Rainbows and Artwork at Petite Thuet – Yuzu Chocolate & Chocolate Coconut on Macaron Day, Part III!

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After nearly an entire week of macarons, I have learned something very important: 1) I should only ever bring a macaron home for my brother and 2) putting them in the fridge makes them last longer and they taste just as delicious the day after.  And the day after that.  And the day after that.  That’s right, folks.  I brought home four perfect, plump, beautiful macarons on Tuesday (I ate four all on my own during the day.  Don’t judge me, you know you’d do the same) and I still have one sitting on my kitchen table waiting to be devoured.  And most likely, it will be devoured by me.  I know, I live a tough life.  My family has exasperated me to the point of no return.  Anybody else would be empty-handed by now.  Or at the very least, swatting somebody else’s hand away for attempting to eat mine.  But noooo. 

My brother happily ate his, but my parents have repeatedly rejected my beloved macarons day after day and the only reason I didn’t just eat their share after a day is because I didn’t want to be selfish.  That, and also a pig.  Even if I have boundaries as blurry as they may be.  But for goodness sake, I think I’m the only person on this earth who still has a macaron left from Macaron Day!  And for that, I am embarrassed.  Note to self: save one for the brother and call it a day to save yourself from the face-palming and head-on-wall-banging.  Sigh.       

You’d think that after a day of macaron trick-or-treating and a week of macaron eating I’d be pooped out.  Nope, far from it.  Macaron Day has only fueled my giddiness over macarons and now I can’t get enough.  They’re delicate, cute, and as colourful as watercolour paint pucks.  They are delightful.  This love is going to be just as bad as cupcakes, if not worse.  One of the very first macaron posts I wrote on the blog was for Petit Thuet but this time around, I have the goods from a different location!  On Macaron Day, I paid a visit to the Rosedale location for the first time and I really fell in love with the space, much more so than the one on King St. in the financial district.  The Rosedale location, located in the heart of midtown Toronto on Yonge Street, has beautiful paintings and artwork on the walls and gorgeous wooden accents including a wooden light fixture and a wooden table bench by the storefront window.  The space is a little sunnier with more pop and personality to it and even though it’s small, I like it a lot.

Petit Thuet is a French bakery/boulangerie and gourmet shop that serves croissants, baked goods, pastries, and desserts, along with gourmet meats, jarred preserves, salads, and more.  Pastries and desserts include lemon bars, meringue tarts, fruit tarts, danishes, almond pastries, small cakes, and the ever popular macarons that have put Petit Thuet on the macaron map.  My very first Petit Thuet macaron was their rosewater one and while I really enjoyed it then, I LOVED the macarons I picked out on Tuesday even more!

There was literally a rainbow of macarons to choose from on Macaron Day and right off the bat, I picked up on the noticable differences.  The macarons were larger and plumper than I remember and there were a number of flavours that were completely new and exciting to me!  I snatched a bright yellow yuzu chocolate macaron (the yellow one you see on the far left in the macaron photo up top) and a creamy chocolate cocoa coconut one (the chocolate one with the toasted sprinkled coconut on top) and there were plenty of others that looked sweet and delicious.  My brother took the yuzu chocolate (his first macaron ever!) while we shared the chocolate coconut between the two of us and both were deeply loved. 

While I can’t give you an excited assessment of the yuzu chocolate yet, I can tell you that my brother was over the moon over it and loved it to itty bitty pieces.  He prefers citrus fruits over others such as berries and he’s a mega chocoholic so it was perfect for him.  It was his very time eating a macaron and he was hooked after the first bite.  And if you love coconut milk, the chocolate coconut macaron needs to be in your life.  Coconut and lemon are my two dessert flavour weaknesses so this made me all sorts of happy, especially because the filling was so creamy and so true to what coconut milk tastes like.

Macarons are $2.20 a piece which puts them in the middle price range as macarons in the city go for $1.50 to $3.  The new flavours and bigger sizes took me by surprise in the best way possible and I couldn’t be happier with the changes and additions.  They are fabulous and I am going to have the hardest time staying away.  Between Petit Thuet, La Bamboche, Bobbette & Belle, and other patisseries, I am going to be one very macaron-occupied girl for quite some time!  The last time I was this excited about a food event was last Septemeber during Vegetarian Food Fair and Macaron Day totally lived up to the fun and excitement I was expecting, and then some.  I had some of the most delicious flavours, the funnest time taking photos, and sharing the sweet treat stories with all of you and I can’t wait to do it all again next year now that the event has come to the city.  I hope you all enjoyed the macaron posts these last few days – it’s the beginning of a whole new delicious adventure!    

*****

Petite Thuet serves 3 locations in downtown/midtown Toronto:

  1. 1162 Yonge St. (between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations, on the west side of Yonge St.)
  2. 1 King St. West (at the corner of Yonge and King St.)
  3. 244 King St. East (between Sherbourne and Princess St.)
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Easter Eggs and Springtime Macarons at Patachou Patisserie – Macaron Day Toronto, Part II

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First Macaron Day stop on Ate by Ate: Patachou Patisserie!  Technically, my first stop for the day was La Bamboche but I wanted to show you all the beautiful spring and Easter decorations and delicious baked goods from Patachou first.  I’ve passed by and even been inside Patachou a few times but I’ve never stopped to sit down for a meal.  Coming here yesterday for macarons only strengthened my resolve to come back for a relaxing brunch and lunch sometime in the future because the food and decorations are completely up my alley!  Everything looked so bright, happy, and colourful with vibrant Easter eggs sitting in meringue shells on the counter, beautifully wrapped robin’s egg chocolates sitting on the shelves, and flowers and Easter eggs suspended in the air.  If I can swing it, I definitely want to return for an Easter springtime lunch, complete with more macarons and maybe a sandwich and a pastry or two!  I dream big. 

Patachou is a bustling French bakery and patisserie with everything from cakes, pastries, croissants, quiches, salads, grilled sandwiches, and hot cross buns.  They have a number of baskets by the front where you can pick up some baked goods to go and they have plenty of dine-in seating for that mid-morning coffee drink, noon hour lunch date, and afternoon tea date.  Their macarons are some of the most affordable in the city at $1.50 a piece and they normally have about 6 flavours on hand every day.  Flavours include raspberry, chocolate, vanilla, lemon, and pistachio among others.  You won’t find anything wild and wacky, but what you will find is rock solid flavour and fabulous texture.

Lemon and pistachio macarons are two of my favourites in terms of classics.  I love lemon desserts in general and I fell in love with pistachio after having my giant hockey puck of a macaron from Metro over a year ago!  I love how the macaron shells are nice and thick and so full of flavour here.  The thickness of the macaron shells lends a richness to it that makes every bite and mouthful melt in your mouth and because of the thickness, the macaron stays intact after you bite into and it doesn’t cave in or collapse.  I know macarons are pretty and dainty, but a little durability goes a long way – the last thing you want is the filling to spill out or the macaron shell to fall apart! 

The lemon and pistachio macarons that I had yesterday are two very solid flavours and I’m excited to have their vanilla one sometime.  If you can believe it, I’ve never had a vanilla macaron before, the simplest of all flavours!  I’m always drawn to the really unique combinations and colours and because of that, I never get around to having any of the simple classics, so the vanilla is definitely the next on my list.  I’m really happy that I stopped by yesterday on my macaron tour and hopefully within the next few months I’ll have more food reports from Patachou to share with you all!       

*****

Patachou is located at 1120 Yonge Street between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations in the Rosedale neighbourhood at the corner of Yonge and Macpherson Ave.

The First Annual Macaron Day in Toronto! A Whirlwind Day of Patisseries, and Rainbow Colours & Flavours, Part I

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Happy first day of spring and Macaron Day, everyone!  What a whirlwind of a day it has been.  I have never popped in and out of so many patisseries and macaron shops in one day in my entire life and I have never seen so many instant photos of macarons flying through my Twitter feed since I started my account.  Macaron day had everyone in a tizzy today and it proved to be one of the most fun, memorable food days ever and I am so happy and proud to have been a part of it in my own tiny way.  I promised you all macaron goodies and I’m here to deliver with the goods!  

Since the day I found out about Macaron Day back in February, I cleared my schedule and started mentally planning out how I was going to incorporate all the macaron goodness into my day alongside anniversary plans (3 years!) with my boyfriend.  Nothing was going to interfere with either of these special occasions.  I figured out the perfect solution and executed a plan of attack.  One that required me to get up at the crack of dawn before there was even a glimmer of daylight, but a plan of attack nevertheless.

The plan: 1) choose a neighbourhood and/or area of the city and stick with it, and 2) GET.THERE.EARLY.  As much as I wanted to visit certain locations, I knew it would do me no good setting my sights on shops that were nowhere near each other.  I had to think “cluster” and I had to figure out a logical flow that would fit into my day and my plans.  I so badly wanted to visit the shops on Bayview as I had been wanting to explore the neighbourhood for so long, but it just didn’t jive with what I had in mind for the day, so I sadly had to let those options go (along with a few in the west end) and focus on others. 

While some might have hit the west end or the east end, I chose uptown and midtown Yonge Street as my main destination and one in Cabbagetown because it fit perfectly into the plans my boyfriend and I had.  I hit 4 – count ’em, FOUR! – shops in one easy swoop.  I suppose I could have hit six or seven, but the fact that I even got four in was a feat considering I was aiming for two when I was mulling over my options on Sunday night.  I had so much fun and my boyfriend ended up even more excited about our adventures than me!  The fun and excitement was just contagious.  I ended up visiting La Bamboche, Petit Thuet, Patachou, and Daniel & Daniel.  I felt like I was trick-or-treating for macarons!  At each and every location, I picked up my free macaron and purchased one more.  Knowing a portion of the money was going toward Red Door Family Shelter and enjoying every moment of the whirlwind macaron chase was worth every penny.

Each patisserie had a different way of doing Macaron Day.  Some shops selected one particular flavour to act as “spokesperson” for the special day while others had an assortment to choose from.  All the macarons my boyfriend and I chose were delicious and of the utmost quality and the whole experience made me more excited for future macaron trips.  Visiting all these shops allowed me to see the breadth of flavours available, to talk to staff, and to really embrace the day as a fun and inspiring one.  I was introduced to new and exciting flavours I never knew existed and it made me appreciate the patisseries more just by seeing how they executed Macaron Day in their own unique ways.  I’ll be breaking down my day into a series of posts over the next little while, so in the meantime, enjoy the photos and flavours I managed to snag!  Violet buttercream, strawberry champagne, yuzu chocolate, coconut chocolate, chocolate cherry, peach, lemon, and pistachio!

Today was wonderfully perfect in so many ways.  I was artistically inspired (you can bet I’ll be working on new scrapbook pages with some of the photos I took today, that’s for sure!), I got to contribute to a worthy cause, and I ate some of yummiest macarons the city has to offer.  And my boyfriend and I celebrated our 3-year anniversary on one of the funnest food days of the year on one of the most glorious days of spring.  It couldn’t have worked out better.

*****

For more information on Macaron Day and Macaron Day TO, check out their official website here and for more information the Red Door Family Shelter here in Toronto, click here.

The Heart and Soul of Chinese Dim Sum – Shrimp & Pork Dumplings, Rice Rolls, and Family Gatherings

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It was dim sum weekend here at Ate by Ate headquarters and I’m so excited to share the yummies with all of you today!  Aside from some dumpling photos here and there, I’ve never done a full dim sum post on the blog.  The lack of steamers and Chinese brunch on Ate by Ate is inexcusable considering how much I love dim sum and how it’s been ingrained into my familial and cultural upbringing since childhood, so I thought it was about time I shared some of my favourite dim sum dishes and stories here.  

Dim sum is so special to me because it combines so many of my favourite things all into one big ball of happiness: great food, time spent with my grandparents, and a busy and bustling atmosphere.  I know dim sum might not seem like the most exciting or adventurous thing to those who go out for it often, but it’s a real treat for me and I look forward to dim sum get-togethers and meals each and every single time.  It doesn’t matter that I’ve had dim sum a hundred or even a thousand times over during the course of my life – it’s the feeling I have and the memories that are invoked that mean the most to me.

I love the feeling of walking into the Chinese restaurant that I grew up going to and having the manager and dim sum ladies ask me how I am and lament at how much time has passed since I was a little girl.  I love remembering the times when I would play up my big sister role and grab food for my baby brother and how I still mother him to this day by making sure he has enough to eat (he’s a boy with a bottomless pit of a stomach so I really don’t why I worry about this!).  I love seeing my relationship with my grandparents grow and change over time.  And I love those moments when its just me, my family, and food.  When all the cares in the world go away just for the morning.  When it’s just the six of us.  There’s nothing like it.

To me, dim sum is at its absolute best when it’s delivered via dim sum carts.  I know there are great places that do it the pencil and paper way, but hands down, dim sum struts its stuff from the carts when they make their rounds around the restaurant.  For those who have never experienced dim sum or dim sum in this fashion, this is how it works: Patrons are seated at a table and are asked what type of tea they wish to drink.  Two tea pots are then brought to the table, one with tea and one with hot water to dilute the tea as the meal progresses.  Dishes of food are placed on rolling carts.  Restaurant staff (who are traditionally women) push these carts in and around the aisles and perimeter of the restaurant.  At times they will call out the dishes that are being offered on the cart, but most of the time patrons will see for themselves what the dishes are and request them for their table.

There are two particular styles of dishes that are served.  There are the “small plates” and the meal-size dishes.  Small plates include dumplings (the infamous shrimp ha gow, and pork siu mai, and many others), rice rolls, steamed buns, sticky buns, spring rolls, beef balls, crispy fried taro mounds, and small dishes of things like chicken feet and squid.  Meal size dishes are things like bowls of rice (law mai fan), congee, noodles, and vegetables among others.  After requesting a dish off the cart (of which you can have as many as your table desires), the dim sum lady will make a note on your running paper bill.  Each and every table has one and it is there to keep track of what dishes each table has ordered and how many.  At the end of the meal, the running bill is tallied up to a grand total.

For families and larger groups, dim sum is – excuse my language – a freakin’ awesome deal price-wise.  Each dish size (small, medium, and large) will have a “flat” price that is assigned to all dishes within that size categorization.  For example, small dishes can be assigned to a $2 price point while medium dishes are assigend to, say, $2.50.  Prices will vary depending on day of the week (weekday mornings are slightly cheaper than weekends, which is expected) and the restaurant and part of town.  Many of the small plate dishes come with 3 or 4 of each item so you order for the table accordingly based on how many people there are, how many people anticipating eating that particular dish, and so on.  You can always order again if you decide you want more and you can always ask for a take-out box if you have leftovers.  To put the pricing into perspective, our 6-person table of adults had a total bill of $42, tax included.  And we were all stuffed as we always are after an amazing dim sum meal.

Dim sum is what I like to call, “Chinese style tapas”.  The term “tapas” is sometimes misused when it only refers to the size and portion of food and dishes, when it really incorporates both the concept of small-bites and socializing over food.  And boy is dim sum ever a socializing event!  It is not dim sum unless it is busy, busy, and more busy.  Think line-ups, dishes being delivered and devoured at an alarming speed, and a steady stream of loud chatter ping-ponging from every corner of the restaurant.  While weekday mornings might not always be as busy, noon hour is always a bustling time and weekends are absolute party events.  Most of all, the space in which dim sum is consumed is also the space in which generations merge and collide.  Dim sum is incredibly social in nature and the whole experience is bounded by the belief that food plays a central role in familial and social gatherings.

*****

Photos taken in Scarborough at Very Fair Chinese Restaurant, in Agincourt.  Very Fair Chinese Restaurant is located at 4002 Sheppard Ave. East in the lower level of the complex.

Celebrating Macarons and Supporting Local Charities & Organizations – A Sneak Peek at Macaron Day TO!

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What day is Tuesday, March 20th, 2012?  Macaron Day TO!  A day to spread awareness of social issues and local organizations and causes that matter to the community.  A day to make a difference, if only a small one.  A day to address the needs of those less fortunate.  A day to appreciate and reflect on the many luxuries we have in our lives that are often taken for granted.  And finally, Macaron Day TO is a day to celebrate the dainty, delicate, deliciously sweet Parisian confection that has taken the hearts of foodies, pastry chefs, and sweet tooths by storm all over the world.  Macaron Day is currently an internationally recognized and celebrated event in cities such as Paris and New York* and this year, a number of cities are joining the celebration and cause for the first time in an effort to raise money for local causes. 

Spearheaded by La Bamboche Patisserie, Macaron Day TO 2012 is the first of its kind in the city (along with Macaron Day Vancouver!) with more than 15 bakeries and patisseries across the city taking part in this event!  Sweet shops such as Bobbette & Belle, Daniel & Daniel, Moroco Chocolat, and many others will be providing free macarons on Tuesday, with a portion of additional macaron sales benefiting the Red Door Family Shelter in Toronto.  Twenty-five percent of the funds raised from the event will go toward the Red Door Family Shelter, an emergency housing shelter and organization that provides services and support to the homeless and the domestically abused.  Here’s how Macaron Day works: visit a participating Macaron Day location, say you are celebrating Macaron Day TO, and receive your complimentary macaron while supplies last!  And if you can spare some money, purchase a few to contribute to the cause.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for over a month now and even though I’m unsure of how many patisseries I can visit or get to in time, I’m hoping to make it to at least one or two.  In the meantime, I’m pre-celebrating today by giving everyone a healthy dose of macaron photo love!  The very first photo up top was a photo taken at Ruelo Patisserie’s station at last year’s Food Network Canada’s Delicious Food Show in October, where macarons shared the limelight with cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. 

I recently got the chance to hop on over to their original Richmond Hill location within the Times Square plaza complex by Highway 7 and Leslie St. where I nabbed two delicious flavours.  I’m saving those photos for a future blog post specifically dedicated to Ruelo, but I’ll give you all a hint as to what one of the flavours was: it’s one of the ones pictured in the first photo and it’s a very unique colour.  I promise I won’t keep you guys in suspense for long!  Ruelo is one of the 18 participants in this year’s event, so definitely check out  one of their locations (their other one just opened up near Yonge & Eglinton) if you get the opportunity!

Macarons have gained so much popularity over the last year in the city and you can tell just by looking at the list of participating patisseries and bakeries as well as all the beautiful macarons that were being showcased at the Delicious Food Show last October!  There were macaron towers, macaron sculptures, and macarons sitting in display cases like precious jewels.  While many patisseries in Toronto have clearly embraced these luxurious confections, you can also find them in both Markham and Richmond Hill as well!  We have Old Firehall Confectionery on Main Street Unionville, Ruelo Patisserie in Richmond Hill,and Sugar Tiers in north Markahm.  The flavour combinations of macarons are so creative (lemon thyme!  Crème brûlée!  Wasabi grapefruit!  Lime and honey! Cream cheese orange!) and they’re one of Le Dolci‘s most popular classes, selling out each and every single time. 

And to keep things fresh and fun, more and more patisseries are incorporating macarons into their desserts and in their every day line-up of sweet offerings.  Just think, Nadege Patisserie and Butter Avenue offer small gourmet cakes adorned with mini macarons, macarons are being daintily plunked on top of cupcakes, and wedding cakes?  Try macaron cakes.  They’re bite-sized works of art that are beautiful to look at and delicious to eat, and on Tuesday, March 20th, they’ll be celebrated and nibbled on across the city in support of the Red Door Family Shelter.  Happy early Macaron Day, everyone!  

*****

* = Official Macaron Day TO site.  For more information on Macaron Day and Macaron Day TO, check out their official website here and for more information the Red Door Family Shelter here in Toronto, click here.

Top O’ The Mornin’ To Ya – St. Patrick’s Day and Shepherd’s Pie at the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!  I know this post is coming very late in the day but I hope everyone’s day was filled with fun Irish festivities, food, and – if you enjoy getting a little happy and tipsy – beer!  There were so many food celebrations going on all over the city in different pockets of town and although I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to treat you all to an entire week of St. Patrick’s Day goodies, having one post is better than not having any at all. 

Just so we can keep these ideas and events in mind for next year (because we all know we’ll be in the mood to celebrate!), Short & Sweet Cupcakes and Prairie Girl Bakery had special St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes during the week, Sadie’s Diner had a special St. Patrick’s Day shamrock shake smoothie, and the St. Lawrence Market celebrated the green holiday with a happy-go-lucky market party!  In addition to their March Flavours of the Month (their mint Oreo Mint Everest cupcake and their Irish cream and tres leche Pierce Brosnan one) Short & Sweet had a special “green velvet” cream cheese cupcake adorned with a lucky green clover and Prairie Girl was dishing out Irish cream cupcakes on their luscious dark cocoa cakes.

After doing a truckload of food research for St. Patrick’s Day last year, I jumped on the chance to grab a few Groupon vouchers when they offered a deal for the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill, located at the corner of Yonge and Wellington St.  I was covering my tooshie to make sure I would have a special St. Patrick’s Day post for the blog this year even if I couldn’t make it out to any of the other Irish pubs or restaurants.  Sadly, I didn’t get around to having my Irish breakfast fry weekend brunch this year (again), but I did have some very delicious Irish lamb shepherd’s pie to boot!  Situated in a lovely historic building in the hubbub of downtown Toronto, Irish Embassy Pub & Grill serves a menu that boasts pub classics and hearty Irish meals. 

Thanks to dear friend Breige in Ireland, she coached me and taught everything there was to know about Irish food and cuisine so I was prepared to tease out the pub favourites from the authentic Irish eats!  Aside from the Irish Embassy’s Irish breakfast fry that they serve on the weekends, they serve several dishes that are particularly traditional in their main lunch and dinner menu including a soda bread appetizer, a traditional Irish lamb stew with root vegetables, and a lamb shepherd’s pie.  And no Irish menu would be complete with a few meals made with Irish beer and ale!  Among these dishes are the Guiness pulled pork sandwich, the Guiness braised beef short ribs, and the Kilkenny battered fish and chips.  The menu is divided into three sections with one devoted to appetizers, one to sandwiches, and the last to mains, along with a separate page with a list of lunch specials. 

The pricing isn’t for the faint of heart though!  Had I not had my Groupon, I would have hestiated coming here just because it’s a little out my budget range for lunch.  Based on this first visit I thought the food was wonderful, but if you need to put things in perspective, the pricing doesn’t differ between lunch and dinner menus.  The dinner menu offers a larger selection of appetizers (which sound mouthwateringly scumptious), a larger selection of traditional Irish meals within that portion of the menu, less sandwiches, and the same selection of mains.  Therefore, if you want to get your money’s worth, I’d go for dinner as opposed to lunch because you definitely have to be prepared to pay $15-$20 for your meal either way.

 

After debating between the Irish lamb stew ($17) and the lamb shepherd’s pie ($16), I caved and had the shepherd’s pie because the thought of creamy whipped mashed potatoes over a pot pie was making me salivate.  That, and because I saw four other patrons around me noshing on said shepherd’s pie.  FOUR!  Nothing like a little visual temptation to make my decision for me, no?  I’m no fool – I know good food when I see it.  And my was this shepherd’s pie ever delicious.  After having the shepherd’s pie meal, I understood wholeheartedly why it was such a popular menu item. 

The pie was served in a white cermaic baking dish with a side of mixed green salad with sliced radishes and cucumers and shredded carrots tossed with some of the yummiest olive oil and vinegar dressing I have ever had.  You wouldn’t think a side salad would play such a starring role but it did and it was fabulous.  The shepherd’s pie was made with ground lamb, carrots, peas, and corn with a smooth, whipped layer of garlic mashed potatoes that was beautifully piped on top.  The ground lamb and vegetables were tender, the mashed potatoes were airy and soft, and the best thing about the shepherd’s pie was the flavour and seasoning.  It wasn’t overly salted or seasoned and the ground lamb wasn’t dry or gamey in the least.  The meal is terrific comfort food and a real winner if you’re looking to have something Irish in town.          

Even though Breige swears up and down that Ireland, as a nation, isn’t necessarily celebrated for its food, I was fascinated by all the food traditions and meals she was telling me about and I can’t wait to explore the Irish food scene right in own home in Toronto.  If the rest of the scene is just as delicious as my shepherd’s pie was, it’s going to be one very delightful expedition.  

*****

Irish Embassy Pub & Grill is located at 49 Yonge Street in downtown Toronto at corner of Yonge and Wellington Street East.  The pub is is open for both lunch and dinner during the week and serves Irish brunch during the weekend.

Lentil Lovin’ – Photo Spotlight on Mela Cafe’s Vegan Lentil Pie With Swiss Chard, Cabbage, and Chickpeas

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Eating at my favourite vegetarian cafe never gets old, especially when I’m greeted by new vegetarian and vegan eats each and every time I go.  Thus far, I’ve featured the lasagna, ravioli, curry risotto, stuffed peppers, watercress salad with green beans and chickpeas, breaded eggplant panini sandwich, quinoa salad with cabbage, tomatoes, and parsley, cous cous salad with zucchini and kale, and the ultra special vegan banana cream pie and vegan coconut lime cream tart!  I have to admit, that’s a lot of food.  Those dishes could form an entire menu all on their own! 

Even though this post marks my 8th Mela Cafe post on the blog (and even though I’ve ate my weight in Italian vegetarian and vegan delights), I’ve barely scratched off a quarter of Mela’s Italian, comfort food menu.  For starters, I’ve never had any of Roberto’s soup.  For another, the vegan banana cream pie and coconut lime cream tart are the only desserts I’ve had and I know there is plenty of delicious vegan sugar just waiting to be unearthed for me.  Finally, there are always two or three new mains and/or salads listed on the chalkboard menu that I’ve never seen before, which just fuels my fire to try every dish even more!   

What’s on the menu this time around?  A huge portion of vegan lentil pie bathed in stewed plum tomatoes, chickpeas, shredded red cabbage, and chopped swiss chard!  Aside from the mouthwatering food and sweet company, one of the best things about Mela is its ability to make me stuff my face with specific vegetables I don’t even like!  Cauliflower and cabbage are two of my least favourite vegetables and it’s only been recently (re: Luscious Dips’ edible cabbage and veggie hummus bowls at the Lunchtime Office Markets) that I’ve started warming up to the purplish veggie.  While my mum and brother gorge on coleslaw, I usually opt for something else.  And between cauliflower and broccoli, there’s never a contest.  Cauliflower’s green cousin wins the coveted “I get to be eaten by Deb” title every time.  But lo and behold, I’m scarfing down a stuffed pepper with cauliflower in it and around it (in soup form) and a giant wedge of lentil pie literally dressed in shredded cabbage. 

And it was divine.  The textures were all over the place with the raw, crunchy vegetables on top, the smooth and savoury lentil mash in the middle, and the saucy vegetable purees at the bottom.  It was incredibly filling and hearty (I rolled out of the cafe afterward) and it was like eating extra special mashed potatoes, only they were even more special because they were mashed lentils!  The cabbage and vegetable puree sauce kept the lentil pie from being too starchy and the fresh raw vegetables and chickpeas lightened the entire dish.  It was beautiful to look at (how often do we eat purple food?!), beautiful to eat, and an absolute joy to eat in the company of a new friend I made on this particular day who just happened to order the same thing I did!  Who knew lentil pie could form a friendship? 

*****

Mela Café is located at 7 Yorkville Ave., north of Cumberland St. and just west of Yonge St.  All dishes are either vegetarian or vegan and prices range from $4-$8.50.  They are primarily a lunch cafe during the week, open until around 4:30pm-5pm from Monday to Friday, and with later closing hours on Saturday.  They are closed on Sunday.