Archive for Review

Vancouver’s Best Croissant

Last summer, I was in Paris. Le sigh. Sadly, I cannot go to Paris every summer. This seems wrong, but nevertheless….

While I was there, my goal was obviously to do the cool Paris things that one does; museums, architecture, food. You can read all about my adventures here.

Authentic Paris Croissant

I also wanted to take a cooking class in Paris, if for no other reason than I could say “remember that time I learned how to make croissants in Paris?” My class was at Le Cuisine de Paris, an english-language cooking school that caters to culinary tourists.

It was a three-hour class, and whoa nelly! Making croissants is hard and incredibly precise. They also require a ton of butter. Like, I mean an entire pound of butter per batch. And French butter is much higher in fat content than our butter here in Canada.

It was a great experience. Beyond learning to make them, I also ate them every day. In Paris, every corner patisserie has them, and they are relatively inexpensive, usually just a little over one euro. They are made fresh every morning, along with the baguettes.

The French attitude towards bread in general is that it should be made and consumed, if possible, on the same day. I heartily endorse this.

So, when I came home, I started to compile a list of the best patisseries in the city. Who had the most French-like croissant?

It has taken me months to write this post, because I can’t eat that many croissants. But I did it! And here are Vancouver’s best croissants.

But first! What makes a good croissant?

Well, it needs to be light. Croissants are made with flour, yeast, water, salt, butter and milk. Both the yeast and the technique of folding contribute to the lightness of the pastry. The folding also makes the layers. You want to be able to see those. Your croissant should be flaky. Good croissants kind of shatter when you pull them apart–crumbs everywhere. Finally, they should be crispy and toasted on the top.

All right. So, in full disclosure, this list was made by crowdsourcing from Facebook. I then attempted to eat and rate as many of the croissants from the list as possible. Some of them are from memory (meaning I have had them in the past, but not in the past 3 or so months since I started this project). I will continue to chip away at ones I’ve not yet tried, and update this post. You’ll know I’ve tried something if there’s a photo of it.

Let me be clear: the barrier for entry on this list is pretty high. Everything listed here is good, meaning it’s artisan-made, in-house, and it’s made using traditional French methods. So basically you can pick anything on this list and know you’re going to get an authentic croissant. My very difficult task was sourcing who was the best of the best.

I have organized into neighbourhoods for ease.

Yaletown/Downtown

Baugette & Co. I’ve been buying croissants from this place for years. It’s in the Davie Village, which is about a 2 km walk or ride from my house. I figure that 4km round-trip cancels out any calories from the croissant, right??? Right???

Small Victory. This cute, marble-lined coffee shop on the edge of Yaletown is not my favourite. It probably should be… it’s lovely inside, with lots of natural wood touches, and marble countertops lining the open kitchen. But there’s something about it that doesn’t feel quite right to me. Like a very pretty girl with a mean personality. Parking is a challenge. Coffee’s pretty good, though, as are the baked goods. It’s always crowded.

Angus T

Angus T. brand spanking new Yaletown coffee shop/patisserie, they serve nothing but coffee and a rotating menu of croissants. The day I was there they didn’t have a plain croissant, but their kougin amann was a thing of beauty (stay tuned for a whole blog post on these–my new obsession).

Theirry. Part of the Top Table group, which also includes some of the top names in fine dining in the city (think West, Araxi, Blue Water Cafe), Thierry was where I first ignited my macaron obsession. They make a proper croissant here, along with lots of other fancy French pastries. Be warned: it’s always busy. Always.

Tartine. Tartine is one of those places that you don’t want to tell people about because you’re afraid it will be overrun by hipsters. The original location is right under the Burrard St Bridge on Beach Ave, and is a convenient stop when you are riding your bike around the seawall and need to refuel. It smells like a proper bakery, and let’s face it, there’s no better aromatherapy than that. They just opened up a second location in the Davie Village.

Kits

Viva Fine Foods. A Kits breakfast institution, Viva is a well-loved local neighbourhood joint. There’s very little seating, but that’s okay, because it’s right on Kits Beach. Take your treats to a bench facing the ocean, and have a moment.

Patisserie Lebeau. One of the “foodiest” blocks in the city (at least until Barbara Jo’s shut down), Patisserie Lebeau is next-door to Les Amis du Fromage. It’s a perfect marriage. They do the most amazing waffles here, as well. I mean it. Don’t just go for the croissants. Get a waffle, too. And get there early, they sell out, but not on Sunday. I have gone and been disappointed so very many times on a Sunday. I can never seem to remember they aren’t open.

Plasir Sucre

Plaisir Sucré. otherwise known as the place I go while I’m waiting for my kid to get his teeth cleaned. No, seriously. Yes, it’s beside my kid’s dentist, and that’s how I discovered it, but I go here when he’s not at the dentist, too. People here speak French. I often order in (my terrible high school) French. It has a very authentic feel to it, and I love that it’s a small business, family-run. It is very worth supporting, and the croissants are good, though my taste-testing helper thought they weren’t the freshest (though I’m pretty sure they were made that morning).

Beaucoup

Beaucoup. When I crowdsourced “who has Vancouver’s best croissant?” the name that came up over and over, more than any other, was Beaucoup. It is insanely charming, though tiny. And although Jackie Kai Ellis no longer owns it, Betty & Jacky Hung, the current owners, have filled her shoes nicely. Full warning: if you are a fan of this croissant, you’re not going to like what I have to say next. For me, this croissant is too buttery. I know! Can there be such a thing? If you leave it in the paper bag, you’ll notice quite quickly that the bag is covered in grease spots, and when you eat it, your fingers will be covered in butter. If this is your jam, then carry on. But I like my croissant (and this was my experience of croissants in Paris) a little more moderate on the butter. This is also the most shattering of all the croissants I have tried. The crumbs are legion.

Bel Cafe

Bel Cafe. Another place I grew to appreciate and love the macaron. The original location is in the Hotel Georgia downtown, but they just opened up a second, larger location in Kits, on the edge of Granville Island. It’s open and airy, with tons of modern touches in stainless steel. Again, a very solid, good croissant.

Bread Affair

A Bread Affair. Located on Granville Island, and with their croissants sold at Farmer’s Markets around the lower mainland, this one was also a popular choice. The reality, however, for me, was not great. I had one from a Farmer’s Market, and I suspect it was not made that morning. Perhaps I would have better luck visiting the bakery (which I have in the past and loved).

Their There

Their There. Owned by the same guys that run AnnaLena, this slip of a coffee shop has only been open on West 4th for a few months. It’s cute. And every time I’ve been in there, it’s been packed. Every time. Part of the reason why is because of the interesting pastries. They’re doing cronuts, buns made with bagel dough and stuffed with cream filling, fun donuts and gorgonzola-and-mortadella croissants. The croissant here was one of my favourites. It was crisp on the outside, but moist and soft on the inside, a little on the sweeter side for a croissant.

North Shore

Temper Pastry

Temper Pastry. I’ve been a big fan of this place ever since it opened in the Dundarave Village. Dundarave, BT dubs, is kind of foodie heaven. There’s a supreme butcher there, great coffee shops, and perhaps some of the best French food (The Truffle House) you’ve ever had. The shop has that lovely neighbourhood feel to it, it’s airy and light with tons of windows and outdoor seating in the summer. They do chocolates, pastry, light lunches, coffee, and of course, some fine croissants.

Thomas Haas

Thomas Haas. Both Haas and Chez Christophe (below) are both thought to be master patisseries. The Haas croissants are bigger than the ones I had in Paris, but they are very nice, well done. (second location in Kits)

Faubourg. Frenchy-french-french! Yeah, this place is, too. It feels a little commercial to me, slightly less artisan, but the food is good. (second location downtown)

Burnaby

Chez Christophe

Chez Christophe. This is another business I have been happily following the success of from the first day they opened their doors. It’s worth the trek to Burnaby Heights to this lovely coffee shop/patisserie, especially since they moved across the street to bigger digs. The croissants are good, though a little lacking in flakiness. One of my favourite things from here are his “flutes” which are puff pastry baked into twisty straws. The sandwiches are also great, and bonus! There are vegan and vegetarian options.

East Van

L'Atellier Patiesserie

L’Atellier Patiesserie. It’s weird. I drove past this place 4 times before I figured out where it was. The location is just off of main, in the industrial/brewery district. The neighbourhood is full of artist live/work studios and automotive garages. In fact, my guess is, this place was something industrial before they took it over. The retail part is tiny, just about 1 table inside, and few more outside undercover, and the back is a bakery. It’s all very strange, but the croissants are legit.

Marche St Georges. There are a few places in Vancouver I go when I am most missing Europe. One is for a glass of wine on the patio of the VAG. The other is Marche St George. Tucked away in the middle of an East Van neighbourhood, it’s a destination for me, but for the lucky people that live nearby, it’s just about the best neighbourhood cafe in the city.

Batard

Batard. Okay, I’m going to say it. Batard has the best croissant in the city. Never mind that I was completely seduced by the shop. When I talk about the places in the city that make me feel like I’m most in Europe, Batard must be on that list. It’s utterly charming. There’s a bit of a market here, too, so if you need French-related stuff, they have it. They also have fresh artisan bread, coffee, sandwiches, to-go meals and even vegan options. But the croissants. You guys. The croissants. They’re buttery without being too greasy, flaky, but not shatteringly flaky. You can literally see the butter inside them when you open them up. They are perfection.

Okay! There it is!

I’m sure many of you want to argue with me right now, and tell me what I missed, so please do so in the comments below. What’s YOUR favourite croissant in Vancouver?

 

 

 

Magnesium Supplements

Friends! Hello!

via GIPHY

So, I’ve been absent for a few weeks, taking some much-needed time off. I spent a chunk of it on a floatie on a lake in the Okanganan. I spent a chunk of it sick in bed. A lot of that time I spent thinking about this blog (and my other ones) and what the heck I’m doing here, and what I want the future to look like. But more about that later, in more relevant post.

This post is about something new I’m doing for my health. So, I should start by saying that I think I live a fairly healthy lifestyle. I mean, I eat french fries. And donuts. Duh. Because life without those things would not be worth the living. But while I do enjoy fries-donuts-pies, I try to not eat those things every day. In fact, sometimes I don’t even eat them once a week or even less. I don’t eat meat, so my diet is pretty vegetable-forward, and while I still haven’t joined a gym, I live an accidentally pretty active lifestyle, that includes a lot of walking and riding my bike.

In terms of supplements, I’m not a huge fan of the “oh, I eat a shitty diet, so I’ll just take a multi to make up for it” kinda attitude. I like to try to get what I can, as much as I can, from my diet. One thing I do sometimes take is Iron or B-12, as those can sometimes be tricky to get enough of when you don’t eat meat.

This summer, however, I started taking magnesium supplements.

Magnesium Spray

There’s a few reasons why. First off, my sleep has been wacko. I have been experiencing what I call “donut sleep,” which is when I fall asleep at the normal time, then wake up somewhere usually after 2 am, but can’t get back to sleep for hours. What’s the deal with this? It could be partially due to hormone changes (here in my 40’s), but it likely is related mostly to stress.

You see, friends, I have an awesome, really smart brain. That drives me crazy. It’s like there’s a hamster in there all the time, just running and running, and it never takes a break! I have a very busy brain, constantly making lists, worrying, puzzling shit out.

So while that might be great for me in some other areas of my life, when it comes to sleep, not so much.

I was also having some serious muscle twitches (also at times of great stress, of which, sadly, there was kind of a lot this summer). I have tried natural solutions like melatonin, but it doesn’t really work for me, and makes me feel all weird and spacey the next day.

So I started doing some research, and one of the solutions that came up was a magnesium supplement. Turns out most of us don’t get our recommended daily allowance of magnesium (which ranges from around 300-500mg/day) from our diet alone.

Foods that contain magnesium:

  • Green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach and kale)
  • Fruit (figs, avocado, banana and raspberries)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans) and tofu (soy bean)
  • Vegetables (peas, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, artichokes, asparagus, brussels sprouts)
  • Oily Seafood (salmon, mackerel, tuna)
  • Whole grains (brown rice and oats)
  • Raw cacao and dark chocolate

What Magnesium does for the body:

Magnesium really is everywhere in the body – it’s the 4th most abundant mineral. It’s involved in hundreds of different biochemical reactions and enzyme systems, supporting processes like protein synthesis, cell growth, and energy production. It has roles in nerve function, muscle control, and blood pressure. Even blood sugar regulation depends on magnesium.  —ScienceBasedMedicine.org

Some folks have experienced success taking magnesium to help with things like restless leg syndrome (or my eyelid tic) and cramps, fibromyalgia, headaches/migraines, and osteoporosis.

It’s also been reported to help with anxiety, stress and insomnia.

sleep patterns magnesium

Sleep patterns, before (top) and after (bottom). The white bits are “awake sleep.”

Ways of taking Magnesium Supplements:

Tablet/pill format. Ideally, you want to take your magnesium supplement later in the day so it has the best possible effect. I usually take mine in late afternoon or early evening.

Topically. Okay. Let’s talk about poop here for a sec. Taking a magnesium supplement can have a, um… shall we say, laxative effect on your digestive system. If you’re not super regular anyway, this can be a good thing. But if it’s an issue for you, topical application of magnesium is for sure an option. There are sprays, creams, and also epsom salt baths. I’ve been using a magnesium spray (from a local company called Promedics) before bed. You can spray it on your feet or on your belly, but keep it away from delicate skin. Just FYI, you may experience a tingling sensation with a topical magnesium supplement.

So, yeah, things are better now. I’m sleeping better. Most nights I sleep right through the night. Sometimes I wake up, but I’m more able to go back to sleep, and not be awake for hours tossing and turning.

I’d love to hear from you! Have you tried magnesium supplements, and for what? Did they work? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

References:

Foods that Contain Magnesium

Magnesium: the cure to all disease? 

 

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