June 4, 2019: My Top 10 Favorite French Desserts!

Not counting chocolate.

Tarte tatin and souffle get honorable mentions but didn’t make the list because they require the addition of ice cream to make them complete.


#10. Choux a la Creme

Basically, a French cream puff.  I prefer mine with custard filling.


#9. Baba au Rhum

A rum and syrup saturated cake occasionally topped with whipped cream.  Sometimes, it even comes with an injectable shot of extra rum!


#8. Canelé

The dark caramelized exterior protects a firm vanilla custard interior.


#7. Dacquoise

Alternating layers of almond and hazelnut meringue topped with buttercream.


#6. Macaron

Meringue shells and (usually a) flavored buttercream or ganache cream filling.


#5. Eclair

Cream-stuffed choux dough topped with icing – usually, chocolate.


#4. Paris-Brest

A choux pastry wheel sandwiching praline cream.


#3. Kouign-Amann

A slow-baked multi-layered cake containing butter and sugar that resembles a caramelized croissant.  The New York Times referred to it as “the fattiest pastry in all of Europe”!


#2. Gateau Basque

I prefer the almond or pastry cream version of this flaky crust.


#1. Savarin

Citrus-flavored yeast cake soaked in orange liqueur, topped with Chantilly cream.

Surprising, no?

So, which are your favorites?

March 26, 2016: Toronto Dessert Tour 2017, Part 1

Mission Objective: Hit five of Toronto’s best dessert spots over the course of an afternoon.


SUD FORNO: Italian pastries.

Seven stalwart eaters joined me on this dessert op.

Mean Jean Brophey starts things off with a double espresso.  She would need the caffeine boost.

On deck: Mini rhum babas, mini chocolate rhum babas, and canolis.

Elliot, Akemi, Ivon, and Alison start their sampling engines.

Kerrington and Breanna = ferocious eaters.  FEROCIOUS!

The highlight: The mini rhum baba.  A perfect boozy bite.

716 Queen Street West (MAPsudforno.com


NADEGE: Chocolates and pastries.

Petit choux (mini cream puffs) of various flavors.  Akemi is a big fan of the praline while Alison swore by the lemon and ginger.

Bailey’s Irish Cream-flavored marshmallows.

The Individual Donut: caramel chantilly, salted caramel cream, crisp praliné wafer and almond shortbread.

Kerrington considers her next move.

Highlights: That donut!

780 Queen Street West (MAPwww.nadege-patisserie.com


PEACE TREATS: Milkshakes

Three different milkshakes.  From left to right: D.R.E.A.M. (Donuts Rule Everything Around Me) – a vanilla milkshake topped with mini donuts, Amusement Park – cotton candy milkshake stacked with cotton candy, and Go Shanty It’s Your Birthday – vanilla milkshake topped with a slice of birthday cake.

I’m in heaven.

Ivon pacing himself.

Elliot and his mysterious floating cap.

I contemplate life.  And that birthday cake milkshake.

Breanne, aka “The Cleaner”.

Highlight: The cotton candy milkshake!

131 Ossington Ave. (MAPPeace Treats

We WERE planning to go for ice cream next, but our intended target wouldn’t open for another fifteen minutes.  And so, rather than wait, we made efficient use of our time by taking a walk up to College Street and getting in another dessert stop.



BAKE SHOPPE: Baked goods.

The offerings included, among other things, homemade pop tarts!

Nutella brown butter cookie and red velvet cupcake.

Ruffles marshmallow and passion flakie.

Still focused!

Highlight: The unusual sweet and savory Ruffles marshmallow, the passion flakie, and that nutella brown butter cookie.

859 College Street (MAPwww.bakeshoppeto.com




The final stop on our marathon tour.  Just pick your ice cream flavor, choose a fresh baked cookie and voila!

I went chocolate cookie and toffee ice cream.

Jean and Akemi sugaring it up.

Sugar high! (photo courtesy of Ivon Bartok).

Hong Kong Waffle high.

Highlight: The peanut butter and jelly ice cream!

93A Ossington Ave. (MAPbangbangicecream.com

We concluded our afternoon in fine style –


Trinity Bellwoods Dog Bowl for the monthly pug meet-up

Thanks to everyone who made this dessert op a success.  Nice work, team!  See you in two weeks for the Toronto Dessert Tour Part 2!

November 14, 2013: Tokyo Day #9! Wherein we check out Akemi’s old neighborhood and I eat way too much. Again!

Yesterday, we took a day trip to Akemi’s old stomping grounds, catching the Chiyoda line from Hibiya station to Yoyogi Uehara where we transferred to the Odakyu line and finally arrived in Seijogakuen-mae.   In short, just a little easier to get there than it is to pronounce…

Working on our tans at Yoyogi Uehara station.

Once we arrived the first thing we did was go on a tour of the places Akemi used to frequent – like, say, the local grocery store…

Canned pork belly
Canned pork bellies!  They beat sardines any day!

Then, we took a stroll through the area.  Akemi offered insight throughout the tour.  “This is where you can come and get your shirts dry-cleaned,”she would helpfully point out as we’d pass a dry-cleaners. And “This is where you can get your hair cut” – as we’d walk by a barber shop.  “And this is where you can buy your insurance.”

I stopped to contribute a little to help the poor cats and dogs displaced by the tsunami.
It’s actually a quaint little walking neighborhood.
Very homey
Sun-dried bottarga
We walked by this restaurant courtyard where two tables of bottarga were being sun-dried.
The food is great but apparently the service is an issue.
“Colonel Sanders Fried Chicken”as Akemi calls it.  CSFC
A beautiful view of the area I took well away from the edge of the balcony with my zoom.

Akemi had a hankering for soba (buckwheat noodles), so we had lunch at a soba restaurant called Akatsukian.

I ordered a lightly battered vegetable tempura.  The maitake mushrooms were outstanding.  In fact, this trip has given me a newfound respect for the humble fungus.  Who knew they could pack so much flavor.
My soba broth was incredibly rich, imbued with a deep, sweet smokiness from the duck and charred green onions.

For dessert, we headed over to another one of Akemi’s old haunts: Seijo Alpes…

“This is perfect!”I said – only to be informed it was a sample tray of that’s day’s selection.

Akemi had a chestnut dessert that I found not sweet enough and texturally kind of strange – but she loved.  “Very Japanese taste,”she said.  I, on the other hand, had a decadent hazelnut taste.  Very Joe taste.

And the overall verdict?

Two big thumbs up.

As we walked through the area, Akemi kept mentioning what a great neighborhood it was and how wonderful it would be to live there. I was unconvinced until I came across these guys…

Potential buddies for my crew.

We continued our exploration of Seijogakuen-mae with a little tour of the local bakeries.  We picked up a few samples for…well…sampling.

Clockwise from upper left: almond and walnut bread, custard cream bun, cream cheese danish, curry bun, chocolate bun, sweet potato bun.  Loser = chocolate bun due to its solid chocolate center.  Winner – custard bun due to its deliciousness.

We eventually wrapped up our tour and caught the subway to Shinjiku where two girls complimented me on my awesome Attack on Titan cell phone cover, and we walked some more…

The streets of Shinjuku
I’m not usually one for salad but…
Inspired curry.

It was a great day – but little did I know that the best was yet to come.  Our evening was so awesome, I can’t properly do it justice in the tail end of this blog so what I’m going to do is give our outing its own special blog entry later in the day.  Consider it a bonus blog entry.

Now, I don’t want to say too much and spoil the surprise, but here’s a sneak preview…

Damn.  Ivon is going to be SO jealous.

April 7, 2013: Foodly Matters! And a Supermovie of the Week Club reminder!

The other night, Akemi and I checked out one of the buzziest Taiwanese restaurants in Vancouver, the well-reviewed, foodie favorite: Kalvin’s Szechuan Restaurant.  Akemi has a couple of Taiwanese friends who swear by the place and so, more than a little intrigued, we headed out to Victoria Street to see (and taste) for ourselves.

The restaurant is notoriously busy.  Reservations are recommended. And arriving promptly for your reservations is also strongly advised. Not wishing to take any chances, we booked a table for 5:30 p.m. and arrived early – only to realize it doesn’t open until 5:30 p.m.  And so, after a stroll through the neighborhood, we were at the door – then at our table – on time for our reservations.

It didn’t get busy until 6:00 p.m. or so at which point the tiny room was packed, mostly with – from what I could tell – regulars.  Prior to that, however, we had the place – and the staff – more or less to ourselves.  The service was attentive, friendly, and downright warm. We placed our orders and our dishes arrived sooner after, all bold, wonderfully balanced flavors.  Some of the highlights included…

Pig ear
Spicy pig’s ear.

Not for everyone but I love the texture – crunchy and chewy – and Kalvin’s version is, by far, the best I’ve ever had.  We were asked to specify a spice level and we elected to go medium, which packed a nice little kick.  Next time, I think I might hazard the hot.

Diced chicken and peanuts with chili peppers

The restaurant offers many traditional Taiwanese dishes but, as the name implies, some Szechuan fare as well – like the above dish, Akemi’s favorite.  A robust and, yes, fiery dish.  Despite their size, the chicken morsels are moist and tender, a step above the tougher, drier versions I’ve had elsewhere.

Shredded pork with garlic and chili sauce

This one came highly recommended on a couple of the foodie blogs and I wasn’t disappointed.  Also spicy but possessed of an aromatic spice I couldn’t quite place that simply wowed.

We rounded things out with a hearty, slightly sweet corn soup, 5-spice beef rolls, and a spring roll.  Throughout our meal, Chef and Owner Kalvin himself popped out of the kitchen – when it wasn’t too busy – to see how we were enjoying what we’d ordered.  And then, as more customers filed in, he broke off to greet them – most by name.  I felt like I was in the Cheers of Taiwanese restaurants.

According to Kalvin, his restaurant will celebrate 30 years in business this year.  30 years!  Given my first-time experience – and the obvious loyalty of his cliente – I’m not at all surprised.

Chef Kalvin and (I believe) his wife.

Kalvin’s Szechuan Restaurant (604-321-2888)

Open for lunch and dinner daily (except Wednesdays)

5225 Victoria Dr

Then, on Saturday, Akemi and I paid a return visit to the Bakers Market.  This time, Bubba stayed home so Akemi was free to take her time and roam the aisles.  Like last weekend, we loaded up on a variety of treats –

First stop was Mamaz Sweetz N’ Treatz where I picked up –
Red velvet chocolate chip cookie
Red velvet white chocolate chip cookies.  Surprisingly, this was the first time I’d had red velvet in cookie form.  A winner.

Last week, I picked up chocolate biscotti from home baker Giada Vacca’s Treats and Blossoms.  On this visit, these caught my eye –

Amaretti – crunchy AND chewy, a tough balance to pull off.

A return visit to my friend at Life’s Lemons…

Last weekend, I was their first sale ever.  This weekend, they apparently sold out.  I’m clearly a trendsetter.
This time out, it was the Apple Pie shortbread cookies that tasted…yes, amazingly like apple pie!
[in the oven] offers assorted caramels and a killer salted caramel sauce.
The owner recognized me from last weekend and asked how I enjoyed the caramel sauce.  I admitted that I hadn’t tried it yet because I’d run out of ice cream.  “You can eat it right out of the jar,”she assured me. “I won’t judge you.”  Well, I forgot to pick up ice cream on the way back home so I did end up trying it right of out of the jar after all.  And it was unbelievable.

Don’t judge me!

The gals from Sweet Talk, bakers of my surprise favorite on last weekend’s visit: the lemon poppyseed cake.  And, this weekend, I discovered they bake a pretty mean chocolate salted caramel tart.
And a return visit to Sweet Lily, this time for –
Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and lime cornmeal cookies.
Maple bourbon pecan brioche.
The ladies of (my favorite cupcakes) Vivi’s cupcakes, sweets and treats
Chocolate cupcake, red velvet cupcake, and cheesecake brownie.
The plan was to just sample a bit (so we could try a bit of everything) and have the rest after dinner.  Well, that WAS the plan.

Baker’s Market – Bakers Market – The Sweetest Event in Vancouver

Treats and Blossoms | Facebook

Life’s Lemons- sweet treats baking co. – Vancouver, BC – Community …

[in the oven]


Sweet Lily Bakery – Vancouver, BC – Food & Grocery | Facebook

Vivi’s cupcakes, sweets & treats – Vancouver, BC … – Facebook

Finally, what sweet Saturday would be complete without a visit to Vancouver’s premiere chocolate shop: Beta 5.  Their selection changes monthly and, this weekend, they kicked off their April Union Pack with an outdoor theme: “On the Forest Floor”.  Among the offerings are “deer droppings” (a mix of 63% dark chocolate covered raisins, and 39% milk chocolate covered peanuts), melt-in-your-mouth “candy cap caramels” (earthy, sweet Candy Cap mushrooms captured in a buttery, caramel bite with a flavor reminiscent of maple syrup)…

French Toast Toadstools: house made brioche soaked in a ganache of “blonde” chocolate maple syrup, cinnamon and rum, then paired with a dollop of spiced apple butter.  Unbelievable.
Chocolate twigs: 45% milk chocolate and 63%, 72% and 85% dark chocolate sticks dusted with cocoa powder and presented on a bed of matcha white chocolate.  Akemi’s favorite!
Bark: olive oil and salt roasted Marcona almond, blended with 50% milk chocolate from Madagascar, and finished with a touch of flaked sea salt.  Nearly impossible to stop eating once you start.

They ship!  http://beta-5.com/

Our Supermovie of the Week Club reconvenes tomorrow with guest film reviewer, Cookie Monster, weighing in on his latest superhero-themed screening: Super Capers.  If you haven’t already seen it in preparation for tomorrow’s discussion – spoiler alert! – it’s beyond awful.  Don’t bother.  But do stop in to check out monster’s thoughts on what could arguable be the worst superhero movie yet.

For Cookie’s previous supermovie reviews (as well as his opinion on Snakes on a Plane and There Will Be Blood), head on over here: http://cookiemonstermovereviews.wordpress.com/ 

March 30, 2013: Support your local bakers! And umbrella dancers!


Every Saturday morning (and Sunday morning during the summer), Akemi and I head down to the farmers market to support our local growers.  Starting this weekend, we can now head down to the bakers market and support our local bakers as well.  And so, today, after swinging by Nat Bailey stadium, we headed over to the Moberly Arts & Cultural Centre to check out the sweets.

Sadly, because it was held indoors, Bubba – who had joined us for the trip – had to wait outside…which meant that Akemi and I had to take turns browsing.  She was a quick in and out, spending all of five minutes inside before returning empty handed.  I, on the other, went a little crazy.  Like I said, I was there to support my local bakers/entrepreneurs.  Their kids gotta eat!

And so do I!

Today’s haul…

My first purchase was from this animated entrepreneur who informed me that I was her first sale.  Ever.  It was maybe five minutes after the market opened, so I have no doubt she did a brisk business.
I had a choice between chocolate and orange but elected to go with orange for Akemi.
Chocolate-dipped orange shortbread cookies.
A trio from Sweet Lily: super buttery crisp palmiers, brown butter blondies, and soft chocolate chunk cookies.
Speaking of buttery, these lemon poppyseed friands from Yummy Workshop were that – and moist, and delicious.
Akemi is a big fan of marshmallow desserts, so I picked up a bag of these matcha gimauve.  She eyed them suspiciously, took a small bite, slowly chewed - then popped the rest into her mouth.  And another.
Akemi is a big fan of marshmallow desserts, so I picked up a bag of these matcha gimauve. She eyed them suspiciously, took a small bite, slowly chewed – then popped the rest into her mouth. And then another.
Akemi is also a big fan of biscotti.  I figure you can’t go wrong with chocolate.
This place offered a selection of ice cream sandwiches – and samples!
I went with the Affogato.  I’m not a huge coffee guy but the espresso flavor was great and the soft cookie was a perfect accompaniment.
I only picked up one cupcake from Vivi Cupcakes and Treats and ended up regretting the fact I didn’t get more.
They specialize in caramels, but I picked up the salted caramel sauce.  Looking forward to trying it with a scoop of vanilla.
Yuzu biscuits.  Subtle in citrus flavor yet no less tasty.
A foursome from Geek Sweets.  Clockwise from upper left: the Hello Kitty, the Easter Cream Egg, PB&J, and Red Velvet.  The owner strongly recommends I check out Battlestar Galactica.
And Akemi’s favorite – the red velvet cheesecake.  She prefers the corner piece.  I’m more of a middle kind of guy.

We returned home, dropped off Bubba, took Jelly for a walk, then headed downtown for a walk with Lulu.  Akemi was eager to check out the cherry blossoms.

1Lulu too, but for completely different reasons.

I never realized the number of cherry blossom trees in Vancouver. They line almost every suburban street.

IMG_4152Akemi – along with most of the city’s Japanese population – are anxiously looking forward to Vancouver’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival that kicks off next week and runs through most of April. Highlights will include umbrella dances, haiku, and blossom viewing. My buddy Carl has, I’m sure, already made plans to attend.  No one appreciates a good haiku like Carl.

February 16, 2013: Beta 5’s Valentine Dessert Tasting!

Last night, Akemi and I attended a Valentine Dessert Tasting at Beta 5, Vancouver’s premiere chocolate (and cream puff!) shop.  I know, I know.  It was actually the day after Valentine’s Day – but we were out for dinner the previous night and would have had to cut it kind of tight. And so, instead, we made the reservations for the the 15th, thus enabling us to head over with plenty of time to spare following a leisurely and light fish and salad dinner.

Beta 5 is located on Industrial Avenue just a ways off Main Street.  Not exactly easy to get to, but always worth the effort.  Akemi and I are huge fans of their chocolates (their award-winning banana chocolates are the best I’ve ever had and we never fail to pick up a couple of packages of their aerated dark chocolate “rocks” whenever we drop by) as well as the aforementioned cream puffs (also the best I’ve ever had). And, in addition to their regular offerings, owner Adam Chandler and his partner Jess Rosinski always surprise with ever-changing monthly specials: gelees, polygon bars, and chocolate-covered fruit and nuts.

Akemi and I arrived early and joined another couple on a tour of the Beta 5 kitchen…

Where the chocolate magic happens.
Chocolate tempering machine
Coating pan used to make chocolate-covered fruit and nuts.
Hmmm.  Don’t recall.  Used for heating?  Cooling?  Storing the oompah loompahs?
Chocolate art.
A sneak peek of the Easter  offerings.
A sneak peek of the Easter offerings.
Chocolate centerpiece

We ended up sitting with a couple (Dana and Matt) who took two buses to get there from the UBC campus (didn’t I say it was worth the effort?).  As it turned out, they had both studied Japanese and spent some time in Japan.  What are the chances?

Akemi, Dana, and Matt

Our dessert tasting was made up of six courses paired with various wines – champagne, sake, whites, and ending with a port.  Up first…

Strawberries and Champagne: carbonated strawberries, champagne granite, strawberry jello

I passed on the first glass because I’m not fan of champagne, preferring the sparkling sweetness of an Italian muscat.  The strawberries were lightly carbonated and the jello very subtle, but the champagne granite possessed a borderline bitter dryness that made this one my least favorite plate.

Blood Orange Rice Pudding: vanilla-scented carnaroli rice pudding, blood orange, biscotti.

Akemi’s favorite – and this is saying something since, prior to last night, she had never met a rice pudding she’d liked.  The blood orange pearls were a nice bittersweet touch.

Akemi pacing herself.
Red Velvet Cake: goat’s cheese parfait, beet sponge, honey-poached pear, cocoa nib.

Great.  The goat’s cheese parfait was reminiscent of the airy cheesecake my father used to make.

Creme Brulee: vanilla custard, caramel, raspberry, cacao fruit snow.

Gorgeous.  The sugar globe was incredibly delicate, cracking at the lightest tap.

The liquid nitrogen ice cream-making process…

Chocolate Tart: chocolate ganache, passionfruit curd, coconut sorbet, caramelized puff.

I was waiting for the chocolate course and, boy, did it deliver. Incredibly rich.  Incredibly decadent.  Utterly delicious.  Akemi couldn’t finish hers – so I did the honors.

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate: frozen milk chocolate mousse, dark chocolate pudding, blackout cake, cocoa nib sable.

Now this one was my favorite course – the chocolate no-doubt frozen in liquid nitrogen as well and served Alinea-style with an assortment of other chocolate goodies, reminiscent of the fabulous dessert I enjoyed for my Meal to End all Meals back in 2011: March 18, 2011: The Meal To End All Meals!

Our hosts for this sweet, sweet evening…

Jess Rosinski
Adam Chandler

And, just in case we wanted something to snack on for the drive home, we were gifted this lovely Valentine assortment:


Our dining companions – Dana and Matt

Our new friends, Dana and Matt, were wonderful company.  Over the course of our six course dessert extravaganza, the discussion ranged over many topics.  The subject of the Japanese language segued to a chat about Japanese culture which, in turn, moved on to an appreciation of anime that, eventually, transitioned to an animated discussion of SF literature (Matt is a big fan of the classics – Asimov, Clarke, etc.).  From SF lit to scifi television as Dana informed us she was a huge fan of SG-1.  “Really?”I said.  “What was your favorite episode.”  “Window of Opportunity,”she said.  And that guaranteed them a ride home.  If she’d answered Emancipation or Broca Divide, who knows how long it would have taken them to get back home.

Apparently, this will be the first in a series of dessert-themed evenings Beta 5 will be hosting.

Look into it!