Scones & Strawberry Marshmallow Macarons – Afternoon Tea Treats on a Fall Morning at Yorkville Espresso Bar

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Ste. Anne’s coconut black tea at Yorkville Espresso Bar!

An espresso bar and cafe with amazing tea, delicious scones, and adorable macarons among other afternoon tea-style sweets and treats?  In the picturesque neighbourhood of Yorkville?  That’s a cafe after my own heart!  Yorkville Espresso Bar, located at 3 Yorkville Ave. just west of Yonge Street near the Toronto reference library and just steps away from the Cookbook Store and my beloved Italian-vegetarian Mela Cafe, is a new cafe that just opened up last year and after my very first visit, I think it’s a wonderful and splenderific addition to the neighbourhood.  Brunch, vegetarian, Mexican, ice cream, macarons, Italian, Middle-Eastern, pub classics, and now a new espresso bar and cafe – aside from Kensington Market, Yorkville is truly my ideal place to eat to my heart’s content.

The pretty Yorkville park nearby

I know, there are plenty of cafes in the area including Lettieri and Zaza, not to mention around the city in general, so what makes this space so great?  The thing about cafes is that they have to offer something different, something a little more unique in order to stand out from the others.  Because let’s face it, it’s not like we have to go very far to fetch an Americano, a cappuccino, or an espresso and while yes, every cafe will have their own way of making these drinks, it’s the atmosphere and the food goodies that accompany these drinks that will make us foodies feel compelled to come back for more.  Some cafes offer the comfort factor with plushy seats to relax in while you read, sip, munch, or type away on a laptop (or a tablet, sigh), others are great as meeting spots for friends, and then the are the ones that are fabulous purely for the food and drink.  THIS would be Yorkville Espresso Bar’s forte.

It’s a small space so you wouldn’t necessarily see large groups inhabiting it, but it is cozy enough for you to sit down with a friend and a coffee, tea, and light meal or snack.  And let me just say, Yorkville Espresso Bar is awesomesauce in the food and goodies department.  There is something here for everyone: the sweet tooth, the vegetarian, the gluten-intolerant, and the just plain hungry!  Often times I’ll shy away from certain spots, not because I think their drinks are bad persay, but because I want something a little more special than baked goods wrapped in saran wrap in a basket or baked goods that look as though they just got a shot of steroids and a bath in grease.  That could be the food snob in me tsking but really, it’s unappealing and I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way!

Yorkville Espresso Bar is great though because their selection of food and sweets changes on a pretty consistent basis (from what I gather on their Facebook page where they announce menu items for the day), they’re always coming up with new and unique yummies to showcase, they offer a number of gluten-free menu items (see below in the next few paragraphs for examples!), and you know everything is fresh and hot off the press because the adjoining kitchen studio that handles the baking, cooking, and catering for the espresso bar doles them out throughout the day.  They were already baking their 2nd round of scones at 10am on a Sunday morning because they sold out of their 1st round.   Can you believe it?!

Oh!  And I can’t forget about their tea!  I honking LOVE the tea.  They get their teas from Ste. Anne’s (Ste. Anne’s Extraordinary Teas), which is actually a spa located in several spots in Ontario (Grafton and Port Hope) and the whole concept behind the tea is driven by the relaxing spa experience.  I had their black tea coconut tea with my cinnamon scone and strawberry marshmallow macaron (I KNOW – MARSHMALLOW!) and I loved it to itty bitty pieces.

Their food menu is insane.  Let’s start with the savoury, gluten-free muffins first.  These are items that have graced their display case of goodies over the last few months:

  • sweet potato chocolate chip muffins
  • sweet potato and cranberry muffins
  • carrot and beetroot muffins
  • blueberry flaxseed muffins
  • gluten-free, vegan chocolate zucchini muffins!

Other savoury bites include jalapeno cornbread, brioche with dates, Parmesan, and thyme, 8-year old cheddar and chive scones, and bacon and thyme scones.  Okay, now the sweet stuff including cupcakes, gluten-free sweet muffins, sweet scones, chocolate and confectionery, and more:

  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mango and Nutella frosting and dried mango
  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mango buttercream frosting
  • mini chocolate cupcakes with mocha buttercream frosting
  • mini chocolate berry cheesecake cupcakes

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The Goodness of Food at The Depanneur – April Supper Clubs, Drop-In Dinners, and Grilled Cheese Month!

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Never a dull food moment!

Easter weekend has come and gone for another year and while mine was rather uneventful and forgettable, I hope everyone who celebrated had a wonderful time with their family and friends eating treats, dyeing eggs, baking, hunting for eggs, and cooing at cute bunny things!  Given how lackluster my weekend was though, I’m looking forward to the rest of the month and that means getting my grilled cheese on!  Now that everyone’s bellies are happy and full of chocolate eggs and bunnies, marshmallows, and Easter dinner, it’s time to bring on the grilled cheese for the month of April in honour of National Grilled Cheese Month.  I’ve been having ridiculous havarti and cheddar cheese cravings lately and I desparately need to satiate them with some ooy gooey crunchy sandwiches this month. 

Aside from Cheesewerks on Wellington and Bathurst, Grilled Cheese in Kensington Market, The Construction Site at Yonge and Eglinton, Leslieville Cheese Market on Queen East and West, and Cool Hand Luc on King West, The Depanneur (at College and Dufferin) is yet another wonderful spot you can go to to satisfy those grilled cheese cravings!  While my last and latest visit didn’t involve any grilled cheeses, I’m here to remind everyone that The Depanneur normally serves two kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches every day for lunch (except Mondays because they’re closed), using plenty of ingredients from local farms and businesses and fresh baked bread from local bakeries such as Nice Buns and St. John’s.

A sneak peek of tomorrow's post!

The grilled cheese menu selection ($4 for a half, $7 for a whole, tax inclusive) could be a mozzarella with peameal bacon on raisin walnut bread, a cheddar sandwich with arugula pesto on sourdough, or a cheddar and sauteed mushroom mix.  I’ve been enjoying their breakfast sandwiches thus far, so regardless of whether I get around to having a grilled cheese from The Depanneur this month, I’m just excited to try one at some point in time!

This month also brings a whole slew of upcoming Drop-In Dinners ($10) and Supper Club events!  If you’ve been keeping up with the The Depanneur’s Food Events in the Food Calendar, you’ll have noticed that Len and his team have been churning out some amazing, creative events: evenings of vegetarian and vegan Mexican and Jamaican, a black and white coloured themed supper club dinner, Nonya and Malaysian cuisine, Cuban flavour, and meat-centric ribs, sliders, and pork meals.  I love, love, LOVE how creative and all-encompassing these supper clubs and drop-in dinners are.  You have meals that cater to meat-lovers, you have ones that are vegetarian and vegan up and down, you have an emphasis on soups, on grains, on dessert, everything could possibly want and think of.  Trust that when I live in the thick of Toronto in the future, I will be at these events!

April Supper Clubs and Drop-In Dinners – I’ll be adding these to the Food Calendar with full descriptions as they come!

  • Sunday, April 21st – A Mexican Culinary Affair With Chef Natalie Ryan (Supper Club)
  • Monday, April 22nd – Vegetarian Eritrean (African) Dinner With Live Music & Coffee Ceremony (Supper Club)
  • Friday, April 27th – Homemade Popovers and Soup (Drop-In Dinner)
  • Sunday, April 29th – Island Fever!  Spicy I-tal Vegan Dinner With Kalmplex

*****

The Depannuer is located at 1033 College Street between Dovercourt Rd. and Dufferin Street.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays) with a number of cooking classes, food workshops, drop-in dinners, and supper clubs throughout the month, which you can keep up with on the Food Calendar or on their Twitter @TheDepanneur.  You can view The Depannuer’s Facebook page here.

P is for Pesto-Perfect! Pesto White Beans Brown Rice Bowl and Puree of Green Vegetable & Pesto Soup at Fresh

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I have missed Fresh so much.  Sometimes you don’t even realize just how much you’ve missed something until you come back to it.  After several months of withdrawal, I finally snagged my Fresh fix over the holidays and introduced yet another category of menu items to my happy belly: soups!  After a year of delicious meals here it’s hard to believe my lips never touched even one of Fresh’s vast, amazing menu of vegetarian and vegan soups, but all of that changed when I strolled in for lunch on a chilly winter’s day (which is saying a lot considering our winter has been incredibly mild thus far!) just before the new year. 

I was a girl on a mission: to slurp and spoon my way through a bowl of Fresh soup heaven.  Luck was on my side that day because I had a hankering for pesto (who am I kidding – I always want pesto) and the vegetarian gods answered my prayers with a Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup option!  It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.

All three Fresh locations in Toronto serve two soups daily.  The selection changes every day and depending on the location, the choices may also slightly vary.  For example, one soup might be present at all three locations on a given day, while the 2nd choice might be different at one or two of the other locations.  All of Fresh’s soups are vegan and they incorporate everything from beans to vegetables to herbs to spices, resulting in a very large breadth of flavour, texture, and colour. 

There are 32 different soups currently presenting on their rotating soup menu (I counted them on their online menu!), and some of these soups include curried red lentil stew with zucchini, baby lima beans, and sage; leek and potato with rosemary; mushroom and eggplant stroganoff with toasted caraway seeds; and puree of curried yam and apple.  Needless to say, it is going to take me a very long time to try even five of their soups, much less all 32!

 

On their own, soups can either be ordered in a cup size like the one I chose ($3.50) or in an entree bowl size ($6), and can either be accessorized with a toasted organic whole wheat pita on the side ($2.50) or with grilled cornbread for $3.  If you’re looking to jazz things up with a salad, Fresh offers a soup, cornbread, and salad combo (small $9, large $11.50) where you can order a cup or bowl of soup alongside two slices of grilled cornbread and an Eat Your Greens! salad, which is chock full of cabbage, sunflower sprouts, edamame, cucumber, parsley, cilantro, Protein Boost crunchy munchines and nuts, and salad greens.

Straight from Fresh’s menu of soups and ingredient list, my Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup consisted of “onions, leeks, garlic, mixed green vegetables (broccoli, kale, bok choy & swiss chard), zucchini, green peas, parsley, basil, black pepper, cayenne, pesto (contains pine nuts & sunflower seeds), sea salt, canola oil & vegetable stock”*, and out of all of those ingredients, the pesto, black pepper, cayenne, garlic, bok choy, and green peas came through the strongest for me.  It was deliciously thick without being goopy and I absolutely loved the crunchy topping of pine nuts and sunflower seeds on top!  The contrast in texture was perfect because the puree was smooth enough that you couldn’t tell which vegetables were floating where but thick enough that you could distinctly taste a mixture, a fusion.

It was a pesto-perfect lunch with my Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup and my next installment of build-a-bowl fun.  I put together a bowl of brown rice with kale slaw, goat cheese, grilled tofu steaks, pesto white beans, and house dressing.  There ought to be a disclaimer or a little warning sign that comes with these ingredients that says, “WARNING: these delicious foods may cause addiction and physical signs and/or symtoms of hunger cravings and extreme enjoyment of food such as drooling and constant exclamations of the word “YUM!” 

This is by far the most delicious combination I’ve put together through build-a-bowl (my phrase, not theirs just to be clear!) and I would eat it 100 times more.  The kale slaw provides the crunchiness, the goat cheese for the creamy richness, the pesto white beans for that bit of starchy protein and body, and the grilled tofu steaks for that “meaty” savouriness that is just out of this world.  Fresh does grilled tofu so amazing and it drives the tofu lover in me batty because it’s so good.  And like I mentioned in my last Fresh post, the house dressing is to die for.  I order a side of this dressing and splash the entire little bowl of it into my rice bowl and mix it into the brown rice and other ingredients and it just heightens all the other flavours and textures.  It is one of my all-time favourite things at Fresh.

Now that I have a Fresh soup under my belt, I’m almost at the point where I’ve tried every food category on the menu, so we’ll see what the next several amazing meals will bring in 2012!

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)