Monday, November 27, 2017

When croissants sell out

There is nothing that better convinces me a pastry will be amazing than learning that it will be near-impossible to acquire.

Recently, when on the Yelp page for a different bakery, I saw a review mentioning that the really good croissants were from somewhere called Tasso. Tasso? How had I not heard of this bakery? From the moment (a good long while ago at this point) I knew I'd be moving to Toronto, I've been keeping track of the eternal best-croissants-of situation. I thought I'd tried all downtown contenders, as well as some from further afield. While the baseline croissant standard is quite good (much better than, oh, say, New York), they sort of peak at Nadège or Bistro Normandie. From photos available online, and reviews, it seemed as if Tasso might be on another whole level. The real Parisian deal, but somewhere walkable (or TTC-able) from my apartment. How had I not known??

Here's how I hadn't known: it's only open three times a week, from 8:30am until they run out, which can be... not long after. It's also not near where I work, live or used to live, so there's no reason I'd have ever happened to pass by. (It's on a street I've been on maybe twice, both times to go visit an urban farm.) Convenience-wise, this was not so far from trying to go and get a croissant in France itself. But I was up, I was curious, so finally, today, I went.

I arrived and didn't see any sign indicating the name of the bakery. Instead, what I saw was a line. A San Francisco line. Not a November-in-Toronto line, or at least not one for something other than sneakers. (Young men regularly camp out all night in front of sneaker stores here, in all seasons.) But there was enough of a crowd, and not much else around that it could be for, that I deduced this was the place.

It was the place, all right. I got in/on line (which is it in Toronto? I'm trying to acculturate), between two families that knew each other. There was no Canadian politeness on any front in terms of either they or I moving position, as the whole thing is croissant scarcity, and everyone was very on edge about the possibility of the place running out. The man in front of me was telling the people behind me that one time, they ran out of kouign amanns at 8:35. So clearly I was going to need to order one of those. The woman behind me was saying that she no longer recommends the place to people she knows, as it's getting too popular, but not too popular as in too mainstream (I've just finished reading The Rebel Sell, so I feel obligated to point this out) but as in, someone else might get the last croissants. I felt sort of bad, being this interloper from outside the neighborhood, from America, even, which somehow makes it worse.

The people standing near me seemed to think the place was about to sell out. (Again, not sell out as in, like what some 6th grade classmates of mine were very concerned was happening to Green Day. Sell out of pastries for the day, or, rather, the week.) Others kept leaving with these big paper bags full of pastries. Why so many? That did it - I was going to get multiple pastries, too, if I wound up getting any, that is.

My turn came, and I could see... a bunch of things, really. I noticed a sign they put up when they're "almost sold out," which is amazing. I noticed that there's no seating - it's take-out only, but does serve coffee. An unusual choice in Toronto, to be sure. But mostly I noticed the pastries. Exquisite. Not over-hyped in the least, by the look of them.

Having now tried them (croissant and kouign amann), I can say that they are indeed the best in the city (barring any extra-secret bakeries open only ten seconds a week), easily as good as Parisian ones, and better than any in New York. The plain croissant has that flawless middle-of-croissant dough that I've basically only ever encountered at Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur, aka the best Paris bakery, which has sadly closed. This means... what does it mean? It means I now need to get up early on at least one weekend day and take some pastries home on the subway. In a very ambitious version, this gets incorporated into an early-morning jog. But the damage that could do to the pastries themselves might not be worth risking it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In line for sure. On line is pretty much only a NYC thing.

-from NS but have lived many many places