The Magical Marriage Between Milk & Cookies (& Ice Cream!) – Moo Milk Bar on Queen East in the Beaches!

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Raise your hand if you love ice cream.  Raise your other hand if you love cookies.  Okay, awesome, you’ll love this post then!  *slaps you two high fives*  I present to you all, Moo Milk Bar on Queen Street East in the Beaches!  Seriously, this sweets and dessert bakery is one of the most fantastical places in the entire city.  If you’ve never been, you have to go.  And if you already have, drool right along with me.  And for those who are skeptics thinking, “well, I can get ice cream and cookies at other places too”, I understand.  Fair enough.  But do those other places offer 16 different kinds of cookies on any given day?  Do those other places offer Banana Chocolate milk?  Strawberry milk?  Caramel milk?  Cinnamon milk?  VANILLA BEAN milk?!  And a few different kinds of ice cream to make ice cream cookie sandwiches with any one of those 16 different kinds of cookies?  Nah, I didn’t think so.  Moo Milk Bar is such a special place because it is devoted to the sweet and innocent, tried and true, childhood staple of milk and cookies,  with the addition and option of ice cream.  Which just makes it all even more amazing than it already is!

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In truth though, I’ve always been in love with milk and cookies on paper and in theory more than I’ve been in love with milk and cookies in actuality.  How can that be?!  You all know how much I adore cookies, eating them and baking them.  There’s never been any question about that.  And I love the concept of milk and cookies so much that I even have an adorable pair of socks with an image of a glass of milk with chocolate chip cookies on the ankles.  But milk?  Eh.  Ever since I was a baby, milk straight up has never sat well with me and it’s not because of lactose intolerance (cheese, yogurt, and ice cream all make my belly feel quite happy), it was just something that I didn’t digest well when I was little and over time, I stopped drinking cow’s milk because it wasn’t enjoyable to drink and primarily just drink almond milk now.  I even developed an allergy to soy milk in my teens.  I couldn’t catch a break.  But Moo Milk Bar has honestly given my aversion to milk a talking-to with all their yummy different flavours.  There’s no reason to be apprehensive about it now because I can try a flavoured milk every once in a while and actually enjoy it!

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Moo Milk Bar, located at 1918 Queen Street East just east of Woodbine Ave. in the Beaches neighbourhood, offers a huge selection of cookies including banana chocolate chip, mocha, red velvet, salted caramel dark chocolate and peanut butter coconut among others ($1.90 each, $11 for half a dozen, $21 for 1 dozen, and $31 for 1 dozen and a half or 18 cookies), milk from Hewitt’s Dairy Farm in Ontario flavoured in-house by bakery staff like the ones I listed at the beginning of the post up top ($3.33 each in a 355 mL milk jug-style bottle), brownies and bars ($3.33 each), ice cream cookie sandwiches ($3.10 for a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between 2 halves of one cookie, and $5 for a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two cookies), milk and cookie combos ($5 for a cookie with a milk), cakes, and cookie gift bags.

It’s a cute and small bakery with baking tools tacked up on the walls, faux picnic grass on parts of the floor, and some side counter space for folks to sit by to stuff their face.  While I would loooove for them to be in Markham (or just closer to me in general), their location really is great because the Beaches is such a walkable neighbourhood and it’s such a nice, fun summertime spot.  You can grab some cookies or a bottle of milk to enjoy during a leisurely stroll, you can grab some some goodies and enjoy them on the beach or at a picnic in the Kew Gardens, or you could come by after a weekend brunch at one of the many Queen East spots for a delicious dessert.

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For the my first Moo Milk Bar experience, I went all out with an ice cream cookie sandwich AND a flavoured milk.  Go big or go home, right?!  I had myself a Cookies n’ Cream cookie with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and vanilla bean flavoured milk and ugh, for the cookie and vanilla loving freak in me, it was PERFECT.  Who wouldn’t love a big and fresh cookie with cold, creamy ice cream and a sweet and delicious drink?

The great thing about it as that it’s not too difficult to handle, even for messy eaters!  You drink your milk from a straw (like a little kid!), the ice cream is dead center so you can work your way in without having to lick drippy ice cream from the edges (or from your fingers) from the get-go, and the milk bottles are capped and portable so you can bring or carry it around with you if you don’t finish it right away (granted, in hot weather it might be a good idea to just finish it in one seating unless you’re planning to bring a mini ice pack along with you while you’re out!).  There are so many possible combinations and so many different ways to mix things up and that’s the beauty of it.  You can be like me and keep it “themed” or you can go wild and try the wackiest of combinations, all in the name of yummy fun.  And that is what Moo Milk Bar is all about, the joy, fun and innocent behind the magical marriage of milk and cookies.

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Moo Milk Bar is located at 1918 Queen Street East just east of Woodbine Ave. in the Beaches neighbourhood.  They are open 6 days a week (closed Mondays): Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm.  You can follow them on Twitter @moomilkbar

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Crazy in Love with Lemon Blueberry Scones! A Visit to Cobs Bread – The Ate by Ate Daily, Vol. 009

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DSCN2331Current obsession: the lemon-blueberry scones from Cobs Bread!  I’ve been going crazy over these since May, to the point where I almost can’t pass them up any time I’m around a Cobs Bread now.  Even my brother, who normally wouldn’t touch a blueberry much less eat one (it’s one of his least favourite fruits) has totally given in to the lemon-blueberry scone love and scarfed a few of these babies down right along with me.  THEY ARE SO DARN YUMMY.  The glaze, the oodles of blueberries bursting from every scone and the sweet and zesty lemon make for delicious teatime snacks and, if you like things sweet in the morning, breakfasts.  Just think, they’d be so perfect paired with the Blueberry Jam tea from David’s Tea or the Lemon Meringue tea from Tealish or any other sweet or citrusy fresh flavours.  You could plan a whole breakfast or tea menu around these lovely pastries, what with blueberry pancakes, lemon tarts, loaf cakes, lemon bars, blueberry oatmeal cookies…I could daydream about this for a long time!  I am a lover of all things lemon, especially lemon desserts, and most blueberry things as well so the two married together in a scone is just heaven in my mouth.

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They’re $1.75 each and I’ve been getting mine from the Annex location just west of Spadina on Bloor Street West but any Cobs Bread location will do.  So far I’ve only tried the lemon-blueberry and cinnamon flavours but my brother has given the thumbs up for the apple butterscotch one and my boyfriend has given a heartfelt, “Mmmm….” for their double chocolate ones so none of us have struck out on any of their scone flavours just yet.  While I love the lemon-blueberry ones to itty bitty pieces, I wouldn’t mind trying their berry white chocolate ones too so we’ll see if I can get my hands on one of them in the near future.  In the meantime, I think I’ll continue drooling over these.

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The Cobs Bread shop in the Annex is located at 370 Bloor Street West several blocks west of Spadina Ave. between Walmer and Dalton Rd.  Visit the Cobs Bread site: http://www.cobsbread.com/local-bakery/my-local-bakery for other locations in and around Toronto and the GTA.

Photo Spotlight on Bun-wiches, Grilled Cheese & More Food at Crème Fraîche Market Cafe!

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Crème Fraîche Market Cafe is a cafe and local food shop located in the west end of Toronto in Annette Village/The Junction neighbourhod at 639 Annette Street.  The shop is just several blocks west of Runnymede Road and south of Dundas Street West.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays), from 8am-8pm.  Visit their official website HERE.

A Photo Spotlight on Luxurious Macaron Bites & Gourmet French Eats at Nadège Patisserie

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Nadège Patisserie is a gourmet food boutique and patisserie specializing in Parisian macarons, French pastries and cakes, and fine chocolates.  They serve two locations in Toronto: 1) 780 Queen Street West beside Trinity Bellwoods Park and 2) 1099 Yonge Street several blocks away from Summerhill subway station, where these particular photos were taken on a rainy Sunday afternoon!  They are open 7 days a week: 8am-8pm Monday to Wednesday, 8am-9pm Thursday and Friday, 8am-8pm Saturday, and 8am-7pm Sunday.

Scones & Strawberry Marshmallow Macarons – Afternoon Tea Treats on a Fall Morning at Yorkville Espresso Bar

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Ste. Anne’s coconut black tea at Yorkville Espresso Bar!

An espresso bar and cafe with amazing tea, delicious scones, and adorable macarons among other afternoon tea-style sweets and treats?  In the picturesque neighbourhood of Yorkville?  That’s a cafe after my own heart!  Yorkville Espresso Bar, located at 3 Yorkville Ave. just west of Yonge Street near the Toronto reference library and just steps away from the Cookbook Store and my beloved Italian-vegetarian Mela Cafe, is a new cafe that just opened up last year and after my very first visit, I think it’s a wonderful and splenderific addition to the neighbourhood.  Brunch, vegetarian, Mexican, ice cream, macarons, Italian, Middle-Eastern, pub classics, and now a new espresso bar and cafe – aside from Kensington Market, Yorkville is truly my ideal place to eat to my heart’s content.

The pretty Yorkville park nearby

I know, there are plenty of cafes in the area including Lettieri and Zaza, not to mention around the city in general, so what makes this space so great?  The thing about cafes is that they have to offer something different, something a little more unique in order to stand out from the others.  Because let’s face it, it’s not like we have to go very far to fetch an Americano, a cappuccino, or an espresso and while yes, every cafe will have their own way of making these drinks, it’s the atmosphere and the food goodies that accompany these drinks that will make us foodies feel compelled to come back for more.  Some cafes offer the comfort factor with plushy seats to relax in while you read, sip, munch, or type away on a laptop (or a tablet, sigh), others are great as meeting spots for friends, and then the are the ones that are fabulous purely for the food and drink.  THIS would be Yorkville Espresso Bar’s forte.

It’s a small space so you wouldn’t necessarily see large groups inhabiting it, but it is cozy enough for you to sit down with a friend and a coffee, tea, and light meal or snack.  And let me just say, Yorkville Espresso Bar is awesomesauce in the food and goodies department.  There is something here for everyone: the sweet tooth, the vegetarian, the gluten-intolerant, and the just plain hungry!  Often times I’ll shy away from certain spots, not because I think their drinks are bad persay, but because I want something a little more special than baked goods wrapped in saran wrap in a basket or baked goods that look as though they just got a shot of steroids and a bath in grease.  That could be the food snob in me tsking but really, it’s unappealing and I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way!

Yorkville Espresso Bar is great though because their selection of food and sweets changes on a pretty consistent basis (from what I gather on their Facebook page where they announce menu items for the day), they’re always coming up with new and unique yummies to showcase, they offer a number of gluten-free menu items (see below in the next few paragraphs for examples!), and you know everything is fresh and hot off the press because the adjoining kitchen studio that handles the baking, cooking, and catering for the espresso bar doles them out throughout the day.  They were already baking their 2nd round of scones at 10am on a Sunday morning because they sold out of their 1st round.   Can you believe it?!

Oh!  And I can’t forget about their tea!  I honking LOVE the tea.  They get their teas from Ste. Anne’s (Ste. Anne’s Extraordinary Teas), which is actually a spa located in several spots in Ontario (Grafton and Port Hope) and the whole concept behind the tea is driven by the relaxing spa experience.  I had their black tea coconut tea with my cinnamon scone and strawberry marshmallow macaron (I KNOW – MARSHMALLOW!) and I loved it to itty bitty pieces.

Their food menu is insane.  Let’s start with the savoury, gluten-free muffins first.  These are items that have graced their display case of goodies over the last few months:

  • sweet potato chocolate chip muffins
  • sweet potato and cranberry muffins
  • carrot and beetroot muffins
  • blueberry flaxseed muffins
  • gluten-free, vegan chocolate zucchini muffins!

Other savoury bites include jalapeno cornbread, brioche with dates, Parmesan, and thyme, 8-year old cheddar and chive scones, and bacon and thyme scones.  Okay, now the sweet stuff including cupcakes, gluten-free sweet muffins, sweet scones, chocolate and confectionery, and more:

  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mango and Nutella frosting and dried mango
  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mango buttercream frosting
  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mocha buttercream frosting
  • mini chocolate berry cheesecake cupcakes

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The Cupcake Connection, Vol. 006 – The Fall Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice Edition!

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October is truly the month of the pumpkin!  With pumpkin breads, pies, tarts (Dufflet owns this one with their famous pumpkin cream tarts!), roasted seeds, soups and the traditional Halloween carving of jack-o-lanterns, there’s no shortage of ways to use this friendly orange fall gourd and vegetable.  Cupcake bakeries across the city are very much in the thick of things, whipping up batches of pumpkin spice, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin and cream cheese frosted cupcakes to celebrate the pumpkin-loving month.
While I love the texture of pumpkin pie filling and the versatility of pumpkin in both sweet and savoury dishes, I really feel that pumpkin cupcakes are one of those love-it-or-hate-it, hit-or-miss type of confections.  It’s just hard to do well!  It’s not hard to give the impression of warmth and comfort or to mimic the flavour of pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice.  Rather, it’s difficult to get the texture of the cake just right.  Even though I haven’t come across a pumpkin cupcake I disliked or thought was incredibly awful per say, I will point out that some have been more forgettable than others.  The misses always seem to manifest themselves in the cake portion of the cupcake, either being too dry and crumbly or much too dense; I want to eat a yummy cupcake not feel like I’m holding a hockey puck!

Mmmm, yummy cinnamon frosting…

I’ve tried 4 pumpkin cupcakes from 4 different bakeries (Bunner’s Bake Shop, Flour Studio, Short & Sweet Cupcakes, and So Into Cupcakes) and my favourite so far has been the moist pumpkin spice cupcake with the soft cinnamon frosting from So Into Cupcakes.  The cake is the softest here and I love the texture of the frosting.  Anything with cinnamon in it and on it is fine by me!  In a close second would be Flour Studio’s pumpkin spice with cream cheese frosting just because I really felt like the cake captured that mild, earthy pumpkin flavour without being too spiced in flavour (you know, the type of flavour that screams, “I’m from a can!”  Even if it is, it shouldn’t be obvious!) and the cream cheese frosting was truly delicious.  I would definitely recommend taking a few bites of cupcake just on its own though to truly get the full effect as the cream cheese frosting can overwhelm the cake.

Pumpkin Spice from Flour Studio!

Decked out for Halloween: Pumpkin Spice at Short & Sweet Cupcakes!

And here I’m going to get on my soapbox: I’m never going to stop wishing for a cupcake that has pumpkin frosting!  Cake is wonderful, yes, but I also want to see (and taste!) a cupcake topped with pumpkin frosting, just to switch things up and to try something new and different since we’re pretty accustomed to pumpkin cakes with vanilla or cream cheese frosting.  Something like a pumpkin mousse frosting would be fabulous, or a thick, creamy pumpkin frosting swirled with vanilla and sprinkled with graham crumbs!  I can dream.

Regardless, there are just as many pumpkin cupcakes that do taste great and it’ll be my mission to get to as many as possible before the season is over.  There are plenty of options (including vegan ones!) to choose from to figure out which one(s) take home the crown of most delectable pumpkin cupcake.

Bunners Bake Shop’s vegan pumpkin cupcake with their famous vanilla frosting!

Seasonal pumpkin cupcake goodies from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky!

  • Bobbette & Belle, 1121 Queen Street East: Pumpkin  ($2.95) – pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting.  Seasonal flavour, daily rotation; call ahead to ask (416-466-8800).
  • Bunners Bake Shop, 3054 Dundas Street West in the Junction, just west of High Park Ave.: Pumpkin ($3.25) – vegan pumpkin cupcake topped with their premium vegan vanilla frosting and a pumpkin seed.  Seasonal flavour; daily rotation; call ahead and ask (647-352-2975).
  • Desmond & Beatrice, 750 Queen Street East: Pumpkin Spice ($2.75) – pumpkin spice cake swirled with a brown sugar cream cheese frosting.  Seasonal flavour, daily rotation; call ahead to ask (647-352-2257).
  • Flour Studio, 883 Eglinton Ave. West: Pumpkin Spice ($3) – pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, sprinkled with nutmeg.  Seasonal flavour, daily rotation; call ahead to ask (416-789-0222).
  • For the Love of Cake, 171 East Liberty St. #117: Pumpkin Pie ($3) – pumpkin spice cupcake topped with fresh whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg.  Seasonal flavour, daily flavour; call ahead to ask (416-306-6446)
  • Short & Sweet Cupcakes,1945 Avenue Road: Pumpkin Spice ($2.90) – pumpkin spice cupcake with cream cheese frosting.  Available during the month of October as their Flavour of the Month.
  • So Into Cupcakes, 2060 Ellesmere Road: Pumpkin Spice ($2.50 for regular size, $1.50 for mini) – pumpkin cupcake topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  Seasonal flavour, available during the month of October.
  • The Wedding Cake Shoppe, 859 College Street: Pumpkin Pie ($2.65) – pumpkin pie with buttercream frosting and pumpkin candy garnish.  Seasonal flavour, daily rotation; call ahead to ask (416-916-2253).
  • Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, 287 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market: Pumpkin – pumpkin cake with frosting and a pumpkin-shaped chocolate garnish sweet treat on top.  Seasonal flavour, call ahead to ask: (416-236-7585)
  • Yummy Stuff, 1660 Queen Street West in Parkdale: Pumpkin ($2.75) – pumpkin cupcake with brown butter frosting and candied nut topping.  Seasonal flavour, available during the month of October.

Sweet Summer Indulgences – Lemon Meringue Ice Cream & Birthday Cookie Sandwiches at Bakerbots, Part II!

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Power on…initiating dessert assembly…all sweet systems go.  Brace yourself because Bakerbots is set to invade and take over your heart and sweet tooth!  Cakes, pies, tarts, macarons, cupcakes, biscotti, cookies, ice cream, ice cream cookie sandwiches; THIS is the place to eat your weight in sugar!  I have wanted to make a Bakerbots post for so long but I wanted to wait until I had something a little more substantial than a bowl of burnt marshmallow ice cream to show you all!  I honestly don’t even remember how I found out about Bakerbots.  All I remember is, I found about this glorious dessert haven soon after it opened a little more than a year ago at the beginning of last summer and was living vicariously through my friend Wini who had already been there several times before I had even made my first visit! 

When Bakerbots first opened its bakery doors last year in 2011 in Bloorcourt Village on Delaware Ave., their hours were strictly weekends only and evening hours during the latter part of the week.  And given how my schedule at the time still followed a very regimented daytime weekday routine, I never got around to trying any of their amazing desserts until many months later.  Now that my schedule has done a complete 180 (weekdays are pretty much a write-off now!), I can skip on over to Bakerbots whenever I want and it feels amazing! 

There is so much to love about Bakerbots Baking: their selection, their quality of desserts, their aesthetic, and their niche.  First off, I think Bakerbots fills a much-needed void in our city.  We have cupcakeries.  We have ice cream parlours.  Heck, we even have some teahouses and dessert sit-down spots.  But aside from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky and Sweet Bliss Baking Company, there aren’t very many spots that offer this type of homemade, from-scratch selection. 

Sometimes you just feel like a slice of pie.  Or a piece of cake with some ice cream.  Sometimes you just want to go to a place where you know there’s going to be something to suit your every mood, your every craving.  A place where you don’t have to dine-in and have a server wait on you.  A place that has a little picnic table out front and a little bench and a table inside in case you do want to stay and enjoy your treat.  A place that’s sunny and bright and fun and happy.  And while they don’t focus on things like donuts or truffles, they cover such a wide spectrum of dessert you don’t even have the heart to care, not when the sweets are as good as theirs and not when the menu and selection are constantly evolving, keeping things fresh and interesting all the time.  

Bakerbots is the place to be if you want to throw caution to the wind and have yourself a dessert meal.  Have you ever blown off the usual savoury lunch or dinner in favour of a dessert meal?  You know, instead of having soup and sandwiches or pasta and veggies or meat and potatoes, you go out and opt for a nice big ice cream sundae or a plate of dessert crepes and waffles or a slice of cake with ice cream and treat it as your meal.  I have and it is always SO MUCH FUN when I do.  As much as I love the idea of it though, I don’t do it often.  I want to, but I just don’t because it’s just not healthy on a regular basis!  But when I do go for it maybe once or twice a year?  Bakerbots is what I would want at my beck and call. 

Their prices are reasonable (very typical for both small and large desserts, coming at around $1.50-$3 for smaller items like single giant cookies and cupcakes, and $3-$5 for larger items like their giant ice cream cookie sandwiches, cake and pie slices, and more), their portions are big (monstrous is the only word that is adequate enough to describe their ice cream cookie sandwiches), and there are so many different flavours of everything!

Their ice cream is courtesy of Ed’s Real Scoop and they rotate what they have on hand on a regular basis, based on the types of desserts they bake every day, seasonal flavours, and the types of flavours that mesh really well together.  The big ticket at Bakerbots is the giant ice cream cookie sandwiches ($4-$6 based on whether you get a half or a whole) and on their big menu chalkboard, they always list the ice cream flavours that are available for the day (espresso,dark chocolate, French mint, cinnamon, burnt marshmallow, raspberry, sweet cream, burnt toffee, and lemon meringue just to rattle off a handful!), the types of cookies that are figuratively in the cookie jar (The Evertything Birthday, ginger molasses, peanut butter, fudgy cocoa), and the pairings that the staff thinks would kick butt. 

  The great thing about the ice cream cookie sandwiches at Bakerbots is that you can either have a whole one or a half and you can also choose a staff-pick combination or go all out and combine whatever ice cream you want with whatever cookie you want!  I opted for a half (and no, I wasn’t being a dessert wimp – I was here after weekend brunch!) using an Everything Birthday cookie (nothing wrong with continuing the birthday festivities in my book!) with lemon meringue-a-tang ice cream!              

Holy mother of pearl.  I now know why everyone goes bat apeing crazy over Bakerbots’ ice cream cookie sandwiches; they are beyond huge and they are fantastic!  My half sandwich was the size of a brick, it was so super thick, and it was so, so yummy.  The lemon meringue ice cream is so fruity and citrusy and creamy with a hint of vanilla with lots of punchy lemon flavour and the Evertything Birthday is such a fun cookie.  It’s sweet like warm vanilla and it’s exactly what you would expect of an aweome chewy sugar cookie with sprinkles!

And the other amazing thing about the ice cream cookie sandwich?  It doesn’t melt into a goopy mess!  I mean, yes, it’s ice cream and it does melt eventually, but it’s made in such a way that it stays frozen for a good portion of time so that you can actually enjoy the body of it and the taste of cookie with ice cream without having to rush through it for fear of it melting all over the place.  The cookies, while chewy, are so nice and sturdy so you don’t have to worry about it crumbling or getting soggy because of the ice cream.  It’s remarkable!  And this is only the beginning, everyone.  I have a scrapbook layout all planned out for Bakerbots, I’m already looking forward to my next visit, and we’ll see how many different types of dessert I’ll have posted from here by the end of the year! 

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Bakerbots is located at 205 Delaware Ave by Ossington subway station, nearest major intersection being Bloor Street West and Ossington Ave. in Bloorcourt Village.  Bakerbots specializes in all things sweet with desserts and baked goods being churned out by the truckload!  They are part bakery, part design studio, part ice cream parlour, and full on dessert emporium!  Their hours of operation: Tuesday-Thursday, 6pm-10pm (ice cream treats only); Friday, 4pm-11pm; Saturday, 11am-11pm; Sunday, 11am-10pm.  You can visit their site HERE.