Afternoon Tea – The Windsor Arms

My mom is one of my favourite people of all time. She is the most inspiring woman I know. She is smart, charming, witty, beautiful and just completely amazing. She is my real life Meryl Streep.

10332_674748901846_121506112_40082178_2410099_nMom & Girls OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot only do I gush about her, I eat with her. This year to celebrate her birthday and Mother’s Day, we went for afternoon tea at The Windsor Arms. The Windsor Arms is everything you want a hotel to be. It is sleek, polished and has a very posh London hotel atmosphere about it.

This posh atmosphere continues into the tea room. The table settings are white linens and all the china is matching. There is a hat stand with a variety of hats with ridiculous plumage fit for a royal wedding. There was a group of girlfriends in floral dresses and fascinator enjoying afternoon tea. It was all very dainty and proper.

The tea rooms are seated according to your reservation time and seatings are fully booked. I understand  the need to make money and run a successful business but it takes away from the ambiance when you are too closely seated to the next table and the low hum of other patrons turns into a loud drone.

We shared a pot of the Private Windsor Arms blend. This tea was a blend of Ceylon, Nilgiris and Assam teas. It was delicious. Our tower of deliciousness was presented to us and stacked in the traditional manner from the bottom up: scones, sandwiches and desserts.

IMG_0607The Goat cheese and caramelized shallot tart.

I promise you, this tart did not look so sad and lonely in person. The tart was served first as it was warm. It was delicate, soft and sweet. I wish it had been slightly bigger or maybe served as two. On it’s own, it was the perfect warm, little bite of rich, cheesy goodness.

IMG_0608Fresh scones with preserves and Devonshire cream.

The scone serving was very generous. We given two each and they were huge. They were impossible to grab using the tongs and this resulted in me dropping one of my scones. It was my classiest use of the “5 Second Rule” to date. There was two different flavours of scones: raisin and orange currant. These scones were firm on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. They were only made more perfect smothered with Devonshire cream and various jams. I could eat scones all day.

The fresh sandwiches consisted of: 1. Smoked Salmon and Wasabi Sour Cream with Salmon Caviar 2. Cucumber with Sundried Tomato Paste and Dill Cream Cheese and 3. Grilled Chicken, Granny Smith Apples Citrus Mayonnaise, Greek Yogurt and Chives.

The sandwiches were tiny. The bread had been flatten out and rolled into pinwheels rather than being served as quarters or miniature sandwiches. Due to the form the sandwiches take, the sandwiches are not packed with filling. The flavours were not bold and intense. The flavour that stood out the most was the salmon. It was smooth, creamy and salty. The cucumer was delicate and light, tasting faintly of a fresh garden. The chicken sandwich was filled with chicken but the other flavours did not stand out.

And last but not least, the dessert level.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset The Petits Fours: Chocolate Mousse Truffle, a Coconut Marshmallow, a Mango and Passionfruit cake and a Lemon Custard Tart topped with Raspberries.

Please explain to me why for two people we are given four different desserts? And desserts that cannot easily be shared? This was my major complaint with the tea service. The final touch of the tea service is dessert and to be underwhelmed is disappointing.

That being said, we shared our desserts and by the end were full. My favourite was the lemon tart. Lemon and raspberry is my favourite combination of flavours in desserts. The zesty, tartness of the lemon combined with the subtle tart but still sweet flavour of the raspberry is pure perfection. This tart had a crumbly shell filled with velvety smooth lemon filling and topped with three, perfectly formed raspberries. Yums. The low point: the coconut marshmallow. It was underwhelming. Marshmallows should be in hot chocolate, not on a dessert tower at afternoon tea.

Overall the tea experience was lovely but the company was even better. This was the perfect afternoon to celebrate the awesomeness that is my Mom. I love you, Mom!

Happy munching!

Bonjour Brioche

Last week two of my favourite people returned from vacation so obviously brunch had to be eaten. Al returned from Mexico and Cynthia returned from Italy so we ventured out to the east end to enjoy a brunch at Bonjour Brioche and catch up on each others adventures.

Bonjour Brioche is sunny and fresh, for sale featuring delicious breads and pastries. The inside of the restaurant feels like a Parisian café, medicine with sunny walls and the smells of baguettes and other breads. We were seated on the patio, which is partially covered by an awning. The only downside of the patio: it is beside a GO train track that runs a frequent train. If you can get over some light transit noise, which you should be able to if you live in the city, the patio is sunny and delightful.

The girls both ordered the Poached Eggs on a croissant.

IMG_0558 IMG_0559Two poached eggs on a croissant with Hollandaise and the choice of peameal, tomato and avocado or smoked salmon. Al chose peameal on one side and tomato and avocado on the other. Cynthia opted for tomato and avocado and smoked salmon.

You were able to customize your order and choose different toppings for each side of your croissant which I think is brillant. There is two sides to every croissant so why not have two different toppings? The croissants were buttery and airy but still hearty enough to hold up to all the delicious toppings towering on top.

I ordered the daily tart special.

IMG_0560The Daily Tart with figs, caramelized onions and blue cheese.

This tart was sweet and tangy. I love the combination of figs and blue cheese. The sweetness of the figs plays with the rich, pungent, salty taste of the blue cheese. The caramelized onions add another level of sweetness that completes the tart. The crust is flaky, buttery and crunchy. Yums. I love that regardless of what is ordered, it is accompanied by slices of baguette and of course, butter. Could breakfast get much better than that?

And of course, all meals should end in dessert, even brunch. We split the Sour Cherry Custard Tart.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThis tart was simple, fresh, tangy, and sweet. It was delicious. It was my first taste of summer and I look forward to more.

A great brunch with great friends – what more can a girl ask for? Happy munching!



Berries and Cream Tartlets

I have been slacking – I made these tartlets about a week ago for national pie day. Mini pies are more convenient for transport and sharing. This is from a Martha Stewart recipe.

1. Not as beautiful as Martha Stewart’s by any means. This is featured in the Martha Stewart Pies cookbook and in the book there are a variety of diagrams illustrating fruit placement and arrangement. I would love to be able to arrange these berries in tight, little circles or fanned out but frankly, I don’t have the time or the patience.

2. I need to invest in tart tins. I used a muffin pan instead of the suggested 3″-4″ tart tins. Smaller, tighter but more custard filling.

3. This is the first Martha recipe I have made that doesn’t result in more than suggested. The crust only made 22 tart shells and the custard only filled 20 of those. That’s ok but just something to keep in mind.

4. Next time, I would only use blueberries and raspberries. And I think it would be best to make these in August and use fresh berries which would be smaller and tastier.

Anything with custard and berries is going to be delicious.

Brie & Apple Tart

Round II – Cooking at home. I made Martha Stewart’s Brie & Apple Tart from her Pies & Tarts cookbook. This tart is easy to make and delicious too!

1. I bought three spring form pans from Kitchen Stuff Plus for $14.99 – amazing! I know this has very little to do with the recipe and the process of making it but I got very excited and I feel like I need to tell as many people as possible about this deal so they can take advantage of it.

2. This was the first pie crust I ever made! I think this is a major step for me in my baking career. The reason I have never made a proper pie is because my mom makes the best pies ever and I really can’t compete with them so I don’t bother. But I think that might change now. One issue I had with my crust was I didn’t make it high enough so there was a slight egg/cream explosion which luckily happened on a baking sheet.

3. This tart is creamy, fluffy and light but watch out. You will think you can eat more than you probably should and then your belly will be full of dairy goodness. Cream + brie +  milk = yes, please. It might have been particularly creamy because I put 1 cup of cream instead of a 1/2 cup – what can you do? Besides go to the gym… The crust is salty, and flaky and the perfect base for this tart. And the apple! Perfectly browned in the pan first and then placed in the tart. I think next time I might do a twist on this recipe and brown the apples in some brown sugar and cinnamon. How good would that be? Obviously you would omit the thyme.

4. The thyme perfectly complicated the egg, cheese and cream and gave it such a rich, French-inspired taste. I was happy to eat it in my fun, yellow kitchen.

I would make this again. And maybe try not to eat half of it in one sitting..

Recipe below.

Continue reading