Category Archives: Bakeries

Fabulous Focaccia at Victoria’s Fol Epi

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Good luck not devouring this stunning focaccia—from Fel Epi in Victoria—in one sitting

I have a new favourite bakery treat.

It’s the focaccia bread at Fol Epi, a fabulous little organic bakery in Victoria, B.C.

It kind of resembles a little pizza—puffy and blistered and, when I ordered it, adorned only with slices of roasted chanterelle mushrooms. Anything more would be a distraction from this soft, chewy delight with its complex flavours.

I kept tearing off chunks of this simple masterpiece and stuffing them in my mouth. I wanted to save some for my host, but gluttony was getting the better of me. At $7, it’s a nice-sized lunch for one or snack for two… but, really, you don’t want to share this.

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Fol Epi is on a little Victoria harbour, next door to Caffe Fantastico Coffee Roasters

What makes the focaccia and Fol Epi’s other breads and pastries memorable is the attention to quality. Their heritage red fife wheat and rye grains, from Saskatchewan, are stone ground on site and the resulting loaves, baguettes, croissants, cookies and other treats baked in a wood-fired brick oven.

On the way out, I grabbed a lovely loaf of boule, a French country bread, to take back to my friend. Because the only thing left of the focaccia was crumbs.

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The boule was also exceptional

Fol Epi
101, 398 Harbour Road, Victoria B.C. (one other Victoria location)
Daily 7:30 am-5 pm
250-477-8882

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Edmonton’s Coffee Mecca

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The Columbian Coffee & Roastery is a nice new neighbourhood cafe in Edmonton

There’s a good case for making Edmonton the number two coffee hot spot in western Canada, behind Vancouver. Of course, Edmontonians aren’t as precious about how they roast and prepare their coffee as the wet coasters.

Still, there are always new coffee shops popping up in Alberta’s capital. After profiling half a dozen places a couple of years ago, I figured it was time for a fresh visit up north.

The first stop was The Colombian Coffee & Roastery, next door to the venerable Vi’s for Pies in the city’s leafy Glenora neighbourhood; the roasting happens at the back of the long, narrow space. It seemed like an odd, generic name, until I learned co-owner Santiago Lopez was from Colombia and that some of the roastery’s beans come from a family farm there. Talk about farm to cup.

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Nice ceramic mugs for the Americanos

The place was hopping on a dreary Saturday morning, with lots of folks ordering avocado toast to go with steaming mugs of java. Good stuff, evidence that if you build a good coffee shop in a nice district, the neighbours will come.

Somewhat harder to find is ACE Coffee Roasters, on a little side street south of Whyte Avenue in Edmonton’s Strathcona district. It’s a lovely, spacious place with high ceilings, exposed ductwork and a gleaming marble coffee bar.

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ACE Coffee Roasters is a spacious spot near Whyte Avenue

My Americano was one of the better ones I’ve had in Edmonton. The coffee is nicely chased with donuts baked at partner Café Leva in Garneau.

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Fine espressos pulled at the gleaming coffee bar

In the attached space, separated by a glass wall, is the company’s Caffe Tech, where you can drop a few grand on high-end home and commercial espresso machines. Think I’ll just let the expert barrista pull the shots for me.

The Columbian Coffee & Roastery
1, 10340 134 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Weekdays 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 8 am-6 pm, Sunday 9 am-3 pm
780-757-9195

ACE Coffee Roasters
10055 80 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Wednesday to Sunday 8 am-4 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday

Sinful, Toasted Cinnamon Buns

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Toasted cinnamon bun from motel restaurant in Beaverlodge, Alberta

Over the years, I’ve eaten a lot of cinnamon buns; that’s cinnamon rolls if you’re American. Indeed, I have recipes for two classic Edmonton cinnamon buns—the Tuck Shop’s and Mayfair Golf Club’s—which perfected the mix of gooey goodness, without being overly bready, and without any of that nasty icing.

But en route to a recent backpack in northern Canada, I twice encountered something I hadn’t seen before: toasted cinnamon buns. These were both offered at hotel restaurants, one in Beaverlodge, Alberta and the other in Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

I can see how toasting could improve a cinnamon bun that was a day old or a little doughy. And it’s one way of reheating them without resorting to a microwave. I didn’t see how these ones were prepared, though I assume they were sliced horizontally and toasted in some kind of oven.

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Despite all the packaging, our favourite toasted cinnamon bun, at Tumbler Ridge Inn Restaurant

We got them to go, which may not have been the friendliest thing for the planet. They emerged from the kitchen each in large white plastic bags containing a cinnamon bun in a Styrofoam box, four packets of butter and, in one case, several packets of cream cheese. They were then attacked with plastic knives and forks, as well as fingers.

I’m not sure how many calories were consumed in this starch-sugar-fat feeding frenzy. It’s a good thing seven hours of hiking ensued.

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Regular cin buns at Soups in Beaverlodge

 

 

The Boule Melts My Soul at 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters in Powell River, B.C.

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Bright, colourful cafe at 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters in Powell River, B.C.

My formula for a great coffee shop is, like me, pretty simple.

First, surprisingly, is superb coffee, preferably roasted in house, super fresh and expertly pulled or poured.

Second is one or two warm-from-the-oven baked goods. These can be dense fruit muffins, flaky croissants or no-icing cinnamon buns (“rolls” if you’re American). Just don’t wrap them in plastic… unless they’re a day old, in which case why are you selling them?

Third, that’s it. No sense complicating things. All you want is a steaming mug and a tender bite to savour, while not glancing at your screen.

The wonderfully named 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters—opened in 2013 by Margot and Nathan Jantz in Powell River on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast—has these simple, but rarely achieved, details nailed.

The coffee is small-batch roasted and available for purchase as bagged beans. My Americano is full flavoured and strong, the way I like it.

But what catches my eye is a rather unique baked good to go with the java. Yes, they have fresh sourdough croissants and local macarons on offer, plus wild-yeast sourdough waffles on Sundays.

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The coffee is excellent, but the sourdough boule steals the show

I’m instead immediately drawn to a basket of organic sourdough boule (a round, crusty bread), produced in house by talented 21-year-old baker Alexis. The boule is available as a full loaf ($6.50) and also as a bun, which I order for $1.50 (okay, it’s another 50 cents for melted butter, but still a steal). The bun is at once soft, chewy and tangy—one of the better baked goodies I’ve had with a coffee in quite some time.

32 Lakes’ café, on a downtown Powell River street, is full of light, with colourful art on the walls. I grab a window seat and gaze out the window as the coffee and boule slowly melt my soul.

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32 Lakes Coffee Roasters
4707 Marine Avenue, Powell River, B.C.
Daily 7:30 am-3 pm, except 8:30 am opening Sunday
604-414-8363

How About Duck Confit and Cabernet Cherries for Breakfast?

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Prep & Pastry is a bright Tucson breakfast joint with some eclectic dishes

“What’s your signature breakfast dish?” I ask the waitress at Prep & Pastry, a joint with a varied menu in central Tucson.

Without pausing, she replies: “The duck confit skillet. It’s what everyone comes for and writes about on Yelp and TripAdvisor.”

Sold.

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Now here’s something unique at breakfast: duck confit with Cabernet-braised cherries

The $12.75 dish certainly stands out from the same-old breakfast standards. When have you heard of ingredients like Cabernet-braised cherries and goat cheese mousse… at any time of the day, let alone seven in the morning? The standouts, though, are the slightly salty, shredded duck, excellent roasted fingerling potatoes and a couple of over-easy eggs. As a bonus, it’s served in a cast-iron skillet.

Prep & Pastry
3073 North Campbell Avenue (one other Tucson location)
Weekdays 7 am-3 pm, weekend brunch 7 am-3 pm

Revelstoke’s La Baguette the Perfect Road Food Stop

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The quick-serve counter at Revelstoke’s fabulous La Baguette

The drive from Calgary to Vancouver is a 975-kilometre, 10-hour-plus push that I endure a couple of times a year. To relieve the tedium and replenish the batteries, it’s nice to have a few go-to places along the way for good coffee and a quick, wonderful bite to eat.

One such place that I nearly always stop at is La Baguette, in Revelstoke, B.C. It ticks all my boxes for what constitutes great road-food dining on a long-distance drive.

First is its location. Revelstoke is about a 4.5-hour drive from Calgary, an ideal distance for a break, coffee refill and snack or meal. Second, La Baguette is just a couple of minutes off the Trans-Canada Highway, with on-street parking.

Third is the flexibility. La Baguette is both a bakery and café/restaurant. That allows me to quickly pick up an Americano, a fresh croissant or a hearty turkey-yam wrap from the counter (my only complaint is sometimes the line moves a little slowly). La Baguette has recently expanded, adding a little sit-down restaurant with largely the same menu, if you want a longer break.

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The bar in the new, sit-down restaurant

None of this would matter if the food wasn’t memorable. As I’ve stated in previous posts, La Baguette is one of my favourite bakeries/cafes in western Canada. The food is exceptional, the prices are reasonable (that turkey-yam wrap is about $7 and satisfies two reasonable appetites) and, most difficultly, the high standards are consistently met.

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The “healthy bread” might be the best toast I’ve ever had

And despite a relatively short menu, there’s always something interesting and unusual to try. Like the exquisite healthy toast (featuring spelt flour, coconut and dates), poached eggs over crispy potatoes, pulled siracha chicken on a brioche bun or a Montreal-style bagel topped with pork rillette.

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Montreal-style bagels loaded with interesting goodies

Did I mention the new restaurant has a little bar, featuring well-curated craft beers on tap, like the exceptional Twin Sails offerings from Vancouver suburb Port Moody?

That’s the only problem I have with this new sit-down café. It’s creating havoc with my driving schedule.

 La Baguette
607 Victoria Road, Revelstoke, B.C.
Daily 6:30 am-7 pm (8 pm in summer)
250-837-3755