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Friday, 19 December 2014

A Day in the Sun at Passion de France

Long-maligned Alberta Avenue will be the next 124 Street. The next Whyte Ave. The next "it" street. For if every street has its day, then 118th Avenue's is poignantly overdue. Arguments in its favour could fill a small volume: an abundance of owner-operated businesses, an eclectic assortment of buildings (both new and old vintage), a bonus of wide-crowned elm trees, architectural diversity among the branching side streets, and an unabashedly authentic cross-section of humanity all striving for the same thing: a sense of home. Now, 118th has another reason to be cool or - better yet - sought after: a patisserie.


Passion De France opened quietly in early December. One isn't likely to drive by it, for this tiny house of baked goods is set back from the main avenue by at least half a block, and separated from the street from a patio's worth of space. Though the front walk is buttressed by heaving snowdrifts now, one can imagine a smart set of patio furniture and umbrellas nodding like heavy-headed sunflowers in the breeze once the northern hemisphere turns back towards the light.  Inside, a tidy and efficient space, dressed in cool mint green and white, breathes the beguiling scent of fresh baking, resplendent in rich butter and sighing with dark chocolate and spices.
The display cooler is not yet full, though the menu promises a smattering of sandwiches, quiche and soup. Make no mistake, though; I've come for the baking. Specifically - croissants and macarons. Though I must confess to have never been in Paris (neither the French nor Ontarian locals, though I suspect the latter holds to a different standard of baked goods), a journeyman baker once explained to me that a real croissant - a real one and not the questionable supermarket variety - ought to make a mess when eaten. For all those glorious strata of butter, so lovingly layered throughout the dough, transform via some sort of culinary alchemy into a shattering mess. Yes, one bite ought to send croissant shards everywhere. Anything less, and you are looking at an ersatz roll of edible oil products. The croissant at Passion de France more than delivers. It delivers a sinfully rich croissant that makes a mess absolutely everywhere, just as it should.

Nine flavours of macarons beckon: at this point, they include chocolate, orange, Earl Grey, raspberry, lemon, passion fruit, vanilla, coffee, and salted caramel. It is difficult to pick a favourite flavour, for how could one go to the Louvre and pick a favourite painting? These impish, colourful buttons are yielding yet firm - sweet but not cloying. Little exquisite paradoxes, just their Alberta Avenue home, which will soon find its day in the sun.

Oh, and they pull a mean espresso macchiato.


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