Adorable Tea Cups, Dishes, & Saucers and Enough Tea Sandwiches & Sweets to Last a Week! Afternoon Tea at Le Dolci!

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I always knew I enjoyed tea (I thank all those weekend dim sum brunch meals growing up for that!), but I never thought I’d love it and engage with it as much as I do now.  I drink tea every morning when I come into work (it’s such a delight rotating between my current 5 loose leaf packets from Steeped & Infused), I keep up with seasonal flavours, I read tea books, I love marrying cupcakes with a cup of hot tea, and I am absolutely amoured by tea time and afternoon teas!  The atmosphere, the food, the beautiful accessories, porcelain and china; the dining experience it affords is in a league of it own.  My dream would be to attend every imaginable afternoon tea in the land – I would be so happy!  I think my obsession with tea is definitely nearing its peak and I really don’t see it waning any time soon.

So I indulged my warm and fuzzy feelings for afternoon tea with a special Sunday afternoon tea at Le Dolci’s sweet studio!  Soft music floating in the background, adorable tea cups, saucers, and dishes, and over 5 different types of decadent desserts among other delectable eats – afternoon tea at Le Dolci is as sweet as it gets!  I was so, so excited when I found out Lisa and the team would be doing afternoon tea sessions at their new studio on Dundas West back in August.  I knew the experience would be really fun, different, and yummy, but I also knew that this was something really personal and special to Lisa.  After living and working in the UK for a decade, the tea bug is bound to bite you one way or another if you haven’t been bitten already!  Lisa, Miya, and I used to drink tea together all the time when I was interning at the studio and we’d always Ooo and ahh over sweet accessories we would find.  Aside from cupcakes and sweets, tea was a common love and it just made everything that much more mellow and relaxed when we took that time to savour it and enjoy it.

I was so excited to see what Lisa would have in store for this tea session.  Afternoon teas, held on Sundays (keep in mind that afternoon teas aren’t held every Sunday at this point though, they just happen to fall on Sundays when they are made available on the class schedule as opposed to Fridays or Saturdays for instance) from 12pm – 2pm, are non-instructional sessions that are open to anyone and everyone with a love for sweets and tea!  Non-instructional simply means that the afternoon tea is purely a “come in and stuff your face while having a lot of fun!” type of session.  There’s no workshop or seminar, no demo or crafting of anything ; it’s just pure enjoyment of food and drink.

Teas are priced at $35/person and spaces must be booked in advance, either by phone or through their website via the class schedule.  Now, I had a brain fart when I first booked my spot because I mixed myself up and thought the entire tea took 2 hours, but the 12pm-2pm tea time is completely flexible!  So long as you’ve booked your spot you’re welcome to start your tea at 12:30pm, 1pm, whatever floats your boat (within reason – obviously if you show up at a quarter to two, that’s not going to fly!) and subsequently, you can finish up any time within those 2 hours.  You simply need to book your spot in advance so Lisa and her team can plan out their tea menu and know exactly how much food to make so nothing goes to waste and so they can make sure everything is ready to go the morning of for the freshest baked goods and eats.

Beautiful sunlight streamed through the studio’s front display window and the big, long, stainless steel worktable was decked out in a white tablecloth with tea cups and saucers, milk and sugar, and small dishes to enjoy our nibbles!  The dishes and accessories were so darn gorgeous.  Enjoying the food on such pretty tableware was half the fun!  Some of these dishes were special antiques and works of art from the UK (that dish featured in the first photo?  Hand-painted!), while others were just nifty pick-ups around town.  The crazy tea accessory lover in me was lapping all this up like an eager puppy!

Okay, so what does afternoon tea at Le Dolci entail?  Hot loose leaf tea from Tealish (4 flavours on hand including Sweetie Pie, Earl Grey Classic, Sencha Organic green tea, and Peppermint!), 4 different kinds of tea sandwiches on multi-grain bread with the crusts cut off (but of course!), and literally enough sweets and baked goods to last you an entire week – no joke!  The awesome thing about the tea specifically is that you can try different kinds!  Lisa will brew a pot of whatever flavour you want at first, but if you decide that you want to try a different one middway through, she can brew another one.  Granted, I wouldn’t start asking for all 4 flavours, but it’s fine if you want to sip on another one later on in the tea.

Another thing I really loved was the sheer volume of food!  All afternoon teas are based on a per person count, but holy bejeebus, after my boyfriend and I polished off our sandwich plate with 8 portions, Lisa came by and plopped another plate of 4 in front of us!  That’s 6 sandwiches in total, 3 per person (each portion is half a sandwich).  I don’t know about you, but I have never eaten 3 sandwiches plus sweets plus a bajillion cups of tea.  I knew there would be leftovers (gut intuition) so I came prepared and brought tupperware.  It came in handy!  That day, we were given an assortment of roast beef with mustard, smoked salmon, ham, and a fantastic egg salad with crunchy green onions!  You all know I love smoked salmon to pieces, but I have to say, I loved the ham and egg salad ones a lot too!  So simple yet so good.

And the sweets.  Oh, the sweets.  Full-size frosted cupcakes (vanilla with coffee frosting and chocolate with vanilla frosting), mini cupcakes (vanilla and coffee), biscotti, little scones (cheddar and dried fruit ones), brownie squares, lemon coconut squares, macarons (coconut and strawberry), and lamingtons, an Australian and New Zealand dessert made of sponge cake and coated in chocolate and rolled in shredded coconut!  Did you get all that?!  It was such a great varied assortment and there were so many different things to try!  I loved the variety and if I had to choose, my favourites would have to be the lemon coconut squares, the cupcakes with coffee frosting, and the macarons!

It was a really fun, sweet afternoon tea and I’m so happy Lisa decided to have it as part of her fun foodie line-up.  I genuinely enjoyed all the food we were given and it’s just nice being in the studio surrounded by yummy smells and great people.  I am no doubt coming back for more – the leftovers are just the icing on the cake!

******

Le Dolci brand new studio is located at 1006 Dundas Street West, right at the corner of Dundas West and Montrose Ave. The studio is across the street from Trinity Bellwoods Park and are open for business 6 days a week.  Operating hours are from 10am-6pm from Tuesday to Saturday and 12pm-5pm on Sundays.

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A Marshmallow Cream Dream – The Marshmallow-Caramel Coppetta Dessert in a Jar at Trattoria Mercatto, Part III!

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I’m totally, completely obsessed with restaurant dessert menus.  Everywhere I go now, I ask for one, even if I’m not entirely sure I want a dessert (I need to carefully consider my options; a dessert means no cupcake later on in the day!).  Let it be known though that I never used to be.  I mean, I’ve always loved the idea and existence of dessert menus (goodness knows how many I’ve drooled over throughout the years), I’ve just never enjoyed the treasures from them.  But now, I have a growing collection of fabulous desserts I’ve photographed and written about and it’s become one of the funnest things to do on the blog! 

We have the Austrian apricot jam crepes from Old Country Inn, the spicy Mexican chocolate mousse from Milagro, the sweet and adorable strawberry custard trifle at Simple Bistro, the bright and juicy citrus tart with candied orange and cream from Sen5es, and the green tea cheesecake from Sushi Time.  I loved them all and it’s a head scratcher, even for me, as to why I haven’t taken advantage of more dessert menu items.  You all know how deeply I adore dessert.  In my world, dessert is a meal in and of itself!

So, why the sudden change of heart and course of action in relation to restaurant desserts?  Before, I never used to order dessert because 1) I was always too full after dinner to eat another bite, no matter how sweet, delicious and decadent, 2) some places just didn’t have dessert menus and 3) admittedy, I didn’t feel like spending extra money.  It’s not like I’m suddenly rolling in dough now (I wish!) but because of the blog, I’m much more selective and strategic about where I go, what things I want to blog about, and the yummies I think will resonate with everyone.  And dessert just happens to be one such yummy!  Fruit desserts, chocolate desserts, cakes, pastries, ice creams, mousses, you name it, I’ll find it. 

This Part III wrap-up post on Trattoria Mercatto features their decadent dessert menu in all its glory with a spotlight on their amazing, fantastical, magical marshmallow and caramel dessert!  Mercatto’s dessert (dolci) menu is all about the sweet and creamy in all different types of desserts in all different forms.  We have the 3-scoop Mad Italian gelato bowl, tiramisu with mascarpone crema, the torta di formaggio ricotta cheesecake with dulce de leche and caramelized bananas, the budino vanilla pudding with biscotti and amarena cherries, and my pick, the coppetta ($6.95) with caramel gelato from Mad Italian, salted peanuts, and marshmallow!  I really wasn’t feeling the peanuts that day so I opted for a nut-free dessert with just the caramel and marshmallow and good lord was this dessert ever DELICIOUS!  Hands down, the most delightful marshmallow dessert I have ever had.  The most delightful caramel dessert I have ever had!

My sweet and creamy dessert came in a jar (lovin’ the jars, guys!) with layers of marshmallow cream, caramel gelato, and sweet caramel sauce.  The top portion was like a heavenly, fluffy marshmallow, whipped cream cloud with ooey, gooey marshmallow cream directly underneath.  Digging a little further down unearthed the rich, creamy caramel gelato and down at the bottom was the sweet sauce.  And this jar wasn’t small!  This was a fabulous size, comparable to the circumference of a decent-sized mug.  And I loved how the textures complemented and played off one another.  The creaminess was woven in with the fun gooeyness of the marshmallows so that you had bites of airiness from the marshmallow portion and bites of cold gelato and warm sauce melting in your mouth.  So decadent, SO GOOD!   Just as a side note though, dig deeper and haul the caramel sauce from the bottom to the top.  You don’t want to do what I did and eat the layers in order.  I loved the caramel sauce but I was left with too much of it at the bottom on and no more marshmallow cream to go with it!  Silly me.  So learn from my snafu and fold the layers in.

I honestly couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed eating at Trattoria Mercatto.  I had a feeling I would like it, but I never anticipated loving it as much as I do now.  The food, the sweets, the atmosphere, the nice people – it’s all there and I can’t wait to go back again and again.

*****

Trattoria Mercatto is located at 220 Yonge Street inside The Eaton Centre on the 3rd floor on the northern, Dundas Street end of the shopping centre.  They serve 3 other locations in Toronto under the Mercatto name (Bay & Adelaide, Toronto Street, and the Mars Discovery District on College Street).  They are open for both lunch and dinner 7 days a week (Monday-Saturday 11:30am-11pm, Sunday 12pm-9pm at the Eaton Centre location).  Click HERE to view their website with menus, upcoming events, catering, news, and more!

The Cupcakes, Cookies, & Cakes in the Hat – A Photo Spotlight on Dessert Oasis, Bakerbots, in Bloorcourt Village, Part I!

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*****

Bakerbots is located at 205 Delaware Ave by Ossington subway station, nearest major intersection being Bloor Street West and Ossington Ave. in Bloorcourt Village.  Bakerbots specializes in all things sweet with desserts and baked goods being churned out by the truckload!  They are part bakery, part design studio, part ice cream parlour, and full on dessert emporium!  Their hours of operation: Tuesday-Thursday, 6pm-10pm (ice cream treats only); Friday, 4pm-11pm; Saturday, 11am-11pm; Sunday, 11am-10pm.  You can visit their site HERE.  Part II full write-up post coming tomorrow!

Something Special to Call Your Own – Countryside Strawberry Trifle in a Sweet Little Jar at Simple Bistro, Part II

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When I think of summer desserts, I think of fresh summer berries, juicy sorbets, and sweet, creamy custards and puddings in their frozen and non-frozen states.  I think of chasing down the ice cream truck and devouring soft serve ice cream cones like they’re about to go out of style.  And then there are the childhood memories of turning your tongue purple from licking popsicles and getting brain freeze from chugging freezies down at the speed of light.  As fabulous as those things are, summer just got a lot more interesting: savour the sweet taste of summer with dessert – in a jar! 

What used to be exclusively reserved for canning and preserving and holding spaghetti sauce and pickles in many of our kitchen pantries has now transformed into chic DIY food projects and a creative and adorable way of presenting desserts.  People are using little (and sometimes not so little) glass jars to create one-of-a-kind gifts and some very cute and portable sweet treats, and I think part of the appeal lies not only in the aesthetic but also in the singularity and portion control factor along with the “Ooo, this is special and was made just for me!” type of mentality.  The humble little glass and metal food storage container has taken the foodie world by storm: granola and yogurt parfaits in a jar, layered cookie and cake mix in a jar, cookbooks devoted to these decadent little morsels (the brand spankin’ new Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine by Shaina Olmanson!) and in the case of Mount Pleasant’s Simple Bistro, summer strawberry trifle in a jar!

Simple Bistro’s dessert menu is comprised of four different desserts ($9 a la carte or $4 when you order one along with you meal) including a vanilla blancmange (a dessert similar to that of a panna cotta) with blueberry compote and candied mint leaves, a lemon curd tart with Limoncello chantilly and candied lemon zest, a chocolate Black Forest cake with milk chocolate mousse, dark chocolate ganache, and kirsch soaked cherries, and my belove dessert, the strawberrry trifle!

Like any food decision I make, this choice entailed a ton of hemming and hawwing.  My thought process: “How could I give up an opportunity to have something lemon?  Vanilla and blueberry are a perfect combination!  I really don’t eat vanilla desserts often enough” and so on and so forth.  The strawberry trifle sounded so lovely though so I made up my mind and stuck with it.  I had no idea this dessert was going to be THIS fabulously adorable!  And of course, wonderfully delicious! 

When my little strawberry trifle in a jar arrived at my table, I gaped at it for the longest time trying to wrap my head around the fact that my dessert was brought me to in a sweet little country farmhouse jar filled and layered with little strawberries, light-as-air crème patissière (sweet pastry cream custard), little lady fingers, and Fragoli strawberry liqueur.  Even though I’m not 100% sure about this, my gut was telling me the strawberries were Ontario ones, just from the size and sweet taste of them.  I had Ontario strawberries at their peak last month and as soon as I bit into one, I knew right off the bat that’s what they were without even being told or without the strawberries even being labelled as such. 

The dessert was amazing.  I couldn’t believe how fluffy and airy it was and oh my goodness, the lady fingers were to die for!  These were not your run-of-the-mill bone-dry lady fingers that are way too cakey for their own good.  These were sweet little lady finger biscuits sprinkled with sugar (my guess would have to be demerara sugar) and they tasted SO unbelivably good with their bright and sweet syrupy, caramel taste.  The dessert in a jar just made it all the more summer-like, like it was made to be eaten out in the countryside on a porch on a summer day.  It was delightful and the perfect ending to my summer morning brunch meal.  

*****

Simple Bistro is located at 618 Mount Pleasant Rd between Eglinton Ave. East and Davisville Ave. in Mount Pleasant Village.  They serve weekend brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11am-2:30pm.  Visit their website HERE to view their menus and for more info.

Cupcake Heaven in My Mouth – Sweets, Fillings, and Boston Cream & Lemon Cupcakes at Yummy Stuff, Part II!

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You know a cupcake and dessert shop has you in the palm of their hand when it makes you weak in the knees and abnormally impulsive.  A minute after I walked into Yummy Stuff, I was piecing together a scrapbook layout in my mind’s eye even before I had even taken my camera out to start snapping and immediately after I enjoyed the heavenly blissfulness of their cupcakes, I wanted to hightail it on back to the shop!  You’d think that one cupcake shop trip would suffice for the day, but I was thisclose to disrupting my afternoon errands for the purposes of going back and let me tell you, the cupcake fanatic in me was fuming when I walked the other way and ultimately decided to save the second trip for another day.  Willpower, my lovelies, WILLPOWER.

Yummy Stuff, with their iconic bright green mixing whisk logo, is located in a neighbourhood that is surprisingly accessible.  It wasn’t until I started walking around and getting my geographical barings that I realized how easy it was to connect the dots around the city.  First off, it’s on Queen Street West so you have the Queen streetcar at your service to and from the sweet shop.  Second of all, it’s a hop, skip, and step away from Roncesvalles Ave. which is an open door to exploring the revitalized foodielicious Roncesvalles neighbourhood (remember my post about Seventh Sister Bakery?), a neighbourhood that holds so much Polish history and culture among many other gems.

And given how walkable the “downtown core” streets are northbound and southbound (basically, everything south of Bloor and on) you can easily walk south to Liberty Village, and northeast to Dundas West (Brockton Village and Little Portugal), Little Italy and the west end of College Street, and Dufferin Mall and Bloordale/Bloorcourt Village.  The exploration options are endless!  Sometimes my cupcake trips are spontaneous (the hankering never really goes away), but most of the time, they’re planned and if you want in on a little secret, it’s acually how I plan my days.  That’s right.  I plan my activities and routes around what cupcake shop I want to visit on that particular day.  Crazy?  Maybe a little.  Effective?  Very.  Madly in love with cupcakes?  Totally.

Yummy Stuff is a space that is similar to that of The Wedding Cake Shoppe in that their workspace, station, and design studio is somewhat visible from behind the counter.  They are purely walk-in and take-out only though – no tables and chairs here, so be prepared to eat your treats elsewhere.  And they have MANY treats!  In addition to their custom designed cakes, cupcakes, and decorated sugar cookies, they have canisters full of giant cookies (snickerdoodles, chocolate ginger, chocolate chip, and peanut butter among others), lemon squares and tarts, brownies, peanut butter chocolate squares, and other special cookies including shortbread, lintzer cookies, and chocolate toffee butter cookies! 

Selection will vary daily and weekly, but rest assured that there will never be a shortage of options!  Prices range from $1-$4 for most treats.  I want to go back as soon as I can so I can try one of their chocolate ginger cookies, a decorated sugar cookie (they have sugar cookies decorated and in the shape of cupcakes and ice cream cones, oh my god), and of course, many more cupcakes!

Cupcakes come in two sizes: regular ($2.75 each, $15 for half a dozen) and mini ($1 each) and on the day I went, they had 8 flavours to choose from.  Like many other cupcake shops, their cupcakes operate on a rotating system which means what you see one day may not be there the next.  Classics such as vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet would be present on a daily basis but all other flavours are fair game on any given day.  Their menu (taken straight off their website) includes banana, carrot, chocolate, coconut, lemon, mango, vanilla, raspberry, red velvet, and a special flavour of the month.  This month’s decadent treat?  BOSTON CREAM!

I picked up a lemon cupcake and a Boston Cream (wouldn’t you?!) and oh my goodness, they were both heavenly, especially the lemon one!  Both cupcakes had a vanilla cake bottom and while the lemon cupcake was swirled with frosting, the Boston Cream was covered in a chocolate ganache with chocolate sprinkles.  AND they both had fillings!  Not all bakeries make their cupcakes with fillings.  Some might have a few with fillings for special occasions, but off the top of my head, For the Love of Cake in Liberty Village is the only cupcake shop who bakes every single one of their cupcakes with fillings in them. 

The Boston Cream cupcake was filled with creamy custard and had a moist, vanilla sponge-cake like texture to it.  Even though it sounds extremely rich, it’s really not and it’s actually relatively light in comparison to the donut!  It’s not heavy at all and I think it’s a great cupcake that would appeal to people who want something decadent but who don’t necessarily want to feel heavy or gluttonous afterward.

And the lemon.  OH MY GOD THE LEMON.  Off the bat, this belongs in the Top 5 (possibly even Top 3) Most Amazing Lemon Cupcakes in Toronto.  My first goes to The Cupcake Shoppe’s Lemon Drop (read: the Lemon Drop, NOT the Lov’n Lemon!), then it’s just a kerfluffle of scrumptiousness that I can’t figure out.  There’s the lemon meringue cupcake from For the Love of Cake, the lemon one from Bake Sale on the Kingsway, and this one from Yummy Stuff.  This was SO.DAMN.GOOD.  A sweet, fruity, tangy frosting (read: frosting, not whippy buttercream or mousse) swirled on top of vanilla cake with a lemon curd filling inside.  The texture of the frosting is perfect (not gritty, not thin and watery, and not thick and cracking) and the flavour and taste is bang on.  It’s not cloyingingly or artificially sweet, but it packs BIG flavour that left my friends and I taken aback in the best way possible.  It it truly one of the best tasting cupcakes EVER and I would come back to one a million times over. 

I was curious when I saw Yummy Stuff’s website had a blog so I clicked on their link and happily found out about their special cupcakes of the month!  They have monthly entries on their blog providing updates on seasonal goodies, dessert projects, and new cupcake flavours and I’m really happy they have this as it gives everyone a more personal connection to them and a heads up about new and delicious treats!  I only wish I had come during Christmas because their dessert line-up looked amazing!  Sigh.  You have to start somewhere though and at least now I know how delicious their cupcakes really are and can look forward to eleventy billion more visits to come.   

*****

Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.

A Chocolatey Kind of Morning – Hot Chocolate & A Chocolate Ganache Kiss at L’Espresso Bar Mercurio

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While almost everyone is continuing to ransack the grocery stores, drug stores, and candy shops for discounted chocolates and candies (you know who you are), the bombardment of red, pink, and heart printed paraphernalia has come and gone for yet another year.  What hasn’t saluted us goodbye though is our passion for chocolate and the frostiness of winter, which has managed to give us a few nasty surprises over the past two weekends!  How do we remedy the stubborness of winter sleet and snow then?  With chocolate, of course!  The heart-shaped boxes of bon-bons might be gone (or being plucked off the shelves by chocolate bargain hunters as we speak), but in its place now are chocolate bunnies and chocolate Easter eggs, so the presence of chocolate is going to remain at the forefront of our seasonal celebrations for quite some time still. 

I love my chocolate in the form of hot chocolate and chocolate cookies best and L’Espresso Bar Mercurio gave me what I like to call, my “chocolate morning”: a cup of frothy hot chocolate and a rich, fudgy, melt-in-your mouth chocolate ganache kiss!  After walking past this lovely cafe and espresso bar more times than I can remember (I admit, I am on Bloor Street A LOT), I finally came here for a sip and nibble one morning and now I can’t stop daydreaming about what I would eat my next time here!  I’ve wanted to come here for so long and I’ve always loved the air of sweetness and romance I’ve felt from it.  It’s a place that exudes fancy without actually being over the top fancy pants.  L’Espresso Bar Mercurio, located at 321 Bloor Street West, is a bright and fresh brunch and lunch cafe and espresso bar with enough coffee, loose leaf tea, lattes, and warm and cold drinks to quench the thirstiest of sippers. 

         

Sandwiched between the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and the Bata Shoe Museum in the University of Toronto neighbourhood, Mercurio’s is the perfect place to have brunch with the girl friends, a light business meeting lunch, and/or a warm drink and dessert with a friend.  With it’s fresh colour palette of white, gray, and green, it’s a lovely coffee date destination that affords casualness with that extra bit of fancy thrown in.  The cafe and espresso bar has big windows, allowing for ample natural light to stream in (perfect for us budding food photographers!) and in the spring and summer, a pretty patio off to the side for that little bit of privacy and romance (let’s not forget from where the name of the cafe is derived!).

Mercurio has a number of different menus to suit all sorts of appetites and tastes: a weekday breakfast menu, a weekend brunch menu, an everyday lunch menu, a vegetarian and vegan menu, and a huge menu of loose leaf teas, coffee drinks, and more.  In addition, the dessert selection is out of this world!  Pies, tarts, tortes, cakes, shortbread, giant cookies, homemade doughnuts, biscotti, dessert croissants, and sweet gluten-free options.  The cafe is both takeout and dine-in, which is great for those who want to quickly hop in for a quick coffee and pastry to go, and for those who want to sit back and relax for a sit-down meal.  As an added bonus, all food items come with a 20% student discount (yes, that most certainly includes university and college students!) with valid student ID.  Given its proximity to the University of Toronto, it makes perfect sense.

Their menus are located right by the front door, allowing everyone the opportunity to ponder their food choices even before being seated.  Conversely, you can also walk in, grab an available table first, and then hem and haw.  The eatery is bar service only, which means that everything is ordered and paid for up at the cash.  Servers and staff bring your food and tea to your table, but there are no menus to flip through and order from when you’re seated.  All of that is done up at the front, which I quite like because it reduces the amount time it takes to flag down a server to order, for the bill, and so on.  

My chocolate morning was comprised of a small hot chocolate (120z, $3.20) and a sweet little chocolate ganache kiss dessert.  In a word, my hot chocolate was frothy.  The chocolate was placed at the bottom of the cup to warm up and melt while hot, frothy milk was poured on top.  The hot chocolate was light and milky without being watery and perfectly chocolatey without being overly sweet, artificial, or overpowering.  It was simple and delicious.

My hot chocolate was totally and completely enhanced by my chocolate ganache kiss.  A thick layer of rich, smooth, and creamy ganache was sandwiched between two soft chocolate cookies.  It was so incredibly good.  So fudgy and so soft; the texture was bang on.  The cookies weren’t hard or crispy and the ganache wasn’t runny, mushy, or overly thick.  Together with the hot chocolate, it was wonderful.  You would think it would end up being chocolate overload (I know, such a thing does exist!), but they balanced each other perfectly.  The chocolate ganache kiss lended a full-bodied richness to the hot chocolate while the hot chocolate lended an airiness.

I am so excited about trying their loose leaf teas and a number of their breakfast and lunch items.  Trust that I will get around to attacking their breakfast sandwiches, vegetarian and vegan items, and other desserts!  In the meantime, I will happily reminisce over my sweet chocolate morning. 

*****

L’Espresso Bar Mercurio is located at 321 Bloor Street West at the corner of St. George Street right across from St. George subway station.  It is sandwiched between the ROM and the Bata Shoe Museum (the shoe museum is literally just steps away) and it is an espresso bar, dessert cafe, and brunch and lunch spot all in one.  They are open 7 days a week from 7am-11pm from Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.  They also offer weekend brunch.    

Bright Green Chocolate Candy Cane Macarons & Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies – Bobbette & Belle, Part I

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If there was a pastry shop, cupcakery, and macaron heaven fit for a princess here in Toronto, Bobbette & Belle would be it!  Ever since I found out about Allyson Bobbitt and Sarah Bell’s queendom of sweets from Where Toronto magazine months and months ago, I’ve been envisioning pastel colours and chocolate cookie biscuits and macarons and pastries and beautiful shop that would render me speechless.  Or at the very least a hushed, “Oooo” and “ahhh”.  And “Oooo” and “ahhh” I did.  After passing by Bobbette & Belle on the Queen streetcar more times than I can count on the fingers of my hand, I made the trip especially for the holidays and I squealed as I stepped inside the beautiful shop.  Wreaths!  A Christmas tree!  Poinsettias!  Edible Christmas gifts!  HOT CHOCOLATE, CUPCAKES, AND MACARONS.  I wanted to sprinkle flower petals while pirouetting around the lovely shop.  Oh, this was going to be fun.

Located in Leslieville, Bobbette & Belle’s pastry shop is beautiful, plain and simple.  The spacious interior oozes romantic, floral, Victorian, cozy, and modern rustic with its plush arm chairs, coffee table, couch, long wooden bench tables, large wooden communal table (perfect for cake order consultations!), stools, and shelves lined with sweets, gifts, and B&B’s gorgeous decorated cakes and wedding cakes.  The space is illuminated by natural light streaming in from the front and side windows and you feel like you’ve walked into a pretty in pink music box fairy land with dainty, feminine framed art on the walls.

Don’t be completely fooled by the flowers and bows though; behind the sweetness lies a subtle touch of fun attitude.  Nothing says “we are bakers and pastry chefs, we love sweets, and we’re damn proud of it!” like the framed criss-crossed whipping whisks!  Aside from those framed whisks, my favourite thing in the shop is a giant framed print listing some of Toronto’s popular neighbourhoods in big block letters on a turquoise background.  It’s bold, it’s punchy, and it makes it known that Toronto is home to B&B.

I know many have been to Bobbette & Belle and I know a number of people who’ve done plenty of press on them, featuring photos of cupcakes, macarons, and other sweet confections.  I never feel contrived though when writing about such popular places such as Bobbette & Belle because the perspective and feeling will always be different.  It doesn’t matter how many people know about them, how many times they’ve been showcased in media outlets, or how many photos I see of their products.  Everyone’s experience is their own and that’s why I don’t mind writing about places that probably seem like old-hat to others because what’s familiar and known to some is exciting and new for me, and vice versa.  Things continously and consistently change and even though I feel like I’m late to the party half the time, I feel like this blog is my way of seeing things with fresh eyes and for Christmas, I finally got to see B&B up close and in person.

Although French macarons are at the heart of Bobbette & Belle’s creation and birth, the shop specializes in professionally decorated cakes and wedding cakes, cupcakes, cookies, meringues, tarts, whoopie pies, and plenty of sweet pastries.  Along one wall you’ll find B&B’s retail section where you can pick up already packaged yummies and gifts including meringues (candy cane ones for the holidays!), marshmallows, cookies, and more.  Their selection of sweet delights include creamy buttercream frosted cupcakes ($2.95) in flavours such as mango passionfruit, apple spice, espresso, pumpkin, and lemon among others. 

They also had cake stands filled with blueberry scones ($3.25), pumpkin tarts ($3.75), toffee pudding ($3.75), Christmas shortbread cookies ($1.00 for small ones, $1.25 for large ones), chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies, vanilla raspberry whoopie pies, custards, tarts, and Christmas cupcakes for holiday orders in the glass display case, and of course, macarons!  Priced at $2 a piece (which is very reasonable and average priced across the board), flavorus include milk chocolate salted caramel, gingerbread, dark chocolate hazelnut, pistachio, and my pick for the day, chocolate candy cane!

I know most of you would have expected me to inhale a cupcake because I love cupcakes and would eat them every day if the opportunity presented itself, but there’s always a time to be unpredictable.  I went against the grain and instead of a cupcake, I had me a Christmas tree shaped shortbread cookie and a bright, vibrant green chocolate candy cane macaron instead!  C’mon, Christmas themed macarons?!  I would be a fool not to introduce one of those to my sweet teeth. 

The chocolate ganache filling was wonderfully thick and fudgy and rich without being overly sweet, overly bitter, or overly anything!  If I had to compare the chocolate filling to anything, I would say it tastes like soft, fudgy brownies.  I absolutely adored the shade of green used for the candy cane flavoured meringue shells and I really appreciated the subtley in candy cane flavour.  The flavour pattern was like a gradient, where it started off subtle and then gradually became stronger as you bit closer to the center of the macaron.

It was a perfect marriage between chocolate and candy cane flavour because the macaron wasn’t overpowered with stingy peppermint and the candy cane flavour had a bit of sweetness to it that I loved.  Some people might like that breathy pepperminty feeling, but I don’t prefer it because it ends up tasting like frozen ginger mixed with mouthwash and all the dessert-like sweetness flys out the window.  And a macaron must be sweet and decadent!  Even when savoury flavours are mixed in, when you eat a macaron it has to feel like you’re eating a dessert, and it has to taste crispy on the outside and airy light just beneath the surface.  The melt-in-your-mouth aspect was bang on and that egg-shell delicacy was definitely there.  I know.  I accidentally nudged the macaron downward with my knuckle (don’t ask!) and heard an egg-shell like crack that reverberated in my ears as I gasped and quickly turned the macaron over to hide the dirty deed.  Sigh.  Anything for a pretty photo.

I have Part II for you all tomorrow and to give you a hint as to what sweet something something I’m showing off, it’s something chocolatey and toasty.  Very toasty 😉  Have a sweet one, everyone.

*****

Bobbette & Belle is located at 1121 Queen Street East, just east of Jones Ave.  They are open 7 days a week from 7:30am-6:30pm Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturday, and 9am-5pm on Sunday.  These are their holiday operating hours and they will be closed on the 25th, 26th, and 27th, as well as on January 1st and 2nd.  Visit their website here for product descriptions, information on orders, and photos.