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Things To Do During Reading Week and Family Day 2016

11 February 2016

Reading Week and Family Day are just around the corner.  If you’re ditching the books for a week or have nothing planned yet, there are a lot of things you can do around York Region!

Board Games & Chill

There are a handful of board game cafés in the Markham area where you can enjoy light snacks, a beverage, and play any board game you like .  Here are three places, but feel free to chime in if you know of a few others in the York Region area!

Get (Mentally and/or Physically) Active

Have you been glow-in-the-dark mini putting?  Putting Edge has locations in both Vaughan and Richmond Hill.  You can also go to Laserquest (actually beside Putting Edge) in Richmond Hill or go outdoor skating at the Markham Civic Centre.  By now, there are also many escape rooms to choose from in the York Region.  Here are a few:

Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

If you want to get in touch with your inner artist or just relieve some stress, try your hand at one of these activities.

PaintLounge Markham

PaintLounge is a fun place to get together with a few friends to paint.  You can either freestyle or choose something from one of their sample books to draw inspiration from.  Check out these deals:

  • February 12 to 14 – ART & WINE WITH YOUR VALENTINE
    Enjoy an art date in style with two 16×20” freestyle sessions & two glasses of wine, beer, tea or coffee, $70 per couple.  More details at paintlounge.ca/valentines.
  • February 15 – FAMILY PAINT DAY
    This Family Day, come as a family for our “Up, Up, and Away” Family Workshop and explore colours, paints, and painting techniques and create collaborative art on a big canvas together. $50 per family for a 24×30” canvas. More details at paintlounge.ca/events/family-day.
  • Now to February 29
    Register with promo code BLOGGERPARTY2016, and your followers will get 45% off adult workshops, valid at all locations. Sign up at paintlounge.ca/adult-workshops.

Colour Me Mine is another painting place, but not on a canvas!  They have a variety of ceramic pieces you can choose from including mugs, décor, and bowls.  Here are a few of their deals:

  • Family Fridays
    One painting adult gets up to two free studio fees for kids (13 years old and under).  Adult must paint their own item and pay a studio fee.
  • Two-for-Tuesday
    Two people paint for one studio fee.
  • Ladies Night
    On Wednesday evenings (starting at 4pm) ladies of all ages receive half price studio fees.

Try a New Restaurant or Unique Dish

Honey Toast at Lohas Cafe Markham

Have you seen the colourful cotton candy lattes from Initium, the beautiful toast with rice from My Wonderful Kitchen, or the drool-worthy honey toast from LOHAS Cafe? Check out our food blog or food page on Instagram for inspiration! Confused about how to find something you need? Check out our how-to guide.

Attend Local Events

February 15 – Take the family out for some free skating for the RBC Family Day Skate! The Markham event will take place at the Milliken Mills Community Centre.

February 15 – Visit the Markham Museum for Winterfest! There’s a $3 fee per person, but the whole family can experience activities such as ice block building, crafts, music, and snow-shoeing. They’re also running a few other events this month that your whole family can enjoy.

February (various dates) – Pacific MallMarket Village, and First Markham Place are running some events to celebrate Chinese New Year.

February 23 – As cat lovers, we can’t help but mention the grand opening of Markham’s Cat Adoption and Education Centre (CAEC) (even though this technically takes place after Reading Week). Beginning at 10:30am, you can join in on the grand opening festivities by skating, doing fun activities, and enjoying some refreshments.

Head Downtown

Don’t wanna stay uptown this break? You can always head down to the seventh-best city in the world, Toronto! There are many ways to get across the city including the YRT/VivaTTC, or GO Transit. Here are some things you can check out:

Shangri-La Toronto’s Chinese New Year High Tea Set

Have something to add to our list? Feel free to comment below and share it with other readers!

Restaurant Reviews

Donburi Restaurant Review

4 February 2016

The word “donburi” means a rice bowl consisting of meat, vegetables, and other ingredients cooked together and served over rice. Of course, this dish is extremely popular at the Donburi restaurant in Thornhill. Donburi is one of the few Japanese restaurants that don’t serve sushi. This opens up our options whenever we’re craving Japanese food that’s not sushi-related. We’ve tasted many things from their menu and nothing disappointed us. If you plan on going as a group, we recommend ordering multiple side dishes and entrées to for sharing.

Spicy Gyu Fries

When we visited, this was one of the newer items on Donburi’s menu. The fries had just the right amount of everything in it – spiciness, crispiness, and softness. We finished this quickly and were craving for more.

Beef tataki - DonburiJ1 – Beef Tataki ($9)

This lightly seared and marinated beef was surprisingly very flavourful, especially after dipping it in the citrus-soy sauce. We recommend eating it with a piece of the red onion to get the full effect of this appetizer. We’ve ordered the beef tataki a few times already and still aren’t sick of it.

Beef with ponzu sauce - DonburiS7 – Beef with ponzu sauce ($2.50)
Beef sirloin steak with ponzu sauce and grated daikon radish.

We’ll be honest – this skewer was small for two people, so we barely remember how it was. If you’ve ever tried it, let us know how you like it in the comments below!

Takoyaki - DonburiJ7 – Takoyaki ($5)
A delicious ball shape snack with diced octopus hidden inside.

Takoyaki are one of our favourite Japanese snacks. These octopus balls were perfectly warm, soft, and full of flavour.

Chicken omurice - DonburiD10 – Chicken Omurice ($8)
Chicken fried rice in a tomato base wrapped in a thin egg omelette.

This is personally one of our favourite entrées at Donburi. It might look small in the photo, but trust us…there is a LOT of rice packed in there. This is good enough for two or more people if you’re sharing multiple dishes.

Umami Don - DonburiD15 – Umami Don ($10)
An indescribable flavour bomb that will explode in your mouth.

The Umami Don includes unagi (eel), spicy mayo, cucumbers, dashi stock, and of course, rice. The description on their website was right. This was an explosion of flavour! We love the mix of ingredients as there was a unique taste and texture with every bite.

Calpis Fusion Drink - DonburiCalpis Fusion – A mix of mango Calpico and aloe.

Of course, we needed a drink to go with our meal so we each had the Calpis Fusion. This refreshing beverage is only available for a limited time (we don’t know how long) and is perfect if you’re looking for something sweet and cool to go with your meal.

Restaurant Reviews

Ramen Restaurants at New Kennedy Square

28 January 2016

I’m always venturing for ramen places from one city to another.  Different areas seem to have their own ways of presenting their own businesses to the public.  I visited the Markham area recently and it seems like all of the businesses are within one large complex separated by roads and residential areas.  They might be less accessible if you don’t know how to drive, BUT there are lots of other ways to get there.  In Markham, I am sure everyone knows Sansotei is a legit ramen place, but let’s explore somewhere a little different within the Markham area – New Kennedy Square.

Located up at Hwy 7 & Kennedy, New Kennedy Square is a large plaza with food, businesses, and entertainment.  To get here by public transit, I simply board the Kennedy YRT bus at Steeles and Kennedy near Pacific Mall.  There are many restaurants in this area and a lot of them have been open since I was young. (Now I will let you guess my age ;).  There are three places that have ramen offerings on their menu. Let’s talk about them one by one.

Blue Ocean Café

Hokkaido-Style Tonkotsu Ramen ft. Hokkaido ramen with Stew pork soft ribs ($8.99)

Blue Ocean Café is a Hong Kong style café offering a wide selection of tasty food items from Malaysian curry to rice combos to noodles in soup.  They also offer a special house-made char siu known as “sam sok” cha siu.  Since they only offer a limited amount each day, they’re usually sold out by lunch or early dinner time.  As I was studying this menu, there was one small section that offers Hokkaido-style ramen. Blue Ocean’s Hokkaido-style ramen consists of a tonkotsu (pork bone) soup base topped with standard topping such as kikurage mushroom, corn, sesame, and a soft boiled egg.  As for the main protein, you can choose in a choice of stewed pork soft ribs, enoki mushrooms, beef, or teriyaki chicken.  This time, I decided to try the stew pork ribs.  At uptown ramen restaurants, stew pork soft ribs seems to appear often on menus.  The stewed pork soft ribs had a strong flavour with a soft & chewy texture.  Overall, their noodles & toppings were quite decent.  However, the flavour of the tonkotsu broth was more on the salty side.  Furthermore, there was a lack of creaminess in their pork bone broth.  If you are not comparing this with authentic Japanese ramen, this is worth a try.

Raku Ramen & Izakaya  

Raku Ramen Izakaya - Pork Belly Cheese RamenPork Belly Cheese Ramen

Raku is a Japanese-style ramen and izakaya establishment, which has a selection of tapas, robata grill, sushi, sashimi, and ramen.  They used to offer their ramen in a stone pot when they just started.  Recently, they changed it back to a standard ramen bowl.  I am used to eating ramen place at in the downtown Toronto area, so I don’t expect too much at uptown ramen establishments.  From their ramen selection, I tried something that was a little different from the standard selection of shio, shoyu, and miso).  I selected the dish below.

Pork Belly Cheese Ramen – Their house-made pork belly was actually one of the specialties that they are offering as a separate ramen item.  Accompanied with pork belly, this is a tonkotsu (pork bone) based ramen topped with green onion, kikurage mushroom, naruto maki, bean sprouts, corn, and cheese.  I had a variety of toppings in this bowl.  Indeed, cheese had enhanced the creaminess of their tonkotsu soup base, which masked the disadvantage of their soup base.  Their pork belly cha shu had less fat content on the surface, and the meat itself was quite tender.  Overall, this was quite interesting to try.

Chef Papa Tea & Noodle Bar

Original Shio Pork Bone Ramen + Wonton & Seaweed

Similar to Deer Garden, Chef Papa Tea & Noodle Bar has a “customize your own noodles” concept.  Pork bone based ramen is one of the selections on their menu.  You’re given a large piece of paper for your noodle selections.

Here are the steps from the ramen section:

Chef Papa Noodle Bar - Shio Pork Bone Ramen

Hokkaido Pork Bone Ramen

Step 1: Pick your soup flavour

  • Shio (Original sea salt)
  • Red miso
  • Shoyu (Soy Sauce)
  • Szechuan dan dan sesame ramen

Step 2: Choose your noodles (Obviously you’d choose ramen noodles in this box, but there are other noodle options available on the list.)

  • Ramen noodles
  • Udon
  • Rice vermicelli
  • Instant noodles

Step 3: Choose Toppings (two choices)

(Note: The ramen package includes half of a soft boiled egg, corn, and kikurage mushrooms.  On top of these, you can pick two more toppings.  Depending on the topping, additional charges may apply.)

  • Pork cha shu
  • Beef brisket
  • Luncheon meat,
  • Slice lamb
  • Wonton

(Optional) Step 4: Pick a side order (additional charges may apply)

(Optional) Step 5: Pick a drink (coffee or tea; additional charges may apply for other drinks)

Since it was my first time visiting, I was a little crazy with the toppings.  I decided to add wonton ($1.75 extra) as one of them.  I also thought nori seaweed was not included in the package, so I ordered seaweed as another one of my selections.  Perhaps, extra seaweed was added to this ramen so it had completely enhanced the flavour of their tonkotsu broth.  The overall taste ended up quite well at the end.  If you like your ramen to be completely customized, Chef Papa is the place for you.

Written by guest blogger, Anthoni.

Restaurant Reviews

Private Dinner (私房菜) at My Wonderful Kitchen – Markham Food Review

13 December 2015

My Wonderful Kitchen recently introduced 私房菜 to the restaurant., something that not a lot of restaurants in the area offer right now. My Wonderful Kitchen recently added this private dining service to their offerings and we were very excited to try it out.

To reserve a private dining experience, call MWK a day in advance to tell them your budget, the number of guests you’re bringing, and what type of foods you’d like to have. The chefs will prepare everything in advance for you so that your party will have the best experience possible. Here’s a look at what we had with our food blogging friends. 🙂

Stir-fried scallop with papaya (漁舟滿豐收)

The Chinese name for this dish is fisherman’s harvest. The “boat” is a carved papaya that’s cut into pieces for serving; and the “fishnet” (seen underneath the scallop and papaya pieces) is delicately cut from a thin sheet of radish.

Stir-fried scallop with fresh fruits (天姖送子)

To be honest, some of us were surprised at the combination of ingredients in both pics above… fruits and seafood?? Nonetheless, these were actually yummy dishes even though the fruits were warm.

Wintermelon with fish maws and mixed seafood (綠萼紅梅)

As one of our guests described, these were like a condensed version of Chinese wintermelon soup and we definitely agree.

Stir-fried jumbo prawns with vegetables in taro nest and bacon-wrapped shrimps stuffed with minced fish (鵲巢金環蟠龍蝦)

This was one of our favourites. The bacon-wrapped shrimps were SO good and the seafood mixed with vegetables were well-cooked. Definitely a must-try, so ask for this when you call to reserve!

Stewed wintermelon balls in house-sauce (翠玉葡提)

Although we preferred the other wintermelon dish above, these “grape-like” ones (also designed to look like hanging fruits; see our pic here) were very warm, soft, and appetizing.

Deep fried chicken wing stuffed with glutinous rice (生炸珍珠鳳翼)

This dish was a crowd favourite! You can’t tell from our photo, but these chicken wings are stuffed with sticky rice!!! They wings were fat, juicy, tender, and very good. The bones were removed from the wings in order to make room for the rice. Very smart!

One of our followers (@_achau) went almost immediately after seeing our Instagram pic of this and enjoyed them as well.

Coke slush, red bean, milk tea, red bean with grass jelly, and “yuanyang” (coffee with tea)

Each of these drinks had a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it. You can choose to eat the scoop on its own or mix it into your drink. Either way, it’ll still taste very good and refreshing.

We were told that our six course dinner (excluding drinks) would cost $35 per person. This isn’t a bad deal at all! All of the dishes presented to us were artistically designed (Insta-worthy 😉 ) – and very delicious.

Address: 350 Highway 7 #101, Richmond Hill, ON L4B 3N2
Phone Number: (905) 889-1088
Tip: The front entrance and parking is actually at the back, opposite of Hwy 7.

Guest Blogger Restaurant Reviews

Wooffles & Cream Review

11 December 2015

Opening in July 2015, Wooffles & Cream is the newest addition to the food court situated in New Kennedy Square in Markham. In contrast to the surrounding vendors offering Asian comfort food, customers can expect to find a range of sweet and savoury Hong Kong style egg waffles, soft serve ice cream, parfaits, and craft sodas. The creative minds behind Wooffles & Cream are Mabel Yeung and Ka Yan Woo, who combined their favourite treats – ice cream and Hong Kong style waffles – to develop their innovative menu.

Our dining experience started with a Matchazuki parfait cup while waiting for the waffles to be made. This scrumptious dessert was carefully crafted with matcha green tea soft serve, red bean paste, cornflakes, and glutinous rice balls. The matcha soft serve was incredibly smooth with a subtle green tea flavour that complemented the sweet toppings perfectly.

After careful deliberation, we opted for the Black ‘N’ White Sesame waffle with a matcha soft serve swirl and the specialty Lap Cheong ‘N’ Seaweed waffle. The waffles are made fresh to order with crispy edges and a fluffy interior. The sesame waffle maintained its texture quite well against the ice cream due to a careful in-house tempering process. The lap cheong waffle was very tasty on its own with finely chopped pieces of Chinese sausage and shredded seaweed in every bite. This sweet and savoury combination is highly recommended if you’re looking for a unique treat.

Wooffles & Cream Parfait

Tips

Be warned of potentially long wait times that can range between 10 to 40 minutes, especially during peak dining hours. If you’re in a hurry, it is recommended to get an idea of the wait time from a staff member before lining up. Nevertheless, onlookers can definitely see the effort and care that goes into each order.

The owners use locally sourced ingredients so you can always expect new concoctions in the works. For all of you green tea enthusiasts, keep an eye out for upcoming creations that feature an even more pronounced tea flavour!

Written by guest blogger, Tastebytes.

Restaurant Reviews

Tapagria Restaurant Review

1 December 2015

We recently partnered with Tapagria to host a fun night of food tasting for our bloggers friends. The night came with a lot of appetizers, different entrées (including a couple of brunch items), and lots of hand-crafted sangrias. Tapagria is the only restaurant in Markham right now that serves Spanish tapas. Not only is the food delicious, but you have to check out their interior too. The restaurant is designed with a lot of attention to detail and just about every corner is “Insta-worthy”. 😉

We tried so many flavours of their hand-crafted sangrias we can’t remember all of the flavours… Some of the ones we remember are lychee-lime, peach, raspberry, guava, fig, and strawberry. All were amazing, but if we had to choose one: the strawberry!

One of the manyapps we tried was the White Anchovie Pinxto above. Our two favourites (not pictured) pinxtos were the Angus Tartare and the Foie Gras. These dishes definitely opened up our appetites and we were ready for more food.

If you’re feeling for more seafood, we’d recommend these steamed mussels. They have a bit of a kick to them thanks to the chilli peppers, but nothing we can’t handle. 😛 This small dish was the perfect way to start off our round of main dishes.

The Pecado Frito (literally “fried fish”) above was perfectly fried, seasoned, and prepared. Although the potatoes and veggies paired nicely with the fish, but we thought there were a little too salty.

And now onto the most popular mains of the night! The following three were hits among the bloggers – with many of us rushing to claim every last bite.

Above is one of the two paellas that Tapagria serves. The Paella De Tapagria is made of bomba rice, shrimp, chorizo, hen, mussels, jamón, octopus, and peas – a terrific combo packed full of flavour and served at the perfect temperature.

It’s safe to say that the Chuleton Asado (“grilled steak”) – the 32oz roasted ribeye – was the most popular dish of the night. Every time we look at this picture, we get hungry. LOOK AT THAT STEAK! The level of doneness, juiciness, and tenderness…everything about it was good. Like with the fish above, we thought the veggies were overly salty. When we go back for this, we’ll definitely ask for less salt.

And finally… the secret itemthat’s not listed on their menu: the Tapagria Mega Dessert Platter. Get this platter of all of their dessert options to share with your group. From back to front, we have the Crema Catalina, Chocolate Cake, Churros with three dipping sauces, and Spanish Toast. Customers are known to order multiple Spanish Toasts in one sitting – they’re that good. And again, this platter was devoured almost as quickly as the steak was.

If you go to Tapagria with a bunch of your friends and/or family, we recommend that you order a variety of dishes to try and share. It’s a great environment for dining, socializing, and drinking with your loved ones. Explore the #TapagriaRestaurant hashtag on Instagram to see more pics!

Address: 230 Commerce Valley Drive East – Unit 2, Markham, Ontario  L3T 7Y3
Phone Number: (905) 771-8868

Restaurant Reviews

Chef’s Plate Review – Meal Kit Delivery in Ontario

27 November 2015

This service we’re trying out delivers to all of Ontario, including areas in the York Region. Chef’s Plate recently gave us the opportunity to try out two meals: the Roasted Pork Tenderloin and the Coconut Shrimp Chowder.

Chef’s Plate is a service that delivers fresh pre-portioned ingredients right to your door. This saves you the time and energy from grocery shopping or planning meals at the beginning of each week. The ingredients they deliver are fresh, clean (but you should still wash everything first), and all clearly labelled so you know exactly what you’ll be eating.

At $10.95 per plate, the price is reasonable considering the time (and sometimes, stress!) you save from planning and grocery shopping. If you want to try out three free plates (that’s $33!) off your first order, use this link to sign up! If you don’t see the discount, just enter #MarkhamFood (include the symbol) at checkout.

Here’s what we ordered to prepare at the Markham Food household

Coconut Shrimp with Thai-inspired corn chowder

When we ordered this, we didn’t expect it to be very filling. It’s just a small bowl of soup, right? Looks can be deceiving! We thought this might’ve needed some rice on the side (we’re Asian), but after finishing the last drop, we were stuffed and extremely satisfied. The amount of shrimp and corn definitely helped fill us up. We thought we’d be getting five pieces, but we had nearly 10 each!

If you’re already a pro in the kitchen, you can make any of the dishes on Chef’s Plate with ease. We’re by no means pro chefs, but the Coconut Shrimp (listed as “hard) was extremely easy for us to make! Maybe it’s because we cook regularly for ourselves anyway, so we’re using to maneuvering around the kitchen. For those who are new to cooking, try their “easy” dishes first and work your way up! 🙂

Roasted Pork Tenderloin over heirloom purple potatoes and figs

As mentioned earlier, the ingredients are pre-portioned and all packaged separately before they’re delivered to you. We could’t believe that the ingredients above were enough for the both of us, but Chef’s Plate surprised as again! The meat and potatoes definitely were very filling.

This second meal wasn’t as enjoyable for us because we aren’t fans of the meat cooked with the ground fennel seeds. However, it doesn’t mean that someone else won’t like it! The colours of this make for a pretty fall dish. Wouldn’t you agree?

What’s great about Chef’s Plate is that they send recipe cards with clear instructions and tips on how to prepare the ingredients. We plan on keeping these cards (which are on good quality paper) so that we can make our favourite dishes again in the future!

If you’re interested in trying out three free plates (that’s $33!) for your first order, sign up for Chef’s Plate using this link! If you don’t see the promo automatically applied, just enter #MarkhamFood (include the symbol) at checkout.