Afternoon Tea – The Royal York

Sometimes you need to be a bit fancier and take your afternoon get-togethers to the next level. For me, this means grabbing a few girlfriends and having afternoon tea at the Royal York. I went for afternoon tea with two delightful ladies, Stephanie and Claire. These girls are my friends from work that I take morning and afternoon break with every day. We head to the lunch room and have a cup of tea together. It was only a matter of time before we took our tea drinking to the next level and had proper afternoon tea.

The Royal York does not overbook their tea service, allowing you to sit and enjoy, not feeling rushed or overcrowded. As the tea service is not overbooked, the room is not loud or distracting. There is a gentle hum of conversation and the clinking of tea cups. We were seated at a small table by the window with two chairs and a couch.

We each started off with our own pot of tea. This is the only choice you have to make during the tea service. I chose the Kyoto Cherry Rose tea.

IMG_0131My tea came in a beautiful rose covered tea pot. The other girls’ tea came in different tea pots. I don’t know whether or not this is proper tea etiquette but the affect is charming and brings a little whimsy to a fussy and proper event. The tea was a Japanese green tea that was lightly infused with notes of fruits and florals. It started delicate and subtle and as the tea steeped the flavor became fuller and richer. This is the best tea I have ever had and puts all my David’s Tea to shame. It is available at the Fairmont store so I might just have to get some…

We were then presented with four finger sandwiches.

IMG_0123Center bottom, clockwise: Farmer’s Egg Truffle Chive Salad, St Mary’s Smoked Salmon with Fairmont Royal York lemonade aioli and cucumber, St. Lawrence Market Caprese with organic baby arugula, pesto, mayo, vine ripened tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella cheese and Smoked Aurora Turkey Breast with a cranberry emulsion.

I know what you are thinking – how is this enough food for anyone to eat and feel satisfied and not outraged at the price tag associated with it? Trust me it is. Since you are enjoying your food at a leisurely pace, drinking copious amounts of tea, followed by rich pastries you will feel full and satisfied.

The egg salad sandwich had a bit too much egg for the size of baguette it was on. The salad itself was creamy and had a deeper, woodsy taste to it. The eggs used had a rich, buttery flavor to them and were not overwhelmed by the mayonnaise or the truffles.

The St. Mary’s smoked salmon was a pure delight. The salmon was smoky, tender and not overly fishy. There was hints of lemon and the cucumber added a fresh, coolness to the sandwich. This was perfectly offset by the heaviness of the bread, which made the sandwich substantial and filling.

The St. Lawrence Market Caprese sandwich was easily my favourite. It was delicate and light but still rich and creamy from the buffalo mozzarella. The tomatoes were fresh and the pesto conjured memories of an Italian summer garden. I will be making a version of this sandwich all summer long.

I was least impressed with the Smoked Aurora Turkey sandwich. It lacked the depth of flavor that the other sandwiches had. I would have liked more cranberry to the sandwich and a hint of greenery to give it that much needed crunch and contrast.

Our table was then graced with a tower of sweet perfection.

Afternoon Tea IIIAfternoon Tea IVIMG_0127Top Tier: Guava and raspberry mousse
Middle Tier: French Macaron and Paté de Fruit and Chocolate Truffle Flourless Cake
Bottom Tier: Devonshire Cream to be served with Tradition Scones and a selection of Preserves

Photo Credit (desserts): the one and only Steph

This is the most elegant and extravagant presentations of desserts. It is over the top and indulgent and I absolutely love it.

We started with the scones. This was my first taste of what a proper scone is: firm on the outside, but flaky and buttery on the inside. The scone is then made all the better by slathering it in Devonshire cream and jams. My favourite part was the dusting of icing sugar on top of the scone. It is simple but has a very pretty affect and tastes sweet.

The desserts were all wonderful. My favourite was the chocolate cake. It felt heavy and dense but was smooth and creamy and all sorts of wonderful. It was the perfect way to end a delightful afternoon.

Afternoon tea is fancy treat and one I think you should all take part of. Our plan is to check out all the tea services recommended by Toronto Life here. Next one on my list is Windsor Arms!

Happy munching!

The Saint

My ideal weekend morning contains two things: brunch and discovering a new neighbourhood. Brunch is relaxing and comforting for me.  The restaurants always seem to have ample sunlight pouring into them regardless of the season; there is a low hum of conversation and amazing smells surrounding you. Brunch brings out the best in your company, whether it is a brunch date with a boyfriend or a friend, a large group of people reconnecting or just a good book or newspaper. Brunch recharges me and gets me ready for the next week ahead.

New neighbourhoods remind me that this city is vast and is constantly changing. My neighbourhood of choice is the Annex. It contains huge sentimental value for me from the house were GC lived when we first started dating to the restaurant where I first ate sushi. Walking through the streets is literally a walk down memory lane for me. New neighbourhoods have new surprises: unseen streets, new tastes and smells and new favourite spots.

This weekend combined both of those: we had a much anticipated brunch at The Saint and wandered through the residential streets of Little Portugal. We had been looking forward to this brunch for two weeks. GC had been working midnights making the ability to go to brunch on weekend near impossible.

Reason #1 to go to The Saint for brunch: THEY TAKE RESERVATIONS. This is almost unheard of in Toronto for brunch. We made a reservation late Saturday night and showed up at 10:30 and were promptly seated. When we arrived at the restaurant there was not a lot of full people in the restaurant but it quickly filled up.

We were seated at a small bistro table. The table was cute and cozy but between our coffee cups, water glasses, cutlery, napkins and plates it was a tight squeeze. Reason #2 to go to The Saint for brunch: they serve amazing coffee. I have recently switched to coffee at brunch rather than orange juice because a) it makes me feel like an actual adult and b) because unlimited refills.If you are an avid coffee drinker and bad coffee ruins your meal when you go out for brunch, look no further.

We started with an ordered of deviled eggs.

IMG_0065Deviled Eggs with bacon, jalapeños and sour cream.

Reason #3 to go to The Saint for brunch: deviled eggs! Deviled eggs are one of those things that everyone agrees are delicious but for some reason, people rarely make them. These eggs were creamy and rich, having a flavour palate of this decade rather than the 1970s. The bacon added saltiness and the jalapeños added a very subtle heat. Yum, yum, yum!

GC ordered the Steak and Eggs.

IMG_0066 IMG_0067Steak and eggs with bone marrow baked beans, fried duck eggs, cheddar biscuits and brown sauce.

I had contemplated ordering this but I am glad I didn’t because it is ridiculously huge! I was allowed, however, to munch from GC’s plate. My favourite part of this dish was the bone marrow baked beans. Now, I typically don’t like baked beans but these beans are on a whole other level. They are sweet, salty, rich and decadent. Bone marrow should be added to anything and everything if the result is this delicious.

The only thing we weren’t crazy about was the brown sauce. Brown sauce is a traditional UK side to breakfast and it is like a sweet barbecue sauce. I don’t think I need this as part of my breakfast. Sorry.

I ordered the Croque Madame.

IMG_0068 IMG_0069The Croque Madame with ham, mornay, gruyere and greens.

Reason #4 to go to The Saint for brunch: they serve Croque monsieurs and madames. This is a menu item that I usually don’t order outside of Quebec and I absolutely love it. This version was just as good as anything I have eaten in Quebec. The bread was toasted and crispy, the cheese and sauce oozed out of the sandwich and were silky, thick and decadent. The egg on top was a duck egg and because of this dish, I have completely fallen in love with duck eggs. I would like to replace all regular eggs with duck eggs. The yolk is thicker, more luscious and has a richness to it. Yummmms.

After brunch we explored the neighbouring streets and checked out some beautiful homes and some neat graffiti. There are tons of hidden alleyways to pop in and out of. This is a neighbourhood we are slowly discovering through various restaurant visits and we will definitely be going back again and again to The Saint. I think you should go too!

Happy munching!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

IMG_5558Pancake Tuesday has come and gone and but we never talked about it. On Pancake Tuesday we did your typical big breakfast: chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs, toast, orange juice and breakfast. As I can’t have proper breakfast most days, I usually have either cereal or oatmeal, this was the perfect way to satisfy all my breakfast cravings. This has sparked our trend of having breakfast for dinner. It is simple, fast and filling.

On the following Sunday we took regular pancakes up a notch and I made lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote. I had high hopes for these pancakes and was unfortunately disappointed. The ricotta is moist and heavy and therefore the pancakes aren’t your typical light and fluffy pancakes. I will admit that I used icing sugar instead of baking soda. Yes, that’s right. I made that kind of mistake. A few weeks ago we had issues with mice and now everything is in unmarked plastic containers. I have since tasted everything and written clear labels to avoid more flat pancakes.

The lemon and ricotta work nicely together and would taste delicious together in something else. And it goes without saying, blueberries and lemon are best friends and should always be together.

Recipe is below the cut – happy munching!

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Soup: Round Up III

As we enter April the weather is slowly warming up which means that our soup days are numbered. This summer I vow to try chilled soups but until then, here is a few warm soups I made in March.

IMG_55611. Steak and Potato Soup – January 26 – this soup is a thick, luscious stew. The vegetables are roasted and sweet, coated in caramelization. It takes your typical beef stew to another level with sophsticated and different vegetables: sweet potatoes and parsnips. The steak is moist and falls apart in the stew. This will definitely make a regular appearance in our house next winter.

2. Cream of Asparagus Soup – March 2 – this soup tastes like pure spring. Asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables and I wait all year for it. It is so fresh, tender and moist. The soup is creamy, light and fresh. It needs to be puréed a lot to remove all the natural stringiness that asparagus has. Add a dollop of sour cream and fresh chives to add even more freshness and you are kicking off spring!

3. Moroccan Lamb Meatball and Couscous Soup – March 22 – I was so excited for this soup. The picture in the cookbook was so appealing: spicy meatballs, a red broth, pearls of couscous dotting the soup and pieces of mint floating on the surface. However, mine did not turn out like this. It turned into a congealed blob of couscous with meatballs stuck in it. I used Moroccan couscous because I couldn’t find Israeli and this made a huge difference. Moroccan couscous is smaller and is sucked up so much broth. i couldn’t find ground lamb so I used ground chicken. This recipe was a mismatch of substitution. GC didn’t mind it though and I guess if at least one person enjoyed and ate all the soup then it couldn’t have been that bad.

Recipes are below the cut – happy munching!

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S’mores Cookie Bars

Happy birthday Le Faz!!! Today is officially her birthday and for her birthday I baked her s’mores cookie bars.

photo 5The only problem with s’mores is that they are impossible to make when you are not near a bonfire which is a constant problem of mine. However, these solve that problem. AND they are much tidier and easier to eat. You will not have to worry about melty marshmallow strings all over your face.

photo 3(1)They are the perfect combination of cookie and square. The graham cracker crust bottom is buttery and crumbly, creating a light, delicate base for the heaviness of the cookie to rest on. The cookie is buttery and rich, dotted with marshmallows and chocolate chips. The top has less melted marshmallows and whole chunks of chocolate bar. The chocolate bar is broken up into chunks and then frozen, ensuring that they don’t completely melt into the square; genius.

I love these and will definitely make them again and again. Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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SCHOOL

Another Saturday, another brunch. Last weekend I found myself at SCHOOL for brunch with Cynthia.

Photo Credit: Fashionista 514

SCHOOL is a cozy restaurant in Liberty Village that has embraced its name throughout the restaurant: apples on every table, a wall covered in clocks stuck at 3:30 in the afternoon, globes, books, blackboards and phrenology skulls. It brings you back to your school days with a smile instead of the typical dread that accompanies school. This restaurant is a must for teachers.

We didn’t have to wait that long as a group of two, about 15-20 minutes, which for brunch in Toronto is a miracle. We were seated near the big garage windows which looked out onto the patio. We would have preferred to be in the other half of the restaurant with the exposed brick walls and book shelves but this just means we will have to go again.

Cynthia ordered the Huevos 101. IMG_0001Huevos 101 – scrambled eggs, Mexi red beans, pico de gallo, Jack cheese, guacamole, jalapeno sour cream, and crispy tortilla hay.

Cynthia loved this and I loved the bite I had. To start, the presentation was gorgeous. It was a beautiful bowl, oozing with colour, flavours and aromas. The fried tortilla bowl it was served in was crunchy and a nice contrast to the mushiness (in a good way!) to the scrambled eggs and beans. The beans were hearty. The salsa and the guacamole added a nice hint of freshness to perfectly the whole dish. Yums all around as Cynthia said.

I ordered the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffles.

IMG_0002 IMG_0003Buttermilk fried chicken and waffles with tobasco-pepper honey, whipped vanilla butter and coleslaw.

I have only had fried chicken and waffles at two restaurants in Toronto (Stockyards and now SCHOOL), but this was UNBELIEVABLE. Easily better then Stockyards. The fact the boneless chicken is used makes this dish easier and that much more enjoyable to eat. The chicken was crispy, breaded and fried to perfection. There was not a millimeter of nakedness on that chicken. The chicken itself was moist and juicy; it did not dry out but rather was protected by the crispy coating. The waffles were fluffy and airy, little pillows for the chicken to rest their beautifulness on.

The condiments for this were amazing. The tobasco-pepper honey was everything you could want in a condiment: sweet, salty, spicy and runny. It gently glazed everything and added the right combination of sweet/spicy/salty. The whipped vanilla butter is a thing of beauty in its own right. I want to spread this on everything.  As if butter could get better, but it does. This butter is butter’s older, sexier brother.  Even the coleslaw is worth writing about. It was tangy and sour with fennel seeds adding a hint of pepper. The perfect way to wash down the sugary, richness of the waffles.

Overall a great brunch experience that is definitely worth the trek to Liberty Village! I will definitely be visiting this spot again – feel free to join!

Happy munching!

Monterey Chicken Grilled Cheese

April is officially here and although I don’t have a huge attachment to this month there are some highlights:

  1. It is Le Faz’s birthday. Easily one of my favourite people and her birthday is always one of my favourite days of the year.  Give her some love on April 5th.
  2. Easter is later this year which maybe means I will actually bake, cook and craft Easter-themed things
  3. I will be making Matzo Ball soup for Passover. It is a combination of being constantly mistaken as Jewish and living in a very Jewish neighbourhood with a very Jewish grocery store that has inspired me to make Matzo Ball soup for Passover. More on that later.
  4.  NATIONAL GRILLED CHEESE MONTH. I don’t know which nation we are referring to but I also don’t care. It involves cheese therefore I am in.

Another grilled cheese recipe to get you psyched for National Grilled Cheese Month in April – the Monterey Chicken Grilled Cheese by Iowa Girl Eats.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlease go out and buy these ingredients right now and make this grilled cheese. It is easily one of the best grilled cheeses I have ever eaten. It is sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy and saucy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s start from the beginning: The suggested instructions on how to cook the chicken are perfect. This is the simplest and moistest chicken breast I have ever eaten. Literally put your chicken breast on a baking sheet, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 20ish minutes at 400°F. Does it get any easier than that? I plan to incorporate more chicken into things now that it is this easy and I don’t have to worry about salmonella.

The bacon adds a perfect crispy quality that works with the fleshiness of the tomato. And to top it all off: barbeque sauce. The BBQ sauce ties the entire sandwich together. It adds more sweetness to highlight the tomato, saltiness to compliment the bacon and sauciness to add even more moisture to the chicken. And the perfect topper of this sandwich: instead of butter, the bread was lathered with olive oil. It was easier to spread and added such a different flavour to the sandwich. It was a very adult grilled cheese.

Make this now. Please. And thank you. Happy munching!

Saving Grace

A few weeks ago GC and I went for a weekday brunch at Saving Grace.

Photo Credit: BlogTO

Saving Grace is a little restaurant on Dundas West that can easily be missed from the street. The day we went the windows were completely steamed up and the name was hard to read on the glass. When we got inside, it was busy with a low buzz of conversation. The restaurant has a very minimalist feel to it: white walls, wooden booths, a few pieces of art on the wall and that’s about it. The colour palate reminded me of being in an airy kitchen by the water. It is the atmosphere that allows the food to be the focus of the entire experience.

I ordered the Savoury French Toast.

photo 4The Savoury French Toast stuffed with gruyere, caramelized apples and roasted red onions with greens.

Do not claim something is stuffed when it is actually just a sandwich. This technicality  bothered me so much that it got in the way of my enjoyment of my meal. That sounds crazy and irrational but it illustrates how restaurants often times dress up simple menu items to entice people to ordering them when maybe they shouldn’t.

I was expecting more of a pseudo-Monte Cristo and was disappointed. There was not enough cheese, I could not taste the red onions and the caramelized apples were not caramelized or soft. I wanted the eggs to completely encase the sandwich and create a juicy, eggy seal around the whole thing. Unfortunately, I got this instead. ALSO! WHERE WAS MY MAPLE SYRUP?! Regardless of what is in, on, underneath or around French toast, it needs to be accompanied by maple syrup.

GC ordered Pan Fried Eggs on a Roll.

photo 2Pan Fried eggs on a roll with chipotle butter, gruyere, bacon, avocado, tomato and shredded lettuce.  GC was satisfied with this. His only complaint was that the baguette-esque bun made it difficult to sink your teeth into. When his plate came out, I immediately regretted my decision.

Overall, we didn’t LOVE it. Sorry. If we had to wait the typical weekend-brunch wait this meal would have been a complete let down. The fact that we were seated and served right away made this meal ok, not great. It was a little too hipster not enough substance for me. Maybe I ordered the wrong menu item but I am not willing to risk it again to find out – there are too many other great brunch restaurants in the city.

Happy munching!

Lasagna Grilled Cheese

As March comes to a close we can finally look forward to April: warmer weather, Easter, and of course, National Grilled Cheese Month. I plan to fully embrace this month-long celebration of one of my favourite foods. In preparation of April I have to look back to a sandwich I made a few weeks ago: the Lasagna Grilled Cheese.

IMG_5541 IMG_5544Recipe: Joy the Baker

I think this sandwich, while delicious, is misnamed. There is no tomato sauce, and more importantly, there is no meat and real lasagna has to have meat. Sorry vegetarians, I love you but real lasagna needs and should have meat. A more appropriate name would be a cannelloni grilled cheese. But really, what’s in a name? The important thing is delicious, simple and amazing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe combination of cheese is a perfect blend of creamy, salty and sweet. The ricotta is creamy and smooth but at the same time has a coarse, saltiness to it. The mozzarella is milky, thick and rich. The use of two cheeses in this sandwich brings it to the next level – from snack to full-on meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cheeses are both mellowed out and complimented by the basil and the tomatoes. Both are sweet but salty and taste like an Italian backyard in July. This recipe was fresh, simple and makes me yearn for summer. I will be making this grilled cheese again and again this summer using fresh ingredients from the garden.

Check out the recipe on Joy the Baker’s site and maybe check out this recipe too – it’s what I will be making next.

Happy munching!

Leek & Potato Soup with Blue Cheese

Another recipe from my favourite book, Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day. This time it is the Potato and Leek Soup with Blue Cheese from January 28.

This is a great recipe that takes your standard potato-leek soup to the next level. The soup is thick from the starchy potatoes and creamy from the little bit of blue cheese. The leeks give the soup that subtle onion flavour that adds a bit of heat and freshness to the soup. The soup will look absolutely revolting once it is done, resembling a Dickensian sludge. But unlike that sludge, it is absolutely delicious and worth making again.

Recipe is below the cut – happy munching!

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