Thursday, June 18, 2009

Practically Criminal

Article and image courtesy of Amanda.

It's no secret--Toronto bread is dreadful. Tough and dry, delicious but scandalously priced, monstrous, doughy and large enough to feed a family of twelve; the few bakeries littered across the city each fall short when it comes to bread. Little Italy and neighbouring Little Portugal are jammed with bone-dry loaves, mean pretzel-like twists and the occasionally decent cornbread, but for the most part, these places specialise in bread inflated with yeast, huge, airy pockets ruining the crumb. The crusts are sharp and nasty, and invariably reduce the roof of your mouth to a tender, aggravated condition.

Fetching a baguette to accompany dinner, a nice sandwich loaf, or sturdy sourdough to pair with winter soup requires a discouragingly complicated expedition, carefully planned in advance. It also helps to have deep pockets, since a good stick of bread is going to run at least $5, and passable croissants about $3.00 apiece.

People will argue that there are plenty of good bakeries in this city, but they will probably follow their testimonial with a caveat:

"Thuet has excellent sourdough, so long as you don't mind paying $7.50 a boule."

"Le Fromagerie carries pastries from Pain Perdu, but the baguettes, oh my gosh, you could have a sword fight with the damn things!"

"Clafouti is great for grabbing something and taking a walk in the park nearby. Of course, the croissants are more like stuffed brioche and so big you'll need to sleep it off on the grass. Watch for dog poo--Trinity Bellwoods Park is yuppie dog heaven these days!"

"Ace will do, in a pinch, and you can get it at Loblaws."

I rarely eat bread--it makes my belly hurt even in small amounts, and yet, once I get started, I'm likely to devour the entire thing with a brick of cheese and several handfuls of olives and cornichons, leaving no room for dinner. But, each season calls for good bread in its own way: Spring is rainy and cold and begs for grilled cheese; summer nights are perfect for white wine, baguette, cheese, arugula salad and a wedge of chocolate to finish things off; autumn is soups and stews with a torn wedge of sourdough on the side; and, winter is lazy weekend breakfasts with leftover slices grilled in eggy milk and sprinkled with cinnamon, while you do the crossword and jog your memory for odd words by absentmindedly running your pencil through your unkempt bedhead.

And so, I declare it practically criminal that Toronto bread sucks eggs, and it's an even worse offence that glamourous cupcake shops are popping up everywhere, meanwhile it's impossible to make a good sandwich without leaving town.


  1. It's too easy to gloat here. A decent baguette is only two blocks away at the grocer and a really good one only a few blocks more.

    We've recently discovered the most French of French bakeries in our neigbourhood 'Mamie Clafoutis'. The scent of butter wafts in a two block radius from the door.

    Guilluame recently bought me a Saturday morning treat from there to be consumed with my crossword puzzle and bedhead (in the most literal sense - no hair here). It was the size, shape and weight of a half pound of butter.

    I took two bites and exclaimed, "My god, what is this?!?"

    To which he replied, "They call it, 'oh mon dieu'".

    Come to Montreal! Your bread and pastry dreams fulfilled!

  2. I will come to Montreal on one condition: unlike my last visit, I will not be advised by every other person I meet that "Toronto is disgusting; so are people from Toronto."

    Actually, two conditions--the second being that we visit Olive et Gourmando for massive chocolate brioche!

  3. The secret is not to tell people that you're from Tcharanna. Plus you'll be visiting with locals to lend you street cred.

    As for the second condition, we may have to do a brioche taste test between Gourmando and Clafoutis. We'll bicycle between the two locations to burn off the calories....

  4. Hot damn, you know how to show a lady a good time!