Cakes, coffee and Guinness

January. Month of perpetual grey skies ever-plummeting temperatures, and supposed renewed verve to lose weight and get in shape.

All I feel like doing is huddling under my duvet with a good book and mounds of comfort food.

If there are other New Year’s resolution naysayers like me out there, a couple new businesses in the east end — which is quickly morphing into a brunch, coffee house and bakery Mecca — may be worth a gander and a nosh.

[attach]3380[/attach]Belles of the pastry shop

When the winter blahs hit, why not cocoon … with macaroons?

Make that French macaron — an almond-paste based meringue cookie to be distinguished from the coconut style macaroon.

I gorge on several in Sarah Bell and Allyson Meredith Bobbitt’s new Leslieville shop, Bobbette & Belle, open since mid-November in the former space of Hogar Home.

The macarons come in pretty pastel colours with pearlized finishes and equally lovely flavours like passion fruit, raspberry, and hazelnut chocolate.

Both east-enders, the gals met at cake decorating school five years ago when Meredith Bobbitt had just started her cake biz, Allyson Meredith Cakes. They created Bobbette & Belle two years ago, which focused on wholesaling their macarons and making their famous stacked macaron cakes for events and weddings.

The new storefront combines macarons with cakes, both wholesale and retail, and there are also other pastries at the counter that are made fresh daily in the back kitchen (I stay away from the caramelized apple bread pudding made with leftover croissants, but it takes a will of steel).

Grooms coming in with their brides-to-be for custom cake orders — which start at $1,300 but there’s a more affordable “off the rack” collection ranging from $500 to $900 — won’t be intimidated by the looks of the place as girly elements are nicely balanced with industrial-looking wooden tables and burlap-upholstered chairs. I’m not surprised to learn Leslieville décor and design shops GUFF and Flik Interiors have had a hand in the décor.

I fantasize about lounging on the couch in the front and quaffing the café’s homemade hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows (both of which I try a sample of, natch). Alas, a lady who’s kicked off her boots and curled right up on the thing reading has beat me to the lounging part.

1121 Queen St. East 416-466-8800 [url][/url]

Voulez Vous un café avec moi?

Sometimes the winter blues require a jolt of something with a little more verve to get one’s self moving on bleak days … like coffee as powerful as jet fuel.

And if you’ve ever felt like you’re flying high on the java, bet you haven’t met Julie Boulet. She’s the owner of the year old Voulez Vous Café with hubby Sean Lacey — but she also juggles running her new business venture while working as a flight attendant.

The two endeavors go hand in hand to a degree. While on her off-hours Boulet travels the continent sourcing coffee beans from San Francisco to Saskatoon.

What’s served in the café is freshly roasted within seven to 10 days, she tells me.

Meanwhile Lacey, a former miniature set designer, almost opened an espresso bar in Little Italy four years ago, but the space he wanted fell through.

He got his groove back when he snapped up the current location of the café.

The vibe of the place is comfy French chic, with a 1920s mantle painted bright blue and flanked by coffee-hued wingback chairs Lacey has reupholstered.

The mantle matches the retro-looking blue Elektra espresso machine, which isn’t retro at all, but rather a fancy Italian espresso-making extravaganza — and Lacey’s pride and joy.

There’s pastries and other goodies, some by French chef and Ici restaurant owner Jean-Pierre Challet, who’s just set up a wholesale kitchen next door. He supplies the café with the most melt-in-your mouth croissants made with real butter from France (my hips are expanding as I write this).

There are already sandwiches and baguettes, and more savoury items will trickle in slowly.

The duo will be hosting a first anniversary event in mid-February so make sure to keep your eyes peeled.

1560 Queen St. East 647-300-3499 or visit [url][/url]

Lucky Charms

The waistband on my leggings is too tight and all those goodies have surely added to my holiday poundage. Time to turn our attention to a non-foodie development in the ’hood.

Talk about the luck of the Irish. Just before Christmas, Monika Donnelly opened the doors to her Irish imports store, Gold and Shamrock, which has relocated from Scarborough to Leslieville.

The store had been in biz for 20-some years before she bought it from the retiring owners in 2009. Donnelly boasts the most comprehensive selection of Irish dancing paraphernalia for kids and adults in the city — the wigs used in competition, along with four types of hard dancing shoes and seven types of soft. She’ll even crystallize headbands, shoe buckles and number holders used in competition.

There’s everything to satisfy an Irish lover here, from silver jewellery, perfume for both sexes, wool sweaters and accessories, and — if you haven’t quite had enough goodies — sweets too, all the way from Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day will be upon us, so for the Guinness-loving gent in your life, try a Guinness pint glass, mug, boxer shorts, t-shirt, or even a tin whistle. I’m crushing on a purple and pink plaid mohair blanket, $255, by Donegal Design. Check out the grand opening event Sunday, January 16; there will be a live radio broadcast from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. with Hugo Straney, host of We Are Irish on CHIN radio.

When you’re done, pop across the street to the Irish pub, and if you’re so inclined, check out the Irish dancing school behind the pub. If you’ve been feasting macarons and croissants all day like me, you may want to sign up for a dancing class.

1298 Queen St. East, 416-264-2185 [url][/url]