Blintz on Tour: Bunners, Toronto

Two doors down from Hibiscus is Bunners, a vegan and gluten-free bakery. Toronto doesn’t seem to lack for vegan bakeries – I was devastated to discover too late to visit the existence of Apiecalyspe Now in Mirvish Village because IT WAS A VEGAN BAKESHOP CALLED APIECALYPSE NOW, THAT IS A-GRADE PUN WORK – and if Bunners is any indication of the general standard of vegan baked goods in Toronto then veg*n Canadians are disgracefully lucky.

Faced with an array of cupcakes, danishes, cookies and pie slices, I was a little overwhelmed for choice. Upon noticing though that they were down to a single butter tart, I knew that it had my name on it.

Butter tarts are a particularly Canadian dessert and usually involves, you guessed it, an obscene amount of butter, so I was very curious to see how a vegan version would pan out. It panned out like so: flaky, deceptively light yet decadently buttery pastry encased a golden, custard-like filling that was creamy, slightly greasy in a good way, and wholly melt-in-you-mouth delicious. I was immediately sad that there was only one to eat, yet simultaneously EVER SO SMUG IT WAS MINE.

I also took away a ginger molasses cookie with me, which I ended up eating for breakfast the next morning (cookies are a PERFECTLY CROMULENT holiday breakfast food, okay?). Nearly the size of my hand, top covered in fat cubes of granulated brown sugar and a piece of crystallised ginger marking the centre, it gave away easily when bitten and burst forth with a spicy, ever so satisfying mouthful. Your wouldn’t have realised it was vegan AND gluten-free if you hadn’t of been told.

I highly recommend Bunners as a must-visit on the Toronto veg*n trail. Pair it with a visit to Hibiscus and reward your vegie bowl health with a perfectly crafted sweet treat.

Bunners

244 Augusta Avenue, Toronto (there’s also a second location at 3054 Dundas Street West)

Ph: +1 (647) 350-2975

www.bunners.ca

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The Left-Handed Chef

I am going to be completely rubbished by Julian for this, but it is always best to admit to one’s shortcomings. So at the close of our visit to South Melbourne’s The Left-Handed Chef, I ended up peering at the menu taped to the front window for an inordinately long time, until he asked me what the hell I was doing. “I’m memorising what we ate so I can write about it for the food blog.” “Are you sure you don’t want to, I don’t know, write it down?” “Oh no, I have a really good memory for these things, I’ll be fine.”

Julian looked skeptical, as it turned out he had every right to be, as since I’ve finally came around to blogging about The Left-Handed Chef nearly a month after our visit (I know I know, I’m TERRIBLE), while I can distinctly remember everything that I had eaten, in a case of sheer food narcissism I only have vague recollections of what Julian ate. I know it was called something akin to a Big Breakfast Plate, there was bacon and eggs (maybe scrambled?), maybe tomato, maybe some kind of sausage? I really don’t know. So I am sorry, internet, my hubris means I have failed you once again.

I do however remember very clearly my meal and all the other impressions gleaned from our visit to The Left-Handed Chef, a little bakery and cafe that hangs out on Park Street. I’d been keen to visit on finding out that all the bread products used are baked on premises each morning, because why wouldn’t you be excited by fresh bread? BREAD IS LIFE (even if yeast does make my insides a little sad these days).

The set up is quite endearing, and old school in that several new wave cafe trends have clearly passed the Chef by. No little bowls of fancy salt will you find on your table, no unrefined cane sugar – the sweet stuff is bleached white and still comes in sachet packets. But the food that comes out on the plate is hearty and packs quite a tasty punch.

I went with The Green Breakfast – freshly baked wholemeal bread spread with smashed peas, two perfectly poached eggs with generously gooey yolks, and grilled stalks of tender asparagus. First of all, SMASHED PEAS. Why isn’t everyone doing this? It would relieve the fatigue of far too many smashed avocados around town. And these peas were sweet and not at all mushy, it was unexpected spring on bread. And speaking of bread, ooooh it was good, fresh and crusty and not at all lacking for not being the cafe standard of sourdough. Cracking the perfectly gooey orange yolks over the bread and loading it up with a bite of asparagus, goodness, it was just what the doctor ordered.

In terms of coffee, I actually do remember Julian saying that he felt his latte was a bit weak, and not terribly to his tastes. I did however how a lovely pot of English Breakfast tea, all woolen cosy-ed up, that was remarkably strong and multi-note flavoured considering it actually came from a teabag (although I’m often not as fussy about teabags if the end result is nice and robust).

The Left-Handed Chef may not be as slick as we’ve become accustomed to in Melbourne, but on the plate it gets everything that really counts right.

The Left-Handed Chef

Shop 2, 219 Park Street, South Melbourne

Ph: 9645 5800

www.facebook.com/TheLeftHandedChef

L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe

Having been thwarted on our first attempted visit to L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, Jess, Kim and I were determined not to let it slip out of our grasp. We returned the week after our abortive effort, this time ensuring we went on a day it was actually open!

L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe is quite nondescript from the outside; the only indication that there may be something interesting inside the warehouse exterior is the bright red front door. But through the red door is an enormous, airy room that is all industrial clean lines and high ceilings, dotted with well-spaced tables. One side of the space has been partitioned, and behind it you can see some serious baking machinery, giving you hope that these people clearly mean business about their sweets.

I definitely mean business about sweets, which meant that even though there were some intriguing savoury options on offer, I went straight for what would make my dentist cry. The raisin bread with coffee mascarpone was two slices of decadent bliss, with the pleasingly spiced hot bread providing a nice thick support for the mascarpone, which was very obliging in melting slightly, creating a sweet coffee, cheesy goo.

The best part about flipping through the Monsieur Truffe menu was discovering that there is a whole page devoted to tea. A WHOLE PAGE! So many options, my little tea-loving heart nearly gave out right there and then, but I pulled myself together and decided on the Russian caravan blend. Served in a very cute stackable teapot and cup set, it had that strong dank smell that I love (but tends to put most other people in mind of being drowned in a peat bog forever). Definitely an acquired taste, but I was so happy to see it and so many other more niche tea varieties available.

My companions were more sensible than me and started off savoury. Jess had the pea and mint omelette, which looked and tasted like spring on a plate. Kim had an Italian-style bread salad, with chunks of crusty bread which had been soaked in olive oil and tomato juice, slices of what looked like proper slabs of artisan bacon, dark green fronds of basil and a fat poached egg that oozed all over everything.

The sweet parade continued when we collectively shared two croissants with homemade, dribbly raspberry jam and the house chocolate sauce, which was like the version of Nutella you might taste in your dreams. We particularly wanted to try a chocolate croissant, but as I was talking to the staff up at the counter to find out about all the desserts in the cabinet, the last one was whisked away from under my nose!

Jess was particularly aggrieved by this loss, she had her heart set on a chocolate croissant, and secretly took her rage out on the gentleman sitting with his friend on the benches across from us who had ordered it. “Look at that bastard. Eating MY chocolate croissant.” Much glaring ensued. But while I grieved the loss of chocolate, I was really enormously pleased with our plain croissants, all flaky and crispy like all perfect pastries should be.

Continued sweets required more hot beverages. The 70% cocoa hot chocolate that I had with the croissant was probably, and I know you’re all used to my hyperbole but I’m saying this with the utmost sincerity, one of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had. If you love the bitter tang of really good dark chocolate this should be your drink of choice, it manages to be both bitter and creamy, and most importantly doesn’t leave you with a sickly over-chocolated tummy ache.

The staff are SUPER CHARMING, as you would expect staff with such delightful French accents to be. The best moment was when we had finished our croissants and were happily picking at the buttery flakes left on our plates, and the waiter said to us, “Ah yes, I will not take your plates just yet, because that is the true pleasure of the croissant, to eat all the tiny flakes.” TRUE FACTS.

Most impressively of all, my entire meal (so toast, croissant, tea and hot chocolate) came to just under $20! That is an obscene steal for the quality of produce! So go through the red door, so many sweet delights await you in the beyond.

L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe

351 Lygon Street, Brunswick East

Ph: 9380 4915

http://monsieurtruffe.wordpress.com/

Update 7/3/2013: As reported on Where’s the Beef, L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe has now been renamed East Elevation. While running with a similar menu, it is apparently now more vegan and gluten-free friendly.

Le Traiteur

I’m sure you’ve had this feeling before. When you experience a place that’s just so damn good that you end up enraged that it’s not situated somewhere bang in the middle of your day to day doings, and end up stamping around shouting “Why is it so out of the way? Why can’t I just go there EVERY DAY?!” You may also start plotting to kidnap the chefs in order to ‘convince’ them to set up shop in your garage so you can stroll out in your pj’s every morning and get some decent coffee and eggs with no hassle. This is how I felt after visiting Le Traiteur for the first time. It is infinitely depressing that I’m ordinarily never over the Spencer end of the city, cos this place is damn special.

I dragged Muffin over to the legal district one Wednesday afternoon, gabbing (probably incoherently) about how I’d heard about this French-style cafe that was full of delicious breadstuffs. It’s an impressive set-up aesthetically: floor to ceiling windows, neutral shades on the walls, complimentary brown tiled floors and brown curved cane chairs, and it’s all dominated by the spick and span display cabinets filled to the brim with baguettes and pastries.

I couldn’t go past what seemed to be to be a highly refined yet simple lunch, the basil and tomato consomme with stilton agnolotti. Clear broth was absolutely swimming with basil leaves, cherry tomato halves, sprigs of fennel and tiny lengths of green beans. Three big, fat agnolotti floated on top – thin homemade pasta enclosing a generous filling of creamy, pungent stilton. The soup was served with three slices of chargrilled, sourdough bread, which was utterly fresh and palate engulfing; well, it was to be expected, seeing as Le Traiteur bakes all their bread on premises. All together it was a wholly refreshing meal, with the tiny bit of body provided by the agnolotti. It was really the most perfect light lunch.

Muffin had the artichoke and waldorf salad baguette: marinated artichokes, crisp cos lettuce, apple slices, celery, strong blue cheese, and what Muffin described as an amazingly creamy mayonnaise. She was also highly impressed with the wonderfully fresh taste of the bread.

We also shared a serving of pomme frites (because I cannot pass up potato, the will is not within me). These were deliciously savoury and crisp, sprinkled with big flecks of sea salt.

Over a pot of earl grey tea and a chai latte respectively, I shared with Muffin a small square of chocolate brownie. This was an absolute flavour bomb of chocolate decadence! It was so gooey, it melted as soon as it touched the tongue. I only wish we’d had more room in order to try some of the delicate pastries tempting us from the display cabinets (you could almost see a halo of butter shining out from the croissants, it was glorious) but, alas, we were full!

I’ve honestly been feeling through the writing of this post that even with my obvious effusiveness, I’m not getting across exactly how much I loved this place and how it may have ruined me for all other foodstuffs. Let’s put it this way: if I was placed into some kind of horrendous nightmare world where I was told by hideous overlords of space and time that I could only eat at one establishment for the rest of the universe’s existence, I’d reply with “Just hurry up and make with the Le Traiteur brownie, you jerks.”

Le Traiteur

552 Lonsdale Street

Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9670 0039

http://www.letraiteur.com.au/