It's not often I have a reason to go downtown and when I do, it's nice to take the opportunity to wander about some of the iconic sights of Toronto. 

Below are photos from Osgoode Hall.  Though smallish in size, there are a few truly stunning nooks and crannies on the inside.  From some of the photos, one might have thought I took a quick trip to Europe!
And of course, Toronto's iconic City Hall.  Designed by a Finnish architect, it opened in 1965 on what was once Chinatown.  With it's futuristic design, it's been featured in movies and TV.  I remember seeing it in a Star Trek scene once! 

Next to the new city hall, is the old city hall.  It looks like a layered chocolate cake to me!  Always pass by it but today, I ventured inside and after going through security checks, found myself inside this historical building now used as a courthouse.  Lots of ornate staircases and smartly dressed lawyers walking by purposefully with their black robes billowing after them. 
And I found a 7-eleven store!  Made me think of HK :D
I've been delighting in discoveries of new clumps of early spring flowers in bloom.  Unfortunately, I'm experiencing a mild case of the jealous-neighbour-next-door when I see how others have proud displays of bright yellow and brilliant purple crocus' or colourful tulips.  All I seem to have in my own yard is headless tulips and early spring onions...At least I can eat those. 
But today, I finally noticed a tiny little clump of small purple flowers in my own backyard...Hardly anything to gloat and show-off.  This however has spurred some gardening fun.  

Picked up a cheap strawberry and poppy flower gardening kit; $1.00 each; the type for kids to play and mostly likely not going to work.  But, just for the fun of it, I decided to give it a try...And who knows?  Maybe something can be coaxed to grow from that small little peat pellet enclosed in the package.  Maybe that's the fun part; not knowing if it'll really work.  And if does; I'll be boasting my strawberries in a later blog entry ;p
Was in the mood for something hot and spicy!  Si Chuan House on 394 Spadina Ave is little restaurant that serves up some spicy dishes.  I noticed spicy frog legs but wasn't really in the mood to sample it.

Free appetizers were served.  There was spicy marinated kelp and roasted salty peanuts...Enjoyable to munch on while we waited for our dishes. 

The spicy offal noodle was the favourite of the day.  Not too spicy, the noodles had a nice chew and the offal were tender. 

The lycee pork, while all right, but didn't have a lycee flavour and I found it a bit over-done. 

The xiaolong bau was not as good as some of the other places I've been; but then, this is not a Shanghai restaurant so I'll excuse them for the lack of presentation. 
Tsui Wah on Urbanspoon
In HK, Tsui Wah is a well-known cafe chain which started in 1967 serving local favourites such as french toast, milk tea and noodles.  It opens early and closes late and on Fridays and Saturdays, one can find the late-night party goers coming in to replenish energy before hitting the party scene again.  Been there myself ;p

Toronto's Tsui Wah is situated next to Chiu Chow Boy recently sampled.  They have an all-day breakfast menu and an afternoon tea menu as well as regular food menu.  Today, we went to sample their afternoon tea.  I love my milk tea but have decided to forego it this time and went with hot lemon tea, the other all-time HK favourite.

The fried chicken wings and fries were nice and golden and not burnt to a crisp as with some places.  The wonton noodles were as expected.  Overall, the place is all rright, reasonably priced, bright and clean.  However, in terms of chicken wings, the ones at Hollywood Cafe is still the best price...3 for $2.99 and a drink!
Chiu Chow Boy on Urbanspoon
There are many different flavours and food specialties of China! There's Szechuan's spicy food, Guangdong's dim sum; Yunnan's noodles; dumplings of Northern China...And tonight, we had Chiu Chow (Cantonese pronunciation  also known as Chaozhao or Teo Chew.  They're known for their pickled cold dishes and oyster omelettes and oyster rice congee. 

I haven't had a lot of Chiu Chow food here in Toronto; and it isn't because there are few restaurants catering to this Chinese cuisine.  I think the family just seems to mainly stick to Cantonese restaurants.  
Anyway, just for spontaneity, we decided to go try Chiu Chow Boy.  On this day, it wasn't too busy and the staff and service was prompt.  The owner and his friends or family was also there enjoying a big dinner.  I was watching the dishes brought to their table...Huge tureen of soup, large dish of crabs...Their dishes looked very tasty!

We ordered Deep-fried Tofu and came with a broth for dipping. Golden brown and crispy!
The oyster rice congee was flavourful and I do enjoy the broth the rice is steeped in.  Unlike Cantonese congee where the rice turns into a white paste-like texture; Chiu Chow congee is really more like rice in soup.  Mom doesn't really like it as it's in this in-between stage of rice and congee.  I however, do like it.  It's warm and soupy and filling. 

This was the best!  Stir-fry fish noodles!  It's got a chewy, dense texture.  The shrimps were a bit on the small side but the vegetables had a nice crunch and paired well with the noodles.  Overall, excellent!

I'm quite excited about the panda training at the zoo...Too bad the weather is drizzly and grey.  Can't wait to see the pandas!

There were about 15 of us, out of over 88 volunteers hired. Today's training was was day 2 of Interpretive Volunteer where one demonstrates/shows related biofacts at the panda exhibit tent. I originally chose to be Special Events volunteer thinking I'd help out with even coordination.  Doesn't seem to be what I think it'll be so am switching over to join this group of equally excited volunteers.

Made a few nice acquaintances!  I'm looking forward to my first day real work day at the zoo! 
I had my interview about a month ago and took the opportunity to wander through the grounds for a bit...Haven't been there in a while.  As it's off-season, the mood and atmosphere was quiet and some of the animals were taken inside to shield from the cold.  But, I did get to see a number of pavilions; many birds and the orangutans and gorillas!  Never tire of seeing these animals at play. 

Had a Beavertail...What a treat!  Funny story; a friend of mine posted on her FB that see enjoyed a Beavertail; a non-Canadian friend saw the post and gasped!  Beavertail?  Really?  Eww...!  I had a good laugh at that one. 
Hanabi Sushi on Urbanspoon
Judging from the restaurants I've critiqued/shared here; one would rightly guess that I enjoy poking about in some of the smaller/independent establishments.  It isn't that I think large franchised chains aren't good...They're tried and true and so the excitement isn't always there.  There's always a couple of great places that I keep in mind when dinnering with multiple people with multiple tastes or for that one or two picky friends of mind.  However, generally speaking, I do like to poke around in different places...Sometimes it leads to disappointment but most often than not, I leave feeling satisfied. 

Tucked away in the tiny corner of the plaza on Midland Av. and Finch Av. is tiny Hanabi Sushi.  You almost have to be looking for it purposefully...The sign is big but it's recessed back almost as if it it's keeping itself a secret.  And no wonder!  The food is good, the price is right but the place is small that you almost don't want too many people to know about it.  Yes, the place is small, the congee and miso soup has more of a Korean flavour to it...But it tastes good to me so I'm not complaining.  It may not be a place for a cosy romantic rendez-vous; but it's a good place to hunker down with close buddies. 

The dinner menu is simple and range from about $8 - $15 or thereabouts and each set starts of with a little bowl of congee, then a salad, a cold dish sampler, followed by miso soup; your main dish and finally a little scoop of green tea ice cream.  An overall satisfying meal.  

One of the sets ordered was the chirashi rice set...A mixed cut of various fish over rice.  The host warned that there would only be salmon that evening and promised it would be very fresh.  It truly was!  I didn't even mind not having a variety of fish; the salmon being that succulent and tasty!  
With wintry weather still not ready to leave us, spending time indoor at the Green Living Show was the thing to do. 

Lots of interesting things to see and best of all, organic or other health food products to sample!  Tasted coffee, yoghurt, cheese and dips! There were cooking and yoga demonstrations...Was tempted to join except the people already there were too awesome...Twisting themselves into human pretzels.  There were organic cotton clothing but what really caught my eye were the cleverly recycled clothing and products.  They take old items and re-fashion them into new products and gave tips on DIY projects. 

Another neat idea was found at the Terracycle booth.  They make use tetra packs, chocolate wrappers, chip foil bags and other non-recyclable matter and using them to fashion pencil bags, small purses, headbands and all sorts of other neat products.  The company encourages people to collect these non-recyclable matter, boxed them up and send it the company for free.  They'll turn the 'rubbish' into affordable green goods.

Swapsity Swap Zone was a place where for $2.00 one could bring in their books and CDs and swap them for other ones.  Another neat idea to update one's own collection.  Unfortunately, they don't yet have their own permanent shop and so will have to keep an eye out for when they're setting up shop again. 
Library Bar - Fairmont Royal York on Urbanspoon
My pics turned out dark; all photos posted from Google Images
Oh my, such frivolous luxury...Where to start?  It was just such a nice experience!  Amid the hustle and bustle of everyday city life; tucking oneself into a cozy recess of old fashioned charm and soaking up elegant ambivalence makes for such a delightful treat. 

According to their website, Fairmount Royal York has been serving Afternoon Tea since 1929!  One is truly indulging in history here!
The experience starts with individual choice of fine teas served in dainty floral teapots.  I chose the Kyoto Cherry Jasmine which was light and refreshing on its own.  Not much of a cream and sugar tea person unless it's HK-styled milk-tea.

I was pleasantly surprised that other than the finger-food and pastries served on the 3-tier dishes; here, two other dishes were served first.  First, there was Crumpets with Berries; the warm buttery crumpets matched and the sweet tartness of fruit complemented each other nicely.

This was followed with delicate finger sandwiches; lobster and mango salad, smoked salmon, smoked turkey with cheese and lastly, goat cheese with strawberry.  As sandwiches go, they were alright.  I enjoyed the lobster and mango one best.  One felt a bit too dry and the goat cheese didn't stand out as much as I had anticipated.  

Finally, the long awaited lovely 3-tiered dishes came; warm scones on the bottom and these were good.  Madeleines and Financiers on the middle tray and delicate pastries on the top.  The strawberry tart at the top was delicious but neither my friend or I cared for the swan pastry.  It was pretty to look at and while the Chantilly cream in the swan was nice; the swam itself was dry. 

Throughout the seating, our host came around to add hot water to our teapots and inquire how we were getting along.  Each time she brought a new dish, she'd take a minute to explain what it was.  Indeed, she was attentive and we felt well-looked after. 

For a complete menu, please click on the attached file. 
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When one is not working; one has lots of time to do things that one may not usually do or have time to do. 

Of late, I've been busy with volunteer work, picking up free Clinic facial serum samples, enjoying free coffees and McDonalds or Starbucks; participating in one competition or another...

Cathay Pacific is offering round trip tickets to Hong Kong; all one needs to do is submit and original noodle recipe in honour of International Noodle Month (March).  The winning dish could also be served in economy class.  

Thoughts of being the Chinese-girl version of Alan Bourdain flitted through my mind as with the idea of some passenger falling in love with my noodle recipe that I'm made heiress to their top-notch restaurant (the original thought was that I'd be hired as their top chef...But it seems a bit stressful after watching various cooking shows on TV).  Anyway, I figured the way to go was to maintain an Asian flavour but with a twist.  Thus born 
'Seafood Angel Hair Pasta in light Wasabi Cream Sauce'.

                     Seafood Angel Hair Pasta 
                in a Light Wasabi Cream Sauce

-Angel Hair pasta
-Shrimps, peeled and clean
-Button mushrooms (white or brown). Washed and sliced

-Pea Shoot
-1 tsp sesame oil
-3 tsp oil
-Japanese sushi Flying Fish Roe or Capelin Roe

-Roasted seaweed, slivered (I prefer Korean style)

*Alternative ingredients: Hokkaido Surf Clam, Crab Meat, slivered asparagus

-2 tbsp butter
-125mL heavy cream
-2 cloves garlic minced
-1 tbsp wasabi (if too dry, dilute with with a touch of water...You want something like toothpaste consistency)
-Lemon juice 

**Healthier Sauce: Reduce cream by half and add flour to thicken sauce.

1. Rinse and clean scallops and shrimps.  Pat dry with towel and put into a small mixing bowl.  Add oil, sesame oil, cornstarch and a dash of salt and sugar.  Mix well and set aside. 

2.  Heat a pot of water and cook desired portion of pasta as per instructions on packaging.  Divide the pasta onto two plates.  Set aside. 

3. In a small saucepan, melt butter.  Add minced garlic.  Slowly stir in cream and then add desired amount of wasabi; the more, the spicier.  Continue to stir occasionally to avoid burning bottom.  Squeeze lemon juice in
to the cream sauce.   Reduce heat and stir until sauce is well combined.  Set aside. 

4. Heat a little olive oil in the pan and saute the mushrooms gently.  Add shrimps then scallops and cook. These cook quickly so be careful not to overcook.  When cooked, spoon over the pasta. 

5.  Add a little more oil to the pan.  When hot, cook the pea sprouts until just wilted. Layer on top of pasta.

6.  Add the desired amount of wasabi cream sauce over the pasta.  

7. Garnish with fish roe and seaweed. 

8. Serve hot and with enjoy with a glass of white wine!