Decent Macarons from Butter Avenue

Butter AvenueLocation: 477 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.butteravenue.com/

I guess those stupid overpriced macarons from Ladurée in Yorkdale have ruined other ones for me.  Because I just ate a couple from Butter Avenue, and they were pretty good, but I couldn’t help but compare them to Ladurée — and they came up short.

Butter Avenue

I tried the pistachio and the raspberry white chocolate, and there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with either.  The pistachio had a really enjoyable nutty flavour, and the raspberry white chocolate featured a delicious raspberry jam centre surrounded by creamy white chocolate.  They were both quite tasty.

But the flavours just couldn’t compare to what they were serving at Ladurée, and the texture was overly dense and chewy, in stark contrast to the almost ethereal lightness of Ladurée’s version.

Butter Avenue

They were three bucks each, which is certainly less than the almost four that they’re charging at Ladurée, but not exactly cheap.  If you’re already spending three bucks on a tiny macaron, you may as well spend the extra dollar and get the superior version.

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Mediocre Pizza at Papa John’s

Papa John'sLocation: 1706 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.papajohns.ca/

Papa John’s seems to be slowly but surely expanding around Toronto; I guess they must be doing okay, because they opened their first location a few years ago, and they’re still opening new ones.

I have fond memories of eating Papa John’s during my childhood trips to Florida, so I guess there’s always going to be a nostalgia-fueled spot in my heart for the place.  Because the pizza from Papa John’s was pretty bad, but I still kind of enjoyed it.

Papa John's

The crust is tasteless and vaguely gummy, the cheese is rubbery, and the toppings are mostly what you’d expect (except for the sausage — I can’t even sugar-coat that one, the sausage is flat-out gross).  But there’s still something inexplicably appealing about it.  It’s junk, and yet you find yourself compelled to take another slice.

There’s that old saying about how even when pizza is bad, it’s still pretty good.  That’s Papa John’s in a nutshell: it’s bad, but… it’s also kinda good?

Papa John's

This definitely also applies to the dipping sauce, which is basically just a tiny tub of garlic-powder-flavoured grease.  I enjoyed it in the same way that I enjoyed the pizza: with a furrowed brow and a not-insubstantial hit to my self-respect.

(Mostly) Great Gelato at Hollywood Gelato

Hollywood GelatoLocation: 1640 Bayview Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.hollywoodgelato.com/

I’m not sure why, but there are way more gelato shops in the GTA than regular ice cream.  I’m pulling this number right out of my you-know-where, but I’d guess there’s something like four gelato places for every one ice cream shop.

So when you’re talking about the best gelato in the city, there’s quite a bit of competition.  But Hollywood Gelato is certainly a strong contender for that list.

Hollywood Gelato

On a recent visit, I got Rocky Rocher (chocolate hazelnut) and Sicilian Pistachio.  The texture was phenomenal.  It’s slightly stretchy and richly creamy; you’re not going to do much better in the texture department without a plane ticket to Italy.

The flavour, however, wasn’t quite up to snuff on this particular visit.  It was still very good, but the flavour on the Rocky Rocher was a bit muted, and the pistachio was slightly too strong (I think someone was a bit heavy-handed with the pistachio flavouring in this particular batch).  There was also a vaguely unpleasant aftertaste that lingered on my palate for a while after I was done.

Hollywood Gelato

(I think I’m coming off more negative here than I should — don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious.  It just wasn’t quite as delicious as it usually is.)

On another visit, I got a couple of the wackier, Easter-inspired varieties: Creme Egg and Kinder Surprise.  Surprisingly enough, they were a lot better than the more traditional flavours I had on my previous visit.  The Kinder Surprise, in particular, really nailed the milky, chocolatey flavour of that particularly treat.

Reliably Great Smoked Meat at Centre Street Deli

Centre Street DeliLocation: 1136 Centre Street, Thornhill
Websitehttp://www.centrestreetdeli.com/

Ah, Centre Street Deli.  Other delis have come and gone over the years, but Centre Street has always been around, quietly and consistently pumping out some of the best smoked meat in the city.

A couple of years ago, some of the employees got together and bought the place out.  I was afraid the quality might take a hit, but nope — still delicious.

Centre Street Deli

They have a couple of types of smoked meat: mild smoked meat, and old fashioned.  One has a bit more spicing than the other, and I don’t know why but I can never remember which is which.  I have to ask every time.  I just ate this and I’ve already forgotten again.  I think the old fashioned is the more aggressively spiced one, and the most popular.

The platter is a great deal — a generous sandwich, a heaping mound of fries, coleslaw, and a pickle for $16.50.  Hard to go wrong there, especially when the food is this good.

Centre Street Deli

I got the old fashioned (I think?), and it was quite tasty, as usual.  It was, however, a bit too lean, and the meat was slightly tougher than it should have been.

I’m starting to think that I should be ordering my smoked meat sandwiches fatty instead of medium.  Ordering your sandwich fatty feels weirdly indulgent, but hey: I like what I like.  I think I need to own it.

Amazing Cupcakes at Prairie Girl Bakery

Prairie Girl BakeryLocation: 150 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.prairiegirlbakery.com/

Prairie Girl Bakery might just serve my favourite cupcakes in the city.  There are some other contenders (the Cupcake Shoppe comes to mind), but Prairie Girl is right up there.

Prairie Girl Bakery

I like that they actually have three different sizes — standard, mini, and cutie.  The mini size is absolutely perfect if you’ve just had a big meal and you want something sweet that isn’t going to make you feel completely sick.  It’s still a couple of decent bites’ worth of cupcake, so it’s enough to satisfy, but not so much to make you question the way you’re living your life.

Prairie Girl Bakery

On this particular visit I got the banana peanut butter, which features peanut butter frosting with banana cake.  Not surprisingly, it was great — the cake basically tasted like a lighter, fluffier banana bread.  It had a really distinct banana flavour that worked perfectly with the very creamy peanut butter frosting.

The whole thing was sweet, but with enough of a balance to not be a complete sugar overload.  It’s good stuff.