Thobors (Mt. Pleasant)
Thobors Boulangerie Patisserie Cafe is packed on a Sunday afternoon with regulars popping in for their daily baguette fix. Amid the rush, the cafe's owner/baker emerges from the kitchen, greeting patrons by name and conversing in rapid-fire French. Amid the aroma of freshly baked loaves and hiss of the espresso machine, one could be forgiven for thinking they'd stepped into a Parisian boulangerie.
Located on Mt. Pleasant just south of Eglinton, this convivial bakery is owned and operated by Marc Thobor, a Parisian trained baker who previously worked at Le Comptoir de Célestin . In 2008 Thobor bought the business and re-branded.
The new space allows Thobor more room to express his formidable bread-making prowess, drawing on a repertoire that on any given day may include Roquefort walnut loaf, raisin brioche and fougasse aux bacon (an olive-oil based bread with bacon). And of course baguettes and pastries - lots of them.
Thobor's also caters to the lunch crowd with a small but tempting sit-down menu boasting quiches, feuilettes, baguettes and tartine's, all topped, served or stuffed with assorted goodies. My companion and I decide on the baguette sandwich (Brie, avocado and tomato, $6.50), a Croque Monsieur with turkey (also available with ham, $7.10) and a cafe latte thrown in for good measure.
The baguette arrives laden with generous chunks of Brie, and things are off to a good start. Things quickly accelerate to extremely agreeable as I take my first bite of the dense, nutty baguette, so chewy it's like I've popped a pack of gum, but in a pleasant way. The creamy Brie complements the resistant bread and the tomato adding a cleansing note to the mighty mouthful.
The Croque Monsieur comprises two hearty slices of house-made pain de mie (white sandwich loaf) covered in a rich béchamel sauce. It is a large, indulgent dish that is best not hurried. Mine is served warm and when cut in two a minor sea of cheese oozes forth. The sourdough tones and firmness of the bread balance the stronger tastes of the béchamel; however the turkey, in two thin, rather sad slices, was overwhelmed by the whole affair and became relegated to texture.
In keeping with the cafe's dedication to authenticity, my cafe latte was over-extracted, unnecessarily large and moderately bland.
Steeling ourselves for our final onslaught my intrepid wing man and I consider the siren selections of house pastry chef Ryosuke Kita, who honed his art in Tokyo and Osaka and brings a Japanese sensibility to his litany of pastries and deserts.
Alas, the sheer scale of Kita's oeuvre puts impossible demands on patrons, sort of like 'Saw' for sugar junkies. How to choose between the almond cream croissant and the meringue mousse cake with raspberries? Do I indulge in the opera cake (almond biscuit, chocolate ganache and espresso butter cream topped with chocolate glaze) or the flourless chocolate cake? Or shall I throw caution to the wind and pounce on the Saint-Honore (pâté brisé pastry filled with cream and dipped in caramel) and hand-made nougat frais? Overwhelmed, I go classic and opt for an almond croissant, beignet and lavender macaroon.
The croissant is (predictably) rich, with the almond cream fusing the pastry into a soft, sugary cluster. Best shared between two.
The beignet, a lightly fried donut covered with icing sugar, is more manageable and has a rewardingly firm exterior, though I prefer them served piping hot. The macaroon ends up being the perfect note to end our adventure on: light and with a reassuringly even texture that highlights the delicate lavender flavor.
The imagination, quality and range of its breads and pastries makes Thobors a must-eat destination for any fan of French baking or general happiness. Just make sure to get two baguettes when you go, one for later and one for the trip home.