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!

Macaron Day TO’s Sophomore Year, 2013! The Remarkable Macaron Journey, Part I

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A mesmerizing rainbow display and array of macarons at Petit Thuet!

Today, Macaron Day TO 2013, was  one of the funnest, happiest days.  EVER.  And I am still reeling from it and soaking it all in.  I’m madly trying to edit my photos as quickly as I can so while I’m doing that, here’s a photo sneak peek of my day today – some of the delicious macarons I got the privilege of tasting for the first time, photos from patisseries I paid my first visit to, and the love, support, and passion that has surrounded this event from day one.

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Love all the Macaron Day signage! This one was outside Patisserie La Cigogne on Bayview Ave!

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It’s like a macaron bank! Macarons and stickers at Yorkville Espresso Bar.

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Say hello to Hazelnut Praline from La Bamboche.

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Eating my weight in macarons!

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There’s no better way to welcome the first day of spring – pastels and springtime macarons!

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Keep up with all the Macaron Day TO festivities and chatter!  “Like” and follow us on the Macaron Day TO Facebook page, follow us on Twitter @MacaronTO (hastag #macarondayTO), and visit the official website for a list of all the participating patisseries, bakeries and cafes that took part in this year’s event (it’s a fantastic bucket list for those of you who want to try out new spots!), your Macaron Day ambassadors (like me!), and more!

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.

Eggnog, Gingerbread Candy Cane and More – Magical Christmas & Holiday Macarons at Petit Thuet!

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What’s better than sweet and delicious Christmas and holiday themed cupcakes?  Christmas and holiday themed cupcakes AND macarons!  For years cupcakes were my be all and end all.  Nothing could come between us.  Not pie, not candy, not donuts, sometimes not even ice cream!  It was rare, but it happened.  For the past year and a half though I’ve been loving macarons more and more and I’ve been enjoying them just as much as cupcakes, especially over the last few months.  I started hitting up a ton of patisseries and bakeries I had never been to before to try their macarons – Butter Avenue, Cake Opera, Nadege Patisserie and even Yorkville Espresso Bar for their strawberry marshmallow ones among a few other spots.  Some I loved to itty bitty pieces, some were so-so, and some were, well, awful.  Which ones were awful?  I can’t say.  I promised myself and all of you that I’d never bash anything here unless I had something else positive to redeem the situation.  If you’re really curious I’d tell you straight up but only privately, so all you’ll see here are the ones I loved and the ones I liked.

Every spot has their standouts and the ones you can live without, so out of those 4 recent visits and sweet spots, here are the ones I loved the most: Yorkville Espresso Bar’s strawberry marshmallow, Nadege Patisserie’s pumpkin, Cake Opera’s vanilla-orange blossom (even though their retail section is no longer around, definitely keep them in mind for catering orders and sweet tables!), and Butter Avenue’s walnut matcha green tea and cafe au lait.  Now it’s time to add some sweet and lickably delicious Christmas and holiday macarons from Petit Thuet to the mix!

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Now, you all know how deeply in love I am with Petit Thuet’s cookies n’ cream macaron.  And if you don’t, you do now!  I didn’t think any other flavour of theirs could compare.

I was wrong.

There are 3 others.  And two of them are Christmas ones!  *cue excited squeals*  During my most recent visit to Petit Thuet on King and Yonge Street, I picked up a box of half a dozen macarons and was absolutely beside myself when I found out they had holiday flavours!  I was truly happy with all 5 flavours I chose (I duplicated one of them so my boyfriend could try): eggnog (bright yellow shells with eggnog cream), gingerbread candy cane (OH.MY.GOD – gingerbread brown shells with candy cane cream), white chocolate wasabi (crazy, I know!  White shells with wasabi powder sprinkled on top and white chocolate cream mixed with a hint of wasabi mixed in), my beloved cookies n’ cream (cookie shells with Oreo cream), and the luscious mint chocolate with its bright green shells and rich chocolate ganache.

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Honestly, out of all the times I’ve bought a selection of macarons, this was the first time I truly loved all the flavours I chose.  While there are flavours I’d jump on more quickly, I can truly say I’d go back for any and all of them.  However, I know everyone likes to know which ones are the shining stars out of the ones I hadn’t tried yet so I’m going to say that you need to stuff your face with the eggnog, gingerbread candy cane, and the mint chocolate ones.  I know.  That doesn’t really help.  But it’s only because they’re so delicious!  The eggnog is so creamy, the gingerbread candy cane is an insanely adorable, fun mix of gingerbread spice and crunchy, pepperminty candy cane bits and cream (that’s right, it’s not just candy cane cream in the middle, you get the crunch from actual crushed candy cane!), and the mint chocolate is decadent, rich, thick, and deliciously chocolatey smorsgabord of your favourite peppermint patty, After Ate chocolate thin mints, and Girl Scout cookies.

So if you can get to Petit Thuet sometime, take advantage of the holiday and Christmas flavours!

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Petite Thuet serves 3 locations in downtown/midtown Toronto:

  1. 1162 Yonge St. (between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations, on the west side of Yonge St.)
  2. 1 King St. West (at the corner of Yonge and King St.)
  3. 244 King St. East (between Sherbourne and Princess St.)

A Photo Spotlight on Luxurious Macaron Bites & Gourmet French Eats at Nadège Patisserie

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Nadège Patisserie is a gourmet food boutique and patisserie specializing in Parisian macarons, French pastries and cakes, and fine chocolates.  They serve two locations in Toronto: 1) 780 Queen Street West beside Trinity Bellwoods Park and 2) 1099 Yonge Street several blocks away from Summerhill subway station, where these particular photos were taken on a rainy Sunday afternoon!  They are open 7 days a week: 8am-8pm Monday to Wednesday, 8am-9pm Thursday and Friday, 8am-8pm Saturday, and 8am-7pm Sunday.

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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Will We Ever Meet Again? My Box of “Goodbye” Macarons From Cake Royalty Boutique, Cake Opera Co. on Eglinton West

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My beautiful box of macaron treaures

I have some bad news.

I know, how could anything concerning macarons be bad news?!  No, I didn’t drop a box and smash them.  Or come across any that I disliked.  Or lose my photos.  Nothing like that.  It’s worse.  Trust me, I was debating on making this post at all but figured it couldn’t hurt because no matter what, someone will most likely enjoy it or find it useful in some way.  If anything, I posted photos for everyone to admire and drool over!  It’s one of the reasons why I made the photo spotlight post on Cake Opera earlier in the week.  Okay, so back to the bad news.  It’s bad news when you find some of the yummiest macarons ever and find out that it will most likely be the only time you’ll ever get to eat them because the day you bought them is the last day they’ll ever be sold in their beautiful display cases.

It’s hard to say goodbye…

I don’t know what it is with my timing and luck lately!   Cake Opera has been on my mind and in my sights for months upon months and each time I passed by the boutique, I’d say, “I’ll come back” or “next time, really!”.  I finally made the commitment to visit the majestic cake and confections shop on Eglinton West last week, only to find a giant sign hanging in their front display window saying that October 13 would be their last day selling retail sweets and treats.  That October 13 would be the last day to enjoy their shortbread cookies, their petit gateaux, their cupcakes, and their macarons outside of catering events and custom orders.  That, in essence, Cake Opera was no longer going to operate as a retail bakery but instead, solely as a cake boutique specializing in custom orders, event catering, and wedding consultations.  Which means no spontaneous drop-ins for a cupcake or a box of macarons.

I cannot believe my rotten luck.

1st column on the left, top to bottom: pistachio, roasted hazelnut, vanilla orange blossom. 2nd column on the right, top to bottom: coffee, vanilla orange blossom, raspberry rose.

I mean, I know it would have been inevitable.  My going to Cake Opera earlier on in the year for their petit gateaux and macarons wouldn’t have prevented this from happening.  But I do feel awful because at least if I had visited the shop earlier, all of you would have known about it sooner and maybe would have had the chance to try them yourself.  But it’s too late now.  Sigh.

So, what’s the silver lining in all of this?  Well, this certainly promotes Cake Opera as a viable wedding and catering resource!  And just look at how absolutely gorgeous and stunning the boutique is!  It’s like walking into a space inspired by and dripping with royalty, luxury, and Marie Antoinette.  And just think, Cake Opera does custom macaron and cake table designs for special events so if you’re looking for a look that’s very artistic, classy, beautiful, and/or avant garde, their style and designs would be perfect.  I know many people who really dig the macaron trees and having them incorporated into centerpieces, sweets and buffet tables, and displays.

The macarons at Cake Opera, priced at only $2 each, are bathed in shades of red, peach, ballet slipper pink, and crisp white with luscious, creamy fillings.  Their macaron menu consists of 8 flavours: dark chocolate, dulce de leche & cinnamon, pistachio, salted caramel, vanilla orange blossom, raspberry rose, roasted hazelnut, and coffee.  On that last day of retail bliss, Cake Opera’s pastry Jessica had 5 of the 8 flavours whipped up and I helped myself to one of each with a duplicate to create my pretty box of six: pistachio, vanilla orange blossom (x2), raspberry rose, roasted hazelnut, and coffee.

Cake Opera’s macarons are so incredibly delicate and crisp on the outside and so creamy and generous in filling on the inside!  I don’t think I’ve ever had macarons with such so much amazing filling.  Every bite was truly like a bite of heaven and out of the 5 flavours that I had, hands down, the vanilla orange blossom was my be-all, end-all favourite.  You will never come across another flavour like it.  It was bright, fresh, citrusy, sweet, and creamy with vanilla.  Comparing it to a creamsicle doesn’t even do it justice.  And right behind the vanilla orange blossom would be the coffee and roasted hazelnut flavours followed by the raspberry rose which tasted like sweet and fruity floral rosewater.  These are truly exceptional macarons and while I know we can’t go into the shop to grab little boxes of them anymore, hopefully some of you will have the opportunity to try them some time in the future if you decide to consult them for an event.  Enjoy the photos!

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Cake Opera Co. is a cake boutique that brings macarons, cakes, and French pastries to life through art and design.  They are located at 1136 Eglinton Ave. West., just several blocks east of Eglinton West subway station on the north side of Eglinton Ave.