Sudbury’s newest culinary creation: Rose Apple Asian Fusion & Bakery

Here I am, back with my first blog post in nearly two months. I’ll be perfectly frank with you – for the first time in almost three years, I didn’t miss blogging. As the initial days and weeks trickled by without an update, I did feel like a neglectful parent. But soon I was so absorbed by work and life around me that I didn’t think twice of Hilary Makes or blogging. Throughout university, blogging was an escape, an excuse to stay up late and bake a ridiculous amount of cupcakes to bring to class. It was a way for me to express creativity when frustrated with assignments (not to mention procrastinate) and feel like I was carving a niche for myself. “Oh yeah, you know Hilary – she’s the one with the  food blog!” was the general introduction at group gatherings. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not sure where the blog fits into my life anymore. I don’t have a lot of dispensable time, and so it has sometimes become more of a burden than a blessing to have around. I’m going to keep posting here, just with less frequency (and likely less words) than before. I’m not ready to give up on this little home just yet. 

Anyways, here’s the actual post:

Today I discovered a new place. And by discovered, I mean I had been driving by the location approximately twice a month or whenever I was borrowing my parents’ minivan. I would cruise by and crane my neck over the passenger seat, focussing my attention for those two seconds on trying to peer through the glassy window to get a sneak peek of what upcoming treasures the place may hold.

Rose Apple.

The restaurant’s exterior sign (actually, I thought it was solely a bakery at first) has intrigued for months.

Rose Apple4

This weekend it finally opened. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to visit, and invited my mom along for what was planned as our cute mother-daughter date.

My pretty mom!

Walking into Rose Apple, you could tell the owners had been assembly the place since September. The details were all there, something that can sometimes be lacking with newly-opened restaurants. Chalked full of interesting wall art (a giant whisk! bird decals!), it was charm at first sight.

Rose Apple literal
Some literal decorations, too

Transformed from the Indian restaurant and fish market of 1543 Paris St. past, Rose Apple’s decor is bright, peppy, and fun. Each of the walls are slightly contrasting in nature, but I suppose that goes along well with the fusion theme. The tables are a clean, cafeteria white, with most chairs cushioned in gumdrop colours.

Oh yes, and cupcake-shaped salt and pepper shakers. As you can imagine, these won me over.

Rose Apple1

My mom and I estimated Rose Apple has seating for about 50-60 people. We took turns counting the tables and seats under our breath, looking as though we were Professor Quirrell murmuring an incantation at a Quidditch match. There’s a diversity of seating options, too. My mom and I were at a two person table, but another larger party was seated comfortably in the opposite corner in a trendy-looking zebra booth that bore just the right amount of animal motif.

Rose Apple17

White walls section off the restaurant, and are thoughtfully placed to create an air of privacy while not interfering with the open flow of the space. The best part about those dividers is that they’re moveable, meaning I’m already fantasizing some intimate party being held here…buffet in the front, DJ in the back. While the seating primarily caters to the lunch and dinner crowd, there’s also a counter along the front window with bar seats – a sunny invitation to come back, drink tea, and write. Plus, iPhone told me there was a guest wifi account. If tea isn’t your thing, Rose Apple is also licensed, which means a solo afternoon date and an evening return to spend time with friends.

The restaurant is also a family affair.

Sumitta, Minil (19-months-old) and Mookie
Sumitta, Milin (19-months-old) and Mookie

It’s co-owned by two – Sumitta and her cousin Pipat (Mookie, pictured above, is Pipat’s wife). Mookie’s two daughters were also occasionally spotted behind the cash, 19-month-old Milin, and her other little girl. Both were wearing lots of Hello Kitty garb, which means I loved them even more. Mookie and Pipat are the duo behind My Thai Palace, a successful Sudbury restaurant where I have been going ever since I moved back to the city in order to satisfy my pad thai cravings.

This dessert case is where my mom and I hovered when we first entered Rose Apple. I crouched and took photos as my mom did her part to ask the new staff questions about every last dessert. Flaky green tea cake. A cake with layer upon layer of crepes stacked high with whipping cream as its mortar. Pumpkin and mango puddings. Spoons with a berry crumble lined in front of the cash register. That plate, and several more, were refilled throughout our lunch. We left our seats both before and after, hungry and stuffed, to sample more. My favourite was the crepe cake, delicately dripped with a tangy strawberry coulis. A dessert lasagna.

Dessert Rose Apple

Okay, but let’s talk main courses. Rose Apple markets itself as an “Asian fusion” restaurant, which is sometimes disconcerting since I once read it’s always a tad unpredictable how people decide to interpret the word “fusion.” In the case of Rose Apple, fusion meant Chinese-Thai-Italian. My mom got the crispy wonton pad thai ($14.95) which was a heaping bowl (seriously HUGE) of deep fried wonton papers piled high will pad thai noodles, shrimp, and all the fixings. I think I’ve been converted from a potato chip lover – please, just please, give me a bowl of deep fried wontons with a sweet chili sauce. Since some of the wontons were buried beneath the “all the fixings” part of the dish, some of them went from crispy to soggy. Still, I found myself frequently reaching across the table to clumsily take some of my mom’s dish.

Mom's dish
Mom’s dish

I got the massaman chicken ($15.95) – stewed chicken drumstick with a sauce of coconut milk, massaman curry paste and peanuts, served with a steaming bowl of jasmine rice. It was spicy. The dish had a single “chili pepper” rating on the menu, but I foolishly brushed it off. I can do hot, I thought. Oh dear. It was a building heat, one that made my forehead sweat, nose drip, and tongue burn.

Prices were a little high for lunch, but right on the mark for dinner. Plus the portions were huge, so you don’t have to worry about being skimped in value.

My dish
My dish

After dinner we basked in the contentment of our full stomachs. I drank a quick cup of coffee (I didn’t want to fall asleep in the movie my mom and I were going to see) in a mug that looked as though it were stolen straight from an industrial design student’s workshop.

Good design, good function
Good design, good function

I’m looking forward to my next visit to Rose Apple, and will probably pop by one day next weekend for coffee and cake. New openings like Rose Apple show progress in Sudbury – and not just any progress, but a move towards bringing something innovative and different to the city. Opening Rose Apple is surely a risk (as is opening any small business, I suppose), and I hope Sudburnians will learn to adapt, try new things, and swing by for a visit.

Monday: closed
Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Taco time featuring breakfast tacos with fried eggs and avocado radish salsa

Tacos are delicious and tacos are impressive and tacos are the food of summer. And last weekend, it was summer (though sadly not anymore). Therefore, if my calculations are correct, that meant it was Taco Time. Oh baby, I had Taco Time in a big way.

Read on to find out about Saturday Taco Time (which created the beauties you see above)

Taco Time started on Thursday afternoon after my friend Averie mentioned there was a new, mysterious taco stand that had opened in the Ottawa neighbourhood of Hintonburg. It wasn’t there one day, and then it appeared the next. Magic. Later that day, I saw a post from the good folks over at OpenFile Ottawa talking about the same opening. And that was that. Two people talking about tacos is pretty much the tipping point for me.

I had to make those tacos mine.

And so, after corrupting the picnic-planning minds of a couple of friends during a Friday afternoon in the sun, we reconvened at the TacoLot (that’s the name of this new stand, I should have said that earlier) for an evening of new-food exploration.

First impression? I think TacoLot was shocked with the amount of business it was getting and, like any new food place, needs some time to establish itself before it can really find its groove. The tacos were $5 each, which is quite pricy, considering the tacos are about the size of an outstretched palm. I tried the chicken one, which was topped with loads of corn and other goodies. I feel bad saying this, but it wasn’t that great. Like I said, though, grooves must be found. I will be checking back with you, TacoLot!

Two chicken tacos with all the fixings

Of course, the half a dozen SuzyQ doughnuts we got to share amongst the group of us were fantastic. I never have any regrets when doughnuts are involved. +10 points to Hintonburg. TacoLot and SuzyQ are neighbours, in case you’re wondering. That’s right, Hintonburg is now a hipster food mecca.

Heather and Carolyn with our doughnuts

Anyways, Taco Time didn’t stop on Friday night. Nope, it continued right into Saturday morning.

I saw this beautiful photo on Pinterest a few weeks ago, and knew I had to recreate this recipe myself (look at the photos in the original post – they’re all so gorgeous).

My tacos + the original "pinspiration" on my laptop in the background

So that’s exactly what I did, and then I ate this on the front porch and read the newspaper. It was pretty glorious. Oh yeah, and the tacos weren’t too shabby either (though please abstain from putting generous amounts of hot sauce on the taco just because it makes them more photogenic. Trust me. You. Will. Pay.)

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Carmen’s Veranda (in restaurant & home form)

We all have our favourite neighbourhood breakfast retreats. Mine is Carmen’s Veranda, an eclectic little cafe nestled between a maternity shop and a photography studio. In the rush of Bank Street traffic, you’d miss it unless you knew where to look.

Well, I am here to tell you that you should look. Or don’t, so I never have to wait in line for a table.

Carmen’s falls under the category of “I will never be able to write a restaurant review about it because it is a sacred food space.” The heart-of-Old-Ottawa-South cafe is kept cozy in that category by my beloved Art-Is-In Bakery, Stella Luna Gelato Cafe and the Scone Witch. I would be substantially more wealthy and less happy without these four local loves.

My last trip to Carmen’s was this past weekend, on the Sunday morning after my birthday (no, I was not hungover, mom). I went with my two roommates, Freya and Shannon, Shannon’s sister Erin, and my other good friend Tara. They are all lovely people and wonderful brunch mates.

Shannon, Tara and Freya at my surprise birthday dinner (which they made!) the night before

Now, not only is the food at Carmen’s great (more on that later), but the look of the place is spot-on, Hilary-appealing.

There’s colour everywhere, and the tables (the kind like my gramps had, with the opening drawers and winged extensions) have been retrofitted with fun studs (not of the male variety) and patterned tops. Beautiful artist displays adorn the wall, colourful dishes scatter our table, and the front window where we sit fogs up in accordance with our steaming plates of brunch. A piece of plastic mounted in between the two windows is printed with a yellow “8” – something that I just realized meant the number of year’s the restaurant has been open. Happy eighth birthday, Carmen’s!

The brunch menu at Carmen’s remains generally the same, with omelette and quiche ingredients switching up every so often based on the seasonal readiness of items. My favourite item is the poached eggs, which are perfectly cooked and ooze onto the English Muffin beneath and mingle with my potatoes.

Speaking of the potatoes… they are the best. I don’t know what it is about them, but I need them everytime I visit.

Story: about a year ago I went to Carmen’s late in the morning with Freya and my then-roommate, now Paris explorer extraordinaire, Brittany. I ordered my usual poached eggs, my mouth watering in anticipation of that oh-so necessary yolk-potato tango. My conversation with the waitress (indicated as “W”) went something like this:

W: What would you like today?
H (in a sing-songy voice): I’ll have the poached eggs, please! I’m so excited for my potatoes! Carmen makes them soooooooo well!
W: Oh no, we’re actually out of potatoes this morning…
H (GASP GASP GASP): Oh my GOD! But..but.. I know, can I run down to the grocery store and buy you some more? …

I continued to beg, plead and drool until finally the waitress told me that there was, in fact, enough potatoes left for one breakfast serving. She probably just wanted to shut me up, to be honest. Regardless, the potatoes and I were united again. I went back to Carmen’s a few months later and the waitress remembered me: “Oh you’re the one who offered to buy us potatoes that one time!” she said. Guilty as charged.

This past Sunday I ordered the same thing, as did Freya, Tara and Shannon. Hey, it’s just that good, okay? Enjoyable as always.

Step 1: morning cappuccino. Eat a brown sugar cube like you're a horse.
Step 2: order the poached eggs, the best thing ever
Step 3: dessert. Yes, even after brunch. We got a lemongrass crème brûlée and a slice of apple berry pie.
A job well done

Two days later, Freya, her cousin Madé, and I recreated this brunch at home. This was after I had already eaten my usual two pieces of toast with peanut butter and apple sauce. I couldn’t resist.

There’s no recipe with this post, so I encourage you to go to Carmen’s Veranda and try the brunch for yourself. I swear on my love of potatoes that you won’t regret the visit.

At-home preparations

Bloor West Village and an afternoon in High Park

Ladies and gentlemen, spring has reached Toronto.  Unfortunately for me, I leave on Monday and can count the number of sunny Toronto days I experienced on one hand.

Whatever, the important thing was that it was gorgeous today.

High Park: it's hard to believe an area like this still exists in Toronto

The weather lined up nicely with my first real day of summer vacation.  I finished my awesome internship at the National Post on Friday and don’t start my summer job at University Affairs magazine until May 16.

The next two weeks are mine.  Much frolicking, roof tanning, biking, and food making will occur.  I can’t wait.

Already my first day off was super.

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A Saturday morning at St. Lawrence Market

Last Saturday was the most disgusting day in the universe (although Sunday could have given it a run for its money).  Since this past weekend was my first in Toronto, I had wanted to tear the place apart in a day of tourist-worthy exploration.  Although my weekend expectations were a little underwhelmed as a whole, the experience of spending Saturday morning at St. Lawrence Market gave way to a rainy day that was nothing short of wonderful.

From my position perched atop a counter stool, here are my thoughts on the marketplace…

Never have I ever experienced such a vibrant epicurean culture contained within four walls.

As soon as I entered the market building, I was met by the most glorious combination of smells.  Buttery croissants still warm from a morning of baking, meat spices wafting through the air, flowers from a near by vendor.  All competed for my attention and, in doing so, created a scent that could only be described as heavenly.

On the first floor of the market a string trio plays, their eyes closed and their bodies swaying back in forth to the sound of their own tune.  Men and women lean around small counters affixed to large poles, their sandwiches dripping meat and vegetables onto their plate.

At the bottom of the stairs is a jewelry vendor selling antique gold and silver charms.  The necklaces dangle back and forth, taunting me with their glitter and shine.  Those who know me will recognize that antique jewelry (particularly of the gold and pearl variety, if we’re getting specific) is my weakness.

I walk over to the booth, doe eyed and with a stupid small smile on my face.  As I paw my way through the troves of precious treasure, I half heartedly ask the vendor’s wife how much the necklaces are.  Her answer saddens me.  Everything is at least $80.  They are real silver after all.  Sensing my apprehension, she points to her right where a jumble of tacky necklaces swing.  “Those are cheaper,” she says in a patronizing tone.  Hmmph, needless to say I admired her fares for only a moment longer before sulking away to continue my cheap student existence elsewhere.

Continuing up the stairs, the sound of people, music and footsteps vibrates up into the high ceiling.  The musical atmosphere has changed dramatically from the first floor string trio, and here a guitarist and banjo player (banjoist?) strum a jazzed up version of Canon in D.  It makes me think of graduation.

In the centre of the second floor is a housewares store (read: Hilary’s dream area), where I peruse the shelves for vegetable mandolins, non-stick skillets and cute cupcake liners.  I can afford only the latter, and happily leave with a box of lavender themed holders.  Oh right, I also saw former GG Adrienne Clarkson.  She was at the cash while I was checking out plates for food photography.  Since I’m partially obsessed with semi-Canadian celebrities (think every CBC radio host in existence), I followed her around, before realizing that I was being decidedly creepy.  I switched to lurking on cheese vendors instead.

Speaking of cheese vendors, they were everywhere.

I want to have an adventure in cheese!

Whhhhhhy did I not have food to get and people to cook for?!  I did get to buy some stuff, and ate a brunch of pastries and perogies.  Even if I didn’t buy food, it would have been impossible to starve.  You see, the number of samples at the market put Saturday’s at Costco to shame.  Just walking around, I managed to snag huge chunks of gruyere, brie on crackers, Canadian specialty mustard, ham and a satisfyingly chewy piece of ravioli.  I could live off of the samples alone.

My market adventure made me realize that if I lived within a 20 km radius of this place I would come every single weekend.  I would be extremely well fed and fat, but incandescently happy.

PS: aren’t these the most fun Kleenex holders you’ve ever seen?  I would totally be fine with having a cold if the Easter Island men could soothe me back to health.

Below, a few more pictures of my rainy morning.