113 - Rosewater and Spice
Some say the best pastries are French, while others argue that the Austrians and Germans are the ones to bake up the sweetest treats. While I enjoy them all, one of the most fantastic flavour combinations to quell my pastry pangs comes from the Lebanese.
Armand Boyadjian, co-owner and head pastry chef at Arz Fine Foods is a master with rosewater, dates, nut and cream fillings. He learned his craft as a 14-year-old boy in Lebanon, later augmenting his knowledge in Paris.
He's been in Canada since 1989 and, together with his brothers, started a quality Middle Eastern food shop with an extensive bakery featuring some of the very best in Lebanese pastry specialties.
His baklava, for example, is inspired. Unlike most bakeries in the city, Arz rolls out its own paper-thin sheets of phyllo, a time consuming task that Armand says is worth it. I agree -- the pistachio baklava is a decadent combination of toothsome pistachio pieces sandwiched between crisp, melt-in-your-mouth phyllo that's drenched in just enough rosewater to give the whole ensemble that distinctive Lebanese flavour.
If cookies are more your thing, the light, almost float-away ghrybe, or Lebanese style shortbreads, will fit the bill. There's also a stunning ma'moul selection -- plump, semolina cookies stuffed with pressed dates, pistachios or walnuts that avoid being overly-sweet like some of our North American cookies can be.
Whether you choose to take away your desserts or sit down at Arz's cafe and enjoy them with some Lebanese mint tea, I guarantee you one thing -- your sweet tooth never had it so good!
Arz Fine Foods
1909 Lawrence Avenue East