The Hot Chocolate Series – Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Christmas Magic Unleashed at La Merceria

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There may not be any snow on the ground just yet, but I am in full-out “I’m-so-happy-Christmas-is-coming-so-I’ll-just-pretend-like-it’s-winter-even-though-it’s-not” mode!  Everyone has a favourite holiday or occasion and mine is Christmas.  Some might think it’s crazy to get all up in arms about it so soon, but time goes by so quickly that I really cherish the time I get to enjoy all the Christmas window displays, music, seasonal sweets and treats, and decorations.  I feel like I wouldn’t get enough out of it if things were only around for two weeks or so. 

I look forward to the holidays over a month before actual Christmas day and I use the time to plan out my get-togethers, my gift-shopping trips, my crafting time, and of course, my holiday menu!  And by menu, I mean all the yummy things I want to stuff my face with over the course of the entire month.  There are seasonal yummies you just don’t get to enjoy at any other point in the year and I’ve made it my mission to hunt down some of the best hot chocolates this holiday season and winter.  I’m here now with round two of The Hot Chocolate series!

I was so excited when I found nutella hot chocolate at Le Gourmand and soon after a little birdie told me about a bunch of other special hot chocolates being served around the city, which quickly went on my “must-try lickety goodness” list.  The special peppermint hot chocolate at La Merceria was a total unexpected, delightful surprise though and my own giddiness over it took me by surprise.  I had no idea La Merceria had peppermint hot chocolate (or any hot chocolate for that matter) and my impromptu visit to them was completely random and unplanned.  It was a bit chilly, I had some time in the morning before my day started at Le Dolci, and I wanted to sit back and be alone with my thoughts with a drink and a nibble of some sort. 

My heart sped up as I saw Christmas decorations in their front window display and my Christmas-loving heart did happy cartwheels when I walked inside and saw the cafe decked out to the nines in Christmas accessories!  I quickly snatched one of the comfy, pillowy seats and looked up at the drinks menu.  My last two visits were made warm and cozy with tea, but this time I wanted something different.  My eyes roamed over the list of drinks and that’s when I saw it.  “Pep-per-mint hot chocolate….oh my god, peppermint hot chocolate!”

And after my mental exclaimation of joy, I realized what had just happened.  I had gotten excited over something peppermint.  Well, that was strange indeed.  I have never liked mint or peppermint, ever.  I have gone through life without the enjoyment of mint Aero chocolate bars, mini chocolate chip ice cream, and mint and peppermint everything.  Then somehow, things started changing.

A few Christmases ago, I picked up a box of white and dark chocolate bark with crushed peppermint candy cane on it just because and thoroughly enjoyed the entire box all to myself.  Last Christmas I took a whiff of Bath & Body Works’ mint chocolate scented candle – and loved it.  One of my favourite cupcakes at Short & Sweet has been the Mint Everest mint chocolate Oreo.  And then this past summer I relished in the fresh, citrus creaminess of one of Jen @ Apiecalypse Now‘s orange peppermint patties.  Even though I wasn’t madly in love with mint and peppermint, times definitely were a changin’, which would explain my uncharacteristic jubilance over something peppermint.

I looked at the menu item and knew I absolutely had to have it.  And I did.  And it was absolutely delicious and delightful and a hot chocolate ever person needs to slurp and savour.  The unique thing about the peppermint hot chocolate at La Merceria is that it’s actually made with tea!  Yes, tea!  I guess I wasn’t far from having tea after all!  In hindsight, it didn’t even dawn on me that I was drinking hot chocolate made from peppermint tea until I drank about half the cup and realized their was something bobbing up and down inside.  I poked at it and saw that it was a tea bag and thought it was adorable how they had made it the way they did.  The hot chocolate is made with peppemint tea, dark swiss chocolate, and steamed milk with a bit of foam and powdered chocolate on top. 

The chocolate and peppermint flavours were delicious together.  The dark chocolate flavour was velvety smooth with that hint of subtle naturalness bitterness from the dark chocolate.  I loved that subtly bitter, rich chocolate flavour and both the peppermint and dark chocolate managed to keep their own distinctive flavours separate and distinguishable in the hot chocolate drink while still making it taste sweet and delectable. 

They come in two sizes ($3 for small, $3.50 for large) and the hot chocolate comes with a beautiful and adorable cinnamon stick!  I was over the moon about this.  I dunked and twirled my cinnamon stick in my hot chocolate and was totally amoured.  Unfortunately for me, I forgot my hot chocolate cup with my beloved cinnamon stick in it at the studio after I left for the day and couldn’t save it before it hit the can.  Which means I’ll just have to go back to La Merceria for another one some time.  Aw, shucks.

*****

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.

A Little Turkey Pot Pie and Shortbread Cookies – Christmas at T&T Bakery and Café

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Thanks to my honey Richard, I have oodles of candids like these to remember for many Christmases to come *chuckles*.  This is me this past Tuesday thoroughly enjoying my sweet delicious red and green Christmas sprinkled shortbread cookie.  Oh how I loved this cookie.  I love shortbread cookies and the sprinkles made these so cute and colourful and they were impossible to resist.  Christmas is not Christmas without cookies and this giant morsel of loveliness was so soft with just the right amount of sweetness to it.  It took all the willpower in the world not to snatch the entire basket of them before I left! 

T&T Bakery and Café (located at 35 Main Street Markham, at the intersection of Hwy 7 and Markham Rd., just north of Hwy.7) holds a lot of Christmas memories for me.  I went for the first time 3 years ago, back in 2007, for a get- together with 3 close friends for a holiday breakfast and this sweet bakery and café has been close to my heart ever since.  Located in the heart of the quaint, historic village of Main St. Markham, it has such a homey, community feel to it and they have fantastic food to boot!  They have breakfast dishes to die for (think homefries that look and taste like scalloped potatoes and waffles piled with fruit and whipped cream) and lots of bakery goods to nosh on like tarts, cakes, bagels, and pies along with sandwiches and lots of comfort food.

This past Tuesday I enjoyed a comforting lunch of savoury turkey pot pie and a fresh mixed green salad – and my cookie! 😀  I don’t know about you, but I loooove places that incorporate turkey into their menu and T&T’s little pot pie was so good.  It was packed with rich turkey meat seasoned with just the right amount of salt and pepper and surrounded by warm pie crust in the shape of a pineapple ring.  How cute!  It was warm, flaky, and packed with flavour and what I really loved about it was how much turkey meat was in it (they are beyond generous) and how the pie crust wasn’t bitter in the least as I find that some pie crusts tend to taste that way.  Not this one.  This one high-fived my taste buds, and my salad was fresh and crunchy alongside my favourite French dressing on the side to make me wiggle with glee. 

Sweet people and good food.  That’s what an eatery should be all about.  Being here evokes feelings of warmth, community, and comfort and it reminds you that food doesn’t need to be “fancy” to be enjoyable.  It’s the love that goes into it and the love that comes out of it when someone eats it that matters.  Sometimes it’s the simplest pleasures that create the best memories and experiences and I’m really happy that I got to tuck away another T&T Bakery and Café meal in my memory (and soon to be scrapbook!) this Christmas. 

I’ve enjoyed two breakfasts and one lunch here thus far and trust me, there will be many more to come!  Sandwiches range anywhere from $3-$5 and full breakfast and lunch meals come in at around $5-7.  There are many items that you can order a la carte (the turkey pot pie, for example, can be ordered on its own) and off to the side are baskets of baked goods, like cookies, that are packaged and ready to go.  2 days later I am still thinking about my cookie.  I desperately want to run back and buy a pack of cookies.  I think I will.

 

Thank you to Lindsay, Laura, and Lisa (Team Commitment!) for introducing me to this lovely place 3 years ago.  I love you ladies!

A Beautiful Tree, Gingerbread House, and Market Goodies – The Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery, Part I

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I am SO, SO excited to be sharing these photos with you all!  If there are 3 things you should know about me, they are: 1) Christmas is my favourite holiday, 2) I am an absolute sucker for markets, and 3) The Distillery District is my favourite neighbourhood in Toronto aside from Kensington Market.  I can’t decide which area I love more, I love them both!  My boyfriend Richard and I went to the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District on Tuesday and even though we froze our tooshies off, I had SO much fun *prances around the room*. 

There was a gorgeous, GIANT Christmas tree, all the shops were decked out in Christmas greenery, wreaths, and bows, there were signs decorated to look like iced gingerbread cookies, and there was even a life-size gingerbread house to boot!  The market was beautiful with an incredibly charming old-town feel to it, selling everything from toys to tea to meats to baked goods to cakes.  The Distillery District is beautiful and a photographer’s dream at any point in the year, but it looked especially magical with all the market festivities going on.  I only wish I could go at night when everything is lit up, but I’m happy that I got to go during the day because at least I get to show you all everything in daylight!

I have a lot to post tomorrow with more pictures and descriptions of everything foodie-related in the Distillery I could lay my eyes on and get my hands (or mittens!) on for that day.  So for now, I leave you with tons of pictures to get us started!  The Toronto Christmas Market is on until the end of Sunday, so you have plenty of time to still make it down and enjoy everything.  And yes, the gingerbread house is REAL, and yes,  you may go huddle inside and play, and no, you cannot help yourself and start eating the wreath.  Or the doorway.  Or the windowsill.  No, not the roof either.  I know, we’ll all have to exercise self-control.  There, there.

*****

For more info on locations and directions, go here.  The Distillery District is located south of Front St.E, between Parliament and Cherry St.  The Distillery District is the neighbourhood east of the the St. Lawrence Market.  A huge thank you to my sweetie for the last two photos!