Hallowe’en Headquarters – A Spooky & Sweet Cupcake Lover’s Paradise! Lollicakes on Mount Pleasant Road

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Happy Hallowe’en everyone!  I hope everyone’s had a freakishly fun weekend and Hallowe’en day so far!  My Hallowe’en was spent snapping a gazillion photos for the blog today and looking at some of the cutest Hallowe’en treats and paraphernalia!  I may hop around the city on a regular basis, but I don’t think I’ve jumped on and off the subway and streetcar as much as I did today.  I was all over town hitting up some of my favourite places to capture the once-a-year occasion in all its orange-and-black glory.  I promised you all treats for tonight, so I’m here to deliver a nice helping of Hallowe’en posts, just in case you didn’t already fill up on sweet treats!  Kind of like the giddy emptying of a trick-or-treat bag 😀  Let’s get started!

Up first: Hallowe’en at Lollicakes!  Lollicakes is a cupcake bakery and merchandise retail shop located in uptown Toronto on Mount Pleasant Rd. just north of Davisville Ave.  If you’re the type of person who squeals over cupcakeries and the design and retail concept of “the cupcakery”, you will go bananas over Lollicakes because this shop is EVERYTHING CUPCAKE and more!  Do you like to collect cupcake related things?  Is your house or apartment adorned with cute cupcake kitchen tools, accessories, candles, photos, and recipe books?  Does the thought of outfitting your kitchen or room in true cupcake fashion make your heart flutter?  If you said yes to even one of those, you need to come here.  It is a cupcake haven.  Or heaven.  Or both.

Not only does Lollicakes sell fresh baked cupcakes on a daily basis, but they also sell all of the following: cupcake recipe books, wrappers, toppers, stands, trinket boxes, backpacks, makeup bags, picture frames, aprons, oven mitts, wallets, luggage tags, notepads, clipboards, paper stationery, cards, and cupcake and cookie baking tools and equipment.  You can pick your jaw up from off the floor now – it’s a cupcake dream come true.

Hallowe’en is awesome here at Lollicakes.  They have so many cute Hallowe’en related baking accessories and of course, Hallowe’en themed cupcakes and trinkets.  They have pumpkin trinket boxes, Hallowe’en cookie cutters, treat bags, and lots of sweet eats.  By the cash and counter today they had buckets and baskets of frosted cookies decorated like ghosts and jack-o-lanterns, chocolate covered R.I.P. treats on a stick, and plenty of frosted regular and mini cupcakes with Hallowe’en chocolate toppers and sprinkles!  Regular cupcakes are priced at $3 and mini ones come in at $2.  Granted, prices are higher if they come with the giant chocolate toppers, but if we’re talking about base price, those are the prices we’re working with.  This puts Lollicakes in the mid-to-higher range among other cupcakeries in the city.  The low-end (price-wise, not quality!) is around $2.50 and the high-end is about $3.25-$3.50.

Lollicakes is also the type of cupcakery that focus more on the asthetics than on flavour menus.  Every cupcake lover has their preferences.  Some love having 20 different flavours of cake and frosting to choose from while others find that type of system way too fussy and prefer having simple vanilla and chocolate cupcakes that are prettily decorated.  For the record though, Lollicakes does vanilla and chocolate cake and frosting, period.  Their vanilla buttercream frosting comes in a rainbow of colours and their cupcakes are often decorated with different kinds of sprinkles and sometimes fancy chocolate toppers.  For Hallowe’en, they had vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with orange, purple, and bright monster lime green frosting with colour coordinate sprinkles, as well as a cute silver tray of cupcakes with the Hallowe’en chocolate toppers already on them.  Eyeballs, skulls, skeleton hands, spiders and cobwebs, witches’ fingers, the whole shebang!  

My parents (and probably some friends) would be over the moon about Lollicakes because their cupcake confections are not too sweet.  If you’re the type of person who enjoys the idea of cupcakes but shudders at the thought of sickly sweet frosting and/or cake, you would most definitely breathe a sigh of relief when eating these because the sweetness level is a little lower.  With Lollicakes’ cupcakes, think fluffy.  Don’t think dense.  The frosting is thick but with a fluffy texture to it.  The vanilla flavour is subtly sweet and you don’t get any of the “butter” taste which is a good thing in my opinion.  The cake is incredibly soft.  If you prefer a denser cake, these probably aren’t for you but if you “mmm” at the thought of pillow-soft, airy fluffiness, these fit the bill.  I think a lot of cupcake devotees will either love them or hate them.  If you enjoy sugary sweetness with thickness and density and heavy vanilla flavour, you won’t enjoy these.  However, if you’re like my parents and can’t stand that type of texture and strength in sweetness, these are more your speed.

One of the things I really adore about Lollicakes shop is how it isn’t age-specific.  Even though they have cute, kid-friendly items, it’s the type of shop that doesn’t alienate its older cilentele.  There’s something for every type of cupcake lover here: the collector, the interior decorator, the beginner, everyone.  You can find cupcake items in other stores, but to have an entire shop dedicated to cupcake things alone in this capacity with this type of selection is rare.  They have items here I’ve never seen at other places and I think it functions as a fabulous gift shop for birthdays and holidays.  Part of me whimpers every time I leave the shop though because everything is so darn cute and in my opinion, perfect for my own house.  One of these days I’m going to end up living in a house just like Hansel and Gretel and then I’ll really be in trouble.

 

*****

Lollicakes is located at 559 Mount Pleasant Rd. just north of Davisville Ave.

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Hallowe’en Kitties, Cupcakes, Pumpkins, and All Things Ghoulish – Hallowe’en Headquarters on Ate by Ate!

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Whether you’ve been costuming and partying it up over the weekend, decorating your home with all things ghostly and ghoulish, or preparing your children’s costumes and trick-or-treat bags, tomorrow is the BIG DAY.  The day we light up and put our carved pumpkins out on the porch or windowsill (if you haven’t already), dress up in a cute/scary/disgusting costume, and fall into sugar comas.  Cupcakes, cookies, chocolates, finger foods – it’s Hallowe’en, we’re allowed.  I have so many friends who absolutely adore Hallowe’en and even though I haven’t dressed up in years (I know, tsk, tsk on me), I get really excited about the occasion nevertheless. 

My best friend is celebrating Hallowe’en with her kindergarten kids and I can’t wait to eventually see photos of her two classes dressed up like a box of crayons!  All her little ones are set to dress in different colours and shades and they’ll have Crayola “sashes” to wear in the front and party hats to represent their crayon “tips”.  I told her that if I was in any way a part of the class, I would come as a green crayon (I can actually dress in green from head to toe – no lie) and construct a crayon cardbox “box” for the kids to stand in for a group picture.  I can’t get over how cute the idea is!  Hallowe’en is just pure fun and c’mon, we all have memories of Hallowe’ens past that we can reminisce about.

My favourite Hallowe’en memories: 1) the year my aunt made my witch costume from scratch, 2) discovering a full-out foodie Hallowe’en party at the The Cookbook Store in Yorkville 2 years ago, and 3) working at Claire’s 4 years ago and going through all the adorable Hallowe’en merchandise (and yes, picking up a few things for myself) and helping others find accessories for their costumes.  I can’t tell you how many times people asked for things like suspenders and hats! 

The sweetest Hallowe’en memory that I have though involves a trick-or-treating adventure my brother and I had when he was 9 and when I was 14.  I took him out for candy-hunting and as we were about to wrap up our night, we went to one last house with their lights on.  The door opened and a teeny girl in a fairy costume stood before us with her daddy.  Her daddy apologetically told us that they were out of candy and my brother and I told him it was okay and thanked him.  As we were about to turn away, the little girl reached into her own trick-or-treat basket and began to pull out some treats.  Taken aback I exclaimed, “oh my gosh, no!  It’s okay!”  to which her daddy replied, “no, no, let her, she wants to!”  She gingerly pulled out some shiny stickers and a candy for each us and put them in my brother’s bag.  I honestly wanted to cry because it was so damn cute and sweet and utterly selfless.  I can’t imagine how proud her daddy must have felt in that moment, seeing his daughter share her wealth the way she did.  It’s been 12 years and I remember it like it was yesterday.

I can’t wait to go crazy tomorrow and post up a Hallowe’en storm.  I’ll be honest, I should have had Hallowe’en Headquarters up and running a week ago but I just wasn’t prepared enough.  I’m bummed that I wasn’t able to get any Hallowe’en baking done to show you all or to do any scrapbooking beforehand, but that’s how it rolls sometimes.  I’ll have all my treats for you tomorrow and if I can’t squeeze everything in, we’ll have ourselves a belated Hallowe’en afterparty.  I leave you with some treat photos I took last year and my beloved Hallowe’en “kitties”.  Have a spooktacular Hallwe’en, everyone!

*****

Photos taken from Whole Foods Market, Half-Baked Ideas, and Lollicakes in Toronto.

Back to My Foodie Roots – Instant Noodles & HK Style Breakfast at Made in China Hot Pot in Scarborough

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It’s about time I finally featured food from Scarborough on the blog!  I’ve been trying my best to represent as many areas of Toronto (and Markham) as I can and I’m well aware how quiet it’s been on the Scarborough front.  Trust me when I say that the lack of yummies from Scarborough hasn’t been intentional though; there’s a number of reasons why it’s taken me so long to post about the great food here. 

First, I’ve lived in Markham for 13 years now and during those 13 years, school and work stayed within York Region boundaries during high school and undergrad university.  If I wasn’t at school I was at work and when I wasn’t at work I was at home.  Scarborough activities were mostly relegated to appointments, errands, and visiting family.  Second, if I wanted to head into Scarborough (i.e. the 416), I would have to pay double transit fares, so I had to be very careful with how much money I spent to get around.  Even though parts of Scarborough are very urban and city-like, much of the area is suburbanized which means you can’t exactly walk around place to place on foot.  Without a metropass, I would have been spending all my money (which wasn’t very much to begin with) on tokens alone.

Finally, even though my grandparents still reside in Scarborough (along with a number of old friends and classmates), have you ever attempted to take photos during a large family meal?  It’s virtually impossible.  There was no way to take and post photos without getting either half-eaten, messy dishes or hands and arms all over the place.  Not the most attractive for a food blog, yes?

Things are a little different now though.  I’m older, I have my own camera (the idea of taking photos of my food at the age of 10 never even occurred to me!), and years of working has given me a tiny bit of extra breathing room  to explore, money-wise.  I may not be aware of every nook and cranny in Scarborough, but I know a lot of the area and the food like the back of my hand.  If we’re talking about areas outside of both Chinatowns in Toronto, Scarborough is where it’s at if you want great dim sum and Chinese food.  Sure, Markham is great for this too, but Scarborough has a bit more of the old-school feel to it and considering how the majority of my childhood was spent here, it always feels like home.

I have fond foodie memories of the Finch and Midland neighbourhood especially.  Growing up, I’d eat Chinese food and noodles in this area with my mum and dad, I remember going to Korean BBQ with my aunt and uncle, and I even remember dribbling taco sauce on my favourite dress when I was 5 in the old Taco Bell.  Even though things change over time, in many ways, things have stayed completely the same.  If you’re familiar with Scarborough you know which area I’m referring to when I say, “rows of hanging triangular rainbow flags”.  I don’t have a photo for you all right now, but the iconic rainbow flags hanging over this plaza is the hallmark of this foodie district along with all the Chinese food.  

I can’t remember the last time I ate around here.  It’s been years.  So it was such a treat coming back here with my family for some breakfast.  We found this fantastic place called Made in China Hot Pot with awesome HK style diner food and breakfast!  Obviously since this was my first time here, I can’t tell you anything about the hot pot, but I can tell you about the breakfast.

I looove HK style breakfast.  Popular favourites includes congee with either different meats, seafood, preserved egg, or things like pork bones, noodles with eggs and mixed veggies, macaroni in soup with sliced beef, eggs with toast, ham, sausage, or luncheon meat, egg and meat sandwiches, baked bread and pineapple buns, cheung fun dim sim, and a number of others. 

My favourite dishes are instant noodles with egg and luncheon meat, macaroni soup noodle bowls, and HK style toast with the crusts cut off and spread with butter made with sweetened condensed milk.  Made in China Hot Pot has a great breakfast menu with a ton of options and the prices are ridiculously awesome for the portions you get!  Prices range from $2.55 to $5.95 and all menu items come with your choice of HK style tea or coffee (lie cha, ling cha, yuen yeung, etc.).

My mum ordered the oatmeal with two eggs and toast, my brother ordered the omelette with ham, mushroom, and cheese with toast, my dad was in conniptions over his salted pork bone congee and fried vermicelli noodles with bean sprouts, and I ordered my favourite HK breakfast comfort food: instant noodles in soup with luncheon meat (mmm chan yok) and egg.  The portions and presentation of food are both fantastic.  My dad literally got this ginormous bowl of congee and a full square plate of noodles, my mum got a nice meal-sized bowl of oatmeal with her eggs and toast, and my brother’s omelette with thick and stuffed to the edges.  Since the meals came in “two-parters” with the exception of mine, we were honestly expecting side dish sized portions for each “part” of the meal given the fab prices and we were blown away and so happy and satisfied with our food.

Even though my meal is very run-of-the-mill in terms of content (instant noodles are instant noodles no matter how you spin it, and so is luncheon meat unless somebody decides they want to be cute and starts to use cookie cutters), I loved my dish.  Instant noodles in soup is one of my most favourite comfort foods, the luncheon meat was delicious with its savoury, smoky, slightly salty flavour, and it wasn’t overly seasoned (they didn’t drizzle soy sauce over it which was a very good thing!), and I adored how cute my egg looked!  It was a gorgeous sunny-side up egg (some dishes will come with an overeasy one) and the fab part was that the yolk didn’t explode everywhere.  I love me some overeasy eggs where I can dip my toast or bread in the yolks, but in noodle soup, I like it more cooked so it doesn’t get lost in the soup.

Made in China Hot Pot is beautiful on the inside and so big and spacious.  I’m so happy we found this place and we’re already looking forward to our next visit!  They have HK style spaghetti and rice dishes, a slew of different dumpling sets, and of course its namesake, hot pot.  When it comes to food, Scarborough hasn’t lost its touch.

*****

Made in China Hot Pot is located at 3280 Midland Ave. in the Scarboro Village Mall plaza near the intersection of Finch and Midland Ave.  The plaza is north of Finch and south of Silver Star Blvd.  They serve all-day breakfast, lunch, dinner, and their specialty, Chinese hot pot.

Hitting Up the Weekend Markets! Squashes, Crab Apples, and a Sea of Rainbow Colours at Liberty Village

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It’s Friday and the weekend is here!  I’m excited because there’s so much going on with the last of the outdoor markets, Pedestrian Sunday in Kensington, and the spooktacular yummies that await me on Hallowe’en!  I have so much I want to do but there’s always never enough time.  I haven’t even been able to do any Hallowe’en baking for you guys!  Hopefully I’ll have something fabulous for you all on Monday, but for now, I’m chugging away at getting these weekend market photos up!  If you’ve been following the Farmers’ Market series since I started it back in May, you’ll have noticed that many of the markets that I hit up were weekday ones.  It’s a habit from university that it’s still in my blood and a little hard to kick.

While I was in school, my weekdays were flexible.  I would go to my classes on the days I had them, I would attend meetings whenever they arose, and I would stick myself in the library for the day when it was necessary.  Between all these activities though, I would hop around town.  I took advantage of the precious time I had to do things during the school/work week because I knew I would have to succumb to a weekend of work.  Sometimes there was just too much going on during the week to “sit down” and get things done.  Three hour break in between classes?  Sweet, I’m taking a break at the mall.  Classes finished by noon?  Nice, I’m spending the rest of the day downtown.  I would get my shopping done that way, I got to stroll around, and of course, I got to eat.

Pretty graffiti art by Liberty Village

Cupcake offerings at For the Love of Cake!

This habit of rushing around during the week and staying home on the weekends has made it a little difficult for me to get out to the weekend markets this year.  I’m the opposite of most people.  While they can’t wait to get out and party it up, I’m laying in front of the tv tired from the week’s antics!  The reduced transit service in my area doesn’t exactly help matters either.  But missing the weekend markets started putting me in a bad mood so I tried my best to get out to a few of them and I’m so happy I did.  I finally went to Evergreen Brick Works and just recently, I ping-ponged between two Sunday markets in the city: Leslieville and today’s Liberty Village!

Liberty Village is an up-and-coming neighbourhood in the west end off of King Street sweeping the city by storm.  The industrial feel is still very much present, but businesses in and discussion of the area are both steadily growing as more people venture out to explore.  Even though I can’t say that I could spend an entire day in the neighbourhood, there’s some great stuff in the village that I love, such as For the Love of Cake cupcake shop (blog post forthcoming, I promise!), Demo Soap Studio (if you get a chance to check them out at the One of a Kind Show, do it!), and a handful of dining establishments that look great on paper and that I can’t wait to try out.  I went to Liberty Village for the first time in the summer of 2010 and it’s definitely grown in the past year.  I think many people who have an interest in design and architecture will also appreciate the area, in addition to foodies, because the main strip was constructed in a way that makes it very distinguishable from other neighbourhoods in the city.  You’ll just have to go and check it out 😉

The Liberty Village farmers’ market, located in the Green P parking lot just outside the Liberty Market building on East Liberty Street between Atlantic and Hanna Ave., is a sister market to others in the city: Bloor-Borden-Lippincott, Sick Kids Hospital, Ryerson University, and East Lynn Park.  If I had to make a comparison, I would say that the Liberty Village market is a little more similar to Bloor-Borden-Lippincott.  The Liberty Village one didn’t have the ginormous herb table, but I recognized some of the same tables and farmers.  The markets at Sick Kids Hospital and Ryerson are much more different in their offerings.  Liberty Village is more fruit and vegatable centric whereas the market at Sick Kids has waaay more baked goods, and Ryerson has a mix of both.

It was a beautifully warm day when I went (which is a stark constract to the weather we’re having now!), and the market was busy.  The tables were just bursting with beautiful colour and I was so giddy to see two particular things at this market: crab apples and baby squashes!  We’ve all heard the terms “sour grapes” and “crab apple” but I’ve never actually SEEN a crab apple before.  Unless I missed them, none of the other markets I’ve been to have them.  They were adorable.  So cute and small and bright pink-red!  I did a little bit of research and found out that these fruits are wonderful for making jellies, jams, and preserves.

And the squashes!  I can’t get over how pretty they are.  And how good they are to eat.  I saw these adorable baby squashes at the market that were white with deep green striping and I asked the farmers how to cook them.  They told me I could cut them in half, sprinkle a little brown sugar, put some butter on them, and roast them in the oven for about 45- minutes.  Friends on Twitter also made a few yummy suggestions like sprinkling cinnamon on too!  Let it be known that aside from butternut squash soup and Chinese squash, I’ve never actually eaten or cooked things like butternut, acorn, or spaghetti squash until recently.

Once my fall kicked into high gear, my mum started going on and on about how much she loved it when my grandma used to make it when she was growing up and how she had somehow forgotten about it until now.  So we bought some butternut squash.  And ate it.  And loved it.  My dad and brother didn’t really care for it one way or the other, but my mum and I cleaned off almost an entire one between the two of us.  It was juicy and soft and mildly sweet.  In my opinion, it’s more awesome than a sweet potato!  Sweet potato lovers, don’t hate me.  Or throw your sweet potatoes at me.  I just love the flavour and texture of butternut squash more.

The weather this weekend is looking a little nicer, so I’m hoping I can make it out to some fun stuff happening in the city.  Enjoy Friday today and check out the outdoor markets while you still can!

*****

Liberty Village farmers’ market is located in the Green P parking lot on East Liberty Street between Atlantic and Hanna Ave.  Liberty Village is located just south of King Street West and the market is held every Sunday from 9am-2pm.

Bidding Farewell to the Outdoor Markets and Cozying Up Inside – Veggie Pies & The Eglinton Park Farmers’ Market!

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We’re nearing the end of October and many markets and summer events are closing up shop for the year, either to head indoors or to map out plans for next spring.  Leslieville’s last market is this Sunday (the day before Hallow’en), we’ll be saying goodbye to the market by East York Civic Centre next Tuesday, and Kensington Market’s last Pedestrian Sunday of the year is taking place on Sunday. 

To commemorate the very last outdoor farmers’s market in Eglinton Park tomorrow, I’m dedicating this post to everyone who’s helped make this market a fabulous success this year!  Even though the market may have caused a bit of confusion for foodies and locals alike throughout the year with its revolving door of locations and times, you know a market has been successful when it needs to move around to accomodate the crowds!  The farmers’ market by Yonge and Eglinton has been ping-ponging back and forth between several different locations and I think it’s kind of cute that they needed to do that because it’s highly indicative of the overwhelmingly positive response the market has had over the past number of months. 

Let’s start from the beginning.  When I first found about the market back during the spring, the Eglinton Market was located behind the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre in Eglinton Park where it took place every Thursday from 3pm-7pm.  Much like Dufferin Grove, the green space had an adorable community garden for everyone in the neighbourhood and vicinity to pitch in, learn about, and enjoy.  It was green, it was peaceful, and it felt homey as I perused the market tables bursting with bright yellow tomatoes, chocolate chip muffins, and summer fruits and vegetables.

Fast forward to the depths of summer in August.  The Eglinton market moved it fruits, veggies, baked goods, and other yummies to a much more high-traffic location smack dab on Yonge St. in the Pedestrian Square by Northern District Public Library.  Organizers of the market upped the anti by extending market hours from 3pm-7pm to 11am-7pm to attract lunch crowds and morning market birds like me!  At this location, the market was able to cater to the throngs of summer passersby around Yonge and Eglinton and you can bet it had the vibrant street feel to it!  The grill was fired up, market goers sat out on patio tables having lunch, there was music playing, and it was all hustle and bustle.  

The market then entered the crisp, chilly days of fall in October where it said goodbye to Pedestrian Square and headed back to the greenery of Eglinton Park and its original 3pm-7pm hours.  We’re now looking at our very last outdoor market in the park tomorrow before it heads into warmer headquarters indoors to the North Toronto Community Centre beside the park starting November 10th.  From then on, the market will operate every other Thursday from 3pm-7pm.  So we’re looking at going to market on November 10th, November 24th, December 8th, December 22nd, and so on.  I’ll definitely miss the weekly markets, but I already feel very lucky to have a market to go to in one of my favourite parts of town.  And the way I see it, having it indoors in the community centre means I’ll get to know more about the activities and programs that are offered inside which is a great thing.

One of the things I love most about the Eglinton Market is the presence of The Canadian Pie Company!  Their storefront is located on Queen Street East, just east of Broadview on Boulton Ave. and I am so looking forward to going sometime and eating inside their shop.  To my knowledge, this is the only market they’re currently a part of, so this makes the market even more special.  (Oct.27th: Scratch that, Canadian Pie Company also makes their appearance at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market.  That’s okay, they’re still super special).  We’re not just talking about the run-of-the-mill fruit pies and dessert pies – oh no, we’re talking warm, savoury, delicious pies that you could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!  Because I eat pie for breakfast.  Let me rephrase that: I don’t actually eat pie for breakfast like it’s part of my daily routine or diet, but I would if the opportunity arose. 

They have a delicious selection of meat pies and vegetarian pies and by george, I am all over their vegetarian pies.  They sell them in large sizes and small ones and the small ones make me squeal because they’re cute and they perfect size for me as a dinner.  I want to stuff my face into all of their vegetarian pies: spinach and goat cheese, cheddar and asparagus, wild mushroom, and everything other veggie pie they have.  Much like chili, I prefer veggie over meat kinds.  Just thinking about them now is making me hungry.  If I can get myself to the market tomorrow, I am so picking one up for dinner.  And eating it on the subway ride home.

*****

The Eglinton Appletree Market will be having its last outdoor market TOMORROW in Eglinton Park behind North Toronto Memorial Community Centre at 200 Eglinton Ave. West from 3pm-7pm.  Starting November 10th, the market will be held indoors in the community centre every other Thursday from 3pm-7pm.  Check out the Appletree Market website here for specific dates and for more information.

You’ll Want to Take the Bakeries Home With You – Anna’s Bakery & Deli and Sweet Eats in Bloor West Village

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October 25th: I have a great post coming for you all but it’s going to have to wait as I have a raging migraine right now and I just cannot bang out this post tonight.  I’ll have a full post all sparkly and new to accompany the photos up top, so in the meantime, admire some of these yummy bakery goods in Bloor West Village while I recuperate!

October 26th: Gooood morning everyone!  It’s still gross and rainy out (with the way the whether has been for weeks I can’t tell I’m still in Toronto or if some kind of geographical vortex has turned us into Vancouver or London, England.  Sigh.), but I am feeling MUCH better and the migraine has left the building – for now anyway.  Let it be known that overcast and rainy weather do not do good things to my head and brain and I’ve been lucky this fall so far because last night’s migraine was the first major one of the season.  I’m well-rested though and I’m here to give you guys a fabulous, yummy post!  Introducing yet another amazing foodie village and neighbourhood: Bloor West Village!

The very first time I explored Bloor West Village was about a year and a half ago.  I remembering reading about it in a pamphlet featuring some of Toronto’s popular shopping and strolling destinations, and hearing about it from some friends.  I remember having some breakfast at the Sunset Grill location in the area and spending the entire afternoon walking around afterward.  I loved the area and could mosey along day after day, week after week, without ever getting bored.  There are SO many foodie options!  There are tea shops (including my beloved David’s Tea), brunch spots, Eastern European deli and hot food shops, and even a gourmet burger pub to boot!  Yellow Griffin Pub and its 30+ burger options (all of which can be served on meat or veggie) are calling my name. 

Every time I come here, I always feel like I can never get enough and that’s how I feel about many of the areas in the city.  I absorb as much as I can, but there’s always something that I can’t get to, something I didn’t get a chance to see, or just something I missed entirely.  For the food alone, I’ll be coming back for months, and even years, to come.    

Sandwiched between Runnymede Road and Jane St. (and their respective subway stations), Bloor West Village is, in my opinion, very similar to Roncesvalles in the best ways possible.  First off, the neighbourhood is extremely walkable.  Like many areas in downtown Toronto, you’re looking at shop after shop after shop.  There are no large gaps between establishments, you don’t have to worry about being in the middle of abandoned industrial nowhere (it’s a little unnerving!), public transit is very accessible should you need to use it, and walking around is the easiest thing ever because the neighbourhood mainly runs on in an East-West/West-East direction and there is so much to see. 

Second, both Roncesvalles and Bloor West Village are known for their Eastern European communities, culture, and food, specifically Polish and Ukrainian respectively.  Thus, many of the businesses in the area cater to, and are owned and run by these ethnic groups.  Finally, the most striking similarity between Roncesvalles and Bloor West Village is the sheer volume of bakeries!  I can’t get over the number of shops that have bread and pastries and baked goods coming out of their rooftops!  Off the top of my head, bakeries include Hot Oven Bakery, Sweet Flour Bake Shop, Bread and Roses Bakery Cafe, Max’s Market, and one of my favourites, Anna’s Bakery & Deli! 

Now, since I haven’t eaten my way through the bakery or any of the bakeries for that matter, this post is primarily a photocentric post just to show you all what the neighbourhood has to the offer and what my favourite bakery has to nosh on!  My favourite thing about Anna’s Bakery & Deli is the storefront.  By golly do they ever know about to entice people!  Just look at it – I could die.  Rows and rows full of giant and mini meringues, bundt cakes, fruit turnovers, loaves of bread, custard donuts, sugar twist donuts, shortbread cookies, danishes, fudge brownies, hazelnut squares, date squares, pecan tarts, fruit tarts including apple, cranberry, and raspberry with powdered sugar and streusel crumble topping oh my god, and giant strawberry tarts among a bajillion other sweet eats. 

It’s any wonder why I didn’t go in and grab one of everything.  I don’t even know how my mum is going to react when I eventually bring her here.  She’s never been in the area before and she loves bakeries even more than I do, especially ones with bread in them.  Her bread obsession is through the roof and because of me, she drools over pastries even more than she used to.  If it was up to her, we’d bring the bakery home with us.  And if I’m bringing her to Bloor West Village, we’ll have at least five bakeries coming home with us.    

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Anna’s Bakery & Deli is located at 2394 Bloor Street West in Bloor West Village.  Bloor West Village can be accessed using public transit via the Runnymede and Jane subway stations, or any of the TTC buses that service both Runnymede Road and Jane St.

Break Out the ‘Staches, Handle Bars, and Lip Dusters – It’s Movember Cupcake & Fondant Fun at Le Dolci!

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Prepare to see some fabulous ‘staches being sported on men around the world because in just one week, regions across the globe will be promoting awareness and raising funds to support the fight against men’s cancers and illnesses in the wildly popular Movember nation and worldwide charity event.  On November 1st, guys can register at Movember.com with a squeaky clean shaven face and raise money throughout the month via sponsorship for their moustache-growing efforts!  The “Mo’s” that these men don become symbols of a larger concern facing both men and women, namely, the need to for more public education and discussion of the health concerns men face today.  To show our support for all the fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, boyfriends, husbands, partners, and friends in our – and everyone else’s! – lives, we started testing out some Movember cupcakes at Le Dolci!

As soon as Lisa thought of the idea, I started moulding away with the fondant to come up with some super cute, funny, and just plain ridiculous moustaches!  The first thing that popped into my head was Ned Flanders.  I’m a Simpsons geek through and through 😉  Lisa wanted them big and brash and out there, so I giggled my way through the afternoon as I looked to popular iconic men for inspiration in making my funny, exaggerated ‘staches.  I channeled an exaggerated version of Charlie Chaplin using black fondant, a mish-mash of male characters from the beloved clickety-clack board game, Guess Who?, for my auburn guy, and a cross between the cute Monopoly board game man and Colonel Sanders for my white-haired fellow.  And the blue-eyed, brunette?  I just started rolling fondant and by the time I knew it I had made some ridiculous brown moustaches that looked like croissants!  I call it the croissant moustache.

Lisa also thought it’d be a nifty idea to hold a special themed cupcake decorating class in November in honour of the event!  On Saturday, November 19th from 1pm-3pm, you can decorate and create your very own Movember men cupcakes for your boyfriend, hubby, dad, or brother.  Or better yet, have them come to a class!  Or you know, just have fun and eat them yourself.  I may have used fondant to make these sassy gentlemen, but you could use candies, cherrios, icing, food colouring; the possibilities are endless and you’re like me, making faces and people are fun to do!  It’s hard to stop once you get going.  “Ooo, I can make him into a redhead!”, “Ooo, I can make him with curly hair!”, or “Hmm, moustache pointing up or down?”.  It’s almost like playing with paper dolls only with fondant and with faces.  And of course, the cupcakes.  I cannot wait to put all my Movember men on cupcakes!  I don’t know if any of the “nose neighbours” I made will catch on and provide any guys with inspiration, but they sure are cute and it’s all in good, sweet, cupcake fun.

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Le Dolci is a private studio located at 75 Portland St., just east of Bathurst near King St. West.  The studio hosts cupcake decorating classes and handles catering for both corporate and personal events.  For more information on classes, schedules, rates, and more, visit their official website here and their Facebook page here.