Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Tea Spot: Doing Dufflet on a drizzly day!

Today I spent an afternoon with a few friends for tea, small bites, and chit chat. We headed to a place call Dufflet in the eastern beaches area. Torontonians who love their dessert and pastries definitely know Dufflet. They’ve even been featured on Food Network Canada. I had no idea that Dufflet had Afternoon Tea on their menu. It wasn’t bad. Not as posh as some of their more high-end counterparts, but good enough to keep one satisfied. 

Sweet treat!

Our teas were from Sloane, a company I had mentioned in my Ritz Afternoon Tea outing. This time I choose Heavenly Cream, a blend of Ceylon and Assam teas, flavoured with Italian bergamot and hints of vanilla. It was superb! The aroma was fruity and flowery. The golden red liquor tasted nutty and creamy. Just perfect on its own without any bitter aftertaste.

The nibbles were pretty typical. It consisted of finger sandwiches, scones with jams and clotted-cream, and a selection of tiny sweets. The desserts were delicious, exactly what Dufflet is famous for. An array of cakes, meringues, creams, and crusts that did not disappoint. 

Dufflet's delights!

The currant scones were okay, just a little too cakey for my liking. Slathering them with cream helped to moisten them a bit. I wasn’t particularly fond of the finger sandwiches though. Only two kinds were served: cucumber with cream cheese, and smoked salmon with cream cheese. Both were made on white bread that was way too thick and rather stale. The crusts weren’t even removed! Oh well. Dufflet isn’t really known for sandwiches.

Dufflet's duds!

I really enjoyed catching up with old friends and seeing some new faces. Good conversation and laughter always come up at these meetups. Our day was supposed to end with a casual stroll on the boardwalk by the lake, but with the weather so cold, wet, and windy, that idea was nixed. Perhaps another time when I just happen to find myself in the neighbourhood and have a hankering for tea and some of Dufflet’s delectable delights!



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Steeping Beauty: Out, damned spot! Out, I say!

A favourite beauty brand of mine is St. Ives. They are the makers of a line of skin care products. Recently, I came across one of their new facial scrubs that includes green tea as an ingredient. Of course, I purchased it! 

St. Ives green tea scrub.

This exfoliator claims to rid your face clear of blackheads leaving it soft, glowing, smooth, and shrinking your pores. I’m not really prone to blackheads, but I do get the odd pimple -- even at my age! Plus, I could use a little pore reduction.

I used the product just as directed by adding a little warm water to a good dollop of the green scrub, and applying it in gentle circular motions over my face and neck. The texture wasn’t overly rough like some other exfoliators I’ve used. It was just right. The lovely scent of green tea was light and sweet.

In the palm of my hand!

After splashing my face clear of all content and patting it dry, I was glowing! My face felt very clean, light, and fresh.

This Blackhead Clearing Green Tea Scrub is definitely something I would purchase again just as I do with other St. Ives products. They live by their claim and are rather affordable in comparison to other brands. Though, you could always make your very own facial scrub instead!



Saturday, June 13, 2015

Yes Chef: When Rooibos Met Pavlova!

Nope…this is not a script to a Hollywood movie. Pavlova is actually a dessert very popular in Australia and New Zealand. It was named in honour of the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova after her performances in the two countries. However, it is not clear who created this meringue sweet treat.  The Aussies or the Kiwis? WHO CARES!?! Put on some Waltzing Matilda, and let’s eat, drink, and be merry!

Pavlova requires very few ingredients, and is not the most attractive dessert, but you can dress it up and create something really special. Traditionally, the meringue is topped with whipped-cream and designed with your choice of fruits and berries. I’ve actually introduced Rooibos to Pavlova. They sure are a lovely match! You really can taste the Rooibos even with the addition of the berries and drizzle of Cassis I used for my dessert.

Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 ½ tablespoons ground Rooibos
  • Whites of 4 eggs
  • Some berries
  • Drizzle of Cassis

Preparation:

1.   Preheat your oven to 150°C.

2.   Sift the powdered sugar and cornstarch together, then add the granulated sugar and ground Rooibos.


Sugar mountain!

3.   I used a hand-held power whisk to whip the egg whites until they started to foam. Then, I began to add the sugar mixture in small amounts as I continued to whisk until stiff peaks formed.

Whisking whites!

4.   On a baking tray lined with parchment paper, I scooped out the mixture, forming a round mound with a long spatula.

5.   Bake until the meringue is hard on the outside and soft inside. It was about an hour and half. Use a toothpick to test the consistency.

6.   Remove from the oven and allow to cool down until it’s just warm. Now get ready to design!

7.   I cut a slice of the meringue and placed it on a plate. Then, I added some strawberries and blackberries off to the side. As an added touch of flavour, I drizzled some Cassis, a black currant liqueur, over the meringue and berries. 

Sweet slice!

So good! It’s not super sweet as you would expect. The texture is what I like the best! A delicate crunch on the outside, and soft, like marshmallow, on the inside. Light hints of Rooibos can be detected in both taste and aroma. 

Forkin' delish!

Go crazy with your toppings! Use kiwi fruit, raspberries, or even banana slices. Try different nuts and other teas and tisanes too. How does an Earl Grey and lavender Pavlova sound? Or perhaps a green tea and pistachio Pavlova? The ideas are endless! 

Don’t worry too much about the appearance of the meringue either. I once went to restaurant and had Pavlova served to me in a bowl. The meringue was broken into pieces, mixed together with whipped-cream and half-smashed berries. Not the prettiest to look at, but so good to eat!



Saturday, June 6, 2015

Japanese teas and tasty treats!

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a tasting of various Japanese teas. It was a great event. I sampled some teas I had never had before. Some were award winners, others were seasonal and rare. Our wonderful host was TJ. Very personable and knowledgeable, he was excellent at engaging with his audience. TJ had informed us that he had connections with some Japanese farmers, as he had lived on a tea farm in Japan, and so was able to acquire some teas that were normally not shipped to Canada. Awesome that he was sharing these teas, some of which were rather expensive, with a group of strangers who just have a common interest in tea!

Tea for tasting!


Some of the teas we sipped on included a Spring 2015 Hand Pressed Shincha from Kyoto. This was the winner of the Kyoto Spring Auction, and only 250g was available globally. We had 50g of it! We also had some freshly roasted Houjicha, an award winning Gyokuro, Sakura Blossom Tea, Sweet Bancha, Bata Bata Bancha, Samurai Bancha, Kyoto Bancha, and Peabody Bancha. As well, we ground our very own Matcha using a genuine Matcha Stone Mill!

Matcha Stone Mill.


Hold please!

Roaming between three stations, we were hit with various shades of green from both the tea leaves and their liquors. The room soon perfumed with the light aromas of the many brews. Our taste buds were entertained with all sorts of flavours. Some brews tasted like spinach, asparagus, seaweed, and fresh cut grass. They were sweet, salty, astringent, and strong. Other flavours were a little more challenging and difficult to describe, but it was fun listening to the many opinions. Everyone is different!

Yup. That's tea!

As if the tea tastings weren’t enough, we were also treated to some delicious and beautifully designed truffles that included tea as an ingredient. The extraordinary delights were created by Pastry Chef Chocolatier Sergio Shidomi. Tea and chocolate is a perfect combination, something I’ve enjoyed on many occasions. Chef Sergio’s creations can be found at Old Firehall Confectionery in Unionville, just outside of Toronto. Definitely worth a trip out there! 

Tasty truffles!


Look closer!

The highlight for me, and I do believe for many others, was observing and having the opportunity to grind fresh Matcha. A time-consuming process that requires a lot of arm power, large pieces of tea leaves are converted into a fine powder. Now you know why good quality Matcha is so expensive. It is not as easy as it looks, but I was able to get into a groove after a few turns. A great workout indeed!  

Um, am I doing this right?

Fresh Matcha!

Both TJ and Chef Sergio were warm and welcoming. Extremely knowledgeable about their passions and crafts! It was a great evening and I'm looking forward to the next tea tasting event!