Three Very Good Things: Bumble Bee Dumplings, Excellent Vegan Food, and Old-School Chocolate

I want to express my sincere thanks to all of you who took the time to share recommendations for my stay in Stratford and Toronto. I spent most of my time in Stratford and very little in Toronto, so I feel another trip is in order to explore the city and try many more of the tempting places you wrote about. But I did make it to Chinatown, to the Kensington and St-Lawrence markets, and to the Distillery District (all in one walk-intensive afternoon).

And even though I spent little more than a day in Toronto, my picks for this week’s Three Very Good Things are all drawn from the city:

~ Bumble bee dessert dumplings at Lai Wah Heen. I had a very good and very fun lunch at this upscale dim sum place, located inside the Metropolitan Hotel, and we ended our meal with these deep-fried, mochi-like dumplings, filled with a green tea paste. Adorably shaped, too, as I’m sure you’ll agree. They tasted like Japanese wagashi, only deep-fried, and the interesting plating touch — that sprig of curly parsley, those loose strands of grated carrot — makes me laugh in retrospect.

~ Excellent vegan food at Fresh. One of the things I miss the most in Paris is honest, tasty, wowing vegetarian food. We do have a few vegetarian restaurants, but the good ones are few and far between, and none of them feel quite so exciting and truly restaurant-like as a place like Real Food Daily in L.A. or Fresh in T.O.

Tipped off by a few of you, I had dinner there one night and had the mushroom burger, which comes on a homemade whole wheat bun, with a kale slaw (yay! kale!) and an eat-your-greens salad full of wonderful green things.

It felt like such a treat, and there were so many more things I wanted to try on the menu, that I went back for lunch another day, instead of trying a new restaurant like any self-respecting food explorer would. (Sorry. Couldn’t help it.)

~ Old-school chocolate from Soma. The purpose of my trek out to the Distillery District was to visit this bean-to-bar chocolate maker, which you had so warmly recommended to me. There were very many things I was curious to try, but I picked up one of the micro-lot chuao bars, and some of their intriguing “old-school chocolate,” both of which are made without soy lecithin (unlike all of Soma’s other products, regrettably).

That old-school chocolate is simply made of partially ground cacao nibs from Madagascar, and whole crystals of organic cane sugar. It has a uniquely coarse texture — coarser even than the Taza stone-ground chocolate I also love — that is crunchy and crumbly like a cookie, and is entirely irresistible. The gods of chocolate whispered in my ear that I would do well to sample it on the spot, which gave me a chance to get two more when I realized how good it was.

  • You picked some very good Toronto spots. Lai Wah Heen puts a very interesting twist on Dim Sum; I love going to Fresh when I’m ravenous after a hot yoga class; and Soma… well what’s not to love?! I’m curious about the soy lecithin comment. What is it and why do I not want to eat it?

    Safe return to France!

    • Soy lecithin (E322) is used as an emulsifier in chocolate. It’s mostly used by industrial producers of chocolate, but artisans use it more and more, and I wish they didn’t — it’s yet another soy-derived additive that we used to do without, and suddenly everywhere you turn, chocolate includes it. French suppliers supposedly guarantee the soy lecithin they provide is GMO-free, but elsewhere one can never be sure.

      • Thanks for clarifying, Clotilde.

  • wow! haven’t heard of “old school” chocolate – i must investigate this further…

  • Hi ! I love your French Blog but I’m trying to learn english so I read also your English Blog since yesterday ! It was a good exercice for me and this blog is as wonderful as the French !

    Thanks ! :D

    And Your chronic on ” Elle à Table ” are still very interesting

  • che meraviglia, complimenti!

  • You know, I’ve been reading your blog for at least 5 years at this point, and (out of shyness or who knows what) I haven’t been compelled to comment until now. I’m currently living in South America but I’m from the Bay Area, and although you’re talking about Toronto you made me so nostalgic! Dim sum (and the weirdo plating touches! the best!), good vegetarian food and good chocolate are nothing to shake your finger at.

  • Great to see you at the book signing. You’ve got an amazing future ahead and I’m deeply envious.


    • Thanks so much, it was a pleasure to meet you at the signing.

  • Love that you enjoyed the tasty vegan food! When you don’t have it readily available it makes you appreciate the flavors and freshness that much more. I’m in CA and hit up an awesome raw food restaurant when I can (Cafe Gratitude)…such a treat!

  • Super! I just bought your chocolate and zucchini cookbook!

  • Heather

    It was great to meet you at the talk at George Brown College. So glad you made it to Fresh – it’s one of my faves in the city. My daughter recently adopted a vegetarian lifestyle & I have 2 of their fabulous cookbooks. I think I am due for an outing there.

    I actually live in the suburbs of Toronto so I don’t get in there that often: it’s interesting how a visitor to the city can pique your interest in things you haven’t done in your own city. Thanks for the talk and I am glad you enjoyed your stay in our lovely city.

    • Thanks, Heather, it was a treat to finally meet you!

  • Victoria

    I moved from Toronto 8 years ago and your post made me so nostalgic. I used to live by Pain Perdu, a patisserie on St. Clair Ave. West, and go there often. I think their croissant are the best I have ever tasted. I would be curious to get your take on them (if you return).

  • Nothing better than finding good food with fresh vegetables when you’re travelling (she writes while doing some penance after an over indulgent weekend in Paris).

  • Glad you enjoyed your time in my hometown of Toronto. I love your books and have bought a copy for each of my Paris vacation rental apartments for my guests to enjoy. I am also very pleased that you posted about VEGAN food. I am a vegan who spends alot of time in Paris and am always on the lookout for good vegan places to eat. One recent recommendation is The Loving Hut located at 92 Blv Beaumarchais. Keep up the good work ! Jennifer Miller

  • Sounds like you had a fabulous time. Always fun to read about your trips.

  • I’m glad you made it to very good places!! Even if your stay in TO was short, you may have sampled some of the best the city offers. But of course, you need to return and explore the whole Gtreater Toronto Area. Markham / Richmond Hill is the Hong Kong of Toronto north – their “Chinatowns” are as authentic as if you were in Hong Kong or Beijing!

    There’s another good vegetarian place in Kensington Market – Urban Herbivore and Hibiscus – both on Augusta St. You might have seen them in your wanderings…

  • Toronto Pride! These places are in my backyard (relatively speaking :D). I definitely need to go check out SOMA!

  • I am totally sold on the idea of the old-school chocolate. I haven’t seen it for sale in Australia so will be seeking this delicacy out online!

    H :)

  • Hi Clotilde + Everyone!

    I also want to extend my thanks to you and your readers for all the great recommendations! Last weekend, on very short notice, I had to fly up to Toronto to visit my Irish fiancee who was stranded in Toronto waiting for his US Visa to be processed. I knew the trip would be stressful, but thankfully we love food!

    So with some notes from your readers’ handy suggestions – we had a wonderful visit!
    I also visited Fresh and SOMA Chocolate. At Fresh I had the Baby Buddha Bowl, and I swear it kept me from getting the flu post-flight. And I loved SOMA! My fiancee exclaimed that the air was absolutely dripping with chocolate smell. And it did.
    We had the hot cocoa. THE BEST HOT COCOA! We also had some lovely sandwiches from the bakery around the corner.. the name slips me now. And finally we were able to try the Black Hoof. (Very different from Fresh, I know!)
    The meat appetizer was outstanding, and I loved my Earl Grey cocktail. I do have to say the 2 hour wait time did make me feel like I was back in San Francisco!

    Anyway, thanks a million to everyone who added suggestions – you really made a very tough weekend so much better. And – the best news? My fiancee got his Visa (after 3+ weeks of waiting!) and is back home with me for the holidays!

    • I’m so pleased you also got to benefit from all that great advice, Julie, and congratulations on your fiancé’s fresh visa!

  • Looks like a good time! The bumble bee dumplings are adorable and those chocolate bars look delicious.

  • Ahh, after years of living on and off in Toronto I just moved back to Norway. I miss Fresh – although many of their dishes are simple enough to recreate at home (like the different bowls, with the really yum tahini sauce).

    Soma chocolate is magical, and their gelato (when in season) is the best in the city.

    Also – I totally hear you re: kale – VERY difficult to find in Norway, somehow. When I was in Toronto visiting last week I had gluten-free, vegan pizza with lots of kale at Magic Oven – strangely delicious!!

  • Ahhh… Real Food Daily

  • Yay! I love Soma! I work at a little chocolate shop in Vancouver and our boss brought us back some of their goods (including the old school bar) to sample. I really enjoyed their single origin sampler pack.


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