Where to lunch: Cafe Natura

IMG_5649   Easy bites @ Cafe Natura

I’ve dined at Cafe Natura on multiple occasions, each experience forever changing my opinion of their food, their customer service and whether or I’ll go back there or not. (I’ll be honest – I will go back there again).

It’s one of the few restaurants in Sault Ste Marie which offers a variety of healthy vegan alternatives to “lunching” than you can expect to find at most of the restaurants in this small city.

The Pros: They’ve got a great variety of vegan and gluten free options, substituting mayo for “vegannaise” and table salt for Himalayan pink salt. Their menu changes daily and they constantly update their website, so it’s easy to see what they’re serving up for breakfast and lunch. One of the things I respect most about this little place is the fact that they make all of their soups fresh daily. I’m a huge soup fan.

IMG_5644 Roasted Vegetable Soup

Presentation is a little underwhelming, but I guess we can say they’re going for an “organic” approach? Looks aside, the soup was great! A little salt wouldn’t hurt – but hey, we’re trying to be healthy here. I’ve also tried the spicy tomato, tomato vegetable, assorted greens and garlic – all delicious. Worth the $.

I often opt for the Lunch Combo which racks up at a mere $12.00. You get a bowl of soup (as pictured above) and your choice of wrap (full wrap – no halfsies here).

A classic wrap which will not disappoint is the Rosemary Chicken Wrap. It’s served on a whole wheat wrap with tomato, mixed greens, vegannaise, and if you want avocado. Ugh so delicious!!! I often find my self having a difficult time trying other things on the menu when this is just so good. A close second is their homemade falafel wrap.

IMG_5638 Rosemary Chicken Wrap with Extra Vegannaise

Despite their good tasting food, I’ve had some disappointing experiences with customer service. Forgive me, but I’ll indulge in a minor rant. Sometimes, I go there and I feel insignificant. I feel my business is often overlooked because, I’m not part of the typical crowd of individuals who lunches there. I can say all of this, but I should probably follow it up with some examples. I ordered a wrap and soup to go one day and was given my soup in a paper coffee cup. There was no “sorry, we’re all out of to-go containers, do you mind if I put it in a coffee cup?” And then it was given to me without a spoon like I was supposed to drink it that way, and when I asked for a spoon, she kind of gave me a a look like I was inconveniencing her. That kind of sucked, because as a customer I shouldn’t feel bad asking for anything. On other occasions I’ve tried to make small talk with her – casual conversation “Oh it seems fairly busy today” to which she responded with a meek “Meh” or some sort of disregard, I could barely hear her. At the cash, they have a small sign which says that they accept credit/debit but cash is preferred. Upon reading the sign I said, “Sorry, all I have is credit” (I guess, my apologetic attitude is the Canadian in me). The owner responded by saying “As long as I don’t see any cash” (What the…) In my last dining experience, I was with a friend who knew the owner. Did the tables turned when she took her order – I tell you!

Ultimately, I will be lunching at Cafe Natura again. But it’s hard to say if that’s truly because I enjoy being there or if its due to the lack of good lunch spots in Sault Ste Marie.

Advertisements

What I’m Eating

March 16th, 2015

Avocado Eggs


This past weekend I finally made something I’ve always wanted to try – egg in an avocado! I don’t eat avocado very often but was willing to give this a shot. I like eggs, I don’t mind avocado, it should be alright.

I first de-pitted the avocado and carved out a little bit of the insides. I underestimated how much to remove and only took a few millimeters in order to spare as much goodness as possible. This was a mistake. Carve out a decent amount of the avocado so you have a big enough hole that is able to fit the entire egg.

IMG_6091

First, I sprinkled some truffle salt and a little bit of garlic powder on the avocado before I put the egg in the hole. I always need more salt and more seasoning to satisfy my taste buds. As you can see, the egg white has completely over taken the left side of the avocado, so make sure you carve a deeper hole!

IMG_6092

A pinch of pepper to top!

IMG_6094

I placed it in the oven at 375 degrees Farenheit for approximately 40 minutes or until the egg was cooked.

Pièce de Résistance!

IMG_6095

Grab some sprouts to throw on top (I used alfalfa) and a spoon and enjoy!

What I’m Eating

March 5th, 2015

RICE PAPER WRAPS w. Shrimp, Basil and Green Leaf Lettuce


These wraps are super easy and make for a great lunch. I only had a few ingredients at my disposal but you can really add anything you want. Sometimes, I add carrots, cilantro, rice noodles and maybe even a slice of avocado.

I first sauteed the shrimp in a roasted garlic oil with shallots. While I was cooking the shrimp, I boiled some water for the rice paper wraps.

IMG_5914

Dip a single wrap in the warm water, making sure that the entire surface is becoming moist. I often dip the wrap and then flip it over about 5 or 6 times. When the wrap is soft between your fingers, lay it flat on a clean surface and begin filling with your veggies.

IMG_5918  I was all out of rice noodles 😥

I’d suggest using a type of noodle or including other veggies for more wrap filler. It also helps mute the strength of the basil.

IMG_5920

Voila!

(If only there was some colour in there!)

My first fine dining experience: Frank’s Kitchen

Having spent the majority of my 20+ years dining on pizza, Mr. Noodles and fast(ish) food, I decided to do something extra special for my 20th birthday and made a reservation at well-reviewed, high-end restaurant in Toronto, Ontario.

Frank’s Kitchen is located in Little Italy with a stand out white entrance and two huge glass windows. On the inside, it featured dim lighting, draperies and immediate attention was drawn to a vibrant bar area. Our party of 5 was seated in front of one of the large glass windows. It is difficult to recall all of the feelings I was experiencing during that meal, so I will highlight some of the events that stood out.

Due to the rather tight budget of student living, each of us chose to only order an entree and hopefully fill up on bread. We first received homemade artisan bread and spreads and then the waiter brought out a mushroom soup taster in a shot glass. I believe we were thinking, “we didn’t order this” but, we kindly accepted. After the mushroom soup, they brought out a tray of little spoons each with a lemony ice cube. A palate cleanser – this was new! They quickly changed over all of our tableware and we received our entrees. At this point an hour had passed and we were hungry. I chose the lobster ravioli which to my own disappointment was poorly filled and featured little lobster 😦 I also wasn’t too fond of the flavour and believed it was due to the heavy presence of shallot in the filling* (Side note: After this experience, I convinced myself I hated shallot and avoided it for the next three years). My party had all enjoyed their entrees and that outweighed my underwhelming meal. After dinner, they brought out homemade chocolate truffles (free of charge) and then a birthday dessert.

Overall, I left Frank’s Kitchen with a good impression. I had never been to a restaurant that cleans your table and changes your plates. In all honesty, it changed my dining experience forever. It was the first time I had ever eaten at a restaurant which focused on turning “going out for dinner” into an a real experience. My 20th birthday dinner is still an event my friends talk about and I often hold other restaurants to this standard.

Wishing you all of the most delicious meals,

Alena

a farm to table experience: GROVE

Last year, my girlfriends and I decided to drive down to Grand Rapids, Michigan and have a girls weekend. If there is one thing that we can all bond over it is the love of great food. Having heard much about a stellar farm-to-table restaurant named “Grove” we decided to make sure that we dined there on one evening. Situated in a small building on a historic street in Grand Rapids, Grove featured a rustic sign and an outdoor patio on a corner property. It was romantic and we were very excited to get inside. It was quite a small restaurant with not many tables and even less booths but our party of three was easily accommodated. After much consideration, the three of us all decided to try the tasting menu. At that point in time you were able to receive 3 courses for $35.00. Their menu changed daily and featured beautiful farm fresh options. It included vegetables I had never heard and dishes I only dreamed of tasting. We started with the bread platter ($4.00) which featured 3 different type of artisan breads and 3 spreads. The spreads included a garlic oil, a pleasantly surprising citrus butter and a homemade pesto. Within 5 minutes of receiving our bread platter we were greeted with the first course. I chose the beef tartare because I had not yet had the opportunity to try something so daring and the list of fresh ingredients made my mouth water.

Beef Tartare with b with

Course One: Beef Tartare Celery, Hard Boiled Egg, Garlic, Onion, Pea Shoots + Herbs

Some might consider this a small portion but I found it to be the perfect amount of food. The combination of beef, hard-boiled egg (smashed egg as I’d like to call it) and pea shoots, really made the dish light on the palate and satisfied the initial hunger cravings. Soon after our plates were finished, they were whisked away and within minutes (honestly less than 2 minutes) our second course arrived. For my second course, I decided to try a different protein and selected a quail dish. I’ve always wanted to try quail after seeing it on the food network channel plenty of times and this was the perfect opportunity.

Quail, Cauliflower, Zucchini, Carrots, Potato, Beans Quail egg + Honey

Course Two: Fried Quail, Cauliflower, Zucchini, Carrots, Potato, Beans Quail egg + Honey

You can call me sheltered but I had never had a protein like this paired with an egg. The runny yolk matched with the crispy meat of the quail was sheer perfection. I could have easily eaten two of these dishes. For the final course I took a leap of faith and ordered the spicy paella. “WEEEEE” was it for spicy. The dish was loaded with many different ingredients, including scallops, chicken, and shrimp.

Shrimp Paella

Course Three: Shrimp Paella Shrimp, Chicken, Scallops, Peppers, Onions, Saffron + every hot spice

Overall, the “Grove” provided us with a delectable dining experience and was the topic of many conversations for the rest of the weekend. I attempted to revisit the restaurant this past summer but unfortunately they were closed. If you’re ever visiting the Grand Rapids area, I urge you to make a stop at this restaurant! **If possible, try to make a reservation, small dining area + the hype behind this restaurant = limited availability** Wishing you all of the most delicious meals, Alena