Country 060 – Denmark (Danish Pastry House)


Location
: 487 Cornwall Road, Oakville
Websitehttp://www.danishpastryhouse.ca/

So I probably could have done something a bit more interesting for Denmark, but if I have an opportunity to buy a big box of pastries, I’m going to buy a big box of pastries.  I don’t need much of an excuse.

I ordered six (and prepare for some seriously Nordic-sounding names): hoj snegl, spandaur, tebirkes, overskarn, æblefisk, and royal crown.

After two or three, they started to feel somewhat interchangeable.  That’s unfair, of course; they’re all different enough.  But they all have the same (delicious) flaky pastry base, and they all have a delightfully subtle sweetness.

They’re so different from the cloying sugar-bomb danishes that you’ll find at most doughnut shops that it’s hard to even compare them.  They practically belong in entirely different categories.

They’re all pretty great, in case that isn’t clear.  There’s nothing like a really good pastry from a bakery that knows their craft, and the Danish Pastry House clearly knows their craft.

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Country 054 – Bangladesh (Premium Sweets)


Location
: 7025 Tomken Road, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.premiumsweets.ca/

One of the few nice things about being in Mississauga is that it makes doing this blog pretty easy.  Ethnic food from all over the globe is readily available — including, of course, Bangladeshi cuisine.

I wanted to try the sorshe ilish — it’s one of Bangladesh’s national dishes, according to Wikipedia — but apparently Premium Sweets only have a small assortment of what’s on their menu available at any given time.  So I went with the mutton bhuna, which came with rice, naan bread, and a small cucumber salad.

Everything was tasty, but not much more; it was one of those inoffensively enjoyable meals that’s good, but not memorable in any particular way.

The mutton bhuna featured chunks of reasonably tender meat in a thick, mildly spicy curry base.  The mutton may or may not have actually been mutton, though; there was absolutely none of that mildly gamy, distinctive flavour that you get from lamb (a flavour that should only be intensified with mutton).  I suspect that they’re using beef instead.

The sauce was tasty; it’s nothing too mindblowing, but it’s a solid curry.

The naan came tightly wrapped in foil; I really wish they hadn’t done that.  The lightly crispy exterior that you get from freshly-baked naan had been completely steamed away inside the foil.  It was fine, but it had none of the textural contrast that distinguishes great naan from the merely good; it was just uniformly soft and chewy.

The cucumber salad was a really good compliment to the main meal, with its vinegary crunch providing a nice contrast to the rich curry.

And of course, you can’t go to a place called Premium Sweets without trying the dessert, so I got a selection of six of their Bangladeshi sweets.  I have no idea what any of them were or what they were called (quality food writing, right?), but they all had a similarly crumbly, fudgy texture and a nutty, vaguely exotic flavour.  A couple were more crumbly and a couple were creamier, but they all tasted about the same. I enjoyed them, but a bit more variety would have been nice.

Premium Sweets - the mutton bhuna Premium Sweets - the dessert

Country 048 – Singapore (Jackpot Chicken Rice)

jackpot
Location
: 318 Spadina Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.jackpotchickenrice.com/

This post is a bit different than usual.  The whole point of this blog is to travel without traveling; however, I actually just came back from a real, no-foolin’ trip to Singapore (where I had chicken rice a couple of times), so this is the rare case where I know what the real deal is supposed to taste like.

Chicken rice, for the initiated, is an exceptionally simple dish — tender boiled chicken on rice that’s been cooked in the stock, served with a couple of sauces on the side.  That’s it.

Man, it’s good though.

And the version they serve at Jackpot Chicken Rice is surprisingly close to what I had in Singapore.  The rice in particular, with its addictively rich flavour thanks to being cooked with the stock, was pretty much exactly as I remembered from my recent trip.

The chicken itself, however, couldn’t quite match up.  The version I had in Singapore had an intense chickeny flavour, and was almost absurdly tender.  It was silky and moist in a way that was downright remarkable.  The chicken at Jackpot, on the other hand, had a much more subdued flavour, and a texture that was more in line with any other well-prepared chicken I’ve had.  It was tender, but not even close to the awe-inspiring degree of the Singaporean version.

It comes with two sauces on the side — a ginger scallion sauce, and a spicy chili sauce.  The sauces, like the rice, were very comparable to the real deal.

You can also pay a couple of bucks and get some crispy chicken skins on the side.  These are amazing.  They’re pretty much like the best chips you’ve ever had.  I want a whole bag.

I decided to finish things off with the Kaya French Toast.  Kaya is a sweet, coconutty spread that’s typically served on toast for breakfast.  The version here is significantly sweeter and richer than the toast you’ll find in Singapore; it’s lightly crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and intensely sweet. It’s really, really good.

Jackpot Chicken Rice - the restaurant Jackpot Chicken Rice - the chicken rice Jackpot Chicken Rice - the Kaya French Toast

Country 047 – Portugal (Nova Bakery & Pastry)

nova
Location
: 3635 Cawthra Road, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.novabakery.ca/

I really like egg tarts — in theory.  They’re actually a lot like millefeuille, in that they should be amazing but very rarely are thanks to the ravages of time.  That crispy, flaky crust?  Maybe I’ve just been exceedingly unlucky in a lifetime of eating egg tarts, but I don’t think I’ve ever had one where the crust wasn’t soggy to a certain extent.

I wanted the one from Nova to be different, but right on the first bite — when I struggled to get my teeth through the once-crispy, now-chewy crust — I knew it was game over.

Still, the custardy filling was satisfying enough to make this worth eating regardless.  Amazingly creamy, dense but not too dense, and with a mild lemony zip to cut through the richness, it was probably one of the better egg tarts I’ve had.

I’d be more upset about the sodden crust, but since I’ve literally never had one of these things where the crust was perfect, I’m just going to assume that’s a pipe dream.  I’d either have to go to a bakery where they sell so many egg tarts that they’re constantly pumping out new ones (i.e. fly to Portugal), or I’d have to camp outside of a bakery and grab one the minute they open.

I don’t think either option is going to happen any time soon, so soggy crust it is.

Country 042 – Sweden (Fika Cafe)

fika
Location
: 28 Kensington Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://fika.ca/

This is one of those things I saw on Instagram and pretty much instantly had to try. I mean, if you can look at that and tell me that you don’t immediately want to eat it, that’s good for you, but you and me are clearly two very different people.

I guess the obvious choice for Sweden would have been meatballs, but I think the Swedish cream puff is probably a bit more interesting.

It’s called a semla (or semlor in the plural — thanks, Wikipedia), and Fika Cafe’s menu describes it like this: “our take on the swedish classic – cardamom bun, seasonal jam, almond paste topped with honey sweetened whipped cream.”

It’s good (of course it’s good, look at it).  The bun itself is sort of like a doughnut, but with a denser, breadier texture.  The cardamom gives it a distinct, floral pop that stays in the background without overwhelming the other flavours.

It’s not as sweet as you’d expect — the bun isn’t particularly sweet, nor is the cream.  Most of the sweetness comes from the jam (some kind of berry when I went, though I guess it changes).  It’s a bit odd at first, though the more subtle sweetness definitely wins you over after a couple of bites.

My only real complaint is that if there was almond paste in there, I couldn’t taste it.  It’s a shame, because I could definitely see it matching well with the bun’s other flavours.

Country 032 – Czech Republic (Eva’s Original Chimneys)

eva
Location
: It’s a food truck, so check Twitter to see where they’re parked
Websitehttp://www.originalchimneys.com/

This is one of those things where, once you see a picture, you pretty much have to try it.  I mean, come on — how can you not want to eat that?

And I’m definitely not alone in this — not since the epic Uncle Tetsu’s line of 2015 have I waited such an insane amount of time for food (or anything, really).  From the start of the line to me clutching one of these cones?  90 solid minutes, which is coincidentally the exact same amount of time I waited for a Japanese cheesecake.  We’ll see what novelty dessert inspires this lunacy next year.

Technically, the main attraction here — kürtoskalács (a.k.a. the eponymous chimney cake) — is Hungarian.  However, the briefly internet-famous doughnut cones (that you probably saw someone share on Facebook a few months ago) were created at a cafe in Prague.

The term “doughnut cone” is a bit of a misnomer (the pastry is baked, not fried), and to their credit, Eva’s calls these chimney cones on their menu.

The chimney is essentially a hollow tube of pastry that’s rolled in a generous amount of cinnamon and sugar and then baked rotisserie-style.  The freshly-baked cones are then filled with vanilla soft serve and topped with other stuff — I went with the Dream Cone, which comes with Nutella, butter toffee bits, chocolate sauce, and brownie pieces.

I feel pretty much the same way about this as I did about Tetsu.  It’s good, but it’s not even remotely worth standing in that insane line.

Of course, the ice cream, Nutella, and other desserty bits are all standard issue, so the question is: how’s the pastry?  It’s not bad.  It’s hard to go wrong with something rolled in that much cinnamon and sugar, though really, it’s basically just plain bread. It’s also kind of dry, especially near the top.  It definitely grew on me, but it’s nothing too mind-blowing — and let’s face it, if you put enough Nutella and soft serve on anything, it’s probably going to taste pretty good.

Eva's Original Chimneys - the line Eva's Original Chimneys - the chimney cone

Country 027 – Jordan (Tabule)

tabule
Location
: 2009 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://tabule.ca/

I recently tried the Winterlicious menu at Tabule; everything was quite tasty, particularly the perfectly cooked salmon kebab, but what I want to talk about is the Knaffa Ashta.

Knaffa (which has various spellings that I’ve found online, including kanafeh or kunafa) is one of those dishes that should really be bigger than it is; it’s seriously delicious.  I actually got to try the real deal while on a trip to Jordan, or at least one variation on it — it changes somewhat depending on where you get it and who’s making it.  The one that I had in Jordan consisted of a layer of soft, white cheese, sandwiched between two cakey layers made of semolina flour, soaked through with a sweet, rosewater-infused syrup.  It was amazing. I know cheese in a dessert sounds odd, but trust me, it was pretty much the best thing ever.

The version they serve at Tabule is a little bit different, with a more coarse, noodley pastry, and ashta — a Middle Eastern pasty cream — instead of the cheese.  It doesn’t quite hit the heights of the one I had in Jordan, but it’s probably one of the better versions of this dish I’ve had in Toronto.  The creamy ashta, in particular, really works well, and the amount of syrup is pretty much perfect — this is an easy dish to make cloying, but the amount of sweetness here was just right.

Tabule - the lemonade Tabule - the hallum salad Tabule - the salmon kebab Tabule - the knaffa ashta