Cafe Gourmand?Yes, please!

Of all the many good things in France I have to confess that the one  I always long for are the pastries.The dificulty always resides on the choice. Many times in the past I stood looking at the menu and wondering what to choose.

This year, however, I discovered the wonderful concept of the Cafe Gourmand, that is, an espresso served with a selection of pastries chosen by the chef that day.

While I was in Paris I ate several, but it all started  with this lovely:

This day we( my SIL , hubby who was still there and me)decided to go for a walk in Paris.I figured out that I might as well wear something nice  because the opportunity of having two photographers just for myself in Paris doesn’t come often.

And then someone said ‘Oh, I never been to the top of the Arc du Triomphe.Let’s go there.’

Everyone thought it was such a great idea… before being presented with this stair:

But we did climb the almost 300 steps of this circular stair(complaining all the way up, I have to admit) and the view upstairs more than compensated for the effort(pictures in another post).

We took a lot of pictures of the view, of each others, of the other tourist who wouldn’t get out-of-the-way.

Here I am doing my part of the job:

This is how, after going down the stairs again, and walking to a restaurant because we were hungry I met my first Cafe Gourmand, and it was love at first sight.

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Toronto-Dominion Centre

When temperatures start dropping and rain is not ideal for a walk with your toddler you start looking for places indoors where you can spend some time and learn some more about this wonderful city.

The Toronto-Dominion Centre, or T-D Centre, is a cluster of buildings  downtown consisting of six towers and a pavilion covered in bronze-tinted glass and black painted steel, and serving as the global headquarters of the Toronto-Dominion Bank, as well as providing office and retail space for many other businesses.

The towers were completed at different times between 1967 and 1991, with one additional building originally built outside the campus and purchased in 1998. Part of the complex was designated as an Ontario heritage site in 2005.

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Incorporated into the lower levels of the project is a large underground shopping mall. A 690-seat Famous Players movie theatre was originally included within this underground mall, but, though the space still exists, it was closed in 1978 due to redundancy after newer theatres opened throughout the city.

In the ground floor you can walk in broad day light thanks to the magnificent construction having the feeling that you are outdoors when you walk by an old building that was integrated in the complex.

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In this level you can also find the Canadian Business Hall of Fame that honours “Canada’s most distinguished business leaders”and was established by Junior Achievement of Canada in 1979.

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Beside it you can find an interactive board with plenty information about  Junior Achievement and also from the National Business Archives.

This time we also had the opportunity to enjoy the many wonders of the Richtree Restaurant. The concept is not unheard of but the end result is just wonderful.

You can choose from a variety of food that goes from sushi to pizzas, passing trough seafood , meat, oysters, sandwiches, everything fresh . The juices are as tasty as nutritious and the desserts are irresistible.

Adding to that you have also a diversity of scenarios inside the restaurant that mimics such things as an outside piazza, a table under a tree,an english tea room.

We were taken to a place  that was supposed to look like an Auberge (we totally forgot the name that was written on the door to this room but it was Auberge something).

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Very charming, don’t you think?

If it’s raining and you’re in Toronto wondering what to do, or if you simply want to have a delicious meal(in a toddler friendly environment) this is one of the places to go.

A cup of coffee

Different cultures have different ways of interpreting daily routines.Having a cup of coffee is one of them. I can only talk for what I know but this is my experience so far.

Back in Portugal you leave the house in the morning , face the traffic and near your workplace you usually have a Coffee Shop where you’re well known, where you sit at a table or wait by the counter and ask for your first cup of coffee of the day. This coffee consists on a small coffee that is best know in the world as an espresso, know in Portugal as ‘cafe’ or in Lisbon as ‘bica’ , and  is stronger and less flavours that the espresso you drink in Europe(probably with the exception of Italy).Accompanying this coffee usually you eat a small savoury or a small cake, the most well know of them the ‘Pastel de Nata’.

So you would have something like this:

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When you move to France you still have espresso  but french love Arabica so the coffee has much more flavour and perfume but  if you’re used to the portuguese one you don’t feel the high of caffeine you’re used to.Also you sit in a Cafe watching the street and sometimes you don’t even ask for anything else for the price of this espresso is high enough.

But if you wish to eat something as a snack the most french thing to do , and to find, is a good crepe and the multiple fillings you can have with it. Personally I love ‘Crepe aux marrons’ which is a crepe with a soft spread of chestnut jam.

And if you have the time to eat the crepe you might as well go for a cappuccino or a tea. There are also lovely ‘Salon de Thé'(Tea House) where you can have your coffee with a small chocolate at your choice within the variety that the said Tea House does exclusively.

Whatever you choose you always have a nice looking table like this in front of you.

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The common things so far is that your coffee is small and you don’t take it anywhere else, you drink it in the Coffee Shop no matter if you linger on it or if you just shove it down.

Now, let’s talk about the way people usually do it in Canada.You go into the Coffee Shop and you ask for a coffee.The nice person behind the counter  will ask you what size. If you’re in Starbucks you will have Tall, Grande and Venti. Personally I don’t know what Venti stands for but for some reason I always have a difficulty remembering which one is bigger Tall or Grande because in portuguese Grande means big and for me it doesn’t make much sense.

After the size question you have to decide what flavour. And if you want milk what kind of milk.If you don’t want milk you might want cream(and you always have the option to add chocolate or cinnamon afterwards if you want).

This coffee might be to drink there or ‘to go’, so they usually serve them in paper cups, with holders and lids.Or, if you’re a pro at this things you might bring your own travelling cup that will also keep your coffee warm if you go outside(very good for winter time).

To eat you can choose from different things but almost everywhere you will find a brownie of some sort and Bagels.And with the Bagel you also have a variety not only of bagels but also of spreads.

I’ll share some of my options.

A Grande Vanilla Latte with Skim Milk and an Expresso Brownie:

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And a toasted plain bagel with light cream cheese and a cappuccino with chocolate covering:

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Finally let me lead you trough a small exercise.

In Toronto you can find all of the above. Actually the first picture with the espresso and the Pastel de Nata was taken in a Coffee Shop in Toronto.I’m sure you can also find some crepe.

In Paris, you have several Starbucks that are always packed and you can find some strong espresso if you look hard.

In Lisbon Starbucks opened recently one store that is not doing so well ,from what I’ve been told,and you have crepe but  as a desert most of the time in places where they also sell ice-cream.

We haven’t reached any reasonable explanation for the fact that Portuguese people are so attached to their short, unflavoured,strong espresso, drank in the Coffee Shops but it is an undeniable truth.

For me,as always, I’m happy for the diversity of  experiences that a single cup of coffee has provided me according to the place in the world where I ask for one.