Laleh Bakery – North Vancouver, BC


Laleh Bakery
130 W15th St
North Vancouver, BC
(604) 986-6364

North Vancouver’s Laleh Bakery specializes in Persian cookies that you serve to accompany traditional afternoon tea. These melt-in-your-mouth treats pair well with tea drinking. They come in a variety of textures that complement the ritual – often slightly dry, flakey, and grainy – with crunchy punctuation provided by walnuts, or pistachios. Some are sticky sweet, or are covered in powdered sugar.

Butter and semolina lend their richness, and the subtle flavour of cardamon or rosewater permeate many of these confections. Date and fig jams are used as spreads sandwiched between cookie rounds or as fillings. Preserves such as apricot, or berry jam serve to fill thumbprint indentations.

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Sciue Italian Bakery – Vancouver, BC


Sciue Italian Bakery
800 W Pender St
Vancouver, BC
(604) 602-7263

A spacious and bright space benefiting from the fantastic natural lighting that floods through the large glass walls, Sciue Italian Bakery is perhaps best known for two items.  The first being the Pane Romano, described to me as a crispy flat bread/pizza like slice adorned with various Mediterranean-influenced toppings.  The other is the Paninoteca, traditional Italian sandwiches.  I’ve seen many a public transit rider carrying one of this place’s branded to-go cups of hot or cold liquids as well over the years.

Several types of the Roman-style pizza were laid out on the counter ready-made.  I wasn’t sure if they were to be re-heated slightly upon ordering but apparently mine was not.  You can essentially dictate how much you want as a serving, asking the server to cut off as small or as large a piece as you desire.  Prices were calculated by weight.  Despite the seemingly heavy layering of toppings covering the slices I chose, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they did not soak into the base layer, thus keeping the bottom intact.

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Uptown Espresso & Bakery (Queen Anne) – Seattle, WA


Uptown Espresso & Bakery
525 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle, WA
(206) 285-3757
Mon-Thu 5am – 10pm, Fri 5am – 11pm, Sat 6am – 11pm, Sun 6am – 10pm

I’ve come to discover that one of the best things of having a base in Vancouver is its close proximity to the United States and a decent sized city that is very much like the one in B.C.   In less than three hours, you can be in Seattle, and have a chance to explore new sights and places to eat and drink, and still be able to get home and sleep in your own bed.  Can’t say I could do the same living in two major centers in Alberta like I did over the years.

First stop after arriving in town was at a breakfast place, where we got on the waiting list – to be written about later. We then walked down the street for some morning caffeine.  It was close and convenient, no pre-planning in effect.  A shame I know, given that Seattle is reputed to be a great coffee town.

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Foodosophy of Morning Meals (on the road)…


Breakfast.

While the simplest of the day’s standard trio of meals, it is often my favorite time to eat when I’m traveling internationally. Reasons why include its generally easy, I can enjoy it on my own (if I am with others who are not as inclined for morning walkabouts, and the reasonable charges for morning meals makes wonderful meals all the more appreciated (or in the case they bomb, not too hard on the pocketbook, so regrets are tempered).

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that more often than not, something interesting to eat always lurks around the corner not long after the sun has come up and when I’m abroad in unfamiliar surroundings. I look at these impromptu discoveries as my personal reward. For taking the time and effort to traverse a new locale on foot. Meandering down random streets and alleys taking in the native sights, sounds and often smells, in my never-ending quest to learn more about where I am and this beautiful world in which we live.

My usual wandering (aimlessly and map-less) when I explore a new village, town, or city for the first time can lead me to interact with unknown strangers on the street – language and sometimes cultural barriers included. At times they are helpful. Especially with suggestions about what I might enjoy trying to eat. Local, with some variety, and a “what would you have?” are my usual parameters that I try to get across to my sometimes puzzled conversation mates, achieved in part with some physical gestures and drastically simplified English.

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Aling Mary’s – Vancouver, BC


Aling Mary’s Filipino Store
2656 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 873-6005

Pillowy-soft little packets of sweet-savory goodness.  That’s my shorthand description of what you can get at Aling Mary’s Store on Main Street in Vancouver, just off the busy Broadway zone.  I can still remember the first time I wandered in here randomly and getting engulfed in the fabulous smells that only a fresh bakery can provide, and walking out with two dozen of their popular Pan de Sal.  I’ve heard them referred to as Filipino bread rolls, not sure if that’s 100% accurate, but regardless, they are something every Vancouverite should try once in their lifetime.

Honestly, I’ve been back at least a half dozen times since that virgin visit, and even found them being sold in Richmond of all places too.  White flour, whole wheat, tried them both.  Nothing better though then getting then right out of the oven, timing is important, and I’ve had hits and misses when I’ve gone inside here, depending on their baking schedule and how voracious other customers are in walking out with batches of them.  On my last weekend morning stop, I got lucky.

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Le Pain Quotidien – New York, NY


Le Pain Quotidien
922 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY
(212) 757-0775

Artisan breads, sweet pastries and pantry goods like coffee and jams are what you can expect to find in the burgeoning outlets of this chain of bakeries where one can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner items that are carefully prepared with a health conscious outlook.  Organic ingredients are incorporated in many of their menu items, as well this ecological philosophy is apparent in their building design and construction as well – loved the reclaimed wood that permeated the interior, giving it a very welcoming and warm touch despite being smack dab in the middle of a concrete jungle, albeit with Central Park only a few short minutes away.

The Le Pain Quotidien empire has now spread out across the United States (mainly on the east and west coasts) as well as places in western Europe and the Middle East.  The Canadian outlets seemingly only sprouting up in the Toronto area.  I imagine it would be a good fit in the Vancouver area as well given the local climate and penchant for things with a healthy and organic twist.

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Panaderia Latina Bakery – Vancouver, BC


Panaderia Latina Bakery
4906 Joyce Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 439-1414

Empanadas.  It seems its my “thing” of the past year in terms of something to eat that I’ve deliberately sought out more often than any other food.  In doing so, I’ve had a few different takes on it.  But in the end, I think I’m really all about the salty, savoury taste that only a delicious melted cheese inside can provide.

As luck would have it, after my takeaway package from Bo Laksa King was ready to go, I popped over next door to see if there was anything worthwhile at Panaderia, and sure enough they had empanadas.  I’m sure I’m not alone in doing this double-header of meals on this street corner just up the way from Joyce Skytrain station.

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Eclair de Lune Bakery – Calgary, AB


Eclair de Lune Bakery
1049 40 Avenue Northwest
Calgary, AB
(403) 398-8803

I first caught wind of Eclair de Lune when I went to Debra’s Chocolates for the first time (Debra’s is now Epiphanie Chocolate on 11th Street SW).  I didn’t realize there was a bakery on Northmount – in fact, I didnt even realize Northmount Drive intersected with 40th Avenue (they both run east-west except for this one stretch). It boggled the mind a bit, but i finally found it. A small, north facing bakery with a simple sign – Eclair de Lune.

The interior of Eclair de Lune is small – barely fits their displays. A cooler, a coffee station, and a few display cases. Most of the space is filled to the brim with pastries and baked goods. There are constantly people baking in the back. Facilities look tight, but they make due.

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Foodosophy of Banh Mi (in Vancouver)


There are three names that usually come up when Vancouverites talk about their favourite banh mi: Au Petit Cafe, Ba Le, and Tung Hing . I needed to grab a quick lunch from my kids and their friends one day after school. I was going to drive right past these three restaurants so I thought I would take this opportunity to do a side-by-side photo-essay.

I ordered the “Special” at each place to set a base-line comparison. Having ordered the Specials at all three spots over the years, I know how consistent they all are with their production – in other words, what you see here is what you would typically get.

From the left to right: Au Petit Cafe, Ba Le (Kingsway), Tung Hing.

As you can see, Tung Hing’s banh mi is at least 2″ longer than the other two – 10″ vs 8″. Au Petit Cafe has their bread specially made by La Baguette et L’echalotte which has a storefront on Granville Island. Ba Le currently sources from Empress Bakery (I incorrectly attributed their source as Paris Bakery in my earlier post here), but are about to embark on their own baking operation in-house with the installation of some new ovens at the Kingsway location.

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Universal Bakery – Vancouver, BC


Universal Bakery
3815 Rupert Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 438-1920

uni2

Universal Bakery is a non-descript Portuguese bakery deep in Vancouver’s Eastside. I come here only for one thing – it is for their very good Portuguese Egg Tarts. To make the trip worth while, I also pick up a few other items – bread, sausages, and so forth. But really, I’m here for these tarts.

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What a Bakery – Toronto, ON


What a Bakery
875 Milner Ave
Toronto, ON

Once upon a time, my wife worked at a bakery to help out a friend.  Waking up at 2am to GO to work was absolutely mind-boggling, but I sure enjoyed waking up to a fresh loaf of bread, and the occasional treat.  As we started our journey out of Toronto, we turned off the highway for a coffee in the suburb of Scarborough – and happened to come across this bakery.

whatabakery_storefront

I’ve written in the past about my love of cornbread, and this cornbread muffin ranks as one my favorites.  My second choice for the road, was the cinnamon twist (figured it would be easy to eat while driving).  Both were superb.

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MIX the Bakery – Vancouver, BC


MIX the Bakery
4430 West 10th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 221-4145
Monday to Saturday 7am to 5pm; Sunday 8am to 4pm

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My neck of the woods has a few gems when it comes to simple but cozy cafés that pump out solid sandwiches. I’ve written about some of them previously: Coco et Olive, and Pane e Formaggio.

MIX the Bakery is another one that churns out not only fabulous artisan breads made fresh in-house (which can be seen from the order counter at the front of the house), but also a solid array of sweet desserts and pastries, and take home preserves that utilize wonderful BC sources (such as Fraser Valley blueberries and Okanagan peaches).  To top it off, they also have a catering service as well.  It’s a great spot for a quick lunchtime meal or takeout, and the following are my thoughts on two recent pickups there…

A hearty but incredibly satisfying part of MIX’s menu are their homemade soups.  With the weather turning for the worse as we head towards winter, I can’t think of a better way to get a meal going.  On this day, they had a trio of offerings: a pork adobo, a butternut squash, and pictured above, a corn chicken chowder.  Filled with healthy vegetables including onions, potato, celery and flavoured generously with cilantro and cumin, it was not fully creamy like a seafood chowder would be, but not totally thin and liquid-y in consistency either.  The large size take away container (three inches high, and four-and-half inches in diameter) was plenty for two.

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Pane e Formaggio – Vancouver, BC


Pane e Formaggio
4532 10th Ave W
Vancouver, BC
(604) 224-1623

Artisan breads and specialty cheeses are a big deal here in Vancouver.  Plenty of competition for this segment of the retail and dine-in scene, with new ones seemingly popping up from time to time throughout the city.  Personally, I try to frequent these shops on weekend mornings when I have more free time to browse around, explore all the shelves and showcases and try to gain some knowledge from the folks behind the counter about what they create and sell.  I love hearing the passion they have for their product and how genuinely interested they are in sharing their knowledge and teaching others about things such as cheeses, which can be overwhelming at times given how many varieties are out there…

Located on the far west end of 10th Avenue towards the entrance of the UBC campus, Pane e Formaggio has been around since the start of this decade and has carved a niche as a popular Saturday breakfast/brunch spot for the residents of West Point Grey.  Despite the narrow, bowling alley-like layout, the bright airiness of the space and the fine touches like the dark wooden flooring, high ceilings, and European-inspired tables and chairs, makes this a very inviting and comfortable place to spend your weekend mornings.  It’s usually pretty tough getting one of the available tables however, so take-out is also available.

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Leonard’s Bakery – Honolulu, HI


Leonard’s Bakery
933 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI
(808) 737-5591

The story of this local Hawaiian icon weaves through a touching tale of immigration from far away lands in the late-19th century, family ties, hard work, and the origins of how this popular Portuguese confection came to the Islands. I always love hearing the background of ethnic foods/restaurants transplanted to other countries.

Leonard’s bake shop required a larger sized, modern facility in the late 1950’s, and has been in their current location on Kapahulu Avenue ever since.  It clearly has that era’s old school feel to it, from the moment you see the overhanging rafter with a pair of benches to sit on to enjoy your purchases inside, if you’re lucky.  The parking lot can get busy as well, and I even witnessed a fender bender between two cars that were jostling to use one spot.

The L-shaped counter where you place your order with the staff is filled with various baked goods, but I think most people are here for the Malasadas.   These deep fried, doughy balls of goodness coated in sugar are obviously not for the health conscious among us.

In general, Malasadas don’t have that distinct hole in the middle like doughnuts do, but some do have fillings (at Leonard’s they had custard, chocolate and coconut).  As pictured in one of the signs on the counter, this month’s special was Lilikoi (a tart-tasting grapefruit/passion fruit native to many parts of Latin America, areas in the Pacific and even Africa).

As they are freshly made in the back, once you give your order, they come out boxed and ready to go.  I’d recommend you get a few of each type, those dusted with white sugar, cinnamon sugar, and some with the fillings, to get a taste of each type available.

I think this is a growing trend, mainly to increase revenues from other sources when a food brand establishes itself, and Leonard’s also had peripheral goods for sale, including t-shirts.  There was one design my friend liked, but unfortunately they were out of his size.

Without a space to enjoy our bounty, our group walked down the street back towards Waikiki, and found the air conditioned comforts of a seating area within a Safeway store.  The aroma emerging from the open boxes flooded the space and we got the attention of several neighbors, who no doubt knew what we had.

The light but slightly crispy exterior and the fluffy inside was still quite warm when I bit into my first plain Malasada.  The texture was not as dense as I thought, which made for eating more than one in a single sitting quite easy.  I found the custard-filled variety equally as pleasing, and the slight coolness of the filling provided a contrast to the warmth of the dough.  Oh, and the Lilikoi one we sampled, was pretty good too.  I think combined with my tasting of Lilikoi mustard at Puka Dog, I’ve become quite the fan of this exotic fruit.

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Coco et Olive – Vancouver, BC


Coco et Olive Fine Foods & Café
3476 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 736 7080

Coco Et Olive on Urbanspoon

As I heard from my Alberta-based friends over the weekend complaining about the snow on the ground and the ongoing colder weather, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them as I strolled outside in nice sunny weather this past week along West Broadway in over 10 degrees Celsius weather.   With a clam breeze in the air, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to stop into a little café and grab something warm to drink as well as a bite to eat.

Coco et Olive is probably best known among those who live in this end of Vancouver.  And by end, I truly mean that.  It really is far from the hustle and bustle of the more central and thus busier sections of this strip.  In the daytime on weekends, and lunch hours during the week, its filled with people from the neighborhood who clearly have more than their share of free time.

My assumption of this is based on the fact that a) there’s a lot of older folks who probably don’t have to work for a living anymore due to age, and b) younger uppity people who look like they are well off and don’t need to work.  Ah, I wish I could be one of the latter… minus the attitude of course!

With an eclectic arrangement of furniture as seating, and an airy bistro feel, its really easy to feel at home and want to lounge about alone with a cup of coffee (they serve Intelligentsia) or with friends sharing any number of sweets and sandwiches on the menu.  But with a full house and nary a seat to take, I chose an order to go.  [The associated pictures you see here are just simple plated shots once I was back in my kitchen]

The ordering process is straight forward, as the cashier will jot down your order on a notepad and go through the motions of pulling it from the case and if the line is busy, another staffer will handle the grilling.  As simple as that is, I sensed a lack of flow among the staff.  Some confusion among orders despite the written list, an absence of speed as there clearly is not enough space under the griller when more than a few sandwiches are on deck, were just some of the amateurish things I picked up on the service front.

On this day, there were about twelve different sandwiches on board, though some had nothing next to the name plates in the refrigerated case next to the ordering counter.  I did notice as time passed that re-fills from the back kitchen soon made their way into the display area.  The casual feel must pervade from the back, as people would walk in and out from the hidden room to the entrance door.  They seemed like staff, or perhaps friends of the owners (heard a lot of French flying back and forth), but they all seemed to be treating the place as if it were someone’s home, and not really concerned they were cutting in front of paying customers who were scanning the sandwich offerings.

Making your mind from the tantalizing choices is an exercise in both judgment and restraint.  After pacing in front of the case, I ended up picking the Lemon and Herb Chicken ($6.99), as well as a White Tuna Panini.  One of which was chosen as a sandwich & soup combo – an added $3 to the price – and the selection was a Moroccan Lentils soup.

Being handmade, you could immediately see the hodgepodge of sizes for the same kind of sandwich.  Overall, the paninis, of which I preferred the softer texture of the tuna spread as well as the flavor combination, were fairly good, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say they were outstanding or the best paninis I’ve ever tasted.

As a sweet dessert to round out the pair of meals that I was taking back home, I asked for two of the Almond Croissants.  They just seemed to beckon me, sitting on top of the sandwich display case, as I waited for my paninis to be grilled in the press.  I must say, they were absolutely fantastic.  A perfectly light flaky and crispy crust, and an oozy centre of almond cream, with an ample spread of sliced almonds on top.  I will definitely be back for these, and to try out some of the other cookies, scones, cakes, tarts, and brownies that are made in-house…

Coco Et Olive on Urbanspoon