Location: 921 Queen Street West, Toronto
Agora is a delightful little take-out gem from the people behind Mamakas Taverna. As you might imagine, they serve tasty Greek eats. The menu’s a bit more interesting than the typical gyro joint, with sandwiches, salads, and more substantial meals like moussaka or roasted chicken. They have a few stools by the window, but for the most part it’s take-out only.
I tried the spanakopita, which is a mixture of spinach and feta wrapped in crispy phyllo pastry. It was one of the better versions of that dish that I’ve had. The filling was rich and satisfying, with lots of spinach flavour and nice pops of saltiness from the feta. And the super crackly pastry shell was ridiculously buttery, with about a million paper-thin layers of crispy, crunchy goodness.
I also sampled the briam, which the woman behind the counter described as a Greek version of ratatouille. And it was indeed extremely ratatouille-esque, with perfectly-cooked, flavour-packed chunks of zucchini and eggplant, among other vegetables.
Location: 120 Dundas Street West, Toronto
The lemon meringue croissant from Butter Baker is one of those things that I saw on Instagram and immediately had to eat. And yes, I know: this makes me part of the problem.
A very strong argument could be made that social media (Instagram in particular) is making our cuisine appreciably worse by incentivizing restaurants to serve visually innovative food in which the actual taste is an afterthought (e.g. Sweet Jesus).
And that’s absolutely the case here. I mean, look at that! It looks so impressive! But it gets less impressive once you start actually eating it.
For one thing, it’s almost impossible to eat without getting sticky meringue all over your face. But let’s set that complaint aside, because a lot of cupcakes are just as hard to eat without making a mess, and only a monster would argue that a cupcake isn’t great.
The two main issues here are that the croissant itself is merely okay, and the lemon curd filling is completely bland. The latter point is especially egregious; the whole appeal of a lemon meringue pie is the delightful way that the tartness of the lemon curd is offset by the sweetness of the meringue. But here, the curd is disappointingly anemic, with a limp sugariness and almost no sour bite. Because of this, the whole thing comes off as one-dimensionally sweet and boring.
I will, however, give Butter Baker props for the use of creamy Italian meringue over frothy, dull French meringue. This is correct; French meringue is for jerks.
Location: 7355 Bayview Avenue, Thornhill
They sell something called Chocolate Buffalo at Bagel Nash, a bakery in Thornhill. I really don’t have a whole lot to say about it, but here’s a few points:
- I hadn’t even heard of a Buffalo pastry up until this point.
- It was bad.
- No, like really bad.
- Like, I tried it, I had a few other people try it, and then I threw it in the garbage. That bad.
- It was incredibly dry (it was possibly one of the driest pastries I’ve ever had), and it didn’t taste nearly as deliciously chocolatey as it looked. It was mostly just sour, oddly. It tasted a bit like an enormous rugelach — but then I’ve never had a rugelach that bad.
- I have no idea if it’s an acquired taste or if it was just terrible, and I don’t particularly care to find out. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever try a Buffalo again.
Location: 215 Madison Avenue, Toronto
People: this is not a drill. The chocolate hazelnut croissant at MoRoCo Chocolat is mind-blowing. It’s the best pastry I’ve had in a long, long time, and yes — I’m including my recent ten-day trip to Paris. It’s an all-timer.
Everything about it is amazing: you’ve got the croissant itself, which is buttery and flaky and delicious. There’s the perfectly crispy sweet hazelnut topping, which is basically like the topping of an almond croissant, only with hazelnuts, and which goes perfectly with the rich, chocolately filling.
And the icing on the metaphorical cake? The absolutely astonishing custard, which might have been the best custard I’ve ever had.
And I mean, who expects custard in a croissant like this? It’s weird, right? But good weird. The best weird. It’s what pushed this over the top and made it one of the best damn things I’ve eaten in such a long time. It was creamy and rich, with a flavour that I can only describe as the platonic ideal of custards. It’s the kind of custard that makes all other custards taste like garbage, because it’s so damn perfect.
It took something that was already delicious and made it crazy delicious.
I’m not sure why you’re even still reading this when you should clearly be driving/walking/sprinting to MoRoCo to buy one. Just be warned: after taking a couple of bites and realizing that this was the best thing ever, I promptly went back into the store so I could buy another one or two (or three). But that was it. Apparently they only make one or two a day. So get there early. It’s worth it.
The macarons from Ladurée were delicious. You probably shouldn’t eat them.
I got four of them, and they cost about 15 bucks with tax ($14.92, actually), and seriously: get the hell out of here with those prices. I don’t care if you’re using the highest of high-end ingredients, there’s no way to justify charging $3.73 each for these tiny little things.
They are quite good, though. I tried hazelnut, pistachio, salted caramel and coconut lime.
They were amazing; maybe the best macarons I’ve ever had. The texture was the perfect contrast of crispy, airy, and creamy, and the flavours were uniformly great. Even the coconut lime, which I was kind of skeptical about, was top notch. It had a really satisfying coconut flavour, with a mild zinginess from the lime that never overwhelms.
But those prices? Nope.