Location: 106 John Street, Toronto
After essentially accusing Sweet Jesus of being empty Instagram-bait, I recently came to the realization that it’s probably a bit better than I’ve been giving it credit for. Yes, a heavy emphasis is placed on making their creations as visually pleasing as possible, but the soft serve is nice and creamy, and the flavours are usually satisfying.
That being said? Their new limited edition TIFF-inspired creation, the Marie Antoinette, is empty Instagram-bait.
It’s a collaboration with Nadege, and it features vanilla soft serve, maple sauce, macaron crumbs, mini macarons, and a full-sized macaron on top.
The full macaron is actually the best thing about it. It has a nice, lightly crispy texture, a very subtle chewiness, and a pleasant vanilla bean flavour that isn’t too sweet. It’s a quality macaron.
Otherwise, the rest basically just tastes like plain vanilla ice cream. The mini macarons are one-note crunchy and don’t really taste like anything, the maple sauce features shockingly little maple syrup flavour (I never would have guessed it was supposed to be maple if I hadn’t known), and the macaron crumbs just add a grainy texture.
The vanilla ice cream is tasty enough, so I certainly didn’t dislike eating it, but there isn’t a whole lot there.
Location: 4750 Yonge Street – Unit 119, North York
I’ve mentioned before that the Japanese Netflix TV show, Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman (about a Japanese businessman who’s obsessed with dessert), is pretty much the best. It’s frequently hilarious and features some mesmerizing food porn, not to mention enough slickly-shot footage of Tokyo to make you want to get on the next flight. It’s great.
He eats at least one dessert per episode, and it all looks amazing. Sadly, much of it is really difficult (if not impossible) to find in the GTA.
One of the desserts he eats is called ohagi, and you can actually find it at HCafe, a tiny little Japanese dessert shop near Yonge and Sheppard.
It’s pretty unique. It features a ball of chewy rice (a mix of glutinous rice and regular rice) surrounded by a sweet red bean paste.
It’s not quite like any dessert I’ve ever had — it’s chewy, almost like mochi, but with a coarser texture thanks to the grains of rice. The sweetness is very subtle, and though the flavour is mostly beany, there’s an underlying fruitiness.
It’s odd, but also surprisingly delicious. If you like mochi, this hits a lot of the same notes.
Location: 1285 Elgin Mills Road East, Richmond Hill
Is key lime pie the king of pies? It might be! The contrast between the tart filling, the sweet graham cracker crust, and the creamy topping is absolutely magical when done well. I have a hard time saying no when I see it on a menu.
And La Rocca Creative Kitchen — which serves the type of little pastries that look so nice it’s almost a shame to eat them — makes a really good one.
It’s a little bit untraditional. The typical whipped cream topping is subbed out for creamy Italian meringue, and the crust is made from speculoos cookies instead of graham cracker.
It’s great. Sometimes a key lime pie’s crust can be too substantial or dry, but this had the perfect level of crunch without getting in the way, and the flavour of the speculoos set it apart from the norm.
The dense, creamy Italian meringue might even be better than whipped cream. Certainly, it does a perfect job of balancing out the tart key lime custard.
And the custard was just right — it’s sweet and creamy, with just the right amount of tartness. It’s good stuff.
Location: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Sasaki Fine Pastry is the latest gem I’ve discovered thanks to the inimitable Suresh Doss, who specializes in sussing out the best non-Western eats in the city, usually out in the ‘burbs. If you’re on Twitter and you’re not following him, I don’t even know what you’re doing with your life.
Sasaki specializes in daifuku, a Japanese dessert in which soft, chewy mochi is stuffed with various sweet fillings. On this particular visit they had seven flavours available; I tried mango cream, strawberry cream, yuzu cream, and sesame cream.
It’s easily the best mochi I’ve ever had. I like mochi, but it can sometimes be a little too gummy. But the version here had a delightfully delicate chew that almost melts in your mouth.
The subtly sweet, creamy fillings were all great, though the strawberry — which featured a mixture of strawberry cream and sweet red bean filling — was the highlight.
I also tried the red bean and cream doriyaki, which features a filling of sweet red bean and whipped cream that’s sandwiched between two little pancakes. Like the daifuki, this was super fresh, subtly sweet, and extremely delicious.
Location: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
I’ve tried Eva’s once before, back when it was just a food truck. I waited in line for about 90 minutes; I think we can all agree that this is an absurd amount of time to wait in line for ice cream.
I thought it was fine, but nothing particularly special, and certainly not worth the intense line (but then, what is?).
I actually enjoyed it much, much more this time (not having to wait in line for the length of a romantic comedy probably helped).
But even aside from that, it was clearly improved. The baked, bready cone had an irresistible texture — perfectly crispy on the outside, and fluffy as a cloud on the inside. Aside from the fact that it was impossible to eat without making a mess, it was an absolutely perfect vehicle for ice cream.
And the ice cream was great. I got the current flavour of the month, peach cobbler: “Peach compote, granola, whipped cream, peach coulis, peach slice.” And indeed, it basically tastes like peach cobbler a la mode, with the crispy/fluffy cone complimenting it perfectly.
My only real complaint is the price: I got the smaller size, which came up to about ten bucks with tax. I wish it had been a couple of bucks cheaper — but then it was pretty damn good, so it’s hard to complain too much.