Friday, June 3, 2011

Unique and Exquisite Taste

In Spanish it reads “Un sabor unico y exquisito” and is the banner for Autentica Spanish Food and Empanadas. It’s also hard not to agree. The little bakery and cafe (panaderia y café) in back of the Plaza Latina (more on that later) in the north west corner of Toronto is offering up a taste of Chile. From sweets, to breads, to empanadas there’s a little something for everyone. 
While not very large right now, Toronto’s Central and South American population is growing. More and more migrant workers are heading to Canada and the GTA seeking work. Often in the fertile farm land that surrounds the city. A sub culture of Latin restaurants and bakeries is sprouting up in and around the city. Carving out it’s own niche among the many different ethnic restaurants and neighbourhoods.

Autentica’s Plaza location (there’s another in Brampton) does a bustling business. Mostly within the burgeoning Spanish speaking community but more and more North Americans are discovering the many delights Chile has to offer. The shop is clean and does have a good amount of English so it’s not nearly as intimidating as other vendors. The staff are smiling and always willing to help. I think they enjoy the fact that “Gringos” are interested in their native flavours. 
Chile’s culinary traditions are based in it’s Spanish heritage with Middle Eastern, German and Mediterranean influences. The anorexic country’s extensive coastline means seafood features prominently. As do beef, maize (corn), olives and potatoes. And that doesn’t even include the wine.

Certainly a staple of Chilean (and basically all Spanish speaking countries) are empanadas. Larger in size than most and oddly enough using wheat dough rather than the plentiful corn meal for a casing, they come in several different varieties including, of course, seafood. 101_0607_thumb 
Also popular among Chileans, especially in the Patagonia region are sandwiches. Fresh breads are stuffed with a variety of meats and condiments and sometimes named after famous Chilean politicians. A prime example being the popular Barros Luco. A terrific steak and cheese sandwich named in honour of President Ramon Barros Luco.
But enough of this, ondele!

This visit my dining partners and I split a number of different offerings.

From the sandwich line we opted for the Chacarero. The English, translation is a farmer who works in a marsh. So roughly speaking, this is a farmers sandwich. Tender, grilled steak with fresh tomatoes, French cut green beans and mayonnaise on fresh bread. A rather unique combination that’s a meal in itself. 101_0614_thumb 
In the empanada department we opted for both chorizo and seafood. Probably my favourite all time the chorizo is well stuffed, not overly spicy and just plain tasty. The rope edging to seal the pastry is a nice touch.101_0612_thumb 
The seafood was a mixture of fish and shrimp and if you’re a fish lover you’re in business. Fishy in a good way and downright tasty. Okay, it’s also my favourite.101_0615_thumb 
A couple bowls (actually, they’re called molcajete) of salsa are there for you to help yourself. Both empanadas were able to stand on their own but also benefited from the mildly spicy garnish. 101_0611 
Perhaps equalling the main part of the meal is the sweets for desert.  
The pastry case has many delicious looking treats and we settled milhojas (me-low-ha's) and dulce de leche (caramel) churros.

The churros were very good. I’d like a little more cinnamon as I find it a great balance against sweet. All in all, very good.
Borrowing from the French influence milhojas are the Spanish equivilent of a Mille-feuille or Napolean. Layers of puff pastry and dulce de leche sandwiched and glazed then topped with powdered sugar. A very nice and yet not cloyingly sweet treat. 
You can find Autentica in the Plaza Latina foodcourt at 9 Milvan Ct., Toronto, On.

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Well that’s all for now from the foodcourt. ‘Til next time, adios.

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