Dates of Visit: 2013-10-03, 2013-10-11
Those that know me personally can attest to my eccentricities. One of these is my penchant for walking around the city, usually alone, looking for obscure food crevices (speaking of which, I passed by a sign advertising Jerk Pork Poutine yesterday at Nun-Such Jerk ~ Kennedy/Lawrence — will need to check it out). While Tokyo, New York, and Paris are praised as quintessential culinary destinations, Toronto has its own unique food vibe. The variety and authenticity of the city’s food offerings is such an underappreciated luxury.
I passed a clean, brightly-lit French Patisserie while exploring King St, West of Bathurst — Delysées – I had not heard of it before, and felt obliged to at least walk in and smell the butter. The display case featured various croissants, both full-sized and petite, small sandwiches, fascinating bite-sized cakes & tarts, and a colourful selection of macarons.
Walls were adorned with paintings of Paris, the space filled with enchanting early 20th century French songs. It turns out that they had soft-opened earlier in the week, with their grand opening on the upcoming Saturday.
On my first visit, I opted for a pair of petite pain au chocolat and chaussons aux pommes. Elise, the head pastry chef at Delysees, commended my selection, informing me that both were freshly baked. I’ve never been particularly wowed by a pain au chocolat before, or a chaussons aux pommes, and had low expectations. (I have had wonderfully buttery experiences at Thobors Boulangerie with their 84% imported Belgian butter. Thobors’ almond croissants are densely buttery and sinfully rich, leaving you regretful yet comforted — regretalicious?)
My first bite into the puff of chocolate croissant was life-changing. My entire perception of croissants has been a lie. “Puff” is not a whim of fanciful writing – the entire pain au chocolat collapsed on my first bite. Ethereal, airy, cloud-like, its flakiness skirts the boundaries of croissanthood, almost broaching on puff pastry territory. The slight saltiness of the dough introduces subtle confusion, but it’s absolutely wonderful.
The apple turnover was equally wonderful, its flaky layers yielding to the slightest pressure. The filling is substantial, just tepidly sweet, eschewing cinnamon in favour of a pure, natural flavour. Again, the sweet and saltiness play together just right.
I sat in contemplative amazement for several minutes after, mining my meagre vocabulary just the right words to describe the experience. It’s rare that I would be in stunned silence, but this was it.
At this point, I had to ask to speak with the head pastry chef, Elise. My first notion, that they used an imported butter, was confirmed. They use butter imported from France, rather than local Ontario butter which is typically sits at 80% butterfat. (Ontario regulations specify that the minimum butterfat is 80%. Lo and behold, the major brands simply keep it at 80%. A few, like Sterling Butter, bring it up to 84%.) I was shocked to find out that this was Elise’ first foray at baking in a commercial kitchen.
An hour later, walking past the store again, I ducked in for a mini butter croissant. While not as pillow-airy as its fresh-baked brethren, its luxurious butter coated my tastebuds for the ensuing hour, and I couldn’t stop tweeting/whatsapping about it to everyone I knew.
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I was back a week later with a friend, to introduce them to these wonderful baked delights. While I hadn’t thought much about their macarons, we decided to grab a blueberry macaron, along with a bottle of fruit soda. Speaking to the staff, their macarons use either a jam or puree for fruit flavours, and buttercream for others.
On this visit, while still heads-and-shoulders better than anywhere else, the chocolate croissants didn’t have the same sparkling glow, when not oven-fresh. Despite a gentle reheating, they just didn’t contain the same ethereal magic. The apple coissant was still absolutely wonderful.
The owner, Fred, was very welcoming, and pulled up a chair to chat with us. We talked about the use of imported products (the French butter, the English Belvoir soda), the interview process in his search for his amazing pastry chef, and exciting changes coming to the store. Some sneak peak information, then. They are importing a refrigerating display case that will help maintain moisture for both macarons and cakes — yes, CAKES. For Halloween, they will be giving out pumpkin spice macarons — but only to the kids. Be sure to borrow your nieces and nephews and come to the store.
The macarons at Delysées are baked off-site, owing to the tremendous amount of real estate they require. I was very impressed with their blueberry filling, its texture paste-like, its flavour condensed and murky. Without a counterbalance of salt or sour, the blueberry macaron ended up just a touch sweet, though steering well clear of the toothaching sweetness of macarons at many other bakeries.
The filling itself wasn’t very sweet, but it simply lacked a counterpoint to the shell’s sweetness.
Fred then treated us a salted caramel macaron — its sweetness was much better tempered by the salted caramel buttercream. It was very good, and definitely challenges me to make a salted caramel macaron soon.