Hallowe’en Headquarters – If Only Real Mummies Looked This Cute! Gingerbread & Hallowe’en Confections

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BOO!  It’s Gingerbread Mummy peeking out to haunt you with his yummy frosted coated ginger cookie body and chocolate eyes!  If only real mummies were this cute.  I was “heehee”ing as I took him out of his paper bag “coffin” to snap his photos this morning (I actually wanted to pose him in a bed of crushed Oreo cookie crumbs to make it look like he was coming from the ground, but I ran out of the house this morning in a rush so alas, no crushed Oreos) and couldn’t wait to give this little guy to my boyfriend for his afternoon snack.  For the record, my boyfriend wanted to eat it for breakfast and I scoffed and told him to save it for the afternoon because he had already eaten the Hallowe’en cupcake I had also brought him.  That also had a chocolate topper on it.  Sigh.  Boys.  Anyway, he (the mummy) was too cute to do any real scaring so he was much better off being gobbled up by sweet tooths like us.

I think Hallowe’en has totally evolved from a candy-centric occasion into a full-0ut creative foodie fest.  The holiday has morphed into a foodie affair, incorporating cupcakes, cake pops, pastries, and savoury foods (Witch’s Cauldron Tortellini, anyone?) all in one and I only wish I could have planned an entire week’s worth of Hallowe’en themed foods.  Even though I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do this year for Hallowe’en, I still had fun nevertheless.  Not only did I hit Mount Pleasant and Avenue Road yesterday, but I also paid a visit to Kensington Market to walk around (it was a really nice day out) and to take photos in my favourite bakery, My Market Bakery, and to Cabbagetown where I picked up my container of ravioli and this cute-as-button gingerbread mummy cookie at Daniel et Daniel.

I can always count on My Market Bakery to do seasonal everything and anything!  Their cookie selection is amaaaazing and they have something for every palate: fruit and nut cookies, chocolate chip, chunk, and fudge cookies, biscotti, gingerbread, tea cookies, sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, thumbprints, and others.  They had frosted pumpkins, ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, black cats, and Hallowe’en sprinkle cookies and if I hadn’t already picked up cupcakes, I would have mostly liked snatched up an orange frosted pumpkin because they were so cute and pretty. 

I was so excited to go to Daniel et Daniel later on in the day because they have some of the most gorgeous pies and tarts and I knew they would decorate and be decked out for Hallowe’en.  And I was right!  They had a ton of pastries, pies, tarts, and cakes decorated in beautiful Hallowe’en motifs, such as a lemon chiffon cake with googly eyes, a chocolate raspbery cake with smiling fruit pumpkins, and my favourite, the mixed berry fruit tart with carved fruit bats!  What totally got me though were the gingerbread mummy men! 

I LOVE gingerbread cookies.  Not the hard kind that tastes like cardboard and makes me roll my eyes because it’s so bleh, but the soft, chewy, spiced ginger molasses kind that melt in your mouth.  I love these so much.  I nosh on the ones from Tim Hortons whenever they have them and over the summer I went crazy for the ones by More Than Pies Baking Co. Ltd. at the David Pecaut Square farmers’ market.  Ginger molasses cookies are huge and round and I always break off half so I can eat half and save the other for later, but I never end up sticking to that.  I just happily eat the whole thing in one sitting.  And if we’re going to be talking about our favourite types of cookies now that the holidays are in full effect (like my friend Amanda @ Fake Ginger did yesterday), I actually like gingerbread cookies more than I like shortbread and sugar cookies.  Although I have my shortbread and sugar cookie weaknesses, I just love how gingerbread molasses look and taste with the crackling, sprinkled sugar, and spiced flavour.  And combining chocolate and icing the way Daniel et Daniel did with their Hallowe’en mummies just seals the deal.  Pun totally intended.

Oh cookies, how we love thee.  I saw so many amazing cookies when I was out yesterday and I had to mentally tie my hands together because I wanted to take home one of everything I saw.  I was a good girl though and I only brought home 2 cupcakes (another one for myself and one for my brother), this gingerbread mummy, and some stuffed ravioli to share with the fam for dinner.  I know, the stuffed ravioli has nothing to do with Hallowe’en (unless of course you count the fact the ravioli was covered in yummy orange sauce with chives), but the cookies certainly do!  And I know I was being a nice girlfriend by getting the gingerbread mummy for my boyfriend (because he loves gingerbread too), I really wish I had gotten one for myself now.  Sigh.  Like eating two Hallowe’en cupcakes wasn’t enough yesterday, right?

*****

My Market Bakery is located at 184 Baldwin St. in Kensington Market.  The bakery is located west of Spadina Ave. and south of Nassau St.  Daniel et Daniel is a gourmet food shop in Cabbagetown that does event catering.  They are located at 248 Carlton St. near the intersection of Carlton and Parliament St.

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It’s Like Eating a Chocolate Pillow: Creamy, Fluffy Cupcakes from The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie – Part II

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It’s time to haul out the cupcakes and have ourselves a party!  I hope you all liked the scrapbook layout and pictures from yesterday because I’m uber excited to share lots of yummy cupcake photos and musings from my trips to The Sweet Escape.  I’m going to be bold and declare The Sweet Escape as my one of my favourite cupcake places in Toronto.  I have mad love for The Cupcake Shoppe, Blue Banana, and For The Love of Cake off of King St. West in Liberty Village, but I have to say that The Sweet Escape gives me everything I want in a cupcake eating experience.  I mean, sure, the artistry is just as important as the taste (because heck, who wants to eat a cupcake that looks stale and drippy and like it was sat on by an elephant?), but it’s the culmination of the appearance, the taste, and the atmosphere and environment of the cupcakery (or bakery/café) that does it for me.

First off, the cupcakes at The Sweet Escape are the perfect size.  They’re not the size of a thimble and they also don’t look like they’ve been injected with steroids.  They’re beautifully frosted, and nice and neat and pretty.  That covers appearance.  On to price.  These are $2.50 a pop, which puts them on the lowest rung on the price ladder of cupcakeries in Toronto, which is absolutely fantastic.  I have no issues paying a bit more for quality, but seriously, if you could get something that looks great and tastes great (not to mentioned baked and served by lovely people), why wouldn’t you?  And when I’m referring to cupcakeries, I’m talking about the places that specifically serve baked goods specializing in cupcakes.  Yes, Starbucks has some great cupcakes too for $2.25, but they’re not a cupcakery.  They’re a coffee empire and that’s a big difference.

And The Sweet Escape has something that several other places don’t have: seating!  I know, something as simple as a table and chair can tip my love in favour of another place, but it makes sense.  Some people may place orders for cupcakes for parties or take them to go during their lunch hour or break and thus not care about this, but I love having a place to sit to enjoy my cupcake.  Especially since I take a bazillion photos!  I look like a nut otherwise, running around the streets looking for a spot to get a decent shot!  The Sweet Escape has plenty of seating just outside their café and you get a nice little plate and fork to devour your sweet treat. 

And here’s the kicker: their tables are decorated with vintage magazine clippings of baked goods, kitchen goodies, and 50s housewife inspired articles *squeals*!  I absolutely ADORE that about this place.  On the surface (quite literally; these clippings and collages sit right underneath the glass of the table), they’re pretty pictures of cakes and sprinkles and all that jazz.  But underneath this facade is an homage to the connection between food and home, the historical (and even current) socialization of women as wives and mothers, and the artistry and pride of baking.  Just think, you literally eat, read, and learn all at the same time and I LOVE IT!  Okay, so you’re all anxiously awaiting for the cupcake photos and reading about delicious they are, so here we go 😀

So far I’ve tried 4 of their cupcakes: Raspberry Chocolate, Gingerbread (a holiday seasonal), Red Velvet, and Black Velvet.  The Raspberry Chocolate was sweet and subtle with fruity raspberry flavour coming out in the frosting (you got that great raspberry pit flavour and texture without the pits, ha!) with dark chocolate chips sprinkled on top, and the gingerbread was subtly spiced with a tangy cream cheese frosting.  I loved them all, but if you want to know which one knocked my socks off, the Black Velvet (pictured above and below beside her Red Velvet sister) is just amazing, oh my goodness!  The frosting is quite possibly the creamiest, smoothest frosting I have ever had and the chocolate cake…oh man.  When I was eating this cupcake, I felt like I was eating moist, soft, fluffy chocolate pillow.  The cake and frosting melded together in the perfect way and this cupcake is an A+ in every way.  A sweet, chocolatey, creamy mouthful of happiness!  They change up their selection of cupcakes daily, so you may not see all the ones I  mentioned when you go, but if I’m going to recommend any, the Black Velvet, hands down.  Happy salivating, y’all 😉 

*****

The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie is located at 55 Mill St., Building 47 in The Distillery District.  The Distillery District is east of The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, sitting south of Front St.E, and sandwiched between Parliament and Cherry St.  The café also sells cute merchandise.  I’m a freak for postcards so I picked one up for $1, yay.

A Winter ‘I Love You’

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Winter can get horribly cold and “blah”, especially after the excitement from the holidays has worn off and you’re left with slushy gray snow and ho-hum weather.  But I like to find ways of brightening things up each day.  And nothing says “I love you” like cookies ^_^  You all know what a soft spot I have for both cookies AND adorable seasonal things, so there was no way I could pass up a pretty snowflake cookie like this one.  And a heart shaped sugar cookie outlined in blue icing, Richard’s favourite colour! 

No matter where I am, I always love scoping out sweet treats and I found these lovely morsels of gingerbread and sugar at the little Nortown Foods supermarket located inside the Promenade Shopping Centre (at the intersection of Bathurst and Centre St., Thornhill).  There was actually a really sweet blue frosted teddy bear cookie in the basket I saw yesterday but it was unfortunately gone when I went back for it this morning.  Oh poo, I was totally outsmarted by another cookie monster.  Oh well, I think these cookies get the “I love you” message across pretty well on their own 😀 

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The Promenade Shopping Centre is located at 1 Promenade Circle at the intersection of Centre and Bathurst St. in Thornhill, Ontario.  Nortown Foods is nearest to the south end of the mall, closest to Sears and Pharma Plus on the lower level.   

Foodie Districts – The Toronto Christmas Market, and The Charm and History of The Distillery District, Part II

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The Distillery District in Toronto is beautiful and it is my favourite neighbourhood in the city.  It may not be a glamourous, shopping mecca like Yorkville, or trendy like Queen West, but it has history and character, not to mention it’s a photographer’s playground because of its restoration back in 2003.  Every time I go, I lose myself in its charm, quietly walking the brick and pebbled lanes, scoping out good eats and admiring all the beautiful artistry in the buildings that host classes like glass blowing and jewelry crafting.  It opens the mind and is deeply inspiring.  And at a time like Christmas, it makes me feel like a total kid again! *cue excited squeals*

One of the first memories I have of being in this neighbourhood was attending a wonderful artisan’s Christmas market a number of years ago, (where I came home with heart-pumpingly gorgeous handmade jewelry for presents) and after finding out about the Toronto Christmas Market happening this year (thanks CP24 news feed!), I knew it would be an opportune time to snap some nice photos and to indulge in some holiday treats!  The Christmas market itself is set up with a bunch of different wooden house booths all along the streets with holiday candies, chocolates, European pastries, and tea among many others.  I came home with some yummy chocolate covered cake pops and some coconut almond loose tea!

If you know how much I love markets, you know I can’t leave one without coming home with a little something!  The cake pops came from a booth for Leonard’s Cake Company (I picked up two as they had a 2 for $5 deal; a red velvet cake pop and a chocolate one), and the loose tea came from Leslieville’s Steeped and Infused, and let me tell you, it’s fantastic.  I am quite fond of tea and this tea is gooood.  I bought a sample of it for $1.75 and it’s good for about 3-4 cups and you can bet I’m going to skip on over there when it’s not severe icicle weather to get more!

Now, the Distillery District hosts a number of different cafés, restaurants, pubs, and specialty shops such as The Boiler House, Balzac’s, the Mill Street Brewery, and Soma, just to name a few.  I haven’t yet eaten my way through them all yet (but rest assured I will, ha!), but I have thoroughly and happily enjoyed both Café Uno and The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie and get excited about the prospect of going to both for an afternoon of yummy eats whenever I can. 

The first time I went to Café Uno was back in May for Doors Open Toronto where I had some sweet fruity gelato.  This time though, I wanted to enjoy a nice, warm sitdown meal as opposed to a snack, so I ordered the butter chicken dinner with rice and a side of vegetables, and although the butter chicken was certainly not the kind served in Indian cuisine, it was still tasty (think moist white chicken breast chunks in rotisserie sauce) and my favourite part of it was the chickpeas and vegetables as they just scream warmness and comfort to me.

I’m excited to go back to try their famous panini sandwiches as well as they’re salad, soup, drinks, and oh my goodness, their selction of dessert will have you standing there staring for ages (!!!).  Oh!  And they serve weekend brunch!  I’m writing that into my calendar too.  I really enjoyed the atmosphere too, with the industrial yet homey feel of the café and it’s just a great place to sit down and enjoy a lunch with friends.  They have plenty of seats beside big windows, along with some trendy bar stools and tables in between.  The dessert at Café Uno would have to wait though as I was brimming with anticipation about my cupcake from The Sweet Escape! 

I love The Sweet Escape.  It’s so cute and the desserts are lovely.  A more thorough post about this bakery will come soon, but for now, I’ll treat you to my photos and account from Tuesday.  Not only was I looking forward to my cupcake from there, but I was absolutely DELIGHTED when I saw this sign out front:

Wait, let me get this straight.  A gingerbread house you could play in??  OH.MY.GOD.  So I excitedly went in with Richard and lo and behold, a lifesize gingerbread house made out of REAL gingerbread sat there like something ripped out of Hansel and Gretel  *skips around*.  A beautiful gingerbread house made out of cookies, icing sugar, red and green frosted cupcakes sitting atop on the roof, colourful jube jube candies lining the windowsills, and green and red macarons adorning the doorway as a wreath, just sitting there, waiting to be played in!

And to my delight, The Sweet Escape had gingerbread cupcakes with a little jube jube candy sitting on top of the frosting, waiting to be inhaled by me.  So I did.  And it was delicious.  The Sweet Escape makes great cupcakes and they have a great selection.  On Tuesday, they had about 6 different kinds to choose from and all of them are priced at $2.50 each, putting them at the bottom rung of the cupcakery pricing list, as many cupcakeries in the city price them from about $2.50 to $3.50.  I have to tell you, this particular cupcake had some wicked kick to it (duh, Deb, it’s gingerbread, it’s supposed to!) and it’s made with cinnamon and cream cheese frosting.  DELICIOUS.

It was SO worth it being out in the cold enjoying this Christmas market and I really hope some of you get the chance to check it out.  And if you don’t get around the holiday market, definitely explore the neighbourhood.  It’s my favourite and I can’t gush enough about how nice it is.  It’s historically rich, charming, and entirely pedestrian-friendly, so go! 🙂  

 

*****

Café Uno is located at 55 Mill St., Building 32, and The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie is located at 55 Mill St., Building 47.  The Distillery District is east of The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, sitting south of Front St.E, and sandwiched between Parliament and Cherry St.

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!