Eating my way through the Distillery District Christmas Market

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The holidays are just a license to eat and to buy treats for friends that we hope will share them with us.  Sunday’s sunny weather brought many people out to Toronto’s Distillery District to eat and drink to keep warm. There are only about two weeks left for the annual Christmas market.  If you’re going on the weekends, get there before 2:00 p.m. so that you can shop and then settle down in one of the many good restaurants for lunch and cocktails.

Get yourself to the Bean and Baker Malt Shop!

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Bean and Baker Sign

Liezel and Bren Anderson are hoping to create memories for a new generation of a malt shop customers.  After over a year of planning, they’ve opened the Bean and Baker Malt Shop where you can get a proper milkshake or ice cream dessert, as well as other homemade sweet or savoury treats.

Couple2

Tuesday’s hot humid weather was a good excuse, not that I needed one, to get a malted milkshake, so I headed out to find Toronto’s newest spot.  The Bean and Baker Malt Shop is at corner of Grace and Harbord Streets by Bickford Park. The store in a earlier life, housed a drug store with a counter that served ice cream. Liezel and Bren have done a brilliant job creating a great old-fashioned soda shop, replete with a chromed red and white interior, checkerboard floor, swivel stools and uniformed soda jerks to serve you.

The blackboard menu lists the treats including sodas, shakes, malted milkshakes and coffee creations.  A sweet assortment of pastries made daily by Liezel, who is a former pastry chef, includes flaky cherry hand-pies, lemon meringue tarts, éclairs filled with a creamed custard and the popular bacon and pecan butter tart.  For those who are not big sweet tooths, there are savoury pies from Wisey’s, the New Zealand style bakery on Roncesvalles.

I order the espresso shake with coffee ice cream and malt. It comes garnished with whipped cream, a malt ball and some crunchy bits of chocolate. Served in a tall glass with the remaining shake left for you in the metal cup.

MaltedA good milkshake is about the ratio of milk to ice cream. Bren’s espresso malted shake floats at the midpoint between being solid enough to hold a straw upright but runny enough to easily be sucked up the straw.

The coffee meshes well with the nutty, buttery notes of malt, which heightens the richness of the ice cream.

I try to take my time drinking it, but it’s going down pretty fast. I am tempted to have a second one, it’s that good!Empty Glass2

Another dessert they make is the Old School lunch pie. It’s a combination peanut butter and chocolate pudding pie with raspberry jam on a graham cracker crust topped with whipped cream. I look forward to trying this later this summer.

Dietary restrictions? No problem. Bean and Baker offer gluten-free, non-dairy and even vegan ice creams so that everyone can enjoy cold treats.

If you’re in the mood for an old-fashioned soda or ice cream or sweet treat this summer, you know where you need to go!

Hey, Sunday, July 17 is National Ice Cream day, so you better get yourself to Bean and Baker Malt Shop, pronto!!

Maman in First Canadian Place

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Maman, the Parisian inspired bakery from New York’s SoHo district opened its second location here in Toronto on July 6, in First Canadian Place.  The bakery is in the space formerly occupied by Szechuan Szechuan on the second level food court.  The fast-casual café bakery is owned by Michelin starred, Chef Arman Arnal of La Chassagnet in the South of France and designer/baker, Elise Marshall.

The bright farmhouse chic, in blue and whites is cosy with communal tables and a wall of windows that gives it a standalone feel.

Opening hours are bright and early at 7:00 a.m. when you can get a variety of freshly baked croissants, yogurt and coffees. Lunch time offerings include traditional French favourites like Croque- Madame, Quiche, salads and fresh baguette sandwiches.  I selected the lunch box of ham and cheese Quiche and a salad of fresh greens, strawberries and goat cheese.

The Quiche Lorraine was warm, with a flakey crust and actual pieces of ham and a savoury filling where you could actually taste and see the cheese. A good change from the tasteless and rubbery Quiche available in food courts. Lemon-Thyme Madeleines are buttery treat with coffee for that mid-afternoon lull, keep one handy in your desk drawer.

A number of retail items are also available including teas, popcorn and South of France styled goods. The line up moves quickly, but always wise to get there starting about 11:30 a.m.  Most customers are grab and go, so seating up to about 12:30 is pretty good.

Maman is worth the walk over from whatever food court you inhabit in the vast Toronto Path system. They are looking soon to add a cocktail hour. It’ll be a nice place to relax after work and I look forward trying to it.  Bon appétit, fellow eaters!

Cake

 

2014 Holiday Recipes and Entertaining Tips

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The rush I guess began on December 1 or maybe you’re really organized and started your planning last year for this year’s entertaining.

This year I’ve included tips for getting organized and ready as well as some pairing suggestions for charcuterie. There’s also a great new Blood Orange Martini from the LCBO Holiday issue that I have included as a link. It’s a beverage that I would savour alone once all the cooking is done!  Click on the links below the images for the recipes and tips.

Happy holiday planning and enjoy your entertaining!

6 Tips for Sensational Entertaining

 

 

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Baked-Cowboy-Chili-CasseroleBaked Cowboy Chili
 
 
Roasted-Cauliflower-and-Red-Rice-GratinRoasted Cauliflower and Red Rice Gratin

 

 

 

Blood Orange Martini from LCBO

 

St. Lawrence Market, Saturday in Pictures

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I spent Saturday afternoon at the market, navigating the shoppers to capture the stores that I like to go to.  These photos are from the walk around.

Pavillion Pastries Cafe

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One of the advantages of being a professional pedestrian and public transit user in Toronto is that you come across some wonderful small businesses with a lot to offer. Pavillion Pastries Cafe is a thriving little coffee shop steps from the Main Street subway at Danforth.

Signage

Opened about three years ago in a small unused retail space that was formerly a doctor’s office, its main window shows off a freshly baked choice of Greek pies and specialities.  John Kodothodoros whose family owns Pavillion Pastries Cafe is a great host. Funny, congenial, he and his staff greet the regulars by name.  A welcoming little café that offers organic coffee, light meals and free WIFI is an oasis at this busy East End Toronto intersection.

Specializing in traditional spanokapita (Feta & cheese) and tiropita (cheese) pies which are baked on the premises, they also offer a good selection of cookies including kouriabedes, Greek shortbread cookies in dusted with powdered sugar.

All your traditional types of Greek sweets like baklava are available.  They have my favourite, the very difficult to pronouce, galatoboureko – a semolina custard sandwiched between layers of phyllo and drizzled with honey syrup is available as well.  Two dollars will get you six loukoumades – deep-fried pastry balls soaked in a honey syrup, sprinkled with cinnamon and lightly with powdered sugar.  Sweet and snack sized, these little gems are great when you need a hit of deep-fried goodness.  It’s hard for me not to stop in daily to buy some on my way to and from Main Subway station.  Usually, however, I just stick to getting a big cup of their fine coffee.

Sometimes it’s an adventure to get on the transit line and go to a destination coffee shop, I do it sometimes.  If you’re in the East End of the city and are looking for something different and better than your double-double coffee chain coffee, try Pavillion Pastries Cafe, John will be happy to get to know you and that you came in.

Pavillion display

Address:

  • 2554 Danforth Avenue Toronto, ON M4C 1L4

    The Danforth

  • Phone number(416) 901-3001

 

All things butter and sweetness, Nadège – Toronto

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There’s nothing like stepping into a place that is all things butter.  Butter is one of my favourite foods, sweet, creamy and when done properly, light.  Sweet pairings of fruit, custard and chocolate surround you.  You have no choice but to surrender.

Nadege is fine patisserie, in a word, art. When you first walk in to the Nadege location at 780 Queen St. you are struck by the design, the exuberant colours of arranged patisseries, like objects d’art set against by bright white walls.

Nadege display

Everything  is perfect, nothing out-of-place and the smell of filtered coffee wafting through the air.  I like to look through the big window at the back at the pastry chefs and apprentices working with butter, sugar and crème patissière.

macaron2

Nadege was one of the first places in Toronto to offer the very colourful and vogue macarons.  If you’ve not been initiated to macarons, then you must find your way down here as soon as possible.  While there are so many flavours, I love the vanilla ones.

Nadege madeleines

Boxes of tender, crumbly Madeleines are available in different flavours, simply boxed for gift giving.  Homemade marshmallows are like eating candy flavoured clouds,  full flavours and not overly sweet.IMG_7276

On a recent visit I had one of the turkey sandwiches, fresh roasted turkey, cranberry relish, old cheddar and slightly heated.  In addition, they also have croissant sandwiches with equally wonderful fillings.

sandwiches nadege

Other items of butter wonder, include these miniature almond kugelhopf – Austrian bundt cake topped with crunchy sugar glaze.  There’s no excuse not to get here, it’s right on the 501 Street Car line and right next to Trinity Bellwoods Park.  You can also find them at 1099 Yonge St (at Marlborough).

kugelhopf

The Danish are calling…

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There’s a reason I haul myself out of the bed at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning to get to the gym. It’s so that I can leave by 10:00 a.m. to get to my favourite bakery  just as the fresh Danish and morning pastries are  being put on the shelves.

Danish pastry is my guilty pleasure.  I relish nothing more than a leisurely Saturday morning drinking cappuccino and enjoying a fresh buttery pastry after my exercising is done. These are some of the spots in Toronto’s downtown core where I like my fix.

Pastry selection Pusateri's on Saturday morning

Pastry selection Pusateri’s on Saturday morning

Pusateri’s on Bay St has one of the best choice of baked goods.  Their morning pastries, in fact all their desserts and breads too, are sourced from some of the best bakeries and patisseries in Toronto.  You can find selections  from Harbord Bakery, Clafouti, Patachou to name a few.  There’s no mistaking the taste of  real butter croissants and the custard and fruit Danish is like having dessert for breakfast. Pusateri’s serves Illy coffee, a perfect pairing to anything flaky and rich.

I love prune Danish.  It’s a comfort food that not many places carry.  In fact it’s been years since I’ve seen any in grocery store, they were popular in the 60’s but not so much anymore.  The one place you can still get them is Harbord Bakery.

Scones at Harbord Bakery

Scones at Harbord Bakery

Harbord Bakery is one of the few bakeries downtown that still has that old-fashioned  feel to it.  Harbord opens early on Saturday and if you’ve never been it’s worth taking a visit, wonderful challah, cookies, great scones, Eccles cakes and many different kinds of fruit and cheese danish.  While they supply to a few grocers, their baked goods never taste manufactured or commercial, everything always looks and tastes homey. The line up on a Saturday can get pretty long and the bread and pastry go really quickly, so get there early.I believe you can also place an order by phone and have it ready.

St. Lawrence market houses several great bakeries, Carousel, Future Bakery and Stonemill Bakehouse all under one roof.  I make the rounds to all three usually buying what I think is their best item- Carousel for bread, Future  Bakery for croissants or danish.  While plenty of choices, the best danish is downstairs at Stonemill Bakery. Shelves are refilled regularly to satisfy the bread and cake lovers who are sometimes three people deep at the bins of baguettes and sweet breads and pastries.

There are some other fabulous French bakeries and cafes uptown including Rahier and Jules Cafe Patisserie which I will make a special trip for this year.

Rich pastry and prunes make up my Saturday morning cheat foods. It’s all good and justified in my head, the process of walking around the city to enjoy these, is a joyful exercise.  So, it’s all good (and delicious!).

It’s January and I’m having a party for me!

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By now everyone is tired, broke and partied out and along comes my birthday, a week after New Years.  No one’s really revved cup for a party except me, and it’s one of the few days of the year when I’m keen to cook myself a really big meal.

A few years back I began a tradition of making my favourite fish stew, bouillabaisse for my birthday.  This year, in addition to making this wonderful dish,  I decided to bake myself an amazing cake.

I started on the soup the on Sunday for Monday dinner.  This soup tastes best if the base is made at day or two in advance.  This allows for the flavours to mellow before the addition of the seafood.  To change things up this year, I combined ingredients of bouillabaisse and cioppino.  Cioppino is a similar fish stew  that I had for the first time several years ago, on a visit to San Francisco where the soup originated.  The basic difference between the two stews are bouillabaisse is French and cioppino is  Italian.

The ingredients of both are somewhat similar depending of course on your choice of recipes. Bouillabaisse is said to have a white base as most recipes start with leeks or fennel and onions, while cioppino is tomato based. A good amount of white wine is used in either recipe but I have also seen the use of red wine.  Traditionally, potato and saffron are used in bouillabaisse and there are more herbs in cioppino.

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For this year’s dinner I opted to use both the leeks and fennel as a base in addition to the tomatoes. I am not crazy about the including potatoes in the soup, I feel it makes it too heavy with the already rich variety of seafood.  I included all the fresh herbs from the cioppino recipe and added saffron, chilli flakes and orange zest from the Joy of Cooking‘s bouillabaisse recipe.  This broth was the most hearty and flavourful that I have made so far,  the mellowed heat from the chilli made it a perfect soup for a cold night.

The cake was inspired by my love for anything that is hazelnut flavoured, from everyone’s favourite Nutella to Frangelico liqueur to Ferrero Rocher chocolates.  The genoise, or sponge cake was made from roasted hazelnuts ground with flour. I filled and covered the four cake layers with a very light and extremely buttery Italian meringue buttercream and folded in Nutella.  The entire cake was then coated with a shiny cocoa glaze and decorated with more Nutella.

Bouillabaise or any fish stew is very hearthy and a wine with good acidity is a great match.  I chose a full-bodied burgundy as you can see in the slideshow photo.  A Sauvignon Blanc or even a California Chardonnay would also be a good pairing.

I am always satisfied and pleased with myself when I make this soup, it’s really not very hard to do but it’s a little time-consuming.  The cake was, in a word, awesome – very hazel nutty but not too dense or too rich.  A great birthday meal to end a great day.

What is your favourite birthday meal?  I would be very interested in hearing your stories.  In the meantime, happy eating!

The Doughnut Renaissance – from deep fried to designer Part 2

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This is Part 2 to my post of July 17 that featured a short cultural expose on fried dough.

There is a retro food trend a foot.  In uncertain times we get sentimental over things that provided simple homespun pleasures, like macaroni and cheese, hot chocolate and doughnuts.  It has taken me over a month to get part deux done, but doughnut research is complicated and tasty.

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I found four establishments that are creating their own personal brand of designer doughnuts,  Sweet Creations, Paulette’s, Glory Hole Doughnuts and Dough by Rachelle.  Each of these are quite unique from their flavours to their style but all homey, tummy warming, lip smacking sweet nostalgic goodness!!!

My first stop was Sweet Creations in the Distillery District.  They were featuring two doughnuts the Sunday that I visited, Peach Cobbler and the soon to be classic Maple Bacon doughnut.  The peach cobbler had pieces of crumb topping and small pieces of fresh peach.  A light, crisp, not too sweet doughnut but a little lacklustre in achieving a real peachy flavour.  The Maple Bacon was the best of the two.  The sweetness of the maple tempered by the salty and smokey flavour of the bacon makes it more of an entremet rather than a dessert, but something I would definitely choose as a breakfast option.

Paulette’s Original Donuts & Chicken opened in July.  Located in the trending Leslieville area.  You are greeted by staff dressed in traditional retro paper hats inside an aquamarine coloured storefront.  A choice of seven cake doughnuts is featured daily to complement their fried chicken menu.  Some unusual choices were available including chocolate blueberry and grapefruit maple – sweet and zesty.  Our favourite this visit was the banana cream and the dark chocolate pretzel which makes for an excellent cake doughnut flavour.

The much-anticipated Glory Hole Doughnuts opened on August 25 in Parkdale to the excitement of many doughnut devotees.  Over the top raised doughnuts filled with home-made fillings turns the standard doughnut into a wonderful dessert (or over the top breakfast pastry!).  Owner and pastry chef Ashley Jacot de Boinod tops the banana cream with real whipped cream to order.  This doughnut barely made it out of the store, I couldn’t wait to dive in.  The lemon meringue doughnut is filled with  lemon curd, the way lemon curd should be – creamy, silky and just sweet and tangy enough lemon flavour.

Catering and delivery is available with three days’ notice so they’re the freshest they can be for you. It’s worth the trip to Parkdale for these one of a kind deep-fried cakes.

My last trek was on Thursday morning.  At 8:00 a.m. the doughnut curtain is drawn at the back entrance of Beast Restaurant on Tecumseh.  There’s where you find a smiling Rachelle ready to serve her handmade doughnuts to an eager line-up of customers.  This was my second attempt.  The week before I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and was making my way, when at about 9:00 a.m. I found out via a tweet from Rachelle that she was sold out and I had to abort my mission.  Rachelle tweets throughout the morning to let customers know what’s left.

I was first in line this week and left smiling with my box of doughnuts.  Real apples and a rich glaze made the apple fritter bring back a lot of childhood memories, this is not your Tim Horton’s apple fritter, this really has apples in it.  The double chocolate doughnut is coated with real dark chocolate and real white chocolate; the cherry pie doughnut had a crumb topping and the right amount of cherry filling.  Yes, it was worth the 6:45 a.m. alarm I set that morning to get myself up and en route to Rachelle’s.  Doughnuts are also available at weekend brunch at Beast, so save some room and enjoy a morning doughnut.

This is one food that I’m glad is making a come back.  In a city over run by assembly line, same tasting but different coloured glazed tasteless dough, these homemade gems are certainly worth the $2.50 to $3.00 each price tag. In this town, you get what you pay for.  Doughnut popularity comes and goes, I hope this sticks around for a while and that we’ll see new flavours regularly.  I leave you with a great video featuring the Muppet’s Swedish Chef creating his own particular brand of doughnuts.  Enjoy!