It’s Crisp, It’s Fall, It’s a Wonderful Time for a David’s Tea Haul! Fall Tea & Wishlist Goodies

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So I’m just a teensy bit more obsessed with tea since the last time we talked.  Just a teensy bit.  I’ve been daydreaming about all the luxurious things I want to order from Harney & Sons, like the Orange Spice Gift Set with the white polka-dotted orange teapot (how freakin’ adorable is this??), white “knitted tea cozy” mug (even CUTER OMG) and about 6 tins of loose leaf tea (because, you know, I eventually want to swim in all of it).  I’ve been hemming and hawwing over what flavours of tea to order from Tea at the White House (I’ve been putting things in and taking things out of my shopping cart for DAYS now – this is why being an indecisive person is the pits!).  I’ve spent the last 2 weeks researching tea houses all across our beautiful province of Ontario and keeping a run list in a word document on my desktop and freaking out my boyfriend with discussions of GO bus rides to Cambridge (“you’ll come with me, right?  RIGHT??”).  Oh, and I have an order of tea magazines from Tea Times and Victoria Bliss from Hoffman’s Media on route to my magical mail box and I am so darn excited I could burst!

So I’m totally just a teensy bit more obsessed.

I know.  There really is no saving me.  Sigh.

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Tea has become such a passion of mine and I am loving it.  I have such sweet memories of drinking tea with my grandparents and playing with tea sets my aunt gave me as a little girl but I feel like I’ve been introduced to a whole new and exciting world these past few years learning about and experimenting with it (getting the perfect cup each and every single time is quite the task – it’s seriously an art all on its own!), discovering tea houses, looking up events, and just immersing myself in the fun of it all.  Which is why this little David’s Tea haul of mine is only just the beginning!  I had to use every ounce of willpower not to pick up every last thing I wanted from their adorable fall collection because 1) part of me dreaded having to carry the heavier items on the subway and bus rides back home, and 2) I really wanted to be a good friend and wait for my bestie to go crazy tea shopping  with me.  What fun would it be if I bought everything on my wishlist and just stood around the next time we went frolicking?  I think ahead, people.

I am dying to get the so-cute-it-makes-you-squeal forest animals tea mug and the cute-as-a-button bubble tea cups from David’s Tea’s fall collection as well as some loose leaf of Blueberry Jam, Long Life Oolong and Lime Gelato, but I was a good girl and stuck to picking up a bottle of their vanilla agave, 50 g of their new Cocoberry tea and 2 packets of their Mom’s Apple Pie tea along with their snazzy new fall tea menu!  And yes, that is my ultra-cool, super awesome sparkly pumpkin prop in the photo!  Hee!

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I haven’t tried my apple pie one yet but I have tried the Cocoberry one and what attracted me most at first was its chocolate-raspberry scent.  It smelled so luscious and decadent.  Its taste was so much more complex than just a simple chocolate-raspberry combo though.  For those who love the taste of currants with a subtle hint of cocoa and chocolate, this tea is for you.  The currant flavour comes out very strong in this tea and if you find it a little on the tart side, sweeten it up with a little bit of sweetener.  It’s not your typical berry tea as it’s much more earthy in flavour and that’s what I actually appreciate about it.  Berry teas have never sat well with my tastebuds because I’ve always found them to be either too sour or too artificial in taste, but this one is different from anything I’ve ever tried so if you love currants, go for it and try it out!

*****

For a list of all David’s Tea locations in and around Toronto, check out their store locator HERE (they are constantly expanding!).  So far I’ve been to these locations:

  • 336 Queen St. W (just east of Spadina)
  • 2389 Yonge St. (intersection of Yonge & Eglinton; north of Eglinton)
  • 10 Dundas Street E. (Yonge & Dundas; it’s actually just north of Dundas facing Yonge St.)
  • 100 King Street West (First Canadian Place in the underground PATH)
  • 424 Bloor Street West (in the Annex, between Spadina and Bathurst)
  • Yorkdale Shopping Centre (Dufferin & Hwy 401)
  • Dufferin Mall (intersection of Dufferin Street and Bloor Street West, just south of Bloor)
  • Scarborough Town Centre (between McCowan and Brimley Rd. off Hwy 401)
  • Promenade Mall, Thornhill (Bathurst and Centre St.) 
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All Aboard! Fall Fruits & Vegetables & Lineups for Baked Goods & Pork at the Junction Market Train Platform!

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“Oh my goodness, what in the world are people lining up for??”

I stopped dead in my tracks and gaped incredulously at the crowd of people gathered before me on the sidewalk just up the street.  Was there a sidewalk sale?  No.  Were folks handing out free stuff?  Nope.  Did Hugh Jackman return to TO for post-TIFF shenanigans?  I wish.  No, the line of people spilling out onto the street curb was in fact lining up for bread.  And cinnamon rolls.  And pork.  And croissants.  And pork.  And tacos.

Did I mention pork?

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This was the scene before me as I walked into the Junction Market’s brand spankin’ new home on the Junction Train Platform, a hubbub of community activity near and dear to the Junction community’s heart.  And when I say hubbub, I mean HUBBUB.  I was shocked at the sheer volume of market goers milling around every inch of space on the market grounds.  The Train Platform is such a cool space.  There’s train station graffiti art on the brick wall to the west, a raised wooden platform stage and a roof awning over top.  The market vendors were set up in a square shape around the perimeter of the space with more vendors filling in a portion of the centre.  I was surprised I was able to get as many clean shots as I did.  I mean, I know I didn’t arrive right when the market started at 8am (I did due diligence and got there just before 10:30am – give me a break, I live in Markham and wanted the extra hour of sleep!) but my goodness I have never been to a market where I had to strategically figure out how to just get IN.  And I LOVED it.

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The Junction Market had great turnouts at their old location down the road in the Green P parking lot but this was the first market season at the Train Platform and you can tell that the market is just more…alive.  There’s a buzz in the air, the crowd is bigger, and there’s this feeling and sense of community, grassroots, and togetherness.  That we’re all there to pick up delicious food, support our farmers and food producers and to simply be surrounded by people who love market food.

It’s a wonderful feeling and I have missed this so much.  This past summer I really dropped the ball on making visits to the market and I feel like I missed out on so much.  Fall is here though and I am determined to make the most of the season and that means breathing in the beautiful bounty of fresh food all the markets have to offer.  The Junction Market has been one of my favourites since it’s beginnings in 2012.  It may not be the biggest, but by golly do I ever find fantastic stuff whenever I go.  I’ve picked up bunches upon bunches of kale, sprouts, pesto, chutney and baked goods and coming out here gives me the opportunity to explore the west end more which I love.

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This past Saturday, there were gorgeous bunches of swiss chard, adorable baskets of wild blueberries (they’re so tiny and cute!), pretty plump pears, huge bunches of kale (my go-to market veg!), scotch eggs, empanadas and more from Hogtown Charcuterie, house-cured peameal on a bun, jerk pork, and eleventy billion kinds of ribs from When the Pig Came Home Smokehouse and Larder (gotta love the name!), squash, tomatoes, beans and so much more.  I was so excited and focused on taking photos I backed up and crashed right into a parked bike which left unattractive dusty tire marks on my leggings which I furiously tried to rub off whilst balancing my camera.

Real smooth, Debra.  Real smooth.

Not bad for my first market visit of the 2013 fall season though!  I discovered some yummy new vendors (that peameal on a bun and kale salad will be MINE next time!  Oh, and maybe a scotch egg.  And maybe some tacos too), got to visit them at their new location, and happily walked away with new photos and the beautiful, newest issue of Edible Toronto magazine featuring Sosnicki Organic Farm, a Junction market vendor, on the cover!  This is just the beginning of a scrumptious fall season.

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*****

The Junction Market takes place Saturdays from 9am-1pm (May 25 to November 9) at the Junction Train Platform at 2960 Dundas Street West by Pacific Ave.  You can follow them on Twitter @JunctionMarket!

Bean & Butternut Squash Vegan Chili – Ate by Ate Cooks Fall Comfort Food!

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Ate by Ate is baaaack!  Taking a week off was one of the weirdest feelings in the world.  I haven’t stopped blogging for more than a day in the last two years so with the exception of posting some photos to Ate by Ate’s Facebook galleries, not blogging at all for a week was a complete 180.  I don’t think there will ever be a time when I’ll feel completely caught up, but a week off was exactly what I needed.  It took the pressure off, I got to do a little bit of holiday planning with friends, and while I still feel like there are a million things to do for Ate by Ate, at least I’m a tiny bit caught up on sleep at the very least!

And now we’re ready to dive right into the holiday blitz!  I’m so, SO excited for Christmas and the holidays.  I’m excited to see friends, to give my family and friends their presents, and of course, to eat!  I’m currently working on the December Food Calendar (the 1st draft went to Food Bloggers of Canada last night!) and I’m planning my weekends of food the best I can.  I forsee Christmas cupcakes, vegetarian yummies, tea, hot drinks, peppermint and candy canes, cookies, baking, and hopefully lots of special winter menu items and comfort food!

Cooking up a storm!

My week off from blogging not only allowed me to do some heavy-duty planning for the month of December, it also allowed me to cook for the very first time!  I KNOW!  The girl who has only ever baked has finally cooked a great, hearty meal all on her own from scratch!  For those of you who don’t know, my mum has always done the cooking in my family and shoos me out of the kitchen.  Always has, probably always will so long as I’m living under the same roof.  I consider myself lucky when I can take out my baking sheets and mixing bowls without so much as a frown.  Maybe I’m exaggerating a little.  Point is, I’ve read food magazines since the age of 8, have watched more cooking and food shows than I have anything else, have been fascinated by cooking and baking and the culinary arts for years, but have never truly cooked!

Boiling water for pasta and noodles doesn’t count.  Making sandwiches and salads don’t count.  Or eggs.  I’m not discrediting the preparation of those foods at all because goodness knows making food isn’t a skill you’re just naturally born with, but it’s just different for me because of how I’ve grown up.  I’m not a food blogger with a wealth of cooking experience under her belt and I don’t have a plethora of recipes (although I do hope everyone enjoys the cookie and baking ones I do post!); but what I do have is a willingness to learn and a passion that sees no end.

So, what did I end up making as my very first, real foray into cooking?  VEGAN CHILI!  I cannot tell you how happy and elated I feel about this meal!  I couldn’t stop smiling for the entire day after I made it.  I feel so proud that I did it all on my own and that it didn’t taste awful – I got the thumbs up from both my brother and my mum and I thoroughly enjoyed it myself!  I took a cue from this vegetarian chili recipe from All Recipes.com, modified it, and made it my own.  And best of all, I used the most amazing, delicious and fresh butternut squash from the Evergreen Brick Works farmers’ market to make it!  And if you can believe, it feeds 4 hungry stomachs and is incredibly hearty!  I hope you all enjoy it as much I did!

Bean & Butternut Squash Vegan Chili recipe

Serves 4 to 6

(adapted from “The Best Vegetarian Chili in the World”, allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 can (28 fl oz/796 mL) no-salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 can (19 fl oz/540 mL) no-salt added red kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 can (19 fl oz/540 mL) no-salt added mixed bean medley (white kidney beans, chickpeas, romano beans), rinsed
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled, chopped butternut squash
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper/chili flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 can (12 fl oz/341 mL) corn kernels

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in large, deep nonstick skillet on medium heat.  Stir in onion and garlic; cook 3 min. or until onion is tender.  Add tomatoes and oregano; cook 5 min., stirring occasionally.
  2. Add beans, butternut squash and spices; stir until evenly combined.  Add water, bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 25 min.
  4. Stir in corn, cook 5 min.  Serve with hummus or avocado.

Vegan Food Fairy Tales – Winter Kale Salad & Mushroom Barley Risotto with Sage at Prime at the Windsor Arms Hotel, Part II

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Food fairy tales are hard to come by.  You know, instances when you have the perfect food served in the perfect place in a gorgeous setting with a wonderful atmosphere with fabulous service and music to boot.  It’s hard to have everything rolled into one!  But food fairy tales do come true and when they happen, you cherish them and hold them dear to your heart.  Even though my list isn’t very long (I love many places and things I’ve eaten, yes, but we know only the knock-my-fuzzy-socks-off spectacular get to be on a list like this), there’s always room for more.  The latest addition to the storybook?  Vegan lunch at the Windsor Arms Hotel!

Luring me in with their delightful afternoon tea service just wasn’t enough, they had to bait and hook me with an ENTIRE VEGAN BRUNCH, LUNCH AND DINNER MENU too!  When I first found out about the magical weekend vegan brunch menu a number of months ago through the online food community grapevine, I thought it was too good to be true.  Especially at a fine dining establishment like Prime restaurant which brings about visions of steak and wine and other dishes that are as far from vegan as you could imagine.  But it wasn’t a myth and if that wasn’t enough, there was an accompanying vegan lunch and dinner menu on the Windsor Arms Hotel website in all its shiny glory, just waiting for me to pounce on it.  And so I did.

Admittedly, I was hoping to do chocolate afternoon tea at the King Edward during the Toronto Chocolate Festival but got on it a little too late and couldn’t get a seating.  So I thought to myself, “well, I still want to be in an afternoon tea type setting…oh my goodness, I can do vegan lunch at the Windsor Arms!!”  Hurray for lightbulb moments and thinking on my feet!

Dining at the Windsor Arms in Yorkville is one of my favourite luxuries.  It makes me feel like a princess every single time.  It’s so beautiful and majestic and regal and I feel like I’m being transported to a far away land where everything is sugar and spice and everything nice.  Sitting in a plush, cushion booth in Prime was so relaxing I felt like I was in a spa.  Soft music floated through the dining room, soft sunlight filtered through the curtained windows, and I was about to have a fab fall comfort vegan meal with a pot of hot mint tea and my sweetheart sitting across from me.  It was perfect.

Prime’s vegan lunch and dinner menu features a bounty of seasonal ingredients and what’s great about it is that it’s so easy to mix and match your dishes because the menu is divided into 4 sections – appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts – and each category has its own flat price.  Appetizers are $12, entrees are $18, sides are $7, and desserts are $14.  You could easily choose two appetizers as a meal, an appetizer and a side, an entree and a side, just an entree, and all of the above with dessert – if you can eat all of it!

Dishes include cornmeal crusted tempeh steaks with spiced sweet potato coconut mash; zucchini and carrot spaghetti with almond parmesan cheese, vegetables, and ground “walnut” meat; marinated winter kale salad with sundried tomatoes, avocado, walnuts, hemp seeds and more; nori rolls stuffed with a creamy ginger dill sunflower seed pate; teriyaki tempeh and vegetable stir-fry with steamed quinoa; raspberry cashew cheesecake; almond butter chocolate truffles, and SO much more.  I’m telling you, their vegan menu is a divine specimen sent from heaven.  There’s just nothing else like it in the city and I love that.

Meals come with a basket of fresh, soft-as-pillows bread with butter (and the bread is garlic crusted!) and while I don’t know too much about the selection of beverages, I went with my Windsor Arms tried-and-true loose leaf tea in a pot, this time going for refreshing mint!  I wanted to try more than one dish so I went with the two appetizer route: marinated winter kale salad tossed with hemp seeds, walnuts, raisins, sundried tomatoes and avocado in a creamy lemon dill tahini sauce with shaved apple, and the wild mushroom and pearl barley risotto with crispy sage and truffle oil.  The menu just radiated with warmth and comfort and I chose these two because 1) I love kale, 2) I love risotto, and 3) I wanted something light and then something hearty.  Done and done.

First, the winter kale salad.  It is so light and refreshing.  The kale was shredded into long, crinkled leaves and the dressing was absolutely delicious.  It wasn’t heavy but it was noticeable enough to give the kale that bright punch of creaminess and flavour that complemented the creaminess of the avocado.  The avocado was diced into the most adorable tiny cubes, the big chunks of walnuts worked perfectly with the salad to give it crunch (and I LOVE crunch in my salads), and the sundried tomatoes gave the dish additional body to make it fuller and more meal-like.  While I would’ve gone lighter on the sundried tomato front (they’re great but the cured flavour can get overwhelming!), it was lovely dish with so many textures and dimensions of flavour.  And the apple?  I pawned that off to my sweetheart.

Now, the wild mushroom and pearl barley risotto.  OH.MY.GOD.  I have to say, I love my kale to pieces but oh my word did this dish ever knock it out of the park!  First off, the smell of the dish made my mouth water even before I dug my fork in (yes, I eat rice-like dishes with a fork.  Because I like to and because I can).  It smells SO AMAZINGLY GOOD.  Like a mix of warm cream with bit of parm and cheese and nuttiness.  If you love creamy, this is your dish.  Everything just melts in your mouth and it was so delicious having a risotto that utilized something other than the traditional arborio rice just because it’s always nice to have something different.  I’ve never had a barley risotto before and it was such a different texture but a good one because it made the dish feel even more hearty and comforting.

The mushrooms were creamy and so soft, the truffle oil provided that extra hit of richness, and crispy sage?  THIS made the dish!  Herbs as just a garnish?  Please.  I ate the crispy sage right off the top, eating a few leaves on their own and mixing the rest into my risotto.  It was so delicious and unlike anything I’ve ever had.  The crispiness cut through the richness of the dish and it had a forest type of flavour to it with a tiny hint of mint.  It’s hard to explain but trust me when I say that it’s fabulous, especially in this dish.  I didn’t have any room for dessert after, but I had no doubt in my mind that I would be back for many rounds to come.  Food fairy tales do exist and the wonderful thing is that there are no limits on how many times you can go back to the storybook and retell the stories, experiencing in a different way each time.

*****

The Windsor Arms Hotel is located at 18 Saint Thomas Street, just south of Bloor St. W, between Bay St. and Avenue Rd.   In addition to their afternoon tea service, Windsor Arms Hotel is also known for their fine dining and most recently, their newly added vegan menus at Prime restaurant!

Tea, Sunshine & A Beautiful, Fairy Tale Vegan Lunch at Prime at Windsor Arms Hotel, Part I!

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*****

The Windsor Arms Hotel is located at 18 Saint Thomas Street, just south of Bloor St. W, between Bay St. and Avenue Rd.   In addition to their afternoon tea service, Windsor Arms Hotel is also known for their fine dining and most recently, their newly added vegan menus at Prime restaurant!

Swiss Chard & White Navy Bean Soup, Spinach Pasta Bolognese, & Tea – ‘Madame Butterfly’ Does Fall Comfort Weekend Brunch at Terroni Bar Centrale!

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Earlier this year, I walked past the front window of Terroni on Queen Street West, caught a glimpse of two friends sharing a giant, mouthwatering pizza and instantly fell in love.  With the pizza, not the people (no offense to the people, I’m sure they were nice).  I remember seeing arugula.  Lots of arugula.  And some sausage.  On a very big pizza pie.  Enjoyed by two smiling people.  Oh how I wanted to join in on that pizza party and bask in the joy of delicious food here!  But alas, I had eaten already so I wistfully walked away.  But not before I mentally plugged them into my “must-come” list for all things pizza, pasta, cheese, panini, and meat in all their Italian glory!

That was months ago and that is how Terroni and I officially became acquainted.  My fellow icing sugar queens at Le Dolci, Lisa and Miya, had sung their praises during my cupcake days at the studio, but I had to see it for myself.  And did I ever!  Just one look and I fell so hard (cookies for anyone who gets the reference), much the same way I fell for Black Skirt and Trattoria Mercatto.  Fabulous Italian food with regional nuances and seasonal dishes and ingredients.  And while my first meal here at Terronit didn’t end up being an Italian pizza or pasta lunch or dinner, it was instead an Italian pasta and soup weekend brunch!  With tea!  Glorious, delicious tea in a pot!  Welcome to Italian weekend brunch at Terroni Bar Centrale!

Terroni Bar Centrale, located at 1095 Yonge Street at the corner of Price Street and sandwiched between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations, is a sister restaurant and an arm of the Terroni restaurant family with two other locations in Toronto, one on Queen Street West and the other on Adelaide.  Terroni is simultaneously hip and posh, casual and relaxing with the ground floor devoted to weekend brunch, morning yummies, and lighter fare, and the upper level for more intimate Italian fine dining.  Oh!  And a rooftop patio!  Even though much of the ground floor is inhabited by the bar counter where you can watch espressos being made and drinks being concocted, it has such a relaxing, casual vibe that makes weekend brunch here so nice and so appropriate.  It’s the type of space that makes you want to sit back with some coffee or tea, some biscotti, and a newspaper.  Or in my case, a little pot of tea, some soup, and some Italian pasta.  That’s right.  For brunch.  I’m a hungry girl.

Terroni Bar Centrale’s brunch menu is a goldmine for me.  It’s not really my boyfriend’s cup of tea since he’s not the biggest fan of eggs (sigh), but for me, it’s pure gold.  Their brunch menu is divided into 5 different food sections, each with a different type of dish: sweet dishes (homemade brioche with homemade jams, pancakes with jam and nutella, yogurt and granola, and biscotti), frittatas (skillet-cooked eggs with smoked salmon, scamorza cheese, fontina cheese, porcini mushrooms, onions, herbs, and more), soup and salad, panini, and hearty savoury Italian mains like braised pork belly and poached eggs, savoury tart and poached eggs, grilled beef tenderloin, and pasta.  Prices average out to around $9-$12 with some dishes closer to $6 and $7 and a few that are more than $12.  For the most part though, the prices are perfectly in line with numerous other brunch spots in the city and I’d say actually even a bit less expensive.  And for those of you who love to have a drink to go with that delicious weekend brunch, they have a selection of eight brunch drinks to tickle the tipple!

What I also love is their selection of tea!  There’s plenty of black, green, herbal, and rooibos and it comes served in a beautiful little pot with cute tea cups and saucers.  I had myself their Madame Butterfly ($4), a green tea with peach blossom and I loved it.  So light and fresh, and warm and comforting; perfect for these rainy days we’ve been having here in the city!

I went all out for brunch this time with a soup and a hearty Italian pasta dish.  I indulged in some serious fall comfort food during this meal and I loved it all.  It was delicious, yes, but I also loved it because the dishes were something different, dishes that I haven’t really blogged about before.  The soup, the Verdura di Mamma Rita, ($9) embodies fall comfort in a bowl with its white navy beans, buttery bread croutons, and swiss chard in a thick broth.  And oh my goodness it comes in this adorable white and copper bowl (like a mini crock pot) with two handles on the side!  The soup was so hearty and everything just melts in your mouth, especially the croutons which gave little bursts of buttery flavour with every bite.

And then there was my pasta, my lovely Lasagne alla Bolognese ($12) with thick homemade spinach pasta noodles, bolognese ragu, and a thick, ooey gooey cheesy besciamella and Parmigiano layer on top!  I almost never have bolognese just because whenever I have pasta, I always lean towards mushrooms sauce, white cream sauce, pesto, and so on, but I enjoyed this dish because the ground meat was just the right texture.  It wasn’t mushy, it wasn’t big and clumpy, and it didn’t taste dry and overcooked.  I love the fact that it wasn’t overly seasoned and together with the gooey cheese, it was just the right amount of richness and indulgence without going overboard.  And the noodles!  The noodles were so super thick like pappardelle!  And I LOOOOOVE pappardelle!  Since the pasta was hidden underneath the top layer of bolognese and cheese, it was such a lovely surprise to dig in and see such beautiful thick green pasta noodles.

It was the perfect type of meal for a drizzly, rainy fall day and there are so many other dishes that I would love to try including those jam and nutella pancakes!  And more tea in the cute pots and cups.

*****

Terroni Bar Central is located at 1095 Yonge Street on the corner of Price St. between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations in midtown Toronto.  They’re open 7 days a week: 11:30am-10pm Sunday to Wednesday, 11:30am-11pm Thursday to Saturday.

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.