It’s always sunny at Colette Grand Cafe

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Colette Grand Cafe is in the exclusive Thompson Hotel at Bathurst and Wellington St. W. By day this area of Wellington St. is relaxed with limited traffic and only the voices of children playing in the parkette across the street. Colette’s sophisticated and elegant blue and white decor make it like a French holiday complete with over-smiley waiters hurrying about.

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Arriving for a late lunch I am shown to my table at windows that border the dining area.  The oversized wing chairs in the lounge are taken up with casual business types. It’s busy, but it doesn’t have the noisy din as some of the other French restos and bistros in the city but I’m a little puzzled by the folk /rock soundtrack that’s playing. Maybe expecting to hear Edith Piaf songs would’ve been cliché.

As expected there’s a solid collection of wines and a tempting list of drinks. While I don’t entirely recall what the contents of this beverage is, it’s called Pirate Radio and is one of those drinks that about halfway through you experience invading your senses.

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My starters are delicate cheese straws, carrot salad fresh and simply dressed and accompanied by a delicate salmon pate. Shaved radish and celery complement the lightness of the salmon rillettes.

The main course of duck confit arrives and is just as perfect as described. Hearty and garnished with pistachios, the duck confit is one the finest I’ve had a French restaurant in some time.DuckThe traditional dessert tray is offered to diners with full bellies but gluttonous eyes. Colette’s is a glittering collection of French pastries.

Desserts

Cake of any kind, especially complex fruity beauties are my kryptonite. But you can’t miss all the other awaiting sweet treasures.

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Colette is a break you can enjoy in an afternoon. The kind where you treat yourself to a refreshing meal and talk. It’s a hotel restaurant, so expect to pay accordingly. The service and attention to detail is impeccable. Finding another time to dine here again, is high on my plan. Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Ice Cream day with these Toronto cones

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This Sunday, July 17 is National Ice Cream Day. The day you can legitimately eat as much ice cream as you want.  I think 2016 can best be described as year of the cone, as the lowly ice cream wafer waffle is making way to more substantial dough based cones from Mexico and Europe.  Stuffed with sweet fillings, they’re oversized and over the top.

Pancho’s Bakery in Kensington Market features a churro cone.  This sweet baby is freshly made, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and served slightly warm.

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Sauce is poured into the cone, filled with ice cream and topped with fruity cereal, walnuts or coconut.

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Dulce de Leche, chocolate ice cream and walnuts is a delicious combination.  It’s served in a plastic cup and spoon so that you can scoop up all the deliciousness.

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The next great cone is Eva’s Original Chimney’s which started as a food truck but you can find them at the Union Summer market until September 5. A very popular vendor at the market where you’ll find Bay St. suits lining up at lunch for  one of these.  Try to get there earlier in the week, Monday to Wednesday and later in the afternoon, there will be a much shorter queue and a lot less waiting.

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These crispy and light chimneys are baked and rolled in sugar and cinnamon. Fillings include apple compote, Nutella and strawberry preserves and topped soft-serve ice cream, more chocolate, bits of brownies or fruit.

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So far  I’ve had Eva’s Apple Pie and Berrylicious.  The soft-serve is great tasting and better than what you’ll get anywhere else. There are still a couple on the menu, so I guess I’ll have to go back!

Enjoy National Cone day on Sunday.  Drop me a line and let me know how you indulged.  Bon Appetit, friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Scream for Ice Cream

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Well, it’s time to scream for ice cream and here’s my rundown on the best places in Toronto to get your summer fix.

Opened just before last Labor Day, Sweet Jesus has been superstylin’ soft serve with everything from cotton candy to brownies.

The Campfire S’mores, Lemon Coconut cream pie are true to their name. The Sweet Baby Jesus is chocolaty, nutty with peanut butter and warm fudge.  Sweet Jesus is on John St. at the back of La Carnita. While the entrance is tucked away in the corner you can’t miss the long queue of customers.  The service is fast so you won’t wait long for your ice cream salvation.

My next stop was Bang Bang Ice Cream on 93 Ossington St. just above King.

At the door you’ll find the chalkboard with instructions – pick your edible container, whether it be a waffle, chou paste shell or cookies (full or half) and order your ice creams.

Bang Bang Containers

A huge choice of homemade, handmade funky flavours are listed on buckets on the wall. From Banana Pudding to lychee to Ginger Milk, there’s a quirky flavour for everyone.

Bang Bang flavours

The enormous waffle cone will hold two gigantic scoops of ice cream, so my decision was made. The waffle is made fresh and takes a few minutes.  I filled mine with a scoop of Burnt Toffee and Maltease Me.

Bang Bang cone

To lighten my calorie intake, I visited Grk Yrkt – read Greek yogurt in Kensington Market.  A tiny shop at 291 Augusta Ave. serves up sweet and savoury toppings on your choice of fresh or frozen yogurt.  A simple menu include some savoury choices like the Market which is cucumber, sundried tomato and toasted super seeds.

I love peaches and the Beach Party seemed a good cool down to a very hot and humid day in Toronto. The combination of fresh, not too sweet peach preserves, toasted coconut and white chocolate is satisfying.

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I’ve not been a great fan of fro’ yo’ in the past, but this real version has made me a devotee to this tiny shop on Augusta.  These handcrafted frozen treat shops are offering unique choices for you to cool down this summer.  I will continue to support their efforts by making as many trips back as I can! Do you have a favourite frozen treat shop you’d like to mention? Let me know. Bon appetit, friends!

 

 

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!!

Juliette et Chocolat – A chocolate oasis in Montreal

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Juliet et ChocolatI discovered Juliette & Chocolat about eight years ago while in Montreal.  Designed as a chocolate salon, Juliette et Chocolat offers as excellent chocolate confections and desserts, including ice creams, brownies and truffles.  They also have a light menu of savoury items like buckwheat crepes with a variety of filling like ham, cheese, etc…

However, what distinguishes Juliette et Chocolat from being just another place for dessert, is its Chocolate Bar.   A full-page list of light and dark, hot and cold drinking chocolates.  The Origin Vintages as the menu states is made from cocoa beans sourced from a single country, this includes the Uganda 80% – described as ‘very bitter and strong, with a high percentage of cocoa.  Hints of earth and mushrooms, slightly smoky.”  The Plantation Vintages are made from cocoa beans sourced from a single plantation.  The Mangaro 65% from Madagascar is ‘cultivated on a former mango plantation, tastes of mango.  Hints of gingerbread and citrus fruits. 1st place at the Salon du Chocolat 2003.’*

Dessert drinks – Sweet Creations involve whipped cream, marshmallows and other indulgent ingredients like Nutella and chocolate curls.  The Alcoholic Chocolates combine your favourite liqueurs like Baileys, Cointreau or just straight whisky. Whatever your chocolate weakness is, truffles, ice cream, brownies or beverages you will find them all here and year round.  There are now several locations in the Greater Montreal area.

*Quoted from the Juliette & Chocolat menu

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I love you Max Brenner. – New York Restaurant Week , Part 2

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IMG_6585It’s Day 2 in New York and this is the one place that I want to get to most.  We missed our reservation for lunch here the day before, and we were going to do everything in our power to make in on this day.

Max Brenner, and the Chocolate by the Bald man concept was developed by Max Fitchner and Oded Brenner, chocolatiers who combined their names.  As owners of ten handmade chocolate shops near Tel Aviv, they worked together for  several successful years, before Brenner eventually bought out Fitchner and the Chocolate by the Bald man concept and adopted the name of “Max”.

In 2000, he opened the first chocolate café in a trendy area of Sydney, Australia.  The franchise now operates in Singapore, the Phillipines and several locations in the U.S, recently opening a café in Bethesda, Maryland in July 2013.

Located at 841 Broadway right at Union Square, Max Brenner’s is considered to be desert destination, a sweet place not to be missed.

It’s late Saturday afternoon and the place is packed with a surprisingly mature dining crowd, older teens, couples and families.  I had expected packs of screaming children loaded up on sugar, but this was not the case.

The restaurant is large, spanning three dining levels, with a chocolate bar area and a chocolate boutique. We are seated in the second level of the restaurant where we can see all the all the food and desserts coming out of the kitchen.

I was ready. I had practically memorized the menu and constructed the order of my meal in my head well in advance of my visit, having reviewed the online menu several times. Yeah, it’s a little obsessive, but it’s dessert and you know how I am.

Our strategy was to pace ourselves from a caloric standpoint to make sure our capacity to consume a really big desert.  To this end we both order salads as our main course.

I didn’t expect much of the salad in a place like this, but we were both pleasantly surprised.  The Deep Bleu Cobb Salad arrives piled in a cylindrical tube that the waiter pulls up releasing a freshly tossed salad.  The Caesar is tasty with twists of chill and avocados.  The garnish is an Asiago cheese crisp, it’s delicious.

The same effort that goes into the desert also extends to the mains.  While the salads were really good, they were a formality really, a justification for dessert.

The dessert menu is a cerlox bound booklet, far more detailed and colourful than the food and drink menu.  We look, we turn the pages, we leaf through again, we discuss, we really can’t make up our mind, but finally we do, choosing the hot chocolate in the custom designed Hug Mug and the Pearl Sugar Chocolate Waffle.

The hot chocolate is like drinking warm chocolate pudding, creamy and sweet.  The waffle is accompanied by chocolate coated rice crisps and warm chocolate sauce.

This will be a regular spot for me with any future visit to NYC.  In fact we enjoyed so much we had a second lunch there.  While it’s whimsical and fun, the food is really good  and the desserts speak for themselves.

Hover over the images for descriptions or click on the images below to launch the slide show of our second visit.  Enjoy!