[Paris] Ladurée Paris Champs Elysées

Ladurée is a very popular French luxury bakery and sweets maker house in Paris. They have several locations in France, and also worldwide, including London, Tokyo, Hong Hong, and more. I actually passed by a Ladurée in Tokyo back in 2013, but regrettably didn't know about the brand. I only learned about them when I was doing some research for our Paris trip (so sad).


Our hotel (Elysées Bassano) was centrally located in Champs-Élysées, and we came across Ladurée on our way to dinner at Léon de Bruxelles. I was planning on going to Ladurée the next day, but couldn't help getting some macarons before dinner.


 The shop was pretty chaotic, as it was super busy that Friday evening.  I read some reviews where people were asked firmly to not take any pictures inside many Ladurée Paris locations. Fortunately, the staff that day were really friendly, and they were okay with us taking photos (we asked first). I have noticed that a lot of fancy pastry shops based in Europe frowned upon photography ... it's pretty much free advertising!

Anyway,  I got a box of 6 macarons (€17.50 / $24). I got the following flavours; pistachio, rose, iced mint, coconut, Marie Antoinette tea, and strawberry candy "guimauve". I enjoyed all six flavours, and the shells were lightly crisp with smooth filling that was flavorful. I prefer Ladurée over Pierre Hermé cause they are more sweeter. 





 Compared to Toronto, macarons based in Europe are not very wallet-friendly. They average out to be about $4 CAD per macaron, so choose your flavors wisely. I really liked the macarons from Ladurée Paris, so we got more boxes as souvenirs at Charles de Gaulle Airport on our way back to Toronto. JJ couldn't believe that we spent a little over $100 on macarons alone that morning, as he's not a fan of macarons. They all made it back safely with no cracks (except the one box that we ate on the plane).

We actually almost missed our flight back to Toronto, cause I had to wait for the macarons to be packed. It wasn't just Ladurée where service was lax and slow. We experienced it in several restaurants and cafes in Paris, so I think that's just the norm. Our Air Canada flight was at 11:00 am, and we had to be at the boarding gate by 10:40 am. We were running down the corridor like crazy expecting the worst - since it was already 10:55 am. We got to our gate, and to our surprise the line just started moving. People were now being boarded! I know a lot of people complain or hate flying with Air Canada, but in that moment ... I was so happy. We were on-time to board our flight =) It was a super risky move, but luck was on our side that very morning. 


Address: 75 avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008


Kinton Ramen on 7 (Hwy 7 Markham)

Kinton Ramen is a popular chain of ramen restaurants with several locations in Ontario. Earlier last month, they expanded uptown to Markham with a new outpost in Commerce Gate Plaza. Uptowners can now get their ramen fix instead of having to come all the way to North York or downtown.  
 


I had the pleasure of being invited to Kinton Ramen for their soft opening, where I got to try several appetizers and a bowl of ramen of my choice with a guest. Upon entering the establishment, I noticed how much larger the space was compared to their other locations. The interior design however remains consistent, as it was sleek and modern with their signature wooden furnishing. A perfect blend of traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern appeal.



Kinton Ramen on 7 differs slightly from the other downtown locations, as this one offers several popular dishes from the Kinka Izakaya menu like the kakimayo and gomaae. Uptown guests now have the option to eat ramen or share several items from the izakaya menu. It's really the best of both worlds! 

We started off with two orders of Kinka Original Ramune ($3.50), a favorite of mine. Ramune is a popular carbonated soft drink originally sold in Japan, but it is also available worldwide. The drink is widely known for its distinctive codd-neck bottles design, where you need to use pressure to open the bottle. The drink available at Kinton has been re-branded with the Kinka logo, and for every bottle sold, Kinka Family donates $0.50 to SickKids. So drink for a good cause!



What I like about Kinton Ramen is that the quality of their food is fairly consistent despite multiple locations. Additionally, the portion size is very filling, as I have never left Kinton Ramen hungry.  

I opted for the Original Pork Ramen ($10.99) - sea salt, scallions, nori, seasoned egg, pork, as my bowl of ramen. I also decided to add some additional topics including corn, bean sprout, and seaweed. My ramen came out pipping hot with a mountain high of toppings, savory broth, and topped off with two seared pork belly with a good meat-to-fat ratio. If you're not into the original pork broth, the ramen menu includes other bases like shoyu (soy sauce), miso (soy bean paste), spicy, and extra pork. Additionally, noodles are available both thick and thin, and I chose thick. The broth was rich and well-balanced (not too salty).  Like I mentioned previously, it was consistent with the quality that I often receive from the Bloor location (the one I frequent most).  



From the choices of several starters and appetizers, I decided to start off with the Hot Karaage ($8.30) - spicy fried chicken. The plate consisted of several pieces of large, and juicy chunks of lightly battered chicken covered with hot sauce.


We also got the ikapiri ($7.90) - deep fried calamari with spicy ketchup and wasabi mayo, from their Kinka Izakaya menu.


One of my favorite Japanese snacks has to be takoyaki, which I had plenty of in Osaka, Japan this past December. The takoyaki ($5.50) contained five deep fried octopus balls with tonkatsu sauce and mayo. There was a reasonable amount of octopus pieces stuffed into the flour-based batter. I enjoyed it!


I was pretty full from my meal, but I will always have room for desserts so I got the Matcha Cheesecake ($4.50) - baked matcha green tea cheesecake. The texture of the cheesecake was creamy with light matcha flavor. It wasn't overly sweet like Western desserts. I ended up eating the entire cheesecake slice, as my fiancé was too full - so I didn't have to share =) 



The only issue that I had was that it took a while for the last two appetizers to come out. We actually cancelled our gyoza order, as we were full from finishing our bowls of ramen. The gyoza from Kinton are really my favorite, but I was too full at that point. The one thing that they do need to improve on is probably the disorganized service, and servers need to be more attentive. Despite the minor setback, Kinton Ramen on 7 did not disappoint, as we had an overall pleasant dining experience.




Address: 505 Hwy 7 East, Unit 54-58, Markham, ON L3T 7T1

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.


[Prague] Naše Maso

We spent three nights in Prague, and Naše Maso was on our list of eats based on its high rating on Yelp. It's a butcher shop located a few minutes away from the Old Town Square. They offer high quality meat, and cooked items as well. We ended up getting two of their most popular items, the dry-aged hamburger and spicy sausages.


The Dry-Aged Hamburger (159 czk / $8.19) took about 15 minutes to be ready, but it was worth the wait. The burger was freshly made, and there was a good bun to meat ratio. Overall, it was enjoyable meal and the meat was full of flavor. I only wished that they had toasted the bun a little longer, as it was kind of lukewarm when I got it.


 We also got an order of two Italian Sausages (75 czk each / $3.86 each), which were pretty good.




Valentine's Day Cocktails with Carbon Bar and East Thirty-Six

Celebrare Valentine's Day with that special someone with one of these cocktails from Carbon Bar and East Thirty-Six.

The Carbon Bar - Ma Cherie


Ingredients: 

5oz Woodford Reserve
5oz Cherry Heering
5oz lemon juice
75oz simple syrup
25oz cherry syrup

Directions: 

Shake all ingredients
Fine strain in flute
Top with 4oz Mumm Napa sparkling wine
Cherry and lemon zest as garnish



East Thirty-Six - His 
Cupid's Bow 

1oz Dillon's white rye
.5oz chestnut liqueur
.5oz amaro Montenegro
Amarena cherry garnish


East Thirty-Six - Hers
Raspberry Truffle

1oz absolut vodka
.5oz chambord
.5oz chocolate liqueur
House made raspberry coulis
Garnish: truffle with an almond inside




[Amsterdam] The Pancake Bakery

The Pancake Bakery is a popular pancake house in Amsterdam. It's located in the historic Jordaan District, just a few doors back down from the Anne Frank House. While reading the online reviews, and glancing over the menu prices; I realized that it was definitely a tourist trap. However, it started raining extremely hard and we wanted a quick bite before our Hop On - Hop Off Boat Tour so we decided to try it anyway. 



Looking through the menu, they offer a good selection of both sweet and savory pancakes. J got the pancake with peaces, cherry liquour, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream (€12.95 / $18.03)


I wasn't too hungry, so I opted for a plate of poffertjes with butter and sugar (€5.25 / $7.31). It was really good that I ended up getting a second plate of it. These Dutch mini pancakes were so fluffy and buttery. 


The service wasn't abysmal like some other restaurants in Europe, but it wasn't that good either. Just a note that they will not give you tap water - bottled water only!




Neal Brothers Foods Kettle Chips

Since 1988, Neal Brothers Foods has provided families all over Canada with a variety of snacks and sauces. Who are the Neal Brothers? They are two brothers who started making croutons out of their mother’s home in Aurora, ON, in the 1980's. The product proved to be quite popular with the locals in the area, and the brothers quickly expanded their company once they moved to Toronto. From their humble beginnings, Neal Brothers Foods now offer a wide range of healthy snack options made from organic ingredients.


 "Food is family and we truly believe it has the power to bring people together," said Peter Neal, co-owner, Neal Brothers. "Our range of products has natural and organic ingredients you can feel good about enjoying with your loved ones. So let's eat!" 


A couple of weeks ago, I received a care package from Neal Brothers Foods containing four different kettle chips to try. The savory kettle chips are made with all natural and quality ingredients, which are a great alternative to potato chips. It's something that you can munch on while watching a movie, studying, or just when you're craving for some chips.

 

 Spicy Srirachup - Out of the four options, the spicy srirachup chips was my favorite. You can definitely taste the heat of the sriracha along with the sweetness of the ketchup. It was a nice contrast of flavors and well-balanced as well.

Montreal Steak Spice - Montreal steak spice is a spice mix used to flavor steak that was based on the pickling dry-rub mix used in preparing Montreal smoked meat. So, it was really interesting that the Neal Brothers were able to create a kettle chips flavor using the mix. The chips had a nice meat flavor, and you can taste the garlic, dill and chili flake with every crunch.


Maple Bacon - The Maple Bacon was a very clear representation of Canadian flavors - maple syrup with bacon. The chips are seasoned with maple and brown sugar to create a sweet flavor with smoked notes of bacon. I really enjoyed this flavor as well, as it's such a unique chip flavor. 


Pink Himalayan Salt - Personally, I have never tried Pink Himalayan salt before, but I have read that it was one of the cleanest salts available. The Neal Brothers Foods' kettle chips was lightly salted with the mineral dense sea salt. It gave it a nice salty flavor without being overly loaded with sodium, which can cause water retention.


I also want to note that I love the packaging with all of the bright colors. It's very eye catching, especially when you walk by the products in the grocery stores. Neal Brothers Foods Kettle Chips can be found in the snack aisles at Loblaws, Longos, Sobeys, and Metro. Happy snacking!!

About Neal Brothers Foods:

Started by brothers Peter and Chris Neal in their family kitchen in 1988, Neal Brothers Foods was founded out of a passion for great tasting, “better for you” snacks. Their commitment has always been, and remains steadily, to offer food products that are healthier than the norm, using the best ingredients to achieve that, no matter the cost. One of the most popular items in the Neal Brothers lineup, all natural, non-GMO, kettle-cooked chips are now available in the U.S.

Disclaimer: Neal Brothers Foods Kettle Chips were provided for review. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.


A Night with the Girls - Celebrate Galentine's Day with Melitta Coffee

On February 13th celebrate the women in your life with an evening of tasty libations and decadent treats sure to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Share the love of coffee with a customized DIY coffee bar  compete with selection of different Melitta brews, deletable toppings and creamers. Melitta’s pour-over technology is changing the way Canadians experience coffee, and Melitta is making it easy to enjoy at home. 

Click here for more coffee infused cocktail and drink ideas from Melitta to make the most out of Galentine's Day.

Toasted Marshmallow Cupcake Iced Coffee 
(Recipe courtesy of Monin®)


Ingredients:

1/2 oz. Monin Toasted Marshmallow Syrup
1/2 oz. Monin French Vanilla Syrup
2 oz. whole milk or 1/2 & 1/2
4 oz. Melitta Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate (or European Roast Coffee, triple strength brewed and chilled)


Instructions:

Fill 14oz. glass with ice.
Add syrup and coffee concentrate.
Add whole milk or 1/2 & 1/2 and stir well to mix.
Top with whipped cream and garnish with sprinkles.
 
Melitta’s pour-over technology is changing the way Canadians experience coffee, and Melitta is making it easy to enjoy at home. You and the girls can enjoy a hand-crafted cup of coffee in three easy steps:

Step 1: Simply place your pour-over on top of your coffee mug or carafe

Step 2: Pop in the Melitta bamboo filter and add your favorite finely ground coffee to taste

Step 3: Pour boiling water over the grounds slowly




 A chic, minimalistic design
Bamboo filters
Peek-a-boo window enabling you to see into the cup without lifting to avoid overfill
Plastic brew cone designed to fit many size mugs
White porcelain option available




 

Moxie's Grill & Bar Lemonade Pop-Up Patio

I had the pleasure of checking out Moxie’s Hard Lemonade Pop-Up at the 9th Wine & Spirit Festival this past weekend. The two-day event (presented by Sobeys) officially kicked off the summer season, and Moxie's Grill & Bar was part of the fun. If you missed out on their hard lemonade at the festival, don't fret! Moxie’s Hard Lemonade Pop-Up Patio will be popping up at select events in the GTA between June 16th to July 15th, 2017.


The idea was inspired by Moxie’s thirst quenching, crafted house-made hard lemonade (available in the restaurants). Since it's summer and everyone will be out and about, Moxie's Grill & Bar wanted consumers to quench their thirst with some refreshing lemonade this summer, and came up with the patio. The patio is custom designed with an adult lemonade bar, bright yellow lounge sitting and fitted with a large patio umbrella. Great place to socialize with friends, and hide out from the hot sun.

Moxie's will be making an appearance at the upcoming Dragon Boat Race in September 2017. However, that's a few months away! If you can't wait to check them out then, they will also be at the following upcoming pop-ups.

1) June 24th - Port credit Yacht Club as part of the Toronto Area Hospice Regatta from 2 pm to 6pm. The event is put on by the Port Credit Yacht Club to raise funds for a great cause.

·         2) July 15th - In the beer garden of the GWN sports Regatta at Marylin Bell Park from 11 am to 6 pm serving our Moxie’s Hard Lemonade




Join me for some hard lemonade at one of the pop-up events this summer. The lemonade is handcrafted, and made-to-order to ensure that you cool down with every sip. The lemons are hand-squeezed, mixed with soda, and topped off with Tito’s Handmade Vodka over ice. Patio season has never been so freshly squeezed!

Check out their hashtag #squeezesummerhard for more pictures.


GIVEAWAY ALERT:

I will be hosting a giveaway on my Instagram this Monday (June 26) at 12 pm, where I will be giving away a $150 gift card to any Moxie's Grill & Bar location in Canada. So don't forget to check it out =)

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Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Moxie's Grill & Bar. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.



National Pizza Day with Famoso Pizzeria

Did you know this Thursday, February 9 is National Pizza Day? Here are some interesting facts about Neapolitan Pizza courtesy of Famoso Pizzeria.


5 Things You Didn’t Know About Neapolitan Pizza

1. Burn, baby, burn: It’s not just any oven that can create a Neapolitan pizza, and only the right kind gives the soft, moist centre, and perfectly crisp, slightly charred, crust of a true authentic. As such, it’s typically only at a restaurant that you can experience a Neapolitan the way it’s done in Naples. At Famoso, the pizza is fired in an authentic bell-shaped oven, imported from Italy, for 90 seconds at a sizzling 900ºF.


2. I got the key: The crust of an authentic Neapolitan pizza uses a dough that is made with highly refined, Italian type ‘0’ or ‘00’ wheat flour, which refers to the texture of the flour. Type ‘00’ flour, of which the Caputo variety is used at Famoso, is the finest grind available. This highly refined flour is low-gluten, meaning it’s easily digestible, while giving the dough just enough elasticity to create the perfect crust. At Famoso, any of their pizzas - and many other menu options - can be adapted to suit a gluten-free diet.

3. Love at first fold: It’s not just the way it’s made that makes a Neapolitan pizza. Once served, the pizza should be eaten ‘a libretto’ - like a book - for the tastiest and most authentic Italian dining experience. 


4. Margherita Mondays: Baker Raffaele Esposito, a 19th century Italian owner of Naples eatery ‘Pizzeria di Pietro e Basta Cosi’ is considered by some to be the founder of the Margherita pizza, having been requested to create a dish for Queen Margherita of Savoy who had travelled to Naples with King Umberto I. Preparing his speciality, Esposito made a pizza using tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil, to celebrate the colours of the Italian flag through the ingredients. Famoso celebrates the traditional Margherita every Monday, offering them for $8 each. 


5. A ‘pizza’ the action: The pizza that we eat today - dough topped with tomatoes and cheese - was invented in Naples, Italy, hundreds of years ago. Prior to this, the closest thing to what is arguably our nation’s favourite dish, was a flatbread, however these were never topped with tomatoes. Once tomatoes arrived in Europe, and used as a flatbread topping, the pizza was born. Today, Famoso imports all its tomatoes from the region of Campania (of which Naples is the region capital), and hand-mills them before the oven caramelizes them to perfection.

Address: 386 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1X4

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Uncle Tetsu’s Unionville - Sakura Cheesecake

Earlier last week, I had the pleasure of going to the Uncle Tetsu’s Unionville in Markham to try their new Sakura Cheesecake. Unlike the fluffy baked cheesecakes that they are known for, this new one is a no-bake cheesecake. It is also exclusive to the Unionville location, and it is highly recommended that you pre-order in advance due to the craftsmanship that goes into baking them.



This was my first time at their Unionville location, but I have been to the downtown one on several occasions. All of the storefronts in Unionville are modeled as historic village houses, and the Uncle Tetsu’s Unionville's location is no different. It's a cute looking home with very minimal space inside (quite cramp when it's super busy). I went on a Friday evening, and it was busy, so everyone was kind of shoved into a little corner while waiting for their cheesecakes. 



The Japanese-Style No Bake Cheesecakes are available in two different flavours, Sakura and Yuzu. The smaller version was $8, while the large was $35. The larger size may be a little pricey, but it would be a great cake to order for a special occasion to share (like birthdays, bridal shower, Valentine's Day, etc ...).

 The Sakura No Bake Cheesecake was beautifully decorated with cherry blossom petals, gold leaf, and glazed with gelatin jelly. The pink layer was creamy, and has a similar texture to a mousse cake. The cheese flavor was light, and the cherry blossom petals added the aroma to the cake.

Sign up today (FREE) to the Toronto Gourmand Club (link is here) for a 20% off coupon that you can use for the Uncle Tetsu’s Unionville’s Sakura Cheesecake. The coupon expires on February 10th, 2017, but there are plenty of upcoming benefits and discounts for members. 




I was also able to sample the Yuzu Cheesecake as well. The light cheesecake was flavored with Japanese yuzu, and had a nice strong citrus flavor. However, I do like the Sakura Cheesecake a lot more over the Yuzu one. 





Address: 158 Main St Unionville, Unionville, ON L3R 2G9

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.