Best of the City 2011: Six of Toronto’s tastiest treats and where to get them
Whoopie pie Wings Ice cream Fries Marshmallows Cask-conditioned ale
Bobbette and Belle
1121 Queen St. E., 416-466-8800
For any kid who grew up munching Jos. Louis, Bobbette and Belle’s chocolate whoopie pies are a revelation. About a third the size but with a richer, more complex flavour—the cake is made with peanut butter and extra-strong Callebaut cocoa powder, and the filling is a decadent Swiss meringue buttercream—the only similarity is that each satisfying portion is neatly wrapped in plastic. In the ideal whoopie pie, the cake should be slightly dry and not terribly sweet, to balance out the creamy, saccharine filling. When the ratio is off, the pie tastes either desiccated or like a mouthful of frosting, but when the ratio is right, as is the case here, each bite is nostalgic, comforting bliss. $2.50 each.
Big Bone BBQ and Wicked Wings
207 Eagle St., Newmarket, 905-853-9888
In a strip mall around the corner from the Newmarket courthouse, brothers Tim and Lee Rombos skin chicken wings, smoke them low and slow over hickory wood and finish them on the grill with just a lick of tangy, vinegary, slightly fruity sauce, so that what you get is dry (but not too dry) and savoury-smoky instead of the usual mouthfuls of gloop and fat. You can also order regular fried wings here, and there’s a sauce option called “911 Inferno.” But you know better now. $9.95 a pound (includes a side).
Ed’s Real Scoop
920 Queen St. E., 416-406-2525; 2224 Queen St. E., 416-699-6100
The age-old cone might not be as trendy as frozen custard or parfait kefir, but there’s a reason Ed’s Real Scoop is perennially crammed with all manner of east-end sweet seekers. All of the 44 flavours on display are made in-house with real cream and all-natural ingredients, including a coffee ice cream that’s jolted with shots from Mercury Espresso Bar. It tastes exactly as it should, like a strong cup of java with an indulgent dose of sugar and cream. $4.
The Queen and Beaver
35 Elm St., 647-347-2712
They’re double-fried, obviously, the golden-brown batons of perfection at the Queen and Beaver. They’re not shoestrings or wedges, but proper fries. Chef Andrew Carter favours russets, but Yukon golds work well, too. Every day, some 300 pounds are sprinkled with kosher salt and served alongside a dollop of house-made ketchup. “It’s a little funky,” Carter says of his bright orange-red dipping sauce (the eight spices are top secret, but we detect curry and coriander seed). “You either love it or hate it, so we do offer Heinz, too.” Whatever they’re dunked in, the just-greasy-enough spuds are a mandatory accompaniment to a choice microbrew selection of after-work pints. $6.
780 Queen St. W., 416-368-2009; 1099 Yonge St., 416-968-2011
It takes a moment for one of Nadège’s cumulus cloud–light marshmallows to dissolve on the tongue, but hours of prep to make each flavour-packed cube perfect. The batter—a simple mix of gelatin, water, sugar and all-natural flavour extracts—is set for at least 24 hours before being divvied up with a ruler, hand-cut with wire and coated with corn starch (to make them less sticky) and icing sugar (to add an extra pulse to the already-electric sugar rush). They’re surprisingly delicate compared with the grocery-store variety and come in decidedly adult flavours. The gin-and-tonic tastes almost identical to the cocktail, right down to the slightly bitter juniper bite. $6 for eight.
67 Front St. E., 416-867-9499
There’s beer and then there’s the type of unfiltered, unpasteurized brew that acquires its bubbles from active yeast, not injections of nitrogen. Cask-conditioned ale adherents claim their beer is more flavourful and complex, the liquid equivalent of an artisanal cheese. While these ales, once a rarity, have become more common in Toronto, the largest, most consistently available selection is still to be sampled at C’est What?, the venerable subterranean brew pub. Bar manager Mark Hutchison keeps a rotating selection of five Ontario-brewed cask-conditioned ales in stock at any time. Our favourite: Al’s Ale, a crisp, golden bitter that tastes of grapefruit and biscuit. $6.60.