Vancouver is Pretty Sweet

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Too many decisions at Beaucoup Bakery in South Granville

Vancouver, BC – Jackie Kai Ellis looks more like a runway model or an interior designer than she does a pastry chef, but you realize the North Vancouver native knows her Plugra when she starts talking about croissants and caneles. She studied Fine Arts in Toronto and had a decent job, but chased her love of pastry to a school in Paris in 2011, and hasn’t looked back, opening Beaucoup Bakery here in the South Granville neighborhood just a little over a year ago. “It’s funny, because I got a C in French,” she said, over a plate of almond croissants dusted in powdered sugar and as flaky as a Valley Girl. “But after three months of intense study there, I was able to learn so much from the MOFs [Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, or craftsmen] and I wanted to bring that back home.”

 

The cafe and bakery is a little gem on a side street not far from the water, dominated by a long pastry case containing all manner of peanut butter cream sandwiches, rosemary sea salt cookies and French-inspired baked goods. A long walk along the water after a filling breakfast isn’t a bad idea. In nearby Kitsilano, German pastry chef Thomas Haas is widely regarded as The Man, at least in terms of pastry. The avid bicyclist creates dozens of pastries reminiscent of Pierre Hermé in Paris, which is no surprise, really, when you consider he was Daniel Boulud’s opening pastry chef at his namesake in New York City, when it earned three Michelin stars.

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German-inspired treats at Thomas Haas.

Haas worked at Vancouver’s Four Seasons before his stint in New York, but after working on the East Coast for a few years, he moved back to Vancouver about 12 years ago. He now has two locations, and opened the gleaming Kitsilano location about five years ago. On a typical weekday morning, moms are having coffee and people on laptops are sipping passionfruit-infused hot chocolate with a hazelnut danish or some apple strudel that appears to be more apple than pastry (not a bad thing). Haas also makes about a dozen different types of chocolate bars, with varying amounts of cacao, which determines their bitterness and potency.

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The front case at Thomas Haas in Kitsilano.

 

Back in the heart of downtown, tucked into a corner of the Rosewood Georgia Hotel, Bel Café is the province of Wayne Kozinko, the pastry chef at the hotel who also oversees the sweets at Hawksworth restaurant. Kozinko offers both sweet and savory items, like a ham & cheese-stuffed gougére with a chive omelet tucked inside, or an assortment of creative and delicate macarons. I particularly liked his croissants – flaky, tender, buttery affairs, clearly loaded with good butter, and sometimes filled with a rich almond paste and covered in slivered almonds and powdered sugar.

 

Croissants at Bel Café

Croissants at Bel Café

I realize most people come to Vancouver to eat the incredible Asian food, which spans the Pacific Rim and extends into India (Vij’s). But if you spend any time here – even if for a short weekend – the city’s patisseries and bake shops are definitely worth exploring as well. Just plan on a nice, long walk afterward.

Macarons at Bel Café

Macarons at Bel Café

 

 

 

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