Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Yellow Fever Debate

Sh!t, I thought to myself, another Yellow Fever Creeper. I totally asked for it.

Class was out for the day, and I asked a classmate if I could see his tattoo, which was just peeking out from under his t-shirt sleeve; my curiosity had been grating at me for a while now. He bared his shoulder to me and proudly proclaimed that it was a dragon, although it's not done yet.

I asked why he got a dragon on his shoulder and what his tattoo means to him, and his first response was a rather curt, "Just personal reasons." Then after maybe a second, he seemed to be a little sheepish, and he added, "I've just always been really interested in Asian culture and stuff. You Japanese?"

Ugh. I got asked "Êtes-vous japonaise ou chinoise?" (Are you Japanese or Chinese?) nearly daily in France by the ickiest of guys, who were even creepier than their North American counterparts, and I was always tempted to snap, "Connard! Chuis cambodgienne!" (Idiot! I'm Cambodian!) to mess with them a little.

I'd never get a tattoo myself because I'm too chicken sh!t (why subject yourself to unnecessary pain?) and I don't think they're very classy, which is also why I've threatened to beat my best friend if she really gets one (she wants a snowflake for Snow Patrol and supposedly because winter is her favourite weather). However, I always like to ask people about their body art because it says a lot about them, there's often a very interesting story involved and also because I'm nosy like that.

In my experience, people's tatts either are very personal and mean something profound...or they just got it for some silly reason (like it looks cool or they were going to the parlour to accompany a friend, etc.) so when someone nosy like me asks such a question, they scrabble to find an excuse. As it turned out, my classmate wasn't really a Yellow Fever Creeper, but just another boy who got a tattoo for reasons he had to make up to me on the spot. Phew!

Those of you who know me know that I have a lot to say about Yellow Fever. I think it's gross and weird and actually, it's a form of racism. Getting fetishized and harrassed and disturbed by awkward, strange men is almost as bad as getting beaten up or discriminated against in more conventional ways by bigots. The effects of obsessive adulation and hatred are both bad. Sure, there are women out there who exploit Yellow Fever to their advantage (see Bai Ling, Tila Tequila and Zhang Ziyi) but I'd much rather have to work to make my own living than to work on a man to support me.

So imagine my surprise when one day, my grandpa said to me, "Yan, if you want to marry a white man, you should find a husband in Asia - an expat. That way, you can be sure that he truly appreciates and loves your culture!"

First of all, I don't necessarily, as my boy Ramir puts it, prefer "white meat." Hotties come in every colour; why limit yourself? Secondly, that pretty much means that my grandpa thinks I should marry the big granddaddies of Yellow Fever Creepers! Guys who are so obsessed that they physically move themselves to a whole different continent to be surrounded by little lotus flowers! Ew, ew, ew.

Then my mom promptly told me that I'm a jerk. What's wrong with a guy who appreciates my culture? Some people prefer blondes over brunettes, tans over pastiness; what's wrong with having a preference for golden skin and dark eyes?

Cosmos help me, but I couldn't think of a retort. I couldn't think of a reasonable argument. But to even consider dating people who "Konichiwa/Ni hau!" me on the streets, who follow me around parties telling me how much they love dim sum, who change into red shirts when they hear I'm Chinese because "Chinese people LOVE red, right?", who want to talk to me about anime and manga and want to take me to Cosplay parties, who want to drink sake and smoke opium in my pagoda...

...I just...I just can't!

For my follow up post on Yellow Fever, click here

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Single Parenthood & Procreating with My Main Gay

Remember the deafening thud heard around the world nearly a year ago, while a violent storm raged globally? It was pathetic fallacy - the heavens crying in sympathy of broken-hearted Claymates, as they collectively collapsed into grief-stricken heaps after Clay Aiken came out via People Magazine, because he just had a child and "cannot raise a child to lie or hide things."

Obviously, no one was surprised except for a vast number of Minivan Majority Housewives, those whose ovaries he shook, but the one thing that really struck me about the whole event was his baby mama’s choice to have kids with her main gay.

To quote Lainey at LaineyGossip.com: Je suis fag hag long time. I have a group of gay boy friends who I absolutely adore and have known for a long time now. But as much as I love them, I can't see myself having kids with them, because honestly, I would be so, so sad if I couldn't manage to find someone who was sexually interested enough in me and loved me enough as a person to want to have and raise kids with me within my baby-makeable years.

I once read an interview of Marcia Cross where she said that she was so elated to be suddenly married and pregnant because she'd thought that life had passed her by, at...44, I think? I can relate because I'd feel the same way. In fact, I'd be pretty bummed if I didn't find someone who wanted to be in a committed relationship and raise a family with me by the time I'm 35, and I'd probably be downright depressed if there were no takers at 38 - *knock on wood!*

I know - how ridiculous, right? What happened to girl power? What happened to being an independent woman?

I believe that these things aren't mutually exclusive. Getting married isn't my Holy Grail of happiness, but having kids is something I definitely want to do, and I want to be sharing the adventure with someone I'd be in love with (and who could do all the heavy-lifting and bug-squashing in the house).

Jaymes Foster, Clay's baby mama, brought to my attention a group of very forward-thinking women who are creating their own trend of getting themselves pregnant and starting a family without a partner because they are getting to a certain age and a suitable person hasn't shown up. In this case, Foster made the decision with her main gay, and in some others, women have employed the help of anonymous donors, exes, friends, surrogates...

I wouldn't be able to do this because I'd be resigning myself to single parenthood and my child(ren) to growing up in a single-parent family. Don't get me wrong; my mom did a great job and I'm always thankful that I grew up in my situation instead of in a family where there should have been a divorce. But I witnessed firsthand all the hardships my mom had to face with no partner, and I will always have a Daddy Void in my life. Maybe this wouldn't have been the case if the two-parent status quo were different when I was growing up, but while I do think that it's changing, I don't think it will be drastically different by the time I have to decide whether or not to have kids.

So Ramir, honey? Your little soldiers are safe from me. ;P

By the way, did you know that I'm on Facebook? Because I'm on Facebook! Was going to start a page for this blog, but it felt a little unsettling to have people join it as "Fans" - so I made an old-fashioned group instead. Please join; it would make my month! Also, will be holding a giveaway soon exclusively for group members, so make sure you check that out!

Monday, July 20, 2009

High-Low Fashion/Multiwear Garments

In my August 2009 edition of Fashion magazine, there’s this naughty photo in one of the spreads of a blond-bobbed siren in her underwear, this pretty concoction of wisps of lace, standing over a man sitting in a chair. According to the corner of the page, the sexy, little bra is $170(CAD), from Agent P (that’s Agent Provocateur, of course) and the lacy, black tanga is a $10 H&M original.

My first reaction was – Genius! They look like they could be part of a set, and this is a classic example of mixing high with low. Wearing high-low fashion is so Kate Moss, right? She famously wears Hanes tees and tanks with couture blazers and trendy jeans.

However, when I really thought about it, I wondered about the practicality of the whole concept. If I could afford Agent P lingerie, would I really buy cheapie H&M undies that everyone’s sifted over? Would you? It applies from the other end of the spectrum as well. Being a poor student and used to of living in glamorous poverty as I am, I rarely spend $10 on a single pair of underwear; I’m a fan of the 5 for $25 deals at La Senza and AE. If I were to be really frugal and save up money for something, would I spend it on clothes? Flimsy lingerie doesn’t last very long unless you take super meticulous care of it, and pieces of high-end “outer clothes” cost way more than a high-end bra does.

Besides all that, I'd rather buy a ton of cheap but cute lingerie pieces instead of a single pretty item that costs a lot because then there'd be more of a surprise every time. It's not like guys can tell the difference when you're nearly naked, anyway. They like just about anything; they're on our side, I promise. If I had $170 to spare that I was going to splurge on something, I’d more likely spend it on shoes, which last longer, books, which last even longer, electronics or some other kind of accessory.

So really, wearing high-low fashion is a nice idea, but it doesn’t hold up well as a principle to be executed

Another nice fashion idea that doesn’t work all that well in real life is multiwear garments. You know, the Le Sac Dress and Cotton Spandex Jersey Bandeau Dress from American Apparel, the 4-in-1 dresses and skirts from Tristan & America, the Infinite Dress from the 90s... I found out the hard way when I bought one of those “Magic Wrap Skirts” from an outdoor festival last weekend.

First of all, the material is really low-quality (I saw several varieties and I can assure you that none of them would last past a few washes) and the handiwork is shoddy at best, so it’s really not worth the price you pay. Secondly, it’s really annoying to have to think about how to wear it after you buy it, even if it seems fun at the time of purchase; I don’t think anyone should ever pay for a garment that they don’t know for sure will make them look drop-dead-gorgeous. Lastly, they typically only look nice in maybe one or two styles. The other styles look nice in the brochure, but they often look odd from the back or the side, and I think an effective outfit should look stunning from every perspective.

It’s really attractive to think that you’re sort of getting multiple pieces for the price of one because you can wear it several ways, but don’t bother! Save your money for pieces that are already cut and designed to be hot on you as it is.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vain People Fascinate Me

Or perhaps it’d be more accurate to say that narcissistic people fascinate me. Have you ever met someone that was truly, completely and irrevocably in love with themselves? Because if you have, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about.

I once had class with this girl – she was very nice, and for the first semester that I knew her, she seemed pretty normal. But then when I took a multimedia class with her, I noticed that she spent at least 50% of class time admiring pictures of herself on the computer and inviting others (often me, because I sat beside her) to do the same.

Can you imagine what it must feel like to be so besotted with your own loveliness that you are compelled to stare at pictures of yourself every chance you get? Okay, maybe I’m being unfair with my remarks about the frequency of her conducting this activity, since I wasn’t with her 24/7, but I know for sure that she at least did this for three hours straight EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

Then I met this woman at work last summer at an international conference. She was about 30 at the time, although, like most Asian women, she looked easily five years younger. She really was quite lovely, and she must think so too, because 75% of the pictures she has on Facebook is of herself, usually self-taken in front of a mirror, with a very smitten, aren't-I-so-beautiful-but-I-don't-really-care expression on her face. She also has an entire Facebook photo album dedicated to all the flowers she's ever received; she's had many admirers, and she's probably received more flowers than I ever will. Heck, if I were that lovely, I'd be totally in love with myself, too.

There are many other examples, and if you take the time to look, you might see that they are easily identifiable. They usually have tons of photos of themselves online, often taken by themselves, and often all of them look exactly the same, with the same smile, the same poses, the same expression - that they are utterly enamored with their gorgeousness, and so they have to capture as much of it in photos as they possibly can to share with the world.

The male equivalent is even worse because it often includes a lot of nudity in photos - super low-slung pants, casually undone buttons, blown-open shirts, casual poses with muscles all flexed, and tight shirts if they are gay or European, with the notable exception of tank tops. The interesting thing is that guys tend to have their faces covered at least partly by hats, aviator shades or by looking in a certain direction, but their female counterparts inevitably beam sweetly at the camera, with fewer body shots.

I am utterly, utterly fascinated by people like this because I know that I can never, ever be like them. I will always be aware of my flaws. My self-consciousness isn’t debilitating or destructive (hello, Marjorie from ANTM!), but it's like my love for chocolate – constant and always present. The focal points of it might change from time to time, but I don't think I've ever been completely at peace with every part of me, not wanting to change anything, completely besotted with my own fabulousness.

At the back of my mind, I always have the idea of, "I should try to lose a few pounds or avoid certain foods that might aggravate my skin or be more hard-working/whatever," encouraged by certain people in my life who always impressed upon me that I'll be more loved, more beautiful, more popular, more successful, or any other number of qualities, if only I didn't have the imperfections that I was born with. I'd frequently deliberately do nothing about my flaws to spite the people who made me feel like I'm not good enough as I am, but at the back of my mind, I always felt like I should take actions to improve myself...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Eating Well in Southern France cont'd

We have discourse! You know I love discourse – yay! :D My friend Katherine writes:

"I'll be in Marseille and Nice for about 5 days, combined, in the coming week or so. Do you have any restaurant suggestions?”

I personally didn’t go to Marseille last year, but I hear it’s awesome. Because it’s the second most populated city in France, I would suggest that you stay in Marseille for three days and Nice for two, or to stay in Marseille for two days, and stay in Nice for a day and three nights, taking a day trip to Cannes and Monaco each. From Nice it’s just a short train ride to Cannes (maybe less than an hour and about 9€?) and a super scenic, 1€, 40 minute bus ride to Monaco – and those two places are worth seeing.

Food-wise, I think you’d probably have better luck in Marseille, because as my general rule goes, the more populated a city is, the better the quality and cheaper the food is. In Marseille, you of course should have some bouillabaisse (fish stew), since it’s the regional specialty. However, it’s pretty pricey; I have it on good authority that you shouldn’t pay less than 35-40€ for a decent bouillabaisse, and some people even insist that you should only visit places that requires you to reserve the day before - but I have friends who were very satisfied with walk-in experiences. So that translates to $57-65 CAD, but it might make you feel a little better if you keep in mind that it’s a total meal – the soup and then all the ingredients in it.

In Nice, I’d definitely go to the place I just mentioned, of course, and another absolute must-go is my favourite bakery. Formerly known as Boulangerie de France, now I think it’s either called Gosset or Cosset or something – the sign is a little ambiguous – but it’s located right beside 82 rue de France, on the NW corner of rue de France and rue Andrioli. Don’t mix it up with Le chant du pain, which is two doors east of Gosset. They have all kinds of beautiful sandwiches, and the earlier you go, the more choices there are. I highly recommend the pan bagnat, a niçois specialty, with tuna, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh tomatoes, and lettuce in between a delicious bun. It’s also great value – about 4 or 5 euro and it’s enormous! But most importantly, you MUST, MUST, MUST have their pain au chocolat (aux) amandes. A pain au chocolat is a chocolate croissant, but this version is far superior because above the layer of chocolate, there’s a layer of almond cream; it’s not so much a cream as it is a sort of fine, grainy paste. I can’t even stress to you how amazing it is. It’s way better fresh (go in the morning!), but even after it’s been sitting in the display case for a while, it’s still good. They are very generous with the almond cream, and the almond flavour just punches your taste buds in the guts. There’s less chocolate, but it complements the almond perfectly. It’s just incredible. And at 1.80€ a piece, I often had two at a time.

You may want to try out les farcies, les beignets, pissaladière, salade nicoise and le socca, other Nice specialties; there are plenty of places you can get them at in Vieux Nice (make sure you go there because there’s a lot to see, but not at night because it’s not the safest!) and they taste pretty much the same everywhere, but personally, they’re not my cup of tea. Les farcies are various veggies stuffed with fatty meats and onions and seasonings and such – it’s not bad, but pretty oily and not that great. Les beignets are pretty much just HEAVILY battered foods (onions, sardines, etc.) that are fried and often soggy with oil because they’ve been sitting for a while, and for the life of me, I’ve never been able to find fresh beignets no matter what time of day I eat them. Eating those are like drinking oil, and the sardines are super fishy and bony. Pissaladière is basically tomato sauce-less onion pizza often served with olives and/or anchovies, and salad niçoise is basically a pan bagnat without the bread - the only dish out of all these I like. Socca is a flat kind of bread-type food made with chickpeas, sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper. I don’t love it because A) it’s made of chickpeas so it’s sort of rough on the palate, a big no-no for Chinese tastes and B) it tastes like overcooked eggs without much flavour to speak of. But you may want to try it because it’s very typical Nice food, and I feel like I should tell you about these things so you have some basic knowledge of local cuisine. Oh, and because Nice is so close to Italy, there are an absolute ton of wood-oven pizza restaurants, but these pizzas are characteristically paper-thin, not spectacularly tasty and so not very filling or worth it, in my opinion.

Now, what else would I eat? I’d go to my favourite gelato place in the city, Crema di Gelato. There are tons of gelato places in Nice again due to its proximity to Italy, but after lots of tasting, I’ve concluded that this parlour is the crème de la crème. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that Fenocchio is the best – they have lots of choices, but the quality of their product is mediocre at best. Crema di Gelato has the best gelato in town, and they also have pretty little gelato cups (like in the picture) and gelato truffles. I always just get scoops of gelato because you get the most ice cream for your euro. I’d highly recommend the flavour Crema di Gelato, aka crème pralinée, which is vanilla gelato with what I suspect is Nutella gobs on top of it and sprinkled with crunchy pralines. It’s like a vanilla-based, gelato version of Ferrero Rocher and it’s divine. I also love their mint chocolate, hazelnut and caramel flavours. It’s a perfect ending to an Indian meal at the place I described in my last post, and they are located in Vieux Nice, right in the square of the Palais de Justice.

If you’re on a budget, there’s a so-so place right across from the Palais de Justice, the restaurant closest to the beach, that has this great value combo – a salade niçoise or another salad plus a pasta dish, one choice of which is seafood pasta. The salads were good, but the pasta wasn’t that great – but it’s 14€ (or was it 11?) for both.

If money is no object, I’d highly recommend going to Michelin-decorated Keisuke Matsushima, a very classy hole in the wall located at 22 rue de France right on the edge of the zone piétonne (also a must-visit in Nice), where I always wanted to eat at but was too poor to go to. They have seasonal menus, and you have to get their combo, which starts at 35€. For various menu choices you can upgrade if you’re willing to pay more, and I think for 60€ you can let the chef just do his magic and serve whatever he wants. If you do go, let me know how it was!

You might also want to have moules frites, which are mussels with fries. I think they’re nice but not great but worth eating. I’d suggest going to all-you-can-eat restaurants – there’s one in Cours Saleya in Vieux Nice that I don’t recall the name of, and one in the zone piétonne called Il...Borrotolo? Barratello? I don’t remember, but it’s somewhere on rue Masséna. Just look for stand-up signs that say moules frites à volonté – à volonté means all-you-can-eat. My beef with moules frites is that the mussels are often teensy, they don’t pull out the beards of the mussels, they don’t pick out the ones with yucky growths stuck to the shells, and the sauces are too salty, which makes you eat more fries and fill up faster as a result. But if you love mussels, they’re nice. I also hear there are good moules frites restaurants in Belgium. Anyway, the place on Cours Saleya offers I think maybe five flavours at 11.90€ (and you can try any of them) and a bunch of other flavours for 13.90€ - but in this case, I’d recommend being conservative since the basic flavours are the best, from my experience. The place in the zone piétonne offers just three flavours for 13.90€ but they are nicely done and like I said, basic flavours are the best anyway. There’s marinière, which is white wine with onions, napolitaine, which is tomato sauce, and poulette, which is cream sauce. I personally like the first two, not so much the third. I’ve heard good things about having moules frites in Monaco, but they’re not all-you-can-eat.

There’s also a decent Japanese restaurant in Cours Saleya, but it’s also a little pricey (18€ for a 14-piece set meal) and so not good if you’re a bigt eater like me. The quality is pretty good though, and the chef is actually Japanese. But if you don’t mind splurging about 20-30€ once, I’d also suggest eating at one of the beach restaurants because the Mediterranean is just a stunning backdrop. I’d recommend the restaurants Lido Plage, or Le Sporting. The beach restaurants in Nice are cheaper than in Cannes, but the shopping in Cannes is way cheaper, so I’d suggest eating in Nice and shopping Cannes.

Hope this info is helpful, feel free to ask if you have more questions and have a great trip! :)

Monday, July 6, 2009

How to Eat Spectacularly in Nice for 6€

There’s something about Indian food that sets off a craving in me every three weeks or so, like clockwork. One night last week at about midnight, my girl Ceci and I were chatting on MSN about Indian food, and it made us so hungry that we decided to get together for lunch the very next day. Although basically satisfying, it wasn’t drop-dead-amazing, but it called to mind fond memories of Nice, where I was living in very glamourous poverty – glamourous because I lived right by the Mediterranean where there were palm trees everywhere, and in poverty because, vacation-spot prices aside, a euro converted to over a dollar sixty Canadian at the time.

Because there was a three-month-long strike at my school (striking is a national sport in France, you know), I took to taking daily walks by the sea and into Vieux Nice. There was so much to see, and you just can’t do the same thing here in suburban Toronto because you can’t get anywhere without a car! It was during one of those explorations that I stumbled across Shiva Snack*, this tiny restaurant, literally a hole in the wall, right on the edge of the Old Town.

I’d walked past it several times, intrigued by the much lower prices for Indian food than other restaurants, but for some reason, I never went in until about a month before I was to leave the country. I was ravenous that day and nearly desperate for Indian food, which I hadn’t had in a while because I was so poor – a dish and naan or rice at other restaurants cost about 14€ on average. I ordered outside and was promptly showed to the entrance of the place, which I never even noticed because it was so inconspicuous.

When I took my girl Maggie there, she described it perfectly when she said that it looked like they found a hole in the wall and tried to make it as homey as possible. The back wall is a mirror to make the area look bigger, and all the other walls are draped in gorgeous textiles, no doubt from India. The tables are small but pretty, with colourful mosaic surfaces, and the most tantalizing aromas emanate from the open chicken. But the most trustworthy indication that this place is awesome is the fact that almost every time I walk past it, there are Indian people sitting on the seats outside, chatting with the people who work there, just eating and watching the world pass by. It’s a family-run restaurant, and they often have their children with them there. Their adorable little girl sometimes helps wait the tables there, and she’s so sweet, so attentive, alert and eager to please.

I have a soft spot for this restaurant because it was the only food I could afford to eat out and really enjoyed; my only other options were fast food (ew!), sandwiches (which get old fast) and paper-thin pizza, which I don’t love. There's nowhere else in the city that you can buy a full meal for an adult for just six euro - not even McDonalds! And the quality for price of their Menu à 6.00 is just out of this world.

For six euro, you get a complete meal: your choice of a tandoori chicken leg or a scoop of chicken tikka (hunks of perfectly-spiced, roasted chicken breast in the most delicious, savoury tomato sauce, like, ever) with a serving of fluffy basmati rice and a small portion of salad with delicious sesame dressing and a cannette (canned soft drink) – and you can pick Orangina without paying more! After a month of pitifully subpar home-cooking, it was a little taste of nirvana. During my last month in France, when I wasn’t in Paris, I went there probably around twice a week.

Because I’m a big eater, to say the least, the combo isn’t quite enough for me, but it’s perfectly satisfying for my friends with normal appetites. But then I discovered their naan (1.50€), which is excellent, and an order of that combined with the combo is just right for me. I love their naan because it’s even all around – I don’t like it when naan is thick on one side and thin on the other. They also make a tasty cheese naan (2€) that is more filling and flavourful and tastes good even on its own.

Apart from my girls Amra and Raissa, this restaurant and their combo are what I miss most about Nice. If I am lucky enough to go on exchange to Europe again in three years, like I want to, I hope I’ll get to visit them, and I hope their business would have grown by then, because they’re fantastic!

*A note about “snack” restaurants in France: They refer to grab-and-go establishments, sort of their alternative to fast-food restaurants, and they usually sell hot and cold sandwiches (baguettes and croque monsieurs, hello!), cold pizza slices, or kebab sandwiches. In Nice, most Middle-East restaurants sell kebabs (as opposed to doners or shawarmas). Shiva Snack piqued my interest because they have a variety if kebabs that are Indian-style cooked meat wrapped in naan – sadly, I never did try them, because I already fell in love with their Menu à 6.00 combo and once I like something, I can pretty much eat it forever.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Birthday to Us!

It's our first birthday! Many thanks to all 4000 of you who have been to this blog, both regulars and one-timers - you rock!!!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cupcake Chronicles: The Cupcake Shoppe

When I was living in Nowheresville Nice, France, I was very deprived of good food, and I had this masochistic habit of torturing myself by watching Hong Kong food shows and cooking tutorials on Youtube, as well as reading colourful food blogs. My brother would encourage me by sending me food pictures he took himself and links to Toronto food blogs, so that I could keep a list of all the things I could eat and restaurants I could visit when I came home (and had no access to at the time).

One day, I was suffering from a particularly violent bout of cupcake craving, so I decided to look for cupcake bakeries in Toronto, to add to my list. I found this link, which is an excellent place to start, except none of the bakeries have particularly high ratings, so either there are no excellent cupcake places in Toronto or we’re just really hard raters. Unfortunately, all the bakeries with the highest ratings are kind of far from me – in the beaches area – so I set my sights on going to The Cupcake Shoppe first. It’s closest to me, I’ve been past it a couple times, and I’ve always wanted to go in, because their branding is so well done. They definitely have the nicest website and cutest illustrations/signs out of all the local cupcake bakeries I’ve seen. Everything about this place seems so attractive, and I was going to go with an open mind, regardless of the paltry, barely-passing 2.7/5 stars it’s rated.

Well, I wish I’d paid more attention to the reviews, because they were pretty accurate; there are good and bad ones, but there’s a pronounced trend towards the negative. The store was adorable, but the products themselves were nothing to write home about – not that cute, not that tasty, and just not all that exciting. I bought six different flavours, and if I were blindfolded, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between any of them besides chocolate or vanilla cake. They were dry, stale, hard and completely disappointing. My mum remarked that mine taste way better, and my cupcakes all come out of a box. She also said that the ones we buy in six-packs from the supermarket are better.

She has a point, because supermarket cupcakes really are good. My super serious, super distinguished ER surgeon Uncle Alex would know; he proves that anyone can have a soft spot for cupcakes. Even he couldn’t resist the ones I had sitting on my dinner table when he was visiting once and asked me if he could have one. Of course he could, I told him, and after he demolished it in the most dignified way I’ve ever seen anyone eat a cupcake, he dabbed his mouth gently with his napkin, set it down and said to me in his very refined New Zealand accent, “Well, those are very nice and moist, aren’t they?”

But you know what? At least 50% of the cupcake experience isn’t even about how it tastes. The quality is just as important as the appearance, the childhood memories, and, in the realm of cupcake houses, the whole shopping experience. A big reason why all these people (including myself) have such a bad opinion of The Cupcake Shoppe is because the service is so awful. When I was there, the staff barely acknowledged my existence and they acted as if they would rather be anywhere else in the world. They didn’t say hi or even speak to me except to tell me how much I had to pay. According to reviews, I wasn’t the only one. The store had all the makings of a spectacular shopping experience – cute décor, cute displays, inherently cute (albeit only passable quality) product – but the service ruined it all.

So if idiot-proof cake mixes and generic supermarket bakeries produce better quality cupcakes than specialized, boutique cupcakes houses, what does that say about the Toronto Cupcakescape? But I’m not going to let this unsatisfactory first outing deter me. I won’t lose faith. I’m going to continue on in my search of a slammin’ cupcake in Toronto, and I’ll document every step in my Cupcake Chronicles. :)

Happy Canada Day!