It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… no, I’m just kidding. It has been a fabulous few months, partly because I got to visit two bakeries that I have been fangirl-ing over for a couple of years now: Butter Baked Goods in Vancouver, and Bobbette & Belle Artisanal Pastries in Toronto. Neither disappointed, and you should seriously drop whatever soggy, sub-par pastry you might be eating and get yourself to these hallowed grounds.
The bakeries are arguably similar: well-known, high-end, feminine, each with one (if not two, soon to be three) cookbooks, and both have a proclivity for alliteration with the letter “B.” They are sister bakeries in different corners of the country; making the rest of the provinces and territories sad, uninhabitable places to live (just kidding!).
Let’s start with my visit to Butter.
I had never been to Vancouver before in my life, and what was the first thing I did upon landing? Hop in a cab and head to 4907 Mackenzie Street. Just when I thought the cabbie was hopelessly lost in a residential area, there it was: Butter, tucked among the houses. (If you go, take the cab from the airport, it’s a shorter ride from YVR than from downtown).
As soon as you step in the door, the aroma of sugar greets you and ushers you into the floral haven. Marble tables and café chairs beckon you to sit and stay awhile, giving you time to peruse your choices. One of my favourite aspects of Butter is that they offer a light breakfast and lunch menu – I found the availability of “real food” a helpful way to mitigate my forthcoming sugar-high. Even late in the day, they had an abundant selection of cookies, bars, loaves and cakes. We sampled bajillionaire bars, dream slices, and dark chocolate cherry scones. But the runaway favourite turned out to be the empire cookie. To this day, I dream of the crisp snap of the cookie, the delicate almond glaze and the tart ooze of the jam.
Since my visit, there are days that the 4000km between me and that bakery seem too much to bear.
Luckily, I have Bobbette and Belle nearby.
Well, two Bobbettes and Belles actually; they have two locations in Toronto, but the one I frequent most is on Yonge St, near Lawrence. The effect of walking through their doors is similar to Butter, but with an added dose of French magical realism. Old frames hang from rolling pins, tarnished silver platters float on the walls, and the rainbow of macarons invite you to gaze upon the rows of delectable desserts. The location is unbeatable for a girl’s day out considering the atmosphere of the store, the ease of accessibility by transit, and the proximity of other boutique stores.
In order to maximize my dessert in-take, I purchase treats to eat then and there while sipping some gourmet Sloane Tea or Balzac’s coffee, and then go back for a selection to bring home. Besides, the take-away boxes are adorable. My go-to’s are the mini apple crumbles, lemon meringue pie and dreaming of someday ordering a custom special occasion cake from them (like the all-white, vanilla and mango wedding cake I had the pleasure of tasting once upon a time). But by far, my favourites are their French macarons. Since this treat became popular, I have sampled quite a few, but none are as delicate, as finely textured, or as elegantly flavourful as Bobbette and Belle’s.
Originally, I had planned this post as a direct comparison between the two bakeries. I meant to highlight their strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps it’s all the sugar, but the only conclusion I can come to is this: you need to visit both.
PS: if you aren’t in Toronto or Vancouver, giver their Instagram accounts a drool-worthy follow, or find their cookbooks and whip up a few of their treats in your own kitchen