The Cupcakes, Cookies, & Cakes in the Hat – A Photo Spotlight on Dessert Oasis, Bakerbots, in Bloorcourt Village, Part I!

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Bakerbots is located at 205 Delaware Ave by Ossington subway station, nearest major intersection being Bloor Street West and Ossington Ave. in Bloorcourt Village.  Bakerbots specializes in all things sweet with desserts and baked goods being churned out by the truckload!  They are part bakery, part design studio, part ice cream parlour, and full on dessert emporium!  Their hours of operation: Tuesday-Thursday, 6pm-10pm (ice cream treats only); Friday, 4pm-11pm; Saturday, 11am-11pm; Sunday, 11am-10pm.  You can visit their site HERE.  Part II full write-up post coming tomorrow!

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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.

Bright Green Chocolate Candy Cane Macarons & Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies – Bobbette & Belle, Part I

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If there was a pastry shop, cupcakery, and macaron heaven fit for a princess here in Toronto, Bobbette & Belle would be it!  Ever since I found out about Allyson Bobbitt and Sarah Bell’s queendom of sweets from Where Toronto magazine months and months ago, I’ve been envisioning pastel colours and chocolate cookie biscuits and macarons and pastries and beautiful shop that would render me speechless.  Or at the very least a hushed, “Oooo” and “ahhh”.  And “Oooo” and “ahhh” I did.  After passing by Bobbette & Belle on the Queen streetcar more times than I can count on the fingers of my hand, I made the trip especially for the holidays and I squealed as I stepped inside the beautiful shop.  Wreaths!  A Christmas tree!  Poinsettias!  Edible Christmas gifts!  HOT CHOCOLATE, CUPCAKES, AND MACARONS.  I wanted to sprinkle flower petals while pirouetting around the lovely shop.  Oh, this was going to be fun.

Located in Leslieville, Bobbette & Belle’s pastry shop is beautiful, plain and simple.  The spacious interior oozes romantic, floral, Victorian, cozy, and modern rustic with its plush arm chairs, coffee table, couch, long wooden bench tables, large wooden communal table (perfect for cake order consultations!), stools, and shelves lined with sweets, gifts, and B&B’s gorgeous decorated cakes and wedding cakes.  The space is illuminated by natural light streaming in from the front and side windows and you feel like you’ve walked into a pretty in pink music box fairy land with dainty, feminine framed art on the walls.

Don’t be completely fooled by the flowers and bows though; behind the sweetness lies a subtle touch of fun attitude.  Nothing says “we are bakers and pastry chefs, we love sweets, and we’re damn proud of it!” like the framed criss-crossed whipping whisks!  Aside from those framed whisks, my favourite thing in the shop is a giant framed print listing some of Toronto’s popular neighbourhoods in big block letters on a turquoise background.  It’s bold, it’s punchy, and it makes it known that Toronto is home to B&B.

I know many have been to Bobbette & Belle and I know a number of people who’ve done plenty of press on them, featuring photos of cupcakes, macarons, and other sweet confections.  I never feel contrived though when writing about such popular places such as Bobbette & Belle because the perspective and feeling will always be different.  It doesn’t matter how many people know about them, how many times they’ve been showcased in media outlets, or how many photos I see of their products.  Everyone’s experience is their own and that’s why I don’t mind writing about places that probably seem like old-hat to others because what’s familiar and known to some is exciting and new for me, and vice versa.  Things continously and consistently change and even though I feel like I’m late to the party half the time, I feel like this blog is my way of seeing things with fresh eyes and for Christmas, I finally got to see B&B up close and in person.

Although French macarons are at the heart of Bobbette & Belle’s creation and birth, the shop specializes in professionally decorated cakes and wedding cakes, cupcakes, cookies, meringues, tarts, whoopie pies, and plenty of sweet pastries.  Along one wall you’ll find B&B’s retail section where you can pick up already packaged yummies and gifts including meringues (candy cane ones for the holidays!), marshmallows, cookies, and more.  Their selection of sweet delights include creamy buttercream frosted cupcakes ($2.95) in flavours such as mango passionfruit, apple spice, espresso, pumpkin, and lemon among others. 

They also had cake stands filled with blueberry scones ($3.25), pumpkin tarts ($3.75), toffee pudding ($3.75), Christmas shortbread cookies ($1.00 for small ones, $1.25 for large ones), chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies, vanilla raspberry whoopie pies, custards, tarts, and Christmas cupcakes for holiday orders in the glass display case, and of course, macarons!  Priced at $2 a piece (which is very reasonable and average priced across the board), flavorus include milk chocolate salted caramel, gingerbread, dark chocolate hazelnut, pistachio, and my pick for the day, chocolate candy cane!

I know most of you would have expected me to inhale a cupcake because I love cupcakes and would eat them every day if the opportunity presented itself, but there’s always a time to be unpredictable.  I went against the grain and instead of a cupcake, I had me a Christmas tree shaped shortbread cookie and a bright, vibrant green chocolate candy cane macaron instead!  C’mon, Christmas themed macarons?!  I would be a fool not to introduce one of those to my sweet teeth. 

The chocolate ganache filling was wonderfully thick and fudgy and rich without being overly sweet, overly bitter, or overly anything!  If I had to compare the chocolate filling to anything, I would say it tastes like soft, fudgy brownies.  I absolutely adored the shade of green used for the candy cane flavoured meringue shells and I really appreciated the subtley in candy cane flavour.  The flavour pattern was like a gradient, where it started off subtle and then gradually became stronger as you bit closer to the center of the macaron.

It was a perfect marriage between chocolate and candy cane flavour because the macaron wasn’t overpowered with stingy peppermint and the candy cane flavour had a bit of sweetness to it that I loved.  Some people might like that breathy pepperminty feeling, but I don’t prefer it because it ends up tasting like frozen ginger mixed with mouthwash and all the dessert-like sweetness flys out the window.  And a macaron must be sweet and decadent!  Even when savoury flavours are mixed in, when you eat a macaron it has to feel like you’re eating a dessert, and it has to taste crispy on the outside and airy light just beneath the surface.  The melt-in-your-mouth aspect was bang on and that egg-shell delicacy was definitely there.  I know.  I accidentally nudged the macaron downward with my knuckle (don’t ask!) and heard an egg-shell like crack that reverberated in my ears as I gasped and quickly turned the macaron over to hide the dirty deed.  Sigh.  Anything for a pretty photo.

I have Part II for you all tomorrow and to give you a hint as to what sweet something something I’m showing off, it’s something chocolatey and toasty.  Very toasty 😉  Have a sweet one, everyone.

*****

Bobbette & Belle is located at 1121 Queen Street East, just east of Jones Ave.  They are open 7 days a week from 7:30am-6:30pm Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturday, and 9am-5pm on Sunday.  These are their holiday operating hours and they will be closed on the 25th, 26th, and 27th, as well as on January 1st and 2nd.  Visit their website here for product descriptions, information on orders, and photos.     

Bagels, Baked Goods, Pastries, and Russian Matryoshka Dolls! Seventh Sister Bakery on Roncesvalles

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Welcome to Seventh Sister and Roncesvalles!  It took me awhile to get here, I know.  I’ve wanted to explore Roncesvalles and the surrounding neighbourhood for so long and last month I finally did!  Whenever I would go downtown, I would see the King streetcar and see the name “Roncesvalles” at the top and it drove me crazy knowing I had never been in the area.  These past few years have been amazing in terms of city exploration.  Anyone who thinks TO is boring is out of their mind; with all the running around I’ve done, I still haven’t seen all of the city and I know I won’t for quite some time.  Anyway, I made it a mission to visit Roncesvalles and since I had a Teambuy voucher for Cardinal Rule (blog post forthcoming), it was the perfect fit.  Luck was not on my side that day though as Cardinal Rule was closed just for that day because of city sidewalk and curb construction right outside their diner. 

Believe me, I was not thrilled.  I stuffed the voucher in my bag, pouted, and mumbled and grumbled about how much I had looked forward to eating veggie diner food.  I sighed, looked at my boyfriend, and decided that we would walk up and down Roncesvalles to find ourselves some yummy food.  I promise to dedicate an entire Foodie District post (or two) to all the amazing food on and around Roncesvalles, but for now, I’m just going to say that there is no way anyone could ever starve while being here.  Oh my goodness.  You know how we have Chinatown, Little India, and Little Italy?  Roncesvalles is Little Poland.  We’re talking Polish bookstores, Polish cheese and deli shops, Polish bakeries, and Polish and Hungarian restaurants among coffee shops, diners, and other amazing eateries.

As we walked north on Roncesvalles, I saw Seventh Sister and fell in love with it from the get go.  There are SO many things I love about Seventh Sister Bakery.  I’m not going to lie though, I wish Seventh Sister was 100 times bigger.  The bakery is TINY.  There are two tables that seat 4 people each inside and a small 2-seater outside the bakery and that’s it.  I know, the teenyness makes me cringe a bit too.  My boyfriend, Richard, and I had to come back 3 times to nab ourselves a table inside (yes, I refused to give up because I’m just that damn stubborn) and while many people were coming and going and grabbing bags of bagels, bread, and pastries, you know how I feel about having a place to sit to eat my yummies. 

But I’m telling you, the bakery has so much character and so many wonderful sweet treats, the tight corners make it all worth it.  I adore Seventh Sister.  First, who wouldn’t fall in love with the storefront?  Russian matryoshka dolls!!  I adore these dolls.  This scrapbook layout was so much fun to make and I’ve been waiting to make it for over a month now.  The handmade paper doll was inspired by my matryoshka tote bag, makeup bag, and matching compact mirror 😀  If you’re wondering, yes, every single piece of cardstock and part of the doll was drawn and cut out by me!  I also love the bakery’s yellow and orange and chocolate brown storefront with the stripey awning!  And the walls and shop are adorned with adorable toys and matryoshka doll accessories like drinking glasses and ornaments.

I love that I can come here and have a simple but delicious lunch or afternoon snack.  If you enjoy bagels, sandwiches, baked goods, pastries, and cute decor, this is your kind of bakery.  The set up of the bakery is kind of like this: when you enter the shop, the two tables are in the center.  To your right is a shelf where you’d get your coffee creamer, milk, sugar, honey, and cups.  In front of you past the tables and closer to the back is the cash, the menu board up on the wall, and the sweet lady owners who make your food.  Last, to your left are the shelves with all the delicious baked goods and pastries!  Snatch up a paper bag and go to town!  There are huuuge baskets of freshly baked sesame, poppy seed, and plain bagels for you to grab from, bread and buns, and dishes and cake stands of sweet treats and savoury snacks.

The sweet treats and baked goods alone would compel me to go all the way to Roncesvalles, and not just to Seventh Sister!  The bakery had a fabulous assortment of goodies with prices around $0.50-$3.  There were fruit danishes and pinwheels with sweet icing, chocolate chip shortbread cookies, oat cake squares with cinnamon, chocolate croissants dusted with powdered sugar, dried fruit squares with oats, coconut, almonds, and nuts, lemon poppy seed muffins, soft pretzels, triple chocolate pecan brownies, and – get this – savoury bacon and gruyère muffins!!

That day for lunch, I got myself a bacon and gruyère muffin ($2.75), and a sesame seed bagel from the big basket on the shelf, which I gave it to the nice ladies to toast for me for my veggie and cheese sandwich.  Their menu is full of deli meat and veggie sandwich options that you can have on bread or bagels and prices range from $2-$6.  Oh, and they have Nutella and fluffernutter sandwiches on the menu too!  My veggie sandwich on a bagel was stuffed silly with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, alfalfa sprouts, green olives, guacamole, swiss cheese, mayo, and dijon mustard.  I loooved my veggie and swiss cheese bagel (yes, even with the olives!) and even though it sounds simple, sometimes that’s the best.  Simple food done well that tastes delicious that isn’t expensive.

And the bacon and gruyère cheese muffin?  Talk about deliciously delicious!  This muffin is amazing and I could eat these day in and day out.  They’re the perfect brunch or afternoon tea muffin and they are so incredibly moist, soft, and flavourful.  There are strips of chopped bacon in the muffin with ooey gooey melted cheese inside and my muffin was still super warm when I got it.  Forget bacon and eggs, this is where it’s at.  If I didn’t care so much about sharing the wealth of goodness with others, I would have taken the entire plate.  

And speaking of plates, Seventh Sister is even more awesome in my book because of the mismatched china they use for their food.  The plates are beautiful and so full of history and artistry.  There are china plates with gold filigree, plates with painted scenes of American states and Canadian provinces (possibly from the 70s or 80s), and plates with pretty, colourful, and dainty floral prints.  The kitchen decor lover in me was in conniptions and the next time I plan on coming here, I’m coming prepared.  I’m bringing tupperware.

*****

Seventh Sister Bakery is located at 53 Roncesvalles Ave., north of Queen St. on the east side of Roncesvalles.  The bakery is sandwiched between Marion St. to the north and Harvard Ave. to the south.  If you are curious about the name, the name is true to life – the owner is in fact the 7th sister in her large family!

Scrapbooking materials used: grape purple, bubblegum pink, grass green, mint green, powder blue, red, and black cardstock (Recollections); bakery dessert stickers (Sticko); gold foiled flower and forest stickers (atd by momenta); adhesive foam squares; paper corner rounder (ek success), black fine point Sharpie.

Mooncakes in Celebration of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival!

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Happy Mid-Autumn/Moon Festival!  I know I have the last part of the Vegetarian Food Fair to post, but my timing is a bit off so my posts are going to end up overlapping a bit for today.  I didn’t want the day to come and go without at least showing you all pictures of the mooncakes at my house 😀  I explained the Mid-Autumn and Moon Festival a little bit in the Food Calendar, but basically I’ve grown up understanding it as a festival to celebrate family, friends, togetherness, and of course, the symbolic importance of the moon in the spiritual context.  My dad would tell me stories of his childhood living in Hong Kong, going to the parks and lighting lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (jong chow jeet), and running around with all his cousins.  It’s funny, because when you’re little you go about your innocent, childhood years not really understanding the reasons why you celebrate a particular occasion, just that you do.  All you know is that it’s a custom and after awhile certain aspects of the occasion become very familiar to you, almost natural even.

This was me growing up.  I would celebrate all Chinese occasions with my family, aunts and uncles, and my grandparents but rarely would I question what we were celebrating and why we did the things we did.  I have seen mooncakes come and go since I was a tot, my family and I would sit down to a dinner of bbq meat (siu lap, or lechon as it is otherwise referred to in English), and Chinese vegetarian (jai) complete with bean curd, seitan, and a host of other veggie goodies.  It’s only been in the last maybe 5 years that I became very curious and started asking my parents questions about customs and origins and food, and paying much closer attention to what my grandparents would do during these occasions.  I’ve learned a lot just by watching and listening and being more aware all-around.

Here’s a secret though: I don’t actually like mooncake.  I KNOW.  I’ve tried it and I can honestly say I would much rather eat a lotus paste steamed bun, but I know a loooot of people who thoroughly enjoy these so I’m just joining in on the fun by posting photos!  My sweet hairdresser (who has been a family friend and my mum’s best friend for 14 years) gave these mooncakes to us (it’s customary to give and receive mooncakes as gifts; my grandma has given us mooncakes in the past) and she made a special order just for us as there are four different kinds!  We have the white lotus with one egg yolk (meant to symbolize the moon), the white lotus with two yolks, a nut-filled mooncake, and a green tea mooncake.  Even though I’m not a fan, I might take a tiny wedge of the green tea one but that’s about it!

I have stories from my grandma of her chastising my grandpa for gorging on these cakes many moons ago (no pun intended) and I know my dad has eaten some mooncakes in his time as well.  Nobody in my house would ever down an entire mooncake on their own these days though (I can’t even say we’d eat a quarter of one) which is why my mother cut each mooncake into 8 pieces.  We have 32 pieces of mooncake in our house.  God help us.

    

Valentine’s Series: The Keys to My Heart Part IV – Memories of High School & My Favourite Turkey Sandwiches

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Forget the pretentious gourmet stuff.  The BEST turkey sandwiches in the world (okay, fine, in my world) are made at one of the most fantastic bakeries in town located just across the street from my old high school: Raymerville Deli & Bakery located at 1 Raymerville Drive south, off of McCowan Rd. and north of Bullock Drive in Unionville, Markham.   This is truly one of the reasons why I’ve been so excited to share the Keys to My Heart series; to showcase the things I love the most in any category of food and to tell all the memorable stories attached to them.  I think I may keep this series around just for the heck of it because talking about my favourite things is fun and makes me happy! 😀  This bakery holds a lot of fun memories, especially from high school. 

I would buy my lunch once a week and about a third of the time I’d go to the bakery across the street.  I remember running over at lunch hour with a few friends in tow and lining up in the packed bakery for my coveted smoked turkey sandwich on crusty kaiser bun.  Watching the ladies slice my turkey meat, pack on the toppings, and wrap it in the signature white sandwich paper with deli sticker made my heart pump fast and till this day, it still does.  Everything about this sandwich is amazing.  The crusty kaiser is the best with its bread crumb dusty top and soft insides and no sandwich makes me happier than this one: fresh smoked turkey piled high with lots of shredded lettuce, tomato, mozzerella cheese, and mayo and mustard.  I might be all into trying new things and consistently expanding my food horizons (pft, like you couldn’t tell from the blog, right?  Ha!) but this is one thing that I’ve been eating the same way for 10 years and it tastes SO FREAKIN’ GOOD each and every single time.  This bakery has not lost its touch.

The bakery is family owned and run, and is stocked to the brim with Italian pastas, meats, and dry food pantry items.  Racks and racks of fresh baked bread are ripe for the picking (with a bread slicer that you can use if you would rather have it done in-store) and there is plenty of other good eats to nosh on too: pepperoni pizza slices the size of the moon; ginormous chocolate chip cookies which might as well be the moon because of the all chocolate chip craters; fresh baked apple and fruit pies; apple, cherry, and raspberry turnovers (my brother and mum’s favourite); pastry twists dusted with powdered sugar; and oodles of tarts, cookies, and strudels.

You can choose any bread or bun in the bakery and bring it up to the deli counter to have  your sandwich made, but I’m telling you, you MUST order  a sandwich on the kaiser, which they have a basket of up on the counter.  Why?  Because I said so.  Trust me!  Prices for kaiser sandwiches vary depending on the type of meat you want and whether ot not you order it with cheese (extra 50 cents), but most sandwiches are anywhere from $3.50 to $5.  Oh!  And no tax.  I KNOW.  What dimension are we in, right??  If it’s $4.50 for your sandwich, it’s $4.50.  Take a minute and wrap your head around that.  And imagine all the yummy baked goods you can buy for $10.  Mmmm.  It makes me wistful knowing I can’t walk across the street to the bakery anymore, but I look forward to any and all trips I make there.

*****

Raymerville Deli & Bakery is located within the strip plaza right at the intersection of McCowan Rd. and Ramerville Drive south, on the east side of McCowan (Carlton Rd. is on the west side of McCowan).  It’s about a 10 minute walk (or a 2 or 3 minute drive) from Markville Mall.  They usually have a day off during the week and I’m pretty sure that day is Monday, although your best bet is to visit them during the middle of the week or on the weekend.