Sunday, April 12, 2009

Not-quite-belated Happy Easter!

For those of you out there who have been gorging on family dinners (of ham, or turkey, or maybe even lamb!), or for those of you who have just been embracing the lovely weather we lucked out with this long weekend, here are some little blurbs of happiness that I'm sending to you!

1. What I have chosen to believe are a pair of mourning doves have taken up residence in my backyard. Here is a photo that I snuck of one on the deck. It is ruffling its feathers in this picture, so it's hard to see its slender, elegant neck. Naysayers might think I just snapped a photo of a pigeon, but in real life the birds are much more delicate looking, and more muted in colour, than your average city pigeon. Also, there are only two of them... which to me says that these are mourning doves (aka turtledoves).

2. I had a lovely weekend in relation to food. The regular Easter fare was enjoyed at a family dinner, as well as the first ice cream of the season (shared with my sisters and my fella). PLUS there was lots of delicious Easter chocolate, and la pièce de résistance: a wonderful celebratory dinner at Sidecar, where the cocktails were excellent, the food was solid and the service was both amusing and impressive.

3. I am currently sitting at my computer, happily avoiding studying, enjoying the end of a Hot Cross Bun that I made today and drinking some milk thistle tea (in a vague attempt to help my liver deal with this weekend's indulgences -- see number 2.)

4. And finally, some Christmas cakes cleverly disguised for spring (which I made in my baking class at school). Enjoy!


"Yule" Log #1.

"Yule" Log #2.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Like Buttah: A Visit to Pain Perdu

Pain Perdu
736 St. Clair Ave W, Toronto

Last summer a friend of mine revealed to a few of us the wonder that is the pain perdu at (where else?) Pain Perdu. Ever since, my pal Robyn and I have been off-and-on talking about making the trek up to St. Clair W. to taste this ooey-gooey french toast-astrophe.

Recently we finally committed, and met at Christie Station to take the (pretty infrequent) Christie bus northward. A short block west of Christie & St. Clair, on the north side of the street, we found the restaurant-bakery. The cheerful blue and cream exterior was nearly as inviting as the delicious buttery aroma that hit us the minute we opened the door. It was so amazing, my already grumbling stomach could hardly take it!

Pain Perdu is NOT a French bakery, and this is clearly demarcated by a big Basque flag hanging near the cash register. I do believe I would be safe in assuming, however, that the origins of the bakery are in Northern Basque Country, which occupies three French provinces. French is clearly the first language of this bakery, with employees conversing with local francophones who stop in for baguettes and croissants, and most of the signage written en français.

I immediately order a café au lait ($3.50), as I'm jonseing for my daily caffeine fix and must get that off my brain while I decide on what other delectables to consume.

Robyn goes straight for the pain perdu ($7.95), as she has been dreaming about it for months. I ponder awhile more, and decide I'm looking for something a bit more savoury. The selection of yummy looking quiches seems appealing, and the duck confit plate also has its allure. But I decide to go with their made-to-order casse-croûtes (i.e. snacks). I choose the brie ($8.95) - because I'm a sucker for all things creamy - with a salad ($3.50).

The café au lait arrives and it is truly french in style, with the smokiness of the roast predominant even through the frothy milk. I tend to enjoy bitter coffees, but I'm not sure I could handle this one without the di-lait-tion (ha ha ha, I am so funny!).

Next to arrive is the pain perdu. It is better than we imagined and it is beautiful! Look:

It is a custardy slab of french toast, covered in crème anglaise, fresh fruit (at this point in time it is pineapple -- but rumour has it they serve whatever is seasonally appropriate) and a berry (raspberry, we think) coulis. Clearly I can't let Robyn suffer through this alone, so I help her out a bit. This is definitely the star of the restaurant, and I ended up being incredibly I will obviously have to return for my own at some point in time.

My brie casse-croûte and salad arrive and it looks fresh and appealing. The salad is a bright green bib covered with house-made vinaigrette and the plate comes with petits cornichons and cherry tomatoes. Voilà!

The baguette is buttered and delicious and the brie is tasty, but doesn't stand out as much as I was hoping. Still it is creamy and satisfy, and the veg is a good contrast. I feel satisfied and smugly healthy.

As health was not my goal, I decided to spoil the feeling by purchasing some take-home treats. I was interested to find an assortment of prepared-in-store vinaigrette and jellies available to purchase, as well as a sign revealing $42 orders of foie gras were being taken.

As Pain Perdu has been 3-times voted Best Croissant by the
Toronto Star, I decided that I NEEDED one (as did Robyn, who needed more than one! yum!). I also picked up another of their specialities, a gateau Basque (available in single to 8 person serving sizes). I also got to sample a pretty blue meringue at the counter, which reminded me of cotton candy at summer fairs.

I waited approximately 1 hour before I ate the croissant ($1.90 ea) - it was calling my name. And after doing so I can understand why its a city-wide champ. It was ridiculously buttery without being greasy, with a toasty, caramelized crust, and a flaky yet chewy interior. When I return for my own serving of pain perdu I will definitely be taking more than one of these home with me!

The single-serving gateau Basque ($4.10 ea) I took to class with me and split with a friend. It was tasty (also deliciously buttery) with a nicely balanced cream filling. It didn't send me to the moon (perhaps I'd just had too many carbs at that point), but it would be a good item to serve with a strong cup of black tea.

So if this review has convinced you that you too need some Pain Perdu in your life (and I hope it has) let me know and we can go!

Or at least pick me up a croissant! :)

Lunch for one with fancy coffee and a take-home goody(tax included): aprx. $17.00 (tip extra)

Rating: 3.5 dishes out of 5