Hollandaise Diner (Danforth East) 

If you’ve seen my Instagram posts over the last few weeks, you’ll know how much I love Toronto’s Hollandaise Diner. After eating there three times in the last six weeks, I figured it was high time to tell all of you what makes this place so great!

Chef Josh prepared a massive feast for us! You can see why I’ve been back twice.

Located just east of Woodbine, this cozy brunch spot opened a little over a year ago. I first heard of it when a fellow Instagrammer (find her awesome page at @reesestdot) invited me to an event for “influencers”, i.e. bloggers/active people on social media who often post about Toronto eateries and are able to reach a large audience. In a nutshell, the influencers show up, take pictures of the dishes the chef has prepared (to later post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and then get to share the food. It’s a win-win: the restaurant gets free advertising, and the influencers get a free meal and great company.

That Thursday evening, after the diner had closed for the day (it’s open daily from 7 AM to 3 PM), owners Josh and Marisa greeted us at the door. A young and friendly couple, Josh is the head chef and Marisa pulls double duty as a waitress and hostess. The influencers were a small group – just five of us – but, during the course of the evening, Josh was busy whipping up seven or eight of the diner’s most popular brunch items. I love brunch food, especially eggs Benedict, so I was in heaven! Their delicious Hollandaise sauce comes in five varieties (original, zesty, coconut, Cajun, and HP-infused) and is made in-house and from scratch, as are their lightly-fried home fries. Of their seven eggs benny combinations on their menu, they served us four of their favourites, listed below.

The Classic ($10.62), an English muffin with peameal bacon, two poached eggs, classic Hollandaise sauce and paprika:

The Coconut ($11.95), bitter greens and grilled tomato topped with two poached eggs, coconut Hollandaise sauce and toasted coconut:

The Cajun ($11.95), two pieces of baked polenta, sautéed Cajun spice peppers, two poached eggs, Cajun Hollandaise sauce and fresh chives:

The Meatloaf ($11.95), two pieces of meatloaf on top of a ketchup glaze with sautéed mushrooms, two poached eggs, HP-infused Hollandaise sauce and fresh parsley:

I’ve also had their Florentine eggs benny ($10.62), which substitutes sautéed spinach for meat:

Of the eggs bennies, Coconut and Florentine are my favourites. The melt-in-your-mouth Coconut benny is a lighter option as it substitutes grilled tomato for English muffins, while the Florentine benny is simple and delicious comfort food. FYI, Marisa and Josh were happy to do whatever they could to accommodate allergies, substitutions, and dietary restrictions. They even have an awesome vegan option called The Mighty Vegan ($12.95) – a tofu-based baked frittata with asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, and served with a side of fresh fruit.

Next up were to die for coconut pancakes ($8.85), made with coconut milk and infused with bits of toasted coconut. They’re so good that I couldn’t resist ordering an extra coconut pancake on the side the last time I ate there! Homemade blueberry sauce added to the mouthwatering flavour. Clearly each of us influencers was in the mood for pancakes, because these disappeared in seconds!

Chef Josh also whipped up his original buttermilk pancakes ($8.85), which we were all eager to drizzle with maple syrup! A little magic in the kitchen turned them into colourful “Funfetti” pancakes, which Josh would be serving a few days after the influencer event, as part of a celebration for the diner’s one-year anniversary:

And finally, Josh brought us the Mushroom and Brie Frittata ($12.39) – three large eggs with portobello mushrooms, Brie, asparagus, and a side of sweet and spicy red pepper jelly:

At Hollandaise Diner, the food is delicious, the ingredients are fresh, the creations are unique, and the staff is warm and welcoming. They don’t take reservations, but the space sits 24, so even at peak hours you won’t have to wait more than a few minutes for a table. If you live in or around Toronto, you’ve gotta visit them at least once. Their menu truly has something for everyone, so you won’t be disappointed!

15 Awesome Things That Happened Around The World in 2016

There’s no denying that 2016 was a rough year for many. Situations in Syria and Istanbul worsened, terrorist attacks happened everywhere from Florida to France, and many issues surrounding climate change and human rights went unresolved. To those of us who were paying attention to the daily news, it felt like the bad stuff just kept piling on. However, like I wrote in my previous post, there’s no use in condemning the entire year because of what happened during it. 2016 saw many positive changes in the world, too! Here are some of them:

  1. Child mortality rates have decreased by more than half since 1990!
  2. Volunteers in India planted almost 50 million trees in one day in order to help reverse effects of deforestation and climate change! In a country where smog levels are at an all-time high, this is a big deal. Read more here.
  3. 600,000 square miles of Antarctica’s Ross Sea will be designated as the world’s largest marine life sanctuary, safe from detrimental human activity!
  4. Pakistan finally made “honour killings” punishable by law! More here.
  5. The World Health Organization has declared Sri Lanka malaria-free! The country has not reported a single locally-transmitted malaria case in three and a half years.
  6. Eight months of passionate protesting at the Sioux Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota resulted in the U.S. government rerouting the Dakota Access Pipeline! It would have transported 450,000 barrels of crude oil daily underneath the Missouri River (close to the reservation), leaving the tribal land vulnerable to devastating oil spills. Major victory for locals, although the fight is not over.
  7. As of 2016, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities agreement has been signed by 160 countries and parties! The international human rights treaty is intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.
  8. Graduation rates have reached an all-time high in high schools across the United States!
  9. The Paris Climate Agreement, which has been joined by 122 parties (including China and India), entered into force on November 4, 2016! The central aim of the agreement, as stated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius” and to “combat climate change and adapt to its effects.”
  10. The number of homeless veterans in the United States has decreased by half since 2010, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Interagency Council on Homelessness!
  11. The number of wild tigers is increasing for the first time in a century! Why is this important? Giant pandas and manatees were also taken off the endangered list in 2016.
  12. Groundbreaking peace talks happened between the Colombian Senate and the Farc (the country’s largest rebel group) after victims of the country’s bloody conflicts lobbied the government for peace! According to the BBC, the revised agreement aims to end an armed conflict that has killed 260,000 people over 50 years.
  13. Kenyan grandmothers in the shady Korogocho slum received praise for learning self-defense moves as a way of preparing to fight off potential attackers! You go, grannies!
  14. In 1999, Bertrand Piccard became the first person to fly successfully around the world in a hot-air balloon; in 2016, he completed the first circumnavigation of the globe without using any fuel, flying 40,000 km on solar power to promote the use of renewable energy! More on this incredible story here.
  15. 2016 was one of the safest years in aviation history! Despite the horrific plane crashes that did happen, there were relatively few crashes and deaths compared to other years – the current statistic is 1 death in every 10.7 million travellers.

There you have it, friends! A list of 15 incredible advances and accomplishments that 2016 should be remembered for. Feel free to leave a comment detailing other awesome changes that you know happened last year. We have a long way to go in making the world a near-perfect place, so here’s to hoping 2017 will see even more positive changes!

Happy 2017! Let’s Make This Our Best Year Ever

Welcome to 2017! Here’s to good health, happiness, and success. How did you all ring in the New Year?!

What a year 2016 was – there was a lot of devastation both locally and globally as well as a collective horrified disbelief at the outcome of the recent U.S. presidential election. However, there were also a number of very positive things (coming up in my next post) that were happening in the world at the same time. This year, I really hope the scale of these positive changes will widen to include issues in countries that have ongoing crises, such as Syria, Turkey, Iraq, South Sudan, and the Congo. Additionally, I’m hoping to see more global developments in the areas of climate change, minority rights, women’s rights, persons with mental health issues and disabilities, and prison conditions. A few ways we can help include educating ourselves and others about world issues, becoming activists to represent issues we’re passionate about, doing what we can to ease the suffering of those who need help, and reminding ourselves and others to never lose hope. Continue reading

Architectural Digest’s Style & Design Tips for December 2016

This month, the magazine explores the Obama family’s modern White House style, shows us how to display artistic sculptures in our homes, and gives examples of how lush greenery can compliment both architecture and personal style.

I hope you all had a happy and festive Christmas! Now that the excitement of presents and Christmas dinner has come to an end, many of us are coming up with our New Year’s resolutions and making personal goals for 2017. A common goal for the new year is to renovate or redecorate certain spaces (i.e. bedrooms, dining rooms, bathrooms and offices), which is why I wanted to share with you this month’s design tips from Architectural Digest. Even if you’re not planning to redecorate for a while or are on a budget, hopefully this post will help you gain some style and design insight for your future projects!

1. Use “dynamic” artwork and furniture to set the tone for your space.

Display unique photos, paintings, furniture and sculptures in rooms where they’ll have the most impact – think your foyer/entrance, dining room and living room. Whether it’s a photograph displayed in an elegant frame, a colourful painting or portrait, or a funky sculpture or table that really pops, those look-at-me pieces can bring life to small and plain spaces or give modern spaces a more casual vibe.

By the way, sculptures and art can double as furniture if you want to kill two birds with one stone. Check out this stunning Yves Klein coffee table, this Tommi Parzinger studded credenza, this Maria Pergay glass table and this Maria Pergay lamp. If you’re on a budget (or simply not made of money), you can find similar items for less at local housing ware stores like IKEA. They boast an assortment of unique shelves, lamps, storage units, cabinets, tables, chandeliers, etc. If you’re in Canada, you can also try Artemano, Structube, Urban Barn and Leon’s for funky yet functional household items.

2. Copy the Obama family’s White House style by using punchy artwork and earth-toned accents to make a “modern splash” amid a traditional theme, i.e. rich mahogany furniture coupled with beautiful rugs and carpets.

You can see pictures of their home here – notice how the rugs, dark wood furniture and subtle greenery (i.e. small plants or flowers) are a running theme throughout almost every room? This really ties the whole house together, as each room is complimentary of the next one but has memorable accents unique to that room (such as a plush sofa for the family room, breathtakingly beautiful artwork found in dining rooms and entertaining spaces, and antique desks and armchairs for executive rooms). Continue reading

Holiday Gift Guide For Everyone on Your List

We’ve all been there: it’s less than a week until Christmas Day and you haven’t even started to buy gifts for your friends, family and/or colleagues. You want to find presents specific to their hobbies and needs that are also within your budget, but you don’t have any idea where to start. Well, today’s your lucky day! Below is a list of affordable items that will make everyone on your list happy, whether they’re a techie, a beauty junkie or a foodie. Happy shopping!

Gift Cards

Restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, clothing stores, electronics stores, drugstores and more will have gift cards for purchase, which is why they make a great gift for people who frequent those places. Alternatively, a prepaid Visa card or amazon.ca gift card will give the recipient the freedom to purchase whatever they like.

Beauty/Skincare Sets

You can find awesome $12 stocking stuffers (for both girls and guys) or $25 makeup kits at Sephora. If there isn’t one located near you, local drugstores or beauty supply stores will also have value sets for face, skin, nails, and body care.

Small Tech Accessories

This portable phone charger would make a very useful gift, as would these stylish earbuds, this iPhone charging dock and this portable Bluetooth speaker. Continue reading

Architectural Digest’s Style & Design Tips for November 2016

For many people, myself included, Architectural Digest is the interior design and decor Bible. The magazine is my go-to when I need stylistic and architectural inspiration or am searching for unique vacation spots to add to my bucket list. Every month, I eagerly snatch up the latest edition at my local drugstore and slowly make my way through it, savouring each page. As long as I’m doing that, I may as well take note of some of their design and decor tips and list them here for you to peruse. Enjoy!

1. Furniture patterned with vintage floral and woodland details is very in. 

Think pastel-coloured pillows and blankets detailed with pink roses, kitchenware painted with forest scenes, and even furniture carved into branches, such as this stunning bench from Currey & Co. These details make for timeless statement pieces!

2. Don’t be afraid to mix textures and styles, but do choose complimentary colours. 

American decorator Mark D. Sikes mixed vintage English and modern Californian styles to give his Los Angeles home an elegant yet relaxed vibe. To make sure nothing looked out of place, he chose a simple colour palette of blues and whites for his furniture which are coupled with light and dark brown wood accents throughout the house.

3. Channel your love for certain countries or traditions through unique art and cultural items.
Continue reading

Cluny Bistro (Distillery District)

After dining for the third time at Cluny Bistro today, I can confidently say that I’ll be going back again soon!

Located in the heart of Toronto’s historic Distillery District, Cluny serves “modern French cuisine in a casual bistro setting.” There seems to be some confusion as to whether it’s a casual bistro or an upscale restaurant and boulangerie (bakery), but I digress. The service is always great (though wait times during busy hours are very long when waiting for your meal) and the cuisine and meal presentations always surpass my expectations! The decor is exquisite, with patterned floors, ceilings and plates that almost have a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern feel to them:  Continue reading