Holidaying on Main Street

After Saturday’s Baking Swap, I took my haul (including some beautiful squash and beets I’d picked up) and headed down Main Street. The stretch of Main between about 8th and 30th is full of eclectic stores, good coffee shops and excellent restaurants. There were holiday craft fairs at Little Mountain Studios and Heritage Hall and the shops along Main were full of present-worthy goods. I had something else in mind, though.

There’s a wonderful tearoom called Shaktea at 21st and Main and the chilly, damp day was making me crave a good cup of tea. (Those who know me will know that there is very little that doesn’t make me crave a good cup of tea, but it would not be kind of them to mention that.) I decided that I would indulge myself there for a break from shopping. I ordered a cup of their holiday tea, a black tea with winter spices, citrus and rose petals. Many winter or holiday spiced teas can be a little overpowering. This tea, though, was flavourful and fragrant, with just the right balance between the spices and the tea itself.

There were two harpists playing while I was there and I got to hear Greensleeves, one of my favourite traditional tunes. The tea, the music and the cosily appointed room all worked to make me feel relaxed and invigorated at the same time. If I hadn’t had to go meet my partner, I’d have had difficulty leaving. I consoled myself by buying a bag of holiday tea to take home and went on my way.

After some record shopping at Red Cat and more craft fair browsing, it was finally time for a meal. My partner and I chose Burgoo, a restaurant specializing in comfort food and a perfect choice for an increasingly cold and rainy day. Burgoo’s interior reminds me of a quaint English pub. Some of its menu would fit into that category, too. The rest is a selection of comfort food from around the world. My partner chose butter chicken, which he said was a healthier version of the traditional dish. The chicken was tender and the sauce was tasty and light, lacking the rich creaminess he’s come to expect elsewhere. I had the split pea soup with the ham and brie sandwich. The soup was fantastic, tasting of thyme and ham and with a chunkier texture than many versions I’ve tried. The sandwich was good, but I wish the brie had been warm and melty, rather than cold. It would have been perfect, then.

I have to admit that we went home that day without finishing our Christmas shopping, but I’ll be back on Main again this week, with a little more focus and a little less indulgence.

In the meantime, here’s a short round up of a few of the places you ought to get to know, if you’ve still got some names left on your list:

The Regional Assembly of Text
Urban Source
Front
Lucky’s Comics
Pulp Fiction
Three Bags Full
Bodacious

Shaktea on Urbanspoon

Burgoo (Main Street) on Urbanspoon

FFWD – Speculoos

At Christmas time, I invariably end up on Main Street. It’s my favourite street for gift-shopping. If truth be told, it’s also my favourite street for breaks and meals pre, mid and post gift-shopping. On Saturday, I had an extra incentive for heading out that way. The Winter Farmers’ Market had their first-ever baking exchange and I had the perfect recipe: Dorie Greenspan’s Speculoos.

I started the recipe Friday night, making the dough and chilling it overnight. The dough was a little crumbly when I was rolling it out, but by morning it was easy to handle. I worked quickly to cut out shapes and get them onto the pan, before the dough softened too much. When the cookies came out of the oven, I sprinkled them with sanding sugar. The best part, though, was testing one. I was so surprised at the crispness of the cookie. I never really expected it to measure up to the crunch of its commercial cousins. Other recipes I’ve tried were never more than crisp-ish. These would be perfect with coffee, especially if you indulged in a little dipping. I can also see the appeal of turning them into sandwich cookies with nutella or dulce de leche filling.

I only needed two dozen cookies for the swap, so I packaged them quickly (using an image I’d found online for the tags) and headed for the Market. I dropped off my cookies and did some shopping while I waited for the swap to begin. Cleverly, the organizer had set up paper bags with participants’ names on them and put our cookies inside. Since we’d all brought two packages of a dozen cookies, we couldn’t have a sample of each kind. Instead, we were invited to pick two bags, making sure they didn’t have our own names on them. I love the grab bag concept. I was pleased to find myself in possession of Roberta LaQuaglia’s Cherry Cornmeal Cookies and Jennifer Zuk’s Chocolate Oatmeal Maraschino Cookies. I’ve tasted them both and can attest that they are delicious. The rest are earmarked for holiday celebrations. Thanks to Robyn Carlson of the Market for organizing the swap – I’m already looking forward to next year’s!

On Tuesday, I’ll let you know what I got up to after the swap as I headed down Main Street.

We’re doing things a little differently again for the month of December. We’re still posting weekly, but people are free to post this month’s recipes in any order. You can find many other blogged descriptions of this month’s FFWD recipes here: LYL: December 17