Location: 3507 Bathurst Street, North York
I assumed I was in good hands when the woman behind the counter at Gouter spoke with a heavy French accent. Not that every French person can automatically make delicious pastries, but it made me think that the place was probably legit.
Yeah, about that.
I had the raspberry croissant, and it was fine. I certainly didn’t dislike eating it. But there wasn’t a single element that was better than okay.
The first sign that something was amiss was the paper bag it came in. The croissant was in there for about twenty minutes before I ate it. A good croissant should be buttery enough to immediately leave grease stains on a paper bag, but that bag was pristine.
The second sign that something was amiss came when I tore it in half and saw that it was filled with about a jar’s worth of raspberry jam. That’s too much jam. And I mean, it wasn’t unpleasant to eat, but there’s no balance there.
And as suspected, the croissant — though mildly buttery — wasn’t nearly buttery enough. It also had zero exterior crispiness other than at the very ends, and was generally lacking in flavour.
The overall experience was basically like eating a slice of Wonder Bread slathered with raspberry jam. There just wasn’t much to it — the lack of textural contrast and the one-note flavour was a bit of a bummer.
Location: 319 Danforth Avenue, Toronto
The cinnamon roll from Cinnaholic is shockingly good. Not that it’s the best cinnamon roll I’ve ever had, but it’s vegan. You’re bracing for the worst when you hear that a traditionally dairy-heavy dessert has been made vegan. How could that possibly end well?
Cinnaholic, somehow, pulls it off.
It’s an interesting set-up; they have a few dozen different frosting and topping choices (if there’s a dessert topping you can think of, they probably offer it here). I wanted to see what the deal was with the roll itself, so I went as simple as possible with the “Classic Old Skool Roll,” which is topped only with vanilla frosting.
I won’t lie: I was expecting it to be dense and dry and weird, but it was pleasantly light and fluffy, with a nice cinnamon flavour and a great level of sweetness. It’s very, very sweet, but it’s not quite the throat-burning assault of sugar that you’ll get with something like Cinnabon.
The frosting is quite tasty, too — it’s rich and creamy, but also incredibly soft and light. I have no idea how they achieve that texture without dairy (I’m assuming margarine is involved), but whatever it is, it tastes pretty darn good.
That’s the surprising thing about it. Yes, it’s vegan, but it’s not good for a vegan dessert; it’s good, period.
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: 1626 Bayview Avenue, Toronto
I don’t have much to say about the almond croissant at Patisserie la Cigogne other than that it was delicious and you should eat it.
It was really good, though.
I mean, almond croissants are just generally great; if they’re done well, they’re an amazing combo of crunchy, crispy, buttery, and sweet. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I had one this good — the croissant was flaky and super buttery, and there’s a very generous amount of the sweet almond filling.
I mean, look at all that filling that’s oozed out and become crunchy and caramelized. The best. There’s also a generous amount of filling inside the croissant that’s nutty and creamy and sweet. Also the best.
(The whole thing was pretty much the best, so like I said earlier, you should probably go eat one.)
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.