating, drinking, chatting, comparing tacos, and picking favourites. Before I even knew it, I was stuffed.

I’m not too much of a dessert person, but it was a birthday celebration after all. The dessert menu consisted of Churros, Paletas, and Tres Leche Cake. I pointed out that there were four of us, and three churros in a single order. We sort of hesitated to order six of these Mexican doughnut sticks. We were so full. However, the waitress laughed and said not too worry about it. People fight over churros, they would be eaten. We took her word for it and asked for two orders.

It was a smart decision, because they were delicious. Warm, crisp, and sugary, and served in a cup of warm housemade cajeta (sweetened caramelized milk). Non-dessert-eating me ended eating two churros, and scraping every last bit of cajeta from the cups. Sometimes I like dessert…

When you get your bill, it always comes along with a free limited print of a Dia de los Muertos inspired skull done by different artists. I think you can buy the prints too. It’s just one more thing I love about La Carnita. The work they do with art and the support they give artists. They’ve incorporated some amazing art in their restaurant, in the lighting and the art and murals on the walls. Super cool.

IMG_5209The print I got with my last meal to add to the collection 🙂

In a city as cultured as Toronto, there are so many great restaurants to try! La Carnita is one of my favourite Mexican restaurants. If you haven’t been there, you should give it a try. I think you’ll love it. 🙂

They’re located near College & Bathurst. On College St. just west of Bathurst St. (501 College St. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.) Check out their website!
http://lacarnita.com/

Happy feasting! xx

The Seafood Spree Continues: Diana’s Oyster Bar & Grill

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Continuing the seafood spree that is my life, I decided to finally head to Scarborough and try Diana’s Oyster Bar & Grill. I’ve only had oysters in a couple places in Toronto. I’ve always remained loyal to Oyster Boy (Queen St. West, Toronto), that place is like my second home. However, I love trying new things and I had heard so many wonderful things about Diana’s that I just had to go and see for myself what all the fuss was about (sorry, Oyster Boy).

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Before the restaurant, Diana’s Seafood was a seafood store only (one of the best fishmongers in Toronto), selling all types of fresh seafood and oysters. I haven’t been to the store yet, but I definitely will go soon. The store is shaped like a ship, with the bow facing the street, it has the big swinging doors, and its walls are lined with portholes shaped windows. How fitting! I’ll hopefully find time to go this weekend. They’re having a special on sea urchin! (YUMMY! That got me super excited.) In late 2011, Diana’s took over the property next door and opened a restaurant. Customers can now enjoy their fresh seafood without having to wait to get home and prepare it themselves.

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We went on a Saturday, later in the evening. It was an anniversary celebration, and what better way to celebrate then to indulge in dozens of oysters and delish seafood dishes. 🙂

The first thing I noticed was all the huge selection of oysters they had behind the bar, all on ice with name tags. I love trying new varieties of oysters. I try as many new ones as I can. The raw bar had about 14 different types of oysters along with fresh Cherry Stone clams and sea scallops. I was so excited to try them all! Apart from the Malpeques and Kumamotos, I hadn’t tried any of the other oysters they were serving. Boy was I in for a treat!

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The restaurant was small, clean, well lit, and simply decorated.

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We started with some really good bread (plus a bit of olive oil and balsamic). The bread was warm, light, and with just a touch of toasty crispness. I’ve made it a rule to keep bread eating before meals to a minimum, but it was hard. This bread was great.

I’ve learned to order strategically when going to restaurants now. My eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach. It’s hard when I want to try everything! I start by looking through the whole menu. I try to stay away from entrees, unless they sound absolutely wondrous and too hard to pass up. We sometimes share an entree between two people and then order an assortment of appetizers. At oyster bars, we always start with the usual two dozen oysters. I was really looking forward to the fresh clams and scallops, but to my dismay, they had just run out of the sea scallops. Bummer.

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A delicious assortment of oysters arrived at our table and I was bouncing up and down in my seat for joy. We asked for the shucker’s recommendation and I let the waitress know I wanted to try new varieties and which not to include. We had a mix of Lucky Lime, Shigoku, European Flat, Fanny Bay, Virginica, and South Lake oysters as well as some Cherry Stone clams. Each oyster had its own distinct flavour and texture. They were SO GOOD. Diana’s serves them with housemade seafood sauce, mignonette, and a scotch bonnet hot sauce (it’s hot, and so good) along with lemon and freshly grated horseradish.

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Cherry Stone clams. They have a mild briny taste are a bit chewier than oysters. These were amazing, but I still love my oysters better.

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European flats. These were sweet and meaty, with a weird metallic finish. I’ve never had oysters with such a strong aftertaste. I think it’s a hate it or love it kind of taste. I thought they were delicious.

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The Virginica oysters were really delicious. They were plump, meaty, salty, and similar to a Malpeque.

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The Shingokus have very deep shells, like little oyster buckets. They were sweet with a light clean salty taste. I almost found they reminded in the slightest bit of Kumamotos (which are a lot more buttery and rich). These are also much larger than Kumamotos.

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Dressed Shigokus. We always do a cheers, it’s our thing.

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Fanny Bay oysters.

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Fanny Bay.

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European Flats.

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Clammy goodness.

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Doing what I do best.

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Our waitress brought us an extra few Virginicas. 🙂

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The oysters were the best part. I really enjoyed the variety and their freshness. I was so satisfied. Our other dishes began to arrive…

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We ordered the lobster bisque. I love lobster but don’t do bisque very often. Diana’s bisque was really good. It was rich, not too creamy, lots of flavour and lobster. I scraped my bowl clean. (Bad manners, I know.)

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The steamed Gallo mussels were steamed in a white wine sauce (there was also a spicy marinera option). They were quite tasty, but the mussels were a bit overcooked. I must confess, after my recent trip to Halifax, I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied with mussels anywhere else ever again. I had the BEST mussels I’ve ever eaten at The Five Fisherman Restaurant & Grill. They were fresh local mussels from Halifax and were cooked in white wine to PERFECTION. Absolutely divine. The biggest , juiciest, most plump mussels I’ve ever seen. My pre-Five-Fisherman-mussel-experience self would probably say these mussels would have been terrific, had they been cooked just a little less.

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One thing on the menu that caught my eye was the sea urchin bruschetta. I haven’t always been a sea urchin lover, but I’ve grown to really enjoy its flavour and texture. The thing with sea urchin is that it has to be super fresh to taste great. I could eat a whole tub of fresh urchin. Fresh, raw seafood tastes so good on its own. You can really appreciate its true flavour this way.The bruschetta was yummy and so beautifully plated, although I think I personally prefer a fresh sea urchin sashimi. Really creative dish though, and delicious nonetheless.

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Full and so satisfied, I couldn’t even imagine eating dessert. Part of me was dying for a takeout order of creme brulee, but they said it would be too hard to pack it up. (I didn’t need it anyway.) We ordered a cappucino and latte instead, and sat happily discussing how great the oysters were. We were the last customers there and got to enjoy our hot drinks in peace. What a great evening.

Check out their website for menus & raw bar selection:
http://dianasoysterbar.com/

If you’d like to visit the Diana’s fish market for really great, fresh seafood, they list their products and specials on their website:
http://www.dianasseafood.com/

Tea Party For Two: The Windsor Arms Tea Room

I started off my week with a marvelous belated birthday treat! Afternoon tea with one of my best girls at one of my favourite buildings in the city, the Windsor Arms Hotel.

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The hotel is beautiful. It dates back to 1927, when it was first built. However, it was rebuilt in the late 90’s, keeping some of the old features and incorporating a 1920’s French style, along with some modern touches. Something about the building makes me happy. Its high ceilings in the main lobby and courtyard, dark mahogany hallways, and the warm textures of drapes, rugs, and other decor relaxes me. I love the bookshelves in the walls of the elevator. It’s a fun building to explore. There’s an old-world tranquility to the hotel, with a modern feel.

It was my first afternoon tea experience, and hers too. We didn’t really know what to expect. The french-styled lobby tea room was clean, bright, had mirrored walls and small tables, was full of pretty tea cups, and had a collection of ornate hats on a stand in one corner. (You can give a $5 donation to wear a fancy hat. Proceeds go to the Look Good Feel Good program.) After being seated at a cute little table, we sat staring at our menus for a while, enjoying the new environment and analyzing all the objects on our table. I was part in awe, like a little girl in a life-sized dollhouse ready to serve tea to her dollies, and part confused and slightly embarrassed because I didn’t know where to begin.

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Our waiter explained to us that we didn’t have to worry about food, our “most important decision was to choose our tea”. There was a wide selection of loose leaf teas to choose from (http://www.windsorarmshotel.com/tearoom/our_teas). It was so hard to decide. White? Black? Chai? Fruit blends? I am the worst decision maker. I finally decided on the Earl Grey with Blue Flowers, with organic lavender flowers. She opted for the Chai Arms, a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, pepper, and organic black tea. I was so happy with my decision. It was delightful. I love the scent of lavender, and when my pot arrived I was instantly engulfed in the wonderful aroma. I decided not to add cream or sugar to my tea, it was so good on it’s own. We sat chatting and sipping, and of course happily taking pictures (how could we resist?).

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Next, our tower of scones, sandwiches, quiche, and sweets arrived.

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We started with the goat cheese and caramelized shallot quiche tart which was pretty tasty. We also had a selection of raisin and plain scones. They were warm, fluffy, dusted with powdered sugar, and served with housemade jams and Devonshire cream. Yum.

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Our selection of pinwheel sandwiches included smoked salmon and wasabi sour cream with salmon caviar, cucumber with sundried tomato paste and dill cream cheese, and grilled chicken, granny smith apple citrus mayonnaise with Greek yogurt and chives.

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By this time we were stuffed with scones, sammies, and tea. There was still cake to eat. We had a selection of pretty little petits fours including chocolate cakes, a white chocolate cake, and a raspberry cheesecake.

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We finished off with a sparkling raspberry sorbet, which was quite sweet, but I love sorbet (or anything frozen and yummy) so I enjoyed it.

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I was quite happy with the Tea Room at the Windsor Arms, although it was my first time having afternoon tea so I don’t have much to compare it to. I thought the scones were delicious, possibly the best I’ve ever had, however the sandwiches and tarts didn’t seem as fresh as they could have been. I sort of got the sense that everything had been prepared ahead of time and pre-plated. I’ve actually read quite a few bad reviews about the food at the Windsor Arms Hotel. The hotel has a long standing reputation as a luxurious destination for tea, Sunday brunch, or a hotel stay (the rooms are gorgeous!). It’s so upsetting to me that the current staff don’t seem to want to keep this tradition alive! For the price you pay, and the posh surroundings, I would definitely expect the food to be equally spectacular. The tea was wonderful and I loved the elegant, traditional atmosphere. It’s a lovely way to spend the afternoon, maybe catch up with an old friend, chit chat over hot tea and a light meal. (I say light meal, but I was surprisingly full when I left.)

I loved my first tea party. Can’t wait to do it again! 🙂

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Check out the Tea Room website for menus, hours, and more details if you’re interested: http://www.windsorarmshotel.com/tearoom