Restaurants

The Most Insta-Worthy Rice Noodles You've Ever Seen!

Get your cameras ready! North America’s largest rice noodle chain brings something so Insta-worthy it’s worth lining up for! Yunshang Rice Noodle was founded in Toronto back in 2016, and with its huge success at its original location at the intersection of Warden and Steeles in Toronto, it has now grown to become the biggest Chinese rice noodle brand in North America with locations now in Vancouver, Montreal, and even in New York.

As I lived fairly closely to it’s first location in Toronto, I remember various weekends going to Yunshang Rice Noodle for lunch on many occasions. What drew my friends and I to this place back in 2016 was their flavourful soup broth, the affordable price, along with their promise of unlimited noodle refills! Yes, for people with large appetites like myself, having the option of refilling your bowl of noods for a second (or even third!) helping at absolutely no extra cost was incredible.

For those that may be unfamiliar as to what “Crossing The Bridge” Rice Noodles means, it has over a hundred years of history. According to a popular fable, it was invented by the wife of a scholar who had to cross a bridge to bring him lunch while he worked. To keep his soup from getting cold along the journey, the wife added a layer of oil at the top to insulate it, and carried other ingredients such as rice noodles, thinly sliced meats, and tofu skin separately so they wouldn’t get soggy. She would assemble everything upon arrival, and as the soup was steaming hot and the meats were so thinly sliced, everything cooked immediately in the soup. This Chinese fable was passed on by word of mouth and over time has come to symbolize affection, endearment, and admiration.

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That’s why when you come dine at a Yunshang Rice Noodle restaurant, the various toppings for the soup is provided to you separately. Once the steaming soup base is ready and served to you, then you will manually mix in the noodles and toppings one by one to ensure your bowl of noodles is as hot and as fresh as it can be. Each bowl of noodles comes with broth boiled for more than 12 hours to use on the same day with no MSG or other artificial flavours added.

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With its newest location that has now opened up in North York, Yunshang Rice Noodle is celebrating the launch with an exclusive “Yunshang Bridge Rice Noodle”, a never-before-seen rice noodle containing all kinds of premium seafood placed upon an actual wooden bridge! For only $19.99, each set of this “Yunshang Bridge Rice Noodle” comes with Canadian Atlantic lobster tail, fresh French Kiss oyster, sea scallop, shrimp, and crab sticks. Other accompanying ingredients include beef slices, fish cakes, ham, enokitake mushrooms, Chinese lettuce, egg tofu, and quail eggs. This all of course comes with a selection of their signature soup bases such as Signature Bone Soup, Tomato Soup, Coconut Curry Soup, or Spicy Pickled Pepper Soup. My go-to is always either the Tomato or Coconut Curry base. Can’t go wrong with either!

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This exclusive “Yunshang Bridge Rice Noodle” will be available now until March 31st, 2019, and only a limited quantity per day will be made available at their latest North York location (5285 Yonge Street). It’s first come first serve so if you don’t want to miss out make sure you come early starting at 6PM each night.

Whoever said noodles are boring eh?

Moments To Savour With Aeroplan

Toronto is a city full of food festivals and with summer in full swing some of the city's top culinary events is happening right now! Most notably one of my favourite summer foodie events, Summerlicious! Seventeen glorious days of three-course prix fixe menus at 200 of Toronto's top restaurants is being offered to guests looking to have a great meal with friends and family for lunch or dinner all across the GTA. 

If you're an Aeroplan member it gets even better for you. You may not even realize that you not only get the many perks of travel rewards with Aeroplan, but those perks also extend out to some great food options that provides benefits to Aeroplan members only. 

For the second year in a row, Aeroplan is the Premier sponsor of the "Licious" properties in Toronto. Aeroplan recognizes that great food plays an integral part of any travel experience, so partnering up with Summerlicious again in Toronto was a no-brainer. 

Running from July 6th to July 22nd, Summerlicous will showcase Toronto's diverse cuisine with delicious three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus ranging as low as $23 for lunch and as high as $53 for dinner depending on which restaurant you go to.

For anyone who's dined at a Summerlicious restaurant before you probably know how hard sometimes it is to get a reservation especially at some of Toronto's favourite restaurants. Well if you're an Aeroplan member already you're in luck. That's because Aeroplan members get the opportunity to make advance reservations at participating restaurants before the general public can to ensure you get the date and time you want! This year Aeroplan members were able to make advance Summerlicious reservations on June 20th, a full day before the general public was able to. And speaking from experience a full 24 hour advantage can make all the difference in getting that coveted 6:30PM table on a Saturday. 

It gets better. 

Aeroplan members will also enjoy special privileges at select Summerlicious restaurants just by showing the waiter your Aeroplan card or an Aeroplan-affilliated credit card upon arrival. Below are the bonus perks that Aeroplan members will get if you choose to dine at any of these restaurants: 

My first Summerlicious restaurant this year was Bymark from celebrity chef Mark McEwan situated in Toronto's busy financial district. A fine dining restaurant inside the underground passageways of the Path, it's $53 dinner menu serves up Canadian, contemporary food with elegance and style in a dark and intimate setting. Not to mention their famous burger is also on the dinner menu (one of the very best in the city!)

Appetizers

Seared Ahi Tuna Sashimi  - wasabi aioli, cilantro, yuzu soy vinaigrette

Seared Ahi Tuna Sashimi - wasabi aioli, cilantro, yuzu soy vinaigrette

Venison Carpaccio  - spiced blueberries, arugula, grainy dressing, gaufrette potato

Venison Carpaccio - spiced blueberries, arugula, grainy dressing, gaufrette potato

Main

Bymark 7oz Burger  - brie, sauteed mushrooms, truffle aioili, crisp frites

Bymark 7oz Burger - brie, sauteed mushrooms, truffle aioili, crisp frites

Seared Scallops  - crab potato croquettes, cauliflower puree, beech mushrooms, leeks, shellfish bisque

Seared Scallops - crab potato croquettes, cauliflower puree, beech mushrooms, leeks, shellfish bisque

Dessert 

Lemon Meringue Cake  - lemon curd, lemon sponge cake, toasted meringue

Lemon Meringue Cake - lemon curd, lemon sponge cake, toasted meringue

Bymark Chocolate Bar  - white and dark chocolate mousse, caramel crunch

Bymark Chocolate Bar - white and dark chocolate mousse, caramel crunch

It is through these type of culinary partnerships that Aeroplan will help bring more people together with food and drink. Personally when I travel the fondest memories I have is the food I eat with the people that mean the most in my life. Those are the moments I will savour. 

If you're not an Aeroplan member yet, enrol now HERE and start enjoying all the benefits that Aeroplan has to offer! 

Favourite Summer Menus to Explore in York Region with a Bonus Giveaway!

With summer quickly approaching the time to get out of hibernation mode and into exploration mode is upon us. This is my favourite time of the year to check out new restaurants I’ve never been to or go back to some old favourites, because lets face it, navigating through the cold and snow while wearing the heaviest of winter jackets when you’re hungry is not fun.

There’s just something about those sunny rays that reenergizes you to get out of the house and do something, and personally as a big foodie that something for me of course is to find the best restaurants and dishes that will excite my taste buds.

It can be overwhelming at first because York Region has such a large array of restaurants that you just don’t know where to start. Its diversity is evident through all the different type of cuisines you can find here, with restaurants ranging from low-key casual bars and pubs, family operated and owned, and fine dining if you choose to splurge a little bit more.

If you need a good place to start this season here are three of my favourite and highly-recommended restaurants in York Region you should definitely check out this summer. And yes all three of these restaurants have their own outdoor patio if you prefer to dine outside with Mother Nature. My personal preference!

Hungry Brew Hops

In the heart of downtown Newmarket on its revitalized Main Street, Hungry Brew Hops is York Region’s first gastropub with a mantra of “serving really good, honest food with some really good, craft beer.” Opened in 2014 this is a great place to hang out with friends and grab a beer with some of the best tasting pub food I’ve ever had. They have a draught selection of 37 taps featuring only the finest microbrews and wines (yes, even wines on tap!) from both local and abroad. Their food menu rotates seasonally offering a wide-range of items prepared in-house. This is the perfect place to cheer on your favourite sports team while downing some beers and chowing down on some great food at reasonable prices.

Top food recommendation here: Cauliflower Fritters!

Cauliflower Fritters  – beer battered cauliflower, green onions, sweet chili, house dill sauce

Cauliflower Fritters – beer battered cauliflower, green onions, sweet chili, house dill sauce

Signature HBH Burger  – beef patty, philly meat, beer-braised onions, sweet chili aioli, American white cheese, brioche bun

Signature HBH Burger – beef patty, philly meat, beer-braised onions, sweet chili aioli, American white cheese, brioche bun

Skor Square  – Skor, milk, chocolate, buttered crackers

Skor Square – Skor, milk, chocolate, buttered crackers

Smash Kitchen & Bar

A staple in the Unionville community, Smash Kitchen & Bar provides an upscale casual restaurant atmosphere with southern-inspired comfort cuisine. There is something for everyone here as their menu offers a large variety of dishes from tacos, salads, ribs, pastas, pizzas, and steak. On most days of the week here they also have different dine-in promotions going on such as $28 AYCE ribs on Tuesdays, so you might want to check ahead of time before coming here to see if there is dine-in special fit for you. Weekend brunch is also most certainly a thing here! Think Chicken & Waffles, Crab Cakes Benedict, and Fully Loaded Omelets.

Top Food Recommendation: Lobster Mac & Cheese

Baja Fish Tacos  – beer battered white fish, 2 homemade flour tortillas, citrus slaw, chipotle aioli, guacamole

Baja Fish Tacos – beer battered white fish, 2 homemade flour tortillas, citrus slaw, chipotle aioli, guacamole

Seafood Cakes  – blue crab, tiger shrimp, arugula salad, caviar, tartar sauce

Seafood Cakes – blue crab, tiger shrimp, arugula salad, caviar, tartar sauce

Smash Burger  – two beef patties, cheddar cheese, smash sauce, lettuce, pickles, onion chips, brioche bun with added caramelized onion, bacon, mac & cheese cake

Smash Burger – two beef patties, cheddar cheese, smash sauce, lettuce, pickles, onion chips, brioche bun with added caramelized onion, bacon, mac & cheese cake

Lobster Mac & Cheese  – tomato cheese sauce, Atlantic lobster, pico de gallo, herb crusted

Lobster Mac & Cheese – tomato cheese sauce, Atlantic lobster, pico de gallo, herb crusted

Chef’s Seasonal Cheesecake  – Pandan Cheesecake

Chef’s Seasonal Cheesecake – Pandan Cheesecake

Next Door Restaurant

Sister restaurant to Smash Kitchen & Bar, Next Door Restaurant is just a few minutes’ drive away nestled in the prime location of historic Main Street Unionville. Inside you’ll find a spacious dining area encased by natural light seeping through the large windows that surround it. This is a restaurant where the presentation of the dishes will blow you away as their precision and creativity in plating is what keeps me and other guests coming back for more. They also boast one of the largest outdoor patios for a restaurant in York Region, and personally one of my favourites as it sits right beside a small body of water that adds just that extra charm and elegance to the experience. Much like their sister restaurant, NextDoor also offers a killer brunch service where each dish is just as Instagrammable as the next.

Top Food Recommendation: Suckling Pig

Street Corn  – crispy polenta, corn salad, goat cheese, chipotle aioli

Street Corn – crispy polenta, corn salad, goat cheese, chipotle aioli

Duck Wings  – Korean ketchup, green onions, sesame seeds

Duck Wings – Korean ketchup, green onions, sesame seeds

Suckling Pig  – braised lentils, sauerkraut puree, chicharron pickled mustard seeds

Suckling Pig – braised lentils, sauerkraut puree, chicharron pickled mustard seeds

Torched Salmon  – roasted sun chokes, charred leeks, leek puree, puffed wild rice, roasted carrots, ikura

Torched Salmon – roasted sun chokes, charred leeks, leek puree, puffed wild rice, roasted carrots, ikura

Berries & Cream  – pavlova, vanilla custard, lavender blueberry granite, strawberry mousse, seasonal berries

Berries & Cream – pavlova, vanilla custard, lavender blueberry granite, strawberry mousse, seasonal berries

BONUS - To have a chance to try some of these dishes featured here, visit my guest blog post directly on the Experience York Region website HERE to enter in their giveaway!

Chefs for Change Dinner with Aeroplan

Many of us may only associate Aeroplan with the reward miles we save up to redeem for travel, but as they grow in terms of their food and beverage sponsorships we will begin to see them as big players within the largest food festivals across this city and country. With some exciting new  partnerships already, Aeroplan is the Official Premier Sponsor of Toronto's Winterlicious and Summerlicious this year, which is one of the most prestigious and popular culinary events in Toronto with similar culinary sponsorships in Montreal and Vancouver.

Last week I was fortunate enough to be part of the Aeroplan team as we embarked on a night full of delicious food that was all for a worthy cause at the Chefs for Change dinner. For the first three months of the year, Chefs for Change is an event that hosts some of Canada's best chefs during five nights of food. Each night features a special culinary collaboration from the top chefs in Toronto and across Canada. These dinners also bring profound meaning, substance, and community involvement as the net profits from the ticket sales will go help Community Food Centres Canada, an organization that builds health, belonging, and social justice in low-income communities across Canada through the power of food. This has been an organization and cause that Aeroplan has been supporting for a number of years and a cause dear to their hearts.

Each of the five nights will incorporate a theme into the dinner that will all take place at Propeller Coffee Roastery, which gets transformed from the neighbourhood coffee shop in the day into a stunning culinary venue at night. I was fortunate enough to be part of the CONNECTION dinner that featured top chefs from the city's best restaurants like Richmond Station, Bar Isabel, Momofuku, Beast, Drake Hotel, and The Tempered Room.

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Before the four-course seated dinner began, reception started off the night with wine, cocktails, and canapes as guests mingled with each other. Of course as one foodie does, my guest and I headed over to the bar to grab some drinks as we walked inside the venue. To say we were spoiled is an understatement. By the time we left the bar we had a refreshing gin cocktail from Top Shelf Craft Distillers on one hand, and a bottle of wine in the other. In all my past events when you ask for some wine you get a glass, but not here! You get to walk away with an entire bottle! Shout-out to Flat Rock Cellars and Cave Spring Niagara Peninsula for the Pinot Noir and Riesling to keep us hydrated throughout the night!

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As 7:15PM approached the main event was about to start and we gathered to our assigned seats at our communal tables (table 3 represent!). Host Michelle Jobin guided us along throughout the entire evening introducing us to each chef as they came out to talk about their dishes they created for the dinner. With introductions complete the plates were ready to be rolled out to each of our hungry bellies and the exciting four-course dinner was to begin.

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Here's a breakdown of what we ate!

First Course

Pork Jowls & Fluke   - carrot, chickpea gochujang, white soy by Paula Navarrete of Momofuku and Ted Corrado of The Drake Hotel

Pork Jowls & Fluke - carrot, chickpea gochujang, white soy by Paula Navarrete of Momofuku and Ted Corrado of The Drake Hotel

Second Course

Empanadas   - short rib and bone marrow with achiote aioli and braised chicken with oji costeno by Connie DeSousa & John Jackson of CHARCUT Roast House and Scott Vivian of Beast

Empanadas - short rib and bone marrow with achiote aioli and braised chicken with oji costeno by Connie DeSousa & John Jackson of CHARCUT Roast House and Scott Vivian of Beast

Third Course

Pacific Cod and Chorizo Verde   - confit potatoes, broccolini, cod sauce by Chris Brown of Victor Dries Events and Grant van Gameren of Bar Isabel

Pacific Cod and Chorizo Verde - confit potatoes, broccolini, cod sauce by Chris Brown of Victor Dries Events and Grant van Gameren of Bar Isabel

Fourth Course

Birch Nest    - maple, black rice wine vinegar, lapsang, rosemary and mignardise by Bertrand Alepee of The Tempered Room, Carl Heinrich & Louis Lim of Richmond Station

Birch Nest - maple, black rice wine vinegar, lapsang, rosemary and mignardise by Bertrand Alepee of The Tempered Room, Carl Heinrich & Louis Lim of Richmond Station

Surprise Dessert!

Various Mignardises   by Bertrand Alepee of The Tempered Room

Various Mignardises by Bertrand Alepee of The Tempered Room

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To end the night off after such a fulfilling and exquisite dinner we all just had, Nick Saul (President & CEO of Community Food Centres Canada) gave us all an inspiring speech and reminded us all of why we were all there. There are many people out there who just don't have the means to eat lavish meals everyday, who fight every night to put a simple meal on the table for their family, yet it is food that is often the catalyst that brings people of all different ethnicities, ages, professions, religions, sexual orientations, political views, rich and poor to that same dinner table where friendships and community can be formed. Food can be used as a powerful tool for greater health, equity, and social change, treated as a basic right where everyone has the means, knowledge, and voice necessary to access good food with dignity.

I am so glad to see we have big businesses outside of the food industry like Aeroplan to support such worthy causes and give back to the community. Through some of these sponsorships and other food and drink initiatives, Aeroplan members will also have exclusive dining opportunities including:

  • unique dining experiences such as chef collaborations from around the world
  • priority access to culinary events and reservations

There will be even more opportunities coming up for members to earn and redeem miles for travel just by tasting the world right here at home with friends and family. If you are already an Aeroplan member and would also like to donate your miles to Community Food Centres Canada, please visit this link here.

I would like to thank Aeroplan on bringing me along to such an inspiring, uplifting, and delicious night. Great food is an integral part of the travel experience and Aeroplan is on the forefront of helping people share in meaningful moments by bringing everyone together through food and drink, a journey taken not in the sky but through our taste buds.

Intercontinental Toronto Centre - Luxury Hotel In The Heart of Downtown

Whether you live in Toronto already or planning to visit the city on your next vacation, the 4-diamond Intercontinental Toronto Centre Hotel offer guests the perfect combination of upscale elegance, luxurious comfort, and complete convenience situated in the heart of downtown Toronto. Just a 5 minute walk away from Toronto's largest transportation hub, Union Station, you are only a short distance away from the city's largest attractions such as the CN Tower, Air Canada Centre, Hockey Hall of Fame, Ripley's Aquarium, Roy Thompson Hall, and the Roger's Centre.

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Being in the heart of downtown Toronto you undoubtedly will have access to stunning city views in their luxurious and modern guest rooms and suites. Furnished inside with contemporary decor, plush beds with luxury duvet and crisp linens, Keurig coffee makers, big screen TVs, mini bars, and ergonomic work desks, you'll be surrounded by natural day light with large windows overlooking Lake Ontario and the CN Tower. If you're looking to have some TLC or to simply recharge your body in this urban hideaway, guests can escape the outside world and seek some serenity at Spa Intercontinental from deep-tissue massages to body wraps and cleansing facials. If staying healthy and active is your forte, go for a swim in the hotel's indoor saltwater pool or lift some weights in their state of the art fitness centre.

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Toronto is also home to one of the best foodie cities in the world. Trendy restaurants are on every corner and in every direction of the Intercontinental Toronto Centre Hotel, yet guests won't even have to look very far at all if they are looking to find some delicious eats for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Tucked away inside the hotel is Azure Restaurant and Bar, an upscale fine-dining restaurant offering guests of the hotel and anyone else in the city a seat to their premium dining menu and wine list. With a 4-diamond dining experience, you'll be wining and dining within floor-to-ceiling glass windows creating a serene canopy of stars and city lights inside.

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Below you will find just a sampling of the dishes you can come to expect at Azure Restaurant & Bar. These dishes were part of a dinner menu for Winterlicious 2018, a sophisticated curated 3-course menu between January 26th and February 8th, 2018.

Crab & Avocado Parfait  - frisee, celery root, pickled ginger remoulade, lime, salsify crisps

Crab & Avocado Parfait - frisee, celery root, pickled ginger remoulade, lime, salsify crisps

Maple Roasted Parsnip & Cauliflower Soup  - horseradish cheddar, double smoked bacon

Maple Roasted Parsnip & Cauliflower Soup - horseradish cheddar, double smoked bacon

Cocoa Nib Braised Beef Short Rib  - rutabaga mash, king oyster mushrooms, pickled shallots, devil's rock blue cheese

Cocoa Nib Braised Beef Short Rib - rutabaga mash, king oyster mushrooms, pickled shallots, devil's rock blue cheese

Garganelli Con Funghi  - porcini sauce, cremini mushrooms, fried sage, medjool date ricotta

Garganelli Con Funghi - porcini sauce, cremini mushrooms, fried sage, medjool date ricotta

Chestnut & Hazelnut Tart  - milk chocolate praline, concord grape sorbet, goat cheese foam

Chestnut & Hazelnut Tart - milk chocolate praline, concord grape sorbet, goat cheese foam

Apple Pie Cheesecake  - salted caramel apples, bourbon caramel sauce, honeycomb, pie crumb

Apple Pie Cheesecake - salted caramel apples, bourbon caramel sauce, honeycomb, pie crumb

If you're anything like me when I'm staying at a hotel, what I very much look forward to every morning is their hotel breakfast. Whether it may be a breakfast buffet, room service, or a la carte, I actually make an effort to wake up early in the morning to make it out for breakfast, which is completely abnormal for me normally as I usually skip breakfast in the mornings so I can afford those extra minutes sleeping in. Let me just tell you that waking up for breakfast at Azure is completely worth it! The hotel breakfast here is phenomenal which ends at 10:30AM and you have a choice of a $29 breakfast buffet or order from their a-la-carte breakfast menu. Checkout here is at 12PM so you won't feel rushed at all to leave and you'll still have a good amount of time to digest your breakfast in your hotel room after you're done.

Check out what a typical hotel breakfast is like!

Oat & Blueberry Pancakes  - blueberries, berry compote, maple yogurt

Oat & Blueberry Pancakes - blueberries, berry compote, maple yogurt

Eggs Benedict  - english muffin, peameal bacon, breakfast potatoes

Eggs Benedict - english muffin, peameal bacon, breakfast potatoes

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Toast  - dark rye, lemon ricotta, arugula, cucumber, tomato, red onions

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Toast - dark rye, lemon ricotta, arugula, cucumber, tomato, red onions

If modern luxury, convenience, state of the art amenities, and quick access to incredible food is what you're looking for in a hotel, make sure you book a room at Intercontinental Toronto Centre Hotel the next time you visit this world-class city. Just for the food alone staying here is worth it!