Sweet Notions Right at Your Neighbourhood Supermarket – Pistachio and Raspberry Chocolate Macarons

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Imagine my delight when I found giant sweet macarons in the bakery desserts case at Metro supermarket!  I had always wanted to try macarons.  They always looked so pretty and colourful and cute whenever I saw pictures of them or whenever I happened to see them in a spiffy dessert café.  But I never got around to trying them because the prices for them always seemed a bit steep: $3 for a dessert the size of a toonie?!  It’s ironic when you think about it.  So I sadly walked away each time. 

When I discovered them at Metro last October though, I gasped with glee when I saw a dessert display case chock full of perfectly round, fluffy, cloud-like pistachio and raspberry chocolate macarons for only $1.59 a pop.  And just think, these babies are about an inch and a half in height and fit perfectly in your palm.  An inch and a half of crispy goodness with a chewy, airy, and light meringue centre that melts in your mouth and fudgy chocolate filling *insert Homer-like “Hmmm…” here*

Now I know these aren’t the honest-to-goodness, 100% authentic Parisian macarons.  Authentic ones are not the size of hockey pucks!  But they are macarons in composition, taste, and texture and they’re great for those who want a macaron fix but need a more budget-friendly option.  Because of their size, it’s a little like eating a meringue sandwich with sweet filling.  Similar to an icecream sandwich but without all the messy melting and stickiness.  I love both flavours, but I was surprised to realize how much I enjoyed the pistachio one!  I’ve never been too keen on nuts but the bright green hue of the pistachio macaron totally sold me when I first saw it and it has this amazing sweet almond taste to it.  And the raspberry chocolate one?  Let’s just say the chocolate fudge filling is lip smackin’ good 😀

Now, like all sweet notions that I come across, I hesitate to get too attached to things sometimes.  It seems like everything is limited edition these days and it’s heartbreaking finding a wonderful sweet treat that you love only to have it taken away several months later *cough*Starbuckscupcakes* cough*.  But rest assured, these sweet morsels of meringue are here to stay, at least a little while longer.  They were sitting pretty in their case just this past month when I showed them off to my mum and brother during a recent browse through Metro at the Yonge-Eglinton Centre.  And as a true sweet tooth, I helped myself to a raspberry chocolate one.

*****

Metro supermarket is located in and around the GTA with 11 stores serving Toronto.  Click here for a full listing of locations and addresses.  As a side note, I first discovered these macarons at the Metro located in the College Park mall right at the intersection of College and Yonge St. (444 Yonge St.) and have seen them at numerous other locations.

Scrapbooking materials used: mint green cardstock (Recollections); raspberry and white lace patterned cardstock (DCWV, The Sweet Stack); string of adhesive pearls (Recollections); silver alphabet stickers (Sticko); patterned fabric brads (Amy Butler for K&Company); flower embellishments (K&Company); cardboard heart embellishment (Winners); paper doilies (Wilton).    

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Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice…Or Naughty! Spice Cupcakes and Baked Apple Tea from David’s Tea

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Sugar and spice and all things…naughty?!  Oh no no, eating cupcakes is not naughty at all 😉  Indulgent and delicious, yes, but not naughty.  It just so happens that my cupcake from The Cupcake Shoppe was named Naughty n’ Spice (how cheeky!) and it was all sorts of creaminess and yummy.  If carrot cake had a spunky sister, this would be her.  To brighten up a dreary fall day late last year, I enjoyed The Cupcake Shoppe’s seasonal special, Naughty n’ Spice, with creamy cinnamon vanilla buttercream frosting adorned with little red sprinkles, and moist spiced cake with lots of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  It was light and fluffy and the spices really came through in the cake.  The combination of creamy buttercream and moist carrot cake-like cake just made me devour it and that’s saying a lot because I eat really slow!

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I’ve posted about The Cupcake Shoppe and their cupcakes twice in my blog since I started writing and I’ve been visiting this lovely cupcakery for over half a year now.  I’ve tried a number of their sweet little cakes and do I ever have my favourites!  So far I’ve tried After Ate (mint chocolate), Coco Loco (coconut buttercream with shredded coconut on vanilla or chocolate cake), Cookie Dough (cookie dough buttercream with vanilla chocolate chip cake), Lov’n Lemon (lemon buttercream on vanilla or chocolate cake), Mango Madness (mango buttercream on vanilla or chocolate cake), Opposites Attract (chocolate frosting on vanilla cake), and finally, Red Velvet (cream cheese frosting on red cake).

Out of all the ones I’ve tried, my top 3 are 1)  Red Velvet, 2) Cookie Dough, and 3) Naughty n’ Spice.  I loved this cupcake and you can bet I’m excited to eat some more of them come next fall!  Not to mention the seasonal aspect of the cupcake and tea made this scrapbook layout so much fun to craft and it totally gave me an excuse to play with my cute cookie alphabet Martha Stewart stickers, and fall apple stickers! 😀

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Because David’s Tea is only several shops away from The Cupcake Shoppe, I have become quite accustomed to toting a cupcake to the tea shop and ordering a tea to go with it, and I have an old friend of mine who I used to nosh with to thank for this as she eagerly sparked this idea over half a year ago.  I then sit there and eat it and guzzle down my tea.  And then waddle out the door with my tummy full and my bladder the size of a watermelon.  Tea and cupcake times are absolutely lovely 😀

Funny thing is, I often don’t scrap my cupcake photos.  Most of them time I slip them into a photo album and admire them from there, but getting cupcakes from The Cupcake Shoppe and having them with a tea from David’s Tea is incredibly enjoyable and makes for some really inspiring scrapbook layout ideas!  I’m a total nerd when it comes to this because the same way I match my accessories to my outfit, I match my cupcake to my tea.  It’s true!  I’ll walk into the tea shop and either find something I like that complements the cupcake, or I’ll choose something that matches the cupcake flavour.  And what goes amazing with spice cake?  Apples!  Apple cinnamon is a tried and true combination that just works in so many desserts dishes whether it’s pie, crumble, or granola and cereal.

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It was a chilly fall day and I wanted to take advantage of David’s Tea‘s new seasonal winter tea list and as luck would have it, they had an apple tea!  So I ordered the Baked Apple tea to go with my Naughty n’ Spice cupcake and had myself a jolly good time!  And as the cupcake shot into the top 3 of my Cupcake Shoppe list of favourites, so did the Baked Apple Tea.  I mentioned here in my first David’s Tea post that my favourite tea thus far was the Crème Brulée and the Baked Apple quickly claimed the top 2 spot.  I had mine iced and it was like sipping sweet apple pie.  At times, some of the teas can come across as a bit diluted in flavour when iced, but this one is fantastic iced.  It was a yummy way to spend a fall afternoon; apple tea + spice cupcake certainly equals everything nice 😉

*****

The Cupcake Shoppe is located in the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood at 2417 Yonge St., north of Eglinton on the east side of Yonge St.  The Eglinton David’s Tea location is only a hop, skip, and step away from the cupcakery at 2389 Yonge St.  David’s Tea is located at 4 other locations in and around Toronto, Scarborough, and Thornhill.  Click here for a list of the other locations.

Scrapbooking materials used: mint green cardstock (Recollections); poppy red construction paper; apple and apple tree stickers (Sticko); cookie alphabet stickers (Martha Stewart Crafts); crystal adhesive gems (Studio 18); metallic gel pen; black Sharpie marker.

A Vegetarian Discovery to Rememeber – Italian Vegetarian Magic in Yorkville at Mela Café

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One of the things I love most about exploring Toronto is being surprised and confused by my sightings and discoveries in neighbourhoods I’ve been to a hundred times over.  I know it sounds strange, but it’s true!  You’re walking around an enclave you’ve been to so many times before and BAM!  you catch sight of an adorable, snazzy little café or store or restaurant and you immediately do a double-take and wonder: how in the world did I miss this??  You can live in an area and still be unaware of the gems just around the corner and it’s actually not as weird as it sounds.  At times we’re either caught up in our own day-to-day hustle and bustle, drowning things out, or strolling along in our own little bubble, alone with our thoughts, completely oblivious to our surroundings.  But trust me, when you find that special something and realize it’s been under your nose the whole time, it’s like stepping into a goldmine.  It’s so rewarding and this is exactly how I felt when I discovered Mela Café, an adorable Italian vegetarian and vegan eatery in Yorkville, just west of Yonge, this past fall.

Yes, you read right.  Italian vegetarian! 😀  A place that serves authentic delicious Italian pastas and sandwiches and soups and desserts, all free of meat and incredibly affordable.  I love this place so much.  Not just because the food is amazing and so fresh and wholesome, but because of where the passion for the food comes from and the feelings of comfort the café evokes.  If I had to choose one word to describe it, it would be “homey”.  The decor is very cute; bright blue, green, and dark orange paint on the walls, huge cans of crushed tomatoes are stacked on the kitchen shelves, and a blackboard menu shows the day’s vegetarian and vegan eats.

As for the passion, chef and owner Roberto Granata was born and raised in Italy*, and transforms simple vegetables and ingredients into authentic Italian fare.  The kitchen is clearly visible from the dining area and Roberto shows off his cooking skills from morning to night, preparing the day’s dishes.  The daily menu changes, but think fresh vegetarian lasagna with lentils, broccoli, and carrots, ricotta stuffed ravioli, breaded eggplant panini, potato and mushroom pie, mashed sweet potatoes mixed with rapini, and tiramisu and freshly baked muffins.  Oh, and lots and lots of fresh tomato sauce.  And this list isn’t even exhaustive!

Just recently I enjoyed the eggplant panini sandwich and oh my goodness is this ever delicious to the max!  Sandwiched between a crusty baguette are lots of crispy, mouthwatering wedges of breaded eggplant and fresh basil leaves, served on a plate with lots of tomato sauce for dipping!  This panini sandwich is all sorts of amazingness.  It packs so much flavour and eating it is seriously like having a flavour boxing match in your mouth.  The large basil leaves give the sandwich a punch of spicy freshness, the breaded eggplant has a delicious crispy saltiness to it, and the soft crusty bread sops up the juiciness from the tomato sauce.  I could eat here every day for a month and not miss meat. 

The prices here are also fantastic.  Every dish is under $10 with most of them hovering around $6-$8.50, and soups and desserts come in at around $4.50.  This place is lovely and so cozy and homey and even though the space is small (definitely keep that in mind during lunch and dinner rush hours!), it’s the perfect place to have enjoy a quiet meal on your own while perusing through Yorkville and to enjoy a lunch date with a friend.  Or in my case, with my boyfriend 🙂  Along with Kale Eatery and King’s Café, this is an absolute vegetarian & vegan goldmine and one of the best foodie discoveries ever.

*****

Mela Café is located at 7 Yorkville Ave., north of Cumberland St. and just west of Yonge St.

* = source from The Toronto Star, April 18, 2010

Scrapbooking materials used: neon green and orange cardstock (Recollections); sky/ocean blue cardstock (DCVW); magenta cardstock (Best Occasions); flower embellishments (K&Company); cardboard frame embellishments (Winners); journalling card (Anna Griffin, Darcy Collection); 5-petal flower paper punch (ek success); circle paper punch (ek success); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); corner round paper punch (ek success); aluminum foil.

Price-Fixe Menus and 3-Course Meals – Prepping My Taste Buds for This Year’s Winterlicious!

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Winterlicious starts tomorrow! 😀  And y’all know I’m excited for that!  For those who don’t know, Winterlicious is an annual foodie event in the city of Toronto where over 100 restaurants participate in offering special price fixe lunch and dinner menus, as well as special culinary events and presentations throughout the duration of the festival.  The food fest starts tomorrow on the 28th, and runs until February 10th and you can bet I’m going to haul my tooshie to at least one awesome eatery! 

I posted about my amazingly fun Summerlicious dinner experience at Southern Accent when I first started the blog almost 2 months ago and I also did Winterlicious for the first time last year with my dear friend Sally at Big Daddy’s Crabshack and Oyster Bar.  So I’m excited to try something new for Winterlicious!  The price fixe menus offer 3-course meals (appetizer, main, and dessert) and prices range anywhere from $15 for lunch to $45 for dinner, with $25, $30, and $35 menus in between.  As well, if you have a day and time in mind, it certainly doesn’t hurt to make a reservation as many of these restaurants fill up their seats quickly for this event. 

This time around I’ve set my sights on lunch menus and I’ve really taken the time to pore over the Winterlicious website to narrow down my choices.  I’m not afraid to say that I want bang for my buck and that I’ll toss out options that aren’t up to snuff.  I want to be able to tell right off the bat when I go over a menu that the establishment wants to go above and beyond with no strings attached.  There’s just no sense in going if you feel you can try any of the dishes any day on their permanent menu, or if the dishes are things you’ve seen and heard a million times over.  That’s the beauty of Winterlicious and Summerlicious to me; it enables you to go crazy and to try things you either wouldn’t normally try because they’re out of your comfort zone, or things you’ve always wanted to try but couldn’t because of the price tag.

I’m soooo looking forward to this!  And I’m also really looking forward to a bunch of things I have up my sleeve for the blog in the near future.  The Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year as I normally refer to it since I’m Chinese) is next week (Februrary 3rd!), and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so I’m definitely going to take advantage of them both to share a bunch of photos and stories with you guys.  I’m not a sucker for seasonal and celebratory occasions for nothing! 😀  For those planning on munching away at Winterlicious, have fun and feel free to share your awesome eats and experiences here with me!  See y’all tomorrow ❤

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Vegan Chili to Warm Up the Winter

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On winter days, after a grueling day at work or school, waiting out in the cold for the bus, and shovelling the never ending heaps of snow off your driveway, you crave warmth and comfort.  Something you can curl up with on the couch with a blanket in front of the television.  Maybe a bowl of soup, or a warm bowl of rice or noodles in broth…or maybe chili.  I’ll be honest, I was never the biggest fan of chili.  Between soup and chili, I would choose soup any day.  But I’m very pleased to say The Grad Lounge gave me a newfound appreciation for it, and I think I know why.  I hate meat chili.  Okay, maybe hate is too strong a word, but it makes me go “blech”.  And The Grad Lounge’s chili is vegan with enough vegetables to cover a corn field and it SO hearty and juicy and yummy and GOOD.  It’s the kind of food where each spoonful is just as enjoyable as the last and you can’t seem to get yourself to eating it.  THAT GOOD.

Now, I may cancel out the vegan and make mine simply vegetarian by adding a dollop of sour cream (because I love sour cream the same way I love cream cheese!  Wow, what a dairy whore I am), but the chili on its own is accompanied by a roll or corn muffin, and comprised of chopped green and red bell peppers, onions, celery, and jalapeño peppers, as well as plenty of red kidney beans, green lentils, black beans, crushed plum tomatoes, and corn.  The vegan chili is seasoned with Mexcian chili pepper oregano, ground cumin and coriander, and sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper.  This is a Grad Lounge staple; it’s available every day, hot and fresh and by far the best chili ever! 😀  This owns meat chili any day and I’m so glad this bowl of awesomeness brought me over to the other side of the pond!  This item has quite the faithful following and fanbase.  It should have an appreciation club.  I’d totally be a member.

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The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  And just a reminder that The Grad Lounge and GSA are hosting a Dinner & Dialogue event tomorrow in the Grad Café from 5:30pm-7:30pm.  Free movie screening (Spike Lee’s ”4 Little Girls”) and free food with some thoughtful discussion about the movie afterward.  All grad students are welcome!  And thank you again to Mike and Paul for helping me out with the ingredients, I really appreciate it!

I Heart Sushi Shop: The Smoky Salmon & Avocado Hand Roll and Cream Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Rolls

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When I eat at sushi places, it’s kind of like playing a mental game of Where’s Waldo.  I’ll scan the menu, mentally discard the options that I don’t care for (those who clearly don’t look like Waldo), take mental notes of the ones I might be interested in and remind myself to go back to them to reconsider (the areas that are really busy and confusing that need greater attention a bit later if I don’t find Waldo after the first go-around), and the kinds that make me squeal with excitement and convince me via words and/or pictures that I NEED to try this.  Cue the sushi radar alarm: Ding-ding-ding, meep-meep-meep, Waldo has been spotted!  No further searching necessary 😀  That is certainly what happened my first time eating at Sushi Shop; my sushi radar was on overload!  So many rolls that encompassed my two sushi weaknesses all rolled into one: salmon and cream cheese!  I love trying different things at sushi places, but those are the two things I can never resist.

I love cream cheese so much, and I’m also a sucker for things like pesto and sundried-tomato, so the Akanasu rolls (a set of 6) with creamy, tangy light cream cheese, sundried-tomato, and sesame seeds, were a total no-brainer for me.  It’s like this sushi bar and I were meant to be!  And all the Sumomaki rolls (sets of 5 large rolls) are also offered as hand roll varieties so I salivated a la Homer Simpson style at the description of the Smoky: fresh salmon sashimi, thick slices of avocado, orange masago (fish roe), spicy light mayo and sauce, and a huge truckload dumping of crunchy tempura, all wrapped up in sushi rice and seaweed.  Hand rolls are fun because 1) who doesn’t like food you can eat with your hands?? and 2) it’s like a sushi taco or burrito, woohoo!  Every mouthful is pure deliciousness.

Oh gosh, this meal had “Deb” written all over it ❤  Salmon and avocado are pretty basic staples in a lot of sushi and of course, freshness always plays a role in how good it is (frozen salmon?  no, thanks.  Lukewarm salmon?  I’ll pass on that too, ew) but what really makes this fantastic (besides the freshness of those two things) is the crunchy tempura and spicy sauce.  It is texture like you wouldn’t believe.  You have the smoothness of the salmon, the buttery meltiness of the avocado, and then the crunch from the tempura that just explodes and melts in your mouth.  Imagine the crunchiness of amazing onion rings.  It’s like that only in my opinion, even ten times better than that!  And don’t even get me started on how lip smackin’ my cream cheese and sundried tomato rolls were!  Sushi Shop is my absolute favourite and I’ll be hard pressed to find one that rivals the quality, freshness, and uniqueness that it offers.  But that’s fine by me.  Mental games of Where’s Waldo sushi-style are amusing 😀

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The Sushi Shop is located at the intersection of Yonge and Carlton St. (3 Carlton St.), with 2 other take-out locations serving the downtown core, one being in the GO train station concourse and the other near Maple Leaf Square at 25 York St (closed Saturday and Sunday).  According to Google map, there is also a location on Bloor St. E at 175 Bloor St.E (Saturday and Sunday closed as well).

Scrapbook materials used: purple, bubblegum pink, pale pink, and emerald green cardstock (Recollections); white paper; patterned alphabet stickers (K&Company); silver alphabet stickers (Sticko); magenta, pink, and purple adhesive gems; flower paper punch; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); black Sharpie felt tip marker.

How Do You Like Your Eggs? I Like Mine Over Easy…at Over Easy!

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In a very cute scene, Richard Gere asks Julia Roberts how she likes her eggs in Runaway Bride.  He presses her to really think about this.  It’s the moment when she finally lets her guard down and reveals a part of yourself even unbeknowst to herself.  Who knew eggs could create such a bubble of debate and conversation?!  But it’s the truth: everyone loves their eggs a different way and it’s a big no-no when they’re not made the way you like them.  I’m talking nose wrinkling, scoffing, and tsking.  Some like them best scrambled.  Others, like my boyfriend, prefer them boiled.  My mum and best friend refuse to eat their eggs sans ketchup.  And me?  Over easy with lots of fresh black pepper! 😀 

Okay, truth be told I don’t have pictures of eggs for this post, but rest assured there will be plenty of future egg posts from Over Easy because this sunny, cheerful breakfast eatery is amazing!  With 2 locations in downtown Toronto, this homey establishment, with framed pictures of fresh fruit on the walls, kitschy kitchen decor and figurines lining the ledges, red-and-yellow plaid booths, and sunny yellow and cornflower blue walls, serves up breakfast proportions worthy of an evening meal.

The menu selection is vast and for lack of a better word, ginormous!  It makes the breakfast food lover in me prance around with delight.  It also drives the indecisive part of me insane.  Oh well.  Divided into categories, breakfast options include omelettes, eggs benedict, pancakes, waffles, French toast, fruit and granola, and a plethora of fun and classic egg dishes: 3-eggs breakfasts with the bacon or sausage works, eggs in a hole, huevos rancheros, steak and eggs, corn beef hash, and everything in between. 

This diner is not for the faint of heart.  You do not step in here if you are looking for a “snack”.  You saddle up and prepare yourself for a MEAL.  Just ask my honey, Richard.  I told him that he would most likely have to take a portion of his meal to go.  He had ordered chocolate chip pancakes and he was presented with a plate of 4, count ’em FOUR, pancakes.  He stubbornly insisted that he could eat them all.  I told him he was nuts.  Oh, he ate them all.  And proceeded to moan and groan for the rest of the day.  Oh, boys, sigh.  Proportions are incredibly generous and prices range, on average, from $5.50-$13 for most dishes, with the majority of mains coming in at around $8-$10 without a drink.

With eyes roaming up and down the menu, the veggie lover in me squealed when they landed on the Vegetarian Skillet: sautéed red bell peppers, asparagus, zucchini, sliced button mushrooms, and diced potatoes, covered in melted ooey gooey aged cheddar cheese, with juicy sliced Roma tomatoes on the side.  This was vegetable heaven.  The savouriness from the mushrooms and melted cheese tones down the slight bitterness of asparagus, the juiciness of the tomatoes breaks up the starchier quality of the potatoes, and this baby just delivers an amazingly flavourful meal that makes you want to eat vegetables all the live long day – or week!  And seriously, when you get that forkful of cheesy potato goodness, it’s reminiscent of poutine *happy sigh*  A meal chock full of hearty, delicious vegetables and melted cheese – what more could you ask for? 😀

*****

Over Easy serves 2 locations in downtown Toronto (and yes, I have been to both!):

  1.  208 Bloor St. West (west of Avenue Rd. and east of St. George St. and Bedford Ave., across the street from the ROM, Royal Ontario Museum)
  2. 56 Yonge St. (north of Wellington St. and south of King St., on the west side of Yonge)

The Yonge location is open from 7am-3pm and the Bloor location is open from 7am-4pm.