Hot Apple Cider, Christmas Desserts, and Hot Food – The 2011 Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District!

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It’s that time of year again: the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District!  It’s crazy to think that exactly one year ago today I posted my very first Foodie Districts post devoted to the Distillery District.  Knowing the Christmas Market would be back again for another round of holiday fun (and for two weeks instead of just one), I knew I had to go again and a huge part of me wants to get in at least another visit!  You all know how dearly I love Kensington Market and the Distillery District and I always feel like I can’t get enough of both neighbourhoods. 

The Distillery during the Christmas season is really special to me because the art, the studios, and the workshops make me feel so inspired and so at home.  I know I don’t talk about it all that much on the blog, but the only other thing I love as much as food is art and although food is in and of itself an art (a culinary art, a photography art, and hey, check out my food scrapbooking!), a very large part of me will always be in love with visual and crafting art because I always envisioned myself as an artist since the age of 13.  One of the very first times I visited the Distillery was during the Christmas season, specifically for the Christmas artisans fair and it was just amazing.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  There were art prints, handmade knitted woolies, and lots and lots of gorgeous handmade jewelery!  Handcut sterling silver pieces, crystal bracelets, earrings, everything.  It’s one of my fondest Christmas memories ever.

I didn’t pay a visit to the artists’ galleries and studios this time, but I did have a fabulous time scoping out the wonderful booths full of yummy food and food-related goodness!  I arrived at the Distillery grounds bright and early and there were plenty of people already milling around, taking photos, and enjoying the cold, but nice weather.  The market was even more amazing than last year!  Nearly every nook and cranny was occupied by a wooden house market booth, selling everything from scarves, hats, Christmas gifts, and of course, food!

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It’s Like Eating a Chocolate Pillow: Creamy, Fluffy Cupcakes from The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie – Part II

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It’s time to haul out the cupcakes and have ourselves a party!  I hope you all liked the scrapbook layout and pictures from yesterday because I’m uber excited to share lots of yummy cupcake photos and musings from my trips to The Sweet Escape.  I’m going to be bold and declare The Sweet Escape as my one of my favourite cupcake places in Toronto.  I have mad love for The Cupcake Shoppe, Blue Banana, and For The Love of Cake off of King St. West in Liberty Village, but I have to say that The Sweet Escape gives me everything I want in a cupcake eating experience.  I mean, sure, the artistry is just as important as the taste (because heck, who wants to eat a cupcake that looks stale and drippy and like it was sat on by an elephant?), but it’s the culmination of the appearance, the taste, and the atmosphere and environment of the cupcakery (or bakery/café) that does it for me.

First off, the cupcakes at The Sweet Escape are the perfect size.  They’re not the size of a thimble and they also don’t look like they’ve been injected with steroids.  They’re beautifully frosted, and nice and neat and pretty.  That covers appearance.  On to price.  These are $2.50 a pop, which puts them on the lowest rung on the price ladder of cupcakeries in Toronto, which is absolutely fantastic.  I have no issues paying a bit more for quality, but seriously, if you could get something that looks great and tastes great (not to mentioned baked and served by lovely people), why wouldn’t you?  And when I’m referring to cupcakeries, I’m talking about the places that specifically serve baked goods specializing in cupcakes.  Yes, Starbucks has some great cupcakes too for $2.25, but they’re not a cupcakery.  They’re a coffee empire and that’s a big difference.

And The Sweet Escape has something that several other places don’t have: seating!  I know, something as simple as a table and chair can tip my love in favour of another place, but it makes sense.  Some people may place orders for cupcakes for parties or take them to go during their lunch hour or break and thus not care about this, but I love having a place to sit to enjoy my cupcake.  Especially since I take a bazillion photos!  I look like a nut otherwise, running around the streets looking for a spot to get a decent shot!  The Sweet Escape has plenty of seating just outside their café and you get a nice little plate and fork to devour your sweet treat. 

And here’s the kicker: their tables are decorated with vintage magazine clippings of baked goods, kitchen goodies, and 50s housewife inspired articles *squeals*!  I absolutely ADORE that about this place.  On the surface (quite literally; these clippings and collages sit right underneath the glass of the table), they’re pretty pictures of cakes and sprinkles and all that jazz.  But underneath this facade is an homage to the connection between food and home, the historical (and even current) socialization of women as wives and mothers, and the artistry and pride of baking.  Just think, you literally eat, read, and learn all at the same time and I LOVE IT!  Okay, so you’re all anxiously awaiting for the cupcake photos and reading about delicious they are, so here we go 😀

So far I’ve tried 4 of their cupcakes: Raspberry Chocolate, Gingerbread (a holiday seasonal), Red Velvet, and Black Velvet.  The Raspberry Chocolate was sweet and subtle with fruity raspberry flavour coming out in the frosting (you got that great raspberry pit flavour and texture without the pits, ha!) with dark chocolate chips sprinkled on top, and the gingerbread was subtly spiced with a tangy cream cheese frosting.  I loved them all, but if you want to know which one knocked my socks off, the Black Velvet (pictured above and below beside her Red Velvet sister) is just amazing, oh my goodness!  The frosting is quite possibly the creamiest, smoothest frosting I have ever had and the chocolate cake…oh man.  When I was eating this cupcake, I felt like I was eating moist, soft, fluffy chocolate pillow.  The cake and frosting melded together in the perfect way and this cupcake is an A+ in every way.  A sweet, chocolatey, creamy mouthful of happiness!  They change up their selection of cupcakes daily, so you may not see all the ones I  mentioned when you go, but if I’m going to recommend any, the Black Velvet, hands down.  Happy salivating, y’all 😉 

*****

The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie is located at 55 Mill St., Building 47 in The Distillery District.  The Distillery District is east of The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, sitting south of Front St.E, and sandwiched between Parliament and Cherry St.  The café also sells cute merchandise.  I’m a freak for postcards so I picked one up for $1, yay.

Cupcakes, Cookies, Biscotti, Macarons, and Other Sweet Notions – Escaping to The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie: Part I

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I’m so excited to finally post about The Sweet Escape and to share my scrapbook layout for it! 😀  The first time I mentioned The Sweet Escape was back in December when I was posting about Christmas at the Distillery District, the adorable life-size real gingerbread house right outside the café, and the yummy gingerbread cupcake I had!  And it’s actually been 2 and half years since I first laid eyes on this place for the first time.  I was waiting for the perfect moment to write about this amazing cupcakery, bakery, and café and because I didn’t have a scrapbook layout ready at the time, I’ve been itching for over 2 months to get this post up!  The Sweet Escape is truly a favourite within a favourite with some of my FAVOURITE cupcakes in the city in one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Toronto.  Aside from Kensington Market, The Distillery District is is my favourite area to be in.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

Even though the cupcakes here are the biggest pull for me, The Sweet Escape is what I refer to as the “triple threat” of cafés.  You know how celebrities are sometimes referred to as “triple threats” because they can sing, act, and dance?  Well, this pâtisserie, situated in the heart of The Distillery District in downtown Toronto, is a triple threat.  Baked goods, chocolates and candy, and lunch food stuff. 

Michelle Edgar, owner and pastry chef of The Sweet Escape, whips up delicious cupcakes along with cookies, cheesecake, biscotti, meringues, caramels, brownies, and rock candy among many other sweet treats.  On top of all that they serve soup and sandwiches including panini and, from what I hear, some of the BEST pulled pork sandwiches in town.  I will report back when I try one, I promise.  I would have ordered one a long time ago, but it’s so hard not being tempted to order an entire sugar buffet when you’re there!  Not only is their selection of yummies to die for, they also offer lots of gluten-free options!

I have a lot to share, so I’m doing a 2-parter for The Sweet Escape.  I’m going to share all my cupcake love tomorrow, so I leave you now with my scrapbook layout and a bunch of my favourite pictures, enjoy!

 *****

The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie is located at 55 Mill St., Building 47 in The Distillery District.  The Distillery District is east of The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, sitting south of Front St.E, and sandwiched between Parliament and Cherry St.

Scrapbook materials used: buttercup yellow, pale yellow, baby pink, bubble gum pink, and baby blue cardstock (Recollections); sky blue cardstock (DCWV); magenta cardstock (Best Occasions); dotted patterned paper; alphabet stickers (K & Company); Christmas gingerbread embellisment stickers (Recollections); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); scalloped edge decorate scissors (Provo Craft).

Foodie Districts – The Toronto Christmas Market, and The Charm and History of The Distillery District, Part II

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The Distillery District in Toronto is beautiful and it is my favourite neighbourhood in the city.  It may not be a glamourous, shopping mecca like Yorkville, or trendy like Queen West, but it has history and character, not to mention it’s a photographer’s playground because of its restoration back in 2003.  Every time I go, I lose myself in its charm, quietly walking the brick and pebbled lanes, scoping out good eats and admiring all the beautiful artistry in the buildings that host classes like glass blowing and jewelry crafting.  It opens the mind and is deeply inspiring.  And at a time like Christmas, it makes me feel like a total kid again! *cue excited squeals*

One of the first memories I have of being in this neighbourhood was attending a wonderful artisan’s Christmas market a number of years ago, (where I came home with heart-pumpingly gorgeous handmade jewelry for presents) and after finding out about the Toronto Christmas Market happening this year (thanks CP24 news feed!), I knew it would be an opportune time to snap some nice photos and to indulge in some holiday treats!  The Christmas market itself is set up with a bunch of different wooden house booths all along the streets with holiday candies, chocolates, European pastries, and tea among many others.  I came home with some yummy chocolate covered cake pops and some coconut almond loose tea!

If you know how much I love markets, you know I can’t leave one without coming home with a little something!  The cake pops came from a booth for Leonard’s Cake Company (I picked up two as they had a 2 for $5 deal; a red velvet cake pop and a chocolate one), and the loose tea came from Leslieville’s Steeped and Infused, and let me tell you, it’s fantastic.  I am quite fond of tea and this tea is gooood.  I bought a sample of it for $1.75 and it’s good for about 3-4 cups and you can bet I’m going to skip on over there when it’s not severe icicle weather to get more!

Now, the Distillery District hosts a number of different cafés, restaurants, pubs, and specialty shops such as The Boiler House, Balzac’s, the Mill Street Brewery, and Soma, just to name a few.  I haven’t yet eaten my way through them all yet (but rest assured I will, ha!), but I have thoroughly and happily enjoyed both Café Uno and The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie and get excited about the prospect of going to both for an afternoon of yummy eats whenever I can. 

The first time I went to Café Uno was back in May for Doors Open Toronto where I had some sweet fruity gelato.  This time though, I wanted to enjoy a nice, warm sitdown meal as opposed to a snack, so I ordered the butter chicken dinner with rice and a side of vegetables, and although the butter chicken was certainly not the kind served in Indian cuisine, it was still tasty (think moist white chicken breast chunks in rotisserie sauce) and my favourite part of it was the chickpeas and vegetables as they just scream warmness and comfort to me.

I’m excited to go back to try their famous panini sandwiches as well as they’re salad, soup, drinks, and oh my goodness, their selction of dessert will have you standing there staring for ages (!!!).  Oh!  And they serve weekend brunch!  I’m writing that into my calendar too.  I really enjoyed the atmosphere too, with the industrial yet homey feel of the café and it’s just a great place to sit down and enjoy a lunch with friends.  They have plenty of seats beside big windows, along with some trendy bar stools and tables in between.  The dessert at Café Uno would have to wait though as I was brimming with anticipation about my cupcake from The Sweet Escape! 

I love The Sweet Escape.  It’s so cute and the desserts are lovely.  A more thorough post about this bakery will come soon, but for now, I’ll treat you to my photos and account from Tuesday.  Not only was I looking forward to my cupcake from there, but I was absolutely DELIGHTED when I saw this sign out front:

Wait, let me get this straight.  A gingerbread house you could play in??  OH.MY.GOD.  So I excitedly went in with Richard and lo and behold, a lifesize gingerbread house made out of REAL gingerbread sat there like something ripped out of Hansel and Gretel  *skips around*.  A beautiful gingerbread house made out of cookies, icing sugar, red and green frosted cupcakes sitting atop on the roof, colourful jube jube candies lining the windowsills, and green and red macarons adorning the doorway as a wreath, just sitting there, waiting to be played in!

And to my delight, The Sweet Escape had gingerbread cupcakes with a little jube jube candy sitting on top of the frosting, waiting to be inhaled by me.  So I did.  And it was delicious.  The Sweet Escape makes great cupcakes and they have a great selection.  On Tuesday, they had about 6 different kinds to choose from and all of them are priced at $2.50 each, putting them at the bottom rung of the cupcakery pricing list, as many cupcakeries in the city price them from about $2.50 to $3.50.  I have to tell you, this particular cupcake had some wicked kick to it (duh, Deb, it’s gingerbread, it’s supposed to!) and it’s made with cinnamon and cream cheese frosting.  DELICIOUS.

It was SO worth it being out in the cold enjoying this Christmas market and I really hope some of you get the chance to check it out.  And if you don’t get around the holiday market, definitely explore the neighbourhood.  It’s my favourite and I can’t gush enough about how nice it is.  It’s historically rich, charming, and entirely pedestrian-friendly, so go! 🙂  

 

*****

Café Uno is located at 55 Mill St., Building 32, and The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie is located at 55 Mill St., Building 47.  The Distillery District is east of The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, sitting south of Front St.E, and sandwiched between Parliament and Cherry St.

A Beautiful Tree, Gingerbread House, and Market Goodies – The Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery, Part I

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I am SO, SO excited to be sharing these photos with you all!  If there are 3 things you should know about me, they are: 1) Christmas is my favourite holiday, 2) I am an absolute sucker for markets, and 3) The Distillery District is my favourite neighbourhood in Toronto aside from Kensington Market.  I can’t decide which area I love more, I love them both!  My boyfriend Richard and I went to the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District on Tuesday and even though we froze our tooshies off, I had SO much fun *prances around the room*. 

There was a gorgeous, GIANT Christmas tree, all the shops were decked out in Christmas greenery, wreaths, and bows, there were signs decorated to look like iced gingerbread cookies, and there was even a life-size gingerbread house to boot!  The market was beautiful with an incredibly charming old-town feel to it, selling everything from toys to tea to meats to baked goods to cakes.  The Distillery District is beautiful and a photographer’s dream at any point in the year, but it looked especially magical with all the market festivities going on.  I only wish I could go at night when everything is lit up, but I’m happy that I got to go during the day because at least I get to show you all everything in daylight!

I have a lot to post tomorrow with more pictures and descriptions of everything foodie-related in the Distillery I could lay my eyes on and get my hands (or mittens!) on for that day.  So for now, I leave you with tons of pictures to get us started!  The Toronto Christmas Market is on until the end of Sunday, so you have plenty of time to still make it down and enjoy everything.  And yes, the gingerbread house is REAL, and yes,  you may go huddle inside and play, and no, you cannot help yourself and start eating the wreath.  Or the doorway.  Or the windowsill.  No, not the roof either.  I know, we’ll all have to exercise self-control.  There, there.

*****

For more info on locations and directions, go here.  The Distillery District is located south of Front St.E, between Parliament and Cherry St.  The Distillery District is the neighbourhood east of the the St. Lawrence Market.  A huge thank you to my sweetie for the last two photos!