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Category Archives: food

Admittedly, probably my only croissant crawl! This one was filling!

So, Sarah saw a review that someone wrote about croissants in Vancouver. She decided to plan a croissant crawl as a follow-up to The Great Macaron Crawl 2011 and The Great Macaron Crawl, Part II. She made up a terrific list of places to visit. This time, instead of sampling at each location, we brought the croissants back to a single location for comparisons sake.

Melanie and I picked up the first croissants on the way to meeting Sarah. We picked up one Frissant and one almond croissant from Swiss Bakery – the butter croissants were (already!) sold out. We put the Frissant aside for later eating and devoured the almond croissant to give us energy for our… drive.
Croissant Crawl 2013
(Lemon Frissant)

We picked up butter croissants from Beyond Bread, Thomas Haas, Beaucoup Bakery, Terra Breads, Faubourg, Patisserie Bordeaux, Notte’s Bon Ton and Baguette and Co. It was difficult to not buy other things – each and every one of these bakeries were full of amazing looking goodies!

Croissant Crawl 2013

After picking up the croissants, we laid them all out on the table and just stared for a while. It was a little intimidating to look at.
Croissant Crawl 2013

Croissant Crawl 2013

Look at all that flaky goodness!

We decided to divide the croissants into parts, just to see how flaky there were inside.
Croissant Crawl 2013

And based on that, we decided which croissants looked like they had the least and the most promise. We started with what we guessed were not as good, saving the (hopefully) best for last. We actually did pretty well at guessing – some of the ones that didn’t seem as impressive did not appeal. Some were too plain, and had us saying that eating it was a waste of space. Some were too greasy – one even left a funny aftertaste. Some felt more like bread.

Our favourite croissant was the one from Faubourg, followed by Beaucoup bakery and Thomas Haas. We agreed that they tasted the most like what we wanted from a croissant – buttery, flaky and light, with no funny aftertaste.
Croissant Crawl 2013 (Faubourg)

Croissant Crawl 2013 (Beaucoup Bakery)

We saved the Frissant for last, which may have been a mistake. I found the lemon curd inside to be delicious, but the deep fried croissant part was just too greasy. And yes, I know it was deep fried, but I couldn’t finish my bite.

We learned that croissants are incredibly filling. We had sampled nine croissants, leaving behind 2/3 of each, having shared 1/3 of each croissant amongst ourselves. We fully planned on eating more later with Am’s Jams, but just could not stomach it. Eventually, after a few hours of lethargic conversation, we dragged our butts out for some healthy (real) food. We plan on having another crawl sometime, but know now just how important it is to choose the food carefully. I imagine that a Mac ‘n Cheese crawl would end up with us collapsed on some restaurant floor, in food comas!

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We enjoyed our first macaron crawl so much, we decided to go on a second one! Luckily for us, macarons are all the craze. More and more shops are carrying them.

First, we hit up French Made Baking. We got a pack of six, consisting of four different flavours: Earl Grey, pistachio, passionfruit and salted caramel. We decided to save some for further comparison later and dove into the Earl Grey and other salted caramel. Melanie brought a knife this time, so dividing them up was much easier!

The verdict?

Earl Grey – Nice Earl Grey flavour

Salted Caramel – Delicious. Heaven. Nommy goodness.

Both macarons had terrific texture, with just the right amount of gumminess.

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Next, we went to Bel Café on West Georgia. After finishing off some soup, we got three macarons (starting with the green, going clockwise): pistachio, black sesame and cookies and cream.

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Again, we saved the pistachio for tasting later and then divvied up the other two.

The verdict?

Cookies and Creme – Tasty. My favourite from Bel Café! It really tasted likes cookies and creme.

Black Sesame, Yuzu – Interesting flavour, not what we expected with the name, “black sesame”. Tasty, though.

The next stop was Soirette Macarons and Tea on West Pender. They have an adorable little shop with great photographs of their macarons. They also had  a wide selection of beautiful macarons. We got six. Starting from the top left, moving clockwise, we got: cappuccino, pistachio, caramel fleur de sel, maple, Guinness and Earl Grey. We saved the caramel fleur de sel, cappuccino and pistachio.

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The verdict?

Guinness – Certainly  a novelty, but wasn’t what we expected to taste. It seemed quite chocolatey.

Earl Grey – A strong Earl Grey flavour (which I expect from a tea and macaron shop!), but I preferred the flavour from French Made.

Maple – Tasty and sweet. We had a debate about whether it was too sweet or not, but mostly agreed that sweet comes with the maple territory.

When Melanie cut into the second macaron and we all worried – it made a loud “crunch”. Sure enough, most of the macarons from Soirette had a hard outer shell and a gap of air between the shell and the part touching the filling. The texture was disappointing.

Finally, we headed over to Le Marché St. George for some macarons made by Kitchening with Carly. We got three flavours: pistachio, raspberry and lemon. Unfortunately, they came frozen. We decided to return to Melanie’s to let them defrost in time for the final tasting.

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There, we cut up all the pistachio macarons for fair comparison. We had one from each of the four stops, plus one from Thomas Haas – Sarah bought it yesterday for comparison’s sake.

The Pistachio Comparison

Here was our order of preference, from favourite to least favourite.

  1. Thomas Haas
  2. Bel Café
  3. French Made Baking
  4. Kitchening with Carly
  5. Soirette

The decisions were based on texture and flavour. Thomas Haas and Bel Café had the best pistachio flavours. French Made Baking didn’t have the punch of flavour, but the texture was consistently good. The Kitchening with Carly macarons were mushy, probably from being defrosted. The flavour from Soirette was too weak and the texture was off, too. The macaron was just too crunchy on the outside, with that funny air pocket.

We started to wonder. We really felt all day that French Made Bakery was the best… but could we really say so, based on the way their pistachio macaron stacked up? To test, we tried a passion fruit (from French Made Bakery) and the raspberry macarons (from Kitchening with Carly and from Thomas Haas), and found that French Made was better.

Finally, we cut up our favourite of the day, just to test to see if it was truly our favourite. One last bite of the salted caramel was enough to confirm that, yes, French Made has now moved into the number one spot for macarons. Admittedly, we are curious to try fresh Kitchening with Carly macarons, as the flavours for those were terrific, but the defrosting left us with mushy, wet macarons.

In case you are interested in prices, the macarons at French Made and Thomas Haas cost $1.75 and the macarons at Bel Café, Soirette and Le Marché St. George were $2, although I think that there is a slight discount at most places if you buy in boxes of six.

I posted this to my facebook page: First attempt at macarons – uh, not so good. More research needed before trying again. My friend Sarah responded by stating that she had done a croissant crawl, suggesting we do the same with macarons. Melanie took the challenge and created a list of bakeries that made macarons. She (wonderfully!) organized our outing… the great macaron crawl was happening!

We met at The Urban Tea Merchant, where we decided that we would order four macarons (at $3.90/macaron), splitting three immediately amongst us and taking one to go for later.

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We chose (from left to right) Napoleon (black tea with French spices, hints of vanilla and chocolate), Grand Wedding (black tea with passion fruit and coconut), Lemon Bush (red rooibos with wild citrus fruits) and Earl Grey Fortune (darjeeling with bergamot). We decided to save the Napoleon for later, since it’s the Urban Tea Merchant’s best seller.

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We decided that the Grand Wedding macaron was delicious, with great texture and flavour. The Lemon Bush was also amazing – one of my personal favourites from the day. The Earl Grey was good, although not our favourite flavour. We couldn’t really taste the earl grey.

Next, we walked about ten steps and went into Thierry. They had four flavours to offer at the time (at $1.75/macaron), so we got one of each: lemon, maple, blackberry and coconut. We also ordered some coffees and croissants – hey, we can’t exist on macarons alone!

After our experience at the first location, we were a little let down, decided that price really did reflect quality in this case! The macarons weren’t consistently sized. The fillings weren’t quite as full flavoured, and sometimes stuck in our mouths a little bit. We saved the coconut macaron for later and headed to our next location.

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We found ourselves at Cho Pain – I love the name of that place. There were only two macarons left in their shelves, so that’s all we ordered. Thank goodness. We couldn’t quite figure out if the shelves were empty because the bakery hadn’t bothered to restock from the day (or more) before, or if all the good ones were taken, but the macaron we ate was brittle and rather tasteless. We ended up (*gasp*) throwing out the second one!

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Disappointed, we headed to Ganache, a bakery with so many beautiful cakes on display. I ended up taking pictures of inspirational cakes with components that I’d love to try on my own cakes one day! They only made and sold mini macarons, so we bought a box of nine minis.

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There were three coffee, two strawberry, two lemon and two chocolate. We all tried the coffee first, deciding not to save any for later. We found the texture to be off – in fact, all the macarons were hollow inside. Taking a bite was next to impossible – it would crumble. We split the rest, each deciding on a flavour we didn’t need to try. I had the lemon and the strawberry, finding both a little too strong on the extract taste. I missed the true lemon flavour from the first location.

We made our way to Sarah’s car so that we could drive to Kits for our final location – Thomas Haas. By this point, we were very hungry. We ordered sandwiches – I got the smoked salmon. So very tasty, and I don’t normally enjoy sandwiches all that much! I think it was the use of the brioche. And the dill crème fraîche. And the salmon. You get the idea!

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After eating, we ordered our last round of macarons.

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As you can see, we got six this time. The macarons were $1.75 each, but a set of six cost less than $10 before tax. We chose pistachio, champagne, mocha, cassis, passion fruit and kalamansi.

We cut them up, just like the other macarons.

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We also cut up the macarons from The Urban Tea Merchant and Thierry, opting to eat the coconut macaron from Theirry, knowing that we wouldn’t like it as much as the others. The general consensus was that the Thomas Haas macarons were very good, even though we liked the Urban Tea Merchant ones better… but that we would likely return to Thomas Haas for the combination of great taste and price.

My favourites from the day:
Lemon Bush and Napoleon – The Urban Tea Merchant
Pistachio and Mocha – Thomas Haas

I had a terrific time with Melanie, Sarah, and way too much dessert. We’re all looking forward to our next crawl… even if we don’t know what it is just yet. Ideas?