Paradise redux at Tony’s Bistro & Pâtisserie

This summer past I ended up back home again for a little while, and you know what is just 30 minutes from back home?  Tony’s Bistro & Pâtisserie

For the uninitiated this gem is located at 137 McLaughlin Drive, Moncton, NB, E1A 4P4.

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A lot of people say you can’t recapture the past and trying to recreate a treasured memory will only serve to tarnish its glow.  In my personal experience however, that is not always true.  Some things remain spectacular.  Such is food at Tony’s.

It was precisely one year after my first visit to Tony’s that I got to make my second visit to Tony’s.  July 2015 will live forever as the summer I ate at Tony’s four times in one week.

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That may seem excessive, but I was determined to try the breakfast and lunch items, not just the desserts.  Do not fear, plenty of desserts were tried too.

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I’m pleased to report lunch was just as good as breakfast.

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For readers who enjoy factual reviews, I recommend Tony’s because:

  • delicious food with nice presentation
  • glorious desserts
  • nice ambiance
  • very reasonable pricing
  • pleasant and efficient staff
  • well-stocked, fresh pastry cabinet

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Everything I have tried so far (and I have tried a lot of the desserts so far!) has tasted as wonderful as it looks.  You don’t always find that in a pâtisserie.

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This summer I had the lemon flan, the chocolate royale, and the paradis.  Ah; the paradis. It is chocolate mousse, white chocolate mousse, and crème brûlée, and such an interesting presentation. Baking is my hobby, but it’s always been chocolatiering and fancy desserts that make my heart sing.

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It was the first time I have ever sat looking at a dessert for a few minutes, not wanting to ruin it with my spoon.  Then curiosity got the better of me.

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What I like so much about Tony’s is the variety and the artistry of each dessert.  The paradis was incredibly good.  Every layer was so complimentary to the whole, and it was just so delicious.

Leave a shout-out to your favourite restaurant in the comments. I’d like to hear who you recommend and why.

 

Christmas chocolates 2014

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Have just finished Year 4 of making chocolates for Christmas. I’ve learned a lot since I started in 2011 and practice really does improve your skill. This is the quality I could create in the beginning, and this is what I make now.

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I was really excited about making chocolates again. Well actually, I’m really excited about working with chocolate at any time, but this year was the first year I could make 9 individual shapes, and mastered the fillings I wanted to create; something creamy and soft and delicious. This may be it, I do not foresee making any future changes to the recipe or the box contents.

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I like November because it’s time to secure the Belgian chocolate. Social invites are turned down with a hushed, “It’s chocolate-making season” and understanding nods. Chocolate paints the ceiling of my home. The fridge has no room for food. It is the month of having dinner delivered and an excuse to be quite lazy in some ways.

See quarter for scale:

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No worries Mom, your box will not contain any dark chocolate.

I used 4 types and for the chocolatiers out there here are the specs:

  • milk chocolate 823NV, 33.6% cocoa solids, 21.8 milk solids
  • dark (semi-sweet) 811NV, 54.5% cocoa solids
  • dark 70-30-38NV, 70.5% cocoa solids
  • white W2NV, 28% cocoa solids, 23% milk solids

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What started as a modest hobby has grown into a massive time-suck. And tears.

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Speaking of new fillings, there they are. They are liquid and delicious, instead of hard and dry. I abandoned icing sugar and evaporated milk, and turned to making ganache; heavy cream, Belgian chocolate, and concentrated oils. The raspberry cream, orange cream, and butter cream are made with white chocolate ganache. The peppermint and peanut butter cream are made from milk chocolate ganache. The caramel is a soft, liquid homemade stuff and I fear it has some mystery addictive quality.

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And it was time to re-draw the map again.

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I feel a great sense of satisfaction when they are all laid out.

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Where to get supplies:

Dessert at Tony’s Bistro & Pâtisserie

Finally! I have been to Tony’s Bistro & Pâtisserie, and it’s totally worth a flight to Moncton. My sister has been raving about it for months. After sampling the goods I completely understand. Let this sink in for a minute.

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Tony’s is located at 137 McLaughlin Drive, Moncton, NB, E1A 4P4. It opened in 2013 and the owner/chef is Tony Holden, who has cooked for Queen Elizabeth II and Emperor Akihito. He has almost 30 years of experience and trained under French pastry chefs. Tony’s is a licensed bistro, with a varied menu, and a pastry display cabinet that will halt you in your tracks.

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We had just eaten dinner with my family, so we ordered dessert; carrot cake, raspberry cheesecake, crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, lemon tart, and coffee. Yes I know. Totally sinful. It all looked so good and I couldn’t decide on just one thing.

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What was it like? Firstly, the presentation was gorgeous. Someone takes pride in their work.

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And everything was delicious. The mousse (paradise in a cup) was so creamy!  The meringue is covering the lemon tart, which was exquisite. And the crème brûlée was impressive!

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How do they get the sugar to glass like that? When I make it, my sugar topping does not look like that! It was like stained glass and you could hear the snap when you broke it with the spoon. I was intrigued to see a tray of the custards in the display fridge, as every recipe I’ve read for this dessert says don’t caramelize the sugar ahead of time or it will sink into the custard. Clearly there is a way to make this work! I must learn this.

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The carrot cake and the cheesecake were both excellent as well. Oh, yum, so glad we went!

Review:

From the street, you really cannot tell what’s inside. I grew up 30 minutes from Moncton and Tony’s is not located in a neighbourhood that screams “delicious high-end food here”. The decor inside was pretty and spacious and bright. It’s a nice shock to find a place like Tony’s in that part of Moncton.

We visited around 6:30pm on a Wednesday. The server was pleasant and efficient.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety and quantity of desserts in the pastry cabinet. Some restaurants are pretty bare at that time of day, so it was really nice to see such a gorgeous display, and to get to try whatever I wanted.

The food was sublime, and reasonably priced.

I’ve decided on two new personal goals for myself. The first is that I shall visit Tony’s more often when I am in the area, just once was not enough! The second is that I shall become a person of international acclaim so perhaps Tony will cook for me. God, can you imagine?

“The charm of homemade chocolates!”

That phrase is code for “something went wrong”.

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The first time I poured chocolate into molds, they had lots of air bubbles. I complained to my sister who wisely explained it’s like Ed Norton’s glassware in Fight Club, the little imperfections show it was hand-crafted and it’s just the charm of homemade chocolates. So now every time something untoward happens while I’m chocolatiering, you will hear an indignant curse from me, followed by a soothing assurance from Boyfriend Unit, “It’s the charm of homemade chocolates, don’t worry.”

And what goes wrong when you are making chocolates, pray tell? Air bubbles, cracks, bloom (cloudy spots), smudges, melting, seizing, fillings not centered, fillings exploded,  misprint on map, et cet. But I no longer care. Because I know, when people open the box…

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… and eat one, they are all “OMFG”. And that makes me smile.

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We make a 9 piece box, with one dark chocolate, three milk chocolates, and five semi-sweet chocolates. This year Boyfriend Unit experimented with a sea salt dark chocolate since he hates raspberry cream. He really liked the result.

Using a full-sized block of chocolate was a new experience. This is a 5 kilo or 11 pound block of Barry Callebaut Belgian chocolate, classified as a well-balanced bitter cocoa taste, 53.8% cocoa solids. This is the base of all my semi-sweet chocolates.

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I was so excited to open this!

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Just look at that! That is a lot of chocolate.

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My mother asked recently about my weekend plans.

“Making chocolate.”

“Oh hunni? Could you maybe send less dark chocolate this year?”

“Mom, there is one dark chocolate per box!”

“Oh hunni, that’s too much! I don’t like dark chocolate.”

“Ok Mom. No dark chocolate in yours.”

Stay tuned for how this was made and where to get supplies.

KitchenAid mixer review

“Thou shall not covet thy sister’s appliance.”

I chanted those words to myself the first time I saw M’s glorious new acquisition. I am not often struck with home appliance lust, but there was something compelling about the mixer. I was so determined to own a KitchenAid that I started buying attachments before I got the mixer.

Their mixers are so shiny. And powerful. And expensive. They have a smooth, rounded design, high gloss finish, plenty of chrome, and a hint of retro. But are they worth the hype?

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Functionality: There are two main types of KA mixers: tilt-head which have a smaller bowl and lots of colour choices, or the lift-bowls which have bigger bowl capacity but limited colour selection. For the hobby baker, the smaller tilt-head is a good choice.

Price: The mixers and accessories get marked down a lot the week after Christmas and Mother’s Day. If you are patient, you can get the one you want for a very good price.

Be aware the prices change a lot. You’ll see a huge variance in pricing (over $200) on the websites for Amazon.ca, Canadian Tire, Future Shop, and Wal-mart. My advice is figure out which model you want first, understand the specialty colours have a price mark-up, and when the one you want goes on sale, go for it!

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This is a KitchenAid Artisan 10-Speed 325 Watt Stand Mixer (model # KSM150PSBU) in cobalt blue.

I purchased my precious on May 4, 2011 from FutureShop.ca for $219.99 and the shipping was free. The after-tax total was $248.59 CAD. It came with a stainless steel bowl (no spout), and four attachments: flat beater, wire whip, pouring shield, and dough hook. For comparison the same model is currently selling for $500 before tax, so the sale price makes quite a difference!

Specs: The details below are from the Canadian KA website and the information is current as of today’s date. Most of the attachments are compatible with all mixer models but do your own research, there are some negative reviews online about people in Europe buying incompatible parts from the North American distributors.

Tilt-head mixers:
Architect series, 5-qt (4.73 L), 5 colours
Artisan series 5-qt (4.73 L), 25 colours
Classic series, 4.5-qt (4.26 L), 2 colours
Ultra Power Plus, 4.5-qt (4.26 L), 3 colours

Bowl-lift mixers:
Professional 600 series, 6-qt (5.68 L), 4 colours
Professional 7-qt (6.6 L), 1 colour

Colour: Obviously the Artisan has the most colour selection. Buying a stand mixer is like buying a car, you can research all you want online but you won’t get a real sense of the colour until you see it in person. Personally I think the cobalt blue is more of a deep rich violet blue, but I love it anyway.

Attachment and accessories: I have the ice cream maker attachment (part # KICA0WH) which I received in Oct 2012 as a gift. It comes with four pieces: freeze bowl, dasher, adapter ring, and drive assembly. It is pretty awesome, and I recommend it.

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I misunderstood the instructions, which indicate that some (not all) tilt-head mixers require the adapter ring to make the bowl fit into the mixer. Mine does not require the ring.

I have a spare mixing bowl so I can make batter and icing without stopping to clean the bowl. I purchased the 5 quart glass bowl with lid (model # K5GB) before I purchased the mixer actually… I found it for $20 at an in-store sale at a Future Shop in Toronto. I’ve noticed that Wal-mart sells the same bowl for $80 but they reduce it to $20 around Christmas.

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I chilled it here to make whipped cream. This is definitely worth waiting for the sale. It’s also a lot wider than the stainless steel bowl that comes with the Artisan, so it’s easier to pour into while the mixer is running.

Buyer beware: As with any mass-produced product, there are lemons and angry buyers. I would definitely recommend you research product reviews before you buy.

A common complaint about KA mixers is that after a time, black grease drips down into the bowl. This is food-grade oil used to lubricate the motor, and KA recommends you run the mixer regularly to prevent this drip down.

You will need to adjust the beater height and tighten the attachment bolt periodically.

When mine was brand new, I’d notice some purple dye would come off when I wiped it down. This has not led to any discolouration however.

You may need to adjust the mixing time on some recipes because the KA mixer goes fast, so flour-heavy mixtures may become over beaten until you get used to the high speed. My first attempt to make whipped cream was a disaster.

Was it worth it? I think so.

I use my KitchenAid mixer in almost everything I bake. Before I got one, I used a little plastic stand mixer which bounced across the counter as it ran, unless I stood there to hold it in place. I don’t have that problem anymore, the KA mixer is solid, so I can start it and walk away to work on something else. I’ve had it for 22 months and so far everything has run smoothly.

I’m not going to lie, what initially attracted me was THE SHINY and the beautiful colours. It is my trusty tool to make lots of delicious goodies. I’m glad I bought it.

I asked Boyfriend Unit to provide his unbiased opinion, “Was Nemo a good purchase?”

His response? “I can’t provide an unbiased opinion. Since you bought it, I get to eat so many good things.”

Strawberry jam

I invited a friend over recently, and she brought me a most fabulous birthday present: a canning starter kit. Wow! I was totally blown away, and very excited to make jam on my own. When Boyfriend came home and saw the canning kit, he got stars in his eyes and ran out to buy me some jars. Here is my first batch.

 

Before you get started: Listen up! Canning can kill (I should write slogans), so go read up on it before trying this at home.  In my first post about making jam with my sister M, I went into very detailed instructions, but this time I’m just posting the basic recipe and sterilization information:

  • Sanitize jars in the oven, pre-heat to 108°C / 225°F and heat jars for 10 minutes, then keep in the hot oven until needed.
  • Sanitize lids in a pot of steaming (not boiling) water, keep in hot water until needed.

Time required: 2 days (1 hour of actual work, needs to set 24 hours)

Yields: um… stay tuned on that

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $18.

Cost per jar: well…nevermind

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Pectin
  • 4½ C of crushed strawberries
  • 7 C granulated white sugar

Instructions:

1. Place canning rack in canning pot, fill with water about halfway. Simmer and cover.  Sanitized jars should be in hot oven, sanitized lids should be in hot water (see tips above).

2. In a bowl combine ¼ C white sugar and pectin. (Reserve the rest of the sugar for later.)

3. Crush the berries with a potato masher. Make sure you have 4½ C of crushed berries, which is not the same thing as 4½ C of berries. Very important difference!

Actually I didn’t own a potato masher until yesterday, I took the berries out to thaw, and realized I had nothing to crush them with. One rushed trip to the store and…

4. Transfer berries to large pot, and stir in the sugar/pectin mixture.

5. Put pot on stove and bring to a boil, then stir in remaining sugar. Increase heat til you achieve a rolling boil (can’t stir it down). Let pot boil for 1 min, stirring often.

You should stir often so it won’t scorch. It actually started to boil over at one point.

6. Remove from heat, stir and skim for 5 minutes.

Voila!

7. Place a funnel into a hot jar. Use a fresh measuring cup to spoon the jam into the jar.

8. Fill to the ¼” mark (the one tool I don’t have is a headspace gauge so I eyeballed this to the top ring).

What’s this?? Three filled jars and I’m out of jam. WTF.

9. Use the end of a measuring spoon to gently stir out air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar clean when you are done. (Jam on the rim will affect the seal.)

10. Use magnetic lifter to get the hot lids onto the jars.

11. Use your finger tips to screw the ring onto the jar. You don’t want it super-tight, because the air in the jar will expand as the hot jam heats it up, and that hot air needs to be able to escape the jar, to create the vacuum seal when the jar cools.

12. Now it’s time to use the canning pot and rack. The water should be hot but not boiling yet. Use the jar lifter to set the jars onto the rack. The water needs to be 1 to 2″ above the tops of the jars.

13. Turn up the heat until you have a full rolling boil, then cover and cook for 10 minutes.

14. Use jar lifter to remove jars from pot, and set into a lined pan. Leave room between jars for air to circulate. Let jars sit undisturbed for 24 hours. You should hear a “pop” as the jars cool.

15. The next day check the seal. (If you have sealed your jars correctly, you can pick them up by the lids without the lids coming off.) Remove the rings, the lids should be “sucked down”. Press down on the centre of the lids with your finger. If the lid goes down it did not seal.

Verdict: Well, considering I don’t even like strawberry anything (except the fresh fruit), I thought this was pretty good. I made strawberry because it sounded easy and Boyfriend likes it. The reason I only got three jars of jam is that I used the wrong size jars. I thought I would get six or seven 250 mL jars, but what I had was 500 mL jars, oh well!

Playlist: Final Fantasy

Blueberry jam

Last week my sister M taught me how to make blueberry jam, the same way Grandma taught her. Am feeling very proud of myself, and my jam!

Time required: 2 days (1 hour of actual work, needs to set overnight)

Yields: six 250 mL jars of jam, or 7 cups of jam

Total cost if you have none of the tools and ingredients: about $80.00 since making jam requires an initial investment to purchase the equipment. Everything you need can be purchased online at Golda’s Kitchen, they sell the Bernardin canning starter kit for $67.25 which contains:

  • waterbath canner
  • canning rack
  • jar lifter
  • funnel
  • magnetic lid lifter
  • bubble remover/headspace gauge
  • 4 mason jars with rings & lids
  • pectin
  • how-to canning DVD

FYI: The jars and rings can be re-used, but the lids cannot be. A 12-pack of lids costs $3.50, and you can also get extra jars and rings for a fairly cheap price.

To put the cost in perspective, once you have the equipment, to keep going you’ll need to keep buying white sugar, fruit, and the pectin which is $2.25 per package. The actual cost per jar is around $2-$3 which is amazing considering you can make DELICIOUS HOMEMADE JAM whenever you want.

Before you get started:

You don’t want to poison your nearest and dearest so listen up. Part of canning is learning how to properly seal the jar. If you screw this up your preserves may develop botulism which can be fatal.

Read a book on canning, ask your granny, consult the pros, know what you are doing!

Storage: if the seal is correct, jam can be stored for up to 6 months in a cool, dry place. Once the jam is opened it needs to be refrigerated. Any jar that did not seal correctly should be refrigerated and consumed within 2 weeks.

Spoilage: visible signs of spoilage may not appear right away, it can take time for bulging or leaking to occur. When you open a jar, watch out for discolouration, mold, or weird odors.

Sterilization: equipment must be sterilized before you put the ingredients together.

  • Sanitize jars in the oven, pre-heat to 108°C / 225°F and heat jars for 10 minutes, then keep in the hot oven until needed.
  • Sanitize lids in a pot of steaming (not boiling) water, keep in hot water until needed.
  • Rings do not not need to be sanitized.

Don’t tinker with the recipe. Doubling the batch or skimping on sugar will cause your jam to not set.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of pectin (we used Certo)
  • 2½ C granulated white sugar (divided)
  • 1 box frozen blueberries
  • 1 C water

1. Place canning rack in canning pot, fill with water about halfway. Simmer and cover.  Sanitized jars should be in hot oven, sanitized lids should be in hot water (see tips above).

2. In a bowl combine ¼ C white sugar and pectin. (Reserve the rest of the sugar for later.)

3. If using fresh berries, crush with a potato masher. If using frozen berries, microwave them for a minute first. You need to obtain 5 cups of crushed berries (this is not 5 cups of whole berries).

A big glass measuring bowl is helpful. Once you have enough fruit, transfer to a large pot (not your canning pot).

4. Add water to fruit.

5. Add the sugar/pectin  mixture to fruit. Give it a good stir.

6. Put pot on stove and bring to a boil, then stir in remaining sugar.

Increase heat til you achieve a rolling boil (can’t stir it down). Let pot boil for 1 min, stirring often.

7. Remove fruit from heat, stir and skim for 5 minutes. See how it bunches up towards the left side? You don’t want that in your jam, gently pull it up and away and discard.

8. Place a funnel into a hot jar. Use a fresh measuring cup to spoon the jam into the jar.

9. When the jar is nearly full, use the headspace gauge. The little corners mark different heights, we filled to ¼ of an inch to the top. The jam should just touch the bottom of the gauge. (Too much space, or not enough space, affects the seal.)

10. Use the end of a measuring spoon to gently stir out air bubbles. M is braver than me, she is handling the hot jars barehanded. Wipe the rim of the jar clean when you are done. (Jam on the rim will affect the seal.)

11. Use magnetic lifter to get the hot lids onto the jars.

12. Use your finger tips to screw the ring onto the jar. You don’t want it super-tight, because the air in the jar will expand as the hot jam heats it up, and that hot air needs to be able to escape the jar, to create the vacuum seal when the jar cools.

13. Now it’s time to use the canning pot and rack. The water should be hot but not boiling yet. Use the jar lifter to set the jars onto the rack.

Use a stick to ensure you have at least one inch of water above the lids.

14. Turn up the heat until you have a full rolling boil, then cover and cook for 10 minutes.

15. Use jar lifter to remove jars from pot, and set into a lined pan. Leave room between jars for air to circulate. Let jars sit undisturbed for 24 hours. You should hear a “pop” as the jars cool.

16. The next day check the seal. (If you have sealed your jars correctly, you can pick them up by the lids without the lids coming off.) Remove the rings, the lids should be “sucked down”. Press down on the centre of the lids with your finger.

If the lid springs up after you take your finger away it did not seal. :[

17. Put on bread and enjoy!

Verdict: Making jam was very fun. I feel like a pioneer now, bring on the sod. Boyfriend was very impressed. Thank you M!! Homemade jam is also very delicious, I am enjoying some right now.

Playlist: Final Fantasy Distant Worlds