Making Christmas Memories at Bobbette & Belle’s Newest Location with Tea, Cookies, Alfajores & Macarons!

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I know Christmas comes and goes every year and I know it might not be the happiest occasion for some folks, but for me, it’s my favourite time of year.  I love Christmas even more than I love summer and that’s saying a lot because my birthday is during the summer and I love me my birthday celebrations.  I love Christmas so much and I look forward to the season and everything it brings each year and I always feel so happy when everything I love is happening within a span of a month (seeing friends, holiday menus, holiday displays, exchanging presents, and taking a ridiculous amount of photos of all of the aforementioned) and when it’s all over I always feel a little nostalgic and sad.  So I try my hardest to soak up every moment and to make as many fun memories as possible.

I made many of these wonderful memories yesterday when I spent one of the best days ever with my best friend for the holidays.  Part of the ultra fabulous day included an afternoon stop at Bobbette & Belle’s 2nd location in uptown Yonge-Lawrence village for hot drinks and sweets!

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Not only am I so in love with Christmas but I am absolutely smitten with Bobbette & Belle’s newest location.  I didn’t even KNOW they opened a 2nd location until late last week when I was just out and about in the area and happened to walk past it.  I was so stunned I nearly shouted, “WHAT!?” right out on the sidewalk.  Sigh.  This is what happens when I stop blogging and, for the most part, being tuned out of all my foodie outlets for nearly half a year.

I have no idea when Bobbette & Belle opened this new location but am I ever sure glad they did!  I love it even more than their original flagship on Queen Street East.  While the Queen East location is big and airy, the Yonge-Lawrence location has such a warm, comforting, communal feel to it.  The decor and aesthetic is very similar: gorgeous cake pedestals displayed on shelves, beautiful china dishes and tea plates hung stylishly on the wall, a chalkboard menu, wood floors, and platters and stands full of pastries and sweets (tarts, cupcakes, macarons, cakes, scones, cookies and so much more!) just waiting to be devoured.  The difference?  The cafe aspect and feel.  The Yonge-Lawrence one screams Parisian cafe to me with its small tables and seating section in the back and the beautiful cushioned booth seating right up in the front by the storefront window (which can seat 4 sets of 2) is prime real estate, baby.  It’s bright, it’s soothing, and with the cushiony seating and knitted pillows, it’s the perfect spot to spend time with someone over a delicious dessert and hot drink.

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I was so excited finding out about their new location that I took advantage of the timing and ordered something holiday-themed: a Christmas tree-shaped shortbread cookie (which is actually what I had the last time I was at Bobbette & Belle during Christmas, go figure!  Check out that blog post here) along with two delightful macarons in cassis and chocolate mint, an alfajores cookie, and a nice big hot steaming mug of Citron Calm tea from their selection of Sloane Fine Teas!  I am over the moon that they serve Sloane teas as their teas are delicious.

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Ugh, this was such a delicious afternoon treat!  I knew I loved their macarons and shortbread cookies and now I love their alfajores cookies.  A lot.  The cookie has such great texture (sturdy yet soft and moist) and the caramel was nice and thick and gooey without being mushy and the coconut it was rolled in gave it the perfect crunch.  LOVE.  And in addition to the Christmas-themed shortbread cookies, they had a chocolate candy cane peppermint cupcake on hand as well as some apple caramel pastries, apple cider, and several other holiday yummies.

Their new location is in an accessible part of town (walking distance from Lawrence subway station) and it’s in an area that I really enjoy being in as I love the Yonge-Lawrence and Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhoods.  I cannot wait to come back for scones and tea, or maybe a tart with a macaron, or a slice of cake, or just more alfajores cookies.  And a hundred plus more cups of tea.

*****

Bobbette & Belle is located at 3347 Yonge Street on the east side of Yonge at the corner of Snowdon Ave. (Fairlawn Ave. being the street on the west side of Yonge) in the Yonge-Lawrence Village neighbourhood.  Their hours are 9am-6:30pm from Monday-Friday and 9am-6pm on Saturdays and Sundays.  Their original flagship location is in Leslieville at 1121 Queen Street East.

Sweet, Lemony & Bursting with Blueberry Sass – A Photo Spotlight on the Blueberry Lemon Cupcake From Desmond & Beatrice!

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Have any of you ever felt that your to-do list, whatever it may pertain to whether it’s errands, chores, or a bucket list on life, is never-ending?  I’ve been writing this blog for nearly 4 years and I still feel so behind on everything I want to eat, photograph and write about.  I suppose that’s just the nature of blogging.  So much to do but so little time.  And money.  And, well, person.  If only I could clone myself so that I could be in multiple places at once!  That way, I could be at multiple markets at the same time, check out all the Summerlicious spots I want within that tiny 2-week window, and take advantage of festivals that happen on the same day.  How accomplished I would feel!

Case in point: when I started Ate by Ate I wanted to knock it out of the park by posting lots and lots of yummy coconut, lemon and blueberry things (coconut and lemon desserts and blueberry breakfasts for the most part) among other delights but when I look at my current catalogue of posts I think, “pft, SO not good enough.”  I was hoping to have at least 1 post on coconut cake (or pie or something), 5 on blueberry pancakes and a ballpark of around 10 on lemon cupcakes.  Cue disappointed shake of the head accompanied by tsking.  I’m getting closer to that benchmark on the lemon cupcakes front but I’m nowhere near where I want to be in the blueberry department.

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So I’m, shall we say, putting pedal to the metal on this one and ramping things up a bit.  Since we’re on the topic of awesome lemon and blueberry sweets (re: my recent post on the lemon blueberry scones from Cobs Bread), I’m continuing on with a photo spotlight on the fantabulous and yummylicious blueberry lemon cupcake from one of my favourite bakeries and cupcake shops, Desmond & Beatrice!  The blueberry lemon cupcake ($2.75) is a vanilla cake studded with juicy blueberries topped with a generous amount of lemon frosting and a cute little dried blueberry.  Perfect for lemon lovers and blueberry muffin lovers who want to jazz things up cupcake-style!  If you haven’t already, check out Ate by Ate’s Cupcake Chronicles feature page on Desmond & Beatrice or enjoy some picturesque scrolling fun through all the D&B posts HERE!

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J’Adore Macarons! Bringing Home Sweets for Grandma from J’Adore Cakes & Co – Macaron Day TO 2014 Adventures, Part I

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4 stops, 2 dozen macarons, 1 memorable, wonderfully delicious day.  Macaron Day TO 2014 came and went last Thursday and despite the chilly, windy weather it was everything I hoped it would be!  Even though I didn’t surpass last year’s total of 5 stops, I truly had so much fun and in addition to raising money for Red Door, that’s the point of Macaron Day: to have fun and to build passion, excitement and awareness for these mouthwatering desserts that we love so much.  I hope everyone had a really great time noshing on macarons and being swept up in the excitement because I sure did!  I was raring to go early in the morning with my trusty Hello Kitty tin lunch box in tow, waiting in the wings to be filled with luscious macarons throughout the busy day and I’m happy to report that the highly anticipated day didn’t disappoint.

I passed by so many macaron-happy folks out and about with their baggies and boxes and I’m excited to find out if our final total for Red Door this year exceeded the one from last year.  I’m hoping – fingers crossed!  I had been anticipating this day for so long, not only because I was looking forward to having a ridiculous amount of macarons in my mouth and belly but also because March 20 is my anniversary with my sweetheart.  Macaron Day, my anniversary, and International Day of Happiness – it was meant to be.

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I switched up my Macaron Day route this year.  For the last two years I generally stayed close to Yonge Street, attacking several different patisseries each time with a few repeats thrown in: in 2012 I hit up Patachou, Daniel et Daniel, La Bamboche and Petit Thuet and in 2013 I paid visits to Patisserie La Cigogne, Rahier Patisserie, and Yorkville Espresso Bar with return visits to Petit Thuet and La Bamboche.  This year I really wanted to choose either an east or west end area and swing back central so I chose to start out east and I’m so glad I did because I FINALLY made my way to J’Adore Cakes & Co. on the Danforth after all this time!

Located at 3308 Danforth Ave. in the east end of the city near between Warden and Victoria Park, J’Adore Cakes & Co. is a beautiful and sweet cake and dessert boutique and cafe specializing in cake design and all the fresh, homemade sweet treats dreams are of made of: cupcakes, donuts (owner Isabelle was a winner on Food Network’s Donut Showdown!) and macarons!  In addition, the shop serves plenty of hot drinks and panini sandwiches for the times when you need some food to round out the sweetness.  The sweet-as-pie shop is painted in pastel blue and pink-and-white stripes with bursts of sleek and modern black and white designs adorning their decorated cakes and beautiful framed watercolours of yummy desserts on the walls.  It’s a lovely space bursting with beauty and delicious things to eat.

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Macarons are $2.25 each with half a dozen coming in at $13 (tax inclusive) and a dozen at $25, also tax inclusive.  On Macaron Day, 8 macaron flavours were on deck, ripe for the picking and patrons were allowed to choose any flavour of their choice as their free one so I chose their Flavour of the Month, Apricot Ginger with chocolate drizzle!  In addition to my free macaron, I bought a dozen to take home with me (L to R): 2 each of their Yuzu, Blood Orange, Praline Crunch, Earl Grey, Guava, and Apricot Ginger.  The only two flavours I didn’t choose were the Pistachio and Peanut and it certainly wasn’t because I didn’t want to!  The peanut one sounded delicious, like a peanut butter cookie with creamy peanut butter filling or something and I’m always up for Pistachio but I wanted to try something different so I chose the flavours that were most different to me.

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Their macarons are so beautiful and colourful and yes, delicious!  They’re about the size of a typical macaron (comparable to an Oreo cookie) and their fillings are mouthwateringly yummy.  While I didn’t try all 6 flavours (remember I took these home for my family with the intent of sharing – I had to keep my word and save some for them!) I did try their Yuzu (the bright yellow with black sesame seeds), Guava (the lovely pinky-coral one), and Apricot Ginger with chocolate drizzle and I enjoyed them all.  The fillings were light as air and so soft and creamy.  If I had to choose a favourite I’d choose Guava simply because it’s extremely true to the fruit and also because it’s very unique.  I haven’t come across another guava at any of the other patisseries thus far so it totally gets my vote!  I can’t wait to go back to J’Adore Cakes & Co. for more macarons and to try their cupcakes and donuts.  An honest-to-goodness sweet tooth like my self wouldn’t do justice if i didn’t!

Macaron Day this year was extremely special.  I got to visit a beautiful sweets boutique I had never been to before, I got to try a plethora of new flavours, and I got to enjoy the special day with my sweetheart.  And you know what else?  This Macaron Day enabled me to share my love and passion for macarons with my grandma on her birthday.  6 of those macarons were for her because I knew I’d be seeing her the next day and I wanted her to try these amazing sweets and to be a part of all the fun I had.  Because of Macaron Day, I got to give my grandma her first macaron at the tender age of 81.  And she loved it.

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*****

J’Adore Cakes & Co. is located at 3308 Danforth Ave. between Warden Ave. and Pharmacy Ave. (west of Robinson Ave.), walking distance from Victoria Park subway station in the east end of Toronto.  They are open 5 days a week from Tuesday to Saturday (10am-6pm Tuesday-Friday and 10am-5pm Saturday).  They are closed on Mondays and only open on Sundays for consultations and appointments.  You can visit their official website at  http://www.jadorecakesco.com/, ‘Like’ them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @jadorecakesco

The Insatiable Macaron Craving – A Photo Spotlight on Macaron Bites at Butter Avenue

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Last Saturday I had the most insatiable craving for macarons.  Oh but not just any macarons – Butter Avenue macarons.  I don’t know why.  My mouth just wanted them, badly.  I wanted to run into Butter Avenue, buy 2 dozen, forgo the pretty yellow box and inhale them right then and there.  I was determined to have my macarons and nothing was going to stand in my way.  Not the cold weather, not the crappy snow and ice on the ground, not even my boyfriend telling me he wanted to pick up a new pair of pants while we were out: “could we stop by Eaton Centre after lunch?  I want to buy new pants and they have better selection there.” “Yes, okay, that’s nice honey, we can go after I get my macarons.”  “But I won’t take long…” “Yes, I know, after the macarons, honey.”

I swear I’m not a nut.  Or a horrible girlfriend for that matter.

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Seeing how I am posting photos of half a dozen sitting daintily in said pretty yellow box though (from left to right: Cafe au Lait, Mont Blanc (chestnut sandwiched between vanilla and chocolate), Earl Grey, Chocolate Hazelnut and Raspberry.  Macarons are $2.25 each or $13.50, tax inclusive, for a gift box of 6), you can tell I exercised some self-restraint.  And I am proud to report I did not eat them all in the shop.  I only ate one inside Butter Avenue (the creamy, fruity red Raspberry, which has now become one of my favourites right up there with the Cafe au Lait and Matcha Chestnut flavours I previously posted about HERE) and I even saved a few to bring home for my family.

They enjoy macarons more than they enjoy cupcakes.  What can I say?  I’m a giver.

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Let’s be real though.  The second those macarons were gone I mentally cursed myself for not buying more.  I should have known better!  Sigh.  However, I do have one very sweet and compelling reason to make a return visit next month: Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and once a year, just for the occasion, Butter Avenue makes their famous heart-shaped macarons!  I thought heart-shaped macarons were only fancy pants things created in the kitchens of ambitious and talented pastry chefs or in patisseries in the heart of Paris (or in our day and age, on the pinboards on Pinterest), not something I could actually get my hands on in my own city.  To my knowledge, Butter Avenue is the only place in the city that makes them and I have yet to try them so I think this Valentine’s Day will be the day!  And maybe, just maybe, I can soothe that macaron craving still raging in that little tummy of mine, even if it’s just for a little while.

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Butter Avenue Patisserie & Cafe is located at 3467 Yonge Street, at the corner of Yonge St. and Yonge Blvd. (a little confusing, I know!) north of Teddington Park Ave., between the major subway stations of York Mills and Lawrence.  They are open 6 days a week (closed on Monday): 11am-8pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11am-10pm Friday-Saturday, and 11am-7pm on Sundays.

Let Us Eat Cake! Desserts and Sweet & Delicious Black and White Cake at Queen Mother Cafe!

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I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m always on the hunt for cafes that have an amazing selection of cake for dessert.  YES, CAKE.  And I don’t mean petit gateaux, I mean a honking delicious slice from a gorgeous giant round cake with layers and layers of moist cake and frosting and all the bells and whistles.  I love a fab dessert menu, but there’s nothing like the feeling of being able to walk into a place for a warm drink and a mouthwatering slice of cake without having that awkward, “um, yes, I’d like to order from the dessert menu…and um, nothing else.  Thank you!” feeling.  Off the top of my head Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (don’t let the name fool you, their cake is amazing!  Check out Ate by Ate’s posts on their famous rainbow cake and carrot cake!) in Kensington Market and Futures Bakery in the Annex are perfect places for an awesome slice of cake, especially Futures Bakery if you’re looking for selection!  Now we can add Queen Mother Cafe to the mix and I am so incredibly happy about this!

Choosing cake and dessert here is like choosing your favourite candy from the candy store: you walk right up to the counter (or in this case, the bar), look through the glass case(s) in delight, and point and say, “that one!”  At any given moment Queen Mother Cafe has about 10 different kinds of cake on hand ($5.99 a slice): cheesecakes, tortes and tarts and mile-high layer cakes are all up for grabs.  The cafe has several popular La Rocca cakes on hand alongside their beautiful and delicious housemade ones that rotate and change on a regular basis.

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During my very first visit back in late November, I ordered a slice of one of the most amazing cakes known to sweet tooth: their signature Lemon Escapade, a mountainous combination of lemon cream and frosting, vanilla cake, almonds, and the crunchiest of meringues.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen or tasted and I promise you guys I will get photos the next time; I didn’t have enough lighting where I was sitting and couldn’t take any!  But if you beat me to Queen Mother Cafe and if you see the Lemon Escapade, YOU MUST HAVE IT, I’M NOT KIDDING!

After that first time, I knew having cake at the cafe was an absolute MUST for each and every single visit thereafter and I was not disappointed the second time around.  I chose their beautiful black and white velvet layer cake, a 4-layer cake with 2 layers of vanilla and 2 layers of chocolate with sweet cream frosting all over and adorable little edible pearls on the backside (my apologies for the lack of photo on that one!  If I get around to having it again I’ll remember to take more!).  The cake was wonderfully moist and it is just the epitome of what vanilla and chocolate should be.  It seems so simplistic but to represent the classic timelessness of vanilla and chocolate in this fashion is no easy feat.  I’ve had chocolate cake that’s been too dry and vanilla cake that’s been too artificial and crumbly.  Queen Mother Cafe’s black and white cake nails it and it is truly cloud nine for your tastebuds.  Their menu delivers in both savoury and sweet departments and I am beyond excited to go back many more times to come.

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*****

Queen Mother Cafe is located at 208 Queen Street West in the downtown core just steps away from Osgoode subway station, situated between St. Patrick Street and Duncan Street.  They are opened 7 days a week, serving lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (11:30 am to 1 am) and weekend brunch and dinner on Sundays (11:30 am to midnight 12 am).  You can visit their official website HERE to view their info and menu.

The Brightest, Happiest of Decorated Sugar Cookies & Sweets – A Photo Spotlight of Summertime at Le Dolci!

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I have never seen Le Dolci’s studio look this bright and vibrant and happy!  Tropical colours and hanging paper flowers, adorable pink-and-white gingham, new pink-and-white dessert themed window decals, and LOTS of new sweets waiting to be devoured in their retail section!  I got the chance to make a return visit to Icing Sugar Towers (well, since Le Dolci is no longer at their old Portland St. condo, maybe we’ll just call it Icing Sugar Headquarters instead) on Tuesday and I had myself a field day getting new photos of the studio and catching up with Lisa and the gang.

They have a lot going on right now:

  • a gorgeous array of decorated sugar cookies for all sorts of occasions and themes including birthdays, Father’s Day, end-of-the-school-year-teacher thank yous, Pride Toronto, summer fun and fashionista couture
  • new sweets gracing their dessert counter such as tropical macaron flavours for their summer menu, gluten-free muffins and cookies, salted caramel chocolate tarts, brownies, and melty butter tarts
  • a culinary summer camp for kids that runs from July 15 to July 26!  Kids will have the chance to try their hands at cookie baking, styrofoam cake decorating, cake, cupcake and pie baking and decorating, and pizza-making and T-shirt decorating.  Click HERE for more information on class descriptions and pricing.
  • TWO amazing foodie trips in 2013 to San Francisco and Napa Valley, California and Paris, France!
  • having their desserts and sweets showcased at other venues.  Le Dolci has created adorable princess and knight-in-shining armour decorated sugar cookies for Casa Loma and pie-in-a-jar desserts for The Happy Hooker down the street!
  • and last, but certainly not least, a special Canaday Day cupcake decorating class on Saturday, June 29 from 10am-12pm and a Royal Baby cupcake decorating class on Saturday, July 13 from 10am-12pm to honour the lovely Kate Middleton and Prince William and their first born!

Check out their class schedule HERE for all the goods on their macaron, cupcake decorating, cake pop, croissant, pastry, cake, and pie-making classes and their Foodie Trips page HERE for the scoop on culinary jet-setting!

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Le Dolci’s studio and retail shop is located at 1006 Dundas Street West, right at the corner of Dundas West and Montrose Ave. The studio is across the street from Trinity Bellwoods Park and is open for business 6 days a week.  Operating hours are from 10am-6pm from Tuesday to Saturday and 12pm-5pm on Sundays.