Rich, Decadent, Fudgy, and Frothy – The Beginnings of Hot Chocolate Season! A Delicious Year in Review

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I never leave home without my mittens and knit hat, my breath is starting to come out in round puffs when I’m out (especially in the mornings) and today I actually saw some flurries gently float about outside my window at work.  The crisp, colourful season of fall is far from being over in my book, but there’s no denying that we’re pretty much on the brink of hot chocolate season!  And I am so excited to get the Hot Chocolate Series back up and running after a hot and sweltering summer and so far, a very rainy fall!  I’m hoping to feature more flavoured hot chocolates (mint, candy cane, and even  pumpkin and gingerbread!), more pretty “drink” art (maybe someone can create a snowflake in my hot chocolate for me!), and some decadent white hot chocolate drinks if I can get my hands on some.

Even though I think eating ice cream during winter is more common among folks than drinking hot chocolate in the summer, I’m sure there are some who sip their hot chocolates all year-round.  If you’re one of those someones, this post may not whip your cream much but if you’re the type that sticks to hot chocolate when the weather outside is frightful (or you know, just chilly), you’ll be happy to see this Hot Chocolate Series Year in Review recap!  Just in time to get some great ideas on where to go to get that cup of chocolatey goodness!  Below is a recap of all the hot chocolate drinks that have been featured on Ate by Ate:

And if that’s not enough chocolate for you, the first photo on this post features a delicious dark chocolate hot chocolate from Arepa Cafe on Queen St. West and the peppermint hot chocolate from Fresh is also fantastically fabulous!  I haven’t put up actual posts for these two drinks simply because I don’t have enough photos to warrant a post (not to mention I don’t like the photos I took of my peppermint hot chocolate at Fresh so I’m waiting for the day I can do “re-takes”!  Keep warm and cozy everyone!

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For the Love of Hot Cocoa, Snowflakes, and Christmas Scrapbooking – The Wintry Hot Chocolate Series Layout

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I’m so excited to be posting this layout I’m almost jumping out of my skin!  I’ve been looking forward to scrapbooking Christmas and winter photos and layouts for ages and now that there’s actually some snow on the ground, my holiday scrapbooking mood has sky-rocketed straight through the roof!  This month has been a whirlwind with plans not panning out, my uncharacteristic unpreparedness, and Christmas coming and going faster than I had anticipated, so I really didn’t get into a scrapbooking groove until after Christmas.  I was chewing on ideas for over a month, but for whatever reason, part of me just wasn’t ready to dig into the paper and stickers.  I wanted to lose myself in it and enjoy every minute, not be distracted and moody over it. 

Even though I feel like I let precious time pass me by, I’m so much happier I scrapbooked when I did because it was SO MUCH FUN!  This is my Christmas-holiday-winter hot chocolate layout with photos of the hot chocolate I’ve featured in the Hot Chocolate Series: the nutella hot chocolate from Le Gourmand, the peppermint hot chocolate from Le Merceria, and the rich hot chocolate with blow-torched marshmallow from Bobbette & Belle.  I’ve been wanting to use a red, green, blue, and white colour scheme for some time now so I went to town with the ribbon and cardstock and paper and ended up with this!

There have been times where I’ve scrapbooked every day for a month or more and there have been other times where I’ve gone weeks without even touching my go-to scrapbook tin.  Every time I scrapbook though, it feels like no time has passed and I’m happiest when I get to surround myself with photos and memories and all my art supplies.  Out of all the themes I enjoy scrapbooking (birthdays, Valentine’s, art, and friendship among others), Christmas and winter are my absolute favourites. 

A new year means a time to reflect and a time to look forward and when I look back on my scrapbooking, I think back to when I started 8×8 scrapbooking full force over 3 years ago (prior to that I was actually doing 8.5 x 11!) and I’m reminded of the very first 8×8 scrapbook album I made which was a Christmas and winter one.  I’m reminded of how excited I was to find such a pretty album at the store (a gorgeous chocolate brown suede album with a magnetic flap that had the word “Memories” stitched across it), all the fun I had making those 20 pages, filling those plastic sleeves and making the album fat, and all the Christmas memories I got to look back on.  It was an amazing month of scrapbooking and it made me feel so free and so alive.  I’m hoping that 2012 will bring just as much happiness and inspiration. 

*****

Scrapbooking materials used: Periwinkle, powder blue, Christmas red, grass green, emerald green, and white cardstock (Recollections); Christmas patterned paper (Me & My Big Ideas Christmas mat paper pad); hot chocolate, cocoa, and peppermint adhesive embellishments (Jolee’s Boutique); blue ribbon with green polka dots; green satin ribbon; “Lollipop” alphabet stickers (Autumn Leaves, Creativity Inc.); brown alphabet stickers (K&Company); black alphabet stickers with white polka dots (atd); green foil leaves; duochrome and iridescent snowflakes; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); circle paper punch; corner rounder paper punch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

La Merceria is located at 506 Adelaide Street West by the northwest corner of Adelaide and Portland Street, east of Bathurst.  La Merceria is located beside Sadie’s Diner and Juice Bar.  Visit their website and blog here for updates, info, promos, events, pictures, and contact information and visit their Facebook page here.

On the 12th Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me a Christmas Kitchen Boutique from La Merceria

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Raise your hand if you’ve started decorating around the house!  Just this past weekend, my parents hauled out some of our Christmas decorations like our wreaths, our two mini light-up trees, and our brand spankin’ new mini santa sleigh that is sitting proudly by our fireplace in the living room.  Soon enough we’ll be outfitting our dinner table in our cute Santa Claus and Christmas tree printed tablecloth (complete with reindeer and little stars flying about) and all the house will need are stockings by the fireplace and my mini light-up gingerbread house in all its frosted, candied glory!  

In no time at all, I’ll be gathering up all the recipes and ingredients I need for the holiday baking I plan on drowning myself in (chocolate peppermint and cinnamon sugar, here I come!) and while I do so, I will wimper over all the oh-so-cute Christmas bakeware and accessories in stores that I cannot have because if I gave into my penchant for Christmas-related everything, the whole house would be full of the stuff and my family would have to sleep on the roof.  So what’s the next best thing?  Daydreaming about said accessories.       

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…a Christmas kitchen boutique?!  Pretty much.  What a dream it would be to bake Christmas cookies in a kitchen even Mrs. Claus would envy!  And what a dream it is browsing the Christmas kitchenwares in the shining, twinkling, winter wonderland that is La Merceria.  As a follow-up to last week’s peppermint hot chocolate sweetness, this post shines a spotlight on all the beautiful kitchen accessories that the Argentinian café has to offer.  You won’t find appliances, cookware, or bakeware here, but La Merceria is perfect for the food photographer, kitchen accessory lover, and home decor fanatic.  Their Christmas lineup includes beautiful table linens, wooden utensils and boards, mortars and pestles, wooden spice cellars (the ones at La Merceria look exactly like the ones that Giada has on Giada at Home!) dishes, bowls, glasses, honey drizzlers, tea and tea accessories, cream pitchers, home fragrance, candles, ornaments and more.

La Merceria is the type of place where I construct mental wishlists, not only for myself but for others as well.  There are so many items I would snatch two of just because I know others would be delighted with them.  I am smitten over the plush dolls (gnomes and pigs!), I am gaga over the table linens, and don’t even get me started on the ivory pine cone candle sets!  The gorgeous display of Christmas and winter treasures sitting daintily on the café’s front table were bathed in shades of red,  moss green, ivory, and brown and what I love about these items are their coordinating shades!  The colour palette is so easy to work with and it lends itself to a never-ending cycle of possible decorating colour schemes.  Red and ivory, moss green and ivory, moss green and charcoal, the list goes on.    

I love it so much when places go all out with the decorations and celebrate the changing seasons and holidays because it brings a whole new level of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement to an establishment.  La Merceria is consistently changing their displays and their selection of products so it’s always worth a look-see.  It’s a one-of-a-kind place wiht a lot of heart and so much character.  When I saw the beautiful Christmas decorations on the wall (the 12 Days of Christmas decal with ornaments on the wall has to be one of my favourite things ever) and the front of the café transformed into the Christmas treasure island that it is now, I felt like I was walking in a hush little snow globe, only without the snow.  With the early morning sun streaming in, it felt like a quiet Christmas morning.  It felt peaceful, magical and full of colour and joy.  And that’s really what the spirit of Christmas is all about, bakeware or not. 

*****

La Merceria is located at 506 Adelaide Street West by the northwest corner of Adelaide and Portland Street, east of Bathurst.  La Merceria is located beside Sadie’s Diner and Juice Bar.  Visit their website and blog here for updates, info, promos, events, pictures, and contact information and visit their Facebook page here.

Daily Pleasures – Getting Cozy With a Morning Tea and Torta Pasqualina Brunch at La Merceria Cafe

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On cloudy, chilly, rain misty days, all you want to do is hit the snooze button and burrow under the covers where it’s nice and warm and cozy for the rest of the day.  But we know we have to haul ourselves out of the comforts of our burrito blankets to start the day, so the next best thing?  Cozying up in a relaxing coffee and tea shop with some hot tea (or coffee for you all the java lovers out there!) and brunch to shake off that “I desparately want to be in my bed” feeling. 

I promised you guys I would blog about the food and munchies at La Merceria in my introductory post back in September, so here are the goods!  After I showed you all how much I fancied the tea, cookies, and beautiful kitchen decor goodies in the shop, I went back one morning and ordered me some hot tea and brunch before my day started at Le Dolci.  Seeing as I had a little bit of time to kill, I went in completely on a whim and made the decision to have brunch right then and there.  Nothing like a little visual temptation to seal the deal, right?

I knew I wanted a tea (one of these days I will get to the lattes and coffee drinks!), but the munchies I wanted remained a question mark.  Did I want a bagel?  Did I want a sandwich?  Something sweet?  Some salad?  I went with…none of the aforementioned.  Instead, I went for the delicious looking quiche-pie-like slice ($4-$6) staring back at me from inside the display case.  And that “quiche-pie-like” piece of yummy was a spinach and egg torta pasqualina!  Wait…what?!  I know, I couldn’t even pronounce the word at first, I just knew I wanted it because it looked and sounded good.  Torta pasqualina (or pascualina), is an Italian savoury pie most popular in, and originating from, the region of Liguria*.  The dish, known as “Easter pie” in Italian, is also a very common one in Argentina and Uruguay, making it so perfect and fitting for La Merceria given the cafe’s Argentinian roots and flavour.

Torta pasqualina is very similar to Greek spanakopita and quiche, but with some obvious differences.  Firstly, spanakopita (or Greek spinach pie as it is more commonly referred to) is typically made from sheets of phyllo dough where the dough is paper thin and crispy after being baked.  In contrast, the exterior of torta pasqualina isn’t necessarily crispy in texture.  In some cases, it can be cooked with puff pastry, but many others (like the ones at La Merceria) are much more dough and pie-crust like as they are made with an olive oil bread dough.  The filling is delicious, and there are so many ways you can play around with the ingredients.  Traditionally, pasqualina fillings incorporate some form of vegetable, ricotta, cheese, and egg mixture with fresh herbs, but you could just as easily find ones with meat fillings as well.

This was SUCH a delicious dish to have for brunch.  I love savoury pies (much more than sweet pies, actually!) and my pasqualina was stuffed to the nines with spinach and boiled eggs.  The pie crust was flaky and had that tasty, subtle butteryness in that flaky outer layer, and the spinach and egg filling was flavourful and moist.  You might think something like this might be a bit drying with the dough exterior, but it wasn’t; the soft spinach was the perfect pairing for the dough.  And it was BIG!  I didn’t even finish the whole thing for brunch.  I drank my tea, ate half of the pie, and saved the rest for lunch!  It’s hard not to love a brunch that eats like two meals.

And it’s hard not to love a tea that’s pink!  Turning a delightful shade of pink when steeped, Tealish’s Toasty Almond smells and tastes heavenly.  It’s nearly identical in taste and composition to Davids Tea’s Forever Nuts, so if you’re looking for sweet, nutty almond teas, both of them fit the bill.  Toasty Almond is the kind of tea that envelopes you when you drink it, giving you that “oh my goodness, I’m hugging my tea and my tea is hugging me back” feeling.  The smell is amazing, the teabag is so cute with the little knot and pouch floating in the mug, and the nice thing about this is the hint of sweetness combined with that earthy almond taste.  The sweetness comes from the apple and cinnamon in the tea and the gorgeous pink colour comes from the beetroot.  It’s a dessert tea and in my opinion, this one doesn’t have the “tea” aftertaste that so many people shy away from.  It’s reminiscent of almond cookies and almond croissants.  

La Merceria is such a treasure chest for me with its stationery, gifts, and kitchenwares and combined with the teas and great brunch, it’s hard to resist coming here every.single.day.  I would, but I like to space my visits out a bit so I can try something new each time and pace myself before exhausting all my options.  That, and because I don’t want to be tempted by beautiful tea cups and tea towels every single time I’m here.  The holidays are nearing, and I don’t anticipate it getting any easier come December.     

*****

Source*=  Citrus and Candy 

La Merceria is located at 506 Adelaide Street West by the northwest corner of Adelaide and Portland Street, east of Bathurst.  La Merceria is located beside Sadie’s Diner and Juice Bar.  Visit their website and blog here for updates, info, promos, events, pictures, and contact information and visit their Facebook page here.

Deb’s New Morning Haunt – Coffee, Tea, and Beautiful Country Kitchen Gifts and Goodies at La Merceria

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Thanks to Lisa from Le Dolci, I am now aware of this beautiful gem of a coffee, tea, and giftwares shop!  I felt so silly the first time Lisa took me here because it’s located on a street I’ve been on a number of times and in a downtown neighbourhood I’m not entirely unfamiliar with.  Located near the intersection of Adelaide Street West and Portland Street (just east of Bathurst), La Merceria sits snuggly beside Sadie’s Diner and is wedged neatly between the Fashion Districts of King and Queen.  With a few mannequins standing in the storefront window draped with pretty scarves, I completely mistook the shop for being a hip clothing boutique and always strolled past, conveniently averting my eyes so as to not tempt myself with more pretty things.  I love accessories and clothes, yes, but we’re in the downtown core here; I want to come home with something in my wallet.  I often avoid independent boutiques like the plague not because I don’t want to own all the gorgeous garments they have to offer, but because window shopping in such shops just makes me heart whimper a little.

So when Lisa took me here, I was shocked out of my pants to find out that La Merceria was in fact not a clothing boutique but was instead a fusion of 1) a gift shop, 2) a kitchen housewares store, and 3) a coffee and tea cafe with drinks and food.  I could have died right there on the spot.  It walked in and it was like a halo of light floated around me.  This cafe and shop is beautiful.  So country chic, so bright and clean, and so wonderfully cozy.  Think wood floors, wood chairs, wood tea tables, cushiony seats and pillows, brilliant sunlight streaming through the front windows and door, and shelves and tables lined and stocked with some of the most adorable kitchen housewares, accesssories, stationery, and gifts imaginable. 

It’s perfect for the cafe lover, droolworthy for those in love with interior decorating, and just dangerous for the kitchen accessory fanatic.  Oh, this was bad.  This might have been even worse than a clothing boutique.  And all because I couldn’t stop ogling the lavender and powder blue tea cups, dishes, and tea towels.  Oh, and the tote bags in the back of the shop.  And the cute stationery.  And the rest of the shop.

As Lisa informed me, the owners of La Merceria hail from Argentina and many of the drinks, artwork, and interior design and decorating in the shop show off this cultural heritage.  I can’t wait to show you guys more of the food and coffee drinks they have here in future posts; I may not be a coffee drinker but I’m sure I can make an exception every once in awhile 😉  They have both hot and chilled coffee drinks (lattes, americanos, espressos, mochas, and more) and they also have lemonades and In terms of food, think more along the lines of light breakfast and lunch, snacks, and tea time with crunchy cream cheese toasted bagels, quiche pies, salads, sandwiches, small baguettes and biscuits, cookies and sweets, and vegan, dairy and nut-free desserts from Sweets From the Earth.  I am so excited to actually have some food here.  The quiches, biscuit cookies, and cute biscuit sandwiches were calling my name!

For the time being though, my favourite thing to do here (aside from staring at all the pretty things I want to buy) is to sit down at one of the lovely wooden tables by the front with the squishy cushions behind me with a hot cup of tea.  They serve a selection of yummy Tealish teas and thus far I’ve had their Sweetie Pie Rooibos and Tahitian Moon Vanilla Rooibos and between the two I’m definitely in love with the Sweetie Pie!  What I absolutely adore about La Merceria and their “tea”ness is how they serve it!  The tea is served in giant glass or ceramic mugs on a dish with a little spoon (to stir with or to add honey or sugar) and the cutest little shortbread cookie biscuit!  This biscuit with my tea just makes my morning.  I may not have been to every cafe in town, but I can assure you that no other place I’ve been to serves their tea like this.  It makes me so giddy and I love starting my morning this way.  It’s the kind of place you envision yourself having a sunny bite in or a great coffee or tea date.  It’s so peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful being here and I love it.  This, my lovelies, is my new morning haunt.

 

*****

La Merceria is located at 506 Adelaide Street West by the northwest corner of Adelaide and Portland Street, east of Bathurst.  La Merceria is located beside Sadie’s Diner and Juice Bar.  Visit their website and blog here for updates, info, promos, events, pictures, and contact information and visit their Facebook page here.