Turkey Sandwiches, Scalloped Potatoes & Fish, and LOTS of Sweet Treats! Courense Bakery on Bloor Street West

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You know what’s better than a bakery that has cakes, donuts, pastries, tarts, mousse cups, cupcakes, and meringues?  A bakery that has cakes, donuts, pastries, tarts, mousse cups, cupcakes, meringues AND fresh baked bread, sandwiches, breakfast, pasta, hot food and plenty of space to sit and eat!  With Christmas decorations!  And a Christmas tree by the window!  Can you tell I’m excited?!  I absolutely lovelovelove bakeries that double as cafés and I happened across a fabulous one in Bloorcourt Village on Bloor Street West, sandwiched between Ossington and Dufferin just west of Dovercourt Rd. 

Courense Bakery is a pretty bakery that lights up from the inside out.  Its dark chocolate brown and frosted gold exterior beckons you inside like a homey Christmas gingerbread house and when I passed by it for the first time a week and a half ago, there was something warm, welcoming, and cozy about the way the lights from the inside shone through the front windows.  It felt like a place I could enjoy some hot cocoa in while inhaling the smell of warm bread and sugary spun desserts.

I had no idea Courense was a bakery and a sit down café!  I was so delighted when I walked in and saw all the tables and chairs to sit and eat on and I was even more delighted when my eyes landed on the trays and trays of beautiful white meringues with Christmas sprinkles!  The dessert and pastry display cases curved around in a J shape – like a candy cane – and carried everything from whole cakes, jelly roll cake slices, frosted cake slices, sweet puff pastries, vanilla cupcakes, donuts, tarts, meringues with Christmas sprinkles and chocolate sprinkles, custards, eclairs, cannolis, chocolate mousse, and more. 

It was so cute how some of the dessert were also decorated for Christmas.  The meringues and chocolate mousse had Christmas sprinkles and some of the pastries were coated in melted chocolate and/or powdered sugar with chocolate cigar biscuits and adorned with a little rainbow candy cane!  The dessert selection is AMAZING.  I can’t imagine anyone not being able to find something that strikes their fancy here!

Courense Bakery isn’t just a place to tickle your sweet teeth though.  They serve sandwiches, pasta, hot food, and breakfast!  Behind the display cases sits a wooden wall rack of fresh baked bread in the form of buns, kaisers, and giant loaves.  When you walk further into the bakery, closer to the back, you’ll find their selection of deli meat, cheeses, and hot food selections for the day.  Here’s the thing though: they don’t have a menu.  Which would probably confuse first-timers big time.  I’m here to the rescue though!  Once you figure out how their portions and pricing works the first time, you’re set for life. 

I know not having a menu with prices to look at might irritate some people (or at the very least cause a little confusion), but for me, it’s okay.  Of course I would prefer a menu to look at.  I can look over something slowly, consider my options, and order my food accordingly.  But the way I see it is that I have no qualms asking the nice girls who work here about the food and pricing.  I have vocal cords.  I am capable of asking questions to find out whatever information I want to find out.  It may not be the most ideal situation, but the food is great and I personally don’t mind because their food falls into 3 categories (sandwiches, hot food, and breakfast), making the situation manageable.  Some might counter back and say that one shouldn’t have to ask about food menu items and pricing and that’s fair.  I’m here to give you the good though, so this is just fair warning!

Courense Bakery serves sandwiches with their deli meats, lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo, and mustard.  The flat price of a sandwich starts at $4 and lettuce and tomato are an extra $.50.  Their deli meats for sandwiches probably change on a regular basis depending on what they have on hand, but they have turkey, salami, and ham among others, and their selection of provolone and havarti cheese is delicious! 

Their hot food includes pasta, meats, and potato dishes and they serve them on large square plates fit for a hearty meal.  Each hot food plate entree comes in at $8.50 and you can mix and match your mains to fill your plate.  For example, you can have half a plate of pasta and half a plate of one of the other selections.  On this particular day, they had penne pasta with olives, feta cheese, red onions, tomatoes, and red pepper in olive oil dressing and herbs, roast beef in a marinara sauce, and a fabulous hot food dish of scalloped potatoes, tuna, flaky cod fish, and herbs.  I shared a plate of penne pasta and potatoes and fish with my mum and brother and shared a turkey sandwich with my mum while my brother enjoyed a whole turkey sandwich on his own.

The food is delicious.  We were especially over the moon with the scalloped potatoes and flaked tuna and cod!  I love scalloped potatoes and don’t eat them often enough so this was a scrumptious, shovel-the-food-off-the-plate-and-into-my-mouth treat!  The cod fish was white, meaty, soft, and flavourful and it was just all-around yumminess.  It was a warm meal that really packed a punch and it was great that we were given an ample portion of food on our plate.  I love potatoes and I love both flaky and meaty white fish so I was so excited to see a dish like this here! 

And their sandwiches?  SO.DARN.AWESOME!  Aside from grilled cheese, and vegetarian and cheese sandwiches, turkey sandwiches are my favourite.  You all know how much I love my turkey sandwiches from Raymerville Deli & Bakery and I’ve always tooted my horn that nothing would ever come close to those scrumptious sandwiches.  I think I’ve found an almost tie for my favourite turkey sandwich!  Courense Bakery uses this amazing soft-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside bread (I was enjoying my half of the turkey sandwich so much I forgot to ask what kind of bread they used!  I’ll remember to ask next time!) and the havarti cheese was deliciously rich and combined with the turkey breast deli meat, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard (just the way I like it!), it was a heavenly sandwich.

I can’t report back on the breakfast because I didn’t have any, but I know they serve breakfast because I saw egg breakfasts being brought to some people’s tables!  Courense is a great bakery with a ton of sweet options at very reasonable prices (we picked up huge jelly roll cake slices for $1.65 each!), and I can’t wait to come back for the breakfast, another turkey sandwich, more hot food, and those chocolate mousses!

*****

Courense Bakery is located at 1014 Bloor Street West between Ossington Ave. and Dufferin St.  The bakery is located just one block west of Dovercourt Rd.  In addition to the dizzying array of desserts and fresh bread, they serve breakfast, coffee drinks, hot food, and deli sandwiches.

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Spotlight on Wanda’s Pie in the Sky – Cream Cheese Frosted Carrot Cake With Pineapple, Walnuts, and Lots of Coconut

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I know it seems kind of silly to post about cakes from a bakery and cafe that clearly specializes in their famous pies, but it makes sense given what a huge fan I am of cake!  There’s no contest for me.  If I had to choose between cake and pie, cake would win, hands down.  I do love lemon meringue and a number of cream pies such as banana cream, coconut cream, and chocolate cream among a few others, but pie doesn’t float my boat the same way cake does.  Lucky for me, Wanda’s Pie in the Sky does cake in a BIG way, rotating between over 20 different kinds!  And I don’t even think that number includes seasonal selections.  Since my first official visit back in the summer (remember the fabulous, jaw-dropping rainbow cake?), I always walk in feeling so excited to see whatever cake they’ve baked for the day ($4-$6 a slice), sitting tall and pretty on their giant cake stand.  

One of my favourite things about Wanda’s is their ever-changing daily menu.  They feature different salads, different cupcakes, and different types of cake every day so every visit is a happy surprise.  This type of arrangement of not knowing what to expect would probably drive some people absolutely nuts, but it’s actually kind of refreshing.  I love looking at menus and circling everything I want to try, regardless of whether or not I would realistically have it ($35 pasta?  Probably not, but in a fantasyland, sure!), but with Wanda’s I look forward to all the delicious food they have on hand that day.  Even though they have a cake menu on their website, I don’t even bother writing out a list of all the cakes I want to try.  My approach to eating at Wanda’s Pie in the Sky is quite simple: walk in, see what’s there, eat it. 

Say hello to the moist and flavourful cream cheese frosted carrot cake!  I’m a big fan of carrot cake.  Carrot muffins not so much, but yes yes yes to carrot cake.  I wasn’t able to get a photo of the entire cake on the stand, but it was so adorable with the little frosted carrots on top and it reminded me of garden fit for a bunny.  It was especially cute watching one of the girls cut my cake slice for me because the cake was so huge!  The carrot cake is a two-layer cake frosted with a thick, creamy layer of cream cheese frosting, covered in shaved coconut on the backside, and adorned with a frosted carrot on top.  The nice thing about the frosting was that it wasn’t cloying sweet and it wasn’t so creamy that it slopped all over the place.  Even though a lot people enjoy carrot cake because of the frosting (and rightfully so, the frosting is delicious!), this frosting was thick, creamy, and sweet enough to be really yummy, but also subtle enough to let the cake shine.    

The inside of the cake was bursting with pineapple, raisins, chunks of walnut, and shredded carrots and coconut.  I absolutely adored the texture of the cake.  It was moist and dense, just the way a carrot cake should be and to me, the shredded coconut, raisins, and pineapple just kicked the whole thing up a notch.  The coconut made the cake sweet and crunchy and flaky, and the pineapple and raisins gave the cake a sweet chewiness that I loved.  I had to split my cake into two because I couldn’t finish all of it in one sitting, but that wasn’t a problem because I had a trusty tupperware container on me.  Cake leftovers are never a bad thing.   

*****

Wanda’s Pie in the Sky is located at 287 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market.  Wanda’s Pie in the Sky is located in between Nassau and College St.  They are open every day from 8am-9pm.  For more info on placing orders, attending classes, and dessert items they serve, check out their website here

The Open Window Bakery – My Testament to Eating and Shopping Just About Anywhere!

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What better way to celebrate the blog’s one month birthday than with sweets! 😀  Can you believe that it’s already been a month since my very first post on Ate by Ate?  27 posts later (hey, not bad at all, I only missed 3 days!), I am feeling more excited and inspired than ever and I am so, so happy that I have this blog to share with you guys. 

And what I’m sharing with you all today are bakery goods from The Open Window Bakery, located inside the little mini mall at Don Mills and Steeles, just off Highway 404.  The Shops on Steeles and 404 in North York (technically, they say it’s located in Thornhill because it’s just north of the 416/905 boundary, but really, I consider it in North York) is far from what you would call a shopping mecca.  But!  I tell this to people all the time: I will, can, and do shop anywhere.  And that includes noshing.  I don’t care how small the mall is.  I don’t care how “dumpy” it may appear.  I find something worthwhile everywhere I go and that includes sweet treats and good eats.  And if you’re wondering, yes, I have come out of this little mall with loot.  I bought a take-out menu organizer from the Sears Outlet store (I kid you not!  This thing is awesome!) and there are Pillsbury Doughboy lip balms with my name on them waiting for me at that Shoppers Drug Mart location.  When I say I can shop anywhere, I don’t lie.  Hmph.

The Open Window Bakery is a place I really grew to love this past fall simply because I was around it so often!  My brother (who attends the Seneca Newnham campus at Finch) had a lonely Friday morning class each week during the fall semester.  We didn’t have a lot of time to travel far, so my parents and I thought, “eh, what the heck, let’s check out the little mini mall at Steeles and Don Mills”.  We figured we’d grab a small bite and wander around a bit and what began as somewhat of a “last resort” turned into a fun weekly excursion and I’m so very happy that I stumbled on this bakery!  The people who work here were so sweet to us and the goodies are yummy!  I am still dying to try their chocolate petit fours (I know!  What kind of a sweet tooth doesn’t lunge at them right from the get go??  I totally fail), but I love their jam dab cookies, oh my goodness.  You know how I said I love shortbread cookies to pieces?  Yeah, I also love thumbprint cookies and their jam dab cookies are lovely.  They’re not overly sweet or chewy and they’re not hard or dry.  The jam parts in the middle make me wiggle, I love them.

They have a variety of cakes, tarts, and cookies, including chocolate chip ones stuffed with enough chocolate chips to fill the Grand Canyon!  Items are individually priced with the exception of cookies which are priced based on weight, per 100g.  They serve lunch and breakfast foods  as well and let me tell you, for a small bakery inside a tiny mini mall, they make a damn good veggie omelette!  I had breakfast there one time and ordered the veggie omelette and it was done perfectly with green bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions.  And yes, I had my jab dabs to go with them 😀  Cakes are super reasonably priced (a giant whole lemon frosted cake for $11.99??  Oooo, me!!) and most breakfast and lunch items range from $3-$5.

That’s what I love about independent shops and little “hole-in-the-wall” places.  Other than sanitary reasons, I’ve never been one to stick my nose up at places that are tucked away, or to think that certain areas “just don’t have anything in them” to look at or explore.  I truly believe that every little area has something valuable to offer and it’s through exploration and just walking around aimlessly that leads you to such amazing stuff.  Sometimes you purposely seek things out and other times they fall right into your lap.  The best things always seem to come unexpectedly and that’s what makes this such a fun adventure ❤  

The Shops on Steeles and 404 is located at 2900 Steeles Ave. East, at the intersection of Don Mills Rd. and Steeles Ave. E, off Highway 404 in North York.

Update – January18, 2011: I was informed last night that the Open Window Bakery just closed its doors for business and that makes me very sad!  Sorry everyone 😦

*****

Scrapbooking materials used: white and indigo/violet cardstock (Recollections); circle paper punch and numerous colours of cardstock for said circles; bakery stickers (Sticko); brown and white polka dotted alphabet stickers (K&Company).