The Cupcake Connection, Vol. 005 – Apple Cupcakes Edition! The Beginnings of Fall & Apple Orchard Season

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You might be wondering why there was no mention of my delicious apple caramel cupcake from City Cider in my post yesterday.  After all, I certainly wiggled the bait a bit with my sneak peek photo Sunday night!  I didn’t forget and I swear I wasn’t trying to be a meanie by witholding scrumptious information (who posts a photo of a drool-worthy cupcake and then doesn’t say another word about it for 2 days?!  Er, me).  There’s a good reason for the wait: this delightful tender morsel of sweet cake and apple fruit, along with the apple cinnamon caramel cupcake from Yummy Stuff, was the inspiration behind this latest edition of The Cupcake Connection: Fall Apple Edition!  I am beyond giddy about this one!  A whole post dedicated to cupcakes and apples.  And apples in cupcakes.  And apples in cupcake frosting.  I LOVE APPLE CUPCAKES! 

It’s one of the ways I get to kick my apple allergy in the pants while still maintaining a healthy dose of cupcake in my life.  It wasn’t until I ate my apple caramel cupcake at City Cider that it dawned on me: there are so many different cupcake bakeries in and around the city that go full out on fall flavour using juicy, sweet apples come September.  Just think, there’s apple cinnamon, apple caramel, apple-pear, apple spice, apple and nuts, the list goes on.  And it’s beautifully represented in both cupcake and frosting form!

Fall is the season, to me, that never lasts long enough.  Winter always drags on and on.  Spring can get a little too muddy and wet.  And summer?  Well, let’s just say this past season made me reconsider how much I truly adore those hazy days.  But fall?  I love dearly.  And the prominence of apples in sweets, baked goods, and in food in general at this time, makes me love it that much more.  Thanks to Savera’s Pretty Sweet: A Mobile Cupcakery food truck at City Cider, I was totally inspired to compile all the different apple cupcakes available in shops and on cupcake menus throughout the city! 

Let it be known though that I had no idea this adorable, super pretty cupcake truck existed until I went to City Cider on Sunday.  I was totally smitten!  Donning shades of pink, red, brown, white, and turquoise, it looked exactly like a fairy tale cupcake truck, ready to make the magic of cupcakes that much sweeter and yummier.  Because it’s a mobile, moving entity, the only way to really follow Pretty Sweet is via their Facebook page and Twitter where locations for the day or week are posted, flavours are listed, and events the truck will be at announced.  The Pretty Sweet Toronto website is still under construction, but you can still access contact info and some really beautiful photos through the original custom cake business website at Pretty Sweet Cakes HERE.

And we can’t have an apple cupcake discussion without gushing about the apple bourbon caramel cinnamon (say that 5 times fast!) cupcake from Yummy Stuff!  Both the apple caramel from Pretty Sweet and the apple bourbon caramel cinnamon are SO delicious and unique in their own ways.  The apple caramel from Pretty Sweet had much more of a sweet and sticky toffee pudding taste and feel to it with soft apple spice cake, creamy cream cheese frosting, and generous portion of caramel sauce on top.  This is the type of cupcake that doubles as a dessert in the sense that it doesn’t scream, “I’m a little cake with frosting on it!”, but rather, you can envision this as a non-cupcake dessert dish.  It’s fabulous!  

The apple cupcake from Yummy Stuff on the other hand was more like apple pie with mouthwatering frosting on top!  It was stuffed with apple chunks and a bourbon caramel sauce filling and topped with the most amazing sweet and creamy cinnamon frosting!  Oh man, THIS is cupcake frosting at its finest!  As a note though, it’s ideal if you eat theirs with a fork just because the apple chunks may fall out and get messy if you eat it straight out of the wrapper with your hands.  This cupcake at Yummy Stuff is the special September flavour, so definitely try your best to get your sweet teeth on one before the month is over!  I really do hope it stays around for the whole season though because it’s just so good.  We’ll see; they kept their S’mores cupcake for longer than a month so there’s hope!  

Look out for other apple cupcakes at these cupcake and sweet shops around the city!

  • Bobbette & Belle, 1121 Queen Street East: Apple Spice ($2.95) – apple spice cake with Canadian maple buttercream frosting.  Seasonal flavour, daily rotation; cal ahead to find out (416-466-8800).
  • Crumbs & Co./Pink Lemon Bakeshop, 10220 Yonge Street in Richmond Hill (as well as 2 other locations including their newest in North York at 399 Old Orchard Grove off of Avenue Road): Apple Pie ($3.00) – apple cupcake with honey and spice frosting.  Daily rotation; call ahead to find out (905-237-6406).
  • For the Love of Cake, 171 East Liberty Street: Caramel Apple ($3.00) – apple spice cupcake with caramel filling, caramel frosting, and topped with a caramel chew.  Daily rotation; call ahead to find out (416-306-6446) or check out their selectiom via Twitter @4theloveofcake 
  • Old Firehall Confectionery, 170 Main Street in Unionville, Markham: Apple Cinnamon ($2.89) – vanilla cupcake with apple cinnamon frosting and apple crisp and nut crumbles on top.  Seasonal, currently available.
  • Short & Sweet Cupcakes,1945 Avenue Road: Apple Cinnamon ($2.90) – apple cinnamon cupcake with caramel filling, vanilla frosting, and caramel drizzle.  Available during the month of September.
  • So Into Cupcakes, 2060 Ellesmere Road: Apple Cinnamon ($2.50) – cupcake stuffed with brown sugar apple filling and topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and cinnamon sweet apples.  Available during the month of September.
  • The Social Cupcake, 129B Lakeshore Rd. East in Mississauga: Apple Cinnamon ($3.00) – apple cupcake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  Daily rotation, call ahead (905-271-7612) or follow them on Facebook and Twitter @social_cupcake

Feel free to leave a message here if you know of any other cupcake shops that are dishing out the luscious apples!

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The Keys to My Heart: The Grilled Halibut Melt at Jakes Pub & Grille on Main Street Unionville!

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I knew it was too good to be true.  The weather, that is.  I was loving the chillier mornings and the moderately warm, sunny days last week.  Then the weather decided to pull a fast one on me and scorch my little tooshie again, all the while gloating as I cowered under the sun in my bucket hat, whimpered in the heat, and cursed the buses that didn’t have air conditioning.  So, I did what any disenchanted girl would do: in defiance of the nasty weather, I hightailed it over to my favourite local pub for a patio lunch, noshed on my favourite dish, sat under a nice, shaded wooden awning, watched people happily sling back a few beers at neighbouring tables, and walked away with a happy belly full of yummy food.  I had myself one of the best lunches this summer and kicked the sweaty, icky, yucky feeling to the curb.  Eating at one of my favourite spots in one of my fvaourite neighbourhoods in my neck of the woods always does the trick.  Welcome to Jakes on Main Street Unionville! 

Jakes is a very classic type of pub establishment with a casual and relaxed atmosphere that’s family-friendly and always hopping with regulars who come out for beers, families who come out with their kids for some good old fashioned kiddie food (you wouldn’t believe how many kids and baby strollers that were there during the hour I was there!), and groups of friends sharing giant plates of food and having a great time.  It’s such a popular, well-loved spot and the crowds show it.  The patio is constantly packed, there’s always a consistent stream of people filling up the tables when they’ve been vacated, and it doesn’t matter what part of the day it is; Jakes is definitely the place to be if you’re around Main Street Unionville.

Jakes and I go way back.  Probably not as far back as many of the locals here who’ve lived in Markham all their life, but far back enough; my first look was back in high school and my first visit was before I even started grad school!  It’s my favourite spot on Main Street and my favourite classic pub in Markham.  I know that aside from the beer, pubs aren’t necessarily known for their haute cuisine.  There are some pub spots in the city that I’ve been to that are totally top-notch with delicious food, but if we’re playing a game of word association here, we know that most people would associate pub fare and bar grub with things like wings, calamari, and nachos and unless they’re spectacular, they’re forgettable to most people. 

At Jakes?  Call it pub fare, call it bar grub, call it whatever you want because the food here is REALLY, REALLY good!  You must be thinking, “how good can it be?”.  Trust me, their menu selection and portions speak for themselves.  We’re talking 6 types of poutine (butter chicken, pulled pork, and steak and mushroom just to name a few!), 21 different sandwiches, burgers, and wraps (beef dip, smoked salmon club, California club with guac and mango salsa, fish tacos, and more!), pub appetizers (deep fried pickles, crab cakes, coconut shrimp, and bacon wrapped scallops among others), and plenty of mains and entrees including baked chicken, pub pie, goat cheese quesadilla, and spicy chicken and seafood.

Prices are typical of a sit-down pub ($7-$20) and their menu is the same for both lunch and dinner, so you enjoy the goodness during the day or well into the evening.  It’s been so long since I’ve been here and while I was sitting at my table waiting for my food to come, I saw countless dishes being brought out to other patrons and I was reminded of how great their food was and how much I dearly missed what I had ordered since it had been so long since my last visit.

My favourite thing to have at Jakes: the halibut melt!  One of my ultimate not-healthy, comfort food weaknesses is fish and chips and Jakes halibut melt ($11.99) is a delicious, crispy, melt-in-your-mouth battered halibut fish sandwiched between caramelized onions, melted mozzarella cheese, and grilled bread, served with tangy tarter sauce (I LOVE TARTAR SAUCE!) and either fries, caesar salad, or green salad with your choice of salad dressing.  I LOVE fish sandwiches, tacos, and burritos and given how I’ve blogged about the haddock fish burritos and shrimp burritos and quesadillas from Burrito Boyz and the fish tacos from Wish Cafe, I figured it was time to post another one on seafood sandwiches, pub style!     

The sandwich is so, so good because the grilled bread is able to hold up to the melted cheese and caramelized onions and give the crunchy halibut fish the support it needs to stay crispy with every bite – no one wants a limp and soggy sandwich!  The battered halibut on the inside is moist and flaky and perfectly golden on the outside with a scrumptious buttery warmth to it.  I think one of the things I love most about fish and chips is the difference in textures (moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside) and this sandwich is so full of crunch and flavour and the melted mozzarella just adds that extra butteriness to the whole sandwich. 

And the tartar sauce!  It is so much fun dipping this sandwich into the tartar sauce and having that creamy tangy just whack a few good ones out of the park in your mouth.  After awhile though, it gets a little hard trying to dip the sandwich in so I just dip my fork into the sauce and slather it on.  And while the salad is just a side to the star of the show, it’s worth noting that the green house salad is great with it baby greens, refreshing cucumber, shredded carrots, and sliced bell peppers.  There’s a ton of different dressing options and I chose a honey mustard to go with mine this time around.

Jakes has made changes and additions to their menu over the years and I’m looking forward to coming back more often for some casual pub fare and really good food in fab neighbourhood.  After living in Markham for 14 years now, it’s a neighbourhood pub that definitely feels like home.

*****

Jakes Pub & Grille is located at 202 Main Street Unionville in Markham just south of Carlton Rd. on the popular Main Street shopping and dining strip.  They’re open 7 days a week for both lunch and dinner with a big patio out front.

Mushroom & Cheese Stuffed Schnitzel and Apricot Jam Crepes – Austrian & German Cuisine at Old Country Inn

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It’s time to take a trip to Vienna, Austria – Main Street Unionville style!  I know nothing beats the real deal.  The sights, sounds, tastes, and aromas of another city, state, or country are like no other.  But when you can’t go on vacation, eating authentic, delicious food in a beautiful setting in your own city really isn’t too shabby, especially when the beautiful setting in question is the Old Country Inn on Main Street Unionville in Markham.  While Main Street Unionville has several casual, fun, low-key spots (Jake’s on Main Pub & Grille, Unionville Arms, Old Firehall Confectionery, ice cream booths and parlours, and coffee shops), I’d say that the quaint, picturesque, Victorian village that houses all of these eateries boasts more fine dining options than it does hole-in-the-wall or casual watering holes.  

The Old Country Inn is a spot I have wanted to visit for years and years.  It is so beautiful and full of character and given how the house has been around for over 100 years since the beginnings of Unionville settlement, it has cemented its reputation within the community and beyond as a restaurant with delicious, authentic Austrian and German food.  I know I explore the city a lot, but I can’t think of one place with the exception of  Wvrst on King Street West that does German and authentic central European food.  Yes, Roncesvalles is known for its Polish eateries and bakeries and Bloor West Village hosts the annual Ukrainian festival, but we’re talking Austrian food and I don’t know of any other spot aside from Old Country Inn that serves Viennese cuisine and this makes them extra special in my book.

    

Old Country Inn is known for their authentic Austrian and German food and drink – with a beautiful vintage outdoor wine cellar to boot!  Their menu is chock full of classics and dishes known to Viennese and German cuisine: herring in rahm (a special type of cream sauce), schinkenrolle (ham wrapped around asparagus), kartoffelsuppe (potato soup), goulash, liver dumpling soup, six different types of schnitzel (breaded cutlet), bratwurst and sausages, pork dishes including schweinsbrten (roast pork with sauerkraut and dumplings), a host of beef dishes including sauerbraten (German pot roast/roast beef with sweet and sour sauce with red cabbage and dumplings), rump roast, and plenty of fish and seafood options.  Even their dessert menu gives you a sweet, healthy dose of Austrian and German flavour with sweet  endings such as eiskafee (a German coffee drink with ice cream), sacher torte (Austrian chocolate cake), palatschinen (Austrian dessert crepes filled with fruit jam), and of course, the ever popular strudel!

Phew, that is a LOT of food!  But I guarantee you that even if you don’t live around Markham, it is worth the trip to Main Street Unionville just for this.  Even before my first visit, I heard rave reviews from one of my best friends (whose standards are high!) who said Old Country Inn was one of his favourite spots in general, and from one of my best friend’s coworkers who said it was her favourite place on Main Street Unionville.  And after my gut-busting meal, I completely understood why. 

It’s definitely more of a special occasion type of place in terms of price ($15-$25 for most mains),but the food is great and the inn and outdoor patio and terrace is lovely.  Since I enjoyed my meal out on the patio, I don’t have photos of the house’s inside but I promise to snap some for the next time.  I figured since it was summer I’d dine al fresco.  That and because the sun was setting so I knew I wouldn’t have enough decent lighting streaming in through the windows to take good photos.  I plan these things!

First things first: bread and butter basket.  Based on the texture, taste, and appearance, I’m almost positive the sliced bread was a sourdough medium rye.  What intrigued me the most though were the crispy crackers!  There were these beautiful, long and thin, jagged-edge crispy crackers covered in light and black sesame seeds and they tasted toasty and all sorts of lovely.  Even though I like baguette and butter, having these crackers in addition to the bread was such a nice change from the regular baguette slices.  

Then, onto the main attraction.  There were so many things I wanted to try, but I decided to go totally classic for this first go-around: schnitzel!  You all know about my foodie love affair with mushrooms and cheese so I was delighted to see a mushroom and chesse stuffed schnitzel meal (Tiroler Schnitzel, $19.95) on their menu!  All of their meat mains are served with sides, and schnitzels are served with potato home fries and vegetables with creamy cheese sauce; in my case, broccoli.  Traditionally, schnitzel is served with a garnish of lemon and potato salad so this meal was bang on. 

Oh my goodness was this schnitzel ever humongous!  It covered about two-thirds of the plate.  It was beautifully breaded with a smooth and crispy layer of fine bread crumbs with the juiciest, most moist meat on the inside and creamy melted cheese and sauteed mushrooms.  I could not get over how moist the meat was and I was over the moon at how ungreasy it was as well.  It was amazing how they kept the meat so soft and juicy while there wasn’t an ounce of fatty grossness hanging off of it and I loved it.  The thin crispiness of the breading combined with the moist was delicious and I thought to myself, “this is what it feels like to have real schnitzel!”  The potatoes were much like what you would expect during breakfast and brunch and they were super soft and flavourful and not overly salted or mushy, and the creamy sauce over top my broccoli afforded me with a little fun dipping action for my potatoes and schnitzel.       

And then came the sweet finale: palastchinken!  Palastchinken are soft, warm dessert or breakfast crepes filled with fruit jam such as strawberry or apricot and at Old Country Inn they filled theirs with warm, sweet and fruit apricot jam inside.  The two rolled crepes ($5.25) are dusted with icing sugar and served with warm and oh my lord are they ever amazing.  I was too full to finish both so I brought the second one home which my mum took a go at and she was absolutely in love with it.  The crepes are so soft with the most delicate, crisped edges and the apricot jam is so fruity and sweet and delicious and everything just melts in your mouth.

Old Country Inn is such a gem and I feel really lucky to have it up in my neck of the woods.  I’m so looking forward to planning another visit (and another one after that) so that I can snap photos of the restaurant from the inside and to try some of their sauerkraut, dumplings, pork loin, and a whole host of other delicious dishes!

*****

The Old Country Inn is located at 198 Main Street Unionville in Markham.  They serve lunch and dinner 7 days a week and are open from 12pm-9pm Sunday-Thursday and from 12pm-10pm Fridays and Saturdays.  You can visit their site HERE for more info and to view their menus.

Sweet Notions Right at Your Neighbourhood Supermarket, Vol. 002 – Chocolate Cranberry Danish Twists

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Sometimes you don’t have to amble very far to find some of your favourite foods and snacks.  Sometimes, they’re even sitting pretty right under your nose.  Take the giant raspberry and pistachio macarons from Metro supermarket, for example.  Accessible (with numerous locations in both urban and suburban parts of the city), inexpensive (only $1.59 for a macaron the size of a hockey puck!), and quite delicious! 

We know the selection may not be large and we know the independent bakeries and patisseries have amazing flavours you just can’t get anywhere else (and, let’s face it, the “authentic” macaron in its true form exists in the patisseries), but we can’t forget that everyone’s financial situations are different and that people’s access to food and choices are, in large part, limited and determined by where they live and their access to transportation.  We get so caught up in finding the latest and greatest from independent shops that, at times, we forget that our neighbourhood supermarkets house some pretty great stuff too. 

I’m so excited to be posting about this newfound pastry love of mine because it’s truly a gem: the chocolate cranberry danish twist from Sobeys!  At $0.99 it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  After falling in love with the recipe for cranberry chocolate chip cookies from my Food & Wine magazine (and using it religiously to build on my other cookie recipes), I realized just how wonderfully fabulous cranberries are with chocolate.  The chocolate cranberry combination is like an untapped gold mine waiting to be discovered by more people.  I love cranberries – and cranberry juice – the way people love bacon and I often wish more places used cranberries in their pastries and baked goods.  I always have dried ones on hand to use for yogurt parfaits and for any cookie recipes I come up with, but we can all agree that it’s one of the lonelier fruits in the dessert world compared to lemons, apples, raspberries, and bananas.

This chocolate cranberry danish twist is delicious and truly one of the yummiest pastries I’ve had.  It’s buttery, it’s juicy, it’s sweet, it’s tart, it’s fudgy – it’s all-around fantastic.  And it is so worth it.  The danish twist is fairly long (a little longer than 6 inches) and big and it’s STUFFED with juicy, tart cranberries and a truckload of bittersweet chocolate chips.  Just look at the interior shots!  The exterior has a beautiful golden brown colour and buttery flakiness to it while the inside is soft and custard-like.  This pastry came from the Markham Sobeys location and while I’m not 100% sure if every location in the city has this danish twist, I encourage everyone to take a look see to find out.  Because it’s a life-changer.

*****

Sobeys serves 15 locations in Toronto and a number of others across the GTAi in Markham, Vaughan, and beyond.  Click HERE to find your nearest location.

Lovin’ Flapjacks – A Photo Spotlight on the Juicy, Tart, Monstrous Blueberry Pancakes from T&T Bakery & Cafe

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Shrove and Pancake Tuesday may have come and gone for the year, but that certainly doesn’t mean the love for flapjacks can’t stay in the spotlight.  I know there are many weekend brunch fanatics among my fellow food bloggers and foodie friends, so let’s get this breakfast club started with a classic, big breakfast meal of fluffy blueberry pancakes!  I promised you guys more pancake posts this year, so this is me indulging everyone with pancake food porn.  I’m sure you don’t mind. 

I’ve been thinking about waffles and pancakes more and more as of late and how much fun it would be to do a series of classic breakfast compilation posts, posts that would provide a macro snapshot of what the city has to offer.  We know we can find egg breakfasts up the wazoo, but waffles and pancakes of a more unique nature are a bit of a bigger challenge and I am totally up for it.  Buttermilk, vegan, fruity, savoury, you name it, I’m on it.  If you can believe it, aside from the Aunt Jemima pancake experiments I conducted with my mum at home, the only other pancake post on the blog is the one for the apple cinnamon buckwheat pancakes from Sadie’s Diner.  Clearly, I have my work cut out for me if I want this year to be a big impact year pancake-wise, but at least the journey will be delicious!  We’ll start the first official pancake post of 2012 with a classic: blueberry pancakes with bacon from T&T Bakery & Cafe in Markham.   

You all know how deeply I adore the food, and especially the breakfast, at T&T Bakery.  However, if I’m going to toot my horn about one, and only one, breakfast menu item from here, it would be this one.  You will eat yourself silly and into a food coma after this blueberry pancake party – providing that you actually get through it.  It is HUGE.  Jack and the Beanstalk huge.  King Kong huge.  What you see in these photos is actually half the meal (I shared and split the meal with my boyfriend).  The whole shebang consists of four monstrous, fluffy, puffy, cakey, blueberry pancakes the size of your head with two strips of savoury, crispy, salty bacon and a side of maple syrup for $6.87. 

The pancakes are studded with so many juicy, tart blueberries and combined with the maple syrup, it has that sweet and sour taste that people love so much.  The pancakes themselves are blank canvases; the blueberries completely do the talking and for good reason.  Just look at how many blueberries there are and the size of them!  It’s like someone in the back had a little blueberry gun and said to themselves, “hmm, I think I’ll take some practice shots on the pancakes!”  It is the best bang for your buck and it will seriously feed two people.  I’m no food contest eater, but I can pack it in pretty decently every once in awhile and even I had a hard time finishing my two.  My mum?  I’d call it a gold metal victory if she was able to get through one.  I had forgotten just how amazing this meal was because it had been so long since I last had it.

    

This blueberry meal is a special one because it reminds me of the very first time I took my family to T&T Bakery & Cafe for breakfast years and years ago.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I love the anticipation and excitement of bringing family and friends to new places, places that have been ingrained into my food repertoire and places that hold so much promise for others down the road.  There’s the nervousness and anticipation: “will they like the food?  Will their experience be just as good as mine?”.  And then there’s the elation you feel when everyone has a great time and can’t wait to come back for another meal.  You feel like you did the food community proud and you’re so happy that you were able to share and pass along an experience to remember.  After introducing and leaving this gem multiple times to and with my family, boyfriend, and friends, it’s exactly how I feel about T&T Bakery & Cafe.   

*****

T&T Bakery and Café is located at 35 Main Street Markham at the intersection of Highway 7 and Markham Rd., just north of Highway.7 and on the east side of Markham Rd.  They have a permanent breakfast menu that is available every day and different lunch specials throughout the week.

Let Me Eat Cake…Frozen Yogurt Cake! A Dessert Within a Dessert (and a Feature on Ate by Ate!) at Menchie’s

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Cake in the form of frozen yogurt!

Have you ever dreamed about what life would be like if everything was just one giant, delicious slice of cake?  Kind of like the iconic, larger than life-size cupcake outside Google offices.  We would probably all end up being very large and um, well-fed, but we can’t deny that many of us LOVE all things cake related whether it’s cute kitchen accessories, bakeware, photos of frosted birthday cake with sprinkles, cake scented candles, cake flavoured ice cream, and actual cake!  Well, what if I told you all that you could customize your very own frozen yogurt sundae to taste like sweet frosted cake heaven?  That’s right, my lovelies: let us eat “cake” at Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt! 

You know how I always rave about playing around with different flavour and food combinations at Freshii?  I do the exact same thing at Menchie’s and it’s so much fun.  Just think, with 12 different flavours of frozen yogurt to choose from on a daily basis (plus a truckload of toppings!), you can essentially create your very own frozen yogurt dessert combination.  Want to create a tropical themed sundae?  Swirl some pineapple and mango and load on the kiwi!  Go nuts with peanut butter and chocolate!  And don’t even get me started on all chocolate combinations you could play around – there would be enough to render even the biggest chocoholic tipsy!  I have so many fun ideas that I want to try out during future Menchie trips, desserts like strawberry shortcake or cheesecake, a rainbow sundae, a coffee flavoured sundae, and a summery lemon, coconut, and vanilla cake.           

So, what flavour combination fun did I get myself into this time around?  You guessed it: CAKE!  And lots of it!  It just so happens that there were four different cake flavours on tap on this particular day and yes, it is possible, I think, to get drunk on frozen yogurt (tap, beer, get it?  Ha!) when you’re having this much fun.  It was then and there that I made up my mind to create a frozen yogurt “cake” sundae using sweet and creamy vanilla cake batter (quite possibly the undisputed Flavour Queen at Menchie’s), New York cheesecake, red velvet, and chocolate.  With four flavours of cake frozen yogurt in my bowl cup, I accessorized my cake with graham cracker crumbs (what’s a cheesecake without a graham cracker crust?), Oreo crumble, white chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, chocolate sprinkles, and to top it off all off, a maraschino cherry!

I loved my frozen yogurt cake sundae (it was truly a smorsgabord of cake insanity) and while the red velvet isn’t my favourite and a flavour I can take or leave (please don’t throw things at me), the cake batter and New York cheesecake are IT.  The cake batter always tastes delicious and the New York cheesecake one really hit the spot.  And it’s such a versatile flavour.  You can combine it with any fruity flavour to create a “fruit” cheesecake (cherry, blueberry, and so on) and you can make it extra decadent by swirling it with devil’s food, peanut butter s’more, and more.

The adorable collectible Menchie spoons!

Menchie’s is such a fun, cheerful place to create pieces of edible art and to unleash all your creative food energy.  It’s one of the things I love best about being here.  Call it playing with my food, call it being creative – the aesthetic means just as much to me as the taste, especially when if I’m going to be posting mouthwatering photos for you guys!  Menchie’s just makes every experience an interactive one with new flavours, reaching out to customers via social media, keeping us with press mentions, taking into account what customers like, and appealing to children and adults alike.  I’m totally obsessed with their adorable collectibles, merchandise, and free stickers!  Give me free, adorable stickers and I will scrapbook them to my heart’s content. 

In addition to the frozen yogurt cake excitement, you’ll never guess what else I discovered at the Menchie’s Markham location on this day.  Imagine yourself going about your daily business (eating frozen yogurt, for example) and seeing a photo of yourself in a shop.  A photo of yourself wearing a blue scarf, a headband, and slurping a smoothie through a straw.  A photo from your own blog!  I was shocked out of my pants and I literally gasped out loud when I saw MY FACE ON MENCHIE’S WALL!  As I was leaving with my best friend, I turned to quickly glance at the Menchie’s Corner cork bulletin board and did a double take when I realized I was looking back at myself – Ate by Ate was featured on Menchie’s bulletin board!  The staff had printed out my “Menchie’s Has Breezed Into Markham” post from January and had stapled every single page of my post to their bulletin board alongside fun store photos of staff and customers.

Look at the bottom left corner!

Ate by Ate at Menchie's!

I was absolutely floored.  I knew they had seen and viewed my post from Facebook but I had no idea they had gone out of their way to acknowledge Ate by Ate.  I feel so happy knowing they liked the photos and post enough to post it on their bullentin board for the entire town to see.  Sometimes I feel too tired to blog, sometimes I feel discouraged and cynical about our online experience and existence, and there are times when I wonder if any of this is worth it.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the numbers, in the followers, and to compare yourself to others, losing sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing.  I remind myself why I love to write and scrapbook and blog and everything else I do here on regular basis to keep myself in check and to keep the inspiration and love for it fresh and renewed.  And it’s moments like these that remind me why doing this means so much: because stories are being remembered, captured, and passed along and the love for food is being shared.  And in this respect, there’s no dessert on this earth that could ever eclipse the joy of doing what you love. 

*****

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in Markham is located at 3828 Highway 7 East, at the northeast corner of Hwy. 7 and Warden Ave. beside Future Shop.  Check out my Menchie’s on Bloor St. blog post here and take a peek at the Markham location’s Facebook page here!

Happiness & Warmth in a Bowl – Matcha Lattes & Pork Gyoza Dumplings with Ramen at Destiny Cafe, Part II

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Now that you have all read about my tale of birthday ice cream cake embarrassment, it’s time to get down to food business with photos and food stories of noodles and tea drinks!  Destiny Cafe is situated in what I call the “restaurant congregeation” of Richmond Hill, right by East Beaver Creek Drive and Highway 404.  I’m not joking when I refer to this area as restaurant central – there are more than 10 restaurants on this one plot of land and they’re all within hopping and skipping distance from one another!  If you’re in the mood for fruity drinks and tea, snacks, and lots of Chinese food, and if you happen to be in the area, Destiny Cafe is your destination.  In my opinion though, Destiny is worth going to even if you’re aren’t in the vicinity because I think their menu caters to many tastes and appetites. 

Destiny Cafe has two locations, one in Scarborough and one in Richmond Hill, and while I’ve been to the Scarborough location several times in the past, this was my first time eating at the Richmond Hill one and I was beyond shocked when I stepped inside the large and majestic cafe.  I knew it looked huge from the outside, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw on the inside.  This wasn’t a cafe, this was the size of a banquet hall!  The entire space was bathed in ivory, cream, and chocolate brown with splashes of soft green.  Beautiful light fixtures hung from the ceiling and gorgeous floral arrangement planters filled with calla lilies, siberia lilies, and other flowers dotted the dining areas throughout the cafe, bursting with red, oranges, and yellows.  Big windows allowed plenty of natural light to filter through and seating was ample and spacious.  The atmosphere felt fresh, peaceful.

What I love about Destiny, aside from the gorgeous decor, is the variety of food and drink and how organized the menu is.  The menu is divided into two sections (drink and food), where the first portion of the menu is devoted to bubble tea, herbal tea, and coffee drinks.  A rainbow of bubble tea, slushes, soy drinks, milk teas, milkshakes, coffee drinks, lattes, and tea drinks with ice cream greet you within the first five pages or so, followed by a page of herbal and flowering teas.  If that’s not enough to make your head spin, the menu continues on with a healthy dose of dim sum appetizers, snacks, diner style sandwiches, toasts, fried rice, fried noodles, steamed rice meals with meats and vegetables, and soup noodles. 

In addition to their regular menu, they also offer a set lunch menu from 11am-2:30pm which includes a salad, spring roll, your choice of entree, a small coffee, iced/hot green tea or milk tea, and a dessert for $7.99.  On top of that, there’s an afternoon tea time menu offered from 2:30pm onward, with dim sum dishes, small plates, and snack items.  In yesterday’s post, I posted a photo of some crispy shrimp and mango rolls.  Those were ordered from the afternoon tea time menu at the Scarborough location and they were absolutely divine.

If I had to compare Destiny Cafe to another place, I’d say that the menu is somewhat similar to that of Ten Ren’s Tea Time.  Both Destiny and Ten Ren’s have an abundance of bubble tea and tea drink menu items, as well as a menu centered around Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese dishes among other Asian foods.  While both menus offer the same scope of bubble tea and tea selections, Destiny’s food is definitely more diner style whereas Ten Ren’s leans more toward traditional dishes found in Cantonese and Taiwanese cuisine.  For example, while you wouldn’t find diner style sandwiches, toasts, and fried rice at Ten Ren’s, you would find plenty of soup noodle meals, steamed rice with meat and vegetables, and appetizers and snacks.  

If you’re really looking for a tea and dessert type of meal though, I’d go for Ten Ren’s as their selection is greater and more unique.  Destiny’s desserts are more run-of-the-mill as many of them come from La Rocca.  The food and drink though?  Fabulous. 

Given how I’m on a bit of green tea latte and dessert kick, I had a delicious, warm matcha latte ($4.49) to go along with my ramen noodles in soup with gyoza pork dumplings ($7.99).  The latte was nice and strong in matcha flavour and not “milked down “or diluted in the least.  It was a great accompaniment to my noodles which I enjoyed so much.  I love noodles and I especially love ramen noodles in soup.  It’s one of my favourite comfort foods and meals.  The warmth of the soup broth, the savouriness of the noodles – it’s happiness in a bowl!  I was debating between the pork cutlet with ramen noodles and the ramen noodles with the gyoza dumplings and ultimately, the dumplings won me over because I adore dumplings with noodles. 

The ramen noodle bowl contained a tea egg (cha-yeep-daan), some crabstick meat, bean sprouts (I’m not the biggest fan of bean sprouts and telling the nice waitress completely slipped my mind, so I’ll admit that many of them were still floating around in the leftover broth when I was finished.  My bad.), some vegetables, three pork gyoza dumplings, and lots of scrumptious ramen noodles.  The noodles were absolutely delicious.  They were cooked perfectly al dente and they were savoury and thick and just divine.  And the dumplings!  They were golden brown, crispy around the edges, and juicy and soft on the inside where the pockets of pork were.  It was a wonderful meal, one that I would most definitely have again. 

Coming here has made me realize just how much I’ve missed it and how crazy I’ve been for not coming back for good eats sooner!  Even though the humourous catasphrophe that was my birthday is an event I can look back on and laugh, I’m happy to have these new food memories.  Especially ones that tasted as delicious as these.

 

*****

Destiny Cafe is located at 165 York Blvd. in Richmond Hill, Markham.  The large space is housed within a complex of restaurants and eateries and can be accessed via East Beaver Creek Drive and Highway 7, just off the 404.  Destiny Cafe has two locations in the GTA.  The other location is located in Scarborough off Silver Star Blvd. and Steeles Ave. East.  The markham location is open for business at 11am.