Archive | February, 2015

Zomato Meetup at The Good Son

22 Feb

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I haven’t had a fabulous vegetarian meal at a Toronto restaurant in long time. Now, I know that Toronto has a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants but I’m talking about great vegetarian dishes at “regular” restaurants, so I can enjoy a meal with my carnivore of a husband (I say that with love!). Just when I was about to give up hope, along came the amazing team at Zomato with an invitation to join them for a #ZomatoMeetup dinner at The Good Son. I quickly scanned the menu before heading downtown and I saw a few veggie dishes that sounded tasty, so I felt confident that there would be something for me to eat. Who knew that I was about to have a very exciting and memorable meal….

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I arrived to see that the Zomato group had reserved a large table near the Chef’s station…yippee! As soon as I saw that, I knew we were in for a treat. If you’ve never sat near the kitchen or at the “Chef’s Table” in a restaurant, make an effort to do so. You’ll be close to the action, you’ll get to hear all of those glorious kitchen sounds and you’ll often be surprised with off menu dishes and treats. To me, they are the best seats in the house. At the table were Zomato’s Toronto team, including Justin, Jimena and Pam and a group of fellow bloggers from a mix of food and lifestyle sites. Zomato is an online and mobile restaurant discovery platform and social food network, with presence in over 13 countries and 44 cities. They just upped their game and recently purchased Urbanspoon too!

I did some reading about Zomato before coming to the event and I found out that their team physically collects information from every single restaurant/cafe/bar in town (menus, photos, pricing, timings etc.) and they make sure this information is always up to date. Users of Zomato (which is free to join by the way!) have the unique opportunity to rate and review restaurants, follow other foodies and create a trusted network of people whose opinions they value, all based around one common love… food! They also have the opportunity to “wish list” restaurants, upload photos and tag their friends. It’s a really cool platform, so I do hope you’ll check it out. If you do join, please look me up under Sandy Avvari Nayani.

So why am I sharing this information? I wasn’t asked to share it, I want to share it, because the Zomato team is fiercely passionate about food and the work that they do and I don’t see people with that amount of passion very often. I’ve been using Zomato for a few weeks now and I can already see the benefits of it as I’m able to check out which restaurants my foodie friends have checked into and take a look at photos of the dishes they’ve had. It’s been a great resource so far.

So now onto the meal at The Good Son….oh and what a meal it was. There was a set menu for the evening and I was the only vegetarian at the table, so the restaurant made a special effort to provide me with dishes from their regular menu or vegetarian versions of dishes the rest of the group was having.

IMG_4469First course: Shishito peppers wrapped in potato. Crunchy, spicy goodness with a ton of flavour. I’ve never had anything like it. Oh yeah.

IMG_4464Second course: Watercress salad with poached pear, blue cheese and caramelized onion. It was my first watercress salad and it won’t be my last, the flavours were just incredible.

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Third course: Sweet potato soup with coconut milk. It was warm and comforting on a cold day. There was so much flavor in this soup, I could have eaten bowls of it.

IMG_4468Fourth course: Dupuy lentils with kale. It was so delicious I couldn’t even stand it. One of my favourite dishes of the evening. Where has this dish been all my life? Why haven’t I had Dupuy lentils before? So many questions….

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Fifth course: Spicy brussels sprouts. Another favourite of the evening. Sweet, spicy, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside…wow, wow, wow. Why haven’t I had them like this before? Mind blown.

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Sixth course: Rapini and roasted cauliflower with potato purée. A simple and delicious way to start winding down the meal.

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Seventh course: Poached pear with a Riesling sabayon, pear gelée and chocolate crunch. Lots of great textures, with a ton of flavour. A small but mighty dessert!

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Eighth course: We were all stuffed and happy and just when we thought the meal was over, out came this amazing dessert from Pastry Chef Sat Shastri – red velvet cake with chocolate mousse, cherries and meringue. It was huge and we easily could have shared the dessert and we all started to protest, but Chef Shastri insisted that we just dig in. It was not only beautiful to look at but also incredibly delicious to eat : ) Most of us managed to finish more than half of the dessert, myself included!

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While I was swooning over the creativity and care that went into my vegetarian meal, there were yelps and moans of foodie pleasure at the rest of the table, where my fellow food lovers were savoring their meat and seafood dishes. All in all, I felt that The Good Son did an amazing job at catering to everyone at the table, which to me is a huge feat. Huge thanks to Chef Vittorio Colacitti and the team at The Good Son for a fantastic vegetarian meal, the best I’ve had in a long time! Thank you Justin, Jimena and Pam from Zomato for creating an evening of great food and great people, I’m so thankful that I had a chance to enjoy a #ZomatoMeetup. If they are all this amazing, I would be happy to join again : ) See you again very soon Chef Colacitti! XO

Info:

Zomato – https://www.zomato.com

Zomato’s Toronto feed – https://www.zomato.com/toronto

The Good Son

1096 Queen Street West (at Dovercourt)

Toronto, ON M6J 1H9

Tel: 416-551-0589

Website: http://thegoodsontoronto.com

About Chef Vittorio Colacitti (from The Good Son’s website)

Born and raised in Toronto, Chef Colacitti, learned his culinary art from some of the best names in Toronto’s restaurant industry including: Lorenzo Loseto (George), Scot Woods (Lucien), and Didier Leroy who is a master Chef of France.  Chef Colacitti’s craft in the kitchen also draws from several years of international experience, having studied at the Thai & International Food Academy, staging in various regions across Italy and working as a stagiaire at Thomas Keller’s, Bouchon.

 

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Mini Vacation – Monroeville and Grove City, Pennsylvania

13 Feb

Disclosure: I received a media rate to stay at the Hampton Inn in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

Since I had baby Ronin last year, we’ve been on one family vacation and that was a road trip to Montreal. It was our first trip out with the baby and it went quite well, so we decided to be brave and head out to Pennsylvania with our whole family. The key reason was to visit the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, not only for our annual trip but also to conduct our son’s hair ceremony, an East Indian tradition where the baby’s first haircut takes place at the temple. The other great reason to visit the area….hitting one of our favourite outlet malls, Grove City Premium Outlets!

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I love to shop! Oh yes I do!

Since we were travelling with the whole family (all 11 of us!) we wanted a hotel that was near the temple and Grove City Premium Outlets. Bonus points if the hotel included breakfast and a pool. After some hunting, we chose the Hampton Inn Monroeville as it met all of our needs.

Hampton Inn – Monroeville, Pennsylvania

After a long drive, we arrived at the hotel and were promptly checked in by their friendly staff, who advised that there was complimentary coffee, tea and chocolate available near the front desk. They also had a popcorn machine and a basket of apples to welcome us. We were already off to a great start!

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We headed up to our rooms to settle in. Each room had complimentary bottles of water and packages of Oreo cookies, which I thought was a nice touch. I absolutely love it when hotels make an effort to make their guests feel welcome, it really seems to be a lost art. The beds looked comfy and inviting and my nephews promptly tested them out by jumping on them…we stopped them after a few jumps, don’t worry. Baby Ronin also settled in nicely on the bed, as you can see : )

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We were starving and it was late, so dinner was going to have to be delivery. We ordered pizza from Vocelli’s on a recommendation from the front desk and it was a good choice. We got their Spring Veggie pizza and their Deluxe Pizza and both pizzas were loaded with fresh toppings. The slices were large and the crust was nice and thin. We all enjoyed it and we agreed that we would order it again next time we were visiting.

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I had some time to explore the hotel after dinner so I headed down to the lobby. Along with a computer and printer for guests, next to the front desk was a small shop with a great selection of food, drinks and toiletries for purchase. I was impressed not only with the number of options they had but also that the prices for all items were very fair. Since they don’t have a restaurant in the hotel, it was great to see that they had something for guests who needed a snack or a meal in a pinch.

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We were up at the crack of dawn the next day as we had an early morning time slot at the temple for the hair cutting ceremony. Sadly, we weren’t going to have a chance to try the pool! Oh well, time to hit the breakfast buffet instead : )  I was happy to see that they had a pretty wide range of items, both hot and cold, including eggs, home fries, sausage (my hubby was quite happy about this!), a waffle maker and the usual suspects including a selection of breads, cereals, yogurt etc. There really was something for everyone and we all left with full tummies.

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Sri Venkateswara Temple – Monroeville, Pennsylvania

After breakfast, it was time to head to the Sri Venkateswara Temple, which according to their website is one of the earliest traditional Hindu Temples built in the U.S. My family has been making the trek to Monroeville, Pennsylvania to visit this temple for over 30 years and to this day, it still looks just as it did when I was a kid, all thanks to the staff who do an incredible job at maintaining the temple and the grounds. Everyone is welcome at this temple, so if you’re going to be in the area, please do make it a point to visit.

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Photo credit: Naveen A.

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Photo credit: Naveen A.

After the hair ceremony for my son was over it was time to head downstairs for one of my favourite parts of our annual visit…the food! The Sri Venkateswara Temple serves some of the best South Indian food I’ve ever had and the amazing part is that the flavours have been consistent for over 30 years. The dishes are packed in takeout containers, each costing $2 and they are filled with glorious South Indian delights such as pulihora (tamarind rice), perrugu annam (yogurt rice), sambar rice (a spicy vegetable stew mixed with rice), uppama (a polenta-like dish with vegetables), and pongal (a rice dish made with peppercorns and clarified butter). The temple is a busy place on weekends and the kitchen staff are constantly making new batches of each item, so you’re never waiting too long for the next batch to come out of the kitchen. I’m drooling as I’m writing this!

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We couldn’t leave Pennsylvania without visiting Grove City Premium Outlets. We’ve been shopping at this outlet mall every year since we got married and I’m so glad that I have a husband who takes shopping as seriously as I do! : ) We spent a few hours at the mall and guess what, I don’t have any photos….why you ask? Um, because I was shopping, there’s no time for photos! However, I do have a few tips to improve your shopping experience….

How to Improve Your Shopping Experience at Grove City Premium Outlets (Grove City, Pennsylvania): 

  • Take your passport with you as they have a special coupon booklet for visitors, with coupons for additional percentages off of your purchase etc. The staff at the desk are great and they are happy to let you take a look at the booklet before buying it.
  • A great meeting place is the food court. There’s only one and it’s pretty easy to find people there. While you’re there, be sure to take a break and have a snack and a drink in the middle of your shopping trip. Shopping requires energy!
  • Park at the “back” of the mall, there is more parking and you’ll have just as easy of a time accessing the stores.
  • Grab a copy of the mall map and circle the stores and locations of the stores before you head out to shop. If you’re on a schedule, this is the best thing to do to hit all of the stores you wish to visit. Otherwise, wandering around can take up quite a lot of time!

My “Go To” Stores at Grove City Premium Outlets (in no particular order):

  • Banana Republic
  • GAP
  • Adidas
  • Columbia Sportswear
  • J.Crew
  • Lucky Brand
  • The North Face
  • Nine West Outlet
  • Fossil

With a ton of bags from a successful shopping trip, we stopped in at the food court for a snack before heading out. I’m thankful that Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen continues to prepare tasty pizza slices and strombolis because the spinach and cheese stromboli with extra sauce is my favourite thing to eat whenever I’m there. The trip just wouldn’t be the same without it. See you soon Pennsylvania! Miss you already XO

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Addresses:

Hampton Inn Pittsburgh/Monroeville

3000 Mosside Blvd., Monroeville, Pennsylvania, 15146

(412) 380-4000

http://www.hamptoninn.com

Vocelli Pizza of Monroeville

2644 Mosside Blvd., Monroeville, PA 15146

(412) 856-5000

http://www.vocellipizza.com/monroeville_pa

Sri Venkateswara Temple

1230 South McCully Drive, Penn Hills, PA 15235

(412) 373-3380

http://www.svtemple.org

Grove City Premium Outlets

1911 Leesburg Grove City Road

Grove City, PA 16127

(724) 748-4770

http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=85

 

Spaghettini with Roasted Beet and Poppy Seed + a CONTEST!

4 Feb

 

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Disclosure: Italpasta provided me with a gift card to purchase the ingredients for this recipe.

I love pasta and I could eat it every day of the week if I had to. I’m serious. There are so many pasta shapes and so many ways to eat it that I’m sure I wouldn’t run out of options.

I was excited when Italpasta asked me to try a vegetarian recipe for pasta lovers, perfect for Valentine’s Day, featuring Italpasta Total Pasta Spaghettini. It’s a white pasta with the goodness of 10 grams of fibre packed into each serving, a great option for hubby and I because as much as we enjoy whole wheat and other “healthy” pastas, sometimes we just want (at least what looks like) the regular stuff!

This recipe features butter, spaghettini, beets and goat cheese and they all combine together to form a simple and tasty dish with a beautiful, vibrant beet red finish, perfect for Valentine’s Day or if you’re having guests over and want to impress them. At first I wasn’t sure about adding poppy seeds to the dish but they ended up adding a nice crunch. The texture of the spaghettini was perfect, I never would have known that I was eating a high fibre pasta. We’re adding this dish to our pasta rotation, that’s how much we both liked it! #win

I’ve added some of my own notes in the recipe below. If you make it and have any tips to share, please leave a comment below this post. Happy cooking!

P.S. Don’t forget to scroll down and enter my delicious Valentine’s Day contest to win an Italpasta “For Pasta Lovers” prize pack.

Italpasta’s Spaghettini with Roasted Beet and Poppy Seed

Link: http://www.italpasta.com/recipes-spaghettini-with-roasted-beet.php

Serves 2

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

½ pound      Italpasta Total Pasta Spaghettini         225 g

2                     small roasted red beets, peeled and cut into wedges (Sandy’s notes: You can save time by roasting the beets a few days before making this recipe).

2 tbsps          unsalted butter            30mL

1 tbsp             Italpasta Extra Virgin Olive Oil 15mL

1                      small shallot, minced  (Sandy’s notes: I used half of a small onion)

1 tbsp             poppy seeds   15mL

2                      sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped

salt and pepper

¼ cup              crumbled soft ripened goats cheese, for serving      60mL

(Sandy’s notes: I quickly roasted the beets by peeling them and cutting them into cubes. Then I tossed them in a little olive oil, sea salt and pepper and I spread them out on a baking sheet covered with a sheet of parchment paper. I roasted them at 425 F for 30 minutes. You may need longer depending on the size of the beets. While you have your beets in the oven, consider making some roasted potatoes or another dish to save on energy.)

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente or to your taste. Drain and reserve ½ cup pasta water.

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, brown the butter. Reduce the heat slightly, add extra-virgin olive oil, and stir to combine. Add minced shallot, and cook for 2 minutes, until softened, stir in poppy seeds. Toast the seeds for 1-2 minutes.

To the shallots and poppy seeds, add the chopped beets and thyme, stir for 1-2 minutes. Add ½ cup of pasta water to the skillet. Simmer the sauce over medium heat for 2 minutes. (Sandy’s notes: At this point, I added a ½ teaspoon of chili flakes to add a little spice to the dish).

(Sandy’s notes: This next step is key…stir quickly and constantly to cover all of your pasta with that beautiful red sauce otherwise it will be unevenly coloured.)

Transfer pasta to the skillet and cook for 1 minute until combined, stirring constantly. Taste and adjust salt and pepper seasoning. Serve in warm pasta bowls and top with crumbled goat’s cheese.

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If you loved the look of this pasta, Italpasta has a second Valentine’s Day inspired pasta recipe – Red Wine Spaghetti: http://www.italpasta.com/recipes-red-wine-spaghetti.php

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If you’re looking for more ways to impress your loved one on Valentine’s Day, visit Italpasta’s special Pinterest board with tips on how to set the perfect table, host Valentine’s Day on a budget and of course, cook up some awesome pasta recipes here: http://www.pinterest.com/forpastalovers/valentine-s-is-for-pasta-lovers/

Get more tips and recipes from Italpasta here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ForPastaLovers

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ItalpastaLimited

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/forpastalovers

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/forpastalovers/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ForPastaLovers

CONTEST – Enter to Win a Valentine’s Day Italpasta “For Pasta Lovers” prize pack!

Enter to win a prize pack valued at over $50. It will include:

  • A supply of Italpasta Tradizionale Pasta
  • Apron
  • Cheese Grater

To enter:

1) Follow me on Twitter @savvari or www.twitter.com/savvari

2) Follow Italpasta on Twitter at @forpastalovers or www.twitter.com/forpastalovers

3) Retweet my contest tweet OR tweet this message:

I want to win a #ValentinesDay prize pack from @savvari and Italpasta @forpastalovers http://bit.ly/1vszYbL #forpastalovers

Get a second chance to win by leaving a comment below this post. Tell me what your favourite pasta shape is and what your favourite way to prepare it is – macaroni with cheese? Linguine with alfredo sauce? If you have a great recipe, let me know! If you don’t use Twitter, this would be your method of entry.

You can enter on both Twitter and on the blog post once per day each until the end of the contest. Contest runs until Sunday February 15 at 5 pm EST, so get your entries in!

Additional info:

  • There is one (1) Italpasta prize pack to be won.
  • The winner will be announced by Monday February 15 at 5 pm EST.
  • The contest is open only to residents of Canada.
  • Prize will be shipped directly to the winner. A Canadian shipping address must be provided.
  • Total value of the prize is $50

 

 

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