UDPATE, DEC 2013: Altitude Baking has closed its doors. Stay tuned to see what opens up in their place…another bakery perhaps..??
My last official bakery visit was some time ago, so I planned to dive back onto the sweetness scene with an adventurous cross-town trip to Toronto’s little Portugal. The weather, it would seem, had other plans. Facing 40-ish degree temps this week and last, I’ve decided a trek ANYWHERE on the streetcar with the little guy would probably end in tears….and Felix would likely be unhappy too;)
So onto plan B: A visit to Leslieville’s Altitude Baking. It’s a place I’ve been going to on and off since I moved into the neighborhood and while it’s not a fancy place, it does house a few tasty gems but most importantly, it’s within a comforting few blocks of my AC equipped home. Let the fun begin!
First of all, there are three things I’ve discovered I really like at Altitude, and none of them is the décor. The place is tired-looking and cramped, with no room for more than two or three people at a time and the only place to sit is on the bench outside the door. But don’t let this scare you. Good things sometimes come in questionable packages.
Felix and I roll up to the tiny shop around 11:30 on a Thursday, and as I peek through the front window, I wonder if maybe they’re closed – so many empty racks!
But the door swings open with one pull and within seconds, I’m ordering those aforementioned three things I really like: A rum ball, an almondine tart, and oddly enough, the Greek-style spinach pie. (I say “oddly enough” because there’s absolutely nothing else Greek about this place but they make a spinach pie that would rival those found in Toronto’s Greek Town). In the bag goes one rum ball, one almondine tart, and…..no spinach pie because they’re already sold out for the day. Son of a gun! Same is true for many of the fruit muffins, and there are only two scones left as well.
Two pies are available, but more are on the way out.
The cookie line is fully stocked, as well as the “bar section” (think Nanaimo bar, brownie, date square, etc.) and there’s a good number of individually-sized quiches also:
What to do about my missing spinach pie? Time to try something new! The woman behind the counter said the cookies are quite popular, with the Neiman Marcus being the best seller, so I add one of these to my order and we’re off to the races.
As I’m packing my camera and goodies into the stroller, a rather loud argument erupts in the kitchen and spills out into the front of the shop….a squabble that would loosely fall under the umbrella of “employee dissatisfaction”, complete with several F-bombs.
Ahhhhh Toronto…it’s been a while since I’ve witnessed such a colourful display as a customer and I’d started to wonder if the city was losing its edge. Felix and I make a hasty exit.
With a need to ventilate poor little Felix’s back, we stop to have our snacks in the park. While I try to decide which yummy treat to break into first, Felix eats grass. And possibly a grub, but I think he spit that one back out. He may be gifted.
I start with a taste of the Neiman Marcus cookie (oatmeal, chocolate chips, pecan), since I haven’t tried it before:
It’s not bad. The sugar overtakes the oatmeal a bit, and the chocolate chips are a bit more sweet than choclatey. I liked the pecan pieces, although they were hard to come by. At a cost of $1.75, it’s probably not something I’d order again.
But as usual, the rum ball ($0.95) and almondine tart ($2.25) do not disappoint. The rum ball is the “standard recipe” type – not too sweet and the chocolate center is rich and soft.
The almond tart is the real deal – one of the best I’ve had in Toronto. The pastry is thick and flaky, the almond filling full of flavour and the apricot jam and raspberry are lovely additions. How they do this type of quality for the price in Toronto, I don’t know, but I’ll take it.
If you’re in the east end of Leslieville and in the mood for a sweet something while you’re on the go, why not give Altitude Baking a shot. A little bit of tasty for less than $5 and the chance to “overhear” some colourful language from the kitchen – isn’t that what life’s about?;)