Amsterdam Brewhouse

Genre: Pub, Beer Tasting

Price Range: $10-22

Rating: 8/10

Medical school had just finished, the weather was 28 degrees, and I had just finished my Psych observership, my friends and I decided to take a walk by the lake. Seeing the long line outside the patio, we decided to line up and check out Amsterdam Brewhouse for the first time. I would recommend picking up a menu before joining the line so it gives you something productive to do while waiting.

Another piece of advice when sitting on the patio is that it can get REALLY cold and windy. Make sure you ask for a blanket. This restaurant gives out these red fuzzy blankets.

My friend and I decided to start off with a beer sampler of 4 crisp beers for $8.  My personal favourite was the raspberry beer.

Beer Sampler ($8)
Beer Sampler ($8)

We also ordered the Sweet Chili Rib Ends ($11) appetizer, which I really enjoyed. The presentation was great, and the sauce was delicious. The red onions were a nice touch.

Sweet Chili Rib Ends ($11)
Sweet Chili Rib Ends ($11)

As for myself, I decided to try the Classic Ontario Brisket Cheese Burger ($14) and my friend got the Nut Brown Mushroom Swiss ($15). Having tried half of hers, I would have to say that these burgers tasted somewhat the same, except for an extra $1, you could have mushrooms and Swiss cheese. Nonetheless, the meat was cooked medium rare and was tender. I appreciated that it was locally sourced.

Classic Ontario Brisket Cheese Burger ($14)
Classic Ontario Brisket Cheese Burger ($14)

Note that there wasn’t just one burger patty in there, the size of the burger is quite substantial so I had to dissect it into pieces with my knife. The fries came with the burger and could be substituted with Sweet Potato or salad for an additional $2.

Nut Brown Mushroom Swiss ($15)
Nut Brown Mushroom Swiss ($15)

Overall, I would love to come back here again to try the pretzel and the wings (especially with the apple butter sauce). One thing to note is the service – the waitress we had was really accommodating, especially since we asked her to take photos for us.

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Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake

Genre: Japanese, Dessert

Price: $8.88 / cheesecake, $2.22/ madeleine (buy 3 get one free)

Rating: 8/10

I was studying for an upcoming ophthalmology exam when I decided to take a study break and line up at Uncle Tetsu with my parents. The line took 1 hour, 15 minutes on a lovely Sunday 4pm afternoon. For most, the lineup is the deterrent to buying an Uncle Tetsu product, but I would recommend following @tetsulineup on Twitter for timely updates with pictures of the line.

The cheesecake is 1 per person and you have to pay in cash. It is made in front of you and the oven they have fits only 12 or 16 cakes at one time, which makes the production time lengthy.

In terms of the taste, the Cheesecake ($8.88) is warm and tastes like a cross between a sponge cake, cheesecake, and mousse. It is very moist, fluffy, and biting into it makes a sound akin to squeezing some last drops of water out of a sponge. When I ate the refrigerated cake the next day, it tasted denser but still very light and fluffy.

Compared to Western-style cheesecakes, which are very dense, rich, and filling, the Japanese cheesecake is closer in taste to a cheesecake mousse or spongecake. I did not feel bloated after a few bites. For the low price, I would rather eat a Japanese cheesecake over the classic cheesecake.

I think that the cheesecake is definitely the specialty item here as the Madeleines ($2.22) tasted like your typical honey cake. Seeing how much butter went into making it made it a little less appetizing. Only get the buy 3 get 1 free deal if you’re buying for friends, otherwise, the Madeleines were not that worth it.

Lastly, there is also a new item on the menu called the Angel Hat ($8.88), which looks like a 5-inch steamed bun. It is a cheese zuccotto, which is supposed to be fluffier than the cheesecake. When this item becomes released, I would like to try it out.

My friends and I are thinking of conducting an experiment in which we will make our own Japanese cheesecake, use a blind sample, and make them taste the difference between the homemade and the storebought version. After all, the time it takes to make one is equivalent to the time you’re waiting in line, and I don’t see the line getting shorter anytime soon.



Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake on Urbanspoon

The Crab Apple: A Reflection on Mother’s Day

As a food blogger, I often get asked “what is your favourite food?” or “what is the most delicious thing you’ve tried?” For me, this is a difficult question to answer because who you eat with and the experience you have while eating  can bias your opinion of the meal – if you’re on a terrible date at a 5-star restaurant, the food may not seem 5-star quality to you.

So when I get asked this question, I usually respond with “I don’t know, I’ve eaten at so many places, it’s hard to pick a favourite.”

But this is not the honest answer. In fact, the honest answer is quite trivial, silly even.

The most delicious thing I’ve eaten is a crab apple. Yes, I’m referring to those apples that grow in abundance in people’s yards and litter the sidewalks in the fall because nobody eats them. I say this is my favourite food for the very reason that crab apples remind me of my mom.

Back when I was around six years old, I didn’t see my mom often, mostly because she worked night shifts at a factory to make ends meet. Between working seven days a week and taking classes, my mom came home when I was asleep and left before I woke up. We weren’t that well off, but we always had food on the table, though fresh fruits, cake, and candies were considered a luxury.

One night, I decided to force myself to stay awake so I can see my mom. As I laid in bed, I tried to do everything I can to not succumb to sleep. After what felt like hours, I heard the faint click of a door opening (we all lived in one room at the time). The hallway light poured in and I sat up, catching my mom’s attention.

“Oh, why are you still awake?”

“I was waiting for you to come home.”

“Hold on, I have something for you.”

Reaching into her purse, my mom pulled out three crab apples. I could tell she picked them on the way home because they still had the leaves and branches still attached. The sound of us talking and leaves rustling prompted my dad to wake up beside me.

“I couldn’t fall asleep.” I said.

Taking the crab apples,  my dad proceeded to wash and peel them. When they were done, I was handed one in a cup. I took a bite, expecting it to be sour, but it was not. I tasted the sweet juices, the crisp flesh, the slight tartness. It was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. It was perfect.

I can’t say that all crab apples taste like this, as I’ve never eaten them since. I could be biased because this was a memory from so long ago.

Maybe the apples weren’t so sweet, but were made sweet by the memory.  For the first time in a long time, we were finally sitting together as a family, eating crab apples.


Three generations of mothers
Three generations of mothers in my family

For this Mother’s Day, I decided to write this reflection piece to commemorate my mom for all she has done for me. The gesture of picking crab apples from the side of the road might seem like a small gesture, but the fact that she did this despite being tired and overworked is a testament to how much she thinks of her family. I wanted to write this to show that I remember, and am grateful for, all the little things.

I would have not gotten to where I am now without my mom. She is strong and hardworking. When she started making more income, she took me to restaurants as a treat. It was from these humble beginnings that stemmed my appreciation for food.

Today, don’t forget to take some time out of your busy schedule to call your mom or get her a gift. She is the one who will always think of you, cook for you, and be there for you in times of need.

Love you, mom!

A. S. Zhou



Seven Lives

Genre: Mexican

Price: ~$5/taco (tax included – cash only)

Rating: 9/10

Finished early at Toronto Western Hospital and decided to go with my clinical skills group to Kensington Market to check out Seven Lives.

The doors open at 12pm and we lined up 10 minutes before opening. 15 – 20 minutes later, the place was packed and we were lucky to find a seat at the only table they have.

Gobernador and Cactus & Mushroom tacos with Papaya juice
Gobernador and Cactus & Mushroom tacos with Papaya juice

I got the Gobernador ($5) and the Cactus & Mushroom ($4) tacos, which were very cheap and filling. The Papaya juice ($2) was cheap and homemade, There was also a hint of lime in the juice. I would definitely recommend the Gobernador because the combination of shrimp and smoked tuna was delicious. I had never tried cactus before, but it tasted like green pepper, but more sour.

The only difficult part was trying to eat the tacos since there were so many ingredients on them.

Will come again!


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Jule Coffee & Tea

Genre: Cafe and Tea House

Price Range: $5-15

Rating: 7/10

Haven’t posted in ages because school has just been ridiculously busy.  Having just finished my last anatomy bellringer and Brain and Behaviour midterm (2 exams in 1 day!), I went with a group of classmates to this little tea room on Church & Wellesley.

CW from top left: Mango QQ juice, Hazelnut Chocolate, Matcha Green Milk Tea, Jasmine Green Milk Tea
CW from top left: Mango QQ juice, Hazelnut Chocolate, Matcha Green Milk Tea, Jasmine Green Milk Tea


I ordered the Hazelnut Chocolate ($5.00 L / $4.50 R) and was given the large size by accident. The large and regular both have the same glass height but the large had a larger diameter, so the waiter mixed up our drinks.  Nevertheless, this drink tasted like blended Ferrero Rocher

I would recommend getting the combos, I specifically got the $8.20 dessert and drink combo, so I was able to get a Carrot Cake with the drink, the other option was one of the cheesecakes. My friend got the $11.99 combo had a wider selection of desserts, she decided to get the Assorted Macarons. 

Jule Tea Room
From top left: Mango Cheesecake, Assorted Macarons (Salted Caramel, Earl Gray, can’t remember the white one), Carrot Cake

Jule reminds me of those tea rooms commonly seen in Markham and there are lots of students who come here to study. It was hard for the 6 of us to find a seat at first because of the students studying so the manager had to ask some people to change seats.

This is a lovely and almost tribal environment, loved the decor and would come here again.



Jule on Urbanspoon

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Genre: Canadian

Price range: $10-30

Rating: 9/10

I’ve been to so many restaurants these past months but haven’t posted in a while because school has been very busy. I will be flying to Europe tomorrow so I will try to get a quick post in.

Bannock is definitely a more popular place for lunch but I went there for dinner. They are part of the Oliver & Bonacini chain of restaurants so the trendy decor and higher-end food was expected.

I tried one of their drinks A Canadian in Manhattan ($10) and I found it quite strong. At first I thought it tasted like cough syrup but I got used to it and it tasted okay. If you like strong drinks, then this is for you.

A Canadian in Manhattan ($10)
A Canadian in Manhattan ($10)

I also shared the Poutine Pizza ($18), which was quite large and filling (10 inches). I highly doubt someone can finish it on their own.

Poutine Pizza ($18)
Poutine Pizza ($18)

The Poutine Pizza was really good, my guest said it was his “new favourite pizza”. In addition to the poutine, there was also duck as the topping. Other than dim sum, I would rate this as the second best hangover food because it was so rich.

I’ll definitely be back again to try some of the other items!



Bannock on Urbanspoon

New Zomato Profile

Hello fellow foodies!

I would like to introduce you to this new food website that I’m now a part of called Zomato. Over the summer, I met up with one of the representatives from Zomato to talk about the expansion of this food website and app into Toronto.

Before Toronto, Zomato was the go-to food review site in India (where it was founded), Sri Lanka, Indonesia, UK and 14 other countries around the world.

Featuring a clean and warm website, Zomato helps you choose what to eat based on ‘Collections’ such as ‘Terrific Thai’, ‘Date Night’, and even ‘LGBT Friendly’. I think this is quite a great idea for the restaurant goer who tends to be more ‘undecided’ in what they want to eat, as the Collections are like a picture-book of suggestions.

Zomato CollectionsCompared to currently popular restaurant sites like Urbanspoon and Yelp, Zomato is quite similar with their restaurant profiles – pictures of the menu, food, costs and highlights are all there. However, I do think that the makers of Zomato did a great job in gathering pictures of what the restaurant looks like on the outside, and getting professionally taken photos of foods they have sampled. Judging by the food photography on Zomato alone, it exceeds that of the typical cellphone photos of Yelp and Urbanspoon.ZomatoIf you get a chance to explore Zomato further, you’ll notice some bloggers have a blue star next to their profile. In order to become a verified food blogger for Zomato, one of their representatives will meet with you in person to make sure your reviews are legitimate and trusted. After all, one bad review by an angry diner may not accurately reflect the quality of a restaurant, but for a small-business restaurant, that review can often have negative consequences.

So what critiques do I have about Zomato? Since Zomato is still in its early stages of its proposed $10 million expansion into Canada, it’s too early to say. I think that Zomato currently doesn’t have as large of a restaurant database as some other sites. Also, the Food Collections idea is still under-developed as I would like to see collections of Indian food or Sushi. However, as Zomato acquires more users, I’m optimistic that it will be a useful site!

– Akira Stephanie Zhou



What I Learned in the First Month of Medical School

Hello there!

I haven’t posted anything on this blog in September at all because I’ve just be so busy with studying. I really should be studying for anatomy right now but I just finished my embryology exam today and I could use a break.

So here it is,10 things I learned in the first month of med school:

1. On the first day, I had 5 anatomy lectures back-to-back. It sped by so fast that I retained nothing. I have minimal anatomy experience from undergrad so I was typing like crazy. That night I went home to review, I got through 1 lecture in 4 hours – such productivity (sarcasm).

2. Anatomy labs are life-saving. If you’ve read any studies about group work and how much it facilitates learning, it’s definitely true. So despite point 1, it didn’t seem too bad after all.

3. In 2 weeks, I knew how to identify half the stuff in my Rohen’s Atlas. Before, I didn’t even know what a gubernaculum was (it becomes the scrotal ligament)

4. Sleep is the best thing ever

5. So much free food – lunchtime seminars and workshops, evening presentations, interest groups. I had an entire week where I didn’t cook dinner because of free food. 50% of the time it’ll be pizza, 25% will be shawarmas, and 25% will be sandwiches/wraps.

6. Even though you’ve kept up with lectures, you will still end up cramming because of the sheer volume of anatomy. Not only do you have to identify everything, you have to know what nerves, blood vessels, and muscles are associated with said structure. And you have to know what it does. There was an entire week where I literally was Eat, Sleep, Anatomy.

7. Spend time with people outside of your class – like family, friends in other programs, and significant others. They will keep you sane instead of reminding you of anatomy minutiae that you didn’t study (cue panicked flipping through notes).

8. Non-didactic experiences are really refreshing. Recently, I went to community placements at an elementary school to teach kids about health and observe kids in low-income areas. I also did Day-of-the-Doctor, a shadowing experience in the hospitals.

“Whoa look there are Chinese people!” – A kid at the elementary school

“Are you 40? You look like you’re in your 40s!”

9. I think I’ve started checking facebook like every 5 minutes. So many of our class events and info are on facebook. If I didn’t check facebook for an entire day, I’d have 20 notifications.

10. Even though the pass cutoff is 70, which is higher than other med schools, I passed my first exam and did surprisingly well :) There are some keen students who will calculate how many questions you can get wrong in order to pass and I think that offers some comfort too. But at the end of the day, as long as you work hard and can power through a 120-question bellringer like you can power through MMI stations, then you will be fine.

U of T Orientation Week

I just got back from my stethoscope ceremony and I’m really tired but I’m going to write this short documentation of my orientation week. I know that sometime in the future, I’m going to be going through periods of “hell on earth” (as the upper years call it) with the mass amounts of information I have to study, but it is experiences like these, spent with my colleagues and friends, that give me the motivation to push on.

Day 1: Awkward Greetings and Stethoscope Ceremony

“Hi, what’s your name? I’m __”

“What school are you from? Where do you live?”

“Do you have facebook?”

After an excited-anxious night of not sleeping properly, today was the day that I was going to meet my future colleagues. I knew from past meetings that the majority of my class was going to be from McMaster, Western, and McGill…so as someone from Queen’s, I was expecting to meet a lot of new people.

The morning was spent talking to my classmates and listening to our O-week organizers and faculty give talks. We also got our obnoxiously green backpacks that day and took a giant class picture.  Blue o-week shirts with green backpacks…looks very uh…environmentally friendly :)

Our big classroom fitting 259 students
Our big classroom fitting 259 students

That afternoon, we had our bellringer games. Everyone was split up into teams and we  were the ‘Levator Ani’ (aka a group of muscles that uh…opens your anus so the poop comes out). These games were like icebreakers but you’re forced to get uncomfortably close to the other people, such as passing a bagel or onion to the next person via your chin. We even had a chant that was kind of crude and went like: I like Levator Ani and I cannot lie/You other sphincters can’t deny/ When a poop comes down and you have to let it slide/ LA’s got your backside!

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That evening was our stethoscope ceremony at the classy Elgin and Winter Theatres. The line was huge to get in but it was a stunning place to have the ceremony and it felt like convocation all over again. The faculty gave their talks about the origin of the stethoscope from a French doctor who decided to use paper rolls to auscultate a patient’s heart and found it clarified the sound. Dr. McKnight gave a very memorable speech about the importance of humility in medicine. It is important to recognize that no matter how many times you’ve been told that you’re the smartest or the best, this does not make you better than your patients because one day you may be a patient and would want to be treated with kindness and respect.

The quote I remembered most clearly was:

“We have a stethoscope ceremony because you need two people for a stethoscope to work. You have to listen. The patient is ALWAYS first.”

I think this is really admirable and reaffirms my choice in school. This really makes patient-centered medicine a key message to remember for the rest of my career.

After the draping of the stethoscopes (I was draped by a family physician who did her residency in Toronto), we had to read the medical student oath.

“With this oath, I vow to practice the art and science of medicine with passion and compassion, having regard to the interests of my colleagues, my community, myself, and, above all, my patients.”

Medical student oath

With that, I’m going to conclude for the first day and continue writing tomorrow!

Day 2: Dean’s Breakfast & Academy Orientation

The Dean’s breakfast was one of my favourite events of O-Week. Sitting in Victoria College’s beautiful Burwash dining hall, we ate with faculty members and classmates, listening to speeches given by the Dean, an Aboriginal elder, and community physicians. The message of caring for oneself first before you can care for others was a prominent theme throughout the talks and I think this was very important to convey in a profession where “patient welfare is first.”

That afternoon, we went to the hospitals we were all placed at and met our groups for this clinical skills course called the Art and Science of Clinical Medicine (or ASCM for short).

Day 3: Academy Challenge on Centre Island

One thing I find cool about U of T is that there are 4 academies ( I guess we have this because are class is so big) and each of these academies correspond to different hospitals we’re placed at for our ASCM course. Many people have likened these academies to the 4 Harry Potter houses and we all compete against each other for house points.

According to D, one of my upper year friends:

1. Wightman-Berris Academy is the largest academy and placements are at the UHN hospitals. D thinks it’s Slytherin because it’s full of “snakes and gunners”. As D is from Fitz, I’m going to dispute that – WB is actually full of nice people :) So I’m going to say WB is more Ravenclaw because it’s close to all the major academic centres.

2. Fitzgerald: the smallest academy and one of the most close-knit. They like the think of themselves as Gryffindor.

3. Peters-Boyd: Either Ravenclaw or Slytherin (honestly, nobody wants to be Slytherin). But since they won the Academy cup 3 years in a row, all the other academies are kind of jealous so I would dump the Slytherin title onto them.

4. Mississauga Academy of Medicine: Hufflepuff, mostly because they’re so far away and we don’t hear much from them.

Day 4: CN Tower Formal

The CN Tower Formal was definitely the most memorable event of the day. Like any social during orientation week, we all had a delicious dinner at the CN Tower’s 360 restaurant (best mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted). I think I will do a blog post dedicated entirely about the food I ate there.

Day 5: Financial Stuff and Hart House Farm

The day was spent mostly at MAM where we got to ask questions about the financial options available to us in terms of where to get our line-of-credit. This was followed by more bonding sessions.

Later that afternoon, a bus took us to Hart House Farm where we could go camping and other activities (err….let’s just say there was a keg there too). I didn’t stay overnight because I was just too exhausted and covered with mosquito bites by then.

Day 6: Last Day of Exhaustion

O-week was definitely exhausting and I think by day 5 my throat was already hurting, I could feel a cold coming on. I also stopped taking pictures because the bags under my eyes were getting more prominent as the week wore on. Since most days this week, I got home at 1-2am and I woke up at 7am, I was pretty exhausted so I spent the day sleeping.

That evening, we had a Speakeasy social where we went to the Twist Gallery (which was quite far away) and everybody dressed up in 1920s style clothes. I decided to go since it was the last event of O-week and it was an open bar so why not!

Overall, I got to meet so many of my wonderful and talented classmates during this week. It was way better (and more expensive) than my undergraduate frosh week. I’m glad to have gone through this experience but for now, I just really want to sleep.

– Steph

Green Tea & Coconut Panna Cotta

Outside of going to restaurants, I also really enjoy cooking. Recently, I’ve been sent a packet of Kiss Me Organic’s Matcha Green Tea to try out. It came with a pdf of recipes (some typical, such as green tea lattes to wildly creative, like green tea pizza) and is conveniently placed in a resealable bag for future use. I wanted to try something that wasn’t included in the recipe book, so I made Panna Cotta.

The following recipe makes 4-6 servings.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes, Chill overnight before serving.

  • 1 tbsp Matcha Green Tea Powder (from
  • 4 cups (approx 2 cans) Coconut Milk
  • 2 tbsp Gelatin Powder (I used Knox Gelatin Powder from No Frills)
  • 2 tbsp Coconut Flakes (from any Asian supermarket)
  • 3 tbsp Honey or Sugar
  • 1 strawberry for garnish


  1. Pour coconut milk into pot and turn to medium heat.
  2. Add in honey and stir with a whisk.
  3. Take 1 cup water and dissolve the gelatin powder, pour into the heated pot. Adding more gelatin powder will make it closer to a jello consistency rather than a pudding consistency as shown in this recipe.
  4. Gently dust the mixture with matcha powder by shaking it from the spoon, putting it in all at once will cause clumping. The powder itself is very concentrated, so 1 tbsp is enough!
  5. Whisk until the mixture has turned a light green colour and there are no clumps of powder. Put in 1 tbsp coconut flakes and mix for 10 minutes.
  6. Ladle out into individual ramekins or sherbet glassware, put in refrigerator overnight.
  7. When solidified the next  day, take 1 tbsp of coconut flakes and dust across the top. Garnish with a slice of strawberry.

And that’s all folks! If there are any recommendations or variations you have tried, let me know so I can try it too :)

An archive of restaurants and reflections of a med student.


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