WHAT IS IT

Gold Bars Dessert is a travelling dessert shop that opened in March 2020. From butter tart bars to brownies, the shop specializes in dessert bars. Gold Bars Dessert offers holiday-themed bars and uses seasonal ingredients.

They offered Easter egg brownies around Easter, peach cobbler bars during Ontario’s peach season in August, pumpkin spice bars in October and are currently selling holiday cranberry bars and candy crunch brownies for the holiday season.

Gold Bars Dessert has also partnered with the Hamilton-based specialty coffee company Detour Coffee to offer their whole beans. Gold Bars sells espresso and medium roast, which were handpicked to pair with their dessert bars.

The dessert business combines owner Germaine Collins’ love of adventure with her love of sweets. The adventure lover has created a business that allows her to travel and connect to people through food.

 

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HOW TO GET IT

While the shop doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location, they frequent farmers’ markets and host pop-up shops. In the summer and early fall of 2020, Gold Bars Desserts was a weekly vendor at Connon Nurseries Fall Farmers’ Market in Waterdown. They also did a Christmas pop-up at Connon Nurseries on Nov. 28. Check their website and social media to find out where they’ll be next.

When they are not at a market, Gold Bars dessert does local doorstep drop-offs. If you’re located in the Greater Hamilton area, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga or Toronto, you can order online for next-weekend delivery. The delivery days are announced on their website and on their social media.

 

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THE COST

At markets, you can buy individual bars for $3. For doorstep drop-offs, Gold Bars Desserts sells the boxes of bars on their website. A box of nine bars is $20 to $25 depending on the type. Each bar is about the size of a coaster. The delivery is an additional $5.

 

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WHAT TO GET

You really can’t go wrong with any of these dessert bars. They’re all decadent, filling and beautifully decorated. I would definitely recommend the OG brownie if you’re a chocolate fan because even after a couple of days, the brownie is still moist and rich inside. If you’re not a chocolate fan, I’d recommend the blondies or lemon bars.

If there is a seasonal dessert bar when you’re looking to purchase, definitely try that. I tried the cranberry holiday bars and it gave Starbucks’ cranberry bliss bars a run for its money.

 

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WHY IT'S GREAT

Gold Bars Desserts is perfect for the sweet tooth who adores a large, classic brownie or dessert bar. The variety of flavours and the seasonal creations make it an exciting business to visit month after month.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the perfect way to support a small business and satisfy your sweet tooth without having to leave your house. Having Collins visit my house on a Sunday afternoon to deliver me handmade sweets was the highlight of my weekend. With the pretty packaging and Collins’ handwritten notes, Gold Bars Dessert bars make the perfect gift for your loved ones.

 

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Isolated from the grey overtones of King Street West lies a splash of pink just east of Hess Street North. Walking into the space, you are immediately overwhelmed with the pleasant scent of freshly baked goodies. As your eyes gaze upon the pink shop, the show-stopping piece is the custom-made swing holding a hundred pounds of sprinkles. For Real Dough (256 King Street West) adds an escape from the downtown core by combining a bakery with the feel of a pop-up museum.

For owner Diana Smiarowski, the bakery was a chance for her to get a much needed change of pace. 

“We came up with [an idea to] mix an element of fun while at the same time my boyfriend was craving cookie dough... We looked it up and saw places in the States but there was nowhere permanent here that you could go. We kind of mixed the two together and we wanted to bring a feeling of nostalgia. I know lots of people [ate cookie dough] and snuck it when they were little. Coming into a place like this with the clouds, the pink...it’s just meant to bring you back to your childhood. We just wanted it to be a happy, fun place to come,” said Smiarowski.

For Real Dough is an immersive experience in the heart of downtown Hamilton that meshes the feel of a pop-up with decadent edible cookie dough. Ranging in simple flavours like  chocolate chip to more unique flavours such as cookie monster and dunkaroo. Select vegan and no gluten-added flavours are offered on the menu to ensure everybody is able to try the sweet treats For Real Dough has to offer. The bakery also boasts stuffed cookies, cookie dough paired with soft-serve ice cream and iced coffee served with cereal-flavoured milk with everything made in-house. 

“It’s about bringing a sweet piece of childhood back. We try and bring some fun, creative flavours that you wouldn’t find anywhere around...We see Hamilton growing and we just wanted to bring something to help it grow,” said Smiarowski.

Raw cookie dough is normally not recommended for consumption due to the inclusion of raw eggs and flour. For Real Dough uses pasteurized eggs and heat-treats their flour to allow their cookie dough to be fully edible without the associated health concerns of its raw counterpart. 

From conception to reality, the bakery was set to open its doors after a year and a half of planning and execution. With the giant spoons above the washroom, clouds hung above the tables, and neon signs mounted to the walls, the store was ready for its soft-launch in July 2019 with an unexpected turnout. 

“It was wild! There is always a fear of starting a new business but it has been amazing, especially seeing people come in here happy. They’re just in such a good mood and it puts you in a good mood,” said Smiarowski.

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Although the bakery has a lot to offer, the menu is constantly changing with each week holding a new flavour in-store for customers. Basic flavours are kept; however, seasonal treats are swapped out to keep things fresh. 

“Our number of flavours are always rotating and we are constantly trying to stay innovative. It’s a nice escape for people to just kind of forget what’s going on. They’re walking back into their childhood.” said Smiarowski.

To Smiarowski and her team, For Real Dough is more than just a cookie dough cafe. It is an experience for Hamiltonians to feel transported away from their busy lives. Put your head in the clouds and enjoy the atmosphere that has been created to ignite your childhood self.

For Real Dough is not only the perfect place for your next Instagram post but it also has sweet treats that allow you to relive your childhood years without having to leave the city. This cookie dough cafe is not going anywhere, anytime soon making it a beautifully pink addition to King Street West.

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In addition to the few existing establishments that serve Asian food, restaurants that feature new-wave food trends from Asia such as dessert bars, snack joints and tea houses have been popping up left and right in Hamilton in recent years.

These spots may be newly-minted in our Steel City, but have been rife in Asian metropolitan hubs such as Taiwan and Hong Kong for years.

It’s nice to see that there are more places for international and Asian-Canadian students to go for their version of comfort food, and for people of other cultures to have opportunities to experience different types of cuisine.

Here is a list of Asian spots, both old and new, for you to visit, whether to satisfy your cravings or to expand your horizons:

1. Crystal Dynasty Chinese Restaurant

Crystal Dynasty has been a long-time staple for authentic, delicious, affordable Chinese food in Hamilton. This is one of the few spots in the city where I can find the tastes that truly remind me of home, a sentiment that many of my Chinese peers have shared. (Trust me, that’s a big deal.)

Although they have a variety of stir-fry plates and other Chinese dishes, their main draw is their specialty dim sum. The dim sum is made fresh daily and so true to tradition that it has kept locals returning for years. Regardless what you choose off the menu, you’ll be in for some scrumptiously authentic Chinese family fare at a great price.

2. Sugar Marmalade

Sugar Marmalade is the newest and most notable addition to Hamilton’s dessert offerings.

Although its primary draw is authentic Taiwanese desserts, Sugar Marmalade boasts an extensive menu that will satisfy more than just your sweet tooth.

There are shareable appetizers for guests to munch on (Taiwanese style popcorn chicken and spicy curry fish/beef balls are a must) and entrée options for those who are stopping by for more than just a quick bite.

Make sure you leave room for Dessert, it's perfect way to round off the weekend! ????Golden Macau pudding ????Oreo milk tea

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Of course, no Taiwanese joint is complete without specialty drinks, of which there is a grand variety, from fresh juices,  to Italian sodas and bubble teas galore.

They offer traditional Taiwanese/Chinese desserts, including many flavours of Taiwanese shaved ice, specialty thick toasts and fusion desserts such as crepes, puddings and cheesecakes. The endless choices on the menu may be overwhelming, but it’s reassuring to know that any choice you make will be a tasty one.

Also be sure to check out 8090 Tea House (149 King Street East) and Hazel Tea and Dessert House (1686 Main Street West) for similar delicacies.

3. Porcelain Hot Pot & Lounge and Liu Liu Hot Pot

To clarify, hot pot is a type of cuisine in China, Taiwan and other East Asian countries that consists of cooking a variety of ingredients in a simmering metal pot of stock at the centre of the dining table.

Typical ingredients include thinly sliced meat, vegetables, dumplings and seafood. Once cooked, the food is dipped into a variety of sauces to add different flavours.

Hot pot reminds many people of Asian descent of home, myself included. This is a meal that would typically be eaten on cold, winter nights at supper time, with an entire family sitting around the table cooking food for one another.

In Hamilton, Liu Liu Hot Pot has been around for years, but remains as one of the city’s best spots for a fresh, affordable and authentic hot pot meal. Its patrons adore the cozy interior and the great selection of ingredients, especially for their all-you-can-eat hot pot option.

They also have delicious broth bases and make their dipping sauce using a secret family recipe.

Porcelain Hot Pot is a newer addition, but also features an authentic hot pot experience closer to campus. Customers often commend the quality of their broth and ingredients, two essential aspects to a high-quality and tasty hot pot meal.

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