Taste of Toronto 2014

I won a pair of tickets from a Twitter contest that Pommies Dry Cider held a while ago and it was such a fantastic evening! Thank you so much, Pommies!!

Taste of Toronto features a huge array of artisan vendors, top ranked restaurants and live music from all around Toronto and beyond. Instead of money, restaurants and bars will only accept Crowns, which are bought at $1 a piece.

This year, it was held at Fort York at the south end of Bathurst Street and Thursday was the perfect evening to go!

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I went with the monsieur and we first loaded up our Crowns card with $40, thinking that it would be enough for a few dishes and a couple of drinks. We actually had to go back and top it off with $20 because there was just so much to try!

The first dish that we tried was a smoked pulled duck taco from Barque Smokehouse (299 Roncesvalles Ave.) that was absolutely divine. The duck was succulent and soft, but perfectly seasoned with just enough of their special barbeque sauce. It was contrasted with some lightly pickled radishes, crispy fried onion and fresh green onions.

It was all gone before I could take a picture!

We tried a couple beers (100th Meridian is surprisingly refreshing but crisp), a Pommies each (delicious as always!), a sampling of a Canadian gin distiller called 66 Gilead Distillery (Black Dragon Sochu and Canadian Pine are both very tasty), and some tequila to round the night out (Tequila Tromba has a delicious cilantro, lime and jalapeno chaser for a hard night of partying).

In between all the drinks, we went and had some more of the finest food Toronto has to offer!

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From the famous Splendido (88 Harbord St.) comes pieces of sashimi salmon on a block of crisped rice with some avocado, pickled jalapenos and roasted sesame seeds on top. Something in the dish really made the salmon flavours pop and the whole dish was very well balanced.

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The monsieur got the fresh agnolotti with ricotta, mushrooms and truffles from Splendido. I thought 10 crowns would have gotten him two agnolotti but I’m guessing that the black truffles really raised the price! The agnolotti wasn’t overpowered by the truffles at all and the ricotta was decadently creamy with such a wonderful aroma.

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Lastly, we made a stop at the LIQUID NITROGEN ICE CREAM (aka Ice Volcano)!

They didn’t accept crowns, so the monsieur bought some Nutella ice cream for us because he’s a total sweetie. I didn’t expect it to have dry ice at the bottom! And, it was one of the smoothest ice creams I’ve ever had!

As a pair of scientists, we were both VERY impressed.

Everything at the Taste of Toronto was luxurious, classy and it seemed like everyone was having a good time! I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing it again next year.

Thank you again to Pommies Dry Cider for the tickets! You can find their delicious Ontario cider at the LCBO.

Xoxo,

B.Elle

Summer Festival Nail Style

We’re well into summer and it’s festival season! Nothing says summer like lots of colour, fresh food and sunny days. What better way to hit up a night market or street festival than to go all-out with the most badass nails you can do on your own?

Need some inspiration? Check out these nail art techniques put together by Superdry Canada!

SuperdryFestivalNailStyleHowtoGuide

Aren’t they so cute?! I’ve been meaning to paint my nails and get them all pretty, but I didn’t want to ruin them at the parkour jams in the next couple weeks. Boourns!

If you try them, send me pics! I’ll share it on this post for everyone to see.

xoxo,

B.elle

Topbox – July 2014

Canada Post was crazy fast this month! I got my shipping notification after work and my Topbox was waiting for me when I got home the next day!

I can’t say the same for me, though… The August wishlist just came out and I’m still finishing this review! Oops. I randomly picked off some choices, but I also picked the regular box, so it’ll be fun to see what I get next month.

This month, I wished for a Benefit Prive Box and actually got it! Whoa. I also grabbed a $10 add-on.

What is it?

Topbox is a Canadian monthly beauty box subscription that features 4 deluxe samples for $12 per month, shipped right to your door via Canada Post. Some months even include full sized products! Keep in mind that they do have a waitlist of about 2-3 months from initial sign-up before you start your subscription!

Let’s see what’s in the July Benefit Topbox!

Topbox July 2014

They’re pretty small samples, but I’ve noticed that Benefit’s really scaled back their sample sizes in the past year or so. I do like how there’s almost a whole makeover kit in my box this month!

I kind of lost the listing card, though! Sorry!

Topbox July 2014Benefit’s They’re Real! Mascara – $23 for 8.5g ($8.12 for 3.0g sample)

The They’re Real! Mascara is probably their most well known product on the market aside from the Porefessional and Benetint lip and cheek stain.

Everyone from their next door neighbour to their grandma raves about this mascara but I actually don’t like it! I know, it’s so strange! I think the wand bristles are too stiff for my spindly little eyelashes and I always end up poking myself in the eye. The formula doesn’t seem to be anything remarkably special, either.

Benefit’s Stay Don’t Stray Dual Primer – $26 for 10.0mL ($6.50 for 2.5mL)

It’s a good thing that they sent out medium/dark shades because I’m definitely not pale!

I never had a problem with my Too Faced eyeshadow primer, but I do want to see how dark this shade is and if it’ll work with my melt-prone concealer. It looks shimmery in the picture, but it’s actually completely matte!

Topbox July 2014

Benefit’s They’re Real! Push Up Liner – $24 for 1.4g ($1.71 for 0.1g sample)

I actually thought for a split second that they sent us a Benefit-branded tampon! Oh gosh.

They probably put it in the sleeve wrapping because the actual sample is super thin and doesn’t fit in the paper wrapping at all! I’m not a fan of extraneous packaging, so the tampon packing inside a cardboard boxette seemed completely useless to me.

So, apparently, this doesn’t even use the same type of push-up method as the full sized product and you have to squeeze the tubing to get the gel out and apply it to your lash line like that.

I tried it out on my hand and I gotta say… I am so not impressed. The gel is super thick and heavy and, since a tiny bit goes a very long way, it’s VERY easy to get panda eyes if you’re not careful with the Push-Up Liner. At least it really stays put!

The plastic tip is absolutely brilliant for doing a wingtip, though! Too bad the formula reminds me of the old charcoal pencils I used in art class.

Benefit’s They’re Real! Makeup Remover – $18 for 50.0mL ($2.70 for 7.5mL)

If you can’t tell, I’ve already used some of it before I got a chance to do this review.

The makeup remover itself is a little creamy and gel-like, which was a little strange for me since I always use a solution or a dual-phase! But, I really like this one because it’s so effective and took off my waterproof mascara and liquid eyeliner without any problems AT ALL.

The only thing is that I don’t like using makeup remover just for eyes anymore, so I hope Benefit comes out with a similar formula for the whole face!

Topbox July 2014

Teeez Desert Lush Lipstick in Red Onyx

I have NO idea where you might be able to get this in Canada! It’s a European company based in the Netherlands and it’s pretty damn awesome. The packaging is so eye catching!

The lipstick is so creamy and it’s even vegan (as far as I can tell from their claims and glancing over the ingredient) with SPF10!

It’s super sheer, so it’s great for a milder look or for everyday wear, but I can definitely see that it’ll be outstanding with a bit of matte lip liner underneath for evening!

Teeez Lipstick Red Onyx

Verdict: 4/5 – I finally got a prive box! Yay! But, I don’t like two of the samples Benefit chose to put in and the other two were either meh or AMAZING. The add-on was really nice for me and I would definitely try my luck with another one soon!

Did you get the July Topbox? What did you think of it?

xoxo,

B.elle

Little Life Box – July 2014

Got some more goodies in the mail! This month’s Little Life Box had a theme of healthy, organic food!

What Is It?

Also known as Petite Boîte à Vie, the Little Life Box is a monthly healthy lifestyle subscription box that ships from Quebec, Canada. Each box starts at $19.99 and ships anywhere in Canada for $3.75! Each box will feature healthy and natural products for you to try and Little Life Box will feature some brands on their site to purchase full size products.

As always, the box was stuffed full of goodies!

At first glance, there’s some repeat brands that I’ve had in the past couple months but I think I’m okay with them. I’m also pretty pleased that I didn’t get another bottle of supplement pills!

OneCoffee Ethiopian K-Cups (2 pods)

They brought back the OneCoffee K-Cups this month but this time it’s the Ethiopian blend. I don’t have a Keurig machine, but I did rip out the coffee grinds from the cup, used them in my normal coffee and it worked pretty well. It’s a bit wasteful, but it’s about 90% biodegradable, so I guess it’s okay? O_o

Four O’Clock Herbal Teas (2 teabags)

I’m never going to have to buy tea again! I love getting them in my subscription boxes!

I got two in my box this month, but I can’t remember what the second one is. It’s a repeat brand, but I like sampling the whole line before making a clear judgement on a brand, especially when it’s something like tea, which has a million different brands out there. Plus, I love strawberry daiquiris! (Too bad it’s not an “adult” tea!)

Crio Bru’s Brewed Cocoa in Maracaibo – $17.97 for 340g

Now, this is interesting! It’s something like a coffee alternative but it’s simply ground up cocoa beans and brewed the same way as coffee. Crio Bru claims that cocoa beans contain the highest amounts of antioxidants by weight and that they contain a natural energy booster called theobromine, a chemical relative of caffeine, but doesn’t have the nasty side effects of caffeine like energy crashes and irritability.

Consumer science aside, I’m pretty excited about brewing cocoa beans because I’ve heard about it before. I have no idea if it’ll actually curb my appetite or make me lose weight (black coffee has similar effects in the long run, by the way), but it’ll be interesting to see how it tastes!

A.Vogel Herbamare Original – $4.49 for 125g ($0.36 for 10g sample)

The A.Vogel Herbamare Original is an herb and spice infused sea salt mixture that I’m very excited to try out because I love infused sea salt! I went to a winery restaurant and their wine-infused sea salt was to die for.

Ingredients: Sea salt, celery*, leek*, watercress*, onion*, chives*, parsley*, lovage*, garlic*, basil*, marjoram*, rosemary*, thyme*, kelp.

*Certified organically grown by: bio.inspecta AG

Way Better Snacks Simply Sweeet Potato Corn Tortilla Chips – $1.20 for 35.44g bag

The Way Better Snacks brand is making its rounds through the food subscription boxes, but I’m not complaining. They’re certified gluten free, non-GMO, kosher and vegan all at the same time!

The Sweeet Potato Tortilla Chips also contain some sprouted chia and quinoa seeds to help expose their nutrients for better absorption. Now, I have no idea how well these nutrients have held up through processing, but that’s good to know.

I’m so going to eat this at work tomorrow!

A.Vogel Absolut Arnica Pain Relief Gel + Coupon – $15.99 for 50mL ($0.62 for 2g sample)

This could not have come at a better time… I’ve barely been able to move my neck and raise my shoulders because I’ve strained my muscles so badly down my spine. (A deep massage by the monsieur helped, but it’s still getting there after a week!)

I rubbed it on my shoulders and neck and I’m actually very surprised that it works! Within a minute, the aching pain in my muscles went away and the gel dried up pretty quickly as well. It’s got a pretty nice floral smell, but it doesn’t completely cover up the alcoholic scent of the gel solution.

Now, the pain did go away pretty fast, but it doesn’t stay away for very long. This might be because I have deep tissue straining instead of a light strain or a simple bruise. But, if I ever want a more homeopathic pain relief gel, I’ll keep an eye out for this!

The Good Bean Roasted Chickpeas with Sea Salt – $3.39 for 2.5oz ($1.01 for 0.75oz sample)

More yummies! I haven’t had any roasted chickpeas in recent memory, but I do like snacking on roasted peas and peanuts! The fact that it only contains 4 ingredients (chickpeas, safflower oil, coarse salt, vitamin E) is always a good sign.

HoneyBar in Mixed Sesame – 45g

I have to be honest with you readers… The bar first reminded me of those bird feeders with all the seeds in them! Ahhh!

But, I know I’m going to love this one because sesame seeds are one of my favourite garnishes ever. Although I’m a bit concerned about how hard the bar feels inside the packaging. I hope I don’t break any teeth!

Nature Pro Vanilla Whey Protein – $57.99 for 800g ($2.18 for 30g)

This sachet came with this huge pamphlet of how healthy and natural this whey protein is, but it’s not overly clear about how I’m supposed to take it. There’s a little paragraph about putting it into smoothies, but how does this taste? Can I put it into soups?

Obviously, I’m not really into putting more protein into my drinks aside from greek yogurt, so I’m just joking around. This sample looks to be a single serving for a rather large smoothie, so I might go out and get some strawberries and an avocado to try it out.

RiceSelect Texmati – $6.32USD for 907.2g ($1.05USD for 150g sample)

That name just sounds so cheesy and I love it! TEX-MAH-TEE!

The rice is a hybridized crop that has the nutty, aromatic flavours of basmati rice but the texture and cooking instructions of American long grain rice. The results are a flavourful, fluffy and delicious dish.

This package of rice will definitely be used! I’m thinking of a Thai chicken curry dish with coconut milk, lemongrass and bell peppers.

MAX/Effects Naturals Eye and Face Makeup Remover

I was talking to a parkour friend of mine and she mentioned that she likes the concept of makeup, but she hates using makeup remover. I wonder if it’s because most makeup removers are mostly chemicals?

I’ve seen some pretty positive reviews about it, so I’m looking forward to trying it! Right now, I’m using some green tea wipes from The Face Shop because they’re just so damn convenient but I might throw this sample into my travel bag when I’m staying out overnight.

GoGo Quinoa Spaghetti – $3.50 for 227g

Gluten free pasta still freaks me out just a TINY bit just because I know it’s not going to be the same texture and bite as wheat pasta. At least this gluten free pasta doesn’t need to be refrigerated!

I did manage to make this delicious dish already, though!

Garlicky Kale and Shrimp Pasta

Garlicky Kale and Shrimp Pasta

I made some rookie mistakes while I was cooking, so it didn’t come out quite as well as I thought it would, but I also noticed that the pasta kept on absorbing all the liquid and the oils I kept putting in. So, if you’re cooking with this type, I’d suggest using a bit more sauce than you normally would and treat it more like a hardy rice noodle! (Meaning, actually USE sauce instead of just olive oil…)

Verdict: 4.5/5!  I’m starting to be able to cope with the supplements included in the box, especially if there’s something to do with muscle pain relief involved. The food items were nicely varied and I know that I can use everything that they included! Love it!

Did you get a Little Life Box? What did you think of it this month?

xoxo,

B.elle

I Hit The Pan!

It finally happened!

Hit the pan

I actually hit the pan of my Smashbox eyeshadow! It’s been a year since I first got it and I’ve been using it almost every day since at least the fall, so it’s definitely got some good life to it.

But, this is the first time EVER that I’ve hit the pan on one of my cosmetics! YAY!

xoxo,

B.elle

Tasting Box – July 2014

It’s been a while since I ordered a Tasting Box by FoodiePages, but here’s July’s!

Tasting Box July 2014

What is it?

Tasting is believing! The TASTING BOX includes 5 scrumptious tastes to enjoy, made by our favourite Canadian small batch food artisans and delivered directly to your door – a different box each month.  The TASTING BOX is the perfect opportunity to discover and sample the culinary talents right in our own backyard! Only 50 TASTING BOXES are available each month, so order yours today!

It’s $14.95 + shipping for a box, so people in Ontario and Quebec get it for around $22 or so after tax.

This month, there were 5 items in the box and they all look really good!

Tasting Box July 2014All Mine Caramel’s Cayenne Caramel Corn (Toronto, ON) – 150g, unknown price

These are small-batch popcorn using organic, non-GMO Ontario popping corn covered in handmade caramel with a hint of cayenne pepper. I’m really loving caramel corn made in smaller scales because they taste just so much better than the conventional carnival-types from a box, so I’m not complaining that I got more this box!

These ones from All Mine Caramel are really nice, but I couldn’t really taste the cayenne until maybe the 5th bite. Aside from that, the caramel is gorgeously seasoned, covers every popcorn evenly and the popcorn is still so fresh and crunchy!

Tasting Box July 2014

Chinook Condiments’ Spicy Chipotle Gourmet Sauce (St. Albert, AB) – $7.99 for 350mL, Full Size

I haven’t opened up this bottle yet because I still have about 3 other jars of BBQ sauce and hot sauce to go through.

They market their sauces for being “safe for gringos,” which means that they’re keeping the heat level lower and jacking up the other flavours to appeal to a wider audience. I’m a person who actually really likes spicy food but really flavourful food at the same time, so I’m looking forward to try this soon!

Tasting Box July 2014

The Sweet Escape Patisserie’s Earl Grey Shortbread (Toronto, ON)

For some reason, this Tasting Box is featuring businesses that don’t have price listings on their website and they’re not featured at all on the FoodiePages marketplace… Weird.

Anyway, this packet comes with 8 Earl Grey shortbread cookies with real butter and organic tea leaves.

Tasting Box July 2014

They’re actually a bit gray from the tea! It’s great to see that they use real ingredients and no additional colouring, but I have to admit that it’s a little off-putting. It’ll be pretty good to eat a couple of these with a nice latte, though.

Tasting Box July 2014

Mary Macleod’s Shortbread’s Chocolate Crunch (Toronto, ON) – $11.25 for 4 ($5.63 for 2)

These were the first things that were gone after I took that picture!

Made with just wheat and rice flour, butter, sugar, milk chocolate and icing sugar, these cookies are so buttery and perfect. The rice flour gives it a nice little gritty bite that breaks up the shortbread cleanly when it’s bitten. It ONLY has 100 calories and 6 grams of fat in each cookie, though!

Luckily, it’s most definitely an occasional thing and they’re located just on Queen Street East! Very easily accessible for me.

Tasting Box July 2014

Ferme Guy Rivest’s Cranberry and Strawberry Jam (Rawdon, QC) – $3.99 for 140mL

It’s always nice to see a repeat brand in a Tasting Box! I did really like the wine jam that they sent out earlier this year, but I ended up only using it about twice a week because the wine flavour was a bit much for me. I wasn’t brought up with wine as a big component in my life, so it’s not a flavour that I’m used to all the time.

I was going to try some this morning, but I actually completely forgot to have breakfast! (It’s so bad of me, I know!) But, if it’s anything like the other jam, I’m going to enjoy it. I may actually use a dab of it in a sauce for some duck!

Verdict: 3.75/5 I do love my caramel popcorn and all the cookies in the box, but it almost feels like a repeat box because of all the similar products in it. Of course, they outline who and what’s in each month’s box, so I can always pass it over if I don’t want it. Overall, I’m very pleased with the high quality of the products, but I’m going to be looking at their list more carefully from now on!

Did you pick up a July Tasting Box? What did you think of it?

xoxo,

B.elle

Lunch with an Oreo Donut

I never thought I could do such a good impersonation of Usagi from Sailor Moon in the morning until today. Somehow, the alarm turned off and I woke up at about 9:10am when work starts at 9:00am. FUUUUUUUUUU…

Anyway, it’s a small company and my colleague completely understood, so everything turned out okay. But, it left me with a problem: I didn’t have a lunch. What to do?

Tim Horton’s to the rescue!

Tim Horton's Lunch

I know, I know, it’s so lame compared to the fantastic sandwich from Bukamaranga I posted before! But, there’s almost nothing affordable for lunch in this area except for Tim Horton’s and Subway and I knew that the new Oreo donut had just been released.

The Oreo donut has a chocolate dough base and topped with white icing and Oreo crumbles, then further drizzled with more white icing and filled with sweetened cream.

My first impression was that it’s so super sweet because it’s sugar on sugar and then stuffed with more sugar! I’ve had some pretty awesome donuts before, but I don’t think this is it.

However, the donut was really stuffed with the creme filling and, even though it got a little mangled on the way back to the office, it was nicely presented.

The big question is: Does it taste like an Oreo in donut form?

For me? Not really. Oreos are made with cocoa, so the bitterness of the chocolate flavour should balance the sweetness of the icing sugar inside the cookie. That’s one of the reasons why Oreos taste so good! But, the donut doesn’t have a lot – if any – of the cocoa bitterness that Oreo cookies have.

As far as nutrition goes and how well it fits into an active lifestyle? It doesn’t. But, always keep in mind that you have to work with what you have sometimes! (In this case, I balanced it with an extra serving of cursing the storm.)

It’s still a neat donut to try out if you like Oreos, but keep in mind that it costs a bit extra compared to their normal selections. My meal came up to be a bit higher than usual at around $7.15, but that was fine for me today.

Eventually, I’ll get around to trying their Oreo Iced Capp. Eventually.

xoxo,

B.elle