Gastronomy and Life's Other Pleasures

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Posts tagged chocolate

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Lunch at A Thing for Chocolate

I’m lucky to work near the very up and coming neighbourhood (or perhaps it has already arrived?) of Hintonburg.  It seems like there is always a new restaurant or shop that is on the verge of opening up, so I always have lots to explore!

Most recently, I noticed a little shop with a catchy name with an ‘opening soon’ sign on it’s doors: A Thing for Chocolate.  With a name like that, I was intrigued!

A friend from work and I decided to check it out one day during our lunch hour.  I had done a little bit of research online to try and find out exactly what we might find, and I was delighted when I discovered that this new little cafe would be serving crepes, both of the sweet and the savoury variety.

I wanted to try a savoury crepe for my first visit, so I chose the English crepe, which is filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh tomato, cheddar cheese and Dijon mustard.  Served with a side of greens drizzled lightly with a balsamic vinaigrette, this was one amazing crepe: light and fluffy, and filled with just the right amount of ingredients.  My friend had the house special (sweet) crepe, which comes filled with your choice of fruit (strawberries, bananas, blackberries, blueberries - or all of the above!) and their in-house made chocolate spread, either in milk or dark chocolate.  She loved it! The chocolate is of the highest quality, and the fruits were incredibly fresh.

I couldn’t resist trying one of their Death by Chocolate brownies (I mean, come on!) and I was not disappointed.  This is a brownie at its best with a crisp top layer and a dense, rich inner layer.  To help cut some of the sweetness, I ordered a cappuccino, which the owner, Omar Fares, makes on the strong side, which is absolutely perfect to me! 

Overall, this is a great little spot.  There is, however, limited seating, so I wouldn’t recommend going with a big group.  The service, while good, is relaxed, so be careful if you’re tight for time.  But if you have a free afternoon, it would be a great spot to relax in their big, comfy chairs and sip coffee and eat chocolate!

The owner loves to chat and is incredibly friendly and personable, which I loved.  It is so invigorating to see the passion in an owner’s eyes and to hear it in his voice - he wants to be there and is excited to share his passion for excellent chocolate, crepes and coffee with his customers.  I can’t wait to return: next time, obviously I’ll have a sweet crepe!

Filed under food lunch restaurant Ottawa Hintonburg chocolate crepes A Thing for Chocolate Cappuccino brownie dessert savoury sweet review Omar Fares

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A latte at Illume Espresso Bar
Prior to meeting my friends for dinner one recent evening, I finally took the opportunity to visit Ilume Espresso Bar, a coffee shop with a clean, modern vibe on Wellington Street West. 
Illume is just for you if you like to geek out over your coffee: they offer a full service pour over bar, with your choice of apparatus like the chemex, the syphon, the clever and the walküre. 
They also of course have a full line up of espresso-based drinks, and some fun ones to boot!  I was wooed by their nutella latte, and it did not disappoint!  I asked my barista for a double shot of espresso to balance some of the sweetness of the rest of the latte.  The drink was pure heaven!  The latte art was pretty sweet too.
The atmosphere of the cafe was fantastic; it had a cool vibe, with music playing softly in the background and the work of local artists lining the walls.  I sat and read my book and enjoyed every last sip of my latte! 

A latte at Illume Espresso Bar

Prior to meeting my friends for dinner one recent evening, I finally took the opportunity to visit Ilume Espresso Bar, a coffee shop with a clean, modern vibe on Wellington Street West. 

Illume is just for you if you like to geek out over your coffee: they offer a full service pour over bar, with your choice of apparatus like the chemex, the syphon, the clever and the walküre

They also of course have a full line up of espresso-based drinks, and some fun ones to boot!  I was wooed by their nutella latte, and it did not disappoint!  I asked my barista for a double shot of espresso to balance some of the sweetness of the rest of the latte.  The drink was pure heaven!  The latte art was pretty sweet too.

The atmosphere of the cafe was fantastic; it had a cool vibe, with music playing softly in the background and the work of local artists lining the walls.  I sat and read my book and enjoyed every last sip of my latte! 

Filed under food drink coffee espresso Ottawa cafe illume espresso wellington west Hintonburg shop latte nutella nutella latte latte art chocolate beverage sweet caffeine illume espresso bar

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Dinner at Luxe Bistro

I was at Luxe for dinner about a year ago this month celebrating the husband’s birthday.  It was our first time at Luxe and we had an excellent meal.  So when my bff suggested celebrating her birthday at Luxe one recent weekend, I knew it was going to be a night to remember!

With seven ladies in our party, we were given one of Luxe’s corner booth tables, which, in my opinion, is one of the best seats in the house. Our first order was to get the birthday girl a drink, so we ordered a bottle of wine to her liking: the only malbec on the menu, this. It was delicious - velvety smooth and easy to drink.

For my meal, I wanted to experience a different side of Luxe’s menu (I had the bouillabaisse last time), so I opted for two appetizers for my meal.  I started with the tuna crudo (my first photo) from Luxe’s cold seafood bar.  Thick, luscious pieces of fresh tuna came drizzled in yuzu ponzu sauce and topped with crispy fried ginger and a few thin slices of radish.  I savoured every single bite of this dish! It is one of the best raw tuna dishes I have ever had, and it was a perfect portion size. I would eat this again in a heartbeat!

For my main dish, I ordered the steak tacos from the appetizer menu (my second photo). Described as Asian stir-fried beef topped with pickled daikon and carrot, fresh jalapeno, sour cream, cilantro and lime, these were just as tasty as they look! I’m not sure exactly what the “Asian” flavours on the beef were, but it was incredibly rich tasting.  The richness of the beef paired with the pickled daikon and carrot was delightful.

And if you think at this point I hadn’t had enough - you’re right! My other bff and I decided to share a dessert, and we were not disappointed.  Simply named chocolate spring rolls, this dessert (my third photo) is comes exactly as described! Light and crispy spring rolls filled with dense, dark chocolate ganache. The rolls were served with two dipping sauces for further indulgence: banana Anglaise and caramel.  To finish off my meal with the perfect touch, I had a cappuccino; it is my favourite way to end the night! 

Overall, we had a fantastic time at Luxe, and everyone, the birthday girl included, enjoyed their meals immensely.  Our servers were fun and attentive, and helped to make the birthday girl’s night perfect.  I would highly recommend Luxe for a night out!

Filed under food dinner supper restaurant Ottawa Byward Market downtown dining Luxe Bistro review tuna taco beef cappuccino chocolate dessert appetizer main main dish Luxe delicious

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The husband finally felt well enough to have some of his Baskin Robbins ice cream birthday cake last night! He has been sick since the day before his birthday (which was almost two weeks ago now! Yikes). He really loves Baskin Robbins’ ice cream cakes and decided that he wanted a gold medal ribbon ice cream cake for his birthday this year.  If you like ice cream cake but are looking for something different than a DQ ice cream cake, Baskin Robbins is a great alternative.  Their cakes are simple: it is their ice cream formed into the shape of a cake! Usually there is a little something extra on top (ours has a layer of delicious fudge as you can see in my photo above) which adds some extra colour and flavour. 
I’m just glad he is beginning to feel better.  How rotten is it to be sick on your birthday?!

The husband finally felt well enough to have some of his Baskin Robbins ice cream birthday cake last night! He has been sick since the day before his birthday (which was almost two weeks ago now! Yikes). He really loves Baskin Robbins’ ice cream cakes and decided that he wanted a gold medal ribbon ice cream cake for his birthday this year.  If you like ice cream cake but are looking for something different than a DQ ice cream cake, Baskin Robbins is a great alternative.  Their cakes are simple: it is their ice cream formed into the shape of a cake! Usually there is a little something extra on top (ours has a layer of delicious fudge as you can see in my photo above) which adds some extra colour and flavour. 

I’m just glad he is beginning to feel better.  How rotten is it to be sick on your birthday?!

Filed under food dessert cake ice cream ice cream cake Baskin Robbins gold medal ribbon caramel chocolate vanilla birthday sweet treat celebration

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Lunch at the Flying Banzini

As you can perhaps guess, I get excited when a new restaurant opens in Ottawa.  Especially one that is close to my workplace, which affords me the delight of being able to wander out on my lunch hour to experience new and delicious eats.

When I first saw and read about the Flying Banzini, it was a little bittersweet because it was opening in the former space that belonged to Collected Works, a fantastic independent book store that had to close its doors.  Alas, I had high hopes: even the name had me intrigued!

I had been following the owner’s blog during the first couple of weeks of the business being open, and it was interesting.  Of course there are ups and downs when opening a new restaurant, and the owner, Dave Scharf, blogged about every one of those ups and downs.  I really liked his honesty in those blog posts - I thought he was pretty brave for being so open about the ups and downs of his new restaurant.  

I am a big sucker for a good sandwich, so I was excited to sink my teeth into one of the Flying Banzini’s fine offerings.  I decided on one of their paninis, which was cutely named “Late in the Evening” and cost $8.95  Served on focaccia, this panini comes with pulled roast chicken, double-smoked bacon, sliced granny smith apple, spinach, tomato, Quebec brie and lemon chive mayo.  What a fantastic sandwich! The portion size was huge, and the flavours complemented each other incredible.  I loved the mish mash of textures from the creaminess of the brie to the crunchy apple.  I also added a side salad to my sandwich for an extra $1.95; it was fresh, ample and the in-house made lemon, honey and thyme dressing was fantastic.

But if the amazing sandwich and salad weren’t enough, feast your eyes on probably the most delightful aspect of their menu: the mini cheesecakes!  When ordering my lunch, I also wanted to get a couple of cheesecakes to take back to the office with me.  The cashier, while handing me two of the adorable coins you see in my photo above, advised me that, when I was done my lunch, I could return to the counter and hand in my coins for my two cheesecakes.  Cute!  I opted for the chocolate espresso (the one with the coffee bean on top) while a curious coworker for whom I promised a cheesecake had chosen the sea salt caramel chocolate cheesecake.  My chocolate espresso cheesecake was incredibly rich and dense, and full of coffee flavour.  I loved every last bite! My coworker also loved hers but thought that the chocolate base overwhelmed the salted caramel a little bit. 

Overall, I can’t wait to go back to the Flying Banzini.  What a fabulous restaurant!

Filed under food lunch Ottawa sandwich Flying Banzini Wellington West Hintonburg Westboro restaurant review panini salad cheesecake chocolate salted caramel espresso chicken brie

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Kiln Haus cinnamon chocolate raisins

The husband and I spotted this flashy little package while shopping at Farm Boy.  We are notoriously guilty of being wooed by interesting and flashy packaging! haha

What the heck is Kiln Haus?  I was intrigued! After picking up the package and seeing that it had two of my favourite flavours mixed together - cinnamon and chocolate - and covering one of my favourite snacks - raisins - I was sold.  (The story of how Kiln Haus raisins came to be can be read here.  It is quite interesting but I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you want to read about it.  Macleans magazine also wrote a good article about it here).

What did I love about these raisins?  EVERYTHING.  They’re Canadian grown grapes that have been made into raisins right here in Ontario.  Also, they are delicious!  I will definitely try Kiln Haus’s other flavours.  I am a fan!

Filed under food raisins snack chocolate cinnamon Kiln Haus gourmet Farm Boy Ontario review product Klaus Reif

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Dinner at ZaZaZa  

With the Monday of the Labour Day long weekend upon us, the husband and I decided to venture out to try something new.  The husband, being the pizza nut that he is, had had his eye on ZaZaZa for some time, so off we went.

ZaZaZa was created by the same man, Ion Aimers, who created the Works Gourmet Burger restaurants, which has now become a chain with locations all over southern Ontario.  The husband and I are big fans of the Works and have enjoyed dining at their various Ottawa locations over the years (see here as just one example), so we had high hopes for ZaZaZa.

We chose to eat at the Bank Street location (the other being in the Beechwood neighbourhood), which is fairly small but luxuriously decorated with damask wallpaper and sparkly chandeliers.

Similar to the Works Burger Bistro, you can choose from three types of crust for your pizza: dusted cornmeal, honey oat or gluten free.  I chose the Sweet Glide pizza on a honey oat crust, which comes topped with pesto oil, mozzarella, proscuitto, shrimp, freshly sliced pear, pecans, brie and arugula. The husband ordered the Cajun Cowboy on a dusted cornmeal crust, which comes topped with tomato chipotle sauce, caramelized onion, chicken, spicy havarti, chorizo sausage and corn.  The result? Definitely interesting! The crust was not at all what I expected; it was very dense and chewy, not light and airy.  But I loved it! My toppings were plentiful and fresh, and I thought the flavours went together perfectly.  The husband couldn’t agree more - he loved his pizza.  The cornmeal crust was a new experience for him, and he liked it for being so different than any other pizza he has tried.

We decided to save room for dessert so after eating a piece or two of our pizzas, we set aside the rest to order the Crispy Punch, one of ZaZaZa’s dessert pizzas.  Much smaller but no less delicious, the Crispy Punch is ZaZaZa’s honey oat crust topped with peanut butter sauce, milk and dark chocolate chips, chunks of Crispy Crunch and whipped cream.  Yum! A perfect way to end our dinner. 

The husband would like to go back to try more of their pizzas…I’ll keep you posted!

Filed under food dinner Ottawa zazaza pizza restaurant review dessert chocolate whipped cream shrimp pesto brie arugula sweet glide chipotle chicken onion havarti chorizo tomato pear

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Double chocolate zucchini bread
My parents had sent us home with a giant zucchini from their garden after our recent visit, and there is only so much grilled zucchini that I can eat in a week, so I needed to find a recipe that would use quite a bit of it in one go.
After a bit of searching, I came across this recipe for double chocolate zucchini bread on the Tidy Mom blog.  I was intrigued by the recipe because it combined yet another of my favourite flavours (besides chocolate): coffee!  The recipe indicates to soak the grated zucchini in a cup of strongly brewed coffee before removing the excess liquid from the veggie.
This recipe was a success!  Click here or on my photo above to link to the recipe on the fantastic Tidy Mom blog. Although her recipe calls for two loaves to be made, I decided to put all of the batter into one loaf pan to make an extra thick loaf.  I had to cook mine for quite a while, so I would probably recommend doing two loaves instead of one, but it still turned out deliciously.
I also decided to slice my loaf and freeze the individual slices to take in my lunches for a special treat, and it has kept very well in the freezer. I let it thaw at room temperature for a few hours and it is just as moist as the day it was baked.

Double chocolate zucchini bread

My parents had sent us home with a giant zucchini from their garden after our recent visit, and there is only so much grilled zucchini that I can eat in a week, so I needed to find a recipe that would use quite a bit of it in one go.

After a bit of searching, I came across this recipe for double chocolate zucchini bread on the Tidy Mom blog.  I was intrigued by the recipe because it combined yet another of my favourite flavours (besides chocolate): coffee!  The recipe indicates to soak the grated zucchini in a cup of strongly brewed coffee before removing the excess liquid from the veggie.

This recipe was a success!  Click here or on my photo above to link to the recipe on the fantastic Tidy Mom blog. Although her recipe calls for two loaves to be made, I decided to put all of the batter into one loaf pan to make an extra thick loaf.  I had to cook mine for quite a while, so I would probably recommend doing two loaves instead of one, but it still turned out deliciously.

I also decided to slice my loaf and freeze the individual slices to take in my lunches for a special treat, and it has kept very well in the freezer. I let it thaw at room temperature for a few hours and it is just as moist as the day it was baked.

Filed under food bread zucchini zucchini bread snack recipe blog Tidy Mom chocolate dessert

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Macarons from Fauchon in Paris, France

I truly have the best sister ever!  Knowing my absolute adoration of the delicate and sweet macaron, my sister brought me back a wonderful six pack of these delightful little beauties from Fauchon in Paris after spending some time there for work (and a little holiday) recently.  

Well, of course when I say brought me back I mean the the husband and me; I was nice enough to share! haha

She hand selected the flavours in our box, which were as follows (following the photo from left to right, top to bottom):  vanillla, chocolate, four red berry and pistachio, caramel de sel, raspberry, lemon, pistachio and praline.  My favourite was the praline: the filling was incredibly rich and buttery.  I surprised myself in that I actually liked the four red berry and pistachio as my second favourite - I could not believe how amazing the filling was in this one!  It was tart and sweet at the same time and just so fresh.

The husband preferred the fruit flavours - the lemon and raspberry - but agreed that all six were the best macarons he had ever tasted.  I couldn’t agree more!

Filed under food dessert sweet macarons Fauchon Paris France treat delicate pistachio chocolate lemon raspberry vanilla praline caramel de sel caramel gift

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Snacks from Thyme and Again

I tried something new at Thyme and Again while out on my walk at lunch time today. When I saw this so-called Almond Bomb, I couldn’t resist!

It had a soft, muffin-like texture with a hint of almond flavour and great little hits of chocolate from the decadent chips and chocolate drizzle. This treat was also gluten free.  It was very tasty, but I still think that T&A’s ginger cookie is my favourite treat!

Snacks from Thyme and Again

I tried something new at Thyme and Again while out on my walk at lunch time today. When I saw this so-called Almond Bomb, I couldn’t resist!

It had a soft, muffin-like texture with a hint of almond flavour and great little hits of chocolate from the decadent chips and chocolate drizzle. This treat was also gluten free. It was very tasty, but I still think that T&A’s ginger cookie is my favourite treat!

Filed under food sweet almond chocolate ottawa thyme and again bakery shop hintonburg gluten free cookie treat westboro

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Dairy Queen’s Blizzard of the Month:  S’more!

The husband is always keeping his eyes peeled for Dairy Queen’s Blizzard of the Month flavour, so when he saw that June’s flavour is s’mores, he did not waste a second to go there and try it out!

To make the s’more Blizzard, DQ takes Honey Maid brand graham crackers and rich chocolate chunks filled with gooey marshmallow filling and mixes them all up with their soft serve.  The husband and I shared a mini size and we both LOVED it!  The graham crackers created a fantastic crunchy texture throughout, and the chocolate marshmallow pieces were indeed rich and very strong in their marshmallow flavour.  I can definitely say that it was a s’more in every bite!!  This is probably one of our favourite new Blizzard flavours (it will have a place in our top five, which also includes the pumpkin pie and birthday cake Blizzards).

What has been one of your favourite Blizzard of the month flavours?

Filed under food dessert ice cream Dairy Queen Canada smore s'more marshmallow chocolate graham graham cracker cold treat sweet

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The desserts continue…

One of our favourite things on our honeymoon was the dessert bar at Il Cielo, one of the a la carte restaurants.  

Tucked into one side of the restaurant, there is a seated bar area just for dessert.  So, after you finish your delicious meal, you can choose to remain at your table, or you can move to the dessert bar and watch while your delectable treat is prepared right in front of your eyes!

Since we dined at Il Cielo twice during our honeymoon, we were able to visit the dessert bar twice, and we did not hold back! We got to try almost every dessert on the menu except for a few.  The desserts pictured above were the ones we had on our last night at the resort, and they were some of the best!  My favourite was the tiramisu, which was served with amaretto soaked-berries.  We also loved the chocolate lava cake and the honeyed crepe.  The dessert bar at Il Cielo will definitely be one of our favourite honeymoon memories!

Filed under food dessert sweet crepe tiramisu lava chocolate cake vanilla coffee Sandals Sandals Emerald Bay Great Exuma Bahamas honeymoon honey berry