The Vancouver Pastry Taste-off

Ultimate 5-Sentence Backstory: I love almond croissants. I really, really, really love almond croissants. I left my home in BC to come back to Ontario for work. Dad offered to take me on a Vancouver almond croissant tour. I was told to not be too greedy…

#1

Yes, I know it’s not a croissant… but why don’t we talk about it anyways?

Sour cherry buckwheat scone from Purebread Bakery ($4.50): crispy exterior, very tender inside, excellent flavour with a strong, toasty, grainy (but not excessive) buckwheat taste. I really enjoyed it. The texture is crumbly, which I really like and look for in a good scone, and it is studded with fairly large, juicy dried cherries. This is one of my favourite scones of all time, and in fact, I chose to come to Purebread for this scone, which I’ve had before (and have been thinking about, ever since). I vaguely remember there being white chocolate chunks in this scone previously, but I did not find any chunks of white chocolate this time.

#2

Almond croissant from Sweet Victory Bakery ($9.50 for the croissant and a London Fog tea latte): firm, loose/separated layers, chewy, hard, scantily-filled. This was my least favourite croissant because it was more hard than crispy, causing me to suspect that it had been baked a day or two ago. I picked up a London Fog tea latte from Sweet Victory, and enjoyed it greatly, despite it being a little cooler than I would’ve liked – they nailed the flavour and I liked the touch of latte art, which I rarely see on tea lattes. Completely unrelated: the bakery itself was quite nice, and I loved the modern décor (marble, geometric gold, wood finishings).

#3

Double-baked almond croissant from Thomas Haas: heartily-filled, and the almond filling was reminiscent of blanched almond flour. It was not very gooey, and held its shape nicely. The layers were buttery, and the exterior crisp (not hard). There was much more filling than the almond croissant from Sweet Victory, and the texture was better as well. In fact, Thomas Haas’s almond croissant beat the almond croissant from Sweet Victory in every sense: taste, texture, and in my opinion, presentation. This croissant was my dad’s second favourite, and my mom and I ranked it third place.

#4

Lavender Earl Grey scone from Purebread Bakery ($4.50): lavender haters beware – this scone was extremely strong in lavender flavour. I could barely detect the Earl Grey, and had I not known it was a lavender Earl Grey scone, I would’ve assumed it was purely lavender. My dad disliked this scone greatly, as he hates lavender. You can smell the lavender from quite a distance away. My favourite thing about this scone was the dense, buttery texture. I don’t want to say that it was fudge-like, but it was truly a dense, thick scone with immense buttery flavour.

#5

Almond pistachio croissant from Thomas Haas: this croissant had a large “puff”, in that there was a lot of air space between the base, where the filling ended, and the peak of the croissant. The filling was minimal. Unlike Delysees (Toronto), where the pistachio croissant is filled to the brim with gooey pistachio paste, this croissant had a mere smudge of pistachio-almond paste, which was disappointing. The texture of the pistachio was similar to chestnut, noted my mom. My dad pointed out that the filling could be saltier. This croissant was truly a disappointment; I would’ve liked to see at least six times as much filling and a crispier exterior, as if it’d been double-baked like the almond croissant from Thomas Haas. Both Thomas Haas croissants came in cute paper bags (unlike the paper bags from other places), and I was offered a nice plastic bag to hold the two.

#6

Double baked rhubarb cheesecake croissant from Beaucoup Bakery ($4.60): fantastic topping. The topping of this double baked rhubarb cheesecake croissant was the best of the batch. I loved the crispiness of the top, as well as the caramelized sugar on the base. As for the filling, the rhubarb was cooked until very tender, though not mushy, and carried its signature sour flavour. The sweet, crusty exterior provided excellent contrast to the sour-tender filling of the rhubarb and cheesecake. My mom noted that the cheesecake filling tasted like sour cream, so it would’ve been nice to detect some citrus or vanilla notes in the cheesecake batter filling. On a different note, we felt that the chunks of rhubarb inside were too big and would’ve been more enjoyable if they were cut smaller.

#7

Chocolate almond croissant from Beaucoup Bakery ($4.60): incredible croissant. My dad ranked this one in second place, while my mom and I felt like it should come in third. It was filled generously, and the chocolate was rich and satisfying. Almonds covered the top generously, but I wish the chocolate had been more evenly spread. We cut the croissant in fourths, and my quarter was almost entirely filled with chocolate while my parents’s pieces lacked chocolate completely. Regardless, this croissant was tender inside and had rich, buttery layers that I would not hesitate to order again and again.

#8

Almond croissant from Timbertrain Coffee Roastery ($4.90): good thing we tried this one last, because all three of us agreed that this croissant was the number-one croissant of the batch. First of all, the filling was more “liquid-y” than the filling from Thomas Haas’s croissant, and all three of us enjoyed the gooeyness. The layers tasted like perfectly-toasted bread, though one end of the croissant was slightly burned. Despite being crisp, the croissant was anything but hard. The filling was sweet, but not too sweet, and the exterior provided great contrast. We also enjoyed the base of the croissant, which carried the taste and texture of caramelized sugar. There was no doubt that this almond croissant came in first place, and I would easily go back to Vancouver for more of these. My only complaint? Timbertrain Coffee Roastery doesn’t make tea lattes – I wanted a London Fog tea latte, but they could only make mistos (steamed milk + tea base), as they don’t have syrups in their cafe.


Any thoughts? Are you a croissant or scone person? What do you look for in a good pastry?

Lately ✿

The last smidge of summer was filled with bittersweet (mostly sweet – literally) moments.

Exhibit A: this dessert plate that featured chocolate banana “ice cream” à la Tom Daley, peanut butter tofu pie, and chocolate almond banana bread (on my Recipe page) with coconut yogurt and nut butter. Mmmmm.

Tofu haters – I promise you won’t taste the tofu. This is a super satisfying dessert that’ll be sure to cure any sweet-salty cravings. One of my all-time favourite recipes, and it’s a hit with guests, too!

Vegan Peanut Butter Cup Pie

Makes 8 slices

NOTE: requires chilling coconut milk overnight, requires 30 minutes out of freezer before serving

INGREDIENTS

Crust

  • 1.5 to 1.75 cups of crushed graham crackers (about 10-12 crackers)
  • 4.5 tbsp melted coconut oil, or more if needed

Pie

  • 12 oz silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter (125 g)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1 14 oz can of full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight so the liquid and cream separate (do not shake)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • salt, if needed

Topping

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (175 g)
  • 1/3 cup milk (almond, dairy, or coconut are fine)
  • roasted salted peanuts, chopped, if desired for decoration

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Lightly oil glass pie pan.
  3. Process graham crackers until you achieve a fine meal. A little texture is okay. Add melted coconut oil and pulse to combine.
  4. Press the crust into the pan and push down to flatten.
  5. Bake 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside.
  6. Add tofu, peanut butter, maple/honey to a blender. Blend until smooth. Scrape down sides as needed. Add more maple/honey for added sweetness, or more salt if the peanut butter is not salted enough.
  7. Scoop out the cream from the coconut milk can. Whip into whipped cream in a large, chilled mixing bowl. Add vanilla.
  8. Fold peanut butter-tofu mixture into whipped coconut cream.
  9. Pour filling over cooled crust. Freeze to chill. After one hour, prepare ganache.
  10. Add chocolate chips to a bowl. Heat milk to a simmer. Pour over chocolate chips. Do not touch for 5 minutes, to allow it to melt.
  11. Stir gently with spoon until a smooth ganache forms. If it doesn’t melt, heat it in microwave for 10 seconds until smooth.
  12. Spoon over top of pie. Spread evenly with knife. Work quickly. I drizzled mine on, then swirled with a knife.
  13. Top with peanuts, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap. Freeze to set.
  14. 20-30 minutes before serving, remove from freezer and serve.

The last bit of summer was filled with Mom’s incredible cooking. This is my favourite type of fried rice, which is made with dried and rehydrated scallops, green onions, egg white, and more. Shiitake mushroom chicken broth, too. Isn’t that a colourful salad on the side?

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This was my last meal in Coquitlam, BC, so Mom made all my favourites! Tomato scrambled eggs with shrimp, red bean pancakes with sesame seeds, broccoli-carrot stir-fry with mushrooms and cloud ears, and leftover scallop fried rice.

Something similar, but this was on a totally different day: peri peri chicken, the same tomato scrambled eggs, stir-fried veggies (this time with chestnut) and plain rice.

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I love Mom’s cooking so much. More of those red bean sesame pancakes, along with cauliflower and not-too-spicy mapo tofu for my pathetic spice-wimp taste buds.

This meal, actually, was followed by an MRI to screen my pituitary gland. Lying completely motionless inside the little pod (for ~50 minutes) was eerie and unsettling, yet strangely meditative. Except for the needle, it was a neat experience.

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Another day, Mom and I made spaghetti bolognese with fresh ground beef, mixed it with al dente shells, and layered/topped it with an entire log of mozzarella cheese.

Served with garlicky green beans, this dish was a massive hit in the Wei home! I credit that incredible fresh mozzarella.

This summer, I challenged myself to bake a whole bunch of things. Most of the “whole bunch of things” never got baked because of busyness laziness, but these flaky feta-chive scones did! I think you’ll like them as much as my family did.

Flaky, Buttery Feta Chive Biscuits

Makes approx. 12 small scones

Recipe inspired by Joy the Baker

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (360 g)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes (170 g)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp very cold water
  • 3/4 cup cold sour cream, or cold plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup chopped chives
  • 3/4 cup large crumbles of feta cheese
  • 1 beaten egg for egg wash, with a splash of milk if needed
  • coarse sea salt, cracked black pepper, and paprika for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place rack in centre/upper third of oven.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  4. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and black pepper. Use two knives/forks, or a pastry cutter to cut in the cold butter, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Dough should have buttery pea-sized chunks throughout.
  5. In another bowl, lightly beat egg, sour cream, and water, with a fork.
  6. Add wet mixture into flour mixture all at once. Stir enough to make soft, shaggy dough. Use fork to scrape from bottom to top of dough.
  7. Add chives and feta.
  8. Dump mixture on a clean counter to knead dough together. Mixture should come together in 10-15 kneads.
  9. Roll or pat out into a 1-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds, using biscuit cutter. You can also roll the dough into a rectangular shape, and cut the biscuits into triangular shapes. Reshape and roll dough to create more biscuits with excess scraps. Place on prepared baking sheet. Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, black pepper, and smoky paprika.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm. Biscuits are best eaten on the day they are made, but will last up to two days.

We froze some of them!

These prune blondies were also whipped up. My mom enjoyed them, and I really liked the chewy texture that reminded me of glutinous rice.

Prune Blondies

Makes 12 blondies

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes, softened in 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar (150 g)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp mixed nuts, toasted/chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 8×8 pan with parchment paper.
  2. In blender, combine prunes and water. Process until smooth. Add brown sugar, oil, egg, honey, and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry. Fold with a spatula until just combined, then pour batter into prepared pan. Top with nuts.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, then cool in the pan on a wire rack before cutting/serving.

I also made a large list of books that I can’t wait to get my hands on (some of them, for the second time). Have you read any of them?

Books to Read

  • Boo
  • The Female of the Species
  • Unnatural Deeds
  • With Malice
  • And the Trees Crept In
  • A Mother’s Reckoning
  • What Happened to Ivy
  • Red Rain
  • Burning
  • The Cellar
  • Confessions About Colton
  • Run
  • The Letter
  • Her Fearful Symmetry
  • The Hour I First Believed
  • The Little Friend
  • My Name is Memory
  • Mystic River
  • She’s Come Undone *
  • We Were the Mulvaneys
  • White Oleander *
  • The Shipping News
  • Change of Heart
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
  • The Book of Ruth
  • Mystic River
  • Black and Blue
  • Everything I Never Told You
  • Visitation Street
  • The Vanishing Season
  • Elsewhere
  • The Afterlife (cool)
  • Shine
  • Before I Die
  • Where I Want to Be (cool)
  • Falling Into Place (cool)
  • The Age of Miracles
  • The Virgin Suicides
  • The Giver
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • Eat When You Feel Sad
  • To the Lighthouse
  • 300 Million
  • 1 Dead in Attic
  • An Invisible Sign of my Own

Seline, my sister, also wrote a special poem inspired by the stunning rocky hills on Salt Spring Island. She actually has her own poetry blog, which, by the way, looks a lot prettier than my unplanned collages of unfiltered (i.e. ugly) iPhone photos.

Rocks

The rocky path

Illuminated by a simple

Ray of sun

No one beside

In front

or

Behind

As I glide down the hill,

wood chips sticking in my shoes.

I trot

down

the trail.

I jump

Left

to

Right,

Hopping from one rock,

to another.

Finally reaching my destination

on top of

the rock

for all to see.

And that’s it, everyone! Have a glorious rest of the week.

Touring Toronto: From Croissants to Creepy Fish

Good morning, friends! How has 2016 been treating you so far?

My new year has been going smoothly for the most part, and I’m enjoying every second that my dad is staying here with me in Waterloo. On Saturday, we took a semi-day trip to Toronto. The journey began at 5:30 AM when we hopped into the car. The drive was long, dark, rainy, and unfamiliar, but we made it to Nadege Patisserie safely and excitedly.

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Nadege is famous for their croissants and art-like dessert pastries. They also have a large array of sandwiches, and the combinations that caught my eye included fig + goat cheese + arugula and one with smoked salmon and cucumber. The croissants were freshly baked that day, too. They open at 8:00 and we we found a parking spot at around 7:35, so it was a long and torturous wait.

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I felt like I was back in Paris, where sandwiches like these are king. Look at how those baguettes are just bursting with filling. This is about as Parisienne as it gets here in Canada!

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Macarons, petit choux, and cakes were lined like pieces of jewelry in the display counter. The colours were gorgeous! Which one would you order, if you had to choose?

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I really, really wanted one of these individual-sized cakes. How pretty are these guys? The donut looked really tasty, as did the modern pecan pie.

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They also have these alphabet chocolate bars, which came in a variety of super unique flavours, like Wasabi for W, Yuzu for Y, and Sesame for S. Dad and I were the first customers, and we took a seat near the gift display case.

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We ordered four pastries: three for me and one for dad!

Pecan pie croissant, award-winning almond croissant, and raspberry pistachio croissant and hot chocolate for me // cappuccino and chocolate croissant for Dad.

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Dad ordered the hazelnut chocolate praline croissant, which he described as flaky, layered, soft, and with a crispy crust. The chocolate was firm and not too dark. He enjoyed it and would order it again 🙂

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My breakfast was nothing short of spectacular, either! I asked for all three to be cut in half and enjoyed half of each one.

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The almond croissant was doughy and had great crisp on the outside. One thing I noted was that the inside layers of the croissant seemed to be underbaked, as the layers of puff-pastry were still clearly visible, thick, and quite chewy. It wasn’t too sweet and had a decent amount of almond paste, though I wish there was more! It was very well made and so flaky. Not one of my top 5 almond croissants, but a tasty one nonetheless. I wish I could try the chocolate almond croissant, too.

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This one was a truly special pastry. It was the #1 favourite of the lady behind the counter, and for a good reason. The pistachio paste was not too sweet and had the most “pistachio-est” flavor and a great smooth texture with teeny grains. The berries on top were clearly very fresh, and I loved how chopped pistachios on top gave it a bit of crunch.

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The pecan pie croissant is one of Nadege’s most popular. I was a little disappointed, though, to see that the filling involved only one tiny “roll” of pecan pie filling – I was expecting the pastry to be bursting with sweet nuts and brown sugar filling. My favourite part about this croissant was the crunchy caramelized pecans on top, which were drenched in a brown sugar sauce and baked until slightly charred (yum) and super crispy.

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The lady behind the counter also came to our table to give us a salted caramel macaron! I took a bite and gave the rest to Dad. We both really liked it, and I thought it tasted like a Werther’s candy. Ooooh, I love those. I can see why their macarons are some of the best in Toronto. The outsides shattered in my mouth, but the insides were perfectly chewy and the filling had excellent flavor. I’m still not a huge macaron person, but this was definitely one of the best I’ve tried.

I had a sample of a chocolate madeleine, which was tasty and had hints of lemon, before hopping back into the car. Then, we were off for the Ripley Aquarium, our first destination!

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On the way there, we saw skyscrapers, crazy traffic, and the CN tower. I haven’t seen massive buildings like this for a long time! They don’t exist in Waterloo. 😛

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The CN tower was, well, tall. Even taller in person. Looking up at it reminded me of the time Seline and I toured the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. I am always so amazed at what humans can build. Anyways, we went into the Ripley Aquarium at 9:00, right when it opened. Since it was so early on a blustery Saturday morning, the aquarium was practically empty. We didn’t have to line up for a second!

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Fish are super cool to me. Dad loves carp and koi (what’s the difference?) but I prefer looking at stranger fish that look odd or do bizarre things.

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Like these guys! I’ve never seen anything quite like these platypus-like fish. And we were lucky enough to watch these crabs play – or maybe fight? The big one gave the little one a short piggyback ride before they both toppled over, which we thought was so cute and funny.

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Then I caught a family portrait of some sad-looking eels and preppy tropical fish. I could honestly watch tropical fish for hours. Each one is so unique and so beautiful. One thing we observed was that they not only look different, but also behave differently.

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Some fishies were really photogenic and loved being near the glass, where it was a lot easier to capture photos of them. Other ones strayed near the back or circled the coral and anemones.

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We stood in front of this tank for at least twenty minutes because there was just so much to look at!

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The Ripley Aquarium is probably most famous for their “conveyer belt” tank, where you can stand on this very, very slow belt and go into a tunnel-like tank. This tank had thousands of fish, all swimming in schools, and at least twenty sharks.

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I seriously wonder how this shark eats his food. Having that big sawlike “beak” (snout?) seems useless. I’m curious as to what he actually uses it for.

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Every sight was incredible. I wish my eyes could take pictures for you!

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Whoa. This is one of my favourite pictures because I love how rays of sunlight are streaming into the tank.

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We found Nemo (and about 500 other Nemoes), his dad, Dory, and all his tank-mates! Plus, in the tank next door, a kind of creepy-looking fish that wouldn’t budge from its position in the sand.

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If I had to describe lionfish in one word, it would probably be “exquisite”. These beautiful fish remind me of poisonous butterflies that are dazzling but deadly. Some species can grow up to half a metre long!

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Seahorses are another one of my favourite sea animals. In Grade 3, my class had an animal research project where we had to write reports about the behaviour, habitat, diet, etc. on a unique animal. I chose the seahorse, but there weren’t any library books about seahorses so I had to switch my animal into the chickadee. And I was really sad about that because I thought chickadees have really stupid names – and they don’t even make a “chickadee” sound! Random, I know… but seahorses are just so cool to me. They remind me of delicate pieces of jewelry or fragile dolls.

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I did do a project on the leafy sea dragon in middle school. These guys look so different in person. They are truly masters of disguise!

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I couldn’t decide which photo of this jellyfish I liked best! I worked at the Vancouver Aquarium before going to the Sunshine Coast and Paris over the summer, and I learned there that “jellyfish” is actually a wrong term – without gills or fins, or even BRAINS, they aren’t actually fish. So we have to call them jellies. Same with starfish, which aren’t fish either. So we should refer to them as sea stars. Did you know that? 😀

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One tank was literally the size of my entire apartment unit, no exaggeration! The lights that illuminated this tank changed colour every couple of seconds, so the jellies went from being yellow to pink to green. It was fun to watch and take selfies with the mirror. Smile, Dad!

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After a quick browse through the gift shop, we walked across the street to the CN Tower.

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The view from the top was incredible. We could see the Toronto islands, which I had no idea existed.

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The elevator ride was fast and exciting, because the walls were glass. My ears popped twice with all the pressure!

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The CN Tower has a glass floor section near the top, where you can stand on “windows” on the ground and see all of Toronto beneath your feet. I loved this, and so did some children who were there. It was mostly the adults who didn’t want to stand on the glass panel!

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After the CN Tower, and getting lost in the Downtown Core for around twenty minutes, we finally found The Westerly, where we had brunch at 2:00.

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I ordered the eggs benedict, as usual. This one came with salad and pan-fried potatoes. I love bennies that are made with biscuits – this one had a warm cheddar biscuit and gravlax.

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Mmm, the biscuit was so yummy. I demolished my entire plate and felt pretty uncomfortable afterwards.

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Unfortunately one of my poached eggs were more soft-boiled than poached, so there is no sexy drippy egg-yolk photo for you guys today. 😦

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Dad ordered the burger, which was stuffed with bacon, red onion, and white cheddar – all his faves. He finished his whole plate, too, including the rosemary-dusted French fries. We both loved our meals!

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We headed home after lunch, when it was around 3:00. I really wanted to visit the Eaton Centre (Toronto’s biggest mall), Whole Foods (… yes) and the ice rink in front of City Hall. But Dad was getting worried that the weather was worsening, and he wanted to be home before the sky got dark. So we buckled up and drove another 1.5 hours back to Waterloo. Basically, I had another 1.5 hour nap. 😉

We had SUCH an awesome day!

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Thanks, Dad! Maybe we can do this again sometime… soon. Need more croissants. 😉

Thursday Coast Post: Brunch, A Tart, and My Favourite Cheesecake EVER

Hello everyone! Just demolished a bowl of flax-chia oatmeal with caramelized banana, blueberries, and hemp hearts, and I’m going to try to squeeze in this quick blog post before heading off to spin class. In the afternoon, I’ll be getting a haircut and then helping Mom prepare food for our BBQ party with family friends. 🙂 It’s going to be a busy and fun day!

On another note, I just uploaded all recent photos to my computer and updated this post with photos of the casserole we made and enjoyed. It’s down at the bottom of the post and features a recipe, too. 🙂 Who doesn’t love warm, cheesy, and HEALTHY casseroles?

Anyways, this is my fourth Sunshine Coast post. You can read all of the others here, or click on the individual links here – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

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We started the morning by driving to Edie Rae’s Cafe, which is about ten minutes into Powell River. The cafe itself is located inside the Old Courthouse Inn, which is a lovely little hotel with a vintage feel. We were the first people in the brunch place, and the perky waitress was happy to serve us drinks and food. I started with some hot water.

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I didn’t have a hard time deciding what I wanted from the menu – I almost always order eggs benedict when at restaurants for brunch – and today was no different!

Louie’s Smoked Salmon Bene: Two poached eggs, fresh biscuit with herbed cream cheese, smoked lox, Hollandaise, hash browns

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YUM! I’m not a huge fan of potatoes, and hash browns in particular, so I donated most of the taters to my dad. My bene, however, was INCREDIBLE. Rich, flavourful hollandaise sauce, perfectly-cooked eggs with runny yolk, and massive chunks of smoked salmon. They actually smoke their own salmon in-house, and I could definitely taste the difference. This was so, so fresh and didn’t have a “bagged” taste at all. They also whip up their own cream cheese, which is flavoured with herbs. I was so impressed! Everything tasted awesome together, and I absolutely LOVED the biscuit (not a fan of benedicts made with English muffins). 🙂

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Seline decided on a three-egg omelet with her fillings of choice. She thought this was quite yummy and smothered it in ketchup.

Yvonne’s Omelette: Three eggs, choice of 3 toppings (mushrooms, cheese, bacon), hash browns, choice of bread

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Dad ordered the classic breakfast, which came with eggs, bacon, sausage, and two big pancakes, as well as a good serving of hash browns. He raved about the crispy potatoes and loved how they were topped with scallions. Apparently that’s some kind of revolution for him (the fact that you can top potatoes with scallions). The downside to his meal were the sausages, which were cooked for a bit too long and were quite chewy and firm.

Millworkers’ Breakfast: Two eggs any style, 3 bacon, 1 ham, 3 sausage patties, 2 medium buttermilk pancakes, hash browns

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Mom enjoyed her single benny made with avocado and tomatoes. Unfortunately, her avocado was a bit brown on the edges, as if it had been saran-wrapped and then cut straight out of the refrigerator. But the sauce, egg, and biscuit were flawless!

Powell Riviera Bene (half order): Two poached eggs, fresh biscuit, avocado, fried tomato, Hollandaise, hash browns

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Since I gave Dad most of my potatoes, he let me try some of his buttermilk pancake. Bleh! I didn’t like this at all. It tasted like some kind of Bisquick or Aunt Jemima pancake mix. While it was fluffy and airy, there was no buttermilk flavour. Actually, there was no flavour at all here! I much prefer my own banana pancakes or pumpkin pancakes. The blackberry jam was alright. There was nothing memorable about that! And whoa… check out that runny yolk. ❤

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Before heading on another ferry to the Courtenay // Comox region, Mom and I visited the Rocky Mountain Bakery, which has pretty great reviews. I was disappointed though – to see just mediocre croissants and danishes. Mom noted that the cinnamon buns were very expensive.

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We arrived in Courtenay at around 1:30 and drove a little bit to find the Atlas Cafe, where we had lunch. It was super busy at that time, and we had to wait for about half an hour. There was a line up that streamed outside – and quite a few people were here to take out their meals.

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By the time we were finally seated, well after 2:15, I knew I wanted to order the famed goat cheese tart! This plate was truly unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before. The crust! THE CRUST! It was so flaky and buttery. I thought egg tart crusts were good until I tried this one. Better than any crust I’ve ever eaten. Anyways, that incredible crust was filled with caramelized onions, sweet potatoes, and flavoured with plenty of herbs. It was surrounded with a tomato puree, balsamic vinegar, pesto oil, and garnished with a handful of mixed greens. The goat cheese was heaped generously between the mixed greens and the filling, and tasted amazing with the crust (YUM!) and slightly acidic tomato coulis.

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GOAT CHEESE TART: sweet chili yams, fennel & caramelized onions with herb oil, tomato coulis & mixed greens

Yams + crust + balsamic + goat cheese + onions = my favourite bite!

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Seline decided on a chicken souvlaki roll. The wrap could be made with a curry wrap or a whole wheat wrap, and Seline chose curry. She also selected the Caesar salad for the side. She really enjoyed her roll because of the garlicky tzatziki, but I wasn’t the biggest fan. I find rolls so difficult to eat because they fall apart and you have to use your hands. I hate gulping down my food super quickly because it’s going to get messy (eg. wraps, hot dogs, burgers, etc).

CHICKEN SOUVLAKI ROLL: sautéed chicken breast, roma tomatoes, caramelized onions, tzatziki & mixed greens with side salad

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Dad had something similar for himself. His curry wrap had chicken breast with peanut sauce and tomatoes. I tried some and enjoyed the peanut sauce with chicken, but found it, again, too messy! I don’t think there were any pieces of grilled eggplant in here, though.

CHICKEN SATAY ROLL: sautéed chicken breast, peanut sauce, grilled eggplant, caramelized onions, tomatoes & mixed greens with side salad

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Time for DESSERT! Seline already knew she wanted the warm brownie with ice cream. She loved how beautifully it was presented and appreciated the fact that we were served TWO scoops of ice cream rather than one, like most places.

HOT FUDGE BROWNIE: a traditional atlas favourite served with toasted almonds and ice cream

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I knew I wanted the chocolate cheesecake. Because, well… it’s chocolate and cheesecake. My two favourites! This was also garnished with a huge chocolate “sheet” (is that what you call it?), whipped cream, and drizzles of chocolate and caramel.

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I kind of fainted after my first bite. This was incredible, you guys! First, you taste the rich ganache, which has such a lovely, deep chocolate flavour. Next up – creamy, slightly tangy chocolate cheesecake. This section was my favourite – rich and chocolatey, yet a little sour from the cream cheese. It had the perfect sweetness, too. The crust was made of almonds and cocoa powder, rather than the usual butter + graham cracker crumbs. So unique, and it went very well with the rest of this chocolatey dessert. I think I ate 3/4 of this slice on my own!

BELGIAN CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE: with chocolate almond crust and chocolate ganache

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If I had to say one negative thing about this dessert, it would be that I wish there was no whipped cream. It simply wasn’t necessary. A fruity compote, on the other hand, or a dollop of creme fraiche, would be perfect. Either way, this was definitely in the TOP THREE desserts I’ve had in my life. And one of the top two of my Sunshine Coast vacation! By the time we finished the dessert and paid, it was around 4:00 in the afternoon. Talk about a late lunch! What is the latest time you’ve ever had lunch?

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While walking around downtown Courtenay, we came to a special Whole Foods Market called Edible Island. It was just like Whole Foods on Cambie Street in Vancouver! Except a lot smaller. A LOT smaller.

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Sweet Surprise Bakery is a famous Courtenay bakery – they sell only gluten free goodies. It was quite late in the afternoon when we arrived, and they were starting to saran-wrap their muffins to close the shop.

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Isn’t it such a lovely little place? With the perky chandelier and cozy decor, I thought Sweet Surprise Bakery was the cutest place ever. It is opened by a mother and her daughter, and they sell nothing but GF treats. Everything looked amazing!

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That’s it for today! Have the tastiest weekend ever. Lots of recipes coming up – stay tuned!