I’m a lover of good croissants so Croissunday was a day I wasn’t going to miss. Yet, I was totally unsuspecting. I’ll start from the beginning. I heard this patisserie in Toronto was celebrating croissants. For any of you who know me, you know I’ve travelled through France in search of the best croissants. I look to fill my palate with the richest, softest, billowy butter-rich insides while my teeth are tickled with the crumbling shards of tissue thin, crispy outsides. Plain, almond or chocolate, my mood dictates but it has to be really great. A really great croissant makes you’re eyes roll to the back of your head and teases sensually. Oh, I am swooning at the mere thought of one now.
Even in Paris it is becoming difficult to indulge in something as delightful as a really good croissant. I remember my last visit. My little apartment was in the 12th Arrondissement in the east end of Paris. It was out of the touristy area and in a fine residential neighbourhood where the really great croissants seemed to be living well and in abundance.
The day I was to fly home, I ran to my favourite patisserie (there were four within a few seconds walk) and bought six croissant. In unusual fashion, I stuffed my face in the hopes the abundance of croissants would stay with me longer. Unfortunately I was only successful in adding inches to my backside.
So off I went on a Sunday morning (March 8) and headed off for what I was hoping for was a good croissant. Anything, I thought, just don’t disappoint me, please. Instead, what I got was the quality and flavour of my beloved French croissant that I so earnestly stuffed my face with. The place is Nadège Patisserie in trendy 780 Queen St., West. Walk in and the little pink and white bakery reads like an upscale coffee shop with Parisian treasures under a long glass case.
There are canelle’s (caramel outsides, custardy innards), little choux pastry filled with lusciousness, playful macarons and wow, over a dozen different croissants in all manner of unconventional colours, ingredients, flavours and styles – all lined up for the celebratory day. There were even scrumptious croissant sandwiches. The air was filled with aromas of butter and happy conversation while large trays of croissants poured out of the kitchens continually stocking the glass case for the hundreds who came. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one in Toronto who appreciates a really great croissant.
How to choose? Shall I try a Matcha Green Tea croissant or Black Squid Ink? There was a Pink Praline and Praline and Lemon. I could go traditional with a butter croissant or classic with almond. There was Cassis and Violet, Apple Strudel, Pecan Pie, Carrot Cake, Rocky Road and a Maple Bacon and Egg croissant.
But my heart was longing for the comfort of a good croissant so I went traditional. I haven’t met chef Nadège but with just one bite it wasn’t difficult to figure out that she’s French and has a passion for and talent for really great croissant. The first bite captured my attention, the second sent my eyes rolling to the back of my head, an involuntary swoon came with the third and by the fourth bite I was my usual stamp-my-feet-angry that this quality of food that can evoke so much pleasure is so difficult to find. Then I was comforted by the fact that I had indeed found it – and, a little closer to home than Paris.
I ordered an almond and pecan pie croissant for home knowing that croissants are best eaten the day they’re made. In fact, just minutes from the oven is my favourite way to relish in them; but one for my lunch and the other for dinner will have to do.
It’s now Monday morning and I’m croissantless, so I made an appointment to go back and interview Chef Nadège for Today Toronto Magazine. Stay tuned for a more in-depth story into one of life’s greatest foods that so many other chefs fail to master.