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.

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

Map Out Your Macaron Munching Routes – 1 Week Until Macaron Day Toronto 2014!

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pre macaron day 2014 collageJust as the title says: only 1 more week until we celebrate the 3rd annual Macaron Day TO on March 20th!  I’m happily volunteering again this year as a Macaron Day TO ambassador and I already have my macaron map figured out.  If you’ve never participated in the delicious occasion before, you must!  Not only is it super fun carrying around a bundle of macarons in your arms (or purse or tote bag or in my case in the last two years, a picnic basket and Hello Kitty tin lunch box!), it’s also for a bigger and more important cause.

Macaron Day, in essence, is a day to support local charities in addition to enjoying delicious macarons and trying numerous wacky flavours made just for the occasion.  Many cities take part including Paris, New York and Toronto and each city chooses a local charity to raise money for.  For the last two years, Macaron Day TO has been donating 25% of all Macaron Day sales on March 20th to the Red Door Family Shelter, an organization that aids in providing care and social, legal and financial assistance to the homeless, low-income families and abused women and children just to name a handful.

On March 20th, participating patisseries, bakeries and cafes all across the city will be baking up a storm in support of this cause.  Here’s how it works: show up at a participating Macaron Day TO location, tell folks at said location that you’re celebrating Macaron Day and receive a FREE macaron!  (One free macaron per customer).  And of course, 25% of the proceeds of any and all macaron purchases you make on the day will go to benefit Red Door.  Obviously, Macaron Day wouldn’t be a success without the enthusiasm and support from everyone who comes out for it, so if you can, visit your favourite participant or make a day out of like me!  Get out early though as each participating location will have a limited number of free macarons to give out.

I’ve had a lot of fun strategizing and mapping out my macaron munching routes the last two years and this year will be no different.  I’ve generally followed a north-south plan, hitting up about 4 to 6 spots each year: La Bamboche, Petit Thuet x 2, Patachou, Rahier Patisserie, Patisserie La Cigogne, Yorkville Espresso Bar, and Daniel et Daniel.  I’m going about my route a little differently this year so you’ll see lots of photos from places I haven’t hit on Macaron Day yet!  I’m excited and I hope that all of you will get the chance to come out, have fun, eat macarons, and benefit Red Door.

Check out all of Ate by Ate’s macaron yumminess!

Macaron Day TO 2013

Macaron Day TO 2012

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.

Butterflies, Ooey Gooey Dulce de Leche & a Rainbow of Macarons at The Wedding Cake Shoppe!

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“Which cupcake do you want?”.  “Hmm…I really don’t think I should have one…”.  “But these are your favourites!”.  “It’s okay, you have one, I’m not going to get one”.  “But that’s why we’re here!”  Sigh.  Figures my mum would bail on me.  I look over at my dad and brother.  “Do you guys want one?”  Two head shakes respond back.  “Oh, fine!  I’ll have a cupcake all by myself!”  How disappointing that my whole fam did not join in on my cupcake fun.  My pouty huffy and puffiness did not last long though as my sweet teeth met with the thickest and gooeist of caramels and my eyes fell on the daintest of macarons in the sweetest of colours.  Cupcakes AND macarons – now THAT makes for the perfect sweet treat afternoon snack in my world!  And in a beautiful cake shop no less.  While my parents and brother sat at a little table in The Wedding Cake Shoppe watching me take photos, reposition my cupcake, reposition my macaron box, open my macaron box, take a bite of my cupcake and basically “do my thing” as my mum would say amidst sparkly butterflies, frosty gold finishes, and pastel brights, I salivated at the thought of finally sinking my teeth into The Wedding Cake Shoppe’s macarons for the first time!

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Along with an ooey, gooey Argentinian Dulce de Leche vanilla-caramel-y cupcake (oh my goodness, thickest caramel EVER!), I picked out a half dozen box of macarons ($1.85 a piece – can you believe it?!) for my family and I to share later on that day.  It’s remarkable how much more affordable Wedding Cake Shoppe’s macarons are compared to other patisseries and shops in the city.  I mean, I know we try to avoid making assumptions about people, places and things, but you have to admit, there’s no way anyone would have guessed that macarons coming from a wedding cake boutique would be less than $2 each!  But they are and the girls are always coming up with new flavours so there’s constantly something different to try.

I grabbed a mint chocolate chip (eeee!), chocolate, strawberry, mango, and 2 green teas.  While I can’t tell you which one was my favourite out of the 5 flavours because I didn’t try them all, I can tell you that they are so soft and delicate and they’re great for those who like the idea of macarons but shy away because they’re hesitant about the sweetness.  Much like Wedding Cake Shoppe’s cupcakes and buttercream, their macarons definitely err on the “I’m-not-sickly-sweet” side and they’re a real testament to the shop’s style and approach.  They don’t hide behind sugar; they simply allow flavours to shine on their own the best they can, with of course, a dash of sweet and sassy style!

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

Goodbye Manor, Hello Avenue – Bidding Farewell to La Bamboche on Manor Road

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Right at this moment I don’t even care that I found out about this almost a month after the fact.  The sad truth is that La Bamboche was forced to close down their beloved Manor Road location last month at the end of April because of lease renewal issues and while all of our love and support will be redirected to their Avenue Road shop, I am still heartbroken over the news and quite frankly, stunned.  I know nothing is forever, but you just never think that one of your favourite spots will leave you and as a foodie, news like this hits you hard right the heart.

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Fellow Macaron Ambassador, Bonnie, told me the news the other day and I was gobsmacked when I read her e-mail relaying the sad news.  I think I speak on behalf of all us when I say that La Bamboche’s Manor shop will be so missed.  I know many of us had some of our very first macarons in the city at Manor and boy did many of us go macaron crazy on Macaron Day, treating Manor like our unofficial headquarters.  In this post I’m saying goodbye to Manor with a heavy heart, moving forward with future sweet treat plans at Avenue, and sharing the very last photos of macarons that I took from Manor at the beginning of April.

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*****

La Bamboche is located at 1712 Avenue Road, north of Lawrence Ave. West at the corner of Fairlawn Ave.  You can visit their website, their Facebook page (have you liked them yet?!), follow them on Twitter @labambocheTO, and check out all of Ate by Ate’s La Bamboche’s posts and photos!

Globe Trotting for Macarons – Ate by Ate Goes to Miromar Outlets in Fort Myers, Florida!

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Palm trees, hot sunshine, flowers and fountains…no, we’re not in Toronto folks, we’re in Fort Myers, Florida!  Welcome to Ate by Ate Goes Globe Trotting, your special look into the fun culinary adventures I’ve enjoyed during my travels!  First up?  Macarons at the Miromar Outlets in Fort Myers, Florida!   I’m so super excited to finally share these photos and stories with you guys.  I’ve been holding onto them for months now and I finally feel ready to start this fun series now that the weather is nicer and people are starting to think of vacationing for the summer (can you imagine how mad everyone would have been had I posted this back in February when we were still buried in snow?!  You guys would have thrown stones at me!).  These photos are really special to me because they reflect my first real taste (no pun intended) of traveling.

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Let’s start from the beginning: back in February I was given the opportunity to travel to Marco Island, Florida for a 4-day business trip with my Kraft Kitchens and culinary marketing team.  Let it be known that aside from a few out-of-town trips across the border and a few trips to Montreal and Quebec City when I was younger, I have NEVER traveled.  EVER!  So many people talk about family vacations, going away, and this and that.  Not the case for me.

I’m not kidding when I say that at the age of 27, this trip to Florida was my very first experience of so many things: my first time packing on my own, my first time navigating the airport by myself (heck, the first time I’ve been in the airport to travel at all!  Going to the airport to pick up my aunt and uncle does not count!), and my FIRST TIME BEING ON A PLANE!  No joke!  If someone would have told me 10 years ago that my first trip was going to be with coworkers to an island in Florida in the dead of February I would have laughed.  But life and fate work in funny ways.

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I can’t tell you how excited I was.  I  know flying and traveling are no big deal to some people.  For some, it’s even a regular part of life.  But for me, traveling has never been.  I’ve always had dreams of going here and going there, but my family and I just didn’t have those chances or opportunities when I was growing up.  But gosh did this trip ever put me on a high!  I wasn’t scared or intimidated in the least and I soaked in every moment of it: going through customs for the first time, chucking my shoes and luggage through the little customs conveyor belt, running down the corridor to board my plane.  There was no other feeling like it.

So, how did I end up at the Miromar Outlets in Fort Myers?  Before the trip, we were all given our itineraries and we were all told to choose a “free time” activity for one of the afternoons.  Everything would be taken care of (transportation, meeting spots, etc.) and all we had to do was choose our activity and show up for it on the day of.  The choices were shopping at Miromar Outlets, beach day, golfing, and boating and fishing.  You don’t even have to know me inside and out to know which one I would have chosen.  HELLO, SHOPPING!

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So there I sat on my hotel bed the night before in my jammies, fuzzy socks and wet hair after my shower with the tv on in the background with the Miromar Outlets pamphlet and pen in hand.  I had work to do!  I wasn’t going to be there for the whole day so I had to make the most out of my time.  I circled all the places I wanted to shop my heart out, mapped out a route for my myself and had myself a jolly good time dreaming about all the fab stuff I would buy for my family, friends, and myself.  And boy was I ever excited when I saw Le Macaron French Pastries listed in the specialty foods section of the pamphlet!  Macarons.  At a shopping outlet.  In Florida.  SWEET!  And was this outlet ever a thing of sweet beauty.  Flowers, fountains, palm trees, and stone walkways everywhere and such a sense of peace; it was like the outlet was its own little world.

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Le Macaron French Pastries (a shop with multiple locations all over Florida!) had a delicious assortment of macarons, a gorgeous display of chocolate truffles, and some yummy flavours of gelato in their gelato bar.  Being the macaron maven that I am, I purchased a box of 6 for $12.60: 2 coconut creams, a mint white chocolate, a lemon cream, a dark chocolate passionfruit, and a Colombian coffee.  Even though I was in Florida, it really felt like home.  The prices were right on par with the ones we have in Toronto and the shop was adorable: bright magenta pink paint on the walls, pretty gift boxes stacked on the display cases, and little chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

My macarons were so cute!  The coconut cream ones were studded with shredded coconut and they were definitely my favourite with the Colombian coffee coming in second.  Part of me wanted to share a few with my coworkers but the other part just wanted to scarf them down all on my own.  I opted for the latter option and enjoyed the whole box all by my lonesome!  IT WAS GREAT.

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It was such a memorable, special trip and it makes me happy knowing I got to have some foodie fun while I was there.  I know these posts and photos will make those of you who love traveling very happy and excited so I’m hoping that with more trips and traveling adventures in the works, it’ll indulge and inspire everyone’s inner traveling and foodie.

*****

Le Macaron French Pastries is a macaron patisserie and sweets shop with a number of locations in Florida including Tampa, Naples and Sarasota.  The Estero, Fort Myers location is located within the Miromar Outlets at 10801 Corkscrew Rd. Suite 183.  You can check out their website HERE.