Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Bagels & Bread, and Glorious Dips & Spreads at the Leslieville Cheese Market!

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I have a wee bit of an obsession problem at the moment.  Let it be known that I am all over dips and spreads like a bad rash and that because of 1) the scrumptious homemade beet hummus from Luscious Dips (which, to my heartbreak, has relocated to Niagara Falls) during my blogging run at the Toronto Lunchtime Office Markets, 2) the fabulous spinach basil pesto and sprouted chickpea hummuses I purchased from my girls at Earth & City, and 3) the black bean and roasted avocado with tomatillo dips I bought from Mad Mexican at Evergreen Brick Works, I am hunting dips and spreads down the same way I hunt for lip gloss.  Oh yes, it’s THAT bad.  Granted, I don’t have a deep sliding drawer full of the stuff like I do lip gloss, but let’s just say that if these condiments didn’t have a shelf life and if my fridge was bigger, I would have swept Leslieville Cheese Market clean!  And this, my dear friends, is the long-awaited introduction to the Leslieville Cheese Market! 

It’s about darn time.  Considering how much I love cheese it’s any wonder I haven’t been here every week since I found out about its existence last year.  I finally stepped inside this glorious little gourmet food shop and market for the first time this month though, after pining over their grilled cheese sandwiches for months.  And now I almost wish I hadn’t.  Gone to the shop I mean.  There is way too much food I love here!  Not only is the shop teeming with fresh cheese, it also carries Fred’s Bread, St. Urbain bagels, smoked fish and cured meats , jams and jellies, fruit and nut bread loaves, crostini and crackers, a whole menu of grilled cheese sandwiches and soups, and dips!  Loads and loads of fantastical dips!  I’m positive most people come here for the bread, cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches.  I will come back because I want several containers of dip and spreads.  And a grilled cheese and soup.  But not before I buy a dip.  I can’t help it.  The second I slathered on my beet hummus dip from Luscious Dips onto my veggie sandwich back in March, it was all downhill from there.  I had been bitten by the homemade dip and spread bug and as a result, I have had a bad case of, “I just dip and dunk and spread this stuff on everything!”        

  

Leslieville Cheese Market, located at 891 Queen Street East (with 2 other locations in Toronto and 1 outside of the GTA), has an entire refrigerated section dedicated to spreads brimming with savoury flavours such as smoked salmon, roasted red pepper and white bean, basil pesto, red lentil dahl, baba ganoush, sundried tomato and tapenade, and artichoke blue cheese and walnut among numerous others.  It’s a little pricier than what I normally pay for (most of my spreads and dips have come in at around $5 with a few for $6) with most of the ones at Leslieville Cheese Market priced at $6.75, but the containers are relatively big and many of flavours are really unique so they just might be worth the extra $1 or $2 to check out and try.  My absolute favourite thing to do with my dips and spreads is to spread them on a tortilla, fill it with spinach and other vegetables, shredded cheese, and maybe some smoked turkey or tofu, and fold it over in half to make a quesadilla on the grill.  So, so delicious.

Another highlight of the Leslieville Cheese Market is their fresh bread.  I’m not even that much of a bread head (that would be my mum), but I LOVE fruit and nut breads and I’m a sucker for anything with herbs, so I was super excited to see that they had breads like pecan and fruit, and rosemary and olive oil.  Loaves of bread are also priced around the $5 to $6 range depending on the loaf.      

 

And of course, no discussion of the shop would be complete without a thorough breakdown of their grilled cheese!  I wanted to feature them during the month of April (read: National Grilled Cheese Month) but just wasn’t able to get around to it.  Even though I don’t have any photos of grilled cheese for you all in this post, I promise I will and in the meantime I figure we can drool over their menu.  Their grilled cheese sandwiches ($7.91 including tax) are made on light rye bread with your choice of the following grilled cheese filling combinations: provolone and beef summer sausage, ham and gruyere, chipotle tuna swiss melt, sundried tomat, artichoke, and chevre (goat cheese), a combo of white cheddar and a cheese called muenster, and cheddar cheese and bacon. 

And, there are dipping sauces!  There are 3 to choose from (balsamic ketchup, sweet thai chili, and piri piri which is a spicy blend) and if that’s not enough to get the motor running, there are also soups to accompany your grilled cheese such as corn chowder and potato leek.  Finally (I know, there’s more!), the cheese market also hosts cheese and wine night classes!  I may not drink, but learning about cheeses and pairings and nuances and regional differences and specifics sounds like a lot of fun and maybe in the future I’ll spring for something like it.  Right now though, I’m just feeling excited at the thought of sitting out on bench in the neighbourhood with a yummy grilled cheese and soup on a nice fall day and I can’t wait to do that sometime soon.

*****

Leslieville Cheese Market in Leslieville is located at 891 Queen Street East, east of Broadview Ave., with 3 other locations including a brand new one on Donlands Ave. just south of O’Connor Dr.

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Polka Dot Rainbow Sprinkles & Fantastical, Fresh, Creamy Vanilla Cupcakes at Desmond & Beatrice, Part II

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I love Desmond & Beatrice.  I know there are many cupcake shops that I hold dear to my heart, but Desmond & Beatrice is truly something special.  I didn’t even have to take a bite from my first cupcake to know that this bake shop would shoot straight into my Top 5 favourite cupcakeries.  There is such a pure, genuine, unpretentious quality about D&B that really resonates with me and I know exactly why it does: because of the shop’s aesthetic and the message it sends about sweets and life in general.

Desmond & Beatrice is a beautiful, sweet bake shop bursting with freshness and brightness with its modern, streamlined aesthetic, clean, crisp bright whites (I love the white lacquered finished on the exposed brick), vibrant pops of colour and prints (the scrapbooker and aspiring interior decorator in me hyperventilates), and an immaculate array of picture-perfect frosted cupcakes, jumbo cookies, and sweet-as-pie sqaures and whoopie pies.  Vases of fresh, bright coloured flowers (orange ranunculus!) sit atop the shiny, round tables and soft, squishy cushions in orange, pink, and blue prints dot the sunny window seat at the front of the shop.

And speaking of this cushy window seat, I think D&B is so smart for putting their seating area here.  I know what you’re thinking.  It sounds like it’s common sense, right?  Not necessarily.  A cupcake shop could easily use the window area as a storefront display area or simply not offer seating at all.  The reason why I say this particular facet is smart and savvy is because any and all foot traffic can see people sitting down with their treats.  People had a clear view of me chomping on my cupcake and as such, this makes people curious, and it makes people want to come into the shop even more when they see you enjoying your heavenly dessert.  And people did.  Two families came straight in as soon as I sat down.

The bake shops feels simaltaneously contemporary and homey, paying homage to earlier decades of homemaking and baking with their many framed prints hanging on the walls around the shop.  Even with its clean and crisp, modern feel, it emotes happiness in such an innocent, carefree, kid-friendly way.  There are cute banners, cupcake and baking aprons, pastel colours, party supplies and goodies, stickers, and sweet trinkets in the shop waiting to be purchases and enjoyed by fellow sweets lovers.  And the beautiful cupcakes!  With sprinkles!  It’s like one big, happy kid birthday party.  And this is where I get to the part about why D&B has tugged at my heart strings the way that is has.

Growing up, I never really attended classmates’ and friends’ birthday parties and I never held one of my own.  I had a great childhood with some of the best memories I could hope for, but the birthday parties and the sleepovers and such never made it to my memory books and it’s always been something I’ve felt wistful about.  As such, just being inside the bake shop makes me feel like I’m at a special party, even if it’s just a cupcake party for one.  Desmond & Beatrice is a celebration of all things sweet and good in life and their shops makes you want to indulge a little bit, to remember how much fun it is getting excited over simple things like sprinkles and frosting and baking straight from the heart.

D&B has a rotating selection of cupcakes each and every day, featuring 6 flavours out of the eleventy billion they have.  Okay, so I’m exaggerating a little bit.  They don’t have eleventy billion flavours, but they do, in fact, have over 20 and they are mighty fine, mouthwatering flavours that make my mouth gape open like a foolish gawker.  Flavours such as mint cookies and cream, cookie dough, mint patty, earl grey, vanilla latte, and SO.MUCH.MORE.  On the day I went, they had vanilla on vanilla with sprinkles, chocolate on chocolate, red velvet with cream cheese frosting, coconut with cream cheese frosting, mint patty, and chocolate chocolate chip.

Cupcakes are $2.75 each, $16 for half a dozen, and $29 for one dozen and they are worth every penny.  My love for sprinkles won out and I decided to go simple this time around with the classic vanilla on vanilla.  And it was one of the most magical, wondrous cupcakes I had ever had.  Not just the most fantastical vanilla – but one of the BEST cupcakes EVER.

The vanilla on vanilla at D&B is one of the richest, purest vanillas and it is bang on what a vanilla cupcake should be.  I know some people equate vanilla with blandness and the flavour that doesn’t make waves, but I’m telling you, this cupcake will knock the knickers right off you and make you beg for more.  The cupcake is rich and creamy with soft cake and a river of adorable rainbow polka dot sprinkles trickling down the thick spirals of marshmallow-like frosting.  There is so much to love.

The ratio between cake and frosting is PERFECT (no need to scrape off excessive frosting or moan and groan about peewee dots of frosting on a mountain of bland cake), the vanilla flavour is consistent between frosting and cake (they match each other bite for bite), and it is gorgeous to look at.  The vanilla isn’t too weak, too overwhleming, or artificial and I think the level of sweetness is something that would satisfy everyone and the consistency, thickness, and texture of the frosting is definitely something I think everyone would enjoy.  Desmond & Beatrice have a cute framed print on their wall which reads, “You Are My Cup of Tea” – D&B is my cup of tea and the shop has reeled me as a life-long fan.

*****

Desmond & Beatrice Bake Shop and Cupcakery is located at 750 Queen Street East, just one block east of Broadview Ave. in the Riverside District.  They are open from Tuesday-Sunday (closed Mondays), from 12pm-6pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11am-7pm on Thursdays and Fridays, 10am-5pm on Saturdays, and 11am-5pm on Sundays.