Spotlight on the Flaky, Buttery, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Ham, Cheese, and Mushroom Pasqualina at La Merceria

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Over the years I’ve come to realize the type of breakfast and brunch eater I really am.  Some people love sweet breakfast foods (think pancakes, waffles, French toast, that sort of thing) while others salivate at the thought of egg breakfasts, breakfast burritos and sandwiches, and all things savoury.  Having the sweet teeth that I do, one would safely assume that my breakfast tastes lean more toward the sugar n’ spice n’ all things nice category.  But they don’t.  Oh, I enjoy an amazing French toast or waffle breakfast every once in awhile (I chomped on this thing of beauty, didn’t I?), but what really buzzes my biscuits is a full out savoury breakfast with all the works!  I love home fries, eggs (hello eggs benny!), tofu scrambles, huevos rancheros, sausage rounds, green salads with my brunch, the whole nine yards. 

Thus, I went into La Merceria one chilly morning ready for something warm and yummy and savoury and they did not disappoint with their selection of torta pasqualinas and mini empanadas.  They had three kinds of pasqualinas (spinach and egg, ham and cheese, and veggie) and three kinds of mini empanadas (beef, chicken, and veggie) waiting for me for that morning, and since  I was in the mood for something smoky and gooey the ham and cheese pasqualina fit the bill!

The spinach and egg pasqualina I had the last time was great, but this ham, cheese, and mushroom pasqualina was 100 times more amazing!  OH.MY.GOD.  For those of you who are vegetarian, I know, this doesn’t do anything for you, but for those of you who aren’t, you have to try this!  It is SO scrumtiously delicious and I promise you that once you start eating it, you will want to stuff the whole shebang in your mouth.  Because that’s sort of what I did.  And this even took me by surprise. 

I looooove mushrooms and cheese and every so often smoky ham hits the spot, but I was hesitant to dig into the pasqualina so ferociously just because anything cheesy has its enjoyable limits.  I’m a lover of cheese but even I know it can get too rich at times.  A lot of the time you end up needing something to cleanse your palate so the richness of the cheese doesn’t start overwhelming or overpowering your tastebuds, but that didn’t happen with this meal at all.  I didn’t have to stop in the middle of eating to take a break from the cheese and I didn’t feel icky.  It was truly one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever eaten.     

The pasqualina was so incredibly moist, buttery, and flaky and the exterior was crispy while the layer right underneath the flaky golden-brown outer later was moist and chewy.  The spinach and egg one is closer in taste and appearance to a breakfast quiche whereas the heavenly ham, cheese, and mushroom one is reminscent of a flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth breakfast biscuit with all the goodness of smoky ham, cheddar cheese, and soft, juicy cremini mushrooms.  This pasqualia was so honking delicious I finished the entire thing in one sitting.  No doggy bag for the doggy bag queen!  Now that’s a feat! 

La Merceria’s pasqualina’s are priced around $4-$5 and they are worth it for their portion size and yumminess.  If you’re in the market for something savoury but feel a little overwhelmed by big breakfasts, this would be right up your alley.  And while you’re at it, sip some hot tea or coffee drink and admire the wonderful cafe as you eat your yummy brunch. 

*****

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.

Warm, Heavenly, Bite-Sized Morsels of Cinnamon Sugar – Mini Donut Bliss at Little Nicky’s Coffee

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It’s about time I started some donut love on the blog!  Last Saturday (November 5th) was Donut Day (or Doughnut Day – I can’t decide which spelling I like better so forgive me if I started using them both interchangably in future posts) and I felt so lame for not having anything donut-related to post.  Even though I don’t eat them on a regular basis, I enjoy donuts in all of their many sugary shapes and varieties.  My favourites are ones with sprinkles (especially ones with chocolate sprinkles, and the pastel-coloured sprinkled donuts in the Bathurst subway station bakery!), Boston Creams, Sour Cream Glazed, cinnamon sugar dusted ones, and jelly donuts.  Oh, and coconut cream donuts.  That sounds like a whole lot!  I promise I’m not a glutton like Homer with a bottomless pit stomach for donuts.  Simply put, these are my favourites and if given a choice, I would choose these over other varieties in a heartbeat. 

I’ve certainly eaten my share of these glazed, powdered sugar dusted, jelly-filled, cream-filled, sprinkled confections over the years, yet here we are with zero donut posts on the blog.  A food blog with an undying devotion to sweets, no less.  All of that changes today though, thanks to my dear Lisa of Le Dolci!  She brought amazing, delicious, scrumptious mini donuts back to the studio for us yesterday and I loved them so much, I ate three of them and asked her where this mini donut heaven resided.  She told me and I went to get myself some more today.  Because they’re that delicious.

Behold, Little Nicky’s Coffee and the magnificent minis!  I know, I couldn’t believe it either when I first found out that these fabulous mini donuts that sent my tastebuds over the moon came from a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in downtown Toronto just off of Queen Street West and Peter Street.  Finding out about Little Nicky’s reminded me of how much fun it is to visit every coffee shop in town and to see what goodies are hiding behind the espresso machines and coffee mugs. 

Granted, coffee and coffee drinks should obviously be a coffee shop’s strong suit, but these shops function as more than just places to fuel up on some much needed caffiene.  Coffee shops are meeting spots for friends, casual date spots for couples, and over the last number of years, the perfect place to get cozy with your laptop.  Finding good eats and unique sweets is one of the best things about exploring coffee and tea shops and I’ve found some delicious sweets, baked goods, and tea time snacks in some of the most unexpected places.  I couldn’t be more thrilled about these adorable mini donuts! 

Little Nicky’s Coffee is a retro-style coffee haunt with cute decor to match – and I mean cute.  They have 30s, 40s, and 50s style wall ornaments and framed posters on the walls, and even a retro Chiclet dispenser machine on the counter!  I had to keep myself from snorting with giggles when I saw it because I remember how popular Chiclets used to be when I was little and how cool my friends and I felt when we were allowed to chew gum and got these in our Hallowe’en trick-or-treat bags.  Or maybe that was just me.  ANYWAY. 

They serve both coffee and tea drinks including steamers, lattes, espressos, Americanos, cortados, cappuccinos, as well as hot chocolate, apple cider, and smoothies.  They’re food menu consists of a daily assortment of baked goods (cookies, cake loaves, banana bread, and more) and toasted bagels and sandwiches to order.  One of these days I’m going to have to go to Little Nicky’s earlier in the day because some of their baked goods were sold out when I arrived today.  They had an empty glass cases/cookie jar that had a sticker on it that read “Oreo stuffed chocolate chip” which I can only assume refers to cookies.  OREO STUFFED CHOCOLATE CHIP?!  Sigh.  Next time. 

Their amazing, fresh, hot-out-of-the-donut-flippy-machine cinnamon suagr mini donuts are what draws the crowds to this coffee shop though!  Nearly everyone in the shop walked away with either half a dozen ($2.75) or a dozen ($4) warm mini donuts and they are fantastic.  Oh!  And all prices are inclusive are tax.  Hallelujah!  Trust a Canadian like myself to get excited about something like that.

It’s so much fun watching them put together your donuts.  The rings of donut dough float in a little vat of oil in the donut machine where a person uses a long chopstick-like stick to flip them over and guide them along until they reach the “conveyor belt” part of the machine.  From there, the mini donuts fly off the moving chain conveyor belt into a large white catch basin where they rest until a generous amount of minis congregate.  The mini donuts are then placed in a metal mixing bowl where they’re first tossed with powdered sugar between two mixing bowls (you can think of the toss and tumble process of the sugar and donuts as kind of like the separation of an egg white from an egg yolk when you use the shells to plop the yolk back and forth) and then tossed again with a generous helping of cinnamon.  The result?  Pillow-soft, mouthwatering cinnamon sugar donuts that are hot and fresh and waiting to be devoured.

These mini donuts are some of the best donuts I’ve ever had.  Are you familiar with Tiny Tom donuts?  You are?  Good.  Little Nicky’s cinnamon sugar minis totally own the Tiny Tom ones.  Oh c’mon, you don’t have to look so incredulous.  I know Tiny Tom donuts have a large following, but I’m not kidding around when I say these blow them out of the water.  They’re incredibly soft, they don’t taste cakey or dry, and the cinnamon sugar flavour is perfectly sweet with that dusted coarse sugar texture that literally melts in your mouth as soon as you eat them.  And one of the best parts?  They’re not greasy!  I was half-expecting my little paper/wax baggy to get blotchy oil spots on it as the day went on, but the bag was clean as a whistle when I brought them home.  It is so easy to eat an entire batch of these and if I wasn’t so concerned about sharing these with the rest of my family, I would have downed the entire half dozen all on my own.  It really isn’t hard.

*****

Little Nicky’s Coffee is located at 375 Queen Street West, just south of Queen on Peter Street.  Peter Street is just east of Spadina Ave.

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.

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.

Valentine’s Series: The Keys to My Heart Part II – Warm Hands & Latte Love at Dark Horse Espresso Bar

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lat·te [lah-tey] – noun: hot espresso with steamed milk, usually topped with foamed milk

love [luhv] – noun, verb:

  1. strong enthusiasm, or liking for anything
  2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection
  3. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person

You know a coffee haunt is great when it can entice a non-coffee drinker like myself.  And yet, given my indifference to coffee, I adore independent coffee shops.  They have so much character, so much personality and warmth.  A coffee shop is so much more than a place for your caffiene zing in the morning.  It’s a place to catch up with a friend with a drink and sweet treat.  It’s a place to warm up on a bitter cold day.  A place to meet new people, to develop that relationship with the people who work there where they know your order by heart.  My mum and our local barista exchange Christmas gifts and have become close friends, so much so that my mum’s coffee is hot and ready to go the second she steps in.  It’s a place to park your laptop, to listen to some great music.  It’s a place to sit and relax.  To have that moment in your day where you let go of the stress and lose yourself in the hustle and bustle around you.  That quiet moment where it’s just you and your hot drink with the warm sunlight streaming in.  That was my moment today; with my honey by my side and my latte in a mug.  A latte to warm the hands…and the heart ❤

*****

Dark Horse Espresso Bar serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 215 Spadina Ave. (nearest intersection is Queen St. West and Spadina, about a block or two north of Queen on the east side of Spadina)
  2. 682 Queen St. East (located in the Riverside neighbourhood, west of Broadview Ave.)
  3. 684 Queen St. West (located at Euclid Ave. on the north side of Queen)

Thick, Sweet Frosting & Fudgy Chocolate: Vegan Cupcakes at Blue Banana

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Oh how I’ve missed blogging about cupcakes.  I know it hasn’t been that long, but it’s felt like an eternity because I’ve been so impatient to share more cupcake adventures with you guys!  I was really excited to finally get these pictures developed for this layout and I worked my tooshie off to get this 4-pager all nice and pretty for today 😀  Although I don’t scrapbook a lot of cupcake pictures (sometimes I just like keeping photos in albums; I don’t feel the urge to scrap absolutely everything, ha!), it’s SO much fun when I do because cupcakes themselves are fun and colourful and whimsical, and what I have for you all today are deliciously chocolatey vegan cupcakes from the Blue Banana Market coffee shop in Kensington Market.

I know I toot my horn a lot about this neighbourhood.  Heck, I think I have 2 posts from this past week alone dedicated to it (yesterday’s holiday cookie photos and King’s Café from Christmas eve), but I can’t help it because I simply love it so much.  And Blue Banana is one of my FAVOURITE places to shop in the city.  Located at 250 Augusta Ave. (nearest major intersection is College St. and Spadina Ave., west of Spadina), it’s this giant gift shop with everything from offbeat clothing and jewelry on the 2nd floor, to stationery, candy, kitchen accessories, books, lotion, and toys on the ground floor.  And by the front entrance is the cutesy coffee shop with delightful desserts like cookies, Turkish delight, chocolate covered pretzels, brownies, and carrot cake among other things.

Now, I can’t comment on the java as I’ve never had a cuppa joe there (remember how I mentioned I didn’t like coffee?  I know, go ahead and chuck things at me), but I can tell you how good the cupcakes are.  They are different and in the best way possible.  They are chocolatey moist and denser in texture than your average non-vegan cupcake.  You can taste the richness of the chocolate cake batter and it’s a very well-rounded flavour.  You’re not left with a dry aftertaste and the frosting on these sweet things are just amazing. 

Cupcake frosting is done differently all across the board and  The Cupcake Shoppe by Yonge and Eglinton does theirs buttercream style.  These vegan cupcakes on the other hand are topped with a frosting of a thicker, sugary cream consistency that tastes like spun sugar.  When you take a bite of the cake and frosting together, it is heaven in your mouth.  It’s thick and sweet and SO delicious when you have a mouthful of the frosting with the fudgy cake.  For those are who interested in knowing the ingredients that go into making these cupcakes vegan, I am working on getting this information, so I’ll be sure to let y’all know when I have it!

Now here’s an interesting tidbit to keep in mind: Blue Banana is simply a retailer that sells these cupcakes in their shop on behalf of another cupcakery in the city, OMG Baked Goodness (located at 1561 Dundas St. West) who delivers these sweet treats to Blue Banana every day, so there’s more than one location you can snag these vegan cupcakes!  And yes, you can bet your sweet butt I’ll be paying a visit to OMG Baked Goodness when I get the chance 😀  If you’re curious, thus far I’ve had the cupcake with orange frosting and edible pearl, orange frosting and crystal sprinkles, chocolate frosting with pink crystal sprinkles, and the carrot cake (not pictured or scrapbooked).  My favourites?  The ones with the crystal sprinkles. 

Cupcakes are $2.65 each (before taxes) and you can eat them in the coffee shop or take them to go…like me, in a cup with a fork, haha.  Seriously, if you don’t take it to go in something, you are going to wind up with frosting all over your nose, face, and mouth.  It was cute having my boyfriend Richard lick kiss the frosting off me, but you know…you don’t always have assistance with you *laughs*

*****

Scrapbooking materials used: Neon green, indigo violet, periwinkle, bubble gum pink, and white cardstock (Recollections); “I ❤ Cupcakes” stickers (Sticko); adhesive gems; alphabet stickers (K & Company); circle paper punch; curly whirl paper punch; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success)

A thank you to my friend Maria who sent me the curly whirl paper punch, and my dear Mindy who sent me the sheet of “I ❤ Cupcakes” stickers.  I ❤ you!