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!

Afternoon Tea – The Royal York

Sometimes you need to be a bit fancier and take your afternoon get-togethers to the next level. For me, order this means grabbing a few girlfriends and having afternoon tea at the Royal York. I went for afternoon tea with two delightful ladies, nurse Stephanie and Claire. These girls are my friends from work that I take morning and afternoon break with every day. We head to the lunch room and have a cup of tea together. It was only a matter of time before we took our tea drinking to the next level and had proper afternoon tea.

The Royal York does not overbook their tea service, allowing you to sit and enjoy, not feeling rushed or overcrowded. As the tea service is not overbooked, the room is not loud or distracting. There is a gentle hum of conversation and the clinking of tea cups. We were seated at a small table by the window with two chairs and a couch.

We each started off with our own pot of tea. This is the only choice you have to make during the tea service. I chose the Kyoto Cherry Rose tea.

IMG_0131My tea came in a beautiful rose covered tea pot. The other girls’ tea came in different tea pots. I don’t know whether or not this is proper tea etiquette but the affect is charming and brings a little whimsy to a fussy and proper event. The tea was a Japanese green tea that was lightly infused with notes of fruits and florals. It started delicate and subtle and as the tea steeped the flavor became fuller and richer. This is the best tea I have ever had and puts all my David’s Tea to shame. It is available at the Fairmont store so I might just have to get some…

We were then presented with four finger sandwiches.

IMG_0123Center bottom, clockwise: Farmer’s Egg Truffle Chive Salad, St Mary’s Smoked Salmon with Fairmont Royal York lemonade aioli and cucumber, St. Lawrence Market Caprese with organic baby arugula, pesto, mayo, vine ripened tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella cheese and Smoked Aurora Turkey Breast with a cranberry emulsion.

I know what you are thinking – how is this enough food for anyone to eat and feel satisfied and not outraged at the price tag associated with it? Trust me it is. Since you are enjoying your food at a leisurely pace, drinking copious amounts of tea, followed by rich pastries you will feel full and satisfied.

The egg salad sandwich had a bit too much egg for the size of baguette it was on. The salad itself was creamy and had a deeper, woodsy taste to it. The eggs used had a rich, buttery flavor to them and were not overwhelmed by the mayonnaise or the truffles.

The St. Mary’s smoked salmon was a pure delight. The salmon was smoky, tender and not overly fishy. There was hints of lemon and the cucumber added a fresh, coolness to the sandwich. This was perfectly offset by the heaviness of the bread, which made the sandwich substantial and filling.

The St. Lawrence Market Caprese sandwich was easily my favourite. It was delicate and light but still rich and creamy from the buffalo mozzarella. The tomatoes were fresh and the pesto conjured memories of an Italian summer garden. I will be making a version of this sandwich all summer long.

I was least impressed with the Smoked Aurora Turkey sandwich. It lacked the depth of flavor that the other sandwiches had. I would have liked more cranberry to the sandwich and a hint of greenery to give it that much needed crunch and contrast.

Our table was then graced with a tower of sweet perfection.

Afternoon Tea IIIAfternoon Tea IVIMG_0127Top Tier: Guava and raspberry mousse
Middle Tier: French Macaron and Paté de Fruit and Chocolate Truffle Flourless Cake
Bottom Tier: Devonshire Cream to be served with Tradition Scones and a selection of Preserves

Photo Credit (desserts): the one and only Steph

This is the most elegant and extravagant presentations of desserts. It is over the top and indulgent and I absolutely love it.

We started with the scones. This was my first taste of what a proper scone is: firm on the outside, but flaky and buttery on the inside. The scone is then made all the better by slathering it in Devonshire cream and jams. My favourite part was the dusting of icing sugar on top of the scone. It is simple but has a very pretty affect and tastes sweet.

The desserts were all wonderful. My favourite was the chocolate cake. It felt heavy and dense but was smooth and creamy and all sorts of wonderful. It was the perfect way to end a delightful afternoon.

Afternoon tea is fancy treat and one I think you should all take part of. Our plan is to check out all the tea services recommended by Toronto Life here. Next one on my list is Windsor Arms!

Happy munching!

Brunch at 25 Liberty

A few weeks ago I went for brunch with two of my best girlfriends from high school, Julianna and Samantha. We decided to go somewhere in Liberty Village  and try something new which led us to be at 25 Liberty Restaurant.

Between huge snowbanks, public transit delays and a detour caused by a murder investigation I finally arrived at the restaurant. I am fairly convinced that I went here almost 15 years ago with my parents during March Break when Liberty Village was less trendy and less up and coming. The restaurant is located in a converted Victorian-style house and it is open and bright. There is oversize booths done in orange patent leather and have been tufted, giving the seating a clean and polished look. The restaurant is comfortable but modern, simple but casually classy.

I had one of the best cups of tea I have ever had here. It was nothing special, just a small pot of loose leaf Earl Gray but it was delicious. With my tea I enjoyed the Egg’s Benedict.

IMG_3291Egg`s Benedict with shaved pork shoulder and hollandaise on a crispy potato rosti served with mixed greens.

This was amazing. The eggs were perfectly poached – contained and formed but warm and liquidy on the inside with a touch of the sweet vinegar taste from poaching. The pork shoulder was salted and fruity, shaved thinly and mounded onto of the rosti. The hollandaise sauce was slightly lemony, thick and just pure breakfast extravagance. It was interesting that this was on a potato latka (for all intensive purposes) but I prefer the traditional English muffin. It is not as crispy and therefore easier to cut through.

I liked the toast on the side and I didn’t eat my greens or my fruit = fail. Breakfast is not for salad it is for pork products and and carbs.

A delicious breakfast with two wonderful friends – there needs to be more breakfasts like this ladies!

Happy munching!