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

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

Surrounded by Yellow Fall Leaves & Butter Avenue Macarons

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Pick a macaron, any macaron…

Aside from Macaron Day, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a macaron eating experience more than I did during this past Thanksgiving weekend.  Wait a minute…macarons?!  For Thanksgiving?!  That’s right.  I didn’t have turkey.  Or cranberry sauce.  Or even pie.  I had macarons!  And for the first time in a long while, my craving for macarons outweighed my craving for cupcakes (I did end up getting some cupcakes later on in the day, but the point is that I wanted macarons and purchased and ate them first!).  A little unconventional but just as delightful!

Sitting on a park bench across the street from Butter Avenue Patisserie & Cafe on Yonge Street in uptown Lawrence, surrounded by a flurry of rich, golden yellow leaves, I held my treasure box containing half a dozen beautiful, delicious macaron jewels bursting with fall colours and pumpkiny, nutty flavour and savoured the moment.  It was wonderful and just what I needed to wind down during the long weekend.  I finally took the time to do one of the things I love most: taking photos of flowers and parks and pretty fall trees.  I breathed in the cool air outside during a great walk, bundled up in my fall coat and scarf with a warm belly full of great food.

My sweet treat goody bag!

It was gloomy, gray, and chilly out but I loved it because oddly enough, it felt cozy and comforting.  It was almost as if I was suspended in time in a little glass globe, peering into the distance at the wonderland of gorgeous gardens and fall trees around me.  Amidst all the craziness and busyness of work and blogging and everything else going on, I finally felt that feeling of inner peace and calm settle in and it felt amazing.  I got all of that from a walk and a box of macarons?!

You betcha.

Butter Avenue and I go way back.  While it’s true that the oh-so-chic macaron patisserie and cafe hasn’t even been in TO for a year yet, I stumbled on it waaaay back in 2011 (nearly a year ago actually!) when it was still under construction with a piece of paper tacked on the front door announcing the macaron fabulousness that was to come!  I was ecstatic!  Especially since it would be in a neighbourhood I loved strolling through.  So why did it take me 7 months to make this first visit?  You know me.  I only go when I’m good and ready.  And, you know, when I get around to it.  The wait is over though and Butter Avenue has finally made its way to the pages of Ate by Ate in true haute couture fashion!

The sleek, modern macaron cafe boasts 14 flavours of macarons on any given day (or at the very least, 10 if certain ones sell out) as well as tarts donning macarons in a bounty of flavours such as black currant, chocolate, lemon, and more, mini macaron gift cups, dainty shortbread cookies, plenty of loose leaf tea, coffee, and coffee drinks to enjoy with your macarons treats inside the cafe or to go.

Much like La Bamboche, some of Butter Avenue’s macaron flavours are definitely Chinese and Japanese-inspired (in addition to the French, the seasonal, and the fruity) and it’s so interesting seeing how the flavours you’d normally expect to see in a Chinese bakery, for example, play out in a macaron cafe.  It’s a spacious cafe with seating near the front and it’s totally feasible to have a nice, quiet afternoon here with a cup of coffee or tea with some treats with a few friends.  Macarons are $2.25 each or $13.50, tax inclusive, for a gift box of 6.  I admired the colourful array of delicate macarons, opened my mouth ready to order two, thought better of it, and ordered the dainty box of 6 instead.

Go big or go home.

Seeing that it was a crisp fall day, I absolutely positively had to pick the pumpkin spice.  A fall macaron experience would be incomplete without it!  My treasure box of 6 macarons: pumpkin spice, white chocolate strawberry, matcha, matcha chesnut, pistachio wild cherry, and cafe au lait.  They came in a beautiful, adorable yellow and white gift box (which I’m totally keeping!) and were delightful from top to bottom.  If I had to choose my favourites, they would have to be the cafe au lait and the matcha chestnut in 1st and 2nd, and the matcha and pistachio wild cherry next.  I loved the pumpkin one too, but if we’re talking about standouts and flavours that are just incomparable to other macarons, these are the ones I adore most.  It’s surprising that the white chocolate strawberry one didn’t make the list, right?  I enjoyed it okay, yes, but I really thought the white chocolate could have been much more powerful.  The strawberry jelly filling was fabulous though, so that was what I liked best about that one.

The cafe au lait knocked my socks off.  It was absolutely amazing, like creamy, coffee mousse cake embodied in a macaron.  I love pistachio desserts (ice cream, cookies, macarons, you name it!) and I was delighted when I was met with a fruity, thick cherry filling after biting into the pistachio wild cherry one.  I also adore green tea flavoured things like baked goods and green tea in general and the green tea chestnut, especially, made me wiggle with glee because it reminded me so much of my childhood.

Left to Right: Pumpkin Spice, Matcha, White Chocolate Strawberry, Pistachio Wild Cherry, Matcha Chestnut, Cafe Au Lait

It made me think of Chinese and Korean bakeries.  Chinese bakeries always have chestnut vanilla cakes that they make as birthday cakes and growing up, I never liked the chestnut cake, only because I thought I had an aversion to anything nut (I seriously did not touch nuts, let alone eat them and it wasn’t even because of an allergy!) and because I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the texture and taste.  The macaron reminded me of the Korean bakeries I used to go to with my parents too because the macaron was like the perfect marriage between green tea, chestnut (a la Chinese bakery cake) and those walnut paste cake balls that you get from Korean bakeries! Between this one and the cafe au lait macaron, I was in heaven.

It was an afternoon of quiet happiness and beautiful fall scenery and I had Butter Avenue’s delicious macarons to make it that much more memorable.

*****

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. *Photo captions of macaron flavours coming soon!*

A Year in Review – New Classes & Studio, New Sweets, & Memories of Being an Icing Sugar Queen at Le Dolci!

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I don’t think any of us ever need a reason or a celebration to have cupcakes or cake; they are morsels of happiness in and of themselves!  But there is a special sort of anniversary I’m commemorating with these two sweet and decadent posts!  It all began with a cupcake studio, baking pans upon pans of vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, tinting mounds of yummy vanilla frosting in sweet pastels, and working with fondant for the very first time.  The trek to the old studio on King West and Portland, the smell of warm sugar, and the sounds of the oven timer chiming and the Kitchenaid mixer whirring at full speed.  I remember it like it was yesterday: my very first day as an icing sugar queen at Le Dolci! 

It has already been a year since that fateful first day of cupcake baking and frosting making with Lisa and Miya and so much has changed within that time including the introduction of new classes to the lineup and a brand spankin’ new studio across the street from Trinity Bellwoods Park!  I have so many fond memories and I took away so much from my time at the studio with Lisa and the other girls.  I learned how to make cake pops, I learned how to work with fondant, I watched Lisa grow her business from the ground up, and I celebrated Le Dolci’s first Christmas and Valentine’s Day among many other special milestones.  Can you believe that it’s already been a year?  It’s crazy!  Even though it’s been months since my days as Le Dolci icing sugar queen, it holds a special part of my sweet tooth and heart and I love being in the loop and staying up-to-date on all the yummy news.

Along with the retail cupcake space selling accessories and freshly baked cupcakes with a selection of new flavours (lemon, salted caramel, and coffee in addition to the classic Sicilian vanilla and chocoalte cocoa), Lisa and the Le Dolci team have launched a whole rotating menu of sweets available every day including Augie’s gourmet ice pops, and in-house crafted butter tarts, biscotti, eclairs, macarons, cannoli, and more!  And if that’s not enough squee, Lisa has also added a slew of new foodie classes and events to Le Dolci’s offerings!   

Le Dolci has joined forces with Rosewood Estates for wine and cupcakes, and wine, honey, and cheese tastingsLisa Kates (aka. A Food Gypsy) for drop-in soup evenings for soup, fresh bread, and sweets; traditional afternoon tea with sweets, savoury nibbles, and plenty of tea and adorable accessories; Chef Ramza for Lebanese cooking (tabbouleh, fattoush, makloubit chicken and rice and more!); Heather from Knead Bakery for bread and croissant making classes; and pie-making with the Parkdale Pie Princess!  Oh, and did I mention that Le Dolci is hosting their 2nd foodie trip in 2013, this time in San Francisco and Napa Valley, California?!  Sigh.  If only I could attend everything.

Here is Le Dolci’s October line-up of classes and yummies to look forward to!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

The Cupcakes, Cookies, & Cakes in the Hat – A Photo Spotlight on Dessert Oasis, Bakerbots, in Bloorcourt Village, Part I!

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*****

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

Sweet Daisies & Picket Fences – Scrapbooking Sweet Delights from Sweet Bliss Baking Company in Leslieville

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The kitchen table turns into a flurry of snipping and pasting activity as a mountain (or maybe a paper puddle) of cardstock, paper scraps, punches, stickers, and scissors develops before my eyes.  Ah, an afternoon of the food scrapbooking.  These mornings and afternoons don’t come along quite as often as they used to so I take advantage of every opportunity I can, even if it’s only for a few hours.  A few hours means at least a 2-page scrapbook layout and that’s good enough for me at this point!  It felt really nice to dig into my archive of food photos since I’d been neglecting many of my old ones to focus more on the cookie and baking project.  I think I’m going to take a short break from the project to focus more on older photos, just for a change of pace and variety.  I’d love to do a cute layout of the grilled cheese photos I took from my first visit to The Construction Site and of course, more cupcake ones and a start-up collection of brunch ones. 

My newest one here is all sorts of sweet and pretty: sweet white daisies and vines, little picket fences, cupcakes and sweets, and lots of pink for my layout of Sweet Bliss Baking Company!  Sweet Bliss Baking Company makes scrapbooking so easy because you can go country chic, romantic and floral, a little vintage, or all out dessert-themed.  Or a combination of everything!  I wanted to go floral so I busted out the giant sparkly daisies embellishments, the white flowers and vines over top a little picket fence, and some floral patterned paper with some dessert stickers here and there.  I would love to expand this into a 4-page layout, but that will have to wait since I’d haven’t been back to the sweet shop to take more photos, but it’ll happen eventually because those bars, squares, brownies, and cupcakes have my name on them! 

*****

Scrapbook materals used: pale pink and bright bubblegum pink cardstock (Recollections); baking stickers (Sticko); shiny epoxy patterned aprons & baking stickers (Sticko); FancyGlitter Borders (white flowers, butterflies, and vines) but Forever in Time Scrapbook Collection; sparkly adhesive daisy embellishments (K&Company); cookie alphabet stickers (Martha Stewart crafts); black and white polka dot epoxy alphabet stickers (atd by Momenta); sparkly pink floral alphabet chipboard stickers (K&Company); green floral patterned paper (Let’s Eat Placemat by TPC Studio); scalloped edge decorative scissors (Provo Craft).

Parisian Macarons and All Things Sweet & Dainty – Scrapbooking Bobbette & Belle With Pink and Sparkles

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What happens when I scrapbook photos of sweet treats from Bobbette & Belle?  I run rampant with the pink and bling!  This is the scrapbook layout I created with the photos I took over the holidays of the shop on Queen Street East, and of my chocolate candy cane macaron and Christmas tree shaped shortbread cookie.  I incorporated most of the photos from that holiday visit into this layout and saved the hot chocolate ones for the layout I posted a week ago here

Today was a goood scrapbooking today because I managed to use up quite a few supplies!  Using up a sheet of stickers or emptying a package of embellishments is one of the most satisfying feelings.  I managed to use up my rhinestone sheets, the rest of my paper lace doilies, some small sticker sheets, and I’m slowly but surely chipping away at my 4×6 Christmas paper mat pad from eons ago!  I was going for a sweet and dainty pale pink layout with lots of punchy splashes of red, white, and green with lacey accents and LOTS of bling and sparkle!  The sparkles come from adhesive rhinestone embellishments that are perfect for accenting corners and borders and adding sparkly flourishes across the page.  Not bad for a dollar a sheet from the dollar store!

I wasn’t able to try any of their cupcakes during this visit, but you know I’ll be going back for them sooner or later!  It’s not Christmas anymore and that means new decorations and decor and that means new photos to take and new sweets to try!  After staring at their cupcake menu online, the mango passionfruit, raspberry, gianduja, apple spice, espresso, pumpkin, and lemon ALL have my name on them.  Just not all at once.  So, in the meantime, you can take a look at the original Bobbette & Belle blog posts from December here: Part I and Part II.

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Scrapbooking materials used: baby pink, Christmas red, mint green, grass green, white cardstock (Recollections); Christmas patterned paper mat pad (Me & My Big Ideas); green pinstripe patterned paper (Recollections Basics); adhesive rhinestone border embellishments (Dollarama); cutlery plate stickers (Sticko); red alphabet stickers (Recollections); paper doilies (Wilton); red and white heart printed ribbon (Celebrate It by Michaels); floral bubble stickers; medium circle scallop paper punch (ek success).