Breakfast Carb Fest, Chinatown, and Quince in Toronto
[I suggest you get yourself something cold to drink or a bowl of ice cream, because this will be a long read…]
On the second and last full day of staying in Canada, my family hauled our butts early in the morning (at 7 AM) from Niagara Falls to Toronto, which is pretty much an hour and a half drive. The night before we all tucked into our evening’s slumber, I was pretty much coordinating when and where we’re going to eat. I was freaking out over the fact that I want to do a pastry/bread tour in Toronto with my family since they never tried true artisanal bread and pastries on their own and I thought it’s about time for me to show them what delicious carbs taste like.
After going up the stairs to the second floor, seeing the displays of baguettes, artisanal loaves, breakfast pastries and viennoiserie, I was dying of temptation to buy one of everything. But remembering the fact that we’re going out for dinner later on, I have to save stomach space. I ended up buying a loaf of pretzel bread, focaccia, and a large loaf of speck, herbs and Yukon gold potato.
We munched on the pretzel bread first since it was the smallest and it’s arguably one of the loaves that we can’t save for the trip back to NYC. This pretzel loaf looks like a small baguette meets a pretzel. It does taste like a soft, fluffy-crumbed pretzel that’s at room temp and it’s not that salty either. I just wish I had mustard or meats to eat with this bread. I imagine it would be tastier in a sandwich form.
Then we move onto the loaf of focaccia. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of it as a whole since my mom requested it to be sliced since she has every intention of eating it right away once we get back into the car. When we took this loaf out of the bread bag, it’s slightly soaked with olive oil – not a bad thing per se but it’s unexpected. Anyway this was very good – soft and light crumbed with every nook and cranny permeated with fruity olive oil contrasted with the thin, crisp crust; topped with salty, briny olives, chopped sweet heirloom tomatoes, sprinkled with salty feta cheese. My family was in love with this bread that they wish I bought another loaf.
As for the speck, herbs, and Yukon gold potato loaf, we ate this when we came back to NYC. I might as well tell you this since we’re talking about Thuet. When I reheated this in the oven for our dinner the day we came back from Toronto, this was amazing. When I used my serrated bread knife to cut into this hot loaf of bread, the medium-thick crust was flying all over the dinner table meeting with the soft, very moist crumb. The latter was somewhat surprising for what this loaf went through – sitting in a hot trunk of the car over the span of nearly a little more than 28 hours, it still tastes good. The salty bites of speck melds really well with the buttery, moist crumb with the aid of Yukon gold potatoes in that dense dough. My dad and I ate most of this since we LOVE crusty bread.
Going back on track, after finishing our focaccia, we headed out to what I should think Toronto residents should call this street, Patisserie Street instead of Mount Pleasant Road. (That’s just a random brainfart. Sorry.) There’s quite a few patisseries within a few blocks of each other that a lot of sugar/carb heads of Toronto claim that are very delicious desserts.
The two that I visited were Jules Café Patisserie and Celestin Bakery since they were a block or so away from each other. My family parked near Jules first and we took a peek inside to see what they have in store. And oh the sweets…I can’t help myself but take photos of the delicious looking jewels. But my mom told me that the individual cakes didn’t appeal to her. Poop.
So, we went onto Le Comptoir de Celestin.
We’re greeted with a tray of bread samples, which my mom didn’t hesitate trying the cheese quickbread (the one in the center).
The first thing that caught my eye after nibbling on the samples, were the macarons. Oh, how macarons have seduced me and imprinted on my brain forever. In case you haven’t known by now, I’m obsessed with this darn French cookie. I can’t get enough of it until I get a stomach ache. Anyway, I recalled my email exchanges with Renee and she told me since I’ve eaten a Pierre Herme macaron, there’s nothing as remarkable as his little piece of Parisian heaven. Opting that out, I let my eyes wander for the focus of this portion of the trip, individual cakes.
Except looking at other things made me tempted to get more things than I could ever ingest on this trip.
But thankfully, I’ve stayed in focus and bought my entire family individual cake slices of whatever flavor that fancied them.
My mom wanted this chocolate praline cake with a wedge of fresh fig on top. I wish I knew the actual names of all of the cakes I bought, alas, I don’t. This particular cake has a base layers of sponge cake (with chocolate and vanilla) and smoothed on with a creamy, crunchy layer of chocolate praline and fluffy chocolate buttercream. NOM. I wish I could eat the fig but there isn’t enough for everyone.
My dad’s coffee opera cake looks tasty…except I didn’t get to taste it since he didn’t share it. He said it tasted similar to my mom’s except it’s intense coffee flavor instead of chocolate.
When I ordered this custard-y dessert, I thought my brother wanted it since he pointed it out. But after eating about half of his dessert and we traded our desserts (mine is the millefeuille, seen below) for a bite, he wanted mine instead. His dessert reminds me of flan but filled with pears and lined with puff pastry. I don’t know what’s its name but it was good. But I liked mine more…
…which was the millefeuille filled with pistachio cream and strawberries. Layers of buttery, flaky, crisp puff pastry lined with pistachio pastry cream in between, topped with a large sweet strawberry. It’s not too sweet and the puff pastry was really flaky, leaving a mess on my skirt. This was my favorite of the bunch.
To burn off the excess intake of carbs and fat, we went to Downtown Toronto and waddled around and act like tourists – taking pictures and whatnot for two hours, burning in the hot sun.
Eventually, we got tired and drove over to Chinatown. The main stop was to go to Kim Moon Bakery under Renee’s enthusiastic recommendation for an old-school Chinese bakery. The problem is, my mom didn’t feel the same way and we went across the street for a fairly new Chinese bakery that sells the old-school stuff.
I think what made my mom feel compelled to go across the street to the indistinctly named, Chinese Bakery (unless it’s different in Chinese, which I can’t help since I’m illiterate in that department), was the cheap prices.
As the crowds started to gather in this spot (it’s not pictured but it was), we have to squeeze ourselves in line as we grabbed a tray and started to pick what looks tasty to us. Or at least something we don’t normally encounter in NYC.
My mom bought a few roll cakes for my dad since he loves this stuff. Actually, I think every Chinese/Asian kid has tasted this thing at least once in their life. They’re light sponge cakes (with lots of different flavor options) lightly smeared with lightly sweetened whipped cream. My mom bought the coffee and a walnut cake. Vanilla doesn’t float her boat.
Eventually we made our round of seeing everything this bakery has available to us and paid the goods. We ended up getting a box filled with couple of baked chicken buns, fried curry beef buns, baked red bean paste buns, and baked pork buns. As for the bag, we had a few ham sui gok and a dessert version of the former, that’s filled with sweet black bean paste instead of the meat.
In all, I was generally disappointed. The buns were mainly filled with air and little filling, a few looked and tasted underbaked. As for the fried black bean dumpling, it’s actually the most decent thing of the entire purchase – crisp and still warm from the fryer and it had a good ratio of dough to filling.
Then we went to another garden to inspire my mom for more flowers to plant in her garden. The place itself was on the small side but it’s crammed with a lot of exotic flowers and cacti.
Finally, we headed over to Quince for dinner. During our stay, Toronto held a similar event to what NYC is doing right now for Restaurant Week, called Summerlicious. The difference between Toronto and NYC is that Toronto has an option of $25 or $35 for a three course dinner, instead of the default of $35 in NYC. My brother and I chose Quince since their menu seems tasty and when I scoured the Interwebs, Quince seems like a good choice for my family since it’s casual but serves slightly upscale food.
The bread basket is pretty much ordinary white rolls. The only difference is the hummus in replacement of butter. It’s quite smooth and a bit piquant with the cumin in that mixture.
The appetizers we ordered were the mixed seafood salad, potted salmon, lemon, tarragon pâté, and sweet carrot soup. My dad’s salad was a ceviche except there were chunks of pickled vegetables. Tasted fine, nothing extraordinary. My mom and my brother each ordered the potted salmon pâté since they never tried it before. I think it’s a good experience on their behalf since they never tried it but they complained it’s too fatty and more toasts were needed. As for my carrot soup, this was not too shabby. It’s sweet and filled with lots of fresh carrot flavor with a spicy kick from the chermoula sprinkled on top and a touch of creaminess from the crème fraîche.
As for the mains, my dad ordered the chipotle, and ancho chili grilled pork loin, mom had the Moroccan spice rubbed Cornish hen, my brother had the grilled veal strip loin, and I stick with the vegetarian route, asparagus, roasted red pepper and tallegio filo parcel. The meats (as in the veal and the pork) were well cooked, except my dad thought initially his pork was a bit raw. What my parents always thought of cooking pork was to cook it all the way through, never slightly under before they will panic and nuke it in the microwave. Yes, it’s the sad truth.
The Moroccan Cornish hen was very moist and flavorful. What my mom loved about this was actually the side of lemon orzo salad. My vegetarian option was not what I imagined it would look like but in terms of flavor, it’s not so bad, cheesy with fresh bites of vegetables, each peaking out on its own and meld well as a whole. I just wish they present it differently – as in a tad more fanciful than an egg roll.
Moving on to dessert, my dad strangely had chosen the meringue, lemon curd, and blueberry compote. I said strangely because my dad is not exactly health-minded nor gluttonous when it comes to dessert but this sounded waay too healthy. When he took a bite, he did regret it. He thought it was too dry because of the meringue, which he didn’t inquire me what it was.
As for my mom and brother, they had their own summer fruit crumble with honey crème fraîche. This is a very good simple dessert composed of pears, blackberries, and I think, strawberries. I had the raspberry semifredo with fresh raspberries and chocolate sauce. Again a very simple dessert, basically it’s raspberry flavored ice cream that’s shaped into a hemisphere with a whimsical pool of chocolate sauce and a few raspberries on the side. I’m not too thrilled with it but at least it’s better than my dad’s dessert.
Then we went back to our hotel that’s very close to Toronto’s airport and slept early since we have another long drive home to NYC. As you can see from the photo above, we left our room just at the crack of dawn.
It was a Canadian blitz of a weekend excursion. Niagara Falls was nice to look at but I hate staying there. Toronto has a lot of good food options but since we’re on a very restricted schedule, I can’t sample a little bit of everything.
Thuet Bakery & Bistro
609 King Street West,
Jules Café Patisserie
617 Mount Pleasant Road
Le Comptoir de Celestin
627 Mount Pleasant Road
Kim Moon Bakery
Dundas Street E
433 Dundas Street East
2110 Yonge Street