The Makings of a Summer Vegetable Garden Party – An August Sunday at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market

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Cool evening breezes, trips up north to the cottage and the lake, picnics in the park, garden parties, and dining outdoors with the sun softly setting in the sunset – at its best, this is what summer is all about.  These photos from Leslieville Farmers’ Market were entirely inspired by my latest issue of Vegetarian Times magazine (with huge thanks to my best friend for gifting me a subscription!) and their story on garden fresh vegetables and beautiful garden party and patio dining.  I know I’ve been whimpering about the sweltering heat all summer, but deep down, I do have a soft spot in my heart for summer evenings and delicious meals shared with family and friends outside with just a hint of nip in the air.  The magazine story, titled “Summer’s Last Hurrah”, has such a relaxing, whimsical, bohemian feel to it and it’s the type of meal that I can only dream of having and hosting until the day I have my own home in the future: grilled stuffed peppers with fresh soft cheeses and corn, grilled crostini with rosemary olive oil, and heirloom tomato salad. 

While my appetite seems to sing when spring and fall seasonal cuisine rolls around every year, summer vegetables are my favourite and it’s incredible how lush and delicious some of our crop has turned out this year despite the bad weather and yields that were, and are, well below average.  I have had some of the best corn this summer and I’ve heard from others (because I’m allergic and can’t actually eat raw ones myself) that the peaches this time around are to die-for.  Sometimes you go to the market with an idea of what you want to find and bring home and other times, like this, the market does the planning for you, giving you all the inspiration you need to make a week’s worth of fresh, healthy meals with things like radishes, yams, potatoes, carrots, tofu, summer squash, and more. 

The market was so incredibly busy on this particular day with lineups left and right at many of the hot food vendors  (my boyfriend and I even joined in on the fun, grabbing some sizzling tofu and mushroom rollups from Ying Ying Gourmet Soy Foods that tasted absolutely amazing!) and tiny tots shouting at the tops of their lungs professing their love for popsicles (read: Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops).  My favourites from this particular August visit: big and bright golden yellow cauliflower; vibrant, round purple Japanese eggplants (I found out they’re a variety called kamonasu!*); lobster mushrooms from Forbes Wild Foods; and a rainbow of tomatoes and baby garlic carrots from the Greenhouse Eatery!

Market vendors and farmers’, for the most part, have been incredibly friendly to me whilst watching me tote my camera around their wares, but there’s always someone who stands out from the bunch with a witty quip or just all-around great conversation.  The nice ladies of the Greenhouse Eatery made me smile and giggle a little after I asked if it would be okay if I snapped a few shots of their beautiful and colourful produce, to which they replied, “Ooo, can we make it look pretty first??” as they started rearranging tomatoes and carrots for me for prettier angles and shot.  I thought that was so cute and sweet.  And it’s a good thing I came to their table when I did because soon enough, a crowd had gathered behind and around me and arms were reaching from all over place grabbing every last bunch of carrots.  No joke.  There were two gentlemen who were jokingly fighting over the carrot bunches as they each wanted the entire table’s worth!  Foodies or not, nothing comes between a person and their delicious food or in this case, market produce!

 

*****

* Source = Just Hungry

Leslieville Farmers’ Market is located at Jonathan Ashbridge Park on Queen Street East and Woodward Ave.  Jonathan Ashbridge Park is located in between Greenwood and Coxwell Ave., and can be accessed via public transit by way of the Queen Street 501 streetcar.  The market is new to the lineup of Toronto markets this year and is held every Sunday from 9am-2pm.  The last market of the year is on October 28, 2012.  Visit their website to sign up to their newsletter, to get involved, and to learn more.

The Royal Tea Treatment, Donuts & Chicken, and Good Eats – A Week in the Foodie District of Leslieville, Part I!

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Beautiful artwork for a lovely community

Welcome to a week of foodie delights in the heart of Leslieville on Queen East!  Roughly bounded by Empire Street to the west, Coxwell Ave. the east, the CN rail and Gerrard Street to the north, and Eastern Ave. to the sout, Leslieville has truly grown into a powerhouse of great food and a culinary force to be reckoned with in the city.  The food directory boasts brunch spots, bistros, wine bars, organic food emporiums, cupcake shops, cheese markets, tea shops, coffee shops, pizzeria, bakeries, and so much more.  There are even culinary tours dedicated to the neighbourhood because of the sheer amount of food goodies to explore!  I love the neighbourhood for so many reasons.  

A wonderfully comfortable looking coffee shop – definitely on my list of places to hit!

First off, it’s incredibly easy to walk through.  When you look up store locations on a map, the gaps, streets, and intersections look a little more spaced out than they are in actuality; you can easily amble through the Queen East strip of Leslieville in an hour or less.  Granted, that timeframe allows for a little window shopping and dawdling and food gawking, but still – it’s feet friendly!  Second, there is so much variety.  It’s a neighbourhood that caters to all moods and tastebuds as well as budgets because the area isn’t necessarily concentrated with high-end dining spots or fast food joints.  There’s something for the health-conscious, the carni, the vegetarian, the sweet tooth, and the caffiene-craver.  The neighbourhood thrives on growth and I’m telling you, every time I come to this part of town, I’m always discovering something new, something that I hadn’t seen during a previous trek. 

And finally, I love it because I’ve always been met with friendliness and while that can be said for many other parts of town, it’s never a given so it always makes me feel good when I have happy, positive experience and memories to talk about and remember.  Leslieville has that sweet, small-town feel to it and I think it’s nice.  And what’s just as nice (or maybe even nicer) is the plethora of food!  So, let’s hop to it! 

Your royal tea treatment awaits you…

One of my absolute favourite tea shops in the city is Steeped & Infused in Leslieville.  I love their selection, I am head over heels for their products, and this past year they just went through a bit of a renovation to transform the loose leaf tea and gift shop to a sit-down cafe which means more time to enjoy tea in a sweet and comfortable sit-down environment!  However, they’re not the only tea shop on the block; Majesteas is your one stop shop for all things tea and royalty! 

Located at 950 Queen Street East just west of Carlaw Ave. with sweet and cushy seats, framed photos and accessories of our Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II, on the walls and shelves, and glass canisters full of loose leaf tea just ready to be sniffed and loved, Majesteas is a wonderful space to sit down with a cuppa.  They really do exude the British art of afternoon tea because their selection of teas are much more refined and classic than other tea shops in the city.  They’re not about the wild n’ wacky and out of this world.  They are all about the classic, traditional black, green, and oolong teas which is PERFECT for the tea drinkers out there who aren’t into 15 million flavoured teas.  I personally LOVE flavoured teas of all kinds, but there are many, like my brother and my boyfriend’s mum, for example, who enjoy keeping things simple with an orange pekoe, an English breakfast, or an Earl Grey.  They carry flavours such as coconut, blueberry, and chocolate orange, but for the most part, Majesteas is as classic as it gets and I know a lot of people who appreciate that!

One of the newest menus in town!

And now, a new food discovery!  Paulette’s Original Donuts and Chicken!  Wait a minute…donuts and chicken?!  Before you freak out and think Leslieville (or I) have gone off the deep end, let me make it clear that Paulette specializes in donuts and chicken meals, but not together!  Donuts are donuts and chicken is chicken and they do not mix and mingle.  Unless of course you happen to order a chicken meal with a donut, but I wanted to make sure you all weren’t thinking that the chicken was sandwiched between donuts or something.  Because we have enough of that heart attack-inducing food at the CNE and county fair! 

I literally stumbled on this brand spankin’ food shop and was instantly intrigued!  Only a month and a half old (one of the nice girls behind the counter told me so), the gorgeous bright aqua colour was impossible to miss and as soon as I saw the word “donuts” I was in!  It wasn’t until I read the menu board that I realized that they also took their chicken very seriously as well!  In a nutshell, Paulette’s makes a slew of donuts in delicious flavours, donut holes in two flavours, and fried chicken meals.

The cutest donut display window!

They have 7 flavours of donuts on hand every day which are sweetly and cutely displayed in the little glass window by the counter (the selection when I walked in?  Vanilla bean nutmeg, cinnamon latte, raspberry rose with graham cracker crumble, root beer float, grapefruit maple, dark chocolate pretzel, and mojito!), two flavours of donut holes (maple sugar and garam masala sugar), and a number of fried chicken combinations (snack chicken, half chicken, and combo chicken with white meat, dark meat, sides, and/or donut holes) where you can choose your dipping sauce and rub.  I honestly don’t know if another shop like Paulette’s exists anywhere else in the city, but this is truly the first I’ve ever seen and I find it incredibly interesting and funky! 

I can’t promise any posts on the chicken (I don’t eat fried chicken and while the chicken sauces and rubs and accompanying sides do sound yummy, it’s going to take a bit of arm-twisting from a third party to convince me to try some!), but you can bet your sweet bottom I’m going to try some of those donuts!  I totally apologize for not having any real donuts to show you all in this post, but I had already eaten a toasted coconut donut the day prior to this impromptu, unexpected visit and I never eat the same indulgent treat two days in a row, not even cupcakes!  So I’ll just have to come back.         

A BIG thank you to the nice folks who allowed me to include them in my photo!

I’ve made a handful of Leslieville food posts since I started Ate by Ate highlighting spots such as Sweet Bliss Baking Company, Lady Marmalade, Steeped & Infused, Bobbette & Belle, and the Leslieville farmers’ market among others but this post right here just proves that this really is only the beginning of an amazing, lengthy food journey across a growing, well-loved community in the east end.

Home Sweet “Cupcake” Home – Whoopie Pies & Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes at Sweet Bliss Baking Company, Part II

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Sweet Bliss Baking Company is one of the cutest, sweetest, most adorable country chic bake shops in the city.  Each time I visit a new cupcake bakery, I think I’ve seen it all.  But as soon as I skip on over to the next cupcake shop on the master cupcake list (or just whichever new bakery that just happens to be in the vicinity), I’m met with an entirely different atmosphere and feel.  Some cupcakeries go sweet and colourful, some go haute couture cupcake style, and others keep it low maintenance and simple. 

Sweet Bliss Baking Company?  As warm and fuzzy as it gets.  It feels just like a cottage country, hometown bakery with its numerous shelves of homemade jams and preserves, wooden crates and accents, decorative mason jars, sweet daisies, and homey country decor.  It fits so perfectly in the Leslieville neighbourhood and as one of many cupcake and bakeshops on the Queen Street East, it totally holds it own and sets itself apart.  As well, Sweet Bliss is a great little shop to pick up cute gifts such as vintage trinkets and cinnamon bun candles!  Come for a sweet treat and come for some gift shopping!  I love it.  I love the soft colour palette, I love the happy, sunshiney outlook the shop has, and of course, I love the mountains of delicious desserts!  Sweet Bliss caters to every sweet tooth with their assortment of cupcakes, tarts (butter and lwild blueberries from Nova Scotia), cake loaves and squares (got lemon?), brownies, cookies, pies, scones, cinnamon buns (tooted as the best in the city by some!), whoopie pies, and cheesecake bars, in addition to savoury tarts (spinach) and coffee and tea drinks. 

While they do sell much of their product in single servings, they sell many of their of their products in what I like to call, “sweet and hungry packs”.  They have baskets full of multi-cookie bags such as raspberry jam-filled cookies, brownie bliss cookies, and ginger cookies among others.  Their prices for baked dessert items range from $1.90 to $$6.95, with “sweet and hungry packs” coming in at the latter price.  Cupcakes, specifically, are priced at $2.50 each which is phenomenal because there are very few cupcakeries now that have stuck with the $2.50 price point.  Most have either bumped it up to $2.65 or $2.85 for the most part, so Sweet Bliss earns extra brownie points for keeping things affordable!  As much as I wanted to inhale a juicy tart lemon bar or blueberry cheesecake tart, I held off on getting one and opted to stick with what I came into the shop for: the reigning cupcake.

Sweet Bliss has a variety of flavours to choose from including a pretty pink frosted vanilla, a carrot cake, a red velvet, a double chocolate, two types of coconut, and several others, and they keep their cupcakes cool in their sliding fridge along with their monstrously huge chocolate whoopie pies which are priced at $3 each.  They’re actually one of the very few bakeries I know of that keep their cupcakes cool in a fridge.  Aside from Miss Cora’s Kitchen in Kensington Market, nobody else does that and I have to say, given how we’ve had some ridiculous heat in the city so far this summer, it’s something I really appreciate it.  I know some people think refrigerating cupcakes is a sin, but we’re not talking about putting them into the deep freeze, we’re just talking about keeping them cool and keeping them from melting right off the bat. 

Their chocolate coconut cupcake looked amazing so I snagged one of those as well as a giant chocolate whoopie pie with pale blue marshmallow cream filling.  They looked too delicious to pass up!  And I mean it when I say that their whoopie pies are huuuuge.  The whoopie pie was almost the size of my entire hand!  And I know I don’t have the biggest hands in the world, but still!  Not only was it big and fat and round, but it was also stuffed with the yummiest looking pale blue marshmallow cream frosting.  The chocolate whoopie pies are SO fudgy (seriously, you have chocolate fudginess stuck to your fingers while you’re eating) and the marshmallow cream is so smooth, light, and airy with the delicious taste of vanilla cream.  It was wonderful because the lightness and airiness didn’t translate into thinness; the marshmallow filling was creamy with just the right amount of thickness and density to keep it from being runny or mushy.  It was delightful and so worth it.   

And the cupcake!  OH.MY.GOD.  You would also think that after all these cupcakes I’ve eaten, I’d feel nonchalant towards flavours that are relatively common.  Chocolate and coconut are flavours we see all the time on and in cupcakes but that certainly didn’t stop me from salivating it over the chocolate coconut cupcakes when I saw them through the glass door.  This chocolate coconut cupcake is NOT your average cupcake.  The chocolate cake was cocoa-y and fudgy, yes, but what makes this cupcake ridiculously amazing and delicious is the frosting and shredded coconut on top.  You’re used to having buttercream on a cupcake in either the soft, whippy state or in the thick, sweet, and creamy one.  Sometimes you even get some with the swiss meringue or ganache dip.  How many chocolate coconut cupcakes do you know of that have CREAM CHEESE FROSTING ON TOP?!  Holy mother of pearl!  This cupcake was like a fudgy chocolate creamy coconut cheesecake!  The cream cheese frosting on chocolate with shredded coconut was unbelievably delicious and every bite was like heaven.   

Two amazing sweets from one very fabulous bake shop and worth every penny for the wonderful quality, and not to mention, size!  Sweet Bliss has terrific product, a sweet shop with so much character, and incredibly nice people working in it.  It took me awhile to finally check it off my master cupcake shop list, and it lived up to all my sweet expectations, and then some.  I can’t wait for all the follow-up trips I plan on making in the future.

*****

Sweet Bliss Baking Company is located at 1304 Queen Street East in Leslieville, two blocks east of Leslie St.  Sweet Bliss Baking Company offers an assortment of sweet treats including cupcakes, tarts, cookies, and brownies, as well as coffee drinks, gifts, and more.  Hours and days of operation to be posted!

Country Sweet Chic – Jams, Cupcakes, Tarts, Whoopie Pies and More at Sweet Bliss Baking Company, Part I

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*****

Sweet Bliss Baking Company is located at 1304 Queen Street East in Leslieville, two blocks east of Leslie St.  Sweet Bliss Baking Company offers an assortment of sweet treats including cupcakes, tarts, cookies, and brownies, as well as coffee drinks, gifts, and more.  Hours and days of operation to be posted!

Sizzling Summer Markets – Summer Squash, Peas, Scallions, and More at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market

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Another summer weekend means another weekend market!  Between Evergreen Brick Works, The Stop at Wychwood Barns, the Junction market, and Liberty Village, there’s plenty of weekend market love to go around.  It’s been a little over a year since I started going to markets on a regular basis and it’s been amazing seeing how they transform between seasons and have they grow and evolve over time.  There are some markets I’ve only ever been to during the summer and some only during the winter so it’s a lot of fun seeing the differences and taking advantage of all the different food that comes along with these changes. 

In addition to visiting markets and seeing in seasonal lights, that are also a handful that I have yet to visit in general.  I have a list of Saturday and Sunday markets that I haven’t been to that I’m itching to scratch off including Withrow Park and most of the markets in Markham and York Region!  I know, I know – I live in Markham!  It was always easier for me to get around in Toronto though because of the day passes so that’s what I often opted for, but I have a strange way of getting around to things so I know I’ll get to them eventually.

For this particular market excursion, I made my way back to Leslieville!  I love the Riverside, Riverdale, Leslieville, and Beaches neighbourhoods along Queen East so planning  a trip to the Leslieville market is like planning an entire day trip because there’s so much to see and do!  It’s been months since my last visit – almost a year, actually, back in September when Jonathan Ashbridge Park was awash with fall colours and the air was chilly and crisp.  Not so much this time!  It was piping hot out, kiddies were running around screaming in the splash pool, and the market was busy and bustling with market goers and park enjoyers despite the sweltering heat.  It was so nice seeing the market so alive with activity.  Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops had completely sold out (and for good reason!), Hooked Inc. was on site grilling up fish tacos in fresh corn tortillas, and people were snatching up summer vegetables like they were nuggets of gold.    

Even though I’m a self-proclaimed summer wuss, I’m so happy I sucked it up and made the effort to go.  Every season has its own unique beauty and personality and both are evidently manifested and embodied at the market: in the environment, in the atmosphere, and of course, in the gorgeous fruits, vegetables, and bounty of food.  There were mountains of scallions in vibrant greens and purples, beets in shades of plum and bright pink, baskets of beautiful green beans, snow peas, cabbage, and baby Shanghai bok choy, adorable yellow patty pan squashes, crusty baguettes, summer sauces, spreads, and salsas, sweet potato donut holes from LPK Culinary Groove, vegetarian and vegan Indian food from Tiffinday, fresh farm cheese, and spring roll wraps, nut burgers, macaroons, and pesto spreads from my beloved market favourite, Earth & City

My brother and I love condiments, spreads, and sauces (we go through hummus, spicy mustard, and tzatziki like crazy) so I always pay attention to the jarred goodies at the market.  They’re great for sandwiches, vegetables, and things like chicken tenders, sausages, and samosas so we always have a few rotating in our fridge.  I snatched up a sundried tomato pesto spread from Earth & City ($5) this time around, but trust that I’ll give in and take home some chutneys, salsas, and other yummies the next time around! 

*****

Leslieville Farmers’ Market is located at Jonathan Ashbridge Park on Queen Street East and Woodward Ave.  Jonathan Ashbridge Park is located in between Greenwood and Coxwell Ave., and can be accessed via public transit by way of the Queen Street 501 streetcar.  The market is new to the lineup of Toronto markets this year and is held every Sunday from 9am-2pm.  The last market of the year is on October 28, 2012.  Visit their website to sign up to their newsletter, to get involved, and to learn more.

The Weekend Brunch Club – Neapolitan Eggs in Stewed Tomatoes, Potato Rosti, and Springtime Brunch at Table 17

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I’ll be the first to admit that I am one of the most indecisive people on this plant.  I have had the time of my life writing Ate by Ate, but I’m telling you, I drive myself crazy sometimes with my own waffling.  It takes me days to figure out which places I’d like to visit, what neighbourhoods I want to explore, and what menu items I want to try, and it’s not because I’m bored of my options – quite the opposite.  There are so MANY amazing choices for me to choose from that, as a result, I often find myself wanting to do a gazillion things at once and this in turn makes things harder because I know I have to come to a concrete decision sooner or later. 

This just in: for the first time in goodness knows how long, I had no trouble deciding on where I wanted to have a nice weekend brunch a few weeks ago and shockingly enough, what I wanted to have.  This easy breezy decision even took me by surprise.  My tummy knew exactly where it wanted to be fed: Table 17 on Queen East in Riverside.                

After the great brunch I had my first time there (The Sloppy Giuseppe!  Two fried sunnyside eggs with polenta, bolognese, and greens), I really wanted to go back to try some of their other brunch dishes, especially since I knew how great their variety was in terms of savoury egg breakfasts.  I always tell myself that I’ll get around to trying the French toast and pancake breakfasts, but when I go to places like Table 17, with their rustic, farmers’, local meshed with global atmosphere and menu, I always er on the side of savoury. 

Even though Table 17’s brunch menu isn’t exceptionally large (there are 10 main brunch dishes to choose from), what keeps those of us who thrive on variety coming back is their focus on seasonal ingredients and mixing up their cheeses and vegetables in dishes such as their weekly scramble, which changes every week, and their quiche which also changes on a weekly basis.

I settled on the Neapolitan Eggs with a side of potato rosti and while I do love the Sloppy Giuseppe more between the two, there’s such a brightness and freshness to the Neapolitan Eggs dish with its savoury tomato sauce and greens.  There’s a level of flavour depth in tomato sauce that is just uncomparable to anything else.  Just the thought of a big pot of tomato sauce with a hint of cream and a spattering of fresh herbs makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Growing up, I was always a fan of the cream sauces like alfredo, white wine, mushroom, and such.  I love them dearly still (spaghetti in white sauce or mushroom sauce will always be a weakness), but tomato sauce has really grown on me and I appreciate its flavour and versatility so much more. 

Neapolitan Eggs (or Eggs in Purgatory) is a classic southern Italian dish, originating in Campania in Naples and while the origins of its alternative name are subject to speculation*, Table 17 does a fabulous job on their menu of integrating these traditional, classic European flavours into their local framework.  Local, seasonal ingredients whenever possible, but globally inspired – that’s the intent and motivation.  Two of Table 17’s brunch dishes tip their hat at classic and traditional Italian favourites, including the Sloppy Giuseppe dish I had my first time and their Neapolitan Eggs.  Neapolitan Eggs can be made in a few different ways – eggs baked in tomato sauce or cracked into the sauce and then simmered – but Table 17 does it poached style. 

The dish ($10), which is also a vegetarian option, consists of two poached eggs in stewed tomatoes and basil on country toast with a green mix salad in olive oil vinaigrette.  My favourite aspects of the dish include the thick, runny yolks of the eggs (the delicious hallmark of an awesome poached egg), the thickness of the egg whites (they tasted so good with the cracked black pepper, oh my goodness), the texture of the tomato sauce (segments of crushed tomatoes strewn throughout tomato sauce juice with sweet onions), and the lightness of the dish as a whole.   

And of course, we can’t forget about the amazing potato rosti on the side!  Table 17 offers several side dishes ($4) in addition to their mains, things like double-smoked bacon, bangers (sausages), frites, and potato rosti.  Made with shredded potatoes and then formed into large patties for pan-frying, potato rostis are a fab alternative to hash browns and homefries.  Their potato rosti side is absolutely fabulous and it is SO DELICIOUSLY GOOD. 

The crispy, crunchy, waffle-like potato pancake came in a half moon pie shape and was cut into four wedges and was accompanied by a dish of sour cream.  It was perfect for dipping (in the sour cream and in my tomato sauce), it was crunchy and crispy on the outside and soft and potatoey on the inside, and it was so good eating mouthfuls of it with the mix of egg white, egg yolk, green salad, and sour cream.  It was brunch heaven in my mouth and it was a wonderful complement to my eggs and tomatoes because it just sopped up all the flavour and provided that tiny bit of fried crunchiness that makes everything extra awesome.

I’m already looking forward to my next brunch here and given how indecisive I am, it wouldn’t hurt for me to start thinking about what I’d love to try next.  I’m thinking of having either the Farmers’ Breakfast or the Weekly Scramble.  With potato rosti again.  Or maybe a side of bangers.  Or maybe I should just flip a coin.   

*****

Source *= Almost Italian.com

Table 17 is located at 782 Queen Street East in the Riverside district of Toronto in the east end.  They are located on the north side of Queen East, east of Broadview Ave. and west of Boulton Ave.  They are open 7 days a week for dinner at 5:30pm and are open for weekend brunch at 10:30am.  Brunch is served until 2:30pm.  Follow them on Twitter @table17, check out their Facebook page here, and their site here.

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.