My road to Nadege Patisserie was longer and harder than I ever could have expected. 4 weeks, to be exact, as our visit fell on their one-month anniversary, and about...4 weeks after I had initially planned to go. My Nadege dates and I had made many futile plans to visit during this time (you know how the summer is), and they visited without me even more times than that.
Thus, when we all finally rendezvoused at this West Queen West establishment, the hype had reached epic proportions. The sharp, white corner facing off with Trinity Bellwoods Park is hard to miss, and its pristine white and shiny walls, tables, sugar bowls, and absolutely everything seem frighteningly easy to mess up.
I suddenly feel underdressed. But I am still treated like someone who has every right (financial and otherwise) to be indulging in some magical little French delicacies known as "macarons".
These light and crisp cookies sandwich a variety of thick and creamy ganaches. Lucky me, I am with the macaron twins and they purchase enough on their own to give me a pretty broad sample, including poppy, pistache, and rose.
"I almost cried when I ate one of these in the car the other day," Dylan says.
"Seriously. I was like, okay, pull over and have your moment, before you get us into an accident." Steve verifies.
Sweet and coolly fragrant, it melts in my mouth as I melt, ever so-slightly, into my chair. My coffee is sweetened with perfect, imperfectly-formed lumps of white and brown sugar, while my tiny spoon tinkles against the sides of my fine glass teacup.
I feel far daintier than I should ever be allowed to feel (especially in this Guns 'n Roses t-shirt). Last week I was (apparently) Jay Gatsby, today I am Marie Antoinette. The Sophia Coppola version, FYI.
My friends' macaron-bender allows me the freedom to indulge in one of the apricot croissants that first caught my eye. It's everything that I hoped for; only the mildest bit of sweetness in this fine custard, and a dense yet flaky pastry. Two gleaming halves of a slightly-glazed apricot are set on each side, like fruity jewels.
Nadege herself, Executive chef and co-owner (along with her husband Morgan), is a sweet and friendly (and French) lady, and she takes me on a bit of a tour. She makes it very clear that every item is crafted to be a shining example of quality and care.
Gourmet ingredients are brought in from the locales which do them best; for sandwiches, it's white ham from Paris, prosciutto from Italy and Spain.
The bread is baked on site fresh every morning (as is everything here, she adamantly states) and with such flavours that will most perfectly complement the other elements- raisin and walnut buns, for one example. They are all garnished with only the freshest, local produce.
I am encouraged to try some samples of gourmet marshmallows which are displayed on top of the pastry case. I had already helped myself the second I walked in, but not to the Gin and Tonic or Violet, which are profound lessons in grown-up candy-making. Light, airy and certainly unlike any I've ever had, they are "very trendy in Paris," she tells me.
"Did you try one of the cakes? You have to try the cakes!" Nadege insists. "They're our specialty."
My dining companion and I dig into the first of two painstakingly-crafted creations. (Our group is down one by now).
"I feel like I'm destroying art," Steve says to me. That's because we are. Delicious, delicious art.
Morgan walks by and proudly notes, "everything is edible, except the gold foil at the bottom". Paper-thin sheets stamped with the store's logo hold together a rectangular creation that we both, independently of each other, refer to as a "house".
The black currant flavour explodes in a dense, tart mousse that is perfectly complemented by an even tarter lemon and subtle-as-air violet.
This subtlety of flavours is repeated in our second round. A lovely, lemondrop-shaped specimen that still leaves me skeptically thinking, "there's no way this can beat the other."
But it certainly elicits the same brand of eyes-closed savouring. The integrity of the pink champagne is miraculously maintained as it literally bursts in between chunks of strawberry and mango. We are dizzy and so very full.
From what I gather, this is all in a day's stroll through Paris.
"We walked by this one chocalatier's shop," Morgan says as I half-intrude on his conversation with another lady well-versed in the city's glamorous ways.
"And we thought it was a jewellery store."
It's all starting to make sense to me. The white gloves, just-so table-settings, neat little rows of croissants, and those kickass "Oui Madame" t-shirts they all seem to be wearing.
It's not just dessert to these guys; it's an art, an opulent experience. My Guns 'n Roses t- shirt and I can use a little of that every now and again.