Cupcake Heaven in My Mouth – Sweets, Fillings, and Boston Cream & Lemon Cupcakes at Yummy Stuff, Part II!

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You know a cupcake and dessert shop has you in the palm of their hand when it makes you weak in the knees and abnormally impulsive.  A minute after I walked into Yummy Stuff, I was piecing together a scrapbook layout in my mind’s eye even before I had even taken my camera out to start snapping and immediately after I enjoyed the heavenly blissfulness of their cupcakes, I wanted to hightail it on back to the shop!  You’d think that one cupcake shop trip would suffice for the day, but I was thisclose to disrupting my afternoon errands for the purposes of going back and let me tell you, the cupcake fanatic in me was fuming when I walked the other way and ultimately decided to save the second trip for another day.  Willpower, my lovelies, WILLPOWER.

Yummy Stuff, with their iconic bright green mixing whisk logo, is located in a neighbourhood that is surprisingly accessible.  It wasn’t until I started walking around and getting my geographical barings that I realized how easy it was to connect the dots around the city.  First off, it’s on Queen Street West so you have the Queen streetcar at your service to and from the sweet shop.  Second of all, it’s a hop, skip, and step away from Roncesvalles Ave. which is an open door to exploring the revitalized foodielicious Roncesvalles neighbourhood (remember my post about Seventh Sister Bakery?), a neighbourhood that holds so much Polish history and culture among many other gems.

And given how walkable the “downtown core” streets are northbound and southbound (basically, everything south of Bloor and on) you can easily walk south to Liberty Village, and northeast to Dundas West (Brockton Village and Little Portugal), Little Italy and the west end of College Street, and Dufferin Mall and Bloordale/Bloorcourt Village.  The exploration options are endless!  Sometimes my cupcake trips are spontaneous (the hankering never really goes away), but most of the time, they’re planned and if you want in on a little secret, it’s acually how I plan my days.  That’s right.  I plan my activities and routes around what cupcake shop I want to visit on that particular day.  Crazy?  Maybe a little.  Effective?  Very.  Madly in love with cupcakes?  Totally.

Yummy Stuff is a space that is similar to that of The Wedding Cake Shoppe in that their workspace, station, and design studio is somewhat visible from behind the counter.  They are purely walk-in and take-out only though – no tables and chairs here, so be prepared to eat your treats elsewhere.  And they have MANY treats!  In addition to their custom designed cakes, cupcakes, and decorated sugar cookies, they have canisters full of giant cookies (snickerdoodles, chocolate ginger, chocolate chip, and peanut butter among others), lemon squares and tarts, brownies, peanut butter chocolate squares, and other special cookies including shortbread, lintzer cookies, and chocolate toffee butter cookies! 

Selection will vary daily and weekly, but rest assured that there will never be a shortage of options!  Prices range from $1-$4 for most treats.  I want to go back as soon as I can so I can try one of their chocolate ginger cookies, a decorated sugar cookie (they have sugar cookies decorated and in the shape of cupcakes and ice cream cones, oh my god), and of course, many more cupcakes!

Cupcakes come in two sizes: regular ($2.75 each, $15 for half a dozen) and mini ($1 each) and on the day I went, they had 8 flavours to choose from.  Like many other cupcake shops, their cupcakes operate on a rotating system which means what you see one day may not be there the next.  Classics such as vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet would be present on a daily basis but all other flavours are fair game on any given day.  Their menu (taken straight off their website) includes banana, carrot, chocolate, coconut, lemon, mango, vanilla, raspberry, red velvet, and a special flavour of the month.  This month’s decadent treat?  BOSTON CREAM!

I picked up a lemon cupcake and a Boston Cream (wouldn’t you?!) and oh my goodness, they were both heavenly, especially the lemon one!  Both cupcakes had a vanilla cake bottom and while the lemon cupcake was swirled with frosting, the Boston Cream was covered in a chocolate ganache with chocolate sprinkles.  AND they both had fillings!  Not all bakeries make their cupcakes with fillings.  Some might have a few with fillings for special occasions, but off the top of my head, For the Love of Cake in Liberty Village is the only cupcake shop who bakes every single one of their cupcakes with fillings in them. 

The Boston Cream cupcake was filled with creamy custard and had a moist, vanilla sponge-cake like texture to it.  Even though it sounds extremely rich, it’s really not and it’s actually relatively light in comparison to the donut!  It’s not heavy at all and I think it’s a great cupcake that would appeal to people who want something decadent but who don’t necessarily want to feel heavy or gluttonous afterward.

And the lemon.  OH MY GOD THE LEMON.  Off the bat, this belongs in the Top 5 (possibly even Top 3) Most Amazing Lemon Cupcakes in Toronto.  My first goes to The Cupcake Shoppe’s Lemon Drop (read: the Lemon Drop, NOT the Lov’n Lemon!), then it’s just a kerfluffle of scrumptiousness that I can’t figure out.  There’s the lemon meringue cupcake from For the Love of Cake, the lemon one from Bake Sale on the Kingsway, and this one from Yummy Stuff.  This was SO.DAMN.GOOD.  A sweet, fruity, tangy frosting (read: frosting, not whippy buttercream or mousse) swirled on top of vanilla cake with a lemon curd filling inside.  The texture of the frosting is perfect (not gritty, not thin and watery, and not thick and cracking) and the flavour and taste is bang on.  It’s not cloyingingly or artificially sweet, but it packs BIG flavour that left my friends and I taken aback in the best way possible.  It it truly one of the best tasting cupcakes EVER and I would come back to one a million times over. 

I was curious when I saw Yummy Stuff’s website had a blog so I clicked on their link and happily found out about their special cupcakes of the month!  They have monthly entries on their blog providing updates on seasonal goodies, dessert projects, and new cupcake flavours and I’m really happy they have this as it gives everyone a more personal connection to them and a heads up about new and delicious treats!  I only wish I had come during Christmas because their dessert line-up looked amazing!  Sigh.  You have to start somewhere though and at least now I know how delicious their cupcakes really are and can look forward to eleventy billion more visits to come.   

*****

Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.

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A Cake and Cupcake, Sugar Cookie Wonderland! Bright and Cheerful Yummy Stuff on Queen Street West, Part I

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Walk into Yummy Stuff on Queen Street West in Parkdale and instantly your mood will go from gray to hurray!  Yummy Stuff’s bakery is a wonderland of custom designed cakes, fresh cupcakes, and cute-as-a-button decorated sugar cookies for every occasion.  I know most of Toronto’s cupcakeries are cute and colourful and whimsical, but never have I been inside one that was so happy and full of vibrant colour!  I felt like I was in one big giant Easter basket, frollicking through sprinkles and frostings with flowers and cute animals by the wayside.  I knew the second I stepped inside that this would be a bakery that I would want to come back to again and again, not just for the cupcakes and treats, but to admire the storefront displays and the beautiful pastry work that would undoubtedly change for every season and special holiday. 

Whether or not you would ever have a reason to go out and buy a custom-designed cake is irrelevant; gaining inspiration and learning about trends and new ideas is really beneficial to me because of the scrapbooking I do.  Believe it or not, I actually jot down random notes and take photos of what others would call, “nothing” just so I have something to jog my memory when it comes time to go back to it, like a beautiful colour combination or a mix of prints and patterns that I never considered.  I normally don’t have any issues formulating scrapbook layouts and colour schemes in my head after picking out the right photos, but I have to say, I was already mentally piecing together cardstock for a soon-to-be Yummy Stuff layout because the bakery makes it that easy to be inspired and excited about colour and sweets. 

Case in point: just look at the cakes in the photo up top!  I couldn’t stop looking at them because they were so pretty and unique!  I never even considered attaching decorated sugar cookies onto a frosted or fondant cake but it’s genius because you have a dessert on top of a dessert that just keeps on giving!  Everyone can have a sugar cookie and a slice of cake and have the best of both worlds.  The idea of jazzing up a cake with extras without taking away from it and making the cake and extras work together as one fluid concept is something I’ve definitely noticed in many cake shops over the last year or two.  I’ve seen a number of cakes accessorized with macarons (how luxurious!), but this was the first time I had ever since a cake decorated with themed sugar cookies and I absolutely loved the concept.       

Thanks to my friend and fellow cupcake diehard, Alex, I found out about Yummy Stuff through her blog and tucked away the sweet little nugget of information until I was ready to go (really though, when am I not ready for cupcakes?) and planned my visit around a special lunch date with some friends in the west end.  After this first visit, I was completely and utterly in love.  In love with the happy atmosphere, in love with the artistry, and of course, in love with the cupcakes!  And sugar cookies!  I have cupcake specifics and many more photos to share with you all, so bask in the sweet glow of gorgeous, mouthwatering desserts while I reminisce over my lemon cupcake and Boston Cream pie cupcake (OH YES) and we’ll hop to it with Part II tomorrow!    

*****

Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.

Warm, Heavenly, Bite-Sized Morsels of Cinnamon Sugar – Mini Donut Bliss at Little Nicky’s Coffee

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It’s about time I started some donut love on the blog!  Last Saturday (November 5th) was Donut Day (or Doughnut Day – I can’t decide which spelling I like better so forgive me if I started using them both interchangably in future posts) and I felt so lame for not having anything donut-related to post.  Even though I don’t eat them on a regular basis, I enjoy donuts in all of their many sugary shapes and varieties.  My favourites are ones with sprinkles (especially ones with chocolate sprinkles, and the pastel-coloured sprinkled donuts in the Bathurst subway station bakery!), Boston Creams, Sour Cream Glazed, cinnamon sugar dusted ones, and jelly donuts.  Oh, and coconut cream donuts.  That sounds like a whole lot!  I promise I’m not a glutton like Homer with a bottomless pit stomach for donuts.  Simply put, these are my favourites and if given a choice, I would choose these over other varieties in a heartbeat. 

I’ve certainly eaten my share of these glazed, powdered sugar dusted, jelly-filled, cream-filled, sprinkled confections over the years, yet here we are with zero donut posts on the blog.  A food blog with an undying devotion to sweets, no less.  All of that changes today though, thanks to my dear Lisa of Le Dolci!  She brought amazing, delicious, scrumptious mini donuts back to the studio for us yesterday and I loved them so much, I ate three of them and asked her where this mini donut heaven resided.  She told me and I went to get myself some more today.  Because they’re that delicious.

Behold, Little Nicky’s Coffee and the magnificent minis!  I know, I couldn’t believe it either when I first found out that these fabulous mini donuts that sent my tastebuds over the moon came from a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in downtown Toronto just off of Queen Street West and Peter Street.  Finding out about Little Nicky’s reminded me of how much fun it is to visit every coffee shop in town and to see what goodies are hiding behind the espresso machines and coffee mugs. 

Granted, coffee and coffee drinks should obviously be a coffee shop’s strong suit, but these shops function as more than just places to fuel up on some much needed caffiene.  Coffee shops are meeting spots for friends, casual date spots for couples, and over the last number of years, the perfect place to get cozy with your laptop.  Finding good eats and unique sweets is one of the best things about exploring coffee and tea shops and I’ve found some delicious sweets, baked goods, and tea time snacks in some of the most unexpected places.  I couldn’t be more thrilled about these adorable mini donuts! 

Little Nicky’s Coffee is a retro-style coffee haunt with cute decor to match – and I mean cute.  They have 30s, 40s, and 50s style wall ornaments and framed posters on the walls, and even a retro Chiclet dispenser machine on the counter!  I had to keep myself from snorting with giggles when I saw it because I remember how popular Chiclets used to be when I was little and how cool my friends and I felt when we were allowed to chew gum and got these in our Hallowe’en trick-or-treat bags.  Or maybe that was just me.  ANYWAY. 

They serve both coffee and tea drinks including steamers, lattes, espressos, Americanos, cortados, cappuccinos, as well as hot chocolate, apple cider, and smoothies.  They’re food menu consists of a daily assortment of baked goods (cookies, cake loaves, banana bread, and more) and toasted bagels and sandwiches to order.  One of these days I’m going to have to go to Little Nicky’s earlier in the day because some of their baked goods were sold out when I arrived today.  They had an empty glass cases/cookie jar that had a sticker on it that read “Oreo stuffed chocolate chip” which I can only assume refers to cookies.  OREO STUFFED CHOCOLATE CHIP?!  Sigh.  Next time. 

Their amazing, fresh, hot-out-of-the-donut-flippy-machine cinnamon suagr mini donuts are what draws the crowds to this coffee shop though!  Nearly everyone in the shop walked away with either half a dozen ($2.75) or a dozen ($4) warm mini donuts and they are fantastic.  Oh!  And all prices are inclusive are tax.  Hallelujah!  Trust a Canadian like myself to get excited about something like that.

It’s so much fun watching them put together your donuts.  The rings of donut dough float in a little vat of oil in the donut machine where a person uses a long chopstick-like stick to flip them over and guide them along until they reach the “conveyor belt” part of the machine.  From there, the mini donuts fly off the moving chain conveyor belt into a large white catch basin where they rest until a generous amount of minis congregate.  The mini donuts are then placed in a metal mixing bowl where they’re first tossed with powdered sugar between two mixing bowls (you can think of the toss and tumble process of the sugar and donuts as kind of like the separation of an egg white from an egg yolk when you use the shells to plop the yolk back and forth) and then tossed again with a generous helping of cinnamon.  The result?  Pillow-soft, mouthwatering cinnamon sugar donuts that are hot and fresh and waiting to be devoured.

These mini donuts are some of the best donuts I’ve ever had.  Are you familiar with Tiny Tom donuts?  You are?  Good.  Little Nicky’s cinnamon sugar minis totally own the Tiny Tom ones.  Oh c’mon, you don’t have to look so incredulous.  I know Tiny Tom donuts have a large following, but I’m not kidding around when I say these blow them out of the water.  They’re incredibly soft, they don’t taste cakey or dry, and the cinnamon sugar flavour is perfectly sweet with that dusted coarse sugar texture that literally melts in your mouth as soon as you eat them.  And one of the best parts?  They’re not greasy!  I was half-expecting my little paper/wax baggy to get blotchy oil spots on it as the day went on, but the bag was clean as a whistle when I brought them home.  It is so easy to eat an entire batch of these and if I wasn’t so concerned about sharing these with the rest of my family, I would have downed the entire half dozen all on my own.  It really isn’t hard.

*****

Little Nicky’s Coffee is located at 375 Queen Street West, just south of Queen on Peter Street.  Peter Street is just east of Spadina Ave.

The Vegetarian Sandwich Series – Grilled Panini With Eggplant, Roasted Peppers, Artichokes and More at Fusaro’s Kitchen

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Things have been quiet on the Vegetarian Sandwich series front, so I thought it was definitely time to unleash some veggie goodness back into things!  I have my fellow Icing Sugar Queen at Le Dolci, Miya, to thank for the inspiration behind this post.  Not only have I learned so much about cupcake decorating and design during my time at Le Dolci so far, but Miya and Lisa have also introduced me to some fabulous good eats around the studio!  It’s fun bouncing ideas and recommendations off of one another; I tell Lisa and Miya all about my farmers’ market adventures, they show me another island of vegetarian sandwich paradise. 

When I saw Miya eating her veggie sandwich during lunch one day at the studio, I got curious because it looked so yummy and I asked her where she got her sandwich from.  “Fusaro’s Kitchen”, she replied, between bites.  I was quiet for about a nanosecond before the lightbulb went off and I almost literally face-palmed.  Fusaro’s Kitchen!  I knew where that was!  I had passed by it numerous times on the streetcar and walked past it another handful of times.  It was like deja vu all over again when I finally discovered Mela Cafe in Yorkville over a year ago after being in and around the neighbourhood so many times.  I felt so lame.  But I did what any dedicated foodie would do: I went and ate there.

Fusaro’s Kitchen, located on Spadina Ave. just south of Queen Street West, is an Italian eatery with hot and fresh pizzas, pastas, salads, and panini sandwiches.  I went in and instantly thought, “where have you been all my life?!”  Or rather, where in the world have I been?  Fusaro’s has a giant wall full of Italian grocery items including chocolates, wafer cookies (Quadratinis, my favourites!), sauces, olive oils, balsamics, and more. 

I know I don’t blog about it enough, but god do I ever love pasta.  Pasta is my weakness.  I love it more than rice and bread.  I suppose rice comes in at a close second when it comes to carbs and starches, but pasta makes me really happy.  Spaghetti, lasagna, linguine, macaroni, fettucine, I love it all and I would be a happy clam if I was just given a bowl of spaghtti with nothing but olive oil and herbs.  The pasta lover in me instinctively wanted to down a bowl for lunch, but I quickly remembered why I was there: to stuff my face with a delicious veggie panini.

Fusaro’s has menus dedicated to grilled panini sandwiches, pasta, salads, and dishes such as eggplant, chicken, and veal parmigiana, meatballs, and others.  Prices for pasta come in at around $10-$11, parmigiana and meatball mains at $8.50-$10.50, salads from $4.75-$10, and panini sandwiches from $7.50-$8.  Fusaro’s has two vegetarian sandwich options and I chose menu item number five (cinque), a grilled panini with grilled zucchini and eggplant, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, and goat cheese.  I ordered a side salad ($2.50) to go along with it and waited in excited anticipation for my lunch.  I was so excited like you wouldn’t believe.  I know it’s “just” a sandwich, but I was excited about the veggie toppings (I rarely get to eat artichokes!  And you all know how I feel about things like roasted peppers, spinach, and goat cheese!) and I really believed this panini would be a knockout.

Grilled paninis have been touch and go with me.  They’re either a total hit or a dismal miss.  I love the idea of a grilled sandwich and when it’s executed well, it’s heaven.  When they’re a miss though, often times it’s not necessarily because they don’t taste good or that the flavour isn’t there, it’s because they’re either too small, they don’t have enough substance between the bread, or the topping combinations are ho-hum and nothing to write home about.  Sandwiches of this variety will always range from about $5-$11 depending on where you go, so a fabulous panini has to be bang for my buck and it has to have ingredients worth get excited about, especially when it’s a vegetarian sandwich.  It just doesn’t make sense to eat something with nothing but lettuce and tomato and a few strands of something else.

I loved this sandwich.  This sandwich makes me want to come to Fusaro’s every day of the week.  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating.  But only a little.  For one thing, it wasn’t small.  This was a good-sized sandwich in both length and width, comparatible to a submarine bun from a bakery.  It wasn’t the size of a foot-long, but definitely larger than 6 inches.  I’d say it was closer to 8 inches.  The bread was so crunchy on the outside and so super soft on the inside.  The hallmark of a good sandwich is whether or not you can envision yourself eating the bread alone.  If the bread needs toppings to make it taste good, it means it isn’t.  The bread should make your mouth water all by itself and this bread does. 

And the toppings.  Oh my god.  Vegetarians rejoice.  There was so much going on in this sandwich and it was all amazingly delicious.  It was so stuffed with juicy vegetables and mouthwatering, creamy sauce.  A bed of leafy spinach sat on the bottom with strips of roasted red pepper, chunks of artichoke, eggplant, and zucchini on top with goat cheese wedged throughout.  The sauce was fantastic.  It was a cross between a cream sauce and a mayo and it was delightful.  I would eat this sandwich over and over again in a heartbeat.

Oh, and the salad!  The salad was a simple salad of greens, tomatoes, and cucumber and it was made especially delicious with an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette and I’m telling you, their balsamic is top-notch.  I never used to like balsamic, but after an amazing meal at Southern Accent with a fabulous balsamic reduction and a great balsamic my mum bought, I’ve done a 180 and now I really enjoy it and can appreciate good balsamic.  I was so happy with everything about this meal and I can’t wait to eat here again.  Judging by the crazy line-ups here though, I’m going to have to luck out again next time.

 

*****

Fusaro’s Kitchen is located at 147 Spadina Ave., just south of Queen Street West on the east side of Spadina.  Fusaro’s Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers a breakfast menu 7 days a week.

Relishing in ‘Delightful’ Blueberry Cheesecake and Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream at Delight Fair Trade Chocolate!

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It’s rich, it’s creamy, it’s made from coconut milk, and it’s dairy-free: it’s a vegan chocolate ice cream alert!  And it’s deliciously decadent.  I’m a little bummed that I’ll be seeing the Toronto Chocolate Festival this year come to a close without tucking a little sweet something-something under my belt to show you all, but I think the delicious vegan chocolate ice cream I have here more than makes up for that.  As I said to my friend Christina a few weeks ago, Toronto may not be the vegan capital of the world, but there sure are some darn amazing vegan establishments and good eats around the city, and Delight Fair Trade Chocolate in the Junction is one of them! 

I made my discovery of Delight Chocolate waaay back in April when I was visiting Bunners Bake Shop during Veggielicious and walking around the Junction neighbourhood for the very first time.  As I was walking to Bunners along Dundas West, I passed by Delight before it had opened its doors for business and stopped to stare.  The storefront was beautiful to look at with its cursive logo in black and white, its black and white striped curtains tied with bright red bows, and its tiny little wooden bench sitting outside.  I stuck my nose against the storefront window and peered inside at the wooden furniture and shelves of chocolate.  The shop looked so pretty and elegant, and I had no idea at the time that it held such yummy treasures inside.

After doing a quick Google search, I found out that Delight Chocolate not only sold Fair Trade handmade chocolates, but that they also sold ice cream!  YES!  Another ice cream parlour, chocolatier, and cafe on the foodie hit list!  Along with the chocolate and ice cream are the juicy sorbets made from seasonal fruits, and cafe drinks.  At Delight, the emphasis is placed on using local, organic ingredients alongside Fair Trade chocolate. 

The term “Fair Trade” isn’t tossed around or used as a gimmick.  Delight truly believes in the importance of supporting equitable working conditions and the positive, ethical treatment of farmers and workers and the environment.  The business goes out of their way to source ingredients from Ontario and Canadian farmers and to form co-operative relationships through Camino/La Siembra.  Delight fully discloses all ingredient information used in their products right down to the farms the ingredients came from, such as Harmony Organic and Certified Local Food Plus.  In a nutshell, the chocolate and ice cream here are a representation of the belief in reciprocity via sustainability, growth in communities, and respect for everything and everyone involved in creating the food we eat.

Delight’s lineup of ice cream flavours is amazing because not only do they have some really unique and creative flavours, many of the flavours are truly local and Canadiana.  Aside from the mainstays like mint chocolate chip, vanilla, and chocolate peanut butter chip, the real standouts are the flavours such as spiced plum, honey lavender, peaches n’ cream, Niagara apricot, Quebec Blue Cheese, Blueberry Cheesecake, and Delight’s signature vegan chocolate ice cream!  Aside from organic and vegetarian/vegan grocery stores, there are a handful of places in the city that serve vegan ice cream and Delight’s specialty is the vegan chocolate.  I’m hoping to introduce many more options as time goes on, so you can consider this the first post in a tentative vegan ice cream series! 

Prices for ice cream differ based on whether you have it in a cup or in a handmade waffle cone, but a single scoop in a cup will run you $3.25, a single scoop in a waffle cone at $3.95, a double scoop serving in a cup at $5.50, and a double scoop on a waffle cone at $5.95.  Given how generous the scoop portions are and given how utterly mouthwateringly delicious the ice cream is, it is well worth it.

I knew I wanted the vegan chocolate from the get-go.  I was about to settle with just the one scoop until I saw all my other options.  I internally groaned.  The decision was going to be achingly difficult.  What flavour to choose for the 2nd scoop??  After hemming and hawing, I chose the blueberry cheesecake.  It sounded fab and the colour was beautiful.  The blueberry cheesecake is everything that you could ever want in a cheesecake flavour.  It’s thick, it’s tangy, and even though there’s no graham cracker crumb crust in the ice cream, you can literally TASTE it in every bite.  The blueberry and cheesecake flavour is a beautiful combination because the simaltaneous sour and juicy sweet flavour of the blueberry melds with the creamy tanginess which results in a wonderfully rich ice cream. 

And speaking of rich, the vegan chocolate was oh-my-god-out-of-this-world.  I don’t think you’ve truly eaten an amazing chocolate ice cream until you have eaten the vegan chocolate at Delight.  I loved the texture and consistency.  It’s not melty or runny and when you spoon it, it holds its shape so that when you put a nice, chocolately chunk of it in your mouth, you get all of the thick creamy goodness thanks to the coconut milk.  It’s thick and rich and the chocolate flavour just shines with that perfect punch of bitterness that tastes so amazing in dark chocolate.  You know the kind I’m referring to.  The type of dark chocolate that isn’t too strong or overwhelming, but still has a high enough percentage of cocoa solids to really let the natural cocoa shine through.  I loved that hint of bitter, natural cocoa flavour.

    

Now that it’s fall, Delight has a pumpkin pie ice cream that I’m dying to try!  It’s time for another visit because the Fall Harvest Series (and my tastebuds) are waiting for it.

*****

Delight has two locations in Toronto with one serving the Junction neighbourhood at 3040 Dundas Street West and the other located by Trinity Bellwoods Park in the West Queen West neighbourhood at 805 Queen Street West.  For more info, visit their website here.

The Fall Harvest Series – It’s Time For Pumpkin Sweets! Delicious Pumpkin Pie Gelato at Boreal Gelato Company

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I’m so excited to finally introduce my very first gelato post to the blog!  And I’m so ecstatic I finally got to do some scrapbooking!  It took me forever and a half to get my photos developed.  I had some layout sketches done, but for weeks I could never find the right time to get them developed (I was either at Le Dolci or out with my boyfriend or family, and no where near a Wal-mart, Loblaws, or any other photo developing spot) and my scrapbooking withdrawal was making me seriously cranky.  Moping-in-front-of-the-tv-and-glaring-at-the-supplies-I-couldn’t use-yet cranky.  I’m fine now.  Peeling and slapping stickers on cardstock alleviated my teeth-grinding and now I get to look forward to replenishing my stash of fall and alphabet stickers!  That, and maybe some Hallowe’en goodies too.  It’s going to be great. 

I have Andrew/TOfoodie on Twitter to thank for this delicious snack and post.  He mentioned PUMPKIN PIE GELATO and holy mother of pearl, I couldn’t scribble the details down fast enough if I tried.  I may love cupcakes and cake, but I also loooove ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato.  I’m the one who eats frozen dessert treats in the dead of winter while everyone else is hugging their coffee cups for dear life.  I promised myself I’d fatten up the ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato categories on here because compared to what I have on cupcakes, it’s paltry.  So here we are with the first gelato post featuring the pumpkin pie gelato from The Boreal Gelato Company in Parkdale!  When I first started doing a little research for the Fall Harvest series, I came across so many sweet pumpkin goodies and options around the city!  Cupcakes, teas, lattes, cookies, tarts, loaves, and yes, GELATO!  I kept them in mind and slowly but surely, I’m going to tick them off one by one.

The Boreal Gelato Company, located on Queen West just west of Dufferin St., is amazing.  Check out the adorable Inuksuk logo!  With an emphasis on homegrown, local Canadian ingredients, Boreal Gelato strives to be ethically sound and as environmentally conscious as possible, using certified fair-trade products and biodegradable packaging, as well as offering patrons a place to dispose their recycables and compostable waste.  Now, obviously, their efforts to use local, Canadian ingredients can only go so far as certain products don’t grow in Canada (cocoa, coconuts, and bananas, for example)*, but their mission is to offer customers the best of the best when it comes to the availability of seasonal, local fare. 

Not only do they have a fab selection of gelato flavours, but they also have a great cafe menu (they serve weekend brunch now too!), and ample seating inside the shop.  I know you can look up their gelato flavours on their website, but not all the flavours are listed and I’m going to throw out a few that I saw that day just to make this post a little more exclusive 😉  Flavours include tiramisu, anise (black licorice), Irish cream, coconut cream, salted caramel, triple chocolate crunch, earl grey, spicy rosemary shortbread, pumpkin pie, and gingerbread.  The sheer volume of flavours is one of the things I love most about gelato shops.  Some of the flavours are just so creaitve and it makes you salivate looking at all the metal bins filled up with colourful, delicious gelato.

I know some people like or find it necessary to take their food to go, but I like having a spot to sit down when I’m in a place and Boreal Gelato has plenty of comfortable seating inside, with tables and chairs and a long seating booth against one wall.  It’s open, it’s airy and spacious, and it’s exactly what I love about shops with seating.  Although their specialty is gelato and sorbet, their menu isn’t exclusive to just those two items.  They have coffee drinks (espressos, cappuccinos, cafe mochas, macchiatos, pumpkin lattes, and hot chocolates), fruit, milk, and soda drinks (think apple cider, smoothies, root beer floats, and milkshakes), cakes, pies, cookies, baked Alaska (I know, oh my gosh), annnd gelato cookie sandwiches!

Their prices are very average and run-of-the-mill in comparision to other gelato places in and around the city (and yes, I’ve eaten at other places but just haven’t blogged about them!  If I don’t like my photos or if I don’t have any, it doesn’t get blogged).  There are 3 tiers: mini scoop ($2.75), regular scoop ($4.00), and double scoop ($5.50), and what’s really fab about their scooping arrangement is that you can choose two flavours to make one scoop!  So if you’re indecisive like me, this is perfect for you!  Oh!  And toppings!  You get free toppings!  Right by the cash, there are canisters of topping goodies and squeeze bottles of sauces to dress up your gelato or sorbet.  That day they had pecan and walnut topping, graham cracker crumbs, cocoa nibs, and chocolate, caramel, and maple syrup. 

I got myself some pumpkin pie and vanilla bean gelato and sprinkled graham cracker crumbs onto it and oh my goodness, this was even BETTER than actual pumpkin pie!  I could have eaten triple scoops of this.  So refreshing, so smooth and creamy, and sweet!  I have friends who always wish pumpkin desserts were just a tad sweeter and this gelato delivers.  The sweet flavour and cool refreshingness does it for me.  I wouldn’t say that pie itself is necessarily drying, but when you eat this, you just feel it melt in your mouth the way pie never could.  The pumpkin pie gelato was amazing, with the perfect balance of sweetness and earthiness with a hint of spice, and combined with the vanilla bean and graham cracker crumbs it was like eating creamy, sweet, scrumptious pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust and vanilla ice cream on top.    

I have something embarrassing to admit right now though.  I was SO excited about stuffing my face into the pumpkin pie gelato that the rest of the menu was completely lost on me.  And I feel so silly because of it.  I went in with the intention of eating the amazing pumpkin pie gelato and although I got what I wanted (which I’m thankful for – they sold out of their first batch and JUST had another one ready for me when I came in!), I would have ordered a gelato cookie sandwich and pumpkin latte had I realized they had something like that!  It was only after I finished my gelato that I realized how much other stuff they had and I almost groaned out loud at my stupidity.  Sigh.  Well, that just means I’m going to have to go back again.  And again.  And again.

*****

The Boreal Gelato Company is located at 1312 Queen Street West in Parkdale, just west of Dufferin St. between Noble St. and Elm Grove Ave.  They serve weekend brunch and are open from Tuesday to Sunday.  Their hours from Tuesday to Thursday are 1pm-10pm, 1pm-midnight on Fridays, 10am-midnight on Saturdays, and 10am-10pm on Sundays.  Click here to visit their website.

Source*= Boreal Gelato website

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

The Vegan Chili Series! First Up: Vegan Chili Brunch With Grilled Tofu Steaks at Niche Coffee & Tea on Queen West

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I’m not quite ready to unleash Ate by Ate’s Fall Harvest series just yet, so I thought it’d be fun to do a bit of a lead-in to get us all revved up first!  The best thing about fall food is the warm and fuzzy comfort factor and chili and stews are some of the best meals to induce that great cozy cocoon feeling.  Enter the vegan chili series to Ate by Ate!  Over the past year, I’ve come across a number of places around the city that serve their own unique interpretations and versions of vegan chili and I’m so excited to start this new series, not only as an individual series, but also as tie-in to the upcoming Fall Harvest series on the blog. 

Why the interest in vegan chili though, and how did I become interested in vegan chili in the first place?  Let it be known that I absolutely hate beef chili.  I may not be vegetarian or vegan, but that certainly doesn’t mean I enjoy all meat dishes and beef chili is one such meal I’d turn the other cheek to.  I can see myself enjoying turkey chili and I’m actually really looking forward to making some of my own in the near future, but for the time being, vegetarian and vegan chili is my way to go.  I have so many vegetarian and vegan friends (some of you might be reading this right now!) and I thought this would be a great way to introduce some veggie meals and the places that serve them to you all so you can tuck the information away for future reference.  Or if you’re really into what I post, you might just run on over right now and try the dishes out for yourself!

The first time I had vegan chili was 3 years ago when I was a newbie grad student eating lunch at The Grad Lounge at York.  As an every day, permanent menu item, the vegan chili was one of the most popular meals and I was constantly seeing people order it with the cute little corn muffins for lunch.  Growing up though, I was never the biggest fan of chili (I blame the beef varieties for turning me off) so even though I knew so many of my friends and classmates enjoyed it, I shyed away from it at first.  Then temptation and curiousity took over and I said to myself, “to hell with it, I’m getting me a bowl!”  And from then on, my chili ways changed forever and their vegan chili became one of my favourites, especially during the fall and winter.  Granted, my chili remained vegetarian as opposed to vegan at times because of the side of sour cream I’d order, but the meal itself is vegan through and through and a well-loved meal among the graduate student community.

Now, let’s get started with the first post of this vegan chili series!  First up, the grilled tofu on vegan chili brunch at Niche Coffee & Tea Company!  I mentioned this brunch dish in my first Niche post almost two weeks ago and I was itching to have this showcased in the series the second I found out the dish existed on the menu.  Niche is a coffee, tea, and brunch cafe located on Queen Street West just west of Bathurst St. with everything from eggs benny to French toast to omelettes to banana bread with Nutella and cinnamon sugar.  Their vegan chili is served two ways: vegetarian with eggs, or vegan with grilled tofu, and both styles ($10.50) come with your choice of either homemade grilled foccacia or cornbread.  I was so excited to order this that I was fidgeting in my seat and probably grinning like a fool when the nice waitress came around to take my order.  And that excitement wasn’t die down when my food came.  Behold!

What we have here: a nice big bowl of chili made with spiced tomato curry puree, chickpeas, red kidney beans, diced carrots, celery, and corn, served with 4 grilled tofu steaks, strips of crunchy baked tortilla chips, a slice of fresh tomato, arugula (no guacamole for this time unfortunately, but that wasn’t a big deal), and grilled wedges of fresh foccacia.  Oh my goodness, there were so many wonderful things about this meal.  First, the chili had some kick to it!  If you can’t tolerate heat in the slightest amount, this might not be the most comfortable meal for you to eat, but if you’re like me and you can take a bit of kick, you will LOVE this!  The flavour is so different because it’s not your run-of-the-mill crushed tomato chili.  It’s almost like a fusion of curry, tomato, and chili and I enjoyed it so much. 

The grilled tofu steaks were perfection.  They were so cute, like mini decks of tofu cards 😀  The texture was firm, the flavour was savoury, and there was that slight crispness around the edges from the grilling that made it even more delicious.  The crunchy tortilla strips were a fabulous addition and the foccacia…oh man.  I think the grilled foccacia wedges I had with this meal might have been some of the most delicious bread I’ve ever had.  The edges and outsides were crisp and the insides were amazingly soft and the bread just melts in your mouth.  It had a wonderful rosemary-thyme and olive oil flavour and I literally said, “ohhhh my god, this is so good” out loud after I took my first bite of it.

The whole vegan chili and tofu dish worked so well because of all the different textures (soft, crispy, juicy, moist, etc.) and all the flavours.  Even though I was drinking water with my meal, the tofu and foccacia is the perfect complement to the heat from the chili because it mellows it out and you get the best of all the flavours when you alternate between all the items of food.

If you try this out, I hope you’ll all enjoy it as much as I did.  If you have suggestions or requests for the series, feel free to leave a comment!  This is the first of hopefully many more vegan chili posts to come!

*****

Niche Coffee & Tea Company is located at 626 Queen Street West just east of Palmerston Ave. and west of Bathurst St.  They serve brunch during all hours of operations and are open 7 days a week at 8am on weekdays and 9am on weekends, with closing hours at 5pm on all days.