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 Summer Patio Dining Series – Baby Potatoes, Bruschetta, & Pancetta…on Pizza! The Pizza Bianca at Vagabondo

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Oh, summer, how I have a love-hate relationship with you.  I get to wear pretty, frilly frocks and sandal flats when you’re around and iced drinks taste all the more delicious with you by my side.  However, you also make me feel absolutely disgusting with your unbearable heat and don’t even get me started on the bugs you unleash in the wake of your fury.  But I can let those things slide – just for a tiny bit – when you hand me nice patios to eat and relax in.  Like Vagabondo on Wellington St. with their fabulous Italian menu and food!

Vagabondo and I actually first met a number of years ago for dinner and dessert one summer night, but I didn’t like the photos I took from that meal, so I sadly never wrote about them on here but still thought about how much I enjoyed the food, the atmosphere, and dining experience.  I finally made my way back for a follow-up summer meal and I can’t stop raving about it.  There are so many things I love about Vagabondo.  First off, I adore the patio and the tumbling water fountain out in the front.  Any patio that has shade and cover has my vote.  Summer evenings and nights are beautiful, but that certainly doesn’t mean I enjoy having the sun shining right in my face or burning the back of my head!  Giant umbrellas dot the spacious patio while pretty patterned couch cushions adorn the red and black booths that hug the patio on two sides. 

And the beautiful water fountain!  It’s the first thing you notice the second you pass by Vagabondo on the street and it’s quite captivating.  I mean, it’s no Greek sculpture, but there aren’t very many – if any – restaurants in the city that can boast and say they have a monstrous sparkling fountain on or outside their property.  It makes sitting on their dining patio so relaxing and soothing and because of the spaciousness of the restaurant property and patio, it’s almost as if Vagabondo inhabits its own little universe, annexed from the rest of the busy, bustling city.

Second, I love how organized their menu is.  Sure, many Italian places organize their menus by appetizers (antipasti, salads, and soups), mains, pastas, pizzas (if they serve them), and desserts, but Vagabondo takes it a step further, making incredibly easy for patrons to navigate the menu and to come to a decision on what they want to stuff their face with.  Case in point: their main meat entrees are clearly divided and organized by type – one section for chicken mains (pollo), one for lamb and beef (carne), one for veal (vitello), one for fish and seafood (pesce), and another for main dish risottos (risotti).  Prices for risottos and meat mains, on average, come in at $20-$28. 

And their pastas?  Divided and organized by sauce: tomato sauce (pomodro), rose (pomodoro cremosa), cream sauce (panna), and olive oil and garlic sauce (aglo’ olio).  I cannot tell you how much this makes me bounce off the walls.  I love this organizational scheme. Instead of sifting through a list of menu items organized with no particular rhyme or reason, you can just zero in on exactly what your tastebuds feel like!  Don’t feel like tomato sauce?  Skip it.  Have a hankering for risotto?  Swoop down to the bottom left of the page.  I LOVE THIS WITH A PASSION.  Prices for pasta range from $17-$21. 

During my first visit to Vagabondo I enjoyed an amazing chicken meal (the pollo porto fino) with fresh steamed vegetables and baby potatoes, and while I desparately wanted to have some pasta, I opted to try one of their pizzas because special Italian pizza is not something I go out for very often.  Aside from my yummy price fixe pizza lunch at Il Fornello, it’s been pretty dry in that department.  So I watered the grass, so to speak. 

   

Vagabondo has 12 different pizzas to choose from (with most priced from $15-$17) and if you’re vegetarian, it’s probably not the best thing for you to go for on the menu as most pizzas have a mix of both vegetables and meat.  Toppings include artichokes, proscuitto, goat cheese, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, baby spinach, chicken strips, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, mascarpone cheese, sausage, portobellos, and so much more.  My pick?  The Pizza Bianca: white pizza brushed with olive oil and topped with mozzarella cheese, bruschetta, pancetta (why, hello, Italian bacon!), Parmigiano Reggiano, and – wait for this – sliced baby potatoes!

I don’t know about you, but I have fallen so deeply in love with potato pizza.  I never had potato pizza until Linda, momma dolce to Le Dolci’s icing sugar queen and head honcho, Lisa, brought some for us for lunch when I was cupcaking it up during my time at the studio.  Before that I had never heard of potato pizza but after that first bite I was hooked.  Vagabondo’s pizza is DELICIOUS.  It’s a nice big pie on a round metal pizza platter, cut into quarters, and served with red chili flakes in a shaker.  

All the flavours and textures worked beautifully together: the bruschetta gave it freshness, juiciness, and a bit of acidity, the pancetta made it smoky and crispy, the olive oil and mozzarella cheese were foodgasmic together, and the baby potatoes were just divine.  They were sliced into big round coins and the potatoes just absorbed all the flavours while at the same time giving the pizza body and starchy texture.  The pizzas are thin crust and so flavourful and the added kick from the red chili flakes made it taste that much more amazing, not to mention there’s plenty of cheese to go around!  I love my pizzas extra cheesy and boy did this pizza ever deliver in all aspects of flavour, ingredients, and yumminess.

Even if you’re not in the mood to splurge a little more on an Italian dinner, Vagabondo has an express lunch menu with panini sandwiches, pizzas, and similar items to the ones on their dinner menu but in lunch-size portions and with less expensive prices, so it’s win-win for everyone.  It’s one of my favourite spots in the downtown core and I can’t wait to come back and try some pasta, risotto, and dessert!

*****

Vagabondo Italin Ristorate and Lounge is located at 32 Wellingto Street East in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood between Yonge and Church Street.  They are open 7 days a week for both lunch and dinner, and they offer a lunch express menu as well as take-out.  You can view their website and menus HERE.

Portobellos, Creminis, Arugula, Scamorza Cheese & More – The Funghi Pizza & Pizza Price Fixe at Il Fornello!

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Pizza has made its way to Ate by Ate!  After 400+ posts, the great big pizza pie is finally getting some serious love and attention!  I love pizza (I only know of 2 or 3 people who actually don’t – the horror!) but you know how it is: ordering pizza from your local pizzeria takeout joint and having your hot and fresh pizza out of the cardboard box doesn’t really make for the most stellar photography.  Unless you’re out to wine and dine, pizza is generally consumed in the comforts of your school cafeteria, elementary school day pizza day lunches, at home in your PJs in front of the tv, or among friends at a movie and games night pizza party.  

Pizza is one of those foods that I just don’t order when I’m dining out and it’s not because I don’t want to.  I definitely do, but I have to be honest, the prices are a deterrent.  I know the ingredients and toppings are and can be stellar, but when a pie meant for an individual person costs $16, I cringe.  There are many pizzas around the city I’d love to try, and maybe I will someday, but for now I’d much rather either make my own (making pizza dough and my own pizza creation is something I’ve always wanted to try!), or else it’s something I have to think long and hard about if it isn’t the variety delivered in a cardboard box.     

Enter Il Fornello.  This Italian eatery serves up a menu of linguine, spaghettini, ricotta ravioli, gnocchi, antipasti, appetizers, and salads (insalata) with fresh mozzarella and ricotta di bufala, veal fettucine, chicken parmigiana, and a host of wood-fired, thin crust pizzas.  The menu is comprised of so many foods I love.  Pasta?  Check.  Fresh mozzarella?  Check.  Pizza?  Check, check, and check!  And yet it has taken me so long to sit down to a meal here!  It’s not the type of place my family would necessarily go to (remember, my dad does not feel the love for pasta) and for whatever reason, the opportunity to enjoy a meal here has evaded me all this time. 

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Foodie Districts: The Pretty and Posh Yorkville and Cumberland

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The Yorkville neighbourhood might be fancy pants with its really nice Italian and Japanese restaurants, sushi bars, and espresso cafes, but that hasn’t stopped me from admiring and completely immersing myself in the food scene here.  Even though most of the fine dining is a little out of my reach (read: budget) at this point, there’s a lot that I love about Yorkville and I’m more than content sticking to the places that I’ve enjoyed in the past.  Yorkville is a very pretty neighbourhood, the kind that makes for a very relaxing, leisurely stroll.  There’s a beautiful little park on Cumberland St. with a very cool fountain, and I always love window shopping here.  And if you’re a foodie, it’s also a fab place for those who loooove eating out on the patio.  A number of eateries here have outdoor patios, and some even have 2nd floor and rooftop ones too!

There are gourmet markets (Pusateri’s, Whole Foods, and Dinah’s Cupboard), lots of sweet eats (Carole’s Cheesecake Company, Moroco Chocolate Boutique, Dessert Lady, and Summer’s Ice Cream just to name a bunch!), French restaurants (Le Trou Normand and Sassafraz, the beautiful and iconic yellow and white restaurant at the corner of Bellair and Cumberland), Italian restaurants (Ciao Wine Bar and Bellini’s), vegetarian and vegan places (Mela Cafe and Rawlicious), Japanese and sushi bars (Ginza, Sushi Inn, and Yamato Japanese Restaurant), Mexican food at La Mexicana, and if you’re interested in some good old fashioned bar and pub fare, Hemingway’s is a great choice.  You all know I’ve been to Ginza, La Mexicana, Dessert Lady, Mela Cafe, and Summer’s Ice Cream because I’ve blogged about them (and will continue to!), but I’ve also been to Sushi Inn and Hemingway’s and I’m so looking forward to having a rooftop patio meal at Hemingway’s sometime! 

If I had to choose one place to completely indulge in, it would have to be Moroco Chocolate Boutique.  This place oozes and drips with luxuriousness with chocolate truffles, chocolate dipped orange peel, macarons, frozen yogurt, sipping chocolate, and many other sweets.  They have a dining area inside and an outdoor patio for brunch and lunch and afternoon tea and I cannot wait for the day where I can throw caution to the wind and have a fabulous meal here with all the trimmings. 

Outside of actual food, the shining star in Yorkville for me (and for any other foodie roaming this earth) is The Cookbook Store!  I know, an ENTIRE store dedicated to cookbooks, food magazines, food literature, and everything FOOD AND PRINT!  Can you tell how much I love it here?!  Two years I came here on Hallowe’en and they had an entire Hallowe’en party spread right in the store!  Hallowe’en themed cookies, cakes, and finger foods for everyone to nibble on in the store.  This is one of my favourite food memories in Yorkville and it pains me that I don’t have a photo from that day to show you all.  I was lame and didn’t recharge my camera battery before I went out for the day and it went dead on me just before I went inside.  Sigh.  I want to take this store home with me the same way my mum wanted to take home the farmers’ market yesterday.

Given how Yorkville is so easily accessible via subway, it’s a neighbourhood I really enjoy being in regardless of how much money I have to spend.  There are flower baskets hanging on every pretty lamp post in the summer, an ice fest in the winter, and a beautiful kind of crispness in the fall.  I always have a great time when I’m here and the food browsing and foodie window shopping delights me each and every time.

 

*****

The Yorkville neighbourhood is located in downtown Toronto, bounded by Charles St. to the south, Yonge St. to the east, Davenport Rd. to the north, and Avenue Rd. to the west.