The Macaron Day Toronto Adventures! A Journey Through Rahier, La Bamboche, Yorkville Espresso Bar & More!

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Happy Easter, everyone!  Ah, the celebration of all things pastel, and the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of spring.  Even if you don’t celebrate Easter religiously, I hope everyone was able to enjoy the long weekend with some yummy eats and adorable Easter themed things like chocolate, marshmallow, bunny, or Easter egg desserts!  Or in my case, Easter themed macarons.  OH. MY.GOD.  Macarons decorated like baby chicks and Easter eggs with lemon and custard filling!  Check out Ate by Ate’s Facebook page and you’ll know exactly what I mean.  They’re one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen (and so yummy), courtesy of Daniel et Daniel in Cabbagetown just for Easter.  And speaking of macarons, I FINALLY  get to share more from my day of adventure on Macaron Day.  I know I’m really late but I figure since we’re still waiting on baited breath to find out how much we raised for Red Door Family Shelter, my Macaron Day escapades are still very much relevant.

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March 2oth was truly one of the funnest days ever.  I feel so incredibly lucky and grateful to have been a part of this day and event – to buy macarons till they were coming out of my ears, to meet shop owners, to take photos, and to know that I was contributing to a really great cause.  My boss was very gracious in allowing me to take Macaron Day TO off as a personal day and I sure as hell made it count.  This day has meant more to me than I ever thought it would.  When Bonnie recruited me as a Macaron Day Ambassador back in February, I knew it was going to be a fun and exciting experience, but I never thought it would be this much fun.  Myself and the other girls were able to get involved in ways we never would have had we not been Ambassadors and it was crazy just how much we were plugging it on our blogs, on Twitter, and on our Macaron Day Facebook page (yup, that was me laying the smackdown on the Macaron Day TO Facebook page on a lot of those posts with Bonnie and Sonya while Mardi, Amy, Vickie, Vicky, and Sandi plugged away on Twitter!)

It felt so good being that focused and the adrenaline just kicked in – editing photos, finding content, seeking out updates and posting on the Facebook page 7 times a day.  And on that Wednesday, my heart felt so free hopping around town visiting patisseries, getting on and off the subway left, right, and centre, collecting macarons and tucking them away in my Hello Kitty tin lunchbox (yes, that’s right, I carried a number of macarons in a Hello Kitty tin lunchbox – they needed protection from getting squished and crushed!), and eating them ALL DAY LONG!

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I made 5 stops this year; 1 more than 2012!  I started out east and went straight down Yonge Street, hitting up a bunch of  spots I didn’t hit last year.  It was my first time going to Patisserie La Cigogne and Rahier Patisserie, both on Bayview Ave. just south of Eglinton.  Patisserie La Cigogne took my breath away with their gorgeous display case of colourful macarons, petit gateaux, pastries, and baked goods.  It was cold out that day but the beautiful sunshine that streamed in through the front windows just made everything that much brighter and happier.  I picked my free one, Caramel (I got to choose whichever flavour I wanted from their entire display case!) and then I bought a set of 6 in a nice box.

A bunch of photos later, I walked several shops down to Rahier where I had one of the nicest conversations with the cafe owner, Anita, and picked up my free one (a delicious, fruit concoction of raspberry with lychee, rose, and cream!) and another half a dozen.  Interestingly enough, Rahier is one of the few patisseries in the city that charge their macarons by weight.  There’s no $1.50, $2, or $2.50 type of pricing.  Anita explained to me that because everything was made my hand, it was fairer to price them by weight than to price them each.  And they turned out to be incredibly reasonable in price!  Half a dozen only came up to around $9 (because I’m basing this from memory only, I’d say $8-$10) and there were so many beautiful colours and flavours to choose from including lime, green tea, strawberries and cream, and my personal favourite, CINNAMON HONEY!!

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I then jetted to La Bamboche on Manor where I gave Michel (organizer of Macaron Day TO and owner of La Bamboche) a big hug and saw chef Stephen on my way out.  I’ll be doing a separate post just on my macarons from La Bamboche after this one so sit tight!  I hit up Yorkville Espresso Bar afterward (not before taking a macaron break inside the underground PATH of Hudson’s Bay Centre though), nabbed their adorable espresso macaron and took some photos of chef YJ preparing macaron batter in the Yorkville Kitchen Studio!

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And then finally, I ended my macaron collecting at Petit Thuet at Yonge and King where I was flabbergasted by their gorgeous, rainbow display of macarons that spanned over half the cafe!  Now, I know Petit Thuet went about Macaron Day a little differently this year.  Instead of offering a free macaron to every person who made the request, a single macaron was $2 which went straight to donation, or 5 for the price of $4, meaning that the 5th was free.  And 20% of all purchases (not just macarons, but all) made at Petit Thuet would be donated to Red Door Family Shelter.

I know some people took issue with this arrangement (a free macaron is a free macaron and they should have honoured this) while others couldn’t care less about it – the event is to benefit Red Door Family Shelter, period, and people shouldn’t be petty about the arrangement for the sake of a free macaron.  I have my own opinions about this which I actually don’t wish to divulge here, but I felt like mentioning it because it wouldn’t be fair to pretend like it didn’t exist or to gloss over it.  I picked up some fantastic ones during this last collection though, my favourite being the Blueberry Cheesecake!

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Stay tuned for my photos and post on La Bamboche a la Macaron Day!  And of course, the final numbers on how much we raised for Red Door Shelter this year – I can’t wait to find out!  We should be getting results some time in April so let’s hope we exceeded last year’s total of $6500 and met our goal of $8000!

A Fresh Start for Ate by Ate: Macaron Day TO 2013 & Warming Up with Hot Chocolate & Macarons at La Bamboche

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Creamy hot chocolate and lavender and green tea white sesame macarons at La Bamboche!

I have a lot of explaining to do.  Because I really dropped the ball this time.  I’ll let myself off the hook for the month of December.  I was on-again, off-again and Christmas just swept me off my feet.  There was family, there were friends, there was work (was there EVER work – I was doing paperwork on Christmas eve!), there was my sweetheart and just like that, the month was over.  But the last two months?  I have not been here.  And I should have been.  But it was not happening because life just kept happening.  Things at work became much more hectic and demanding (why, hello there promotion!), I got to travel for the very first time (hello and goodbye, Florida!), I got sick, weekends disappeared before my eyes (if I wasn’t out and about gathering content, I was editing photos and if I wasn’t editing photos, I was sifting through e-mail, and if I wasn’t doing that I was trying to catch up on sleep).  I was utterly exhausted.  I could not keep up anymore.

Forget the clipped pace I was operating on – I hadn’t been to a farmers’ market in weeks, my scrapbook supplies were yearning for attention, and I was literally falling asleep as I was typing on my laptop at 7 in the evening (you don’t even want to know the incoherent gibberish I typed as I dozed off).  When that started happening, I knew I had to stop.  I always took pride in being the best supergirl I could be, balancing everything in life and still feeling happy, fulfilled, and overall, really content.  But things in my life had changed and I needed to be honest with myself about what my limits were, what I could and couldn’t do, and what truly made me happy.  So I took a break.  What the exception of putting together the January and February Food Calendars, blogging and I took a break from one another.  Because if I couldn’t be at my best, I didn’t want to blog at all.  Ate by Ate is my baby and it deserves a lot better than half-hearted, half-ass efforts.

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There was one day where I ambled around downtown in Baldwin Village and Kensington Market on my own, something I hadn’t done in what felt like ages.  And I actually felt a lump form in my throat and I could feel myself start to get choked up because, even though it was chilly and damp and just a gloomy kind of day, I felt SO GOOD.  I felt free and happy.  And I was reminded of how much I missed it and how important it was for me to actually soak in and enjoy everything as opposed to just robotically moving through it and frantically trying to get something done. 

Maybe it’s spring coming up (yes, it WILL come!), maybe it’s the love and excitement for Macaron Day; I finally feel like I’m ready to be back for real and I am so excited.  Admittedly, things won’t be the same around here.  I won’t be able to post every day like I used to.  But I will be here again full-time and as much as I can and I’m really thankful and appreciative of everyone and all of you who’ve stuck around for me.  THANK YOU x a million!

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So, first order of business: Macaron Day Toronto 2013!  If you don’t already know or if you haven’t checked out the Food Calendar listings, Macaron Day TO returns for its sophomore year on Wednesday, March 20th!  Organized by and spearheaded by La Bamboche, the event celebrates macarons worldwide and benefits Red Door Shelter here in Toronto.  You can check out the official website HERE for info on Red Door Shelter and how Macaron Day came to be.  There are some new new participants this year (including my beloved Le Dolci!) and we have a dedicated group of Macaron Day TO ambassadors promoting the cause and event – including me! 

I am SO proud to be a Macaron Day TO ambassador and I will be promoting and sharing all Macaron Day TO content all month long until the 20th, when I’ll be out and about participating in the festivities!  Follow the other girls on Twitter and Facebook (click on the ambassadors link above for blog  and Twitter contact info), follow @MacaronTO on Twitter, and “Like” and keep up with the Macaron Day TO Facebook page for fun photos, news, surveys and more!  Check out Ate by Ate’s journey last year:

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If you need some visual cues and suggestions for the day, you’ve come to the right place!  My most recent macaron purchase from La Bamboche included chocolate, espresso, eggnog rum, green tea and white sesame, lavender, caramel sea salt, pistachio, raspberry chocolate ganache, yuzu, and strawberry champagne!  And let’s not forget about their fabulous green tea mango macarons!  My favourites have to be the green tea mango and the strawberry champagne (the adorable minty green one with the little edible silver pearl on top in the photos!) and I’m hoping to try more fab flavours during future visits. 

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La Bamboche serves two locations in Toronto.  One is located at 4 Manor Rd. E., off Yonge St. south of Eglinton Ave. and the other location is at 1712 Avenue Rd., north of Lawrence Ave. East at the corner of Avenue and Fairlawn.

Surrounded by Yellow Fall Leaves & Butter Avenue Macarons

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Pick a macaron, any macaron…

Aside from Macaron Day, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a macaron eating experience more than I did during this past Thanksgiving weekend.  Wait a minute…macarons?!  For Thanksgiving?!  That’s right.  I didn’t have turkey.  Or cranberry sauce.  Or even pie.  I had macarons!  And for the first time in a long while, my craving for macarons outweighed my craving for cupcakes (I did end up getting some cupcakes later on in the day, but the point is that I wanted macarons and purchased and ate them first!).  A little unconventional but just as delightful!

Sitting on a park bench across the street from Butter Avenue Patisserie & Cafe on Yonge Street in uptown Lawrence, surrounded by a flurry of rich, golden yellow leaves, I held my treasure box containing half a dozen beautiful, delicious macaron jewels bursting with fall colours and pumpkiny, nutty flavour and savoured the moment.  It was wonderful and just what I needed to wind down during the long weekend.  I finally took the time to do one of the things I love most: taking photos of flowers and parks and pretty fall trees.  I breathed in the cool air outside during a great walk, bundled up in my fall coat and scarf with a warm belly full of great food.

My sweet treat goody bag!

It was gloomy, gray, and chilly out but I loved it because oddly enough, it felt cozy and comforting.  It was almost as if I was suspended in time in a little glass globe, peering into the distance at the wonderland of gorgeous gardens and fall trees around me.  Amidst all the craziness and busyness of work and blogging and everything else going on, I finally felt that feeling of inner peace and calm settle in and it felt amazing.  I got all of that from a walk and a box of macarons?!

You betcha.

Butter Avenue and I go way back.  While it’s true that the oh-so-chic macaron patisserie and cafe hasn’t even been in TO for a year yet, I stumbled on it waaaay back in 2011 (nearly a year ago actually!) when it was still under construction with a piece of paper tacked on the front door announcing the macaron fabulousness that was to come!  I was ecstatic!  Especially since it would be in a neighbourhood I loved strolling through.  So why did it take me 7 months to make this first visit?  You know me.  I only go when I’m good and ready.  And, you know, when I get around to it.  The wait is over though and Butter Avenue has finally made its way to the pages of Ate by Ate in true haute couture fashion!

The sleek, modern macaron cafe boasts 14 flavours of macarons on any given day (or at the very least, 10 if certain ones sell out) as well as tarts donning macarons in a bounty of flavours such as black currant, chocolate, lemon, and more, mini macaron gift cups, dainty shortbread cookies, plenty of loose leaf tea, coffee, and coffee drinks to enjoy with your macarons treats inside the cafe or to go.

Much like La Bamboche, some of Butter Avenue’s macaron flavours are definitely Chinese and Japanese-inspired (in addition to the French, the seasonal, and the fruity) and it’s so interesting seeing how the flavours you’d normally expect to see in a Chinese bakery, for example, play out in a macaron cafe.  It’s a spacious cafe with seating near the front and it’s totally feasible to have a nice, quiet afternoon here with a cup of coffee or tea with some treats with a few friends.  Macarons are $2.25 each or $13.50, tax inclusive, for a gift box of 6.  I admired the colourful array of delicate macarons, opened my mouth ready to order two, thought better of it, and ordered the dainty box of 6 instead.

Go big or go home.

Seeing that it was a crisp fall day, I absolutely positively had to pick the pumpkin spice.  A fall macaron experience would be incomplete without it!  My treasure box of 6 macarons: pumpkin spice, white chocolate strawberry, matcha, matcha chesnut, pistachio wild cherry, and cafe au lait.  They came in a beautiful, adorable yellow and white gift box (which I’m totally keeping!) and were delightful from top to bottom.  If I had to choose my favourites, they would have to be the cafe au lait and the matcha chestnut in 1st and 2nd, and the matcha and pistachio wild cherry next.  I loved the pumpkin one too, but if we’re talking about standouts and flavours that are just incomparable to other macarons, these are the ones I adore most.  It’s surprising that the white chocolate strawberry one didn’t make the list, right?  I enjoyed it okay, yes, but I really thought the white chocolate could have been much more powerful.  The strawberry jelly filling was fabulous though, so that was what I liked best about that one.

The cafe au lait knocked my socks off.  It was absolutely amazing, like creamy, coffee mousse cake embodied in a macaron.  I love pistachio desserts (ice cream, cookies, macarons, you name it!) and I was delighted when I was met with a fruity, thick cherry filling after biting into the pistachio wild cherry one.  I also adore green tea flavoured things like baked goods and green tea in general and the green tea chestnut, especially, made me wiggle with glee because it reminded me so much of my childhood.

Left to Right: Pumpkin Spice, Matcha, White Chocolate Strawberry, Pistachio Wild Cherry, Matcha Chestnut, Cafe Au Lait

It made me think of Chinese and Korean bakeries.  Chinese bakeries always have chestnut vanilla cakes that they make as birthday cakes and growing up, I never liked the chestnut cake, only because I thought I had an aversion to anything nut (I seriously did not touch nuts, let alone eat them and it wasn’t even because of an allergy!) and because I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the texture and taste.  The macaron reminded me of the Korean bakeries I used to go to with my parents too because the macaron was like the perfect marriage between green tea, chestnut (a la Chinese bakery cake) and those walnut paste cake balls that you get from Korean bakeries! Between this one and the cafe au lait macaron, I was in heaven.

It was an afternoon of quiet happiness and beautiful fall scenery and I had Butter Avenue’s delicious macarons to make it that much more memorable.

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Butter Avenue Patisserie & Cafe is located at 3467 Yonge Street, at the corner of Yonge St. and Yonge Blvd. (a little confusing, I know!) north of Teddington Park Ave., between the major subway stations of York Mills and Lawrence.  They are open 6 days a week (closed on Monday): 11am-8pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11am-10pm Friday-Saturday, and 11am-7pm on Sundays. *Photo captions of macaron flavours coming soon!*