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.

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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

 

Cluny’s in the Distillery District

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It’s December 26, and while many of you have barely digested and recovered from your big Christmas dinners, I know there are also a lot of you looking forward to more eating for New Year’s.  So with that in mind, let me recommend Cluny’s in the Distillery District.  A few weeks ago, I ventured into this beautiful new restaurant on Tank House lane for a solo brunch.

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Washed in natural and warm lighting, Cluny’s is like a very large European cafe, there is an intricately laid blue and white tiled floor separating the space into grouped tables and intimate spaces.  Bouquets of cream and buttercup yellow flowers in large vases, showcase the bakery buffet where staff prepare your baskets of croissants and breads.

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The raw bar is stocked with a daily selection of oysters, claims and shrimp.  Behind the bar is the bustling kitchen, efficiently sending out orders or egg dishes, burgers and salads from the brunch menu.

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My server greets me warmly and asks what my preferences for my morning pastry basket to accompany my French press coffee.

French Press

My oeufs en cocotte, eggs cooked in a vessel like a small dutch oven, arrives with a grilled tomato, greens, truffle and fries.  It is a dish that feels indulgent for a sunny but cold Sunday morning.  I am thrilled that the frites are still quite warm, and soak up the truffle mayonnaise very well.

Oeufs en cocotte

I people watch from my seat at the raw bar, where the friendly staff tell me about the menu and the features with entusiasm.  I also get a great view of the other dishes guests are enjoying at the bar next to me.

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Photo Credit: Cluny Bistro website – clunybistro.com

The dinner menu features traditional bistro fare including foie gras dishes, mussels and frogs legs as well as some continental favourites to satisfy kids and non-seafood eaters.  My best part of the menu for me,  is the selection of cheese dishes, which includes my favourite, Sauvagine stuffed with truffle and sauteed in wild mushroom.

A wonderful setting, lots of seats – however, it is popular, so many sure to call ahead and make a reservation.

 Cluny Bistro – 35 Tank House Lane, Distillery District, Toronto, Ontario

IL Gelato di Carlotta – an Italian Ice Cream Destination in Niagara-on-the-Lake

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Halloween has come and gone and there were a few days last week when snow flurries started to make their appearance. It’s been several weeks since my last post and the colder weather and shorter days begin are making me reminisce back to this summer’s last gelato hurrah.

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My last weekend day trip was to Niagara-on-the-Lake. As usual, I was researching where to eat, when I found what I think is one of best gelato stores I have ever been to, Il Gelato di Carlotta.  A very busy and charming store that is authentically Italian.  I read somewhere that much of the equipment in this cute and bustling gelateria was brought in from the mother country, so the look and feel is authentic and smells of coffee and pizzelle.

Gelato Burger making

As I arrive, a tour bus has unloaded a group who wait patiently for samples and place their orders before they go to the theatre. The place is packed but the line-up moves quickly and it is my turn.  I order a gelato burger, which seems to impress the woman who takes my order.  She is further tickled when I ask for the Gelato DiCarlotta as the filling, which is their signature flavour.

Gelato Burger

She fills a bun made of pate-a-chou with Gelato di Carlotta and warms inside an expressly made piece of equipment.   The bun is slightly toasted and the gelato is warmed to the consistency of a thick pastry cream.
half gelato burger

The woman walks to the other side of the counter where she drizzels (heavily) warm, melted Nutella on top.  I see the other customers’ eyes follow my desert as I get my fork and make sure the take plenty of napkins.

I settle quickly on a bench out front in the sunlight, to begin the devouring.  This is the kind of ice-cream sandwich worth travelling two hours in traffic to get (as I did that day).  The Gelato DiCarlotta is smooth and silky and well, you can never go wrong with Nutella on anything. Oh, what a happy ending to a sunny day in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  It’s available year-round, so my suggestion is get there soon.   Bon appetit!

New York City Summer Street Food

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It’s a sunny Sunday morning and there’s a lot of bustle outside the hotel room window, nothing unusual I think, it’s Manhattan and there’s always something going on.  I head out and make way to 46th Street where vendors of all kinds are setting up,  jewelry, scarves, suitcases, T-Shirts, pretty much anything you want is there.  It’s like a big bazaar is coming alive in the street.

As I get closer to Lexington Avenue the smell of grilling food is getting stronger and it is with much excitement that I see the food vendors prepping and setting up for the day. It’s early morning still and it’s all just getting started, but already I’ve gotten a new suitcase from one of the vendors to bring home all the new pairs of shoes I’ve bought on this trip.

There is an endless variety of summer items like sunglasses and towels but there are lots of foodstuffs as well, like teas, herbs and varieties of curries.

The crowds grow as we get closer to 59th Street and 5th Avenue it’s lunch time by now, and on this day there’s nothing I was looking forward to more than eating again – which is pretty much how I spent the first forty-eight hours of this trip.  Of course, that was the original purpose, to do food recognizance for my next articles.

The bottom of 59th street is looking a bit more like a carnival with everything from the usual hot dog and sausage vendors, a lemonade stand and everybody’s favourite, the Wafels & Dinges cart.  I am, however, craving authentic foods, dishes that are full of flavour and spice.  As I get a little deeper into the crowd, I smell something that will satisfy me at the “Authentic Mexican Grill”.  If you read this blog regularly, you know Mexican food is a big favourite of mine.

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We have Mexican food in Toronto, but there’s something about street food like this that somehow makes it more interesting and certainly tastier.

IMG_6691I order the Nacho Platter with chicken, it’s a ton of food for $8.00.  There’s some confusion with the order because they thought I’d ordered beef and not chicken.  Some words are exchanged in Spanish with the man on the grill, then there is some laughter as they apologize to me in Spanish.  They ask if it would be okay to put some chicken on top of the beef.   You can’t beat that, and I couldn’t have been happier.

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It’s a great heaping mess of deliciousness, beef, chicken, salsa verde, sour cream and cheese.  My daughter and I could barely finish it, but we did our best.  Our next stop was something sweet to top the nachos, because we really did need more carbs and desert was not too difficult to find here.

I have a tremendous weakness for all things Italian, men, wine, food and oh yes, sweets.  So when I spotted cannolis that were brought in all the way from Brooklyn at the Fortunato Brothers stand, we immediately bought two.  The cannolis were sweet and creamy inside the fresh crispy shell.  I really could’ve used a latte to finish, but it was very hot and I think I would’ve exploded!

When I am away from home and exploring new foods and places to eat, I always consume way more than I usually do.  The energy that I had used to walk my way all the way through this street fest was now replenished.  It was time to walk back to my hotel for a nap and to plan for the evening’s eating destination.  I always have food on my mind.

So if you’re in New York on a summer weekend, make sure that you find your way to Central Park by 5th Avenue and 59th and eat something for me.  Happy eating my friends!

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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).

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