Scones & Strawberry Marshmallow Macarons – Afternoon Tea Treats on a Fall Morning at Yorkville Espresso Bar

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Ste. Anne’s coconut black tea at Yorkville Espresso Bar!

An espresso bar and cafe with amazing tea, delicious scones, and adorable macarons among other afternoon tea-style sweets and treats?  In the picturesque neighbourhood of Yorkville?  That’s a cafe after my own heart!  Yorkville Espresso Bar, located at 3 Yorkville Ave. just west of Yonge Street near the Toronto reference library and just steps away from the Cookbook Store and my beloved Italian-vegetarian Mela Cafe, is a new cafe that just opened up last year and after my very first visit, I think it’s a wonderful and splenderific addition to the neighbourhood.  Brunch, vegetarian, Mexican, ice cream, macarons, Italian, Middle-Eastern, pub classics, and now a new espresso bar and cafe – aside from Kensington Market, Yorkville is truly my ideal place to eat to my heart’s content.

The pretty Yorkville park nearby

I know, there are plenty of cafes in the area including Lettieri and Zaza, not to mention around the city in general, so what makes this space so great?  The thing about cafes is that they have to offer something different, something a little more unique in order to stand out from the others.  Because let’s face it, it’s not like we have to go very far to fetch an Americano, a cappuccino, or an espresso and while yes, every cafe will have their own way of making these drinks, it’s the atmosphere and the food goodies that accompany these drinks that will make us foodies feel compelled to come back for more.  Some cafes offer the comfort factor with plushy seats to relax in while you read, sip, munch, or type away on a laptop (or a tablet, sigh), others are great as meeting spots for friends, and then the are the ones that are fabulous purely for the food and drink.  THIS would be Yorkville Espresso Bar’s forte.

It’s a small space so you wouldn’t necessarily see large groups inhabiting it, but it is cozy enough for you to sit down with a friend and a coffee, tea, and light meal or snack.  And let me just say, Yorkville Espresso Bar is awesomesauce in the food and goodies department.  There is something here for everyone: the sweet tooth, the vegetarian, the gluten-intolerant, and the just plain hungry!  Often times I’ll shy away from certain spots, not because I think their drinks are bad persay, but because I want something a little more special than baked goods wrapped in saran wrap in a basket or baked goods that look as though they just got a shot of steroids and a bath in grease.  That could be the food snob in me tsking but really, it’s unappealing and I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way!

Yorkville Espresso Bar is great though because their selection of food and sweets changes on a pretty consistent basis (from what I gather on their Facebook page where they announce menu items for the day), they’re always coming up with new and unique yummies to showcase, they offer a number of gluten-free menu items (see below in the next few paragraphs for examples!), and you know everything is fresh and hot off the press because the adjoining kitchen studio that handles the baking, cooking, and catering for the espresso bar doles them out throughout the day.  They were already baking their 2nd round of scones at 10am on a Sunday morning because they sold out of their 1st round.   Can you believe it?!

Oh!  And I can’t forget about their tea!  I honking LOVE the tea.  They get their teas from Ste. Anne’s (Ste. Anne’s Extraordinary Teas), which is actually a spa located in several spots in Ontario (Grafton and Port Hope) and the whole concept behind the tea is driven by the relaxing spa experience.  I had their black tea coconut tea with my cinnamon scone and strawberry marshmallow macaron (I KNOW – MARSHMALLOW!) and I loved it to itty bitty pieces.

Their food menu is insane.  Let’s start with the savoury, gluten-free muffins first.  These are items that have graced their display case of goodies over the last few months:

  • sweet potato chocolate chip muffins
  • sweet potato and cranberry muffins
  • carrot and beetroot muffins
  • blueberry flaxseed muffins
  • gluten-free, vegan chocolate zucchini muffins!

Other savoury bites include jalapeno cornbread, brioche with dates, Parmesan, and thyme, 8-year old cheddar and chive scones, and bacon and thyme scones.  Okay, now the sweet stuff including cupcakes, gluten-free sweet muffins, sweet scones, chocolate and confectionery, and more:

  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mango and Nutella frosting and dried mango
  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mango buttercream frosting
  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mocha buttercream frosting
  • mini chocolate berry cheesecake cupcakes

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Tutti Fruitti Breakfast Muffins – Flourless, Gluten-Free, Banana Almond With Dried Cranberries and Pineapple!

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Happy new year, everyone!  I hope everyone is well-rested from the outings, parties, and holiday madness in general.  I had myself a relaxing new year’s eve going out for frozen yogurt with my family, picking up some snazzy scrapbooking materials on mega sale, and stuffing myself with pesto pizza before settling in for some good old-fashioned new year’s eve tv watching.  Low key, but delicious, just the way I like it!  And here we are almost two days into 2012 with a whole year of fun things and opportunities ahead of us. 

Even though I’m looking forward to so many things in the next little while (I have a scrapbooking supply shopping trip in the works and some upcoming winter markets I’m excited about!), I’m really sad that Christmas and the holidays are over.  I know it’s because my holiday hoopla festivities got off to a late start this year and I feel like it passed by way too fast.  My Christmas and holiday clock is still ticking and I have an abundance of energy that I need to channel to the point where I still want to fill Christmas cookie boxes and buy Christmas scrapbook paper!  I was the one having fun Christmas shopping after Christmas!  If anything, I can tuck away all the Christmas ideas and things I didn’t get around to enjoying in 2011 and save them for 2012.

A new year means a fresh and clean slate and that means noshing on leftovers and using up some ingredients that need to be eaten pronto.  We had some super ripe bananas in the kitchen and because I accidentally bought one too many bags of ground almonds (which I told you all about here), it was the most opportune time to do some baking!  Enter a fresh batch of baked goods for the first day of 2012: flourless, gluten-free banana almond nutmeg breakfast muffins with dried cranberries and pineapple!  It’s the first time I’ve ever baked anything flourless and I was super excited to bake something entirely out of ground almonds.  Not to mention I was giddy over mashing bananas – it’s very therapeutic and fun! 

I had to convert almost all the measurements from the original recipe though because they were in grams as opposed to cups and spoon measurements and I improvised and changed things up a little when it came to the ingredients, but lucky for me, the muffins turned out AMAZING!  The original recipe doesn’t have much sugar in it and for good reason: the dried fruit is deliciously juicy and sweet in these muffins and the texture of the ground almond cake is wonderfully soft and moist.  It’s incredibly moist banana cake and they smell divine!  These muffins are definitely the kind you want to enjoy every morning with some almond milk or yogurt.  This was one yummy way to celebrate the first day of the new year!

Recipe for Flourless, Banana Almond Muffins With Dried Fruit and Nutmeg (yields 12 muffins)

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature (3/4 of a stick)
  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (I only had 1/4 cup, so I used chopped dried pineapple to fill in the rest)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • juice from 1 whole lemon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (pure maple syrup does not have gluten in it, but check the label of your syrup just to be sure if you are making these for those who have celiac disease or who are gluten-intolerant)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (pure is best, but again, check the label to make sure there is no gluten)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • cinnamon sugar (optional; 1/8 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 12-cup muffin/cupcake pan (or two 6-cup ones, whatever combination you have) with paper liners and set aside.
  •  Place the softened butter, maple syrup, and beaten eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Using an electric mixer, mix the ingredients together until butter is creamy and eggs and maple syrup are thoroughly incorporated.
  • Mix in the baking powder, then slowly add the ground almonds, occasionally scraping down the sides until everything is combined.
  • Add the lemon juice, nutmeg, and mashed bananas, mixing after each addition.
  • Using a large spoon, fold the cranberries, dried pineapple, or whatever dried fruit you are using, into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the paper-lined muffin tin, filling each cup to the top.  If you are using cinnamon sugar (like me!), sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on the tops.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.  When the muffins are cool enough to handle, transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.  Keep in a dry, airtight container.

*****

Recipe adapted from Banana, Cranberry, and Nutmeg Ground Almond Muffins on Calorie Count.

The Vegan Chili Series – Gluten-Free Bread, Sandwiches, Desserts, and Tomato Vegan Chili at Organic Oven

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It feels SO good to scrapbook again.  After being scrapbook layout-less on the blog for a month (god, it makes me cringe), I finally got a batch of photos developed yesterday and I got right down to business cranking out a new bright and fun foodie layout for today!  I’ve been meaning to blog about Organic Oven for a long time now but the perfectionist in me didn’t like the photos I initially took back in March (yes, in MARCH!) and to make matters worse, I took said photos and tried to create a decent scrapbook layout out of them which I also did not like.  That scrapbook layout sat in my “these pages are not good enough” pile for months and recreating a new one sat on the backburner for awhile.  Enter the Vegan Chili series I started back at the end of September.  I knew Organic Oven had a vegan chili on their menu and it was perfect opportunity to go back and try some more yummy eats and to give myself the creative kick in the butt I needed!  So here we are with the 2nd instalment of the Vegan Chili series, my blog post on Organic Oven, and a brand spankin’ new scrapbook layout! 

Organic Oven, located on Yonge Street just north of Lawrence Ave., is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the food that they serve.  First off, they’re not just a bakery with desserts.  They’re a lunch cafe, a coffee spot, and a retail shop with grocery items, all in one.  They sell a number of sweets that can either be purchased as single desserts, prepackaged take-away packs, or custom designed and ordered.  They’re sweets menu includes brownies, biscotti, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies.  For lunch, you can sit down to a hot bowl of soup or chili, a freshly made sandwich or bagel, salads, quiches, and a host off coffee drinks, smoothies, juices, and milks, and while you’re there, you can pick up a few gluten-free grocery items to add to your bread basket.

Furthermore – and this is the kicker – you could literally have a group of people comprised of a vegetarian, a vegan, a meat-eater, and a gluten-intolerant come here to eat, and all four people would be satisfied with the food because their menu caters to all four diets!  For the vegetarian: goat cheese quiche, pizza bagels, egg salad, grilled cheese, and veggie sandwiches.  For the vegan (and vegetarian): multigrain, cinnamon, raisin, and poppy seeds bagels with vegan butter, vegan chili and soups, veggie sandwiches, and vegan brownies and cupcakes.  For the meat-lover: chicken and turkey sandwiches with veggies and cheese, as well as tuna salad.  Finally, for the gluten-intolerant: everything! 

Their focus is on serving healthier alternatives with dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free options.  They’re best known for their gluten-free breads, bagels, and pizza crusts and all three items can be purchased from their grocery shelves.  Their gluten-free breads are crunchy rice buns that are dairy-free, egg-free, and certified organic and they use these same buns for all of the sandwiches on their menu.  The rice buns are made from certfiied organic flax meal and quinoa flakes and they come in packs of six.  Pop them in the toaster and you have yourself a healthy breakfast and lunch!  In addition to their rice buns, they also carry gluten-free cheese, cinnamon raisin, multigrain, and poppyseed bagels which come in packs of five, as well as gluten-free pizza crusts.  Aside from the breads, their grocery shelves also carry cereals, ice cones, rice snacks, milks (a variety of soy, almond, and rice), and other goodies.

Now, onto the vegan chili!  Their vegan chili is served either on its own with a side of rice bread ($5.70) or in a combo alongside a salad, quiche, bagel, or sandwich.  Prices vary depending on which combo you choose, but generally speaking lunch at Organic Oven will come out to around $5-$10, with most items averaging $6-$7.  Their vegan chili isn’t super spicy so for those who shy away from chili because of the level of heat, have no fear because the vegan chili here isn’t an alarm setter.  I’d say that the vegan chili here is a good cross between a thick soup and a chili in texture, consistency, and flavour. 

It’s a tomato based vegan chili made with crushed tomatoes, green bell pepper, sweet onions, red and white kidney beans, and chunks of sweet potato.  It’s such a hearty, warm, comforting dish.  It’s exactly the type of meal you’d want to eat on a chilly day, with a cheese sandwich (I know that would defeat the purpose of a entirely vegan meal if that wasn’t vegan cheese, but I’m not vegan so work with me here!), relaxing with the paper or a book.  It’s that type of meal.  The robust tomato flavour was savoury and the whole bowl was overflowing with veggies.  Oh!  And I added a side of avocado to my chili.  I love avocado like nobody’s business and since there was an option to add avocado for $0.50, I took it, which is why you see slices of creamy avocado on my chili.

And the bread!  It wasn’t my first time having Organic Oven’s rice bread, but for whatever reason, it tasted extra delicious this time!  Wedges of toasted rice bread were included on the side and I had the choice of having the bread spread or brushed with vegan butter or olive oil and I chose olive oil this time around.  I could not get over how amazing the bread with olive oil tasted!  Even though it was toasted, it was so incredibly soft on the inside with crispiness on the outside.  The olive oil soaked into the bread really nicely so the bread ended up having these yummy herb flavour to it.  I could have eaten an entire loaf because it was so yummy and scrumptious and all sorts of heaven in my mouth.  I am definitely planning on picking up a pack of rice buns to take home sometime.  Between myself, my brother, and my mum (my dad isn’t really into bread), I envision the pack being devoured in two days.  Or maybe even in one.

Organic Oven is a great lunch spot because the menu caters to so many different diets and the food is wholesome, healthy, and delicious.  You can bet I’ll be back for their cupcakes (I know, shocking how I didn’t blog about them already!  I’ll get to them, I promise) and I’ll profile their sandwiches next time around too.  For the time being, bookmark this post and Organic Oven as your uptown vegan chili station.

       

*****

Organic Oven is located at 3189 Yonge Street, just north of Lawrence Ave. on the east side of Yonge Street just steps away from Lawrence subway station.  They have several other locations around the city, which I will update once I get the addresses.

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

An Explosion of Flavour and Texture – Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free Delights at Hibiscus in Kensington

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Here’s a random fact about me: I’m allergic to hibiscus flowers.  I know, I might as well walk around in a bubble.  Not only do I have allergies year-round (I sneeze and blow my nose just as often and violently in April as I do in October), but I have a plethora of food  and non-food allergies and sensitivities, including hibiscus flowers.  Like all my allergies, I found about this specifc hypersensitivity the hard way.  While working at my flower shop job 5 or 6 years ago, my arms broke out into little red welts right after watering some plants outside during the summer.  I was watering hibiscus flowers.  So it’s ironic how much I adore a restaurant aptly named Hibiscus!  I am far from allergic to this fabulous haven of veggie food.  

Remember how I said that Kensington Market had an abundance of delightful vegetarian and vegan options?  Hibiscus is yet another wonderful place in Kensington Market that caters to the vegetarian and vegan crowd with its menu of vegetarian, vegan, raw, and gluten-free items.  Even though I firmly believe everyone and anyone should and could eat here, the reason why I say Hibiscus caters to the veggie crowd is because their menu is strictly vegetarian and vegan.  Some places are meat-centric with a few veggie options, some places serve meat dishes but are very veggie-friendly with many choices to choose from, and others, like Hibiscus, are veggie through and through with no meat in sight.  They’re not entirely vegan because they do serve cheese and nutella (which contains milk) with some dishes, but they offer vegan alternatives for the dishes that contain those food items.

Much like King’s Cafe down the street on Augusta, the food and atmosphere at Hibiscus has a subtle but noticable Chinese flair to it and I’ll explain one of the reasons why when I show you all the delicious meal I had here later on in the post.  You know you’ve found a gem when 1) you feel comfortable and at ease with both the atmosphere and the staff, and 2) you want to eat my through the entire menu.  Hisbiscus is a cozy, intimate-style eatery with plenty of foodie goodness on and off the menu.  They sell lots of tea accessories, fair trade coffee, and herbal tea (most notably from the Numi brand) and all of their non-menu food items can be purchased behind the cash. 

The menu itself isn’t particularly large.  Everything is listed on one page, but let me tell you, it’s quality waaay over quantity at Hibiscus.  If I had to break down their menu and succintly point out their hot spots, their specialities are 1) sweet, dessert-like buckwheat crepes and savoury buckwhweat crepes with vegetables, fruit, chutneys, and cheese, 2) non-dairy, vegan ice cream, 3) soy smoothies, and 4) salad bowls.  Prices range from $5.65-$9 for mains (small and large salad bowls, and sweet and savoury crepes) and $3-$5 for ice cream desserts.  Smoothies come in at $4.50 and other drinks are around $2-$3. 

Their menu is incredibly cohesive and focused, which speaks to the success of the restaurant.  It is BUSY here and there were people continuously coming and going even during the lull hour of 4pm!  One way of getting to know some of the menu items before you’ve tried them?  Discreetly take a peek around to see what everyone else has on their plate.  People were dining in and taking out and eating salad bowls like there was no tomorrow.

That’s right, salad bowls.  I know it’s easy to judge simplistic menu items and shrug them off as unworthy.  After all, don’t we all shudder at the thought of limp lettuce and ho-hum salad ingredients?  Don’t let the humble name of the menu item fool you though.  This salad bowl was an explosion of flavours and textures and I absolutely adored this and would eat this over and over and over again because it was delicious.  This is healthy, vegan food at its finest!  

The salad bowl was jam-packged with fluffy, crunchy quinoa, broccoli, shredded carrots, red kidney beans, chickpeas, tofu cubes, green beans, lentils, beets, cubed butternut squash, this delicious soy paste that mimicked the texture of creamy cheese made with onion and celery, and a yummy, crispy, raw cracker on the side.  The salad bowl was also topped with the subtle Chinese flair that delighted me: cellophane noodles (fun see in Cantonese) that oddly tasted much like the salty flavour of Chinese-style jellyfish!

That flavour completely threw me for a loop and I loved how so many flavours and textures worked together in this salad bowl.  It was savoury, sweet, crunchy, soft, smooth, everything.  The briney, saltiness came from the “fun see”-like noodle topper, there was a delicious mix of olive oil and balsamic with the beans, chickpeas, and tofu cubes, the sweetness of the butternut squash had hints of nutmeg, and the vegetables and quinoa provided so much texture and crunch.  This dish was fantastic and after eating just the small salad bowl (they offer both a small and large), I was so satisfied.  The salad bowl is a meal that keeps on giving because there are so many flavours and so many layers – it takes awhile for your spoon to hit the bottom of the bowl, literally!

I’ve wanted to eat at Hibiscus for so long now and I’m so happy I finally did.  I can’t wait to gorge on some of their vegan ice cream and truthfully, eleventy billion more salad bowls.   

*****

Hibiscus is located at 238 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market.

The Fall Harvest Series: It’s Like Biting Into an Apple Orchard – Apple Cinnamon Buckwheat Pancakes at Sadie’s Diner

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It’s a crisp, sunny fall day.  You want a warm, healthy meal in a sunny atmosphere, and you feel bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to take on the day.  Get pumped because we’re having breakfast at Sadie’s Diner!  As one of Toronto’s most beloved vegetarian and vegan all-day breakfast diners, Sadie’s serves up vegan French toast, breakfast burritos, omelettes, huevos rancheros (egg and tofu varieties!), pancakes, smoothies, fresh fruit juice, and plenty of lunch and dinner options for later on in the day. 

It’s been months since I’ve been back; my first visit was during this past April’s Veggielicious and I was so happy and excited to finally come back for seconds!  Choosing my next meal here was no easy feat.  Sadie’s serves up different veggie omelettes all throughout the week (they tweet their specials on Twitter!), the breakfast burrito on the menu was whistling at me, and part of me just wanted to go to town with the vegan huevos rancheros dish I had for Veggielicious.  That, and the tofu scramble.  When I skimmed the menu online though, I knew exactly what I wanted and knew how perfectly it would fit into the Fall Harvest series: apple cinnamon buckwheat pancakes!

When I came up with the idea to have a Fall Harvest series for the blog, I wanted to incorporate all the traditional fall foods that we know and love so much.  Things like apples, pumpkins, squash, maple, and comfort foods such as stews and chilis.  I started brainstorming and I started researching.  I wanted the series to be fun, and to include all different kinds of food and meals while at the same time keeping the posts creative in their content.  And talk about creative!  I hit pay dirt when I found out Avocado Sushi had Japanese pumpkin on their menu (read: yesterday’s post) and that really inspired me to find different things around the city that utilized these tradtional fall favourites in interesting and delicious ways.  Enter Sadie’s Diner and their apple cinnamon buckwheat pancakes.

This was the very first time I had buckwheat pancakes.  Although I’ve had buckwheat (soba) noodles numerous times, I was completely in the dark about buckwheat pancakes until these babies showed up at my neon aqua table nice and piping hot.  Contrary to its name, buckwheat actually does not have wheat in it; rather, it’s a fruit seed closely related to rhubarb, making it the perfect alternative to grains for those who have Celiac disease and gluten intolerance.  In other words, THIS MEAL IS GLUTEN-FREE AND AWESOME!  I know how difficult it can be for a lot of people to eat out and to find ways to make gluten-free meals for themselves at home without falling into a rut because I have friends who necessarily follow a gluten-free diet.  I’m definitely going to try extra hard to add to this category of gluten-free options, so for the time being, keep a mental sticky note that Sadie’s has buckwheat pancakes with different flavours and fillings.

This meal was so nice and warm and comforting.  It was so perfect for a sunny fall morning and you could really taste the freshness, juiciness, and moistness in every bite.  The apple cinnamon buckwheat pancakes comes with three large pancakes, thinly sliced apples, cinnamon, powdered sugar, and three veggie sausages.  The buckwheat pancakes are SO different from your traditional “cake” pancakes.  The flavour is much more savoury as opposed to sweet, with a slight tang and I know this might sound weird, but I actually really enjoyed these pancakes more as they got colder throughout the meal!  Warmth is obviously a good (and necessary!) aspect in a meal like this, but I felt the flavour was even more enhanced after they had cooled down in combination with the cinnamon, powdered sugar, syrup, and apples. 

Now, if you’re accustomed to eating the “cake batter” type of pancake, it’s a flavour that might take some getting used to just because it’s not sweet.  In my opinion though, it’s perfect for those who love the juxtaposition between sweet and savoury because the maple syrup, cinnamon, and powdered sugar totally kick the buckwheat pancakes in the pants and enhance the flavour SO much. 

You need to eat the pancakes with the apples and the sweet accents simaltaneously though if you want the best of all flavours.  If you eat the pancakes all on their own, the savoury tang might be too overwhelming for those who aren’t accustomed to buckwheat.  I have friends who aren’t into breakfast foods like waffles and pancakes because they’re just not into “sweet” breakfast food, but in this case, it’s the perfect balance, especially with the veggie sausage alongside it.  The pancakes are moist and juicy and incredibly easy to eat; it’s a hearty meal that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve eaten a house!

My absolute favourite part of the meal was the sliced apple.  Oh my gosh, the apple truly takes this meal to the next level.  It absolutely shines.  The thinly sliced gala apples were so bright, clean, and fresh in its flavour and so full of sweet juiciness.  The apples were baked into the buckwheat pancakes and on top of the pancakes, making them perfect for me to eat!  Hello, I’m allergic to the raw flesh of apples (among many other fruits) and need to have them baked and cooked in order for me to eat them and not swell up like a blowfish.  So hurray for baked juicy sliced apples on buckwheat pancakes!  I loved the apple so much and it made my day knowing I could still taste the natural sweetness of it without having it sacrificed in cooking.  When I was eating the apples with my pancakes, I felt like I had bitten into an apple orchard.  This is the fall harvest, on a warm breakfast plate, at its finest.

*****

Sadie’s Diner is located at 504 Adelaide St. West and Portland Street, just east of Bathurst St.  They are open for business at 7:30am from Monday-Friday, and at 9am on weekends.  They are open until 10pm and they serve all-day breakfast along with lunch and dinner.  Sadie’s is vegetarian and vegan with a number of gluten-free options.

The Keys to My Heart – Prepare to Drool: The Famous Vegan Chocolate Chip Creamie From Bunner’s Bake Shop

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My heart is doing pirouettes as I write this.  Just look at this beautiful masterpiece that I have put before us.  I know your mouth is gaping open at the sight of it.  If it’s not, then it must be swallowing saliva because this vegan dessert is a thing of beauty.  This is the famous chocolate chip creamie sandwich from Bunner’s Bake Shop, located in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood on Dundas St. West.  I am not exaggerating when I say that this cookie sandwich is so effing delicious it makes me want to bus, sub, and run over to the west end bake shop EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this is quite possibly my most favourite dessert EVER.  I know, the unthinkable has happened: my favourite sweets are on the verge of being dethroned.  It stomps over ice cream.  It squeezes past cake.  And cupcakes?  Oh, my beloved cupcakes.  It pains me to say this, but you are no longer my one and only.  You must now share the spotlight – and my heart – with the amazing creamie sandwich.

The chocolate chip creamie is not your ordinary cream-filled cookie sandwich.  And the chocolate chip cookies and vanilla frosting are not your ordinary cookies and frosting.  This creamie is mondo big and is literally pillow soft, light-as-air, melt-in-your-mouth delightfulness.  The chocolate chip cookies look, feel, and taste like a fusion of soft chocolate chip cookies with gingerbread, molasses, cookie dough, and graham cracker crumble all mixed together.

The texture of these cookies is amazing because in appearance they remind you of the delicious crystal-like grittiness of gingerbread and molasses cookies, but in taste they are smooth, soft, and rich.  Chewy isn’t even the right word, because they’re not.  They are simply SO SOFT.  They pull apart amazingly.  You can either stuff your face and chomp on this thing in its entirety, or you can revel in its texture like me and break the creamie apart in half (or in thirds or quarters, whatever floats your boat).  You can literally SEE the richness and softness of the frosting and cookies as you gently break it in half.

Like I mentioned before in my Bunner’s post during Veggielicious, their frosting is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.  The vanilla frosting is simaltaneously airy and thick, and so full of full-bodied vanilla flavour.  So to all cream-filled cookie sandwiches in the world: my apologies, but you’ve been served.

Ashley from Bunner’s was really nice in taking the time to answer my questions about what makes the creamie vegan, specifically.  Instead of butter, the cookies are made with coconut oil and a number of vegetable fats, organic sugar, and premium vanilla are used to whip up the delicious frosting.  The creamie comes in two forms: chocolate chip (what you see here) and the double chocolate chip (what you see in the first photo here) and are $4.25 each.  Although my boyfriend has had the double chocolate chip one twice, I’ve only ever eaten the chocolate chip creamie myself.  When I get around to eating the double chocolate one I promise you there will be mouth-watering photos here too 😉  In the meantime…wipe the drool off from your chin and grab yourself one of these!

*****

Bunner’s Bake Shop is a vegan, gluten-free bakery that also offers a number of soy-free options.  They are committed to using fair trade, organic, and local ingredients as often as possible in their baked goods.  They are located in The Junction at 3054 Dundas Street West, 3 blocks from the intersection of Keele and Dundas West.  Bunner’s is just west of High Park Ave.  They are open from Monday to Saturday from 10am-7pm, and 12pm-5pm on Sundays.

The First Veggielicious Pitstop! Sweet Vegan & Gluten-Free Treats at Bunner’s Bake Shop, Part II

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Oh yes, this picture of mouthwatering chocolate cookie and cream sandwiches is real and no, you are not dreaming.  And if you’re wondering, oh yes, they taste as heavenly as they look.  I hope you all enjoyed the pictures and teaser post from yesterday!  There was no way I could fit all my photos in one post so I split it up into two…it’s not like you all mind though.  Two guaranteed days of sweet treats?  Sold 😀  Bunner’s Bake Shop on Dundas St. West in the Junction neighbourhood was my first Veggielicious pitstop and I am SO happy that I went.  I’m really happy that they’re participating in the food fest and getting more business and exposure because of it because they really deserve it.  Had it not been for this fest, I never would have known about it.  I know I explore the city a lot, but Toronto is BIG and I suppose I would have stumbled upon it at a later time, but sooner is always better than later 😉

What I love about Bunner’s is their commitment to quality and the execution of their craft.  Bunner’s is a bakery that is committed to creating and serving desserts that are fair trade, vegan and cruelty-free, and dairy-free and gluten-free with an emphasis on also catering to those who also have soy allergies.  I really appreciate this, not because I’m allergic to soy per se (I’m allergic to soy milk but no other soy products, go figure), but because I have friends who are allergic to soy and nuts and this allergy makes it very difficult for them to enjoy a lot of vegetarian and vegan food that is made with soy or nuts.  It’s a bake shop with a conscious. 

They have a clear vision of what their craft means to them and what they want to achieve through their offering of delicious desserts, namely, accessibility.  It’s not easy catering to different diets, intolerances, beliefs, and lifestyles without alienating your clientele or ending up with subpar product.  But they do this beautifully and you can tell when you look at their treats and when you eat them.  You can taste the quality, the passion, and the innovativeness through their baked goods.

The Veggielicious deal, as a mentioned yesterday, is comprised of one cupcake of your choice, a creamie (the cookie sandwich), and a supersonic gypsy cookie for $7.50.  Well worth it in my opinion because holy mother of pearl these babies are big!  The creamie is so thick and mondo huge, the cookie is like a rocky mountain, and the cupcakes are the perfect size (not small but not steroid-like) with a delightful heaping of frosting on top. 

Now, when I talk about their commitment quality, there’s a reason why.  Take the gypsy cookie, for example.  This is what they refer to as a “power” cookie, the kind of cookie that is healthy and good for you, and will get you up and raring to go in the morning or give you that kick in the ass you need to get through the middle of the day.  I think they have several different kinds with oats and dried fruits and chocolate.  Mine was generously stuffed with chocolate chips (the good cocoa chocolate, not the sickly sweet milk chocolate), raisins (Correction: I have been informed that they were in fact not raisins but apple-sweetened dried cranberries, d’oh!  My bad!), oats, and pumpkin seeds. 

Now, as I was discussing with my friend Sally yesterday, this might not be everyone’s cup of tea based on what’s in it.  Her vegetarian friend loved it, but she wasn’t too fussy about it.  My verdict?  I actually really enjoyed it.  I like raisins in my cookies (think oatmeal raisin), (Correction: I love dried cranberries!), so it works for me, and I loooove the crunch the pumpkin seeds gave to this cookie and the chocolate sweetened the whole cookie up so that it balanced out the nutty flavour of the oats and seeds and the tartness of the raisins.  For those who enjoy texture and a mixture of savoury and sweet, this is for you and it’s one of Bunner’s best sellers.

And the creamie and the cupcake?  Oh heaven.  Pure heaven.  As my friend Sally said, “I could eat a whole tub of the lemon frosting”.  I agree, so could I.  The cupcake I chose was a vanilla cake with lemon frosting.  I can honestly say that this is a cupcake unlike anything I have ever tasted.  And in a good way!  To put things in perspective, let me just remind everyone what makes a bad cupcake: too dry, too sweet, too crumbly.  As well, cupcakes that don’t support the weight of the frosting and fall apart half way through eating, and those are saturated with extract (vanilla, almond, you get the picture). 

Now, the most common complaints I hear about cupcake frosting, specifically, are that some frostings are too greasy and “butter” like in consistency to the point where they leave a film on your mouth, ones that are too sweet and grainy (the kind of sugary that makes you grimace), and ones that are artificial in taste (think mint frosting that ends up tasting like Listerine). 

Bunner’s cupcakes are NONE of these things.  Their cake, although not the moistest I’ve ever had (that award goes to the Black Velvet at Sweet Escape), was soft and subtle in flavour.  The lemony frosting?  Oh man.  So different from anything I’ve tasted.  It was thick and full-bodied in its volume, texture, and flavour.  It’s the kind of frosting that doesn’t dissipate as soon as it hits your tongue.  It envelopes your taste buds and does a little waltz around your mouth.  It has the volume of marshmallow fluff and the thickness of reeeeally good frosting.  The cupcake is so satisfying.

But you wanna know what’s even MORE satisfying?  The creamie cookie sandwich.  No, scratch that.  Satisfying is not the right word.  Gratifying is the right word.  Although I chose the double chocolate chip creamie for my boyfriend because he’s a chocolate fanatic (and because I love him, aww), I demanded a bite when he was eating it.  The phrase “oh my god” doesn’t even cut it.  Hands down, pure awesomeness.  Anyone who goes to Bunner’s (and you know you will) MUST get a creamie.  If I’m going to recommend anything to you, it’s that.  And trust that when I eat a whole one myself, I will give you the lowdown in all its glory.  But I’ll let you salivate and let your imagination run wild in the meantime.

An amazing fun Veggielicious and hopefully, more wonderful experiences and good eats to come in the next little while!  I’m going to work on getting more detailed descriptions of vegan ingredients used in the desserts as time goes on when I profile items on their own, so I’ll make sure to make those available to you all.  Veggielicious runs until April 24th, so enjoy!

*****

Bunner’s is located in The Junction at 3054 Dundas Street West, 3 blocks from the intersection of Keele and Dundas West.  Bunner’s is just west of High Park Ave.  They are open from Monday to Saturday from 10am-7pm, and 12pm-5pm on Sundays.