Location: 859 College Street, Toronto
I’m sorry to have to inform you, but this is one of those “stop whatever you’re doing right now and visit this bakery” moments, so whatever you’re doing right now — even if it’s important — stop it immediately. Get in your car, or get on public transit, and head over to Barbershop Patisserie. It’s the real deal.
I’ve been there a few times now, and everything is fantastic. Apparently their most popular pastry is the lemon bichon, which is kind of like a kouign-amann — it features a flaky, croissant-like laminated pastry and an exterior layer of crispy sugar, which has a deep, dark caramelized flavour. But it’s also filled with a generous amount of creamy, tart lemon curd, which contrasts perfectly with the sweet exterior. It’s not the most photogenic dessert ever, but man it’s amazing. It’s probably one of the best pastries I’ve ever had.
The chocolate chip cookie isn’t quite as mind-blowing as the lemon bichon (what is?), but it’s a top-notch cookie, with a great contrast between its crispy exterior and chewy interior, and a very generous amount of above average chocolate. The light sprinkling of salt on top helps to balance things out.
I also tried the wild blueberry custard tart, and hey, guess what? It’s delicious. It features a great balance between the creamy custard and the sweet blueberries, and of course that buttery pastry is outstanding.
But why are you still reading this? You should be on your way already.
Location: 31 Main Street North, Markham
There are a whole bunch of really good bakeries doing fancy French desserts in the GTA, so if you want to stand out, you’d better be really good.
Cho-Kwok-Lat stands out.
They have two display counters; one with tasty looking croissants, and the other with fancy cakes. I wanted to eat everything in both displays immediately. The woman behind the counter said that the chocolate rum almond croissant is their most popular, so I figured that was probably a good choice.
It’s immediately clear why it’s so popular. It’s basically like an almond croissant and a pain au chocolate had a baby, and it’s just the absolute best. The combination of the tasty almond paste and the great quality chocolate is so good, and the croissant itself is buttery, flaky, and perfect. I was worried that it might taste overly boozy, but if “rum” weren’t in its name, I don’t think I would have known it was there.
The woman behind the counter heated it up for me, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen with a croissant like this before, but which is clearly the way to go. The croissant was just barely warm, but it had been heated up enough to really emphasize the pasty’s exterior crisp-factor, and to make the chocolate nice and gooey. Good stuff.
Location: 6039 Erin Mills Parkway, Mississauga
This is gong to be a short one, but I couldn’t not write a post about the recently-opened second location of Nani’s Gelato, deep in the wilds of Mississauga.
It’s slightly larger than the downtown location, though still not big enough for any seating — dashing my dreams of a full, sit-down Nani’s sundae experience.
(This is somewhat unrelated to the topic at hand, but what’s the deal with every Toronto ice cream joint being a grab-and-go experience? Where are all the sundae bars? And yes, I know that Demetres exists, but I’m dreaming about a place that serves ice cream on par with Nani’s or Bang Bang that also has a menu of elaborate sundaes. Someone make this happen please.)
Aside from the sad lack of anything even resembling a sundae, the gelato at the new location is as great as ever. On this particular visit I got Kit Kat Cookie Monster and Double Chocolate Nutella, and they were both rich, creamy, and delicious. The Nutella flavour, in particular, has a very intense chocolately richness and is thoroughly delightful.
Caramel Sundae at Tom’s Dairy Freeze
Hey, gotta take advantage of Tom’s while they’re around (they’re closed all winter). On this particular visit I got a twist with hot caramel sauce, and yeah it’s as tasty as ever.
Cherry Milkjam at Bang Bang
I’ve found Bang Bang to be a bit hit-or-miss lately, but when they’re good, they’re still really good. This particular flavour is actually a “twist” of sorts — it combines cherry ice cream with dulce de leche, and yeah that’s a great combo. The cherry is a bit sour on its own, but mixing it with the sweet richness of the dulce de leche tempers its tartness and is thoroughly delicious.
Fried Chicken Sandwich at Rudy
I’ve already written about the fried chicken sandwich at Rudy (A.K.A. the Valentino), so I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but it’s still nothing particularly special. It wasn’t overcooked this time, so it had that going for it, but it was almost aggressively middling. If I you had told me it was a fried chicken sandwich from a fast food chain like Wendy’s or A&W, I would have believed you. And Rudy’s is expanding quite a bit; I guess they’re becoming a fast food chain themselves, so… it is what it is. [shrug]
Pumpkin Pie Blizzard at Dairy Queen
Dairy Queen brings out the pumpkin pie Blizzard once a year, and come on. Just put it on the regular menu. It is the king of Blizzards. It tastes just like a pumpkin pie, but in Blizzard form. It’s so good.
Sweet Potato Hash at Uncle Betty’s
This is the type of thing I’d normally write a full post about (I haven’t even written about Uncle Betty’s on this blog, though I did try the burger for Tasty Burgers), but honestly? I don’t want to. I mean, look at it. It’s basically just a pile of cubed sweet potatoes with some onions and a little bit of spinach interspersed throughout. No particular seasoning that I could taste, no caramelization or crispiness… just a bunch of bland sweet potato topped with a couple of poached eggs, and served with a slightly congealed cup of hollandaise on the side. It tasted as sad as it looks.
Chocolate Shot at Soul Chocolate
I was actually hoping to get the delicious soft serve from Soul Chocolate, but alas, when I went they had just stopped serving it for the season. I don’t know who came up with the notion that you can only have ice cream in the summer, but that person is a criminal and deserves to go to jail. So I got the chocolate shot instead, and it’s very good. It’s not quite on the level of the version they serve at Soma; it’s got an odd sour note that I found a bit off-putting, but is otherwise deeply chocolatey and thoroughly satisfying.