Mabel's Bakery & Specialty Foods
Mabel's Bakery & Specialty Foods opened for business this fall in the old Warmia Deli space on Roncesvalles, and after a total rennovation and completely revamped offerings, the storefront now features decidedly less Polish fare. But what is available - delicious fresh baked breads and sweets, along with prepared foods - has made Mabel's a must-stop amongst the neighbourhood patrons.
On a street filled with cafes, delis and the like, I wasn't convinced owner Lorraine Hawley would be offering things I couldn't get elsewhere (and likely, cheaper). I wouldn't call it inexpensive, but Mabel's has found a perfect niche on the street with sweets baked in-house (they had to hire a full-time pastry chef to keep up with demand) that are a welcome and rare departure from the Polish treats in most shops. With fair prices to boot.
Oh, and the bread. Mon dieu!
Marc Thuet baguettes, croissants and specialty loaves are brought in daily; on Fridays and Saturdays offerings from the east-end's St. John's Bakery complement Thuet's finest. And Bagel House bagels are available daily (90 cents each). There may not be a better baguette on Roncesvalles, and my wife and I have tried them all (we think). Thuet's baguette at Mabel's comes in 20 cents cheaper ($2.79) than the Ace Bakery baguettes on the block, and is sublimely satisfying with it's crispier-than-thou crust and lighter-than-air la mie (paragraph 3).
For a more special meal, or you know, Monday night, grab any of Thuet's specialty loaves ($5ish). I go a little too nuts for the challah, which has the softest interior after the most satisfying crust I've ever had on a challah (which is saying a lot, since my dad's cousins make their own for the Jewish holidays).
It's hard to decide which sweet to go for; the fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon sticky buns are not to be missed, and I couldn't resist the peanut butter fudge cookie sandwich ($2.25). In fact, you shouldn't miss it either. Unless the cupcakes grab you more; who am I to judge? The whole pies are a great addition to a dinner party; for around $15 you can take home an organic pie that is sure to delight your guests (or host).
For the savory-minded there are some nice options to comprise or complement any meal. Lorraine or one of her helpful staff members cheerily give instructions with the food, such as the time and temperature to reheat the personal lasagna. There is also a small but superb selection of artisan cheeses; I can highly recommend the Applewood Smoked Cheddar ($6.10/100g).
There are also interesting spreads and the like; I was intrigued by the chipotle hummus ($3.50 for a container) and they carry my favourite pheasant and pork terrine. Also good to know is that they have some offerings for those with dietary restrictions, such as a gluten-free lasagna.
Mabel's has quickly become a go-to shop for us. The fresh bread is the best on the block, the staff are friendly and the place is, perhaps not surprisingly, always bustling. In fact, our chief complaint is that stopping on the way home from work is often a crap-shoot on getting a baguette, and we haven't been willing to stop on the way to work because realistically, the baguette would be at least half eaten by dinner anyway.
Photos by Joshua.