Perfectly delicious bakeries

Chantal Ireland picks her top five bakeries in the city

In the often gray mornings of November, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the fall colours drop away and it’s the perfect weather to tuck into a bakery for coffee and pastries. Mornings in a bakery are always the best — the cases are filled with warm, flaky things, the coffee is fresh, and staff is usually pretty friendly (it’s a shop filled with pastry after all). Choosing just five to describe was tough because it means leaving out some of my favourites. Pure Vanilla Bakery and Cascadia Bakery are owned by the same folks, and they make my favourite cookie in Victoria — it’s like a mini cake, a pumpkin cookie with maple frosting. It’s fantastic. Then there’s Ruth & Dean for cakes and lunch, and more cake — follow them on Instagram to see all the beautiful cakes. I love Wildfire Bakery for its loaves, Ottavio for the shortbread, Italian treats and gelato, and Bond Bond’s for the sourdough and buns. Check Facebook and websites for hours, specials and craving-inducing photos. Enjoy your cozy indoor time this November, in one of these local shops or at home with your provisions.

La Roux Patisserie, 519 Fisgard StreetOne of the newer bakeries in town, this shop is owned by two women who met while working at Murchie’s. Rebecca, with a legal background, and Emily with culinary experience in Paris, opened the shop in Chinatown and filled the front window with a glass encased goodies that entice passersby to join them inside. Much like the shops in Paris, the display is filled with patisseries and macaroons — check out the emoji versions, too cute — and their space inside is bright white. They serve Fernwood coffee and Silk Road tea, and you choose your own teapot from a pretty collection displayed on the back wall. It’s hard to choose between éclairs, tarts, cakes, scones and all that they offer, so I had a flakey, delicious croissant and a pumpkin tart in a chocolate crust. It was a nice balance of the two. The lime chocolate tart is next on my list. They also do whole cakes and pies to go. Enjoy a rainy November day staring out the window from a lovingly restored vintage chair, pastry in one hand, and tea in the other.

Fol Epi, Dockside Green, 101 – 398 Harbour Road, and Downtown, 732 Yates StreetWith the new location including a full service restaurant, Agrius, you can now find Fol Epi in Vic West and downtown Victoria. Mostly known for their breads, Fol Epi uses organic grains, milled on site, and baked in a wood-fired brick oven. Cliff and his team are so committed to Slow Food (a global grassroots organization started in Italy in 1989 to preserve local food cultures and traditions) that it’s evident in everything they make. With full shelves (maybe not in the later afternoon) of breads and baguettes as the backdrop, the pastry cases shine with tarts, pies, pastries, sandwiches (I love the egg salad), cookies and more. Fol Epi is one of those places that can transport you to a European vacation memory, a childhood cookie memory, or a simple daydream over Caffe Fantastico coffee. They are the perfect places to duck in out of the rain and experience a true commitment to one’s craft.

Fry’s Bakery, 416 Craigflower Road and Moss Street Market Saturdays April – OctoberWhen I showed up unannounced on a recent stormy Friday morning, I was quickly welcomed by Byron to step behind the counter in his small storefront and into the bakery. He extended a flour-covered hand, and introduced me to each of his crew. It was like stepping into an old friend’s kitchen. I discovered Fry’s at the Moss Street Market a few years ago and fell in love with the veggie hand pie, and Pain Rustique loaf made with red fife and other flours. Milling their own organic whole grain, they use sourdough fermentation to make the breads in a wood-fired oven. Hand pies in meat and veggie choices are fantastic, croissants are flakey and perfectly crisped, and on Sundays there is pizza and doughnuts. Just a few seats, so plan to take your treats home to curl up with.

Crust Bakery, 730 Fort StreetThe front window at Crust is the edge of a display counter where all the things you crave get slowly taken away throughout the day. It’s the perfect height for peering from the street, but as you step inside, the case continues and the choices multiply. Tom and his wife Crystal came from owning restaurants in Australia where he’s from, and eventually found their way to Canada where she’s from, to open Crust in Victoria a few years ago. They make a light rye loaf that I love — it’s our everyday breakfast and sandwich bread at home. You can find their pastries around town at a few cafes that order them in, or head right to the source. You’ll find a bright, small shop, with limited bar seating, serving coffee, lunch and all the treats you can imagine. Natural, whole, seasonal ingredients are the foundation of tarts, doughnuts, pastries, personal size pizzas, sausage rolls and more. Choose something from the gorgeous array of tarts, the chocolate ganache is divine, and the pumpkin — a seasonal favourite.

 

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