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 053 – Malta (Malta Bake Shop)


Location
: 3256 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/maltabakeshopltd/

Though Malta Bake Shop has a pretty decent selection of Maltese pastries, I think it’s safe to say that pastizzi is their claim to fame (they even sell frozen versions of them to a few dozen supermarkets across the GTA).

They have a few different varieties, but when I went they had two: beef and peas, and cheese.

There’s really not a lot to pastizzi; it’s a diamond-shaped pastry, with the aforementioned fillings wrapped in a delightfully flaky dough.

It’s really the pastry itself that makes this so amazing: it’s crispy, flaky, buttery and perfect.  It’s similar to Greek-style phyllo pastry, but it’s done perfectly.  It’s the type of pastry perfection that can only be done by people who have been making the same thing for many, many years, and have clearly mastered their craft.

The fillings were tasty as well, though the beef and peas was the superior of the two.  The cheese (ricotta) wasn’t bad, but it was a bit underseasoned, and a little eggy for my tastes.

I should also note that these things are ninety cents each, which is insanely cheap for something so delicious.

Country 051 – Brazil (Mata Bar)

mata
Location
: 1690 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.matabar.ca/

I’m not sure how authentic Mata Bar is (they have stuff like sliders and french toast on their menu), but hey, it’s Winterlicious, it’s my blog, so let’s do it.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Winterlicious is a city-wide promotion where a bunch of restaurants offer relatively cheap three course menus for a couple of weeks.

I came to Mata Bar at lunch, and the waiter informed us that they were offering the ceviche as an appetizer choice that day (it’s normally only a dinner thing);  I figured, yeah, that seems authentic enough.  I went for it.

Ceviche can be hit or miss.  It’s kind of monotonous in its flavours if prepared poorly; basically just acidic and not much else.  But the version here was pretty tasty, with a good balance of acidity and sweetness, and nice hits of spice from the hot peppers.

The main meal was fried rice; it was crammed with chunks of of various meats, including what the menu describes as “salted beef,” and was hearty and quite tasty, if a bit one-note salty.  It was also lacking in the crispy bits that you’re looking for in a dish like this, but it was fine.  I enjoyed it.

The meal concluded with the Guava and Cheese Empanadas with Cinnamon.  Perfectly fried, with a lightly crispy pastry exterior and a very creamy, mildly tart filling, this was absolutely delightful.  It was a very pleasant capper to a very pleasant lunch — nothing too mindblowing, but for 18 bucks for three solid courses, a pretty amazing deal.

Mata Bar - the ceviche Mata Bar - the fried rice Mata Bar - the empanada

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 016 – France (Patisserie 27)

patisserie
Location
: 401 Jane Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.patisserie27.com/

I think I like the idea of a millefeuille better than I actually like a millefeuille.  I mean, custardy cream served between layers of flaky puff pastry?  That should be amazing.  But the texture, inevitably, is off.  The pastry is never quite right — typically, it’s been made way too far in advance, and has completely sogged through.  Sometimes, to compensate, it’s too crunchy.

It’s a pain to eat.  You try to cut or bite through it, and the cream can’t quite hold up to the pastry; it squashes out the sides and makes a classy, refined dessert considerably less so.

When I heard that Patisserie 27 makes their millefeuille to order, I thought, well, that’s it.  They’ve solved it.  How could this not be delicious?

And though it’s probably better than most millefeuilles I’ve had in my life, it’s not quite the millefeuille perfection I was hoping for.  I haven’t been to France and had the real deal there, but I have to assume this is a pale imitation.

The pastry cream was pretty great — it’s not too sweet, with a rich custardy flavour and subtle notes of vanilla.  It was really, really good.

The pastry, on the other hand, couldn’t quite hold up its end of the bargain.  The dessert was made to order, so it wasn’t soggy, which is good.  But it wasn’t quite as light and flaky as you’d like.  The custard-spreading problem was still very much present.

It was also a little bit too assertively flavoured to match well with the more demure pastry cream; it tasted kind of like a pie crust that’s just on the edge of burnt, and completely overwhelmed the other flavours here.

It certainly wasn’t bad.  But I guess if I want the perfect millefeuille I’ll just have to buy a plane ticket (or, less drastically, try other French bakeries in the city).