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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sweet Month of Pastry, Cupcake, Truffle, Pie and Macaron Classes at Le Dolci!

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Valentine’s Day Chocolate Truffle Making at Le Dolci, February 8.  7pm-9pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  What better way to celebrate love and romance than with chocolate?  Create rich, decadent chocolate ganache truffles and dust and sprinkle your way through luxurious truffle heaven using cocoa, coconut, sprinkles, drizzles and more.  Learn how to use proper hand rolling techniques as well as developing your own recipes and flavourings!  http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Valentine’s Day Cupcake Decorating at Le Dolci, February 9.  3pm-5pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Get the creative juices and sweet teeth going as you decorate a dozen delicious vanilla cupcakes to take home!  Use fondant, buttercream frosting, stencils, special cutters and professional tools to create glittery hearts, bows, roses and more!  http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Valentine’s Day Cookie Decorating Techniques at Le Dolci, February 10.  12pm-2pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  At this class, learn how to work with royal icing and master piping and icing techniques including flooding, flocking, and marbleizing!  Decorate sweet sugar cookies with flourishing hearts, cupid wings, roses, flowers, and more. http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

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Valentine’s Day Afternoon Tea at Le Dolci, February 10.  3:30pm-5:30pm.  1006 Dundas Street West. $35 +HST/person.  It’s pinkies up at this special afternoon tea and sweets session at Le Dolci!  If you love all things dessert and tea, this is for you.  This afternoon tea will include tea sandwiches, scones, tea, and a boundless array of sweets and nibbles!  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Mastering Choux Pastry at Le Dolci, February 13.  7pm-9pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Calling all dessert and pastry lovers!  This sweet class tackles the ins and outs of classic pastries such as eclairs, profiteroles, and cream puffs.  Learn about dough making and baking techniques, and how to create fillings and glazes such as chocolate ganache, cream and more.  http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Valentine’s Day Cupcake Decorating with Champagne at Le Dolci, February 14.  6:30pm-8:30pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $90 +HST/person. Skip the crazy line-ups and hectic atmospheres and head over to Le Dolci for Valentine’s Day cupcake decorating and champagne instead!  Make it a fun one with a friend or a romantic one with your significant other as you pipe, frosting, and sip the evening away!  http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

PA Day Fun!  Introduction to Cupcake Decorating at Le Dolci, February 15.  1pm-3pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $40 +HST/person.  What better way to enjoy a Friday off from school than to get the creative juices and sweet teeth going as you decorate a dozen delicious vanilla cupcakes to take home!  Use fondant, buttercream frosting, and special cutters and professional tools to create flowers, animals, swirls, and whatever your heart desires!  http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

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Perfect Parisian Macarons at Le Dolci, February 17.  1pm-3pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Join Le Dolci’s team and other sweet tooths in this introductory class to macaron making heaven.  Learn about macaron ingredients, how to properly mix macaron batter, piping techniques, and bake your very own delicate macaron shells along with mouthwatering fillings!  http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Family Day Drop in Decorating Afternoon at Le Dolci, February 18.  1pm-5pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $10 +HST/person.  TBA.  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Perfect Pies at Le Dolci, February 20.  7pm-9pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $55 +HST/person.  Don’t be intimidated by the art of the homemade pie and pie crust – Michelle from the Parkdale Pie Princess teams up with Le Dolci to show you how at this introduction to pie making class!  Learn how to make a great pie crust from scratch, use fresh fruit to make filling, and take home a pie and recipes!  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Introduction to Cupcake Decorating at Le Dolci, February 23.  10am-12pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Get the creative juices and sweet teeth going as you decorate a dozen delicious vanilla cupcakes to take home!  Use fondant, buttercream frosting, stencils, special cutters and professional tools to create flowers, animals, bows and more!  http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

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Introduction to Cupcake Decorating at Le Dolci, February 23.  10am-12pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Get the creative juices and sweet teeth going as you decorate a dozen delicious vanilla cupcakes to take home!  Use fondant, buttercream frosting, stencils, special cutters and professional tools to create flowers, animals, bows and more!  http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Sugar Flower Artistry at Le Dolci, February 23.  1pm-3pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Break out your inner intricate artist at this special advanced sugar artistry class!  Learn how to work with mediums such as sugar paste to create gorgeous flowers that you can adorn on cupcakes, cakes, and sweet tables.  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Designer Cupcake Decorating at Le Dolci, February 24.  3pm-5pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Walk the runway in true fashionable cupcake style!  In this introduction to cupcake decorating class, learn how to make stylish Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags, Tiffany jewelry, and more with professional cupcake decorating tools, fondant, and frosting.  Be the sweetest, most stylish fashionista when you walk out of the student with 12 beautifully decorated vanilla cupcakes!  http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Tea, Vegan Sweets, Supper Clubs & Valentine’s Love – The Sweet & Delicious Month of February!

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I’m still here, everyone!  I know I’ve been MIA for the past month but rest assured, I am coming back and I have a lot to share with you all!  First things first though: February Food Calendar!  I am still adding stuff to this but I wanted to get at least the food fests up and running as this first weekend of February is jam-packed with amazing stuff!  We’re talking the 1st Toronto Tea Festival, the 2nd annual Leslieville Farmers’ Market Souper-Bowl, and what will most likely be another crazy turnout for this year’s Vegan Bake-Off!  Get ready folks, February is going to be a sweet and delicious month!

Food Festivals & Events

Toronto Winterlicious 2013, January 25 – February 7.  Across the City of Toronto.  $15-$45 price-fixe price points.  The highly anticipated food event of the season!  Restaurants all across the city participate in this annual fine wining and dining occasion, offering 3-course price fixe menus for lunch and dinner.  All menus can be viewed online (perfect for the ones who are indecisive and/or just enjoy planning ahead!), most vegetarian and vegan options are specified, and reservations are recommended.  http://www.toronto.ca/special_events/winterlicious/2013/

Italian Culinary Battle at Terroni Restaurant, February 1.  8pm-11:30pm.  57 Adelaide Street West at Terroni Restaurant.  $100/person ($85 for L’Altra Italia members).  It’s going be a culinary evening to remember!  Organized by L’Altra Italia, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to showcasing Italian arts and culture and creating and maintaining Canadian and Italian relationships through events.  Enjoy an Italian feast filled with authentic dishes and wine while watching two executive chefs go head-to-head with dinner and wine menus filled with eggplant parmigiana, orecchiette, rigatoni, lamb stew with pecorino, and plenty of wine!  http://laltraitalia.org/blog/home/tavola-con-laltra-italia/

Toronto Tea Festival, February 2.  10am-5pm.  789 Yonge Street in the Appel Saloon on the 2nd floor of the Toronto Reference Library.  $15/person on-site.  Being an avid tea drinker and lover of tea has never been more fun and engaging!  Join other tea aficionados at this festival devoted to all things tea!  Purchase accessories, sample hundreds of tea, take part in workshops and demos, sit in on tea seminars, learn about tea and culture, art, cooking, and so much more!  http://teafestivaltoronto.com/

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5th Annual Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off, February 2.  2pm-4:30pm.  750 Spadina Ave. at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre.  $8/person.  Price of ticket includes admission for one, two plates of delicious vegan treats with voting ballots to choose the winners of all the different categories, and soymilk.  One ticket per person; buy up to 4 for you and 3 others.  Tickets are purchased through Paypal and tickets MUST be printed out and brought to the event.

Get ready for one of the city’s BIGGEST food events of the year!  Bakers, bake shop owners, and vegan culinary giants come together for this sweet treat event devoted to all things yummy, creamy, crunchy, decadent, baked and vegan!  Participants compete in a number of different categories to win your heart and votes.  Indulge in your sample plates (categories are first come, first serve so show up EARLY!), vote for your favourites and take part in one very fun and crazy delicious event!  http://bakeoff.veg.ca/#&panel1-3

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Leslieville Farmers’ Market 2nd Annual Souper-Bowl, February 3.  10am-3pm.  1001 Eastern Ave.  Pay-what-you-can donations; please bring your own bowls/jars and utensils.  Le Papillion on the Park teams up with Leslieville Farmers’ Market for their 2nd French onion soup extravaganza!  In an effort to raise funds for market expenses and support, this winter warm-up soup event is the perfect time to meet fellow market go-ers, soup lovers and foodies in and around the community, and of course to get revved up for the big game later on in the evening!  http://leslievillemarket.com/souper-bowl-2013/

Trinity Bellwoods Chocolate Tour by Tasty Tours, February 3.  3pm-5:30pm.  Trinity Bellwoods Park and surrounding area (specific starting point and address information is provided upon tour booking).  $35/adult, $15/child age 7-12 (children under 7 are free but please note that treats are not provided for children under 7).  The Tasty Tours crew has been expanding their foodie tour options and chocolate just happens to be one of them!  Explore sweet treat shops and chocolatiers around the Trinity Bellwoods area (Queen Street, King Street, Ossington Ave. and more), sample plenty of delicious chocolate, and receive discounts from participating merchants.  http://www.tastytourstoronto.com/bookatour2.php

Winter Grilling with Executive Chef Rob Rainford – Winterlicious, February 3.  4:30pm-9:30pm.  50 Prince Edward Island Crescent at Gossip Restaurant.  $120 + HST and gratuity/person.  As part of the Winterlicious culinary event lineup, hometown Canadian chef and Food Network star Robert Rainford shows you the ins and outs of winter grilling with a global inspired menu!  The succulent menu includes brandy-butter infused grilled beef tenderloin, bacon-wrapped chicken chops, Thai-style BBQ beef flank steak with noodles, seared tuna, and more!  http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaurants.nsf/CEvents/0819B492ECAC529985257AC400809821?OpenDocument

In The Kitchen: Historic Menu, History-Inspired Theatre – Winterlicious, February 4, 6 and 7.  6pm-9pm.  160 Queen Street West at the Campbell House Museum.  $65 + gratuity/person.  Turn back the hands of time at this Winterlicious culinary event!  Dine as you would in the 1800s in the Campbell House Museum’s open-hearth historic kitchen with period cocktails and a 3-course dinner menu, served family style created by food historian Liz Driver: soup, roast chicken, sides, wine, dessert and seed cake.  Then, sit back and enjoy a theatre show in commemoration of the War of 1812.  http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaurants.nsf/CEvents/E2C2A71B89DEFA8985257AC4007FF998?OpenDocument

Hal’s Kitchen What’s Burning – Winterlicious, February 7.  6:30pm-10:30pm.  2026 Yonge Street at Mysteriously Yours…Mystery Dinner Theatre.  $69 including HST and gratuity.  Mix fine food and foul play at this fun and extravagant mystery dinner theatre show as part of the Winterlicious culinary event lineup!  Chefs team up to prepare a Latin-inspired 4-course dinner menu with cocktails that guests will enjoy as they figure out ‘whodunit?!’.  http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaurants.nsf/CEvents/30527D0585249CBC85257AC4008154A7?OpenDocument

Parisian Pleasures – Winterlicious, February 7.  6pm-8pm.  425 King Street West at the Calphalon Culinary Center.  $60 including HST/person.  As part of the Winterlicious culinary event line-up, Parisian Pleasures will entice the tastebuds with classic French Parisian bistro fare that will make you feel like you’re dining in Paris!  Enjoy a cooking demo and a menu of endive salad with grilled pear and Roquefort cheese (sheep’s milk blue cheese from southern France), steak with green peppercorn sauce, haricots vert provençal (French green beans), fingerling potatoes and crème brûlée!  http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaurants.nsf/CEvents/6D69A114368A4BC685257AC4007F3492?OpenDocument

Small Luxuries by Emily Zimmerman – A Rusholme Park Supper Club at The Depanneur, February 9.  4:30pm. 1033 College Street.  $40 +HST/person.  Join Depanneur fixture, chef Emily Zimmerman, for a Canadian winter vegan meal to brighten up those winter blahs!  Emily shows us how to turn what little fresh produce we have, our “small luxuries”, during these bleak winter months into something vegan, delicious, healthy and fantastic!  Menu will include chickpea, celery root and watercress soup, fresh baked olive bread, grilled leeks and onions, veggie “meatballs” in hearty romanesco sauce, creamy orange gelato, and more!  http://thedepanneur.ca/event/supper-club-small-luxuries-by-emily-zimmerman/

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Red & White Valentine by Robert Rubino – A Rusholme Park Supper Club at The Depanneur, February 10.  7:30pm. 1033 College Street.  $40 +HST/person.  Get those heart rates pumping and cheeks a flushin’ with this Valentine’s supper club at The Depanneur!  Hosted by chef Robert Rubino, a Toronto native and Culinary Institute of America alum who’s travelled and cooked around the globe in Italy, France, and Argentina, the menu will include seductive offerings such as avocadoes and oysters, “love letters” stuffed with ricotta, swiss chard, and sweet garlic cream, red velvet cake, and much more!  http://thedepanneur.ca/event/supper-club-red-white-valentine-by-robert-rubino/

Valentine Candy-Making Family Workshop, February 10.  1pm-4pm.  67 Pottery Road at Todmorden Mills Heritage Site.  $20 +HST/person; $15 +HST/child over 6.  Event for those ages 6 and up.  Travel back in time at this sugary sweet event full of candy and chocolate-making!  Learn historic and old-fashioned candy-making techniques, get hands-on experience in the historic kitchen and more!  http://www.toronto.ca/culture/museums/featured-events.htm#todmorden

Valentine’s Day Sweets & Chocolate Tour by Tasty Tours, February 10.  11:30am-1:30pm and 2pm-4pm.  321 Spadina Ave. at Ding Dong Bakery.  $30/person.  Forget the flowers; it’s all about the sweets and treats on Valentine’s Day!  Join the Tasty Tours crew for this special Valentine’s Day love edition full of desserts, samples, and sweet treat shop exploring in and around Kensington Market!  Participants will explore 6 shops, taste samples, get special discounts from participating merchants and more.  http://www.tastytourstoronto.com/bookatour2.php

From Burgundy to Bordeaux: The Fine Wines of France at Bata Shoe Museum, February 13.  7pm-10pm.  327 Bloor Street West at the Bata Shoe Museum.  $95/person, $170/couple.  Sip and savour your way through the French countryside at this special evening of wine tasting and food pairings!  Inspired by the BSM’s Roger Vivier: Process to Perfection collection and exhibit, the event takes you to France with a tasting of 5 different wines with pairings – perfect for the wine lover and avid traveller!  http://www.batashoemuseum.ca/events/index.shtml

Vive Le Dépbec Libre! by Arthur Hill – A Rusholme Park Supper Club at The Depanneur, February 17.  7:30pm. 1033 College Street.  $40 +HST/person.  This supper club event is an ode to Quebecois cuisine and culture.  Hosted by Chef Arthur Hill, Hill fuses history and tradition with flavour and culinary flair with a dazzling menu: carrot and brown butter soup with winter green pesto, confit pork shoulder (you cannot celebrate Quebecois without pork!) with braised mustard Savoy cabbage, and to end the evening on a sweet note, a traditional Quebecois dessert,  ‘Pouding chômeur’ with crème fraîche chantilly.  http://thedepanneur.ca/event/supper-club-vive-le-depbec-libre-by-arthur-hill/

Butter Love with Lauren Eden Jones – A Rusholme Park Supper Club at The Depanneur, February 23.  7:30pm. 1033 College Street.  $40 +HST/person.  Let’s be honest: many of us have a soft spot for all things warm and buttery.  Chef Lauren Eden Jones shines a spotlight on this culinary staple and showcases it in dazzling 3-course feast: butterfish gravlax on brioche toasts,  Côte de Boeuf (ribsteak) with leeky butterbeans, buttery butternut squash mash and buttered greens, and classic butter tarts with poached apricots and brandy butter.  http://thedepanneur.ca/event/supper-club-butter-love-with-lauren-eden-jones/

Mad for Marmalade, Crazy for Citron! at Fort York National Historic Site, February 23.  10am-4pm.  250 Fort York Boulevard.  $50/person +HST.  In association with the Culinary Historians of Canada, this annual celebration of marmalade (in its 4th year!) incorporates everything jam, jelly, and preserve in marmalade workshops, tastings, and a special lunch.  In addition, witness the Marmalade Competition and tour the Fort York historic grounds during the event.  http://www.toronto.ca/culture/museums/featured-events.htm#fort

Recipe for Change, February 28.  6pm-9pm.  92 Front Street East at St. Lawrence Market North.  $125/person.  Presented by FoodShare, Recipe for Change is an annual culinary event of gastronomical proportions!  Toronto chefs come together to present this evening of food, wine, and local beer in support of FoodShare’s many programs promoting food literacy, food security, education, health and well-being, and so much more.  Indulge in this fantasy food land with an abundance of sample plates, gourmet food, and beverage pairings!  http://www.foodshare.net/recipeforchange

Once Upon a Tea – A Romantic Tea of Scones & Nibbles For Valentine’s at the Windsor Arms Hotel, Part II

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Crisp white tablecloths, engraved and monogrammed silverware, a doorman opening the grand front door, lush tea rooms, and majestic crystal chandeliers.  If the Windsor Arms Hotel makes me feel like a princess, their afternoon tea is a model of royal treatment.  After the doorman let myself and my boyfriend in, I was in awe.  It wasn’t my first time at the hotel, but I was clearly seeing the hotel lobby and even other parts of the hotel with fresh eyes.  There were lush green palms in the lobby, a gorgeous, gigantic chandelier hanging  from the high ceiling, and a beautiful balcony view of the lobby and banquet hall courtyard cafe from the 2nd floor of the hotel.  I was so thrilled to be here again and I was ready to sit down to a beautiful tea full of tea sandwiches, scones, petit fours, and copious amounts of sweet tea.

I was beyond excited when I decided to go to my first afternoon tea here for Toronto’s Chocolate Festival back in 2010 and I was even more delighted with the prospect of going back for Valentine’s this month.  Not only was I looking forward to doing something sweet and romantic (and not to mention delicious) for the occasion of hearts and cupids, but after visiting the Windsor Arms tea menu page I was ecstatic to find out there were new nibbles!  I would have been happy receiving the same selection of tea sandwiches and such from the time before, but you know how I feel about new menu items.  The full afternoon tea comes with a selection of tea from their tea menu, cream, jam and preserves, scones, tea sandwiches, a mini goat cheese and caramelized shallot puff pastry tarts, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, and petit four desserts.

The menu of tea sandwiches this time around featured a mix of smoked salmon with wasabi sour cream and salmon caviar, cucumber with sundried tomato paste and dill cream cheese, and grilled chicken with granny smith apples, citrus mayo, greek yogurt, and chives.  As much as I wanted to inhale the sandwiches with grilled chicken, my allergy to raw apples (and my boyfriend’s throat tickle to raw apples didn’t help the cause either) deterred me so I kindly told the server about this and asked if we could either omit the apples in it or substitute it with something else and our server informed us that he would give us more of the other two types, which was perfectly fine with us.  The salmon lovers in us rejoiced!

The entire afternoon tea was fabulous, but what really blew me away was their selection of tea this time!  When we were given the tea menu, I flipped it open and was astonished to find pages of tea choices!  Not all of their teas are listed on the website so I was taken by surprise in the best way possible.  Green tea, white tea, rooibos, the possibilities went on for pages.  Windsor Arms had expanded their tea selection ten-fold and I was rapidly reading through loose leaf tea descriptions in an effort to choose one for to enjoy with my food.

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Say It With Chocolate – Celebrating Valentine’s Day With M&M Goodies and Heart-Shaped Tins!

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It’s the night of Valentine’s and as I am writing this, I am sitting on my couch wrapped in my fuzzy red blanket, quietly reminiscing about Valentine’s past and the fun and sweet Valentine’s memories I made today and over the past week.  Decked out in dangly heart earrings, heart printed socks, and my little red jacket, I spent the day with my other half where we enjoyed heart shaped veggie pizza, cookies and cream Hershey Kisses, and dvd episodes of Big Bang Theory.  A day of love and fun much like any other, but special, loving, and heartfelt nonetheless.  Valentine’s Day is quite the commercial occasion, yes, but it’s also a day to acknowledge and reflect on love in all its beautiful forms.  It’s a day to have fun and a day to remind all of us of all the people, pets, and things in our life that warm our hearts and bring us joy. 

In that vein, humour me while I rattle off some reasons why I love Valentine’s:

  1. everything is decked out in red, pink, and white (and the occasional purple)
  2. everything is printed with cute hearts
  3. Valentine’s restaurant menus are fun to look at (not so much fun to pay for, but fun in a creative and thematic way!)
  4. Valentine’s themed accessories and jewelry fit effortlessly into my wardrobe (I wear heart necklaces and earrings, and both my rainbow and hot pink-and-gray heart printed argyle socks all year round)
  5. Valentine’s themed stationery, kitchen, home decor, and baking accessories are too darling not to love
  6. the classic “I Choo-Choo-Choose You” Simpsons episode is one of the best things to ever grace cartoon television
  7. kiddie Valentine’s in general (don’t tell me you never gave your friends and classmates Lion King, Disney Princess, Looney Tunes, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Spiderman, Animanics, Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty, and/or Casper the Friendly Ghost valentine cards!)
  8. my best friend, who’s a kindergarten teacher, gets to celebrate Valentine’s with her little ones in kindergarten party fashion complete with crafts, edible goodies, and the quintessential paper baggy card exchange
  9. Valentine’s desserts.  Enough said.
  10. it is yet another occasion ridiculously devoted to chocolate!  Unless you are like my best friend and allergic, this works in your favour. 

And it is here that I will focus on Reason #10.  Everyone is a different type of Valentine’s candy person.  Some get giddy over the cheesy conversation hearts while others will enjoy the bright red spicy cinnamon hearts by the fistful.  Then there are the chocolate enthusiasts.  You know who you are.  The ones who will scarf down an entire box in one night, or the folks who show up at the shops first thing in the morning on February 15th, ready to roll with a shopping basket and a thirst (or rather, appetite) for chocolate on sale.  In those chocolicious moments, the whole world is right.  For some, there is no better way to express love than saying it with chocolate. 

I fall under the second category.  The culprits?  Cookies and cream Hershey Kisses and any and all M&Ms.  You are all aware of my love affair with M&Ms and the pride and joy that is my M&M tin collection!  Imagine my happy dance then when I found a brand new, heart-shaped M&Ms candy tin for Valentine’s Day!  With my favourite green girl M&M on it!  In my chocolate universe, it doesn’t get any better than that.  I know chocolate sales are ubiquitous the day after Valentine’s, but I’ve been through many heartbreaking situations in my life where I would hem and haw about an item, wistfully walk away for the time being, and come back to it only to find it gone.  It’s an awful habit of mine and given how dearly beloved these M&Ms tins are to me, there was no way I was about to take that chance again.  Especially considering they were only available at Pharma Plus drug stores!

In addition to the heart-shaped tin and the coconut M&Ms I love so much, I found myself mint dark chocolate ones too!  After paying a visit to Yonge Market a few weeks ago (where I found the coconut M&Ms at their least expensive last summer – only $0.99 a bag!) and finding out they didn’t have any of the coconut ones, I made my way back to Uncle John’s Candy Shack on Mount Pleasant Rd.  I picked up a baggy of coconut M&Ms and was absolutely ecstatic when I found out they had new mint dark chocolate ones! 

I’ve been so jealous of my American counterparts who have special flavours like strawberry and raspberry, so it felt so nice to find a new flavour I had never encountered before.  They’re $1.49/bag and although the price has gone up by $0.10 since last summer, it’s still less expensive than several other candy shops around the city who sell them for $1.59, $1.79, and even for $1.99!  I am dying to rip open all my M&M candy packages and devour all the goodness inside, but part of me really wants to save them to use for cookies.  Who knew Valentine’s could put me in such a chocolate predicament?  If I bake them in cookies, you will see them and hear about them.  If I eat them all, you’ll just see a very happy me.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone, from my heart to yours!

*****

Uncle John’s Candy Shack is located at 635 Mount Pleasant Rd. between Eglinton and Davisville Ave., just north of Manor Rd.

Mountains of Pink Frosting and Red Roses – Slow-Dancing With ‘Lady in Red’, and Valentine’s at Short & Sweet!

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Fluffy mountains of pink frosting, bright red rosettes, heart shaped sprinkles and decorations adorning every corner and surface, and the intoxicating smell of fresh baked cupcakes that smell and taste like sweet spun sugar.  It’s Valentine’s pandemonium at Short & Sweet Cupcakes!  Having sorely missed out on the holiday festivities back in December (I’m still recovering from the heartbreak), I’m back with a Valentine’s Day venegeance!  Short & Sweet has two very special Valentine’s Day promotions going on: the February Flavour of the Month, “Lady in Red” (cue Chris DeBurgh’s ’80s hit and the image of me slow-dancing with a giant cupcake) and the Valentine’s Day “Love Pack”! 

For those who want to pick up a quick Valentine’s cupcake on the go, the stunning strawberry Lady in Red ($2.90) is at your service!  If you want something a little more extravagent and a little more razzle-dazzle, the Love Pack, featuring 12 delicious Valentine’s cupcakes is ready and willing to sweep you and your loved one(s) off your feet.  The Love Pack ($40) includes 4 different flavours x 3 of each: 3 Lady in Red strawberry cupcakes, 3 chocolate, 3 vanilla, and 3 red velvet, all topped with Short & Sweet’s signature lickably sweet frosting and giant fondant heart toppers, sugar heart decorations, and sprinkles!  They’re also available to purchase as singles (with an extra $2 charge for the cupcakes with the great big heart fondant toppers) or in half dozen packs. 

One of the best things about Short & Sweet is their ever-changing storefront window display.  Aside from the delicious, groan-inducing cupcakes, their gorgeous and elaborate window display is one constant that has followed Short & Sweet from their old location on Old Orchard Grove into their new location 3 blocks north on Avenue Rd.  The window display reflects changes in season, special holidays and occasions, and new products such as their edible toppers, jumbo cupcakes (perfect for birthdays as a giant cupcake birthday cake!), and custom designed creations. 

My favourite displays since I started coming here have been the Easter display (Easter dishes out my favourite colour palette) and the current Valentine’s Day one.  The Valentine’s one is so gorgeous and the whole concept is a cross between “I’m enjoying cupcakes and champage in a romantic sudsy, bubble bath” (check out the mini pink frosted cupcakes sitting daintily in the champagne flute-like glassware with silver edible pearls!) and “I want to celebrate everything lovey-dovey in red, pink, and white with hearts and roses”.  The displays are always beautifully thought out and just mesmerizing to look at.

Now, a Short & Sweet post wouldn’t be a Short & Sweet post without a closer look at least one of the cupcakes.  We’re cozying up with the fabulous Lady in Red cupcake and I do mean fabulous!  Out of all the Flavour of the Month flavours I’ve tried, I loved the mint Oreo Mint Everest cupcake the most, but after devouring Lady in Red over the weekend, that Flavour of the Month favourite is now at a dead tie. 

Lady in Red is AMAZING.  It’s a strawberry cupcake with strawberry frosting and a cute little red candy heart on top.  I know, I know.  It’s “just” strawberry.  It’s not something exotic like durian.  But it’s the simplicity itself that knocks it out of the park.  Just like lemon, the strawberry flavour can take on a number of different nuances.  It can be tart, it can be juicy, it can taste more like strawberry ice cream, it can taste like strawberries and cream, it can be approached from so many angles.

If Flour Studio’s strawberry cupcake tastes like strawberry Pocky and cream, Short & Sweet’s Lady in Red is a mesh of strawberries, vanilla, jam, sweet sugar, and shortcake.  Even though the cake isn’t airy, the cake is very moist and full of flavour.  The vanilla cake base looks like a mosaic of golden cake, strawberries, and jam and the thick frosting has this delicious, bold, sweet strawberry flavour that isn’t tart in the least.  I like to think of it as a bolder, in-your-face version of strawberry shortcake. 

If it was up to me, I would have both the Mint Everest and the Lady in Red added to Short & Sweet’s permanent rotating menu because they are THAT amazing.  Lady in Red has shot right up into my Top 3 favourite Short & Sweet cupcakes and it’s such a shame that it’s only around for the month of February.  Maybe if I toot my horn loud and long enough, it might make an appearance on the permanment menu in the future, but for now, I can only look forward to the last two and a half weeks of the month and pine for the delicious strawberry cupcake after that.

      

*****

Short & Sweet Cupcakes is now located at 1945 Avenue Rd., south of Wilson Ave.  They are open from 11am-6pm Tuesday-Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  If you take public transit like me, the easiest way to get here is to get off at Wilson subway station and take the 96 bus to Avenue Rd. and walk south.  You can also get here by getting off at York Mills subway station and taking the 165 Weston Rd. North bus to Wilson Ave. and Avenue Rd. and walking south, or taking the 61 Avenue Rd. North from Eglinton subway station.