Patisserie La Cigogne
Entering Patisserie La Cigogne, I make a beeline for the front pastry showcase to drool over the offerings of the day. The posted descriptions are mouthwatering on their own: the Bacarra, for example: "Crunchy pistachio ganache and light caramel cream filled with peaches. Or The Paradise, for example, with its "Orange flavoured Chocolate Mousse with Grand Marnier Creme Brulee filling, finished with sprayed Chocolate" ($4.35). 'Sprayed chocolate'? Clearly, I must investigate.
Several of the sweet and savoury offerings are prepared Alsatian style. Not surprising, considering that pastry chef Thierry Schmitt was born in the Alsace region of France. His experience in pastry making began when he was 14 years old, helping in a patisserie. To become a certified French pastry chef, Thierry had to go through many years of training at the apprenticeship, technician, and master's levels.
The wall of the patisserie is covered in certificates and awards (French and English) attesting to Thierry's expertise. This is no faux-French shop relying on a "Le" in its name to help sell pastries that someone else made. This is the real thing, my friends.
Thierry is a soft-spoken man with a French accent and an obvious passion for baking as well as Toronto. As I chat with him about his patisserie, I desperately wish that I retained more of my high school French. His wife Juan Li usually runs the counter; Thierry met her after living in Toronto for seven years, and praises the city for its multicultural atmosphere.
Thierry wakes up at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m. (!) every Saturday and Sunday to do his baking. Just preparing and baking croissants is a three hour process, and there are also the brioches, baguettes and other items fresh-baked on the premises. Thierry's weekend specialty is the Tarte Flambée, which is a savoury thin crust pie with bacon, chopped onion and cream cheese, baked in a stone oven and prepared Alsatian-style.
In addition to its wide selection of pastries and chocolates, Patisserie La Cigogne offers an all day brunch menu that includes crepes ($6.50), croissant sandwiches ($4), omelettes ($6-6.50), quiches ($7.50 w/salad, $22 for a whole quiche), and baguette sandwiches ($6.05).
One of my favourites is the Croque Madame ($6.50), which is a toasted brioche layered with ham and swiss cheese, topped with a fried egg. I have my Croque at a table in the patisserie's sunny patio area. A woman comes over and asks me what I'm having: "It looked so good that I'm going to order one, too!" Partway through the meal, I notice that my food is being eagerly eyed by someone else as well:
Thierry's favourite restaurants in Toronto:
Le St. Tropez: "for a relaxing evening dinner"
Asian Legend (Finch & Leslie): "for their Chinese five spices beef pie."
First two photos courtesy Terry Schmitt.