February 25, 2011


Happy birthday to me! Earlier this afternoon, I celebrated my birthday with an afternoon high tea at the Windsor Arms hotel. I was accompanied by none other than Jessie and Sean, two of my funniest dining companions. Our reservation was not until 1pm, but of course, we were 30 minutes early so we sat in the car opening four birthday cards from Sean and some presents: tickets to the Sleigh Bells concert in May (wahoo!) and money (for a future camera purchase, double wahoo).

Upon entering the Windsor Arms tea room, we were given a choice of tables and I chose to sit at a table near the windows (better for photo-taking). Jessie and I chose to sit on the booth seats which were plush but a little too low; Sean sat in one the chairs which looked really comfy. Our room was bright and airy, with gold-framed paintings on the wall (none of which I remembered to take a photo of). In the corner there was a display of hats which Jessie and I found quite amusing:

Along with our individual tea, we each opted for the full tea which includes scones:sandwiches:
and petit fours:
Our meal began with a mini goat cheese and caramelized shallot quiche:

This was a really great way to start the meal. The caramelized shallot really made the quiche and I'm not even a fan of quiches (from an overload of them back in Switzerland with Jessie in 2001).

Scones included raisin and plain, served alongside devon cream and strawberry and raspberry jam. Check out the mini jams:

Our assorted of finger sandwiches included cucumber with sundried tomato paste and dill cream cheese:

smoked salmon and wasabi sour cream with salmon caviar:

and grilled chicken, grany smith apples, citrus mayonnaise and greek yogurt and chives which I don't have a close-up photo of because I never ate of them (non-organic chicken). I'll try and snag one from Jessie's iPhone.

Here's another shot of our assortment of petits fours (courtesy of Sean):Individually, they were (as described to us by our server) a dark chocolate fudge (for Jessie):

a raspberry or strawberry mousse in a dark chocolate tea cup (it was raspberry and delightful, obvi mine):

an Opera cake ("they just call it Opera cake" for Sean)

a blood orange mousse with sponge at the bottom and blueberries (mine):

a lemon meringue tart (check out that awesome toasted meringue for Sean):

and a white chocolate something (that's pretty much all our server said; Jessie had a hard time figuring it out but it came with a cherry with gold leaf and had a hard, crisp texture on the bottom.):

The presentation on this one was amazing. I wish I liked white chocolate so I could have tasted it but I find white chocolate too sweet. I even find milk chocolate too sweet sometimes. Oh well, c'est la vie.
Then we also had strawberries and cream:At first glance, it didn't seem like a lot of food but it was. I didn't finish one of my scones and by the time I got around to eating my strawberries and cream, I felt like someone was forcing me to eat it. It was a little bit sad. I had the face that I always have when I can't eat but feel like I have to finish it. I ended up just having a taste of the cream (it looked like ice cream, I had to try it) and finishing off my berries.

Oh yeah, about the tea. Jessie chose the Black Velvet which includes ginseng, peppermint, licorice and black tea while Sean chose the Chai Arms which includes ceylon, cardamom, cinnamon, glove, ginger and black pepper. I chose the Tibetan Tiger which includes black tea with vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch and caramel (though I don't remember reading the description of the last two). Our teas came in fancy tea pots:


High tea at the Windsor Arms was definitely a memorable experience. At $30 per person it wasn't terribly expensive but it is cheaper Monday-Friday. During the weekend it's $8 extra and higher during the holidays, I believe. There's also a sherry or sparkling wine option for an added $5. I'm not partial to either (sulphites = migraines) but it would have been a fun option, especially during a celebration of sorts. There was two other parties celebrating birthdays and the server brought out other chocolate petit fours for each party to enjoy along with a candle while singing "Happy Birthday." I would have enjoyed it but honestly, I had consumed so much food already that the thought of more wasn't going to leave me with the most pleasant of birthday memories.

Here are some fun photos throughout our afternoon lunch...
Sipping our tea:

Sean being the server:

Sean and Jessie enjoying their scones:

Before and after scone-eating:

February 24, 2011


Groupon's are a wonderful thing. If you're not familiar with the Groupon system, or one of the many similar systems (such as LivingSocial or DealFind), this is how it works: you sign up to receive a daily deal for restaurants, spas, manis and pedis, car detailing packages and more. When Groupon became first available in Toronto, I immediately signed up and was offered a whole slew of amazing restaurants. I also signed up for LivingSocial shortly thereafter.

Sean and I have been able to eat at some pretty awesome places including Chippy's Fish & Chips (which we enjoyed at a theatre while watching Black Swan, no joke), and Lai Toh Heen, which we've now visisted twice.

A sister restaurant to the very famous Lai Wah Heen, Lai Toh Heen offers the same elegant, upscale dim sum fare, as well as innovative Chinese food that Sean and I were very excited to try out upon our second visit. We perused the menu quite meticulously--a Chef's Tasting Menu? Oh we're coming back for that, when our wallets aren't so thin--but from the appetizer section we knew exactly what we were getting: the pan-seared foie-gras glazed with ice wine plum sauce, on a bed of shredded duckling in sesame and peanut dressing ($18):Now my only other foie-gras experience was from The Hoof Cafe (the French toasted with a slab of foie gras that Sean ordered and I had a bite of) and to be honest, it wasn't a taste I thought I'd let my tongue experience ever again. I kind of thought to myself, this is what we force-feed ducks for? I'm not a vegan, not even a vegetarian, nor do I ever preach about the benefits of eating grass-fed, organic and/or local, but I just didn't really get it. What was there to like about foie gras? Lai Toh Heen made me bite my tongue. This foie gras, however small it was (and believe me, that $26 appetizer really could have been meant for one), was amazing. It melted in my mouth and the combination of ingredients made it really tasty.

Next, we decided to order the oolong tea smoked duck breast slices with pickled turnip and seaweed ($20):I was surprised to see that this dish also came with pickled carrot slices which, along with turnip, are two of my favourite pickled vegetables. If your only experience with duck is the roasted kind you get at those Chinese take-out places--the ones full of grease and fat--I definitely urge you to try the duck from Lai Toh Heen. This duck was not fatty or greasy at all and had the pleasant aroma of the oolong tea. The pickled vegetables gave each bite a nice crunchy texture and the seaweed salad alongside the dish had a wonderful taste as well. Mmm...seaweed.

Our third course was stir-fried french green bean & fresh lily bulbs with Chinese wine and ginger ($16):The beans were not covered in oil as you find in many regular, cheaper Chinese restaurants. The fresh lily bulbs were also very interesting. They had a very mild onion-y taste that lingered for just a second before vanishing.
My date:Me:The reason I look so yellow:

A strip of translucent yellow surrounding the bar where we were seated.

Sean and I don't typically have dessert at restaurants because the options usually include the usual fare, but Sean was delighted at the thought of one particular dessert at Lai Toh Heen. I present to you the double-boiled papaya bowl with snow fungus and almond cream ($12):Our waiter told us that the dessert takes 20 minutes to prepare but Sean was quite excited and I didn't mind waiting. (We're not sure if he told us to warn us or to make us choose something else on the dessert menu, har har har.) The almond cream is actually more like a soup and the taste is very reminiscent of almond jelly. I have no idea what the papaya tasted like after being double-boiled but since papayas usually make me want to "upchuck," I'm going to hazard a guess that Sean really liked it and I would not have. For my dessert, I settled on the chilled mango pudding ($5):Sean eating his dessert reminded me of a person eating a soft-boiled egg in the morning:Served alongside some fragrant white rice, our main dishes were plentiful and delicious. Though they seemed very simple in description, they were complex upon both our palates in taste and texture. Sean said that Lai Toh Heen is probably his favourite upscale Chinese restaurant because though the description of their food might seem simple, the flavours are so complex, you just want to let them marinate in your mouth. Okay, okay so he didn't exactly say that last part but it was something along those lines. I would definitely recommend Lai Toh Heen to anyone seeking out a new innovative Chinese restaurant. It's even worth the price to try out at least once. Sean and I are quite excited to be able to go back someday for their Chef's Tasting Menu. Our dinner was just lovely.


I got bangs about a week and a half ago and ever since then, I've regretted it. The rest of my hair isn't long enough for the look I was going for. Now I'm waiting (impatiently) for my bangs to grow out.

Today is the last day of my entire life that I'll be 27 and I'm spending it at home with a migraine. I guess it beats working but I'm in my bedroom with the windows completely covered with my curtains and it's dark and kind of depressing. I wish I could enjoy the sunlight--if there is any.

I'm craving cookies like crazy and I almost never crave sweets. I can't figure out whether or not I want a crunchy cookie (like some biscotti) or a chewy cookie (like a chewy chocolate chip).

I know I'm not getting a puppy for my birthday and deep down, it kind of saddens me.

I had a dream about one of my co-workers finishing off a large-size Vita Coco coconut water and throwing it in the garbage. My first thought was "where the heck did he get that from?!" (since they don't carry the large size at McEwan and no longer carry Vita Coco at Whole Foods in Toronto) and not "hey, you can recycle that packaging." To say I'm obsessed with Vita Coco is something of an understatement.

Moral of this post: wait for the rest of your hair to grow out before you get bangs cut.

February 12, 2011


There's a cake I had been wanting to make forever. I first saw it on the blog, Christopher and Tia. It was gluten-free and vegan and since Corey's girlfriend follows a gluten-free diet, I figured "hey, I could make this cake for Bryanne!" But of course, I was always waiting for the perfect time to make this cake and that day finally arrived, the weekend after Halloween. Sean offered to help me make this epic six-layer chocolate and peanut butter cake.

Here's the recipe and process, it all its photo-glory:
Layer #1 - Brownie
I cheated and used a gluten-free brownie mix from Bulk Barn since I'm a gluten-free baking novice:Sean mixed all the ingredients together:
He's really big compared to that little tiny hand mixer:Next, spread brownie batter into a springform pan:Here I go:The gluten-free brownie mix was really "springy":
Bake for 20-25 minutes and the brownie layer should come out looking like this:If you use your leftover brownie mix to make regular brownies and add chocolate chips and mini marshmallows to the mix before making, this is what they'll look like:(though they tasted pretty darn good)

Layer #2 - Chocolate and peanut butter rice crispies
Get out your mise en place! This was a rare mise en place baking adventure. Here I have rice crispies, creamy peanut butter and chocolate chips:Start by melting the PB and chocolate chips together in the microwave in 30-second intervals:
Photo glitch:
Stir until melted and well combined:Next pour the melted chocolate and PB mixture over the rice crispies:
Then spread onto the cooled brownie layer:
Ta-da! Then stick this in the freezer
Layer #3 - Chocolate Mousse
Gather your ingredients for the chocolate "mousse" (tofu, chocolate chips, vanilla extract):Begin by melting the chocolate chips in the microwave in 30-second intervals:Then beat in the vanilla and entire block of tofu. Whip until smooth and thick:
Then spread on top of cooled chocolate and PB rice crispie layer. Stick in freezer to cool:Layer #4 - Peanut butter mousse
Repeat chocolate mousse steps but with peanut butter instead of chocolate chips. You may be covered in melted chocolate and PB at this point. It's okay...there are worse things to be covered in. Spread on top of cooled chocolate mousse layer:
Start chopping some roasted salted peanuts:
Look at the concentration on my face:
Chopping brought to you by Farberware:
Here is your five-layer cake out of the freezer:Layer #5 & #6 - Chocolate ganache and peanut sprinkles
Make chocolate ganache by melting more chocolate chips with soy creamer. Sean and I couldn't find soy creamer in his town so we had to use heavy cream (making our cake no longer vegan). Heat the cream and then pour on top of chocolate. Let sit for a minute or so and then stir to combine. Set cake on top of something (we used an upside-down cake pan) and then pour chocolate ganache on top and all over sides. NOTE: It is KEY that your cake is set at this point, especially your peanut butter mousse layer, otherwise everything will kind of slide around like ours did a bit. I had to salvage everything with a spatula. Immediately sprinkle chopped peanuts on top:
Transport to friend's house and serve:
Six layers of gluten-free cake:Chocolate and peanut butter smorgasbord:If you want to make this cake, which I highly recommend if you're a chocolate or peanut butter fanatic, here's the linky to check it out. And if you're serving it to a crowd who isn't gluten intolerant or vegan, don't even bother telling them because they won't notice a thing!

Oh and don't forget to take silly pictures of you and your "helper" and your cake before you cut into it! Our first attempt:Second attempt:Can I offer you a piece?