I thought I ought to take some time, now that this blog has been pretty much integrated with my daily life (because sweets are really a part of me already) , to step up the ‘review’ side of my blog. Yeah, I intended this blog to be recipes AND reviews and for the most part, it has been just recipes. I liked the idea that this portfolio was just Sam as the baker but I really do believe that the things I’ve tasted and experienced in chocolatiers in New York to rose-flavoured pastries in Paris have really shaped and formed my way of perceiving baking. I realized, what I love most about going into a new cafe is the ability to experience something new. A new visual aesthetic paired with the philosophy of the bakers that is literally baked into the heart of the danishes and cakes. You are not only tasting butter, sugar, flour, but also a core concept, a passion and a system of thinking that is entirely not your own.
I don’t really like the word ‘review’ because it connotes the idea of critique. Not that I think judging is wrong, but I for the most part, do not have much of an opinion that I’d regard as highly valuable. I’d rather inform people that this cafe exists and that I tried cake x and tea y and let other people have a taste themselves. Taste is rather personal so my own understanding of ‘yum’ may be totally different from what you may find ‘yum’.
Anyhow, I do have a slew of places that I have tried all over the world, particularly this summer after having traveled the most typical parts of Asia. Yet I’ve mentioned very little about my other home, Toronto, that I may start there. NYC I miss the most, but once the people are gone, I would not consider it home anymore.
Toronto, for the most part, is a relatively sleepy city compared to Manhattan and Hong Kong. It’s not a bad thing- I am learning to love it for all its idiosyncracies now that I am residing in the financial giant we call Hong Kong that I consider its total opposite. Once in a while, you’ll find a gem in Toronto: a cafe opened up by a Japanese/French couple who make killer croissants and jewel-like macaroons. The great thing about these once-in-a-while gems, is that you know they’re good. I would like to say that Torontonians are a little more cautious in their approach to the new (not to be mixed up with conservative which is what I consider HK to be), but when they get going you know it’s going to be good. My mom has found a few really good cafes, bakeries and a gem of a vintage shop in the middle of nowhere called Elora, thanks to the Toronto Star/Globe and Mail. These places are definitely keepers so if you’re in town, take the TTC and spend an afternoon there:
This past summer (sorry I talk a lot but this is actually the review part), my cousin and Torontonian friend, Josh, embarked on a downtown excursion. I think it was our goal to go to the ROM but we ended up detouring on Queens Street West when we found a bunch of indie bookstores and toy boutiques. I found a review of this patisserie called Nadege online and decided to check it out.
The beauty of this patisserie really was in the cool, minimalist white backdrop that showcased the saturated hues of the jewel-like pastries. It was comforting for the eyes to stare into the white emptiness and then be suddenly confronted by an explosion of confectionary eye candy. I’m sorry I didn’t bring L, my slr, for our culinary adventure so we must resort to grainy Powershot pictures. Sorry Nadege!:
What did we have? Robyn and I shared two pieces. I forgot what they were (sorry!) save that one had a peach theme to it. The taste- this is where uncertainty steps in. The modernism of the whole patisserie was evident in the sweets as well. I wasn’t certain whether I liked it or not- perhaps if I went with a chocolate cake which would have been of a more familiar flavor for measure, would have been more accurate. If Laduree, the Parisian genius for inventing the macaroon, is the equivalent of the Metropolitan Museum (MET), then Nadege would be its contemporary peer as the Modern Museum of Art (MOMA) with its more streamlined approach to baking. What attracted me the most was how they boiled down cake decorating to its most simplistic, geometric shapes: a sphere sliced into two by a square. Or a teardrop that resembled a Chinese longevity bao. The austerity of the interior is beautifully balanced out by the textural and colorfully graphic quality of the pastries and the wood flooring. I’ll encourage you all to try and, you be the judge of what Nadege has to offer.
In the charming neighbourhood, there are also a lot of small boutiques and stores. I highly recommend Magic Pony (toy concept store like Kid Robot,NYC) as well as the local bookstore across the street from Nadege. Quaint, charming and of its own.