Tag Archives: bakery

The Bakery Review: ALL. OF. MADRID.

Normally, I talk about one single bakery and that’s sort of what I’ll do this time too. But I need to start with a caveat. I’m a tough grader and, just like when I was in school, I hand out grades from A to F, where F is a fail, and A is excellent. I generally don’t blog about anything less than a B. However, in Madrid, the WORST bakeries would still classify as B. In fact most bakeries here get A grades, and I am stuck deciding on whether it is an A or an A+. Woh is me!

So with that in mind, may I introduce you to my absolute favourite bakery, obviously rated with an A+.  La Mallorguina, at the Puerta Del Sol, is undeniably an amazing bakery. The sheer variety of cakes, pies, and various other treats they bake from the minute they open till the minute they close is astonishing.  It is possible that I ate something there every single day. And, even when I chose something that looked kind of boring, it was a surprise and oh so delicious! I have a feeling you cannot make a bad choice here.

And, they’ve mastered the set-up. One half of the bakery is for take-out. You plop your change on the counter, point at the thing you want, they hand it to you on a napkin, and you’re out. The other half of the bakery is counter service. Plop your money on the counter, point at a piece of cake/pie/treat on a plate behind the counter, they serve it to you with a knife and fork, and you eat it standing up at the counter shoulder to shoulder with everyone else. This is the perfect solution for those cakes and pies that are just too gooey to put on a napkin to eat while you walk. In fact, the gooey factor is one reason why I am often disappointed with a bakery – there’s nowhere to eat the treat. Problem solved!

Do not walk, run to this bakery!

giiant marshmallow squarecrispy outside filled with custard, quite possibly my favouritestanding room only at the counter

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The Donut Review: 4 bakeries, 11 donuts, and 1 #NoNonsenseTour 

I’ve got a bad habit. Whenever I visit a new city or country, I like to overdose on one particular item. Many times it’s chocolate bars, sometimes it’s tea biscuits (thank you Dublin!), sometimes it’s macaroons (thank you Nice!), and sometimes it’s donuts.

I visited the Donut Vault the last time I was in Chicago so I searched for donut shops again. I got about 300 Dunkin Donuts as well as a bunch of speciality donut shops. And how nice to see that four of those shops were pretty much on my doorstep. In other words, behold a completely biased view of four shops.

Stan’s:  Stan’s is an unassuming regular shop in a regular office building and I didn’t have to wait in line. Some of the donuts seemed quite large and kids will be sure to like the fun colours. I got a blueberry fritter and a lemon pistachio. The fritter was giant, dripping in icing, and quite possibly weighed a pound. It did have a nice blueberry flavour but I can’t imagine how anyone can finish such a huge donut. The lemon donut was normal sized and the kiddy coloured icing tasted very sugary. Stan’s works as a specialty a donut shop but with all the other choices, it’s not my first choice. I’ll just give it a C – average for a specialty donut shop.  

Glazed and Infused: Turns out that this shop has a ginormous eating area and is closer to a restaurant than a donut shop. As for character, despite its size it has lots. I waited about ten minutes to place my order. You can buy a $20 cake sized donut, the world’s hottest donut with a jalapeno on it, or you can buy an apple cider donut and a pumpkin spice donut like I did. The apple cider donut was a yeast donut, really sweet and covered in sugar. It tasted more like apple than apple cider although I don’t know how you’d make it taste like cider. The pumpkin donut was enormous and covered with icing and pumpkin seeds. This donut tasted more like pumpkin than pumpkin spice – a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg would have helped.  Glazed gets a B from me. 

Firecakes: This shop was teeny tiny and thus had a bit of character. I had to wait about five minutes to order. I got an old fashioned donut and a pineapple bacon donut. The old fashioned was big and heavy, just how I like them. Yum. The pineapple bacon was a big disappoinment because I dropped the pineapple on the ground. WHY MEEEEEE! Anyways, both of these donuts were big wins. I also got a teeny tiny boston cream donut which was fairly ordinary but very cute. This shop gets an A from me although they need to find a way to glue the pineapple on more tightly! 

Donut Vault: Lastly, this shop is indeed a bank vault and so fits the character requirment perfectly. I had to wait 30 minutes to place my order here and when I left, the line was even longer.  I got a pumpkin cream cheese donut and a gingerbread stack. The pumpkin donut was delish, lightly sweet, crispy outside. The gingerbread stack seemed to be the runt of the stacks as they were quite thin. But, they were tastey and crispy. I’ll give the vault a B+.

 My flight home from the No Nonense tour gives me just enough time to visit one shop before I go home. Which one will win? 

The Bakery Review: Measures of Dubliniciousness at #Esomar

Similar to last year’s adventures in macarons in Nice, I’m going to give a whirl at a single blog post about the various bakeries I visit in Dublin. Because if you can’t be here to eat, or you’re on one of those fancy diet things that prevents you from enjoying the wonders of being alive, you might as well read about it.

If you’re curious, keep an eye on this specific blog post as I’ll update it whenever possible and necessary. This is serious business.

Saturday, September 26: Arrive Dublin, find my hotel, find the conference venue

After many false starts at cafes and coffee houses, I finally found myself in a bakery. Not a place that sells coffee and ships in treats to eat with those coffees. A places that bakes bread, treats and, oh, by the way, there’s a coffee machine over there but no one uses it. (Apologies for not catching the name of the bakery. I’ll try to find it again.)

With much to choose from, I finally whittled it down to an Apple Sponge and a tea biscuit. I’m a huge fan of tea biscuits so I was quite happy that these were nice big fat ones, no skimping here. One tea biscuit did the trick. As they should be, it was a little dry. Of course, it could have used some butter if you’re more used to the cake style of biscuit.

The Apple Sponge… was not the picture you see here. I’m guessing two things were named apple so I messed up in what i asked for. It was more like phylo pastry with apple pie filling. So, while tasty and desserty, it didn’t have a home made feeling to it. And, it was sticky as heck.

Regardless, day one’s verdict. B – Tasty, good, but not drooling in heaven.   

 

Sunday September 27: Presentation rehearsal in the morning, baking hunting the afternoon

My plan for the day was a visit to the Glasnevin Cemetery which is next door to a botanical garden. I quite enjoying visiting cemeteries so I”ve been to a lot. However this is the first one i’ve even been to that had a cafe and gift shop! Even though i NEVER, and truly mean never, go to restaurants and grab a sit down meal when I travel, i just had to grab a tea biscuit and have a sit. The tea biscuit was very similar to yesterday’s. Nice and big with raisins. Slighty dry though I did have butter this time and it was delish. I suspect the scenery helped! B+ I think!

 
It was also my lucky day in that I passed by another bakery. Woo hoo! Ann’s Bakery has a few more pastry type things as well but, in case you didn’t know, I really really like tea biscuits. So that’s what I asked for. In return, I got a puzzled look and a ‘wuuuut?’ Apparently, tea biscuit is a foreign word here! I instead asked for a scone and then I got another question! With or without fruit?  In my head I’m thinking, oh they have some with apple or currents or raisins or who knows what! Nope. Raisins. Just raisins. But don’t say raisins. Say fruit. Weird. Aaaaaaanyways, the tea biscuit here was still a lovely big size and they were all made in a neat shoved over kind of shape.  On top of that, they tasted quite different. These had quite a lot of sugar in them and seemed more like cake than a tea biscuit. While delicious, as a scone it was not delicious. I’ll have to give it a C. 

Still waiting on that one of a kind, oh my goodness, this is totally stunning find. 🙂

  

The Bakery Review: A Daily Blog of the Macarons of Nice, France

You’ve come to expect nothing less of me. When I travel, wherever I travel, I seek out the best of sweetness, whatever it may be. And here in Nice, France, I shall do no less. My plan, whether possible, is to review the macarons from a different bakery every single day while I’m here. I don’t know whether I will pass by enough shops on my way to and from the WAPOR and ESOMAR conferences, but I’m willing to go slightly out of my way to make things happen. Instead of a new post everyday (which would drive some of you nuts!), I’ll just keeping adding to the top of this post. Come back every day to see what I eat!

Sept 10, 2014. May I simply start by saying YUM! I stopped by today’s shop a couple days ago but declined to buy any macarons because they were priced a fair bit more than other stores. I got used to paying 1.2EU each but this shop was 1.5 and 2EU each. Yes, both are exorbitant prices for a tiny little cookie when you could buy an entire box of packaged cookies for less. For my last evening in Nice, though, I broke down and shelled out the dough at a shop called Le Notre. For three! And I’m sure you can see why. The first macaron you see is Jasmine. And yes, it has gold flakes on it which stayed nicely attached instead of just blowing off. It tasted a bit like flowers which is to be expected given the flavour, but it wasn’t overwhelming as some floral treats are. It was crispy, creamy, and nicely done inside and out. The pink one is cherry and it was decorated with a thin chocolate coating in bright pink. Inside was purple cherry jam and it didn’t quite taste like cherry. It was gushy and it completely broke apart. But, even though I’m being very critical, it was still delicious. The last kitty macaron was flavoured badou. I asked what that meant and he said badou. So, I can’t tell you what flavour it was. But, it was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside as expected. The inside was pink and white and kind of marshmallowey. I wish I could tell you the flavour as it was tastey. And awfully cute!

IMG_3472[1]Sept 9, 2014. My apologies for this belated post. Further apologies for the fact that the shop I went to was a repeat shop, Gosset Boulanger Patissier. But I wasn’t disappointed. I could see the label for the salted caramel macaron so I asked for it. It was a up to par in terms of crispy outside and nice instead. The second macaron made me try out my french because it was not labeled with a flavour and I knew I wouldn’t be able to understand a description of it. So, I ended up asking for the orange one with green on it. What a surprise! It turned out to be orange flavoured with a hint of chili to it. I know, I know. The chili macaron I had the other night was horrid but this one managed to get the flavours just right. Not too much chili and not some strange flavour combination. Besides that, they were shiny on the outside and chewy on the inside which was el perfecto! So, I’m pretty sure I’m forgiven since these were yum!

6macaronsSept 8, 2014. After yesterday’s horrid macarons, it seems strange that I yet again write about the macarons I ate at the Acropolis Congress. But, since they were so horrid yesterday, I thought today’s macarons earned them a chance on the blog again. What we were served today were your typical macarons – shiny on top, slightly crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, not too sweet. In order, they were pistachio (very nice flavour, mushy inside), chocolate (nice brownie flavour), coffee (i was hoping for praline and I’m not a coffee fan but I could see that people would like this one), vanilla (very nice flavour, not just a ‘plain’ macaron), lemon (great lemony flavour despite being crunched, but it was closer to lemon pudding inside), raspberry (i’m not a big fan of raspberry nor of jam but given that, this macaron was fine). Actually, this is a picture of the SECOND set of macarons, but these macarons made it back to my hotel room so I could write about them. Anyways, they weren’t SO delicious that I required 12 macarons, but a macaron on a table is a macaron that requires eating. Let the hating begin… “Oh, how do you stay so thin! I wish I could eat like that!”  Well, I don’t eat like that. It’s called conference eating and it stops the second I get on the plane. That’s how. 🙂

horrible awful macaronSept 7, 2014. Stop reading today’s update right now. I mean it. Stop. Well, I warned you. Today’s macaron was awful. Horrible. Can’t imagine anything worse.  So, the source of today’s atrocity is the Acropolis Congress which is hosting this week’s conference. I pretty much ran over to the table as soon as I realized there were macarons on it. Politely, I took just one. I’m always very polite when it comes to sweets. Anyways, with glee, I popped that little green baby into my mouth and nearly… well, let’s say I politely finished it. I just had to open it up to see what the double hockey sticks was in. Peanut butter? With chili? Well, the outside was soft and mushy and it smelled awful. Maybe this was a gourmet flavour that is far behind my unrefined palette. I don’t care. It was so bad I just had to check out the pink one too. Back to the table… Fortunately, the pink one was still a little crispy on the outside but I wisened up on my methodology. I DID NOT EAT THIS ONE. I opened that puppy up and it had some weird brown filling that ALSO SMELLED AWFUL.  In other words, I have no idea what flavour it was and I really don’t care. To give credit, I don’t know how you’re supposed to serve good quality, fresh macarons to 1000 people when a macaron only stays fresh for about ten minutes. So don’t even try.  Hey, is it inappropriate to whip the leftover macaron bits out my hotel window? Just curious. Not that I did. But I did do this.

IMG_3115[1]Sept 6, 2014. I’ve never chaired a conference session before and today was my first time. The speakers were kind as pie and intrigued the audience enough to generate lots of questions. They made my job easy! But, I’ll take that as another reason to celebrate which of course means…. the daily macaron! I think I went to heaven! Today’s macarons are brought to you by the number OMG and the letter I NEED MORE! I believe the name of the shop was Serain Cappe and I will have to find it again. I know the macarons look unassuming. The same smooth outside, filling peeking out in the middle. They were both very fat which makes me think they were made at the store instead of shipped in from elsewhere. The brown one is praline and it caused me to literally “OMG YUM” over my notebook. It was a little sweeter than maybe it should have been but it was otherwise perfect. The meringue stayed crispy, the inside was chewy, the filling didn’t completely soak into the meringue. Serious oh yeah! The vanilla macaron was also smooth, crispy, and quite nice. Not sure why I asked for vanilla since I’ve already had a vanilla macaron and I’d say they’re generally boring, but such is life. The most popular ice cream flavour is vanilla and that just might be true with macarons too.

IMG_3112[1]Sept 5, 2015. Today was presentation day at WAPOR and the audience had lots of great questions for me. Naturally, a celebration of the blessed event was in order.  So here goes. I stopped at a place called Mimosa, which was actually a very nice candy store. I’ve seen a number of candy stores here and they are NOTHING like what we have at home. I’ll have to take a bunch of pictures. Anyways, the macarons obviously weren’t made there but they had a bunch of different, interesting flavours. The unappetizing grey macaron is licorice! It was a little sparkly, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It wasn’t the best licorice flavour, it was a little odd, but the sweetness was good. And, the filling didn’t melt into the meringue. The second macaron was lime & cactus. Despite the picture, it’s actually kind of green on the outside and very pink on the inside. It too was crispy on the outside but it was mushy and wet on the inside. The lime was a nice flavour, a good sweet and sour mix with the cactus. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow!

macarons, gossetSept 4, 2014. I didn’t manage to find any macarons between the hotel I’m staying at and the conference hotel but have no fear.  To compensate for hours of sitting on my butt, a little exercise was in order. Aaaaaaaand, that included Gosset Boulanger Patissier. Sadly, they didn’t label the flavours so I simply practiced my stunning french (Deux macarons s’il vous plait) and pointed at two – the two most boring ones I could see. I think the white one was vanilla and the light brown one was caramel. Both macaroons had the traditional smooth shiny outside. They were crispy on the outside and smooshy on the inside. You could actually see the filling inside as opposed to the filling having been completely absorbed by the meringue. They were nicely sweet, just like the three bears. However, and this a big one, I do believe that these macaroons were not made in the store. They were set in plastic trays, there were only about 8 kinds, and they really looked like they just got dropped off at the store every few days. So, while they were good, I prefer to patronize 100% self-sufficient bakeries. Which means I won’t be going back for a second look.

macaron, nice, france, wapor, esomar, L'Art GourmandSept 3, 2014. Today my mission was simply to arrive before the conference started (first plane was late, but I caught the second plane because it too was late, hence I succeeded!). The second priority was to find the conference hotel and some dinner. Which means I had to walk by a bakery. Today I found L’Art Gourmand which is a STUNNING candy shop. They had many kinds of homemade style candy from jelly to nougat to chocolate and, yes, macarons. I chose a chocolate and an almond macaron. Both macarons looked very homemade and lacked the typical shiny smooth appearance you may be used to. But, they were the right size and shape, though not machine perfect as i suspect many are. They were also hefty and had a heavy filling. The chocolate macaron didn’t seem quite sweet enough and tasted more like chocolate powder. The almond macaron had a light taste, very nice. I wouldn’t go back for the macarons, given that there are likely to be many many other choices but if I can find the shop again, I will fork out a wad of dough for a one time ever nougat treat ($5 per 100 grams!).

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Doughnut Review: The Maple Bacon Doughnut at The Rolling Pin

IMG_2098-1.JPGI never go into bakeries near my work office. It’s dangerous. It can set a disastrous routine into place. But since we’re moving offices, anything is fair game right now. So hello, The Rolling Pin at Yonge and Lawrence!

First the good

  • this doughnut had real visible pieces of bacon on top. Not crumble. Not Baco bits. Real bacon. You can never beat real bacon.
  • the doughnut came with a syrup injector. YEAH. You read that correctly. That was fun and awesome.

Now the bad

  •  it was just a doughnut. Nothing flavoured, no bits inside. A regular glazed doughnut. And since the bulk of what you’re eating is doughnut…. well, you’d better like a plain glazed doughnut
  • most of the bacon fell off as soon as I touched it. as long as you don’t drop all that bacon on the floor you’re good so be prepared.

And the final score is… B.

Overall, I’d say check out the bakery. They have a few slightly oddly tasty things in there which is what every successful bakery needs.

Touring and Tasting Istanbul in 12 Minutes #ESOCong #MRX

… Live blogging from the 2013 ESOMAR Congress in Istanbul Turkey. Any errors are my own, any comments or terrible jokes in [] are my own…

esomarCongressAfter today’s ESOMAR presentation rehearsal with Melanie Courtright finished, we headed out on the fastest possible tour of the historic area. The pics you see here show a couple of Mosques, the baklava we had with dinner, the Turkish Delight and Baklava I plan to bring home, and some lovely shops and markets selling food, clothing and tasty tasty olives which did not last very long. You can also see the batch of chocolate bars that I picked up today. I do believe Turkey is in the running for the country offering me the most chocolate bars I have never seen before!

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Stay tuned! Tomorrow I’ll be live blogging a number of my favorite sessions.
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The Bakery Review: Doughtnut Vault

Urban legend says there is a doughnut shop in Chicago that used to be a bank vault. And that legend is true. After presenting at an AMA MRA social media research event, I managed to slip in a trip before my flight back home. Legend said there was no telling when the doughnuts would run out and the shop would close so I was there bright and early the next morning just after the shop opened. I was 15th in line. Apparently, at least 15 other people needed to buy a doughnut from a bank vault!

This shop is just about a hole in the wall. There is a large sign on the wall beside the front door, a sign that is the menu and pricing board all in one. Three kinds of doughnuts at $3 or $2 each.  When I finally made my way to the front of the line, I ordered 4 doughnuts and here are the reviews.

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The Happy Birthday doughnut is a plain cake doughnut glazed and covered in sprinkles. The appearance is not up to snuff when it comes to a Tim Horton’s equivalent and the taste is about the same. No big win here other than being able to say I got it at the doughnut vault.P1080142small

The gingerbread stack came highly recommended by a facebook friend and it did not disappoint. This particular doughnut is sold as three doughnuts. They are a very light cake that is delightfully crispy on one side and soft on the other. I should have remembered to save one for my dear one at home but my stomach had something else in mind. I’ll just have to say snooze you lose. P1080144small

The old-fashioned is a really nice heavy, glazed cake doughnut. Quite good but on par with other equivalents.

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Lastly, I bought a chestnut doughnut which is a gigantic, double sized yeast glazed doughnut. It too tasted the same as equivalents but was fun to eat just because of the size. P1080145small

For these four doughnuts (actually six if you consider that the gingerbread stack is actually three doughnuts), I spent $10. Given that doughnuts are around 70 cents each, this is far more than I’d normally pay.  But, as a one time deal, to say I went to the doughnut vault, $10 bucks was fine. I’d buy the gingerbread stack in a heartbeat but Timmies will make me happy for the rest.

Enjoy!

When you need a Dutch Crunch and Boudin’s isn’t open…

Dutch crunch topping during the 15 minute rising timeOn a recent visit to San Francisco, I met a delightful little loaf of bread at Boudin‘s. It was called Dutch Crunch and, as the name insinuates, it had a wonderful thick crunchy crust. Not just a thick crust, but a particular crust I’ve seen nowhere else. I decided to stop at the bakery before my flight home so I could take some with me. But alas, the bakery was not open that early on a Sunday. That led to a frantic search online and everything you see below.

Dutch Crunch originates in the Netherlands and is called Tiger Bread there. Any loaf or bun can become a Dutch Crunch simply by making this topping and drizzling the thick batter over the ready to bake bread. If you search online, you can find lots of specific directions for it.

Dutch Crunch Topping

2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups rice flour

Mix together, let rise for 15 minutes, drizzle over your bread, and bake the bread as usual. The rise is very quick so make sure you keep an eye on if it you aren’t using a large bowl. Enjoy your crunchy bread!

See the bubbles of the Dutch Crunch topping
See the bubbles of the Dutch Crunch topping
After the topping is stirred down after the 15 minute rising down to half!

After the topping is stirred down after the rising.

Plain old buns with the dutch crunch topping drizzled on

Plain old buns with the dutch crunch topping drizzled on

Dutch Crunch masterpiece Dutch crunch buns

The Bakery Review: Sally Lunn’s

Are you ready?

Today’s bakery review is of Sally Lunn’s, a “historic eating house” in Bath, England. The claim to fame for this eatery is that in 1680, a young lady from France brought her bread recipe to her new workplace in Bath and now, the deed to this house includes the recipe. Let me introduce you to this extraordinary 350 year old bun.

First, if you order take away, they put the lowly little bun into its own pretty cardboard box and then into a heavy duty plastic bag. When you can resist no longer and open the box, you find your lovely bun in a thinner plastic bag. Inside that bag is your treasure and it’s no little treasure. I’ve placed my HTC phone and my hand beside the bun so you can see just how big it is. And if that frame of reference doesn’t work for you, I also managed to take a picture of myself eating said bun. It’s gigantic!

You can also see inside the bun. As promised, it’s light and airy, deceiving for its size. It’s a tasty bun, slightly sour, but essentially an ordinary white bun. You’re supposed to eat it sliced, toasted, and spread with cinnamon or jam but I can never stand to spoil a lovely bread with contaminants like jelly.

The bun fun comes from the history behind it, the ridiculous size, and the lovely (yet overdone) packaging for a ÂŁ2 bun. Totally worth it and they could charge even more for it. Don’t tell them I said that.

Sally Lunn Box

Sully Lunn open boxSally Lunn bun
Sally Lunn Bun insideSally Lunn's shop

The Bakery Review: Phipps Bakery Cafe

At 420 Eglinton West lies a busy bakery called Phipps Bakery Cafe. It’s a quaint shop both inside and out, and the door never closes because the customers never stop coming in. They come to buy beautiful cakes and absolutely gorgeous sweet pies. I’ve been a few times and have learned that pretty much everything in the shop is delish. At the rear of the shop is a cafe though I have never ventured that far into the shop to test the cafe side of things.

   
Among my favourites in the bakery are the butter tarts which come in regular and chocolate crust as well as with pecans and without pecans. If you’re a fan of buttertarts, THESE are what buttertarts should be. Thick tall crust and thick gooey innards that don’t drip all over your hands. It’s a nice big tart that will leave you wanting more. My fave is the regular crust pecan tart. Holy yum.

The cookies are also tasty tasty, particularly the shortbread which need no fancy decorations to be superbly yum. I highly recommend dropping by if you’re in the neighbourhood. Bring an empty stomach!

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