The Sweet Taste of Strawberries & Lemonade – Summer Sipping at Butler’s Pantry in Roncesvalles

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Cheers to summer!

With the temperatures as high as they are during these hot summer days, everyone is guzzling down bucketfuls of their favourite drinks: iced coffee, ice cold beer, fruity bubble tea, and plenty of water.  One of my preferred summer beverages?  Lemonade!  Aside from yummy iced loose leaf tea in a plethora of flavours, lemonade is my go-to summer drink treat and a number of spots in the city are serving up flavoured lemonades to slurp and cool down with: a brand spankin’ new frozen lemonade slushie from our beloved Tim Hortons, a lemonade and an iced lemon mint from Aroma Espresso Bar, a raspberry lemongrass iced tea from Le Gourmand Cafe,  and a maple lemonade soda seltzer from The Depanneur!

Much like my Winter Wonderland – Hot Chocolate series, this spotlight on lemonade will serve as one of the summer drink counterparts on the blog and I am so excited about finally starting it!  I’ve been looking forward to this for months and trust that one way or another, I am going to get to every single last one of these drinks and report back to you all!  I’ll be waddling around with a water balloon for a tummy because of it, but everything sounds too refreshing and tasty to pass up so water balloon I will be.  Lucky for me, I found myself another fantastic lemonade option to enjoy in the city and to add to that list: the strawberry lemonade from Butler’s Pantry!

I have wanted to visit Butler’s Pantry for ages.  With 2 locations in Toronto (one in Mirvish Village and the other on Roncesvalles in the west end), it is a great cafe for both carnivores and vegetarians alike.  Their menu, especially their main entree portion ($10-$14), is to die-for.  Butler’s Pantry takes its cue from a variety of different countries and cuisines to recreate those authentic cultural flavours and meals in dishes such as their Korean bulgogi, Indian biryani, Southern jambalaya, Greek moussaka, Moroccan vegetable tagine, and SO much more.  Even though this post is devoted to their strawberry lemonade, you can definitely expect many future food posts from Butler’s Pantry!  In addition to their main course items, Butler’s Pantry also has a selection of sandwiches and appetizers (say hello to crab cakes!) as well as a brunch menu with French toast, omelettes, and eggs benny among other favourites.

Their strawberry lemonade ($3.50) comes in a nice tall glass (around 16 oz., I believe) with a wedge of lemon slice and is one of the most refreshing fruit drinks ever.  First off, it’s gorgeous.  It’s a beautiful ruby red grapefruit shade and when you look at it from top to bottom, you’ll notice a lovely eye-catching colour gradient which just makes it all the more fun to drink and look it.  And of course, it tastes cold, refreshing, and delicious.  I love lemonade, but even I can acknowledge the fact that when it isn’t made well, it can either taste too mouth-pucker sour, too cavity-inducing sweet, or just plain artificial, powdery, or rubbery.

A fruity kind of day! Strawberries and cantaloupe with yogurt, along with a strawberry lemonade.

Not this one.  The strawberry lemonade actually tastes like fresh, juicy, sweet strawberries with the citrus tang of lemons and the flavours are so bright, crisp, and clean.  It is a beautiful marriage of the two flavours and fruits and it isn’t too sweet or sour at all.  Unless I’m actually out at a coffee shop or teahouse, I don’t normally get special drinks when I’m out for a meal, just because I’m of the mindset that I would rather spend the money on the food.  However, there are always exceptions and if there are drinks on the menu that catch my eye and that are unique enough to warrant the extra few bucks, I go for it.  This strawberry lemonade is truly a great drink for spring and summer, so if you happen to nosh at Butler’s Pantry sometime in the near future (or anytime for that matter), give it a whirl!

*****

Butler’s Pantry serves 2 locations in Toronto: 1) 591 Markham St. in Mirvish Village, just off of Bloor Street West and Bathurst St. and 2) 371 Roncesvalles Ave. in Roncesvalles Village, south of Dundas Street West in the west end.  They are open for brunch, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week from 11am-10pm Monday-Thursday, 10am-11:30pm Friday-Saturday, and 10am-10pm on Sundays.  Visit their official website for more info and menus HERE.

The Hot Chocolate Series – A Warm Milk Mountain and Melted Chocolate Praline Logs at Aroma Espresso Bar

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There’s no better time to drink hot chocolate than when it’s bitterly cold out, and this weekend was downright bone-chilling!  Having lived in Canada all my life, cold winters aren’t anything out of the ordinary but it definitely doesn’t get any easier to bear as the years go by!  I remember growing up with snow up to my thighs, my screen door at home being frozen shut, and walking in the cold and rapidly blinking my eyes so my eyelashes wouldn’t stick together, frozen.  We’ve already been really lucky here in Toronto to have had such a mild winter so far and just a lick of snow, and it figures that I get all gung-ho on my hot chocolate during one of the mildest winters we’ve had in years!  I’m enjoying this Hot Chocolate Series so much though and it’s been so much fun seeing all the different flavours of hot chocolate and the different ways they’re prepared.

A series dedicated to drinks wouldn’t be the same without a drink from Aroma Espresso Bar.  Aroma, with its numerous locations in and around the city, is a coffee shop, espresso bar, brunch spot, and lunch café all in one.  Hailing from Israel, Aroma has taken the international coffee world by storm since its first shop opened in 1994.  Since then, they’ve opened locations in Europe, Asia, the United States, and all across Toronto and the GTA.  With its bold red, white, and black colour scheme and decor (the squishy red swivel chairs are my favourite!), Aroma serves up sweets (alfajore cookie sandwiches, orange coconut cake, sweet croissants), brunch (their Power Breakfast is one I really want to try with the eggs, salad, and different cheeses), soups and sandwiches, and so many different hot and cold drinks you could fill an olympic pool with them all!

Even though I’m not a coffee drinker, there are so many drinks from Aroma I would love to try such as their chai latte, ice aroma float, ice lemon mint, and their orchid latte.  I tried their hot chocolate first and boy oh boy was it ever delicious and all sorts of fabulous!  Their hot chocolate is being promoted as one of the drinks on their winter drink menu alongside classics such as apple cider and unique standouts like the orchid latte.  There are three types of hot chocolate in medium and large sizes: regular, white, and marshmallow and although a part of me was all up in arms over the marshmallow, I stuck to the regular because it looked so gorgeous on the promo banner.  And it was indeed beautiful, both in appearance and in taste.

I love having drinks in actual cafés and staying there to drink them because there’s a much greater chance of enjoying the drink in an actual mug, cup, or glass as opposed to the ho-hum paper cup.  The Aroma hot chocolate is served in a lovely glass mug on white saucer dish with a stir spoon and a chocolate to nibble on.  This is a winter drink in all its glory.  It’s frothy, it’s pure white when you get it, and with the exception of the powdered cocoa on top, all you see is chocolate chunks peeking through the glass at the very bottom with a mountain of creamy white on top.  It’s like having a giant snowy mountain of snow on chocolate cabin logs and it screams winter warmth.

And you read right: chocolate chunks and chocolate logs.  Aroma prepares their hot chocolate in such a cool way by placing the chocolate at the bottom and filling the mug with warm milk and froth up at the top so the solid chocolate can melt into the drink, into a chocolatey whirlpool of deliciousness.

That’s where the stir spoon comes in!  If you don’t want to slosh any liquid out, take a few sips first.  Then you gently press the chocolate at the bottom with the spoon to break it down a bit and you gently start to stir the chocolate around, melting it as you go.  But the most decadent way of going about it is pressing down on the chocolate, stirring it just a tad, then lifting the spoon out with the rich, half-melted chocolate still on the it and eating it.  Oh my goodness is it ever amazing!  It was rich, creamy, and thick with the most amazing nuttiness to it.  It wasn’t until I went back on Aroma’s website to check the hot chocolate description that it all made sense: chocolate praline!  That’s where the nuttiness was coming from!  The chocolate eventually becomes one with the milk to form one very smooth, incredibly yummy hot chocolate.

This hot chocolate is one of my favourites and I just love the sleek, clean presentation to it and most of all, the different levels of deliciousness.  It’s a situation where it’s totally acceptable playing with your food and drink!  I loved it to pieces and it makes me even more excited to try their other hot drinks later on this winter.  It’s a killer hot chocolate that would satisfy any and every chocolate lover out there.

*****

Aroma Espresso Bar is an Israeli espresso and coffee chain with over 100 locations worldwide.  There are 8 branches in and around Toronto, with shops in Thornhill and Vaughan.  Click here to view the list of Toronto and GTA locations.

Daily Pleasures – Getting Cozy With a Morning Tea and Torta Pasqualina Brunch at La Merceria Cafe

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On cloudy, chilly, rain misty days, all you want to do is hit the snooze button and burrow under the covers where it’s nice and warm and cozy for the rest of the day.  But we know we have to haul ourselves out of the comforts of our burrito blankets to start the day, so the next best thing?  Cozying up in a relaxing coffee and tea shop with some hot tea (or coffee for you all the java lovers out there!) and brunch to shake off that “I desparately want to be in my bed” feeling. 

I promised you guys I would blog about the food and munchies at La Merceria in my introductory post back in September, so here are the goods!  After I showed you all how much I fancied the tea, cookies, and beautiful kitchen decor goodies in the shop, I went back one morning and ordered me some hot tea and brunch before my day started at Le Dolci.  Seeing as I had a little bit of time to kill, I went in completely on a whim and made the decision to have brunch right then and there.  Nothing like a little visual temptation to seal the deal, right?

I knew I wanted a tea (one of these days I will get to the lattes and coffee drinks!), but the munchies I wanted remained a question mark.  Did I want a bagel?  Did I want a sandwich?  Something sweet?  Some salad?  I went with…none of the aforementioned.  Instead, I went for the delicious looking quiche-pie-like slice ($4-$6) staring back at me from inside the display case.  And that “quiche-pie-like” piece of yummy was a spinach and egg torta pasqualina!  Wait…what?!  I know, I couldn’t even pronounce the word at first, I just knew I wanted it because it looked and sounded good.  Torta pasqualina (or pascualina), is an Italian savoury pie most popular in, and originating from, the region of Liguria*.  The dish, known as “Easter pie” in Italian, is also a very common one in Argentina and Uruguay, making it so perfect and fitting for La Merceria given the cafe’s Argentinian roots and flavour.

Torta pasqualina is very similar to Greek spanakopita and quiche, but with some obvious differences.  Firstly, spanakopita (or Greek spinach pie as it is more commonly referred to) is typically made from sheets of phyllo dough where the dough is paper thin and crispy after being baked.  In contrast, the exterior of torta pasqualina isn’t necessarily crispy in texture.  In some cases, it can be cooked with puff pastry, but many others (like the ones at La Merceria) are much more dough and pie-crust like as they are made with an olive oil bread dough.  The filling is delicious, and there are so many ways you can play around with the ingredients.  Traditionally, pasqualina fillings incorporate some form of vegetable, ricotta, cheese, and egg mixture with fresh herbs, but you could just as easily find ones with meat fillings as well.

This was SUCH a delicious dish to have for brunch.  I love savoury pies (much more than sweet pies, actually!) and my pasqualina was stuffed to the nines with spinach and boiled eggs.  The pie crust was flaky and had that tasty, subtle butteryness in that flaky outer layer, and the spinach and egg filling was flavourful and moist.  You might think something like this might be a bit drying with the dough exterior, but it wasn’t; the soft spinach was the perfect pairing for the dough.  And it was BIG!  I didn’t even finish the whole thing for brunch.  I drank my tea, ate half of the pie, and saved the rest for lunch!  It’s hard not to love a brunch that eats like two meals.

And it’s hard not to love a tea that’s pink!  Turning a delightful shade of pink when steeped, Tealish’s Toasty Almond smells and tastes heavenly.  It’s nearly identical in taste and composition to Davids Tea’s Forever Nuts, so if you’re looking for sweet, nutty almond teas, both of them fit the bill.  Toasty Almond is the kind of tea that envelopes you when you drink it, giving you that “oh my goodness, I’m hugging my tea and my tea is hugging me back” feeling.  The smell is amazing, the teabag is so cute with the little knot and pouch floating in the mug, and the nice thing about this is the hint of sweetness combined with that earthy almond taste.  The sweetness comes from the apple and cinnamon in the tea and the gorgeous pink colour comes from the beetroot.  It’s a dessert tea and in my opinion, this one doesn’t have the “tea” aftertaste that so many people shy away from.  It’s reminiscent of almond cookies and almond croissants.  

La Merceria is such a treasure chest for me with its stationery, gifts, and kitchenwares and combined with the teas and great brunch, it’s hard to resist coming here every.single.day.  I would, but I like to space my visits out a bit so I can try something new each time and pace myself before exhausting all my options.  That, and because I don’t want to be tempted by beautiful tea cups and tea towels every single time I’m here.  The holidays are nearing, and I don’t anticipate it getting any easier come December.     

*****

Source*=  Citrus and Candy 

La Merceria is located at 506 Adelaide Street West by the northwest corner of Adelaide and Portland Street, east of Bathurst.  La Merceria is located beside Sadie’s Diner and Juice Bar.  Visit their website and blog here for updates, info, promos, events, pictures, and contact information and visit their Facebook page here.

Black-and-White Damask & Tomato Focaccia Sandwiches – Hip, Posh, Modern Atelier Cafe Lounge, Part I

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Looking back at these photos makes me “Ooo” and “ahhh” as I remember the gorgeous black-and-white decor, plushy seats, and yummy sandwich lunch I ate here, all the while knowing this foodie encounter was completely accidental.  When Atelier Cafe and I first met a number of months ago, I was thoroughly confused.  I know I can’t be the only one in the city to have made this blunder, but I went to Atelier thinking it was still Spice Safar.  Atelier Cafe Lounge, located on King St. West, occupies the exact same space that Spice Safar bakery and cafe used to be in so when I walked in with a WagJag voucher to Spice Safar, I was coloured baffled when I was told Spice Safar had been replaced.  Oh how embarrassing.  There I was standing around with a voucher to a place that no longer existed!  WagJag voucher aside (which Atelier thankfully still honoured by allowing me to redeem whatever I had paid for it), I managed to find myself standing in a lovely posh cafe with a delicious sandwich menu to boot.  Here is my teaser part I photo post before I show you all the yummies tomorrow!

*****

Atelier Cafe Lounge is located at 510 King St. West, west of Spadina Ave.  They serve both breakfast and lunch during the day and turn into a lounge and nightclub at night.

Calling All Nutella Lovers: Chai Lattes, Vanilla Steamers & The Banana Nutella Waffle at CocoaLatte! Part I

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Aside from those are who allergic to nuts and/or chocolate (or unfortunately to both like my best friend), I don’t know a darn person who doesn’t have somewhat of a love affair with Nutella.  And if you don’t love Nutella…well, I don’t know how successful it would be to forge a friendship, or to keep one at that.  Sigh, that’s how I roll.  I know how crazy people are about Nutella and the lengths some will go to eat the luscious, chocolatey, hazelnut cocoa spread and yes, this includes those who have allergies!  Pst, I’m looking at you, Quincy 😉 

Ever since I started this blog, I’ve honed in on several goals that I want to achieve in my lifetime, or at least for a good number of years: visit as many cupcakeries at possible (and consequently, taste as many different cupcakes as my sugar tummy will allow), find great vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, and hunt down as many delicious Nutella food items as I can.  I even have my own personal tip line going (aka. friends who nudge me in the right direction by suggesting things and places and then happily tell me to run along) which makes the taste tour even more fun!  “Go try the Nutella latte at Snakes n’ Lattes!”, “Ooo, there’s a Nutella cupcake at Dlish!”  What can I say?  My friends love me and genuinely care about my foodie adventures and the blog.  Either that, or they all want me to get fat.  Hmph.

If you loved that last photo, you will LOVE what I have in store for you all tomorrow.  You know I can’t post all my photos in my one post 😉  I adore Café Cocoa Latte on St. Clair West and I am super excited to dish about my first visit there and why I would go back again and again, so grab a napkin and prepare yourself for one hell of a Nutella breakfast feast tomorrow.  Enjoy the photos!

*****

Café Cocoa Latte is located at 671 St. Clair West, just east of Christie St. and west of Wychwood Ave.  The easiest way to get here is by taking the St. Clair streetcar westbound, or the 126 Christie bus going northbound from Christie subway station.

Desserts & Sweet Treats – The Brazil Bakery & Pastry Ltd. Discovery on My Dundas West Trek

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It’s for this reason that I have my camera with me every day 😀  I never know what I’m going to come across on when I explore neighbourhoods I’ve never been to, so having my camera on me allows me to capture photos of delicious treats and to remind myself of places I absolutely have to revisit.  Three weeks ago I told you all about my insanely long Dundas West trek and this was just one of my foodie discoveries along the way: Brazil Bakery & Pastry Ltd. located at 1566 Dundas Street West at Sheridan Ave., just east of Dufferin St.  Considering that it boasts many European-style desserts, the name of the bakery and deli is a bit of a misnomer but still a delight and feast for the eyes and tummy!  I’m looking forward to going back sometime (and bringing my mum and brother with me, they’ll go nuts over the bread and pastries!) and when I do I’ll be sure to share more photos.  I have lots to do for the blog over the weekend including some new scrapbook pages as well as a new “Calendar of Events” feature that I’ll be introducing soon, so I hope you’ll enjoy these dessert photos in the meantime!

*****

Brazil Bakery & Pastry Ltd. is located at 1566 Dundas Street West, east of Dufferin St. on the south side of Dundas.  The bakery makes wedding cakes, desserts, pastries, and bread, and also boasts a café and deli.