Hotel Gelato

I am back in Prague and now a married woman.  What a trip!! It was an awesome experience seeing all the details of the wedding come together and I look forward to sharing more about the event and some pictures next week on Lamb411.

To start, my fiance and I wanted to serve something cold for dessert at the wedding since it was taking place in August.  I originally thought about serving ice pops to my guests but the logistics of such proved too complicated, so I located a company in Toronto that does on-site event gelato.  We had previously tasted the gelato from Hotel Gelato at a friend’s wedding in the spring and decided to give them a call to see what they could do for us.

We could pick six flavours of gelato for the event which would be served to guests in cups or cones.

I took my fiance, sister-in-law to be and our day of wedding planner to Hotel Gelato with me to review our flavour selection before the big day.

Photo Source: Mouth Media

We chose: Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Coconut, Dark Chocolate, Lemon Sorbet and Vanilla Toffee

There was much deliberation between flavours and gelato tasting among the four of us.  I think everyone fell in love with the salted caramel, a uniquely salty and sweet flavour.  I like coconut and pistachio and my (now) husband loves anything chocolate.

Photo Source: BlogTo

I must admit, in Toronto I am a regular at Hollywood Gelato and the Mad Italian and had never thought of driving west of Bayview for the stuff.  However, having been three times plus working with them for the wedding, I would certainly add Hotel Gelato into the rotation.  What’s even better is that Hotel Gelato serves breakfast and brunch, espresso and a full bar, so it’s like gelato +.  If you missed some of the wedding week details, feel free to read about them here, here and here.

 

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DAVIDsTEA

There is no secret of this blogger’s love of tea.  While in Toronto the week before last, I frequented, on numerous occasions, the newest location of DAVIDs TEA which opened at Bayview Village, in North York.

The new store is filled with bright colours, lots of light, a wall full of fun tea accessories and a second wall full of all of their colour coordinated tea.

I never leave this shop empty handed.  It is great for host/hostess gifts, and to stock up on new and interesting tea flavours.  Of course I am still loyal to my dragon pearls (jasmine tea) and sencha tea but on this visit, I did try an interesting watermelon flavoured tea and even enjoyed my fiance’s flavour of choice, a tea with gold flecks that has a cinnamon flavour mixed with black tea that was refreshing when iced.

DAVIDsTEA even has a cute little patio in front of the store where you can watch the beautiful shoppers of Bayview Village pass you buy while sipping tea.  In other exciting news, in the last shot, Aroma, the Israeli espresso bar/cafe chain that has taken Toronto by storm, will be opening across the “street” from DAVIDsTEA this year.  I think the two businesses will complement each other as one is a specialty tea store and the other is more well-rounded cafe-espresso focused.  Bayview Village continues to impress and astound me.  It’s come a long way in terms of evolving its retail mix from what it was in the 80s!

Lastly, if you are American and are reading this post, DAVIDsTEA opened its first two US stores in New York city this year.

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Cake Tasting @ Flour Studio

One of the appointments I was most looking forward to while I was on my whirl wind wedding planning week in Toronto, was a cake taste test at Flour Studio with owner, Esther Ha.  Esther started cake studio almost five years ago in the Bathurst and Eglinton area after studying at Bonnie Gordon’s College of Confectionary Arts and believe it or not, I visited Esther’s brand new cupcake business, during the first week it opened and was happy to return five years later to put my official wedding order in.

Part cake/cupcake studio and part flower boutique, Flour Studio embodies everything a cupcake shop should look like.  Sweet smells, cute lighting and subway tiles, pastel coloured cake stands, inspiring cake displays and lots of fun gift and party items that decorate the perimeter of the store.

We came to Esther to make us a small wedding cake that we could cut at our wedding in August, but decided to add on an order of cupcakes for our guests to enjoy.  During our appointment, we sampled four cupcake flavours: chocolate chocolate, red velvet, vanilla vanilla and blueberry lemon. We also brought home a strawberry cupcake to taste later.

I heard from some very loyal Flour Studio cupcake customers that apparently, Flour Studio makes a banana cupcake that is to die for that was not available that day but if you are in the area and happen to see one sitting on a cake stand, it would be a mistake for you not to try one.

 

I think the butter cream that Esther makes is some of the best in the city.  I wouldn’t dare cover up one of her cakes in fondant. Rather, I want to eat and enjoy the butter cream.  Her cupcakes are spongy with a bit of crumble, never dry and full of flavour.  During our appointment, between mouthfuls of cake and icing, we spent some time talking “shop” about the cupcake industry in Toronto and which areas were saturated which areas could handle another opening.

While we haven’t made our decision yet on flavours, I think we have nailed down our cake shape and I look forward to placing my order and actually getting to eat our cake in August.

Does anyone have a favourite flavour cupcake at Flour Studio that you think I should consider incorporating into our wedding cupcakes?  I would love to hear your feedback.  Send me comments!!  Have a great weekend where ever you are.

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Arabic Sweets + Rose Water

One of the food items I find myself missing most while living in Prague is Middle Eastern food.  I love the flavours and components of Middle Eastern food so much that sometimes I think I was born in the wrong country or culture.  I could eat hummus, falafel, labneh, shawarma (good shawarma), kababs, kebbeh, babaganoush, and all the little accompanying salads that are part and parcel with Middle Eastern cuisine on a daily basis without getting board.  That is why I made a bee line to both Sababa Fine Foods (best lentil soup and pita bread in the city) and Paramount Fine Foods in Toronto (Thornhill to be exact for all you Torontonians who need a geographical reference).

While living in Toronto, I used to frequent both places for meals.  However, in addition to the delicious meats, salads and dips, I would occasionally indulge in an Arabic sweet or two.   Paramount’s sweets are particularly good (and close by) so it was often my first choice when I had a craving for layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts, spices, honey, delicately flavoured with rose water.

The addition of rose water to honey and spices makes Arabic sweets stand out to me.   Rose water brings a lovely floral flavour to the pastry and magnifies the honey taste times 10.  It is also the difference between the taste of Middle Eastern baklava and Greek or Turkish baklava, but I may be wrong!  I am open to debate.

From baklava and kinafe to osmalieh and znoud al-sit, I love them all.

This type of dessert is my idea of heaven. While each sweet piece looks deceivingly small, they pack a punch when it comes to satisfaction.

There is something so exciting about seeing a massive tray of symmetrical sweets neatly displayed behind a case of glass. It’s the presentation and variety, and serving process which has always fascinated me and drawn me in.

Paramount Fine Foods: 7315 Yonge Street, Toronto

Sababa Fine Foods: 390 Steeles Avenue West, Toronto

My trip to Paramount Fine Foods in Toronto was almost equally exciting as my visit to Pasam Baklava (Turkish baklava) in Berlin.  I can’t wait to find my next great source of Arabic sweets on my travels through Europe.  Any recommendations you have, please leave me a comment.  I will be in Vienna, Munich, Tel Aviv, Toronto and Barcelona over the next three to four months.

If you are looking to experiment with rose water with pastry or dessert, I would recommend checking out the following recipes:

1. Cook Republic’s Rhubarb and Rose water Crumble

2. 101 Cookbooks recommends: Rose water plum compote and rhubarb and rosewater syrup

3. Spoon Fork Bacon’s Rose water glitter cake

4. The Kitchn’s Rose water Ice (aka Faloodeh)

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Fun with chocolate

I am back in Prague, home from Toronto and jet lagged as ever. I had a wonderful time catching up with family and friends.  I think I had a total of 20 appointments packed into five business days, not including a two day dash to Troy, Michigan to the Somerset Collection to find a wedding dress (success- thank you to Kerri at Neiman Marcus who was super helpful).

I have lots of fun pictures to share with you from the 10 day trip that I will post throughout the week including a new food hall at the Bay, shots from the new David’s Tea at Bayview Village, our cake/cupcake tasting at Flour Studio and a ridiculously delicious breakfast at my favourite diner in Ferndale, Michigan.

In the mean time, while I catch up on a bit of “school work”, I thought I would share some pictures that I took at home the day before I got on the plane.

I tested another batch of cookies and brought them to school.

Since I had no chocolate chips on hand, I had fun cutting up a bar of chocolate.

I tried to chop methodically and neatly working my way through each line of the bar and then cutting the pieces into smaller slivers. I think the dough turned out well. I didn’t have a chocolate chip cookie left from the batch.

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Vanilla Food Company + Weekend Roundup

Boy could I use a company like this when I am missing baking ingredients in Prague.  I can’t tell you how many times I go to bake, realize I am missing an ingredient, head to the store and end up searching endlessly for something that I may or may not find.  Vanilla was one of the top things on my list that I could not locate in the city, however now I know you can purchase a small bottle at Marks and Spencer ($$).

I thought the Vanilla Food Company, a Toronto based, specialty, online-only business that sells vanilla (beans, extracts), plus other baking items such as spices, dried fruits, extracts, flavourings, pastes, powders and colourings (to name a few) was a neat niche business for bakers and food enthusiasts to know about.  Not only can you get extracts, you can get beautiful things like Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste, Callebaut chocolate chips as well as chocolate from Cacao Berry and Valrhona (the premium chocolate heavyweights!), and cinnamon from Vietnam.

It looks as if this company was born out of a bit of frustration with the quality and selection of vanilla beans available to regular/non professional chefs in the marketplace.  “The dried up, shriveled, over-priced vanilla beans” we are all accustomed to buying would not suffice for this entrepreneur.  Instead, Vanilla Food Company is filling that gap by upping the quality and accessibility to customers in Canada and the US!

I can’t wait to put my order in and pick up some items to bring back with me to Prague when I return to Toronto in May.

Photo Source: 1, 2, 3

Outside of craving quality chocolate and vanilla paste, I found some interesting ideas on the blogsphere to share with you:

I would like to try this pancake recipe on the weekend from Indonesian blogger, Cemplang Cemplung

I enjoyed reading this blog post on organic vegetables and fruit in Dubai from blogger, My Custard Pie

Finally, design store, Riija, in Riga Latvia, looks like it carries a lot of neat stuff from local designers, if you are into exploring or collecting some design products from Latvia.

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