J’Adore Macarons! Bringing Home Sweets for Grandma from J’Adore Cakes & Co – Macaron Day TO 2014 Adventures, Part I

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4 stops, 2 dozen macarons, 1 memorable, wonderfully delicious day.  Macaron Day TO 2014 came and went last Thursday and despite the chilly, windy weather it was everything I hoped it would be!  Even though I didn’t surpass last year’s total of 5 stops, I truly had so much fun and in addition to raising money for Red Door, that’s the point of Macaron Day: to have fun and to build passion, excitement and awareness for these mouthwatering desserts that we love so much.  I hope everyone had a really great time noshing on macarons and being swept up in the excitement because I sure did!  I was raring to go early in the morning with my trusty Hello Kitty tin lunch box in tow, waiting in the wings to be filled with luscious macarons throughout the busy day and I’m happy to report that the highly anticipated day didn’t disappoint.

I passed by so many macaron-happy folks out and about with their baggies and boxes and I’m excited to find out if our final total for Red Door this year exceeded the one from last year.  I’m hoping – fingers crossed!  I had been anticipating this day for so long, not only because I was looking forward to having a ridiculous amount of macarons in my mouth and belly but also because March 20 is my anniversary with my sweetheart.  Macaron Day, my anniversary, and International Day of Happiness – it was meant to be.

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I switched up my Macaron Day route this year.  For the last two years I generally stayed close to Yonge Street, attacking several different patisseries each time with a few repeats thrown in: in 2012 I hit up Patachou, Daniel et Daniel, La Bamboche and Petit Thuet and in 2013 I paid visits to Patisserie La Cigogne, Rahier Patisserie, and Yorkville Espresso Bar with return visits to Petit Thuet and La Bamboche.  This year I really wanted to choose either an east or west end area and swing back central so I chose to start out east and I’m so glad I did because I FINALLY made my way to J’Adore Cakes & Co. on the Danforth after all this time!

Located at 3308 Danforth Ave. in the east end of the city near between Warden and Victoria Park, J’Adore Cakes & Co. is a beautiful and sweet cake and dessert boutique and cafe specializing in cake design and all the fresh, homemade sweet treats dreams are of made of: cupcakes, donuts (owner Isabelle was a winner on Food Network’s Donut Showdown!) and macarons!  In addition, the shop serves plenty of hot drinks and panini sandwiches for the times when you need some food to round out the sweetness.  The sweet-as-pie shop is painted in pastel blue and pink-and-white stripes with bursts of sleek and modern black and white designs adorning their decorated cakes and beautiful framed watercolours of yummy desserts on the walls.  It’s a lovely space bursting with beauty and delicious things to eat.

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Macarons are $2.25 each with half a dozen coming in at $13 (tax inclusive) and a dozen at $25, also tax inclusive.  On Macaron Day, 8 macaron flavours were on deck, ripe for the picking and patrons were allowed to choose any flavour of their choice as their free one so I chose their Flavour of the Month, Apricot Ginger with chocolate drizzle!  In addition to my free macaron, I bought a dozen to take home with me (L to R): 2 each of their Yuzu, Blood Orange, Praline Crunch, Earl Grey, Guava, and Apricot Ginger.  The only two flavours I didn’t choose were the Pistachio and Peanut and it certainly wasn’t because I didn’t want to!  The peanut one sounded delicious, like a peanut butter cookie with creamy peanut butter filling or something and I’m always up for Pistachio but I wanted to try something different so I chose the flavours that were most different to me.

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Their macarons are so beautiful and colourful and yes, delicious!  They’re about the size of a typical macaron (comparable to an Oreo cookie) and their fillings are mouthwateringly yummy.  While I didn’t try all 6 flavours (remember I took these home for my family with the intent of sharing – I had to keep my word and save some for them!) I did try their Yuzu (the bright yellow with black sesame seeds), Guava (the lovely pinky-coral one), and Apricot Ginger with chocolate drizzle and I enjoyed them all.  The fillings were light as air and so soft and creamy.  If I had to choose a favourite I’d choose Guava simply because it’s extremely true to the fruit and also because it’s very unique.  I haven’t come across another guava at any of the other patisseries thus far so it totally gets my vote!  I can’t wait to go back to J’Adore Cakes & Co. for more macarons and to try their cupcakes and donuts.  An honest-to-goodness sweet tooth like my self wouldn’t do justice if i didn’t!

Macaron Day this year was extremely special.  I got to visit a beautiful sweets boutique I had never been to before, I got to try a plethora of new flavours, and I got to enjoy the special day with my sweetheart.  And you know what else?  This Macaron Day enabled me to share my love and passion for macarons with my grandma on her birthday.  6 of those macarons were for her because I knew I’d be seeing her the next day and I wanted her to try these amazing sweets and to be a part of all the fun I had.  Because of Macaron Day, I got to give my grandma her first macaron at the tender age of 81.  And she loved it.

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*****

J’Adore Cakes & Co. is located at 3308 Danforth Ave. between Warden Ave. and Pharmacy Ave. (west of Robinson Ave.), walking distance from Victoria Park subway station in the east end of Toronto.  They are open 5 days a week from Tuesday to Saturday (10am-6pm Tuesday-Friday and 10am-5pm Saturday).  They are closed on Mondays and only open on Sundays for consultations and appointments.  You can visit their official website at  http://www.jadorecakesco.com/, ‘Like’ them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @jadorecakesco

Irish Delights for St. Patrick’s Day – Corned Beef & Gravy with Cabbage & Mashed Potatoes at P.J. O’Brien!

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restaurant.front.pjobrienAnyone who knows me well knows I’m a sucker for all holidays and celebratory occasions.  And I mean all.  Not just the “big” ones like Valentine’s, Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving but also maple syrup season (which just happens to be going on right now!), cherry blossom season, harvest and apple season and let’s not forget, St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow!  Ever since I started Ate by Ate, I’ve had my heart set on doing themed posts for all of them but given time constraints and bad weather, sometimes it feels almost impossible to do posts for everything.  So I decided to change my approach.  Instead of waiting until the last minute to get photos and stories, I would just do them early, if I could.  Does it mean I might miss out on being right in the thick of the moment?  Sure.  But I would rather have something to show for it than nothing at all.  I’m always so disappointed when I don’t get to celebrate on the blog because I waited until the week or weekend of and things just happen to fall through.

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So this time around, I had my Irish food for St. Patrick’s Day early.  Very early.  In fact, I had my incredibly delicious St. Patrick’s Day meal over a month ago!  And it’s here and hot off the press.  Well, the photos and story anyway, not the food.  True, I wasn’t surrounded by happy partygoers clad in green apparel but the nice thing about this is that going to an Irish pub and restaurant means that we can kind of celebrate life with Irish food whenever we want.  And I just happened to celebrate over a month early at P.J. O’Brien in downtown Toronto.

I remember the day so well.  It was one of the coldest, dreariest, grayest days this winter but for whatever reason, the bite in the air eased up a little bit right around lunch hour when I hurriedly scurried out onto Colborne St. just southwest of King and Church to take photos outside.  The building that P.J. O’Brien resides in would brighten even the darkest, gloomiest of days.  It has to be one of my favourite buildings in the city.  Nestled between the towering structures in the financial district and the historic ones of old town Toronto sits a three-storey building as bright and cheerful and charming as a Lego house.  Equipped with bright blue window shutters and painted sunny golden yellow, P.J. O’Brien is a beacon of culinary happiness.

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Their dining room and bar areas are simultaneously cozy and spacious with plenty of space for large groups and intimate get-togethers.  I love the tables by the front windows.  Perfect for taking in the large dining room and bar around you and for taking photos with natural light!  Open 6 days a week from Monday to Saturday from 11am to the wee hours of the morning (1am from Monday to Friday and 2am on Saturday), P.J. O’Brien delivers a mix of comfort food, pub fare and Irish classics with flair including Kilkenny Ale fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, beef and Guinness stew, sausage and chips, and my pick: corned beef and cabbage!

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I had the hardest time choosing between the beef and Guinness stew, sausage and chips, and the corned beef and cabbage.  All of them sounded delicious, all of them screamed warmth and comfort and Irish goodness but with only one stomach, I could only choose one.  Sigh.  So after much deliberation, I chose the corned beef and cabbage ($15): a wedge of freshly steamed cabbage alongside two giant scoops of creamy mashed potatoes with sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley and three moist and juicy pieces of corned beef smothered in rich brown gravy sauce, with an extra side of tartar sauce that I specifically ordered to go with my meal because I am a crazy nut for tartar sauce!  This meal is everything comfort food should be and really, the closest I’ve ever been to Ireland’s food in my life.  It was piping hot and SO. INCREDIBLY. DELICIOUS.

I loved it so much not only because it scrumptious but because it’s something I don’t have all the time.  Or ever, really.  I eat mashed potatoes and deli corned beef (or breakfast hash) and the occasional bite of cabbage, but never all together and certainly never in such a yummy capacity.  The mashed potatoes were fluffy and airy (not gluey!), the cabbage was tender yet crisp (and without the strong tang of bitterness that usually makes me shy away from cabbage) and the corned beef was melt-in-your-mouth soft.  It wasn’t difficult to bite into or cut through at all and its savouriness was perfect; not too salty but far from bland.  Even without the sauce I would have loved it and I really appreciated the thickness of it (imagine the thickness of luncheon meat slices.  Or just look at the photos) and having it in three pieces as opposed to one giant overwhelming slab.  It made it easier to eat and made for a lovely presentation.

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And if you can believe it, it gets better.  My meal came with a basket of bread and butter and by golly that bread and butter was some of the best bread and butter I’ve ever had.  I know.  It’s only bread and butter.  But think about it, even something as simple as bread and butter can go horribly awry (or rye…haha).  The bread can be too hard or too dry and the butter can be too difficult to spread.  But theirs was so good I was tempted to eat the entire thing all by myself in one sitting but I had enough sense just to eat a few pieces and save the rest for my doggy bag along with a piece of corned beef and some cabbage.

I’m a hungry girl but I’m not known for being the queen of the doggy bag (or tupperware) for nothing.

I’m so happy I got to enjoy my ‘St. Patrick’s Day’ meal when I did and I hope that if you’re in around the downtown core tomorrow that you’ll stop by P.J. O’Brien for a bite to celebrate the great food and actual festivities.  You’ll be glad you did.

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*****

P.J. O’Brien is an Irish pub and restaurant located in downtown Toronto at 39 Colborne St., just south of King Street East and just west of Church St.  They are open Monday through Saturday from 11am – 1am (2am on Saturday).  Visit their official website at http://pjobrien.com/

Map Out Your Macaron Munching Routes – 1 Week Until Macaron Day Toronto 2014!

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pre macaron day 2014 collageJust as the title says: only 1 more week until we celebrate the 3rd annual Macaron Day TO on March 20th!  I’m happily volunteering again this year as a Macaron Day TO ambassador and I already have my macaron map figured out.  If you’ve never participated in the delicious occasion before, you must!  Not only is it super fun carrying around a bundle of macarons in your arms (or purse or tote bag or in my case in the last two years, a picnic basket and Hello Kitty tin lunch box!), it’s also for a bigger and more important cause.

Macaron Day, in essence, is a day to support local charities in addition to enjoying delicious macarons and trying numerous wacky flavours made just for the occasion.  Many cities take part including Paris, New York and Toronto and each city chooses a local charity to raise money for.  For the last two years, Macaron Day TO has been donating 25% of all Macaron Day sales on March 20th to the Red Door Family Shelter, an organization that aids in providing care and social, legal and financial assistance to the homeless, low-income families and abused women and children just to name a handful.

On March 20th, participating patisseries, bakeries and cafes all across the city will be baking up a storm in support of this cause.  Here’s how it works: show up at a participating Macaron Day TO location, tell folks at said location that you’re celebrating Macaron Day and receive a FREE macaron!  (One free macaron per customer).  And of course, 25% of the proceeds of any and all macaron purchases you make on the day will go to benefit Red Door.  Obviously, Macaron Day wouldn’t be a success without the enthusiasm and support from everyone who comes out for it, so if you can, visit your favourite participant or make a day out of like me!  Get out early though as each participating location will have a limited number of free macarons to give out.

I’ve had a lot of fun strategizing and mapping out my macaron munching routes the last two years and this year will be no different.  I’ve generally followed a north-south plan, hitting up about 4 to 6 spots each year: La Bamboche, Petit Thuet x 2, Patachou, Rahier Patisserie, Patisserie La Cigogne, Yorkville Espresso Bar, and Daniel et Daniel.  I’m going about my route a little differently this year so you’ll see lots of photos from places I haven’t hit on Macaron Day yet!  I’m excited and I hope that all of you will get the chance to come out, have fun, eat macarons, and benefit Red Door.

Check out all of Ate by Ate’s macaron yumminess!

Macaron Day TO 2013

Macaron Day TO 2012

Update March 12: WINNER(S) ANNOUNCED! Putting a Spring in Our Step – Ate by Ate’s Tea Giveaway!

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teacollage*UPDATE: March 12: The winner for Ate by Ate’s tea giveaway has been chosen!  There were 14 unique entries/comments in total (the pingback from Food Bloggers of Canada that shows up in the comment feed doesn’t count so I skipped over that one when I counted the entries to determine the winner) and thanks to the nifty random generator which churned out the number 9, I get to congratulate:

Asiya from Chocolate & Chillies as Ate by Ate’s FIRST giveaway winner!  YAY!  You will receive the grand prize of the big and lovely tea prize pack that I will lovingly put together for you!

tea giveaway winner. random number generatorOh, but that’s not all.  I thought, “hmm, I like to share and this IS the first giveaway on the blog…better make it splashy”.  So I decided to churn out 3 more random numbers from the generator.  These 3 runner-up winners will receive a small prize pack of tea from me!  So oodles of congratulations to the following entries that were chosen!

  • Entry #7: Madeline
  • Entry #2: xiaoEats
  • Entry #3: Rebecca

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I will be contacting all 4 of you tomorrow night for addresses or drop-off/pick-up info if you live around the city.  Thank you SO much to all of you who read the post and participated; I means a lot to me that you all enjoy the blog enough to want to be a part of it so THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  Hopefully I’ll have another one of these for you all later on this year!

*UPDATE March 12: Contest is now closed – thank you to all of you who participated!  Winner will be announced later on TONIGHT!*

March 4: Happy first week of March, everyone!  February flew by (as it always does) and now I feel like I have my nose in the sand with everything that’s going on this month: St. Patty’s Day, Macaron Day TO (follow on Twitter @MacaronTO, #MacaronDayTO and like the Facebook page if you get the chance!), March break, maple syrup festivals, and all the spring goodies and eats that are busting out, not to mention all the cookie baking experiments I plan on undertaking.  I’ve been baking cookies for my neighbour’s kids, I already have Ate by Ate’s St. Patty’s Day post lined up ready to go, I’m mapping out my macaron route for the big day (March 20 – mark your calendars if you haven’t already!) and I’m giddy with anticipation over afternoon tea plans next week.  At times it’s a little overwhelming and tiring (and heartbreaking – I just found out the other day that I’m way too late to buy tickets for the Spadina Museum’s wildly popular Downton Abbey tea.  I’m so sad), but deep down it’s fun and life would be pretty boring without the craziness that surrounds food.

The first official day of spring is only a few weeks away (on Macaron Day, actually) but you really wouldn’t know it judging by all the snow we got today.  I admit, it wasn’t a ridiculous amount.  But it was still enough to warrant the use of the snow blower and right now all I can think of is how I was lounging on a picnic blanket on Macaron Day 2 years ago stuffing myself with sushi and a picnic basket full of macarons.

That is totally not happening this year.  I’ll be lucky if I don’t have to leave the house in three layers of clothes, much less sit on a picnic blanket.

Sigh.

So that’s where Ate by Ate’s special giveaway comes in.  Yes, GIVEAWAY!  I think we could all use a spring in our step right now (pun intended) so I’m hosting a special tea giveaway for all of Ate by Ate’s readers!  My collection has grown like crazy over the past year and I’ve been fortunate enough to try so many different types and brands and I want to share that with all of you!  The giveaway will be for a goodie box chock full of tea: loose leaf, sachets, and tea bags in a plethora of flavours from brands such as Tea Forte, 4 O’Clock, Harney & Sons, David’s Tea, and Twinings just to name a handful!  Everything will be packaged up in a decorated box and sent to the lucky winner by mail (if the winner lives in Toronto, even better, we can meet up and do a drop-off/pick-up!).

HERE’S HOW TO ENTER (TWO PARTS):

  1. “Like” Ate by Ate’s Facebook page or follow Ate by Ate on Twitter @AtebyAte.  Share this post via Facebook (head to Ate by Ate Facebook page, it will be stickied at the top of the timeline) or retweet this post via Twitter.
  2. Leave a comment on this post with your name and e-mail address (so that I can contact you should you win), telling me what your favourite tea is – I love recommendations!

The winner will be chosen one week from today on March 11, 2014 8pm EST by a random number generator (if the generator spits out the number 8 and your comment is the 8th one on the list, you win!).  One entry per person (duplicate entries will be deleted) and both parts must be fulfilled in order for the entry to count.  This giveaway is open to Canadian and US residents only.

I can’t wait to give the lucky winner their goodies – GOOD LUCK!

Hearts, Sprinkles & the Kiss Me and Sugar Lips Cupcakes – Celebrating Valentine’s with Desserts at Desmond & Beatrice

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Happy long weekend to my fellow Ontarioans!  I know it’s drawing to a close as we speak (t-minus 1 hour and 15 minutes right now) so I hope everyone was able to do something fun or at the very least catch up on some sleep!  While the weekend itself was low-key for me, I celebrated Valentine’s on Friday in style with a morning frolic to Desmond & Beatrice for lots of yummy Valentine’s sweets and treats!  The shop was adorably decorated with paper chain hearts in the windows and a smattering of Valentine’s sprinkles, candies and colours on their cookies and cupcakes.

valentinescollageTheir exclusive menu for the occasion included sugar cookie hearts, sugar cookie ex-boyfriend voodoo dolls (haha!), giant Date Night cookies chock full of chocolate, toffee, potato chips and popcorn (no joke!  Perfect for those who love snack foods and salty-sweet combinations), Message Me vanilla on vanilla cupcakes with classic conversation hearts, Chocolate Love double chocolate cupcakes with foil wrapped chocolate hearts, Love of Mayan chocolate chili cupcakes with chocolate frosting and cake, Kiss Me vanilla on chocolate cupcakes with showered with heart sprinkles and finally, Sugar Lips cinnamon sugar cupcakes with cinnamon sugar frosting and cake with gummy lip candies in addition to their selection of brownies, cookies and other cupcakes including red velvet, salted caramel and strawberry.

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It was such a happy visit: photo snapping, inhaling a mini red velvet cupcake, finally meeting D&B owner, Amanda, in person *waves* and walking out with a big box of Valentine’s treats to take home.  In my box were two sugar cookie hearts, two cookies n’ cream cookies, a giant brownie, a Kiss Me black and white vanilla on chocolate cupcake with heart sprinkles and a Sugar Lips cinnamon sugar cupcake.  With the exception of the brownie which I bought exclusively for my dad and brother (they’re chocoholics), I tried some of everything and while I loved it all and drool at the mere thought of it all (I dunked my sugar cookie hearts in almond milk and just thinking about it makes me wiggle with glee), the happiest surprise for me was the Sugar Lips cinnamon sugar cupcake!

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Now, I really like cinnamon (especially apple cinnamon, cinnamon toast cereal, and snickerdoodle cookies) but let it be known that I don’t enjoy cinnamon buns, one of the most popular cinnamon desserts and baked goods on the planet (no, I’m not crazy!) so for me, picking the cinnamon sugar cupcake was a toss-up.  I wanted to try something I wouldn’t normally be able to try (part of me really wanted the cute Message Me vanilla on vanilla cupcake but I convinced myself not to since I already had vanilla frosting on the Kiss Me one and the Love of Mayan one called out to me as well with its uniqueness but I decided against it in the end) but hemmed and hawwed over the thought of it being like a cinnamon bun.  I’m so happy I ended up choosing it because it tasted just like a cinnamon coffee cake with the best sweet and creamy cinnamon sugar frosting ever.

I’m ecstatic that I got to visit them on Valentine’s and enjoy so many of the yummy sweets they had on hand for the day because truthfully, I had been eyeing their menu online for weeks and promised myself that I would make every effort to make it to the shop on that day so I could celebrate and take photos for you guys.  Happy belated Valentine’s!

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*****

Desmond & Beatrice Bake Shop and Cupcakery is located at 750 Queen Street East, just one block east of Broadview Ave. in the Riverside District.  They are open 7 days a week from 10am-7pm.  You can visit their official website at https://desmondandbeatrice.com/ and follow them on Twitter @dandbcupcakes

Creamy Chicken Soup & Saucy Curry Rice & Smoked Haddock Kedgeree with Poached Egg – Warm & Delicious British Flavours at The Oxley!

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Okay, who else has been glued to the television (or their laptop or tablet or phone) watching the Olympics this week?!  My brother and I love watching sports.  Always have, always will.  It’s a very special thing that bonds us together as siblings so when the Olympics roll around every 2 years (summer and winter, don’t forget!) it’s like a sports and television party in our living room.  We’re fascinated by the events, we’re captivated by the speed, the crazy flips and spins, and down-to-the-tenth-of-a-second finishes, and we love the feeling of celebration and pride for our team and athletes.  We stay up late watching recaps from the day and we catch whatever coverage we can early in the morning before leaving the house.  It’s so much fun and I love it.

Watching the Olympics take place in Sochi totally inspired me to do a little research on Russian food and Russian food in Toronto and while I’ve found some very cool options to check out, I really don’t think I’ll be able to go to them and then post before the Olympics are over, but at the very least it’s given me some creative juice to work with.  So even though I don’t have any Russian cuisine to share with you guys, I do have overseas eats for you all today: British food from The Oxley!

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Aside from the photo spotlight post I did on my British cookbook, this is the first post on Ate by Ate about British food and I’m so excited!  Going to London is on my bucket list of places to visit at some point in my life.  I salivate at the thought of visiting Twinings, Harrods and Hummingbird Bakery so until I can fly across the Atlantic and park myself down at one of the many afternoon tea spots, bakeries and pubs there, indulging in some British fare here in the city will have to soothe those daydreams for the time being.

The Oxley, located on Yorkville Ave. in Yorkville in a drop-dead gorgeous two-storey cherry red brick house, is the sister restaurant to The Queen and Beaver in downtown Toronto, a popular English pub and watering hole that serves both British and Scottish food.  The Oxley is all sorts of fabulous.  During the summer, it’s like being around an English courtyard and in the winter, it warms you up and makes you feel so cozy with its part English pub, part bar, part home living room vibe.  You should see the place inside.  I had the luxury of sitting and eating upstairs (a food blogger needs her natural light by the window!) and it’s unlike any other dining area I’ve ever been in.  With its long bar with leather bar stools, mahogany tables, hard-wood flooring, black armchairs, deep purple cushioned seating, floral wallpaper, paisley patterned rugs and Union Jack by the bar window, the upstairs dining room is like a scene out of Sherlock Holmes novel.  And I got to have a corner seat by the window all my by myself.  I LOVED IT.

This is prime real estate, folks.

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Their menu is so full of warmth and British character and flavour.  I will preface this next part though by saying that if you’re looking for an inexpensive meal, look elsewhere.  I think The Oxley is an amazing place to have a special lunch or dinner but if you’re just looking for something simple and casual money-wise, you’re not going to find it here simply because many of their mains come in between $16 -$24 (with appetizers $8 – $14, sides a la carte for $6, bar menu bites $8 – $12, and bar menu mains $18 – $26).  Which is fine with me!  I’m not made out of money but I’m constantly considering and evaluating what means the most to me and what would give me the most happiness so I don’t mind putting down the dough to enjoy a meal here because it’s worth it to me every once in awhile.  But I know others may feel differently so I want to be completely honest with you guys so you don’t get the impression that this is something you can do every day!

The menu is chock full of British classics including rabbit and potato pie, fish and chips, Stilton and mushrooms on toasts, Huntsman’s pie, venison and mushroom suet pudding, and fish pie and peas.  I went all out on the winter comfort food with my choices: Cream of Chicken with Tarragon Soup ($8) and Smoked Haddock Kedgeree with Poached Hen Egg ($16).

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Let’s start by talking about the dishes.  Yes, the things we put our food on.  I wanted to squeal out loud.  They are SO pretty.  Tea dishes!  Beautiful china with flowers and patterns and scalloped edges.  My heart wanted to burst from happiness just by looking at them.  Meals come with bread and butter which I happily devoured as I had foodgasms over my cream of chicken with tarragon soup to start.  The soup is so delicious and creamy and not overly salty or seasoned or rich in the least.  It was perfect and so savoury with just the right amount of thickness to it.  With a bright green chive on top, it was both bright and comforting at the same time.  And honestly, along with the bread, it would make an incredible light meal all on its own, it’s THAT good.

And now for the smoked haddock kedgeree with poached hen egg.  In it’s stripped down essence, kedgeree is a rice dish with boiled fish and eggs rooted in Indian-British colonial culture and history, with lots of room for many different interpretations and spins on it.  Could this be any more perfect for me?!  This dish has Deb written all over it because it incorporates all my favourite foods, textures and flavours.

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The Oxley put their signature on it with their mouthwatering, scrumptious version: hot rice bathed in curry sauce and spices, chunks of flaked haddock fish, toasted sliced almonds, bright green peas, and a beautiful and pristine poached egg on top.  There is so much to adore.  The rice is saucy, the almonds give the dish crunch, the smoked haddock fish provided savoury meatiness, the peas give it colour and homeyness (and I just love peas!) and the delicate poached egg just takes the whole thing to another level once you poke it, allowing the sunny yellow yolk to make the rice even more creamy and saucy – if that’s even possible!  It’s gorgeous to look at and even more satisfying to eat.

I’m so happy I finally got to visit The Oxley (I’ve been wanting to go since last summer!).  The staff was so nice to me, allowing me to sit by the window like I wanted and being so attentive and gracious and I felt like I was in another peaceful world sitting in their upstairs dining room looking out at the grey sky and Yorkville streets below.  The food was wonderfully delicious and the experience felt…special, like something you couldn’t have anywhere else.  And that was the real beauty of it.

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*****

The Oxley is located at 121 Yorkville Ave. at the corner of Hazelton Ave. in Yorkville, between Bay Street and Avenue Rd.  They are open 7 days a week serving lunch, dinner and weekend brunch: Monday to Friday 11:30am to 3pm for lunch, 3pm to 5pm Bar Menu, Monday to Saturday 3pm to 11pm for dinner, Sunday 5pm-10pm for dinner, and Saturday & Sunday 10:30am to 3pm for weekend brunch.  You can visit their official website at http://theoxley.com/

Capturing my Cupcake Heart – The Chocolate Raspberry Rapture & Valentine’s at The Wedding Cake Shoppe

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Valentine’s is two days away and all I can think about is chocolate frosting on a cupcake.  Not fancy dinners or movies or flowers or presents.  Just chocolate frosting.  (And of course my sweetie and having a girls day out with my best friend over the weekend, but that kind of goes without saying).  I’m a beast.  There have been times when I’ve thought, “holy jeebus, there is way too much freakin’ chocolate on Valentine’s” but not this year.  No, this year I’m embracing the chocoholicness of the occasion and having myself a chocolate cupcake party on Friday.  (And by party I mean, like, two cupcakes.  You gotta have your limits.)  I don’t care if we’re expecting snow, I am getting my tooshie out there and celebrating because it’s fun, it’s pink, it’s sweet and heck, it’s the Friday before a long weekend and I am taking it.

Taking into account all the cupcake posts I’ve done over the years though, you’d think there would be more than a handful that coincide with the official day of hearts and flowers and all things pink and frilly and sweet.  Surprisingly, this is not the case.  After browsing through the posts in my “Be My Valentine” series, I realized I only had three that pertained to cupcakes: The Cupcake Shoppe, Short & Sweet Cupcakes and Le Dolci.  Aw.  I mean, I know it’s a silly thing to agonize over considering how difficult it is to get out on Valentine’s for a cupcake on a workday or a school day if you don’t have the day off, but I really thought I would have more to show for than that.  Hence the reason for my recent visit to The Wedding Cake Shoppe.  My last visit had been during the summer, I had never been to the shop during Valentine’s and by golly I just wanted a cupcake from there (and if you’re reading this, Cindy, it’s also because it’s fab seeing you too!)

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The girls do such a beautiful job decorating the shop with their themed cakes and window display.  For Valentine’s this year, there’s a giant tissue paper heart suspended in wire mesh from the ceiling in the middle of the display (or at least what appears to be a tissue paper heart.  I didn’t want to touch it!), flanked on both sides by round hat boxes and cake boxes, frosted tarts, cupcakes, sprinkles, napkins, and dishes in shades of peach, cream, ballet slipper pink interspersed with pops of punchy red and hot pink.  And of course, their jaw-dropping cakes including a 3-tiered cake decorated with fondant zigzags and hearts and a 4-tiered cake masterpiece covered entirely in pastel conversation hearts!

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Even though it was yet another cold, chill-down-to-your-bones winter day, it was sunny and relatively dry out so I thought it would nice to take the College streetcar straight across town from Yonge to Ossington.  I could sit back and relax, see the sights out the window without freezing my bum off, and enjoy a nice ride through a neighbourhood I hadn’t been in in awhile.  And when I got to The Wedding Cake Shoppe, it was so nice sitting down to a delicious cupcake before hopping back on the streetcar to run my next errand.  I love that I can sit here and enjoy a treat with a hot drink.

It’s those quiet moments in the middle of the morning or afternoon that I love because you get to slow down a bit before and after dealing with the hustle and bustle of rush hour, when you’re left alone to zone out with your own thoughts.  When I look back at all the great memories I’ve made on Valentine’s past, there are many of them and I guess it’s also for that reason that I wanted to do more this Valentine’s because I enjoy savouring the memories when everything so often seems to go by in a blur.

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This time around, I sat down to The Wedding Cake Shoppe’s Raspberry Rapture cupcake ($2.75), a chocolate cupcake with raspberry frosting.  I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve discovered a new favourite from their shop!  This cupcake was so yummy it skyrocketed straight to the top in my book, sitting right up there with Wedding Cake Shoppe’s Baked Raspberries & Cream Cheese.  Um, can you tell I love my raspberry?!  The Raspberry Rapture embodies the PERFECT chocolate raspberry flavour combination and I loved the soft, creamy, sweet and fruity buttercream frosting like nobody’s business.  It was so light and so delicate yet so flavourful at the same time.  And on top of the fudgy, brownie like chocolate cake?  CUPCAKE HEAVEN!

What made the cupcake even more fab were the chocolate-covered sunflower seeds on top.  YES, chocolate-covered sunflower seeds!  Bathed in minty green-robin’s egg blue, they were crunchy and sweet and gave the cupcake that extra bit of sass.  So different and so very cool!

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I’m really excited to start on a Cupcake Chronicles feature page for The Wedding Cake Shoppe so I’m hoping to have that ready sometime next week.  In the meantime, I hope every gets the chance to enjoy something sweet for Valentine’s over the next few days!

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The Wedding Cake Shoppe is located at 859 College Street, just west of Ossington Ave.  They are open 6 days a week (closed on Tuesdays) and their weekday hours are from 11am-7pm, weekend hours from 11am-5pm.  You can check out their official website here, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.