Something Special to Call Your Own – Countryside Strawberry Trifle in a Sweet Little Jar at Simple Bistro, Part II

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When I think of summer desserts, I think of fresh summer berries, juicy sorbets, and sweet, creamy custards and puddings in their frozen and non-frozen states.  I think of chasing down the ice cream truck and devouring soft serve ice cream cones like they’re about to go out of style.  And then there are the childhood memories of turning your tongue purple from licking popsicles and getting brain freeze from chugging freezies down at the speed of light.  As fabulous as those things are, summer just got a lot more interesting: savour the sweet taste of summer with dessert – in a jar! 

What used to be exclusively reserved for canning and preserving and holding spaghetti sauce and pickles in many of our kitchen pantries has now transformed into chic DIY food projects and a creative and adorable way of presenting desserts.  People are using little (and sometimes not so little) glass jars to create one-of-a-kind gifts and some very cute and portable sweet treats, and I think part of the appeal lies not only in the aesthetic but also in the singularity and portion control factor along with the “Ooo, this is special and was made just for me!” type of mentality.  The humble little glass and metal food storage container has taken the foodie world by storm: granola and yogurt parfaits in a jar, layered cookie and cake mix in a jar, cookbooks devoted to these decadent little morsels (the brand spankin’ new Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine by Shaina Olmanson!) and in the case of Mount Pleasant’s Simple Bistro, summer strawberry trifle in a jar!

Simple Bistro’s dessert menu is comprised of four different desserts ($9 a la carte or $4 when you order one along with you meal) including a vanilla blancmange (a dessert similar to that of a panna cotta) with blueberry compote and candied mint leaves, a lemon curd tart with Limoncello chantilly and candied lemon zest, a chocolate Black Forest cake with milk chocolate mousse, dark chocolate ganache, and kirsch soaked cherries, and my belove dessert, the strawberrry trifle!

Like any food decision I make, this choice entailed a ton of hemming and hawwing.  My thought process: “How could I give up an opportunity to have something lemon?  Vanilla and blueberry are a perfect combination!  I really don’t eat vanilla desserts often enough” and so on and so forth.  The strawberry trifle sounded so lovely though so I made up my mind and stuck with it.  I had no idea this dessert was going to be THIS fabulously adorable!  And of course, wonderfully delicious! 

When my little strawberry trifle in a jar arrived at my table, I gaped at it for the longest time trying to wrap my head around the fact that my dessert was brought me to in a sweet little country farmhouse jar filled and layered with little strawberries, light-as-air crème patissière (sweet pastry cream custard), little lady fingers, and Fragoli strawberry liqueur.  Even though I’m not 100% sure about this, my gut was telling me the strawberries were Ontario ones, just from the size and sweet taste of them.  I had Ontario strawberries at their peak last month and as soon as I bit into one, I knew right off the bat that’s what they were without even being told or without the strawberries even being labelled as such. 

The dessert was amazing.  I couldn’t believe how fluffy and airy it was and oh my goodness, the lady fingers were to die for!  These were not your run-of-the-mill bone-dry lady fingers that are way too cakey for their own good.  These were sweet little lady finger biscuits sprinkled with sugar (my guess would have to be demerara sugar) and they tasted SO unbelivably good with their bright and sweet syrupy, caramel taste.  The dessert in a jar just made it all the more summer-like, like it was made to be eaten out in the countryside on a porch on a summer day.  It was delightful and the perfect ending to my summer morning brunch meal.  

*****

Simple Bistro is located at 618 Mount Pleasant Rd between Eglinton Ave. East and Davisville Ave. in Mount Pleasant Village.  They serve weekend brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11am-2:30pm.  Visit their website HERE to view their menus and for more info.

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Say It With Chocolate – Celebrating Valentine’s Day With M&M Goodies and Heart-Shaped Tins!

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It’s the night of Valentine’s and as I am writing this, I am sitting on my couch wrapped in my fuzzy red blanket, quietly reminiscing about Valentine’s past and the fun and sweet Valentine’s memories I made today and over the past week.  Decked out in dangly heart earrings, heart printed socks, and my little red jacket, I spent the day with my other half where we enjoyed heart shaped veggie pizza, cookies and cream Hershey Kisses, and dvd episodes of Big Bang Theory.  A day of love and fun much like any other, but special, loving, and heartfelt nonetheless.  Valentine’s Day is quite the commercial occasion, yes, but it’s also a day to acknowledge and reflect on love in all its beautiful forms.  It’s a day to have fun and a day to remind all of us of all the people, pets, and things in our life that warm our hearts and bring us joy. 

In that vein, humour me while I rattle off some reasons why I love Valentine’s:

  1. everything is decked out in red, pink, and white (and the occasional purple)
  2. everything is printed with cute hearts
  3. Valentine’s restaurant menus are fun to look at (not so much fun to pay for, but fun in a creative and thematic way!)
  4. Valentine’s themed accessories and jewelry fit effortlessly into my wardrobe (I wear heart necklaces and earrings, and both my rainbow and hot pink-and-gray heart printed argyle socks all year round)
  5. Valentine’s themed stationery, kitchen, home decor, and baking accessories are too darling not to love
  6. the classic “I Choo-Choo-Choose You” Simpsons episode is one of the best things to ever grace cartoon television
  7. kiddie Valentine’s in general (don’t tell me you never gave your friends and classmates Lion King, Disney Princess, Looney Tunes, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Spiderman, Animanics, Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty, and/or Casper the Friendly Ghost valentine cards!)
  8. my best friend, who’s a kindergarten teacher, gets to celebrate Valentine’s with her little ones in kindergarten party fashion complete with crafts, edible goodies, and the quintessential paper baggy card exchange
  9. Valentine’s desserts.  Enough said.
  10. it is yet another occasion ridiculously devoted to chocolate!  Unless you are like my best friend and allergic, this works in your favour. 

And it is here that I will focus on Reason #10.  Everyone is a different type of Valentine’s candy person.  Some get giddy over the cheesy conversation hearts while others will enjoy the bright red spicy cinnamon hearts by the fistful.  Then there are the chocolate enthusiasts.  You know who you are.  The ones who will scarf down an entire box in one night, or the folks who show up at the shops first thing in the morning on February 15th, ready to roll with a shopping basket and a thirst (or rather, appetite) for chocolate on sale.  In those chocolicious moments, the whole world is right.  For some, there is no better way to express love than saying it with chocolate. 

I fall under the second category.  The culprits?  Cookies and cream Hershey Kisses and any and all M&Ms.  You are all aware of my love affair with M&Ms and the pride and joy that is my M&M tin collection!  Imagine my happy dance then when I found a brand new, heart-shaped M&Ms candy tin for Valentine’s Day!  With my favourite green girl M&M on it!  In my chocolate universe, it doesn’t get any better than that.  I know chocolate sales are ubiquitous the day after Valentine’s, but I’ve been through many heartbreaking situations in my life where I would hem and haw about an item, wistfully walk away for the time being, and come back to it only to find it gone.  It’s an awful habit of mine and given how dearly beloved these M&Ms tins are to me, there was no way I was about to take that chance again.  Especially considering they were only available at Pharma Plus drug stores!

In addition to the heart-shaped tin and the coconut M&Ms I love so much, I found myself mint dark chocolate ones too!  After paying a visit to Yonge Market a few weeks ago (where I found the coconut M&Ms at their least expensive last summer – only $0.99 a bag!) and finding out they didn’t have any of the coconut ones, I made my way back to Uncle John’s Candy Shack on Mount Pleasant Rd.  I picked up a baggy of coconut M&Ms and was absolutely ecstatic when I found out they had new mint dark chocolate ones! 

I’ve been so jealous of my American counterparts who have special flavours like strawberry and raspberry, so it felt so nice to find a new flavour I had never encountered before.  They’re $1.49/bag and although the price has gone up by $0.10 since last summer, it’s still less expensive than several other candy shops around the city who sell them for $1.59, $1.79, and even for $1.99!  I am dying to rip open all my M&M candy packages and devour all the goodness inside, but part of me really wants to save them to use for cookies.  Who knew Valentine’s could put me in such a chocolate predicament?  If I bake them in cookies, you will see them and hear about them.  If I eat them all, you’ll just see a very happy me.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone, from my heart to yours!

*****

Uncle John’s Candy Shack is located at 635 Mount Pleasant Rd. between Eglinton and Davisville Ave., just north of Manor Rd.