One of my favourite things to do is bike to a bakery, smell the fresh bread, buy a good-looking pastry, and eat it in the sunshine. The problem I find is that a lot of bakeries are now in large grocery stores and, while the goods may still be tasty, the charm of the bakery experience is lost. Yes, I should have been alive in 17th century France. Fortunately, there are a few places around downtown Calgary which either have delicious baking, great ambiance, quality ingredients, or all of the above.
The first spot that comes to mind is La Boulangerie in Mission. Not only does it have a quaint French feel with small round tables and large glass displays it also has quality delicate pastries and wholesome breads. I decided to try the vanilla custard croissant here. For the reasonable price of $3.75 my taste buds got whisked away to the south of France, or wherever they make killer custard croissants. I guess I’ll have to compare it to a France-made pastry when I jet-set to Avignon in a few weeks. But if you’re staying in Calgary this summer you may as well be fancy and treat yourself to La Boulangerie.
One of the first bakeries I stopped-in at that really blew me away was Wild Grainz bakery in Inglewood. They have great curb appeal with a big gallery window filled with tantalizing treats. But what is most striking about this bakery is the aromawafting from behind the counter. Olfactorially speaking (yes I made that word up) Wild Grainz gives you the impression that they know quality and they know how to make good bread. I think I grew up as a bread snob. As immigrants my parents may have found the hardest adjustment the flimsy Canadian bread. Of course I jest but I do think my mom’s critical bread eye (dough eye?) may have subconsciously influenced me. So, I bought the harvest multi-grain bread. It had a quality sturdy crust with a soft interior, delicious. I definitely recommend this place if you’re looking for artisan loaves.
A household name in bakeries here in central Calgary is Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. They are also not afraid to admit that they are, “COMMITTED TO THE ART OF MAKING BREAD” which is the only thing you will see on their opening website page. One of the reasons Sidewalk Citizen is known to many is because a lot of their baked goods are sold at local coffee shops. It was here that I overcame my fear of sourdough bread. While I was perusing the adjoining Sunnyside Natural Market a sour-dough sample caught my eye. I tried it and to my surprise it didn’t have the overpowering sour-dough taste that I normally don’t care for, probably also a mother influence. A knowledgeable baker told me about their 4-year-old sour-dough starter and how the quality grain they use allows for a milder taste. I bought a whole loaf and thoroughly enjoyed it, not in one sitting of course.
Because I would be remiss not to give a shout out to my new neighbourbood of Ramsay, I bring you Double Elle Bakery. Owner Leah Layden prides herself on providing a “taste of heritage” by making products made from family recipes passed down for generations. The bakery itself is adorable and is situated across the picturesque and historic Ramsay School. I’m sure many youngsters get distracted in class when the smell of Leah’s brownies and blonde squares comes wafting through the window. There is not really a lot of sitting room, unless you want to enjoy a bun behind the antique, out-of-tune piano. But Double Elle may be the perfect stopping off point on a bike ride home .
Last, but I do say, certainly not least, is Manuel Latruwe Belgian bakery. It is no coincidence that this fine shop is situated in the same building as Bernard Callebaut because Manuel Latruwe knows good chocolate and contacted Monsieur Callebaut to start a joint venture. And what a fine fusion they have created. I first heard about Manuel Latruwe bakery from a friend of mine who told me that her mother-in-law only buys baguettes there because they are just the best. When I went early July of last year to discover the baked goods for myself I discovered a vacated building decimated by the flood. A year later, I returned, happily to find a Manuel Latruwe polished, open, and ready for business. The ambiance is clean and uncluttered and the display cases are magnifique. Not so much for the display cases themselves as for what was in them: divine miniature cakes elaborately designed, tarts glazed to perfection, pastries delicately dusted with icing sugar, I could go on. I bought what I had come for, the baguette. And in true on-the-go Parisian manner I tore off an end and ate it while biking home. If I had a grandma in the city or a royal family member I would definitely take them here for an enjoyable mid-morning treat.