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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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The Hot Chocolate Series – Sipping a Silky Smooth Nutella Hot Chocolate on a Chilly Day at Le Gourmand Cafe

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Our annual Santa Claus Parade graced us with cute and colourful floats this weekend, Christmas music is playing on the radio stations, and my mum has already harassed asked my brother and I for a list of things we’d like this Christmas (does two things really constitute a list?).  Christmas is just a little over a month away and each passing day feels more and more like a winter wonderland, sans the snow – for now.  There’s a cold nip in the air, I’m decked out in my oh-so-fashionable scarf and mitten ensemble, and instead of visions sugar plums dancing in my head, I have soup and hot chocolate partying in my tummy. 

The hot chocolate series is here!  Like I mentioned on my first Bits & Bites post, the hot chocolate series is one of two holiday and winter series I’m starting on the blog and after talking to my fellow Le Dolci icing sugar queen, Miya, today, I might squeeze in some peppermint posts in between too since I know some of you are huge fans!  I’m so excited to share this post with you all today because it involves NUTELLA!  Yes, nutella!  In hot chocolate form!  The chillier weather sounds a little more appealing now, doesn’t it?  Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but at least us throngs of nutella fans have another nutella yummy to enjoy in the city!  I’ve made it my mission to track down the best nutella food and drink items in and around the city and I’m very pleased that this does double duty for both the hot chocolate series and the future “5 Best” nutella post I’m working on. 

Hot chocolate has really taken on life of its own, going in a gourmet drink direction with all the different culinary interpretations: white chocolate hot chocolate, Mexican hot chocolate, chili hot chocolate, the list goes on!  And let’s not forget the childhood favourite, hot chocolate with marshmallows.  All it took was a chalkboard sign sitting on the sidewalk outside a cafe to entice me get the hot chocolate series in motion, a sign that I saw while riding the streetcar no less!  I saw the words “hot chocolate” as I passed by on the streetcar, along with a list underneath.  More than one kind?!  SOLD.  This visit to Le Gourmand, located by Spadina and Richmond, has been a long time coming.  Much like Fusaro’s Kitchen, I’ve passed by Le Gourmand countless times and just never went in.  Seeing that chalkboard sign was definitely the sign that I needed to finally see what yummy surprises this cafe had inside, and c’mon, the name of the cafe is me in a nutshell!  No, not glutton!  Gourmand as in a person who takes great pleasure in food and eating.  And that would be me!

Le Gourmand is a grocery cafe (similar to Fusaro’s in cafe layout and concept) that sells packaged truffles, cookies, chocolates, pastas, canned beans and tomatoes, jams and preserves, olives, olive oils, and balsamics among other pantry staples and sweets.  They serve a full breakfast, weekend brunch, and lunch menu chock full of sandwiches, salads, egg breakfasts, breakfast burritos, and more.  I came here for the first time for the hot chocolate, but I’m telling you, I’m coming back for breakfast and lunch one of these days because their menu of sandwiches and salads made my mouth water and I’m a sucker for breakfast/brunch food.

They have a full-length display of flaky croissants, pastries, and breakfast croissant sandwiches (including bacon, egg, and cheddar) that you can order by the cash while everything else is made to order.  Their coffee menu includes espressos, macchiatos, americanos, cafe lattes, cappuccinos, cafe mochas, chai lattes, and regular roast coffee.  I’m not a coffee drinker, so aside from the occasional latte, I always go for the teas instead and Le Gourmand has these yummy sounding iced drinks that I can’t wait to try!  I saw a raspberry-lemongrass ice tea and a mojito peppermint ice tea, both of which are on my mental “to-try” list.

As much as I would loooove to get into the breakfast and lunch menu, I’m going to save the food talk for next time and just entice you all with the drinks and nutella hot chocolate.  The cafe serves 5, count ’em, FIVE different types of hot chocolate!  They have a Belgian white hot chocolate, a French 32% caramel chocolate, a Dominican 64% bittersweet chocolate, an African 85% Grand  Cru, and finally, the Italian nutella hot chocolate.  I didn’t get the prices for a large, but small hot chocolates (which are really more like mediums, in my opinions) are $2.99, tax inclusive.

The photos honestly don’t do the hot chocolate justice.  The nutella hot chocolate is DELICIOUS.  Now I know what some of you must be thinking.  You’re thinking, “if you enjoy nutella, then it’s a no-brainer that you would enjoy this hot chocolate!”  Not necessarily.  Let it be known that some places use the name and branding of nutella to sell particular products that are not actually made with nutella.  I’m not kidding.  Some will use it as a guise to make you think you’re eating nutella when in reality it’s just chocolate.  Us foodies are not dumb and it’s insulting and disheartening that some would even think to do such a thing.  Those of us who love nutella know nutella when we taste and smell it.  And this hot chocolate is nutella through and through.  

It’s silky smooth, light and airy, and just slightly frothy on top.  It’s not a heavy hot chocolate in the sense that it’ll make you feel gross afterward, but when you drink it, it feels like you’re drinking something so decadent.  The rich cocoa flavour is what hits you first when you drink it and the very distinctive aroma and taste of the hazelnut that makes nutella what it is sits on your tastebuds after and the hot chocolate is so good it makes you want to go back for more.  Which is fine because we have the whole winter ahead of us to enjoy it. 

*****

Le Gourmand is located at 438 Richmond Street West at Spadina Ave.

Calling All Nutella Lovers: Chai Lattes, Vanilla Steamers & The Banana Nutella Waffle at CocoaLatte! Part II

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Oh Cocoa Latte, how I’ve fallen in love with you.  Let it be known that my Twitter account has opened up a whole new (cyber) world for me since I signed up several months ago.  Before I started my blog, I scoffed at the mere thought of having a Twitter.  “Why in the world would I sign up and just talk about crap?  Who in the world is going to care?”  I was proven wrong.  Sort of.  Although I still stand by my conviction that having a Twitter without a blog would have been silly for me, I’ve realized that this blog, in conjunction with my Twitter, has connected me to so many people and places I would have otherwise never known about. 

Cocoa Latte is one of them.  It just happened to pop up in my feed one day and being the curious kitten that I am, I looked up their website and almost immediately, I had a really good feeling about this beautiful café.  For one thing, Cocoa Latte is so pretty to look at.  Baby blue, white, and chocolate brown decor.  I was already mentally piecing together cardstock samples and potental scrapbook layouts before my first visit!  And for another, it’s a chameleon that does quadruple duty: peaceful brunch space, hopping lunch joint, hip coffee and tea café, and sweet gelato bar.  And even though I have yet to enjoy lunch or a gelato/ice cream/cake dessert, I gotta say, they lay the smackdown on breakfast and drinks REALLY good. 

Their drink menu has SO much variety, from coffee and iced coffee and tea drinks to frothy frappés to apple ciders, vanilla steamers, caramel lattes, London Fogs, and of course, its namesake, cocoa lattes.  Now, I’m no coffee connoisseur, but Cocoa Latte’s drink prices are very much in line with other indie coffee shops around the city.  Maybe around $0.50 less than average for certain drinks and $0.40 more for others, but I’m telling you, you get bang for you buck. 

Oh!  And they serve almond milk for their coffee drinks!  This makes me happy considering I fell in love with almond milk a few months ago after a few friends raved about yummy it is.  It’s a great -and necessary- alternative for those who are vegan, allergic to soy, and/or lactose intolerant.

I was absolutely gobsmacked when the nice girl who was serving us brought me my chai latte.  It was HUGE.  My glass looked like a beer mug.  And I ordered a small!  She placed it on the table and I stared at it with my mouth slightly gaping open.  Then after a few seconds of stunned silence, my mind starting sputtering: “wait…wha…why…huh??  I could have sworn I ordered a small!”  Make no mistake, my “small” chai latte might as well have been a whole teapot.  And I was thisclose to waving the nice girl over and telling her that she had made a mistake and brought me a large.  But how thrilling it was to realize that my ginormous chai latte was exactly what I had ordered and how thrilling it was to taste the hot, milky tea beverage that smelled and tasted so wonderfully of sweet cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.

And now for the drool-inducing nutella you’ve all been waiting for.  I hope all you nutella lovers are here, reading and soaking up these next few photos because this breakfast meal was all sorts of lovely and for lack of other words, simply “mmmm”.  Like I mentioned in my teaser post yesterday, I am on the hunt for all amazing nutella food items in the city and I’m hoping that this is just the first out of many more delicious nutella eats.  Cocoa Latte makes a wonderful, amazing banana nutella waffle for breakfast.  How amazing?  Look below.

This waffle was delighfully crispy on the outside with an airy, fluffy inside (you can see from the photos that the waffle looks multi-layered even!) with warm, ooey gooey nutella slathered all over it in all its cocoa hazelnut glory and a mountain of freshly sliced bananas on top with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.  Oh, and more nutella drizzled all over.  If you want a sweet, satisfying breakfast that doesn’t leave you filling gross afterward, this is your gem.  You’d think that a waffle covered in nutella would induce a sickly case of sugar coma, but I’m being honest when I say that it doesn’t.  This dish, in appearance, looks really sweet but it’s really not.  Just a nice big, fresh waffle with everyone’s favourite cocoa spread and lots of banana.

This is the real deal.  It’s not someone passing off melted chocolate as nutella (I’m not kidding about this, I’ve had two accounts of a nutella cookie in the city not tasting like nutella at all but instead, like plain ol’ chocolate.  The nerve, right?), it’s not a dinky-sized waffle being passed off as a real meal, and it’s not something that’s soggy, limp, or greasy.  If you adore breakfast foods and if you can’t get enough of nutella, you absolutely must try this.

I am so looking forward to going back for another yummy meal sometime.  I am eyeing that vanilla steamer and I am eyeing their looong list of panini sandwiches (avocado…cheese…um, yes, I’m in!).  I’m so glad this lovely café popped up on my Twitter feed over a month ago.  It makes the scrapbooker in me giddy, they serve amazing drinks that still shock me to this day with their size (and probably make my bladder a bit nervous), and they gave me a tummyful of awesome nutella waffle.

*****

Café Cocoa Latte is located at 671 St. Clair West, just east of Christie St. and west of Wychwood Ave.  Their hours are 8am-5pm through Monday-Sunday.  The easiest way to get here is by taking the St. Clair streetcar westbound, or the 126 Christie bus going northbound from Christie subway station.

Scrapbooking materials: baby blue & chocolate brown cardstock (Recollections); black, baby blue, and white patterned scalloped paper (Colorbök); baby pink & white polka dotted patterned paper; baby blue & brown patterned paper (Choco-Mod Patterns by DCWV); adhesive pearls (Recollections); black & gray floral epoxy stickers (Black Tie by atd); pink & brown heart printed ribbon (Valentine by Michaels); black & white polka dotted alphabet stickers (atd); coffee embellishments (Pierre Belvédère); croissant stickers (Sticko, Martha Stewart crafts).