Quaff Cafe may be pretty new to the Queen West strip (four weeks to be exact), but to at least two of my friends, it's already a near and dear neighbourhood fixture.
A lot can happen when you're away, it seems (which is what I'd always feared, but never believed).
It's almost too appropriate that in the midst of re-orienting myself into Toronto's coffee culture, I ran into these same friends walking away from the establishment in question.
After heading back in with them so we can all marvel at what a small world it is (the boys have a rapport with the owners that exceeds even the one I'd cultivated mere moments before), we walk away with take-out orders as they rave about their favourite new spot.
Their joy focuses largely on the uncommon kindness of the owners and the quality of their espresso, "the smoothest in Toronto!", Dylan swears, with Stevie emphatically nodding in his wake.
They also swear by the gently-decorated interior with its unobtrusive music and conversation (and free Wi-Fi!), calling it the perfect workspace.
But this is all in the future.
Before I knew any of the above, it was just me, wandering in on a Sunday night. The impending dusk pushing my craving for coffee and pastries away in favour of something a little more substantial. With the sandwiches having been mostly been snapped up, I'm offered some soup. "Borscht," to be precise.
"Ooh, is that the red stuff?" I've never had it before, so I decide I may as well. I've been pretty adventurous lately.
This one has a tomato-base, cabbage, big chunks of carrots and some slow-cooked beef; mouth-wateringly hearty, it tastes like the cook behind it has spent quite some time perfecting the process.
I am absolutely certain that it's the warmest, most lovingly-made thing I've eaten since I left the care of my compulsive-cooker relatives in the Balkans two weeks ago. It fills me with sustenance and comfort, and makes me want to welcome autumn for the first time this year.
I'm equally appreciative of a platter full of tiny treats for $1.50, as I always get a kick out of all things small and perfect.
I would be remiss not to mention those little single-serving jars of jam which I've always wished I could buy. They're here, on sale ($1.50) and display, which comforts me somehow.
Other treats include the one-bite butter tart, which seems perfectly engineered to satisfy my tiny craving, but I know there is no way I can ignore the Alfajores beside it; delicate little cookies sandwiching a filling of dulce de leche, and garnished with powdered sugar and coconut.
But before I get a chance to try them, I'm lavished with an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie-- immediately followed by a white chocolate Macadamia nut cookie, once my secret chocolate hate is divulged by the guy who served me earlier (whose suggestion of an chocolate croissant I had to refuse).
They're a house specialty, baked fresh on site with those croissants I sadly did not get a chance to sample (yes, I have issues with almond flavouring too, I'm sorry, and I don't know what my problem is). It's very fresh and chewy and ensures that I really won't need to eat any dinner tonight after all.
This quiet Sunday evening is exactly what I needed, somewhat depressed after having returned home to the death of summer.
The streets are peaceful and subdued in this bluish light, and Quaff, with its simple, sophisticated storefront, and twinkling chandelier seems very much at home next to its neighbours, and everything finally seems to be getting back in order for me.