Sweet and Savoury.
In 1986, with little fanfare, a small bakery opened in Toronto's up and coming trendy neighbourhood, Cabbagetown. Already having outgrown owner Janet Schreiber's kitchen, it would be 4 short years before Phipps Bakery outgrew those digs. An upsize to include a cafe and relocation found their new home on Eglinton Ave. E.
Such was the success of Phipps that 10 years later further expansion would occur. Another 5 years would pass before, too busy to run as one entity, they split their retail and wholesale operations and both have thrived.
The retail store (bakery) offers great options for both the sweet and the savoury along with espresso (coffee, etc.) and a quaint little dining area in which to enjoy.
As I've said before, sometimes it's just better to let the place speak for itself. "At Phipps we love everything about great desserts and food. We love to make it. We love to eat it. We love to savour it. And we especially love the pleasure that it gives to all our customers. Selling good food is not just business for us—it’s our way of expressing what we stand for and our long time commitment to our customers."
If you see a mission statement like this, you can pretty much take comfort in the knowledge that you'll leave satisfied if not smiling like the cat that just swallowed the canary.
Phipps is a bit of a community anchor in the high rent, Forest Hill neighbourhood of Toronto. It's location is at once on the fringe of Forest Hill and right in the heart of the "Upper Village." Occupying a store front among the likes of pilates studios, clothing stores and other food purveryors.
The front of the bakery is simply that. A bakery. As far as the offerings anyway. There's, as I call it, a Trophy Case with cakes and pies and all those great goodies. The coffee bar is up here as well. It's almost it's own, separate place. You can come in, get a coffee and sweet, walk out and never know there was a tea room in back.
Back there is the hot table and salad bar. You can also find breads and sundry items. In an interesting decor plan, there's almost no transition. The dividing line between sweets and savouries is more or less marked by the Babka's.
This is also where the seating is. The small area of about 10 mismatched tables and chairs is set up like a European street cafe. Up to and including (faux) store fronts.
In the very back where the kitchen is and all the magic happens. So let's get a look.
There are a handful of items on the hot bar that are supported with a salad bar and some soups. There is also Chili daily. Entree's can include Ratatouille and Vegetable Chow Mein. These dishes as with the soups are subject to change daily but from what I can tell, pretty much anything you choose won't disappoint.
The Mac n Cheese served at Phipp's is good though not spectacular. It's got good cheese flavour and it pretty creamy. For those who like their pasta al dente then you'll be somewhat disappointed. This is not the be all and end all in mac n cheese however it's a solid offering that'll get ya where you want to go.
The Lentil Stew is absolutely fantastic. My only exposure to lentils (in stew form) is the Indian dish, dal. Which is curried lentils.
Here we basically have a beef stew with a minimal amount of beef and loads of lentils. The gravy is definitely tomato based with some beefiness to it. There's not a lot of heat and make no mistake, this is not at all "Indian like." Which I suspected. I felt it benefited from some pepper on top. Enough to up the heat level just a bit and thoroughly round out the flavour.
So after saying all that I get a message from the "Twitterverse" telling me it it's vegetarian. Leaving me, thoroughly, completely, with egg on my face.
Phipps uses Mountainview coffee in their shop and I can honestly say, it’s some of the best I’ve had.
My usual order, Americano, is smooth, rich and comes with a nice crema. While I like the slight hint of bitterness some coffee delivers I find that I don’t miss it here and even prefer it.
The Espresso delivers that bitterness. They serve up a nice, chewy, creamy strong cup of Italian coffee here. It has beautiful crema, so thick it left a hefty foam on the sides of the cup when I was finished.
The a fore mentioned Cinnamon Babka is excellent. As you know I'm a huge chocolate lover but if it's not chocolate, it better be cinnamon in my books. Oddly enough, I'd never had babka. I'm quite familiar with it's smaller sibling, the cinnamon roll so it's not like this is a new food for me. The biggest difference is cinnamon rolls are thin (ish) disks often covered with an icing, babka is the same type of yeast dough in loaf form with a streusel topping. Absolutely, thoroughly enjoyable. It would be nice to see them sell this by the slice in the cafe to drink with your coffee. It comes in chocolate as well.
The Apple Rugelah is simply fantastic. It's almost like a small apple pie. Big apple flavour complemented nicely with cinnamon. The pastry is not to be confused with pie dough but is good none the less. It's not quite as buttery or flaky as you'd find and texture wise it's maybe more like shortbread.
The cookies for the most part are very good. My lone exception to this is the Peanut Butter cookie. I should’ve known to begin with since I’ve had a hard time finding PB cookies I like. Their offering, while tasty, had a very dry, crumbly texture that I just didn’t care for. Much better is the Double Chocolate Chip which had good chocolate flavour and some really nice chew. Better still was the Cranberry, Oatmeal. Nicely chewy without a displeasing oatmeal taste but oatey none the less. The cranberries and golden raisins provide a nice amount of sweetness. My favourite though is the Chocolate Chip. A nice balance of chew and crispiness and with plenty of chocolate chips but not overly sweet. It’s just a good solid cookie.
One of the things on which non Canadian residents miss out is Butter tarts. These tarts are somewhat similar to pecan pie with it’s sugary custard. There is a base way to make them and then some will introduce pecans or raisins to the party. Phipps takes them further. Adding caramel or chocolate drizzle. They mix and match pastry and pecans to come up with 4 different varieties. First and foremost, I’d skip the chocolate ones. Chocolate and buttertart don’t mix IMHO.
The best I think is the Caramel Buttertart. They use shortbread as pastry and top it with caramel. What’s neat is you get a bite and think, mmm shortbread. Oh, there’s that filling. Then finally you get the caramel left since it’s a bit chewy. A terrific butter tart.
So there you go folks. Whether it's a just a coffee, a peace offering to your sweet tooth or a full meal. The home cooked offerings at Phipp's won't disappoint.
You can find Phipp's Bakery Cafe at 420 Eglinton Ave. E. in Toronto, On.
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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
Well that's all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.