Kat and I arrived in Toronto on Saturday around 5PM. Or...a little bit later, probably. While waiting in the Sheridan bus shelter to head to the GO station we weren't even sure if it was worth going in so late, but without any planning it ended up being the most interesting day of the week. Things turn out that way sometimes.
I directed us to Kensington Market, an area just west of Chinatown known for food and shops and pot. ...Probably more for food, but there are stores there that you definitely won't find in NYC. It vaguely reminded me of Camden Town in London, a colorful mishmash of...lots of stuff that you don't usually find elsewhere.
Unfortunately for us, this area is kind of dead on a cloudy Saturday afternoon. Oops. Well, we still had a nice quiet stroll around the area.
I foisted a date scone upon Kat from Cobs Bread, the first bakery we came across during our meandering. Although I had only asked for one scone, the woman gave me two. I BEAT THE SYSTEM! The scone wasn't the crumbly kind but the soft, bready biscuity kind. The date chunks made up for the lack of sweetness in the rest of the bread, which I suppose was the idea or else it would've been too sweet. Mm, carbs!
Chocolate Addict across the street sounded like a good place to go, except it looked somewhat...closed.
Same with Alchemy Bakery, which despite the "WE'RE OPEN" sign had a locked door. A man who arrived just after us also disappointedly turned away from the empty bakery. Pastry-less. Bread-less. Love-less.
Without a destination in mind, we simply wandered around, or rather I dragged Kat around and she followed without complaint since I was the one with the map. We passed some cute looking houses...
...And Portugal Village, where we failed to find many Portuguese shops. Or maybe we didn't look hard enough.
We passed a Canadian dumpster. I liked the signage.
We passed a street sign that looked like it belonged in the Canadian dumpster.
While walking down College Street we ran into Soundscapes, where I ended up impusively buying stuff since I can't go to an indie music store without buying something. That might be why I tend to avoid them. I suppose other people have the same problem with shoe stores or bookstores or [insert something specific] store. Oh, I have the same problem with bakeries...yeah...
We wandered some more. An attempt to visit Kensington Organic Ice Cream failed without the exact address (we were on the right street, just didn't walk far south enough) and dreams of eating ice cream flittered away...and then self destructed just a few feet in front of us in a metaphorical shower of blood and screams. Or something kind of horrifying.
But then I saw the most beautiful mural ever.
AH-HA! AHHH!! Okay, maybe this wasn't a beautiful mural by average standards, and maybe the bulgey-eyed cow looked like it wanted to eat babies, but it was eye-catching and reinstilled the dream of ice cream into Kat and me.
To the left of the mural of awesomeness was the storefront to The Big Chill, the solution to our ice cream problem. The small interior was warm, homey and as colorful as the mural without the crazy cow. I don't recall what all the ice cream flavors were, but I think they were mostly standard except for a blue-colored one that was supposed to taste like cake batter. I skipped that.
My scoop of milk chocolate ice cream with toffee swirls and chocolate covered caramel somethings (not the exact name, but as close as I think I'm going to get) with a complimentary topping of whipped cream and baby Oreo cookie was satisfying. Creamy and sweet, you know. Not something that stuck in my mind as remarkable, but better than average. Ice cream doesn't have to be remarkable—it just has to, you know, not suck. I wasn't hungry enough to finish the entire cup (I ate my last Chinese bakery bun that morning) but Kat did it for me.
...After she finished her cup of cookies and cream ice cream. I'm a great influence on my friends, eh?
Make sure to throw out your napkins and your cups in the correct receptacle.
While walking eastward back to Chinatown, Kat suggested I call Renée to see if she had any dinner plans. She kind of did, but they were plans that we could weasel ourselves into! Woohoo! While her food loving friend Taku was making his way towards her apartment with his car, Renée suggested Kat and I walk to her apartment so that we could all take advantage of Taku's car by getting him to drive us to Little India. Oh god, we wouldn't have to walk all night! Sweeeet.
Taku took us to Pakastani/North Indian restaurant Lahore Tikka House, which initially looked more like a lively outdoor wedding reception than a restaurant.
There were loads of seating inside and outside of the restaurant, which apparently had been in construction for a year...or two...or more. The maze you walk through to get from the entrance to the back seating area takes you past lots of interior seating, more waiters than I've ever seen in one restaurant (or maybe I kept seeing the same ones over and over again and they just happened to move very quickly) and most interestingly the kitchen. I couldn't gather much from my 5-second glimpse of the crowded, hectic space aside from a mountain of cut up pieces of dough that would be turned into naan, but that alone was pretty awesome. I can still see it now...the bounteous blobs of white dough...
Although we were first seated in a shadowy area right outside of the tent, basically the worst place to sit if you want good photos of food (and with a table of three photographers you bet we wanted semi-good lighting), we moved to the main tented area after Kat and Renée spotted an open table.
We were first given some complementary salad stuff, which sat untouched until the real food came.
OH GOD, GLORIOUS NAAN! Poofy bread pillow of my dreams! I quite like naan if it's hot and fresh with soft fluffy innards. No complaints here.
The naan played a crucial role in sopping up the sauce of the butter chicken. I can't describe Indian food well since I don't know what's in it. All I know is that this dish was tasty. Creamy. A little spicy. With tender chicken bits. Awesome. Yeah.
...I think I'm better off just showing you photos of what I ate.
I think this was a sizzling platter of beef kabab and chicken tikka breast served with onion and pepper. The beef kabab was made of ground up beef mixed with spices (naturally I don't know what they were), a little dry compared to the other meatstuffs.
My favorite dish was the lamb biryani, a magnificent heap of rice and tender, moist lamb chunks all evenly covered in some tasty...something...SOMETHING TASTY. Something addictive. Something that made me want to eat half of the platter. And hell man, I was the last one going at it. When everyone else had given into the boundaries of their stomachs and put down their forks in defeat, I foolishly thought, "THE RICE IS NOT DONE YET, I MUST KEEP EATING, IT'S MAH DUTY!" So I did. ...And later felt a bit unwell, as illustrated by my low moans of digestive failure while we walked to the car and as we rode in the car and maybe a little after that. But assuming I wasn't going to die that night, I knew I would get through it. It was totally worth the pain.
We did a good job, don't you think? Nearly every morsel of food went into our bellies. Because it's good stuff. Cheap too if you have a lot of people. And you should go with a lot of people since the picnic tables were made for feasting.
I probably would've eaten less had I known where we were going for dessert.
...Okay, maybe not. But at least I would've known what to expect.
Taku took us to Dutch Dreams for dessert, which at 11 PM still had a long line of people out the door waiting for personal buckets of ice cream. The tiny shop didn't make for a fast moving line, but we figured the people were patiently waiting for a reason. The wait wasn't so bad; it gave us the opportunity to soak in the slightly bizarre decorations slapped onto the store over the year. Such as the looming, scuffed-up head of a red-nosed man with beady blue eyes peering over us from the second floor. Euh...eeuuuhhh...
At around 11:10 we had made it to the entrance. Almost...in...just a little bit more...
BWAHA, we made it and were greeted with crazy random stuff hanging from the ceilings and off the shelves. I love crazy random stuff. The pot pouring out the Canadian flag was a nice touch.
Now I shall splodge you with lots of photos. My writing really isn't going anywhere at this point.
While I don't usually go for waffle cones, these were too pretty/excessive to pass up. Also, the sweet smell of fresh waffle cones kept being pumped in our direction. I had a craving.
Here was a part of the ice cream freezer.
And a list of the ice cream flavors, subject to availability.
They also have more flavors of frozen yogurt than I've ever seen in my life.
There was a photo of a scary looking kid hanging on the shelf facing the freezers. Why? I...I don't know. Maybe he's the owner's kid. Maybe he really likes the ice cream shop. I would feel wrong making fun of innocent youth on the Internet, but...you can't deny that he looks a bit maniacal, an impression that is only heightened by the smudged chocolate around his mouth.
Renée's hazelnut frozen yogurt dangerously hung over the side of the giant waffle cone container. If you're wondering what's on top of the frozen yogurt pile, the frozen yogurts and ice creams are topped with whipped cream and chopped fruit unless you'd rather not have them. But that'd be crazy. CRAZY.
Taku's ice cream cup looked like an inside-out ice cream cone with the ice cream in a cup and the whipped cream and fruit-filled cone stuck in the middle. I don't understand this configuration, but it's less messy than holding a cone.
...Okay, just a little less messy. All of us suffered from "hands covered in rivers of melted ice cream/frozen yogurt goop" by the end of the night.
Kat's cone of raspberry frozen yogurt looks like it has two flavors, but the top swirl is just whipped cream. With chocolate sauce drizzlin's. Oh yeah.
And what about my cone?
I ordered a chocolate almond-dipped cone with a scoop of mango and strawberry ice cream. That's one scoop, folks. In the parallel universe that is Dutch Dreams, one scoop is the size of a small moon. I knew I was in for something crazy when I saw someone else with a one scoop cone and it looked more like one pint. Why so much ice cream? Whyyyyy? And how did they get the whole thing to defy gravity?
- I look like a mess
Renée took the above photo of me with a mouthful of ice cream goo (and some of out outside the mouth as well). What's harder to see are the trickles of melted ice cream flowing over my fingers and the sticky residue left by the melted ice cream I already wiped off my hands. This is some messy stuff. Is it good? It's pretty good—the strawberry ice cream contained chunks of fresh strawberry, while the mango was disappointingly mild with the mango flavor—but the ice cream didn't leave much of an impression. The non-fruit flavors may be better.
I suppose the main draw is the excessiveness—the huge portions, the wide selection of flavors and cones, the complimentary whipped cream and fruit, the random cool stuff hanging all over the shop. Even though I didn't love the ice cream, I loved the shop itself and was happy to visit it. If given the chance I would love to go there again, although I would try the frozen yogurt instead of the ice cream.
I hope you didn't expect me to finish the whole cone. It just wasn't happening. Nuh uh. I think I ate more than half of it, but not by much. I don't like wasting food, especially when it's ice cream, but if all you can think of while staring at your food is, "OH GOD, WHY WON'T THIS END?" it's probably time to put down the fork, or spoon, or cone of ice cream.
In conclusion, I ended the night with failure. But what an awesome night it was. A night of massive face stuffage with three awesome people. Kat and I were very thankful that we got to eat with the aid of Renée's and Taku's expertise...um, and Taku's car. Cars are great, especially when you don't have to drive them!
Kat and I got home close to 2 AM and had to walk home from the GO station since we figured the buses had stopped. Hooray for public transportation! I'm not sure how long the walk was, but at least 30 minutes and at the rate that we were walking, probably more. All I remember was Kat at a certain point saying, "10 more minutes," and seemingly 5 minutes later repeating, "10 more minutes."
The above photo is of the parking lot of the mall Kat and I went to on my second day in Canada. Hooray for emptiness! And darkness! And full use of our limbs!
The next day was spent in Oakville, so this ends the Toronto adventures. It was a fun four days. I don't know when I'll be back in Toronto, but someday...I'm sure. There's just so much more to EAT. And do.
But mostly eat.
185 Baldwin Street, Toronto