Seared Tuna, Apple Cider & Gingerbread Men Wreaths – A Wintery Weekend Lunch at Bannock

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When I think of winter and the holiday season, I think of Christmas, yes, but I also think of the ultimate cozy, winter comfort scene: gingerbread and spices, snow, Christmas greenery, hot drinks, and a comforting plate of food, all in a warm and peaceful ski house.  A place where you can sit back and relax and watch the snow gently fall outside a window, all the while noshing on good eats.  Bannock, located at the corner of Queen and Bay Street on the ground floor of the city’s iconic Hudson’s Bay Company flagship store, may not be a ski house, but it does offer us foodies everything cozy and comforting in a wine bar, bistro type of atmosphere.  Think warm woods and browns, rustic accents, and a wine rack to boot!  I love the window seats that look out onto Queen West and I’m smitten with their seasonal holiday decorations: ice cream and candy cane trees, and gingerbread man wreaths!

Bannock is part of what I call the Oliver & Bonacini restaurant collection.  Partners Michael Bonacini and Peter Oliver have been putting their culinary, business, and restaurant management expertise to work for over 20 years, opening 8 different restaurants, each with a different look, feel, and menu.  Oliver & Bonacini restaurants have a little bit of French, some Italian, some Parisian, and some classic northern Canadian among a number of other cuisines.  One thing each and every O&B dining establishment has in common though is the intent of making every dining experience a fine dining one, even the most casual eateries!

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Bannock falls under O&B’s ‘Canadian comfort food’ umbrella.  Aside from the food and menu itself, its Canadian connection?  Bannock’s name.  Bannock, as a food, is a type of flat, biscuit-type quick bread common in Aboriginal and Inuit cuisine and this type of bread is incorporated into a number of Bannock’s dishes including their sandwiches, pizzas, and garlic and herb bannock appetizer.  The unique thing about Bannock is its dine-in and take-out components.  It fuses both the casual and fine dining experiences together under one roof.  On one side you can hop in during your busy lunch hour and grab a sweet treat, a sandwich on artisan bread, or a soup or salad (or some of everything!), or sit down for a quick drink with a book or newspaper.  On the other side, you can relax with a glass of wine and enjoy fresh fish, hearty meat dishes, grain salads and more with twinkling lights sparkling above you.

In order for an eatery to live up to its promise of Canadian comfort food, it obviously has to demonstrate this through its dishes and menu selection.  Bannock offers Monforte dairy and Canadian cheeses, Atlantic fish, Ontario venison, Alberta ground brisket, west coast tuna and more and goodness is their menu ever delightful!  My boyfriend and I counted at LEAST ten menu items that we wanted to try and come back for the next time around.  And that time after that.  And then the time after that.  I can tell we’ll be eating here a lot over the next year or two.  On my Bannock wishlist: mac and cheese with wilted spinach; crooked spinach salad with taro sticks, mixed pickles, and goat feta; salt cod donuts; Atlantic haddock and shrimp cake with chips and dill pickle tartar, vegetable cobb with avocado, barley, deviled egg, thunder oak gouda, and living sprouts; tofurkey scallopini with mozzarella, roasted garlic, squash mostarda (an Italian condiment that comes in the form of mustard married with syrup) and quinoa; and biff’s fried bologna and eggs with bannock, smoky tomato, and duck fat potatoes.  Prices come in at around $13-$22 for mains with most ringing in at $14-$16

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And this is just their lunch and dinner menu – they have a Sunday brunch service!  BRING IT ON.

Despite all the menu items I wanted to stuff my face in, I had to choose one so I chose Bannock’s seared BC albacore tuna ($19) with wax beans, smashed fingerling potatoes, root crudités (whole, small vegetables), and bagna cauda, a warm dip that is typically served with the vegetables and that is made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil and butter.  Oh!  And fresh apple cider ($5) with a cinnamon stick!  I am so, SO in love with their apple cider.  I love apple cider but it’s tricky to get that perfect balance of sweetness, warmth, and  fruitiness without the overpowering acidic tang and sourness from the apple.  Either that or that slightly rubbery taste you get when you drink apple or grape juice.  Their apple cider is perfect though.  It didn’t make me pucker and it was just really crisp and refreshing in a warm and cozy kind of way!

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And the tuna is delicious!  There were five thick pieces of tuna (like little tuna steaks) and they were so fresh and meaty.  What I really loved about it, aside from the smooth texture, was the tiny bit of fat on each piece.  It made it that much more savoury and soft and flavourful.  I was also a really big fan of the smashed fingerlings (they were really flattened which was really cute!) and the bagna cauda sauce that I used for the tuna, cauliflower crudités and potatoes.  I’m a huge fan of beans and I love it when I get both green and yellow ones, so I was a happy camper in that department; the only thing I wish was different was more beans!  That and maybe some more fingerlings.  But truly, I was full afterward and was really satisfied with my meal and how everything complemented each other.  The vegetables cut through the meatiness of the tuna while the tuna itself gave the whole dish its heartiness.

There’s so much to try here at Bannock and there’s so much to love!  It’s right across the street from the Eaton Centre, they serve Sunday brunch, and there’s about half a menu waiting for me every other day.  You know I’ll be back.

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Bannock is located at 401 Bay Street at the corner of Bay and Queen Street West, on the ground floor of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  It is located across the street from Old City Hall and the Eaton Centre and is open for 7 days a week.  Their grab-and-go coffee shop hours are 7:30am-8pm Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm on Saturday, and 9am-4pm on Sundays.  Their dining room hours are as follows: 11:30am-10pm Monday to Friday, 11am-10pm on Saturdays, and 11am-4pm for Sunday brunch service.

Deck the Hall with Boughs of Mini Cupcakes! Chocolate, Peppermint Frosting & More at Prairie Girl Bakery, Part II!

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Not the most flattering photo of me, but it’s with cupcakes so it’s all good!

Even the bitter cold won’t keep me away from cupcakes!  I’m no winter warrior (after living in my homeland of Canada for 27 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that each year does not get easier and that I am, in fact, a wuss during both summer and winter seasons), but if I’m armed with a hat and super thick mitts and a scarf, there’s not much that will drive me away from the cake and frosting.  I even poo-pooed the weather forecast back in February during one of the worst storms of the season and frolicked (well, more like stomped and sloshed) around town in the snow and slush making cake pops at Le Dolci, having lunch at Mela Cafe, and stuffing my face with a strawberry Valentine’s cupcake at Short & Sweet on the way home.  Us cupcake fans know: when you love cupcakes you LOVE cupcakes, icky weather and all.

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I know I say this every year, but I am truly so excited for Christmas and the month of December!  I have plans with friends and family and my boyfriend, I have my Christmas presents ready to go, I’ve been taking advantage of some ridiculously fabulous sales (I’m nothing if not a fantastic shopper!), some desperately-needed scrapbook downtime is just a few weeks away, and for the first time in months, I feel calm, cool, collected and very content with the blog content I have planned for the rest of the month.  Last year I was really disappointed in myself for not taking advantage of more holiday shenanigans and while, in hindsight, the circumstances I faced that prevented me from doing what I wanted to do for the blog were uncontrollable and unavoidable, I still feel like I could have done more to make Christmas and the holidays on Ate by Ate really great.  And the way to make anything extra great is with cupcakes!

Introducing the marvelous minis from Prairie Girl Bakery!  I’ve only ever posted about their full-size ones so this is special.  Prairie Girl’s mini cupcakes ($1.75 each, $9.95 for half a dozen, and $18.95 for one dozen) come in all their permanent menu flavours and the bakery’s two Treats of the Week flavours.  Honestly though, even though they’re mini in comparison to the full-size ones, they are by no means teeny-tiny.  When I think of mini cupcakes, I think of a 4:1 ratio, bite-size morsels, and morsels you could easily pop in your mouth in one swift motion.  Let me tell you, Prairie Girl’s minis will give you MULTIPLE heavenly bites and I’d say they’re comparable to half a cupcake.  Two will truly hit the spot.  Hell, I think even one could given how rich and creamy and thick the frosting is!

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What I am loving about Prairie Girl’s flavours these days (aside from the thick, creamy, scrumptious frosting) is how they’re wonderfully subtle in holiday spirit.  Aside from the dark cocoa chocolate cake with creamy vanilla peppermint frosting and crushed peppermint candies (pictured), the holiday flavours they’ve been doling out have come from their Treats of the Week line-up.  What you see here are mini golden buttermilk cupcakes with sweet, creamy cinnamon frosting topped with a hot cinnamon jelly bean!  Last week’s Treat of the Week?  Pumpkin on vanilla.  And this week?  Almond on chocolate and vanilla cranberry on golden buttermilk.

OH.MY.GOD.  I want everything!  And I only wish these flavours were around permanently and not only for a week!  What I love is that even though these flavours don’t necessarily scream “holiday” or “Christmas” necessarily, they touch on all the things we love about the festive season: the sights and smells of spices, nuts, and winter fruits.  I mean really, when was the last time you came across a CRANBERRY frosted cupcake?!  In my book?  NEVER.  Even though nothing beats lemon and coconut (and lemon and coconut meshed together!) in my heart, I love cranberry like you wouldn’t believe and I’ve always wished for a cranberry cupcake.  I really don’t think I’ll be able to get my sweet teeth on any before the week is over and while that makes me so sad, I’m so happy knowing this is a flavour on their rotating Treats of the Week menu.  If I’m patient enough, I’ll get to it the next time around!

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Prairie Girl Bakery also offers a number of adorable decorative cupcake toppers that you can purchase up by the cash and they have almost type of cupcake box known to foodies!  All of their fab boxes have inserts in them, keeping all your cupcakes neat and tidy and smush-free!  What’s great is that they have so many different combinations.  If you want a regular-sized cupcake plus two minis, there’s a box for that.  If you want 4 minis (pictured), 4 inserts are waiting for those little cakes to be plunked down.  And if you want 2 little ones, you’ll get the cutest cupcake purse box ever!  My boyfriend is currently gaga over Prairie Girl’s chocolate cream cheese icing on golden buttermilk (which I still haven’t tried – foreshame!) and I am loving the chocolate peppermint.  It’s like a chocolate peppermint patty with frosting!

I had myself a jolly good time taking these photos (hello mini cupcake models!) and I’m hoping this is just the beginning of the wonderful and delicious Christmas cupcake season!

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The Prairie Girl cupcake car!

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Prairie Girl Bakery is located at Suite 106, 18 King St. East off King St. E and Victoria St.  The cupcake shop itself actually faces Victoria St., so it’s just a smidge north of King on Victoria St.  They are open 6 days a week from 10am-6pm from Monday-Saturday.  They are closed on Sundays and statutory holidays.  Their new 2nd location is located in the underground PATH in First Canadian Place in the Marketplace food concourse.  The FCP location is open from 8am-6pm, Monday-Friday.

Cupcakes for the Holidays – A Photo Spotlight on Mini Cupcake Mania at Prairie Girl Bakery, Part I!

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If you think this is mouthwatering cupcake porn, wait till you see what I have in store for y’all tomorrow and for the rest of the month!  Cream cheese frosting, sprinkles, holiday decorations, crushed candy canes, gingerbread, marshmallows and plenty of decadent chocolate – THIS is what cupcakes are all about during the crazy, whirlwind month of December!  This is a photo spotlight sneak peek of the holiday cupcake blitz that’s about to unleash on Ate by Ate!  My goal this holiday season is to feature some shops I haven’t posted about, to showcase as many special holiday flavours as possible, and to finally get around to some of the seasonal ones that I’ve missed out on over the past few years.  With so many cupcake shops dishing out the limited time holiday menus and lineups, it’s hard to come keep up so I’ll be doing some new Cupcake Connections to keep everyone in the delicious loop and a special holiday Macaron Mania edition as well!  I have stumbled on some fantastic goodies so I’m so excited to show you all what the season has in store for us.  So, first up: mini cupcake mania at Prairie Girl Bakery, Part I!

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Prairie Girl Bakery is located at Suite 106, 18 King St. East off King St. E and Victoria St.  The cupcake shop itself actually faces Victoria St., so it’s just a smidge north of King on Victoria St.  They are open 6 days a week from 10am-6pm from Monday-Saturday.  They are closed on Sundays and statutory holidays.  Their new 2nd location is located in the underground PATH in First Canadian Place in the Marketplace food concourse.  The FCP location is open from 8am-6pm, Monday-Friday.

A Month of Holiday & Christmas Cooking & Baking Around the City! Truffles, Cookies, Traditional Treats & More

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Tis the season for the holiday baking, cooking, and edible gift creating!  There are TONS of fun cooking and baking classes going on as well as some holiday themed workshops so whether you love truffles, pie, cupcakes, or a mix of holiday sweets, there’s definitely something for you here!  My personal picks?  The holiday cookie classes at Aphrodite Cooks and Evergreen Brick Works, the regional and seasonal Niagara-inspired cooking class at EBW, pie-making at Le Dolci, and the Christmas treats baking at Nella Cucina.

I won’t be able to attend any of these but if I could I’d be ALL OVER these like ribbon on wrapping paper.  I’m still plowing away at updating the December Food Calendar so you’ll see some new stuff from The Depanneur and others added to the calendar really soon!  In the meantime, click around the menu bar up top and check out the December Food Calendar, the tastings and classes at Evergreen Brick Works, and all of Le Dolci’s fabulous holiday and Christmas-themed classes!  Oh, and admire the new Christmas photos I took at La Merceria.  Just try not to drool over all the drop-dead gorgeous kitchen accessories and linens.  I know I am.

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Simple Healthy Meals in 30 Minutes at The Chef Upstairs, December 3.  6:30pm-9:30pm.  615 Mount Pleasant Rd.  $99 +HST/person OR $149.50 +HST for two.  Combine fresh and seasonal with fast and quick with these recipes: winter green salad with pine nuts, radicchio, and pear, penne pasta with sausage, fennel, and Pecorino cheese, and fresh fish with tomato sauce with cherry tomato couscous!  http://www.thechefupstairs.com/cooking_classes.html

Introduction to Pie Making at Le Dolci, December 5.  7pm-9pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $55 +HST/person.  Don’t be intimidated by the art of the homemade pie and pie crust – Michelle from the Parkdale Pie Princess teams up with Le Dolci to show you how at this introduction to pie making class!  Learn how to make the a great pie crust from scratch, use fresh fruit to make filling, and take home a pie and recipes!  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

PA Day Fun!  Introduction to Cupcake Decorating at Le Dolci, December 7.  1pm-3pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $40 +HST/person.  What better way to enjoy a Friday off from school than to get the creative juices and sweet teeth going as you decorate a dozen delicious vanilla cupcakes to take home!  Use fondant, buttercream frosting, and special cutters and professional tools to create flowers, animals, swirls, and whatever your heart desires!  It’s December, so go for a winter, Christmas or holiday theme with snowflakes, snowmen, candy canes, holly, trees, gingerbread men and more!  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

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Christmas/Winter Themed – Introduction to Cupcake Decorating at Le Dolci, December 8.  10am-12pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Get the creative juices and sweet teeth going as you decorate a dozen delicious vanilla cupcakes to take home!  Use fondant, buttercream frosting, and special cutters and professional tools to create wreaths, stockings, snowmen, snowflakes, present gift boxes and more!  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Designer Cupcake Decorating at Le Dolci, December 8.  2pm-4pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Walk the runway in true fashionable cupcake style!  In this introduction to cupcake decorating class, learn how to make stylish Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags, Tiffany jewelry, and more with professional cupcake decorating tools, fondant, and frosting.  Be the sweetest, most stylish fashionista when you walk out of the student with 12 beautifully decorated vanilla cupcakes!  http://ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Christmas Themed – Learn to Make Cake Pops at Le Dolci, December 9.  2pm-4pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Use moist, delicious balls of cake and frosting to make holiday inspired cake pops using melted candy melts, sprinkles, icing, and more!  Sprinkle snowflakes and trees and even make reindeer, ornaments, and Christmas tree cake pops!  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

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Holiday Cookies at Aphrodite Cooks, December 9.  1pm-4pm. 201 Weston Rd., Suite 101.  $65 +HST/person.  This class requires participants to bring piping tips and couplers (Wilton’s #2, #4, or #6 tips and two couplers) which are available at Michaels, Bulk Barn, Wal-Mart, and baking supply stores.  Aphrodite Cooking classes mix both pleasure and education as classes provide participants with an atmosphere to socialize and mingle with others while at the same time enjoying food and obtaining and sharpening cooking skills.

At this class, join Canadian Living test kitchen manager, Adell Shneer, as she guides you through a wintery fairy wonderland of beautiful and delicious holiday cookies and decorating!  Learn how to make royal icing and master piping and icing techniques including flooding, flocking, marbleizing as you make brown sugar citrus cookie dough, double vanilla cookie dough, and gingerbread cookie dough for beautiful cookies!  https://www.aphroditecooks.com/class.aspx?c_id=c6add328-06cf-48aa-ab6b-8400f1eac6f2

GE Café Chefs Series: Celebrating Niagara at Evergreen Brick Works, December 11.  6pm-9pm.  550 Bayview Ave.  $75 each workshop.  Learn tips and techniques from local Toronto and Ontario chefs, discuss and explore food issues over wine and a great meal with other participants!  Funds raised through the series will help support children’s educational food programs at Evergreen Brick Works.

This fall series focuses on the food culture of southern Ontario.  Join executive chef of Hillebrand Estates’ winery restaurant, Frank Dodd, for an exploration of the bounty of fruit, food, and wine in the beautiful Niagara region.  http://ebw.evergreen.ca/whats-on/food/chefs-series#dec11

Green Bites Cooking Workshops – Holiday Baking at Evergreen Brick Works, December 13.  7pm-9pm.  550 Bayview Ave.  $65/person.  Green Bites workshops are back for another exciting round of seasonal classes!  Join chefs, producers, farmers, and food experts for some hands-on cooking workshops that are sure to expand your breadth of food knowledge and technique.  These cooking workshops will allow participants to explore tastes, flavours, and aromas while engaging in food issues that affect communities.

At this workshop, join chef Joshna Maharaj for holiday baking around the world!  Explore holiday baking traditions, bake 5 different types of cookies, and take home a cookie gift box at the end!  http://ebw.evergreen.ca/whats-on/food/green-bites#dec13

Christmas Treats at Nella Cucina, December 15.  12pm-3pm.  876 Bathurst St.  $95/person.  Get your holiday sweet teeth ready for this sugar n’ spice and everything nice cooking class where you’ll bake the afternoon away!  Learn a wealth of baking and candy making techniques and knowledge as you tackle some classic holiday recipes such as salted caramels, fruit jellies, rum sour cream pound cake, spiced nuts and seeds, and chocolate cranberry and pistachio biscotti!  http://www.nellacucina.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2012/11/29/249/-/-.html

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Gingerbread Decorating at Le Dolci, December 15.  1:30pm-3:30pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $40 +HST/person.  Break out the icing, candies, and chocolates for some holiday inspired gingerbread cookie decorating!  Learn piping techniques to create yummy cookies to take home for yourself or to give as gifts!  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Christmas/Winter Themed – Introduction to Cupcake Decorating at Le Dolci, December 15.  4:30pm-6:30pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Get the creative juices and sweet teeth going as you decorate a dozen delicious vanilla cupcakes to take home!  Use fondant, buttercream frosting, and special cutters and professional tools to create wreaths, stockings, snowmen, snowflakes, present gift boxes and more!  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Christmas/Winter Themed – Introduction to Cupcake Decorating at Le Dolci, December 16.  10:30am-12:30pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Get the creative juices and sweet teeth going as you decorate a dozen delicious vanilla cupcakes to take home!  Use fondant, buttercream frosting, and special cutters and professional tools to create wreaths, stockings, snowmen, snowflakes, present gift boxes and more!  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Christmas Themed – Introduction to Truffle Making at Le Dolci, December 16.  2pm-4pm.  1006 Dundas Street West.  $80 +HST/person.  Create rich, decadent chocolate ganache truffles and dust and sprinkle your way through luxurious truffle heaven with Christmas sprinkles and holiday flavours!  Learn how to use proper hand rolling techniques as well as developing your own recipes and flavourings!  Create a set of truffles to take home for yourself or to give  as a gift.  http://www.ledolci.com/class-schedule/

Food From the Heart & Cookbook Passion – A Blogger Brunch with Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman, Part II

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“Oh my god, this apple cake is sooo good!”, “NOBODY TOUCHES ANYTHING UNTIL WE’VE ALL TAKEN PHOTOS!”, “Brownie cookies are here!”, “Ooo, the orange juice is fizzy, I wasn’t expecting that!”  Smush 15+ food bloggers into a Random House Canada conference room with a mini brunch buffet chock full of goodies from Deb Perelman’s brand spankin’ new cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, along with the cookbooks and the celebrated blogger, photographer, home cook, and newly minted cookbook author herself and enthusiastic food banter and chatter ensue!  I had the special opportunity of attending Deb Perelman’s blogger brunch event organized by Random House Canada Saturday morning during the Toronto leg of her Smitten Kitchen cookbook tour!

I was beyond excited when I saw the invite in my inbox nearly two weeks ago.  Brunch?  An event devoted to food bloggers and cookbooks?  What an exciting moment!  It’s not every day I get to attend cookbook author events, especially ones involving women as down-to-earth as Deb Perelman.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’ve followed Smitten Kitchen since the beginning or that I’m her biggest fan.  I’ve only been familiar with Smitten Kitchen for a few months at best, but that certainly didn’t affect my level of excitement and jubilance for this blogger brunch devoted to celebrating her cookbook and her work.

I, along with a number of food bloggers including our FBC’s (Food Bloggers of Canada) Mardi Michels, eagerly took photos of and noshed on Cheddar Swirl Breakfast Buns, Mom’s Apple Cake, Cluster Maple Granola, Brownie Cookies, fruit, and orange bubbly as we asked Deb Perelman questions about everything from recipe development and testing, aversions to food (we all have them!), cookbook writing, family, and more.  I love stories.  Especially food ones.  And that’s exactly what Deb Perelman’s new cookbook is full of – stories about her upbringing, her loves, her not-so-loves, and her whirlwind journey as a home cook navigating the sometimes choppy, sometimes peaceful waters of recipe development and testing, blogging, and now, cookbook writing.

While I do wish that the event was more engaging and more of a round-table, personal discussion between and amongst us food bloggers and Deb Perelman about how being a food blogger has informed our approaches to cooking, baking, food writing, visiting restaurants and other foodie establishments, and forming and maintaining relationships via our blogs and social media, and how we feel food blogging as a whole has influenced processes of cookbook writing, I still feel like I took away a valuable experience.

I love the cookbook.  I haven’t read it from cover to cover, but I have paged through it and I love how I can relate to Deb Perelman – her outlook on food, eating, cooking and baking, and blogging.  Her cookbook reads like a personal food journal, chronicling her endeavours and experiences in and outside the kitchen and that’s exactly how I feel about this blog.  This is my personal food journey and I feel like Smitten Kitchen captures the opinions we form through blogging, cooking, and eating, the learning curves we go through, the frustrations we deal with in the online community, in the restaurant industry, and even in our own kitchens, and the pure joy we feel radiating from us when we that recipe just right, when we stumble upon that hole-in-the-wall gem, and when we’re completely in tune with our passion for food.

That is what I have taken away from the event, from Deb Perelman herself, and from her cookbook.  It’s not about how many followers we have on Twitter or Facebook, how many big wigs we may or may not know in the industry, or how many accolades we have.  Food is a labour of love and it’s an expression from the deepest parts of your heart.  Food is much bigger than any of us will ever know and ever be, and it’s this journey that truly matters in the end.

Apple Cake, Cheddar Swirl Breakfast Buns & More from the Smitten Kitchen – A Special Blogger Brunch with Deb Perelman, Part I!,

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The *NEW* Smitten Kitchen cookbook!

A big batch of photos of a very special brunch event I attended this morning!  Hint: it involved celebrated food blogger, photographer and home cook, and newly minted cookbook author, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame!  This is Part I of my two-part post on this yummy event where I noshed on amazing apple cake, maple cluster granola, cheddar swirl breakfast buns, brownie cookies, drank fizzy orange juice bubbly, chatted with fellow food bloggers from the online community, and munched and sat in on a group Q&A with Deb Perelman herself during her Toronto stay on the Smitten Kitchen cookbook tour.  Check out the photos!

Me, with my copy.

Deb Perelman answering questions as we munch away on food.

We love cheese, hurray!

Grab a plate and load up on Smitten Kitchen goodies!

I loved this maple granola SO much!

Orange bubbly!

Fellow food bloggers tweeting, mingling, and grabbing eats.

“Nobody touches anything until we take photos!”

Deb, meet Deb. I love to bake. So do I!

What’s New, What’s Hot – What’s New: Celebrate & Steep Away the Holiday Season with David’s Tea ’24 Days of Tea’!

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Source: David’s Tea website

Oh my goodness, I don’t even know where to start!  A tea collection from David’s Tea with 24 different teas, one for every single day of December leading up to Christmas?!  HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL!  I’m so happy and excited I could pirouette around my living room!  I love this so much.  It’s cute, its’ seasonal, and I WANT IT.  This set allows you try 24 different teas (24 tiny single-serve tins, $29.50) and, HELLO, it’s modeled after an advent calendar, like those adorable Christmas chocolate countdown windows!

You know, the ones with 24 perforated cardboard windows, each with a chocolate hiding behind it.  You open a window every day until Christmas day and it’s jolly good fun because not only do you have a guaranteed sweet treat each day, it totally gets you pumped up for Christmas and the holidays as the big day inches closer and closer with each passing “window” opening.  My brother and I have had many a field day with these chocolate countdown windows and we would always make it a tradition (or at least a point) to open the day’s window and eat our chocolates together.  Except for the random days I would forget.  I know, I’m awful; how in the world do you forget to eat chocolate?!  My brother never forgot.  So a few times I ate two chocolates in one day.  And, um, there was one time I had to eat three to catch up.

ANYWAY!  Now David’s Tea has released a cute-as-a-button countdown to Christmas tea set clearly inspired by the advent calendar and chocolate windows!  And this is even better because each tea behind the tiny window is a surprise!  The website has a listing of the teas that are included in the set such as Read My Lips, Vanilla Oolong, Chocolate Rocket, and many others.  The element of surprise and suspense is still there though because everything is quietly tucked behind the little flaps, just waiting to be opened, brewed, and sipped.  Part of me almost doesn’t even want to drink the tea because the tiny tins just look so darn adorable in their sleeves and packaging.  But we know that won’t happen.  I’ll be steeping and enjoy tea till the cows come home!  And for a person like me who drinks tea every single day, this is AMAZING.  I am all over this like peanut butter on jelly.

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For a list of all David’s Tea locations in and around Toronto, check out their store locator HERE.  There are currently 17 locations in the GTA!