March 15, 2007

Breakfast as a Queen

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One of the only things that gets me out of bed on Sunday morning, especially after a rather late Saturday night, is the thought of a great breakfast with my friends. What better way to start the day then with good food and stories from the previous night’s scandalous activities?

However, not all Sundays can begin with such leisurely fun. Instead, there exists those weekends where no semblance of work is completed on Saturday, making Sunday a day of serious productivity. For this reason, a two-hour brunch is out of the question — but, that doesn’t mean an enjoyable breakfast is unattainable. In fact, sometimes the best breakfast can simply include a freshly baked pastry and a great cup of coffee.

This past weekend, my friends and I, having risen fairly late on Sunday morning with full days of work ahead of us, decided it would be best to buy breakfast at the Queen of Tarts, a new pastry shop located at 143 Maple Avenue, near to East Hill Plaza, instead of dining out at a restaurant.

While driving up Maple Avenue, it’s very easy to pass by the Queen of Tarts and not notice its existence. The shop inhabits a small, quaint house-like building that almost completely blends into its surrounding landscape. However, its small size contributes to its overall charm and, upon entering, you can’t help but feel as though you’ve just entered someone’s private kitchen instead of a store. The aroma of freshly brewed Gimme! coffee further enhances this cozy atmosphere and makes you want to sit and sample the wonderful pastries and desserts all day. Unfortunately, this Sunday wasn’t conducive to that plan of action, and so my friends and I were forced to order our pastries and drinks to go. Deciding exactly what these pastries would be, however, was not an easy task.

The first thing you see once inside the store is the huge counter filled with delectable looking pastries, cakes and tarts — a sight that’s a bit like heaven to an over-tired, over-worked college student. Of course so many wonderful options leads to serious and extensive discussions on the optimal pastry choice.

Personally, I was deciding between the mixed-berry brioche and the ginger-citrus scone, while my friends were leaning toward the berry-filled and plain croissants. Unfortunately, the shop had already run out of the monkey bread, a cinnamon- and chocolate-flavored croissant, which my friends had sampled on a previous visit and highly recommended. After much contemplation, I picked the scone and a large cup of coffee and my friends ordered both of the croissants and a couple of macaroons as well. (Other offerings included chocolate chip cookies, flourless chocolate cake, carrot cake, gingerbread, hazelnut espresso brownies, almond-raspberry tart and chocolate tarts, as well as a large selection of freshly-baked bread and baguettes, with such flavors as jalapeno and pecan-cranberry). With our bag of delicious goodies in hand, my friends and I ventured home to enjoy our breakfast.

While sitting around our kitchen table did not emulate the same cozy atmosphere as inside the Queen of Tarts, it did not detract from the tastiness of our breakfast. My scone had the perfect consistency — crumbly and not too buttery — and the ginger and citrus provided an interesting combination of flavors. Although I am not a huge fan of croissants in general, these croissants were exceptional and the berry filling was a perfect addition. The macaroons, while not the cookie-of-choice for most young people, were surprisingly delicious — chewy and not overly coconut-tasting. My award-winning cup of Gimme! coffee was the perfect companion to my scone, and I finished both feeling just as satisfied as if I had had a large breakfast at a restaurant.

Throughout the rest of my Sunday, I looked back on my morning meal with pleasure and a tad bit of regret that I didn’t buy more pastries to snack on when taking much-needed work breaks. I also day-dreamed of going back to the Queen of Tarts in order to try one of their desserts or buy a baguette or even sample another pastry. It’s truly amazing how such a small place could make such a large impression.