When my good friend Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic generously invited me on a new tour in Toronto called Tasty Tours, I was game. I’ve lived in Toronto but I strongly believe in seeing your city as a tourist and it’s what I aim to do with this blog as well. I thought it was a clever idea to take a popular area like Toronto and explore a certain aspect of it. The owner of Tasty Tours, Audrey Ooi, has done exactly done. Brava! You can also read my Yelp review.
Audrey is extremely organized and I have no doubt her business will be very successful because of it (amongst other things like the fact that she’s a great listener, fun, informative and friendly). The website is very informative and detailed. She urges potential customers not to check the names of the locations (and yes, this blog post is a spoiler but it’s a review!) but she does list them if you want to see them. Additionally, she sends out reminders on little things including what to wear and the weather report. So thoughtful! As above, we started out at Butterfly Bakery at Dundas and Spadina in the heart of Chinatown. I had never been here, so it was great. It was really cool because it not only is a bakery but you can get other food here for lunch and they have a buffet. How cute are those kids behind the buffet counter?! I got a cheese bun for 70 cents! Crazy. I would have never known otherwise and will probably be back to Butterfly Bakery because of its stellar prices. We had the very creamy and tasty Egg tart (above), a new treat for me.
Audrey doesn’t ask for tips but she does ask that you support the local businesses by buying their food. Our next stop was right in the heart of Kensington Market on Kensington Avenue south of Baldwin at Cora’s Kitchen. Cora quit her job in advertising to run her business and I’m a fan! I’ve been here before for her mini pizzas which are a great snack. What I didn’t know was that she makes vegan pasteries like these cupcakes! I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian but they didn’t taste like it at all. Superb!
Our next stop was at The Chocolate Addict, where we were treated a free truffle (look at all of those options from Chili to Rum Butter) and talks about the backgrounds of popular chocolate companies like Lindt and Van Houten and its relation to the history of chocolate. We then all sipped down the information with some hot chocolate with a kick of chili pepper in it. Tasty indeed!
I won’t regale all of the information to spoil the tour but Audrey not only would talk about Toronto she talked about the history of things like chocolate and would give away a lot of tidbits about companies in the confectionary industry. It was really interesting not only to explore the neighbourhood and learn more about that but also learn about the treats we were nibbling on.
Another cool thing that I did not know as a local was that this huge store in Kensington Market called Blue Banana (it sells a mixture of quirky odds and ends such from clothing to postcards) had a food section. I never really go here so it was cool to find all of these cool, niche foods and treats like Butter marshmallows. We not only discovered where the name “marshmallow” came from but we also got to sample them too. Yum! If we weren’t anymore stuffed, we then walked over to a whole wall of Cadbury’s chocolate. Audrey talked quite a bit about Cadbury’s history and it’s current takeover by Kraft. It was very interesting. We also got a 10 percent discount at Blue Banana in the British Foods section to use that day should we want to purchase something. Smart partnership!
What I thought was really cool about this tour was how Audrey was embracing technology by using an ipad to show us pictures while explaining the history behind things. It was helpful to see the pictures.
Interesting discovery and for the Brits living in Toronto: there is a British Foods section in Blue Banana. Love it! It’s quite a huge selection, as well. So no excuses British blogging friends!
It was a nice surprise to learn that we were going to Pancho’s Bakery and it was perfect timing after the tour because I was planning on trying Agave Y Aguacate for lunch (last photo).
Pancho’s has some fantastic churros and you can get them with chocolate or caramel inside them. We had the treat of trying the seasonal Rosca De Reyes (King’s Rings) pastry, a Latin American pastry that celebrates Epiphany. Via Wikipedia:
The tradition of placing a trinket (figurine of the Christ Child) in the cake is very old. The baby Jesus, when hidden in the bread, represents the flight of Jesus, fleeing from King Herod‘s evil plan to kill all babies that could be the prophesied messiah. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2, Candlemas Day (Día de la Candelaria). In the Mexican culture, this person also has to throw a party and provide tamales and atole to the guests.
In Spain, due to commercial interests, roscones bought in cake shops hide in their interior a figure – either of Jesus or others like little toys for kids and a dry faba bean. Whoever finds the figure is crowned and becomes the “king” or “queen” of the banquet, whereas whoever finds the bean has to pay next year’s roscón.
One of our tour group members found the baby Jesus so he got a dessert of his choice. It was really sweet!
I highly recommend Pancho’s bakery. The cool thing about this place is that there are other vendors inside selling some amazing food (like Agave Y Aguacate). A Y A’s owner Francisco used to work at the fancier Torito a few years ago and his food is the BOMB. When he and another chef Carlos were working there, it was one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. And if you want authentic Mexican, this is where you go (I also recommend El Trompo for guacamole and tacos el asador).
The one thing I will say about the tour is that it is a bit pricey at $30. BUT I am looking at this from a local perspective and as someone who frequents Kensington Market. I will say that if you are visiting Toronto, new to Toronto or looking to meet new people in the city and make new friends or don’t know the Chinatown/Kensington Market area well, it’s worth it. Plus, the value is in getting to sample goodies, not worrying that you have to pay a tip and discounts at the various suppliers. Audrey will be doing a tour in another neighbourhood and I’m excited to find out where it is!
Thanks again to Tasty Tours for a great tour of local Toronto. It was good fun, a great way to meet new people (and kudos to one of our tour group members who actually made us this amazing crispy cookie with walnuts and WHITE CHOCOLATE in it! I saved it for the next day and it was DIVINE) and learn new things about the desserts we eat and where to find them in my favourite neighbourhood of Kensington Market.