by Maja Staka
Are you tired of being bombarded with images of chocolate truffles, peppermint squares and pumpkin spiced everything on social media? Do you go through your day thinking: Office colleagues, I IMPLORE YOU, stop bringing freshly basked croissants and donuts to work. Your weekly sugar tirades are a burden on my life and health and I can’t take a moment more of it!
No? Great! because if you’re on the other camp of life and live and breathe sugar, you’re going to love our guide to Edmonton’s best hidden dessert spots this side of the North Saskatchewan. It’s not like I’m trying to convince you to give up your pre-Holiday diet and wander aimlessly around South Edmonton looking for dessert, but I also am. Just go with it, life is short and almost every reason not to eat carbs is superfluous.
You certainly don’t have to tackle all of these places in one day (and they are not exhaustive), but if you do, let us know how it goes!
La Boule Patisserie & Bakery Inc: 8020 101 St
This December, cozy up with a lightly cinnamon-dusted pineapple cruffin from La Boule, a family run bakery tucked away in Ritchie/Old Strathcona. If you’re feeling especially extravagant, you could settle for one of their expertly filled chocolate eclairs along with an après-dinner cappuccino. The owners of La Boule Patisserie & Bakery Inc, a French patisserie in the truest sense of the word – know what they’re doing, and the quality of their vienoisserie, shareable tarts and freshly baked breads is well worth the hustle needed to get to the cleverly hidden store by the time they close at 6pm.
FanFan Patisserie: 10330 80 Ave
Keep the vibes going a couple blocks further with a macaron or two (or three) from FanFan, a tiny shop located behind the Shoppers Drugmart on 104th. Although much smaller than La Boule, FanFan specializes in on-demand pastries like meringue speckled vanilla tarts, Flan Parisiens and the famed Paris Brest that can be scheduled for home or office delivery up to a week in advance. They also make their own gelato and offer a wicked hot chocolate perfect for strolling down Whyte.
Snowy Dessert: 10209 82 Ave
That said, if you’re already ON the Ave and have some time to kill, march on over to Snowy Dessert, a Korean café that is more hidden by obscurity than its actual geographical location and order some Bingsu, a snack/dessert composed of ice shavings and various toppings like almond flakes and green tea powder. Although immensely popular in Asia and in North American cities with large Asian populations, Bingsu is still relatively new to Edmonton and therefore often evaded by the un-adventurous. But, if there’s one tenant on which you should base your life (even when you’re afraid of bean curd) – it’s taking chances, and Snowy Dessert is the perfect place to do that. If you’re sceptical, try their Cheesecake Bingsu, which tastes like the lovechild of a New York cheesecake and a DQ ice-cream cone.
Sugared & Spiced Baked Goods Inc: Rear 10334 82 Ave
French pastries are cool and all, but if you’re longing for a homey North American experience (pies, cookies, bigger-than-your-head-cakes), I would consider sashaying over to Sugared & Spiced, a unique bakery crowd-funded by former farmer’s market vender Amy Nachtigall. Try the chocolate-pecan pie or buy a dozen of their warm “Girls’ Night In” cookies, which are made with dessert wine and caramel and finished with salt (the combination almost works too well). And if we’re going by degree of hidden-ness, then Sugared & Spiced wins the derby because it’s LITERALLY HIDDEN IN AN ALLEY-WAY. If you’re having trouble locating the bakery, find El Cortez’ parking, take a sharp left and walk straight.
Pip: 10403-83 Ave
What’s not to love about a slightly bougie café named after the main protagonist of Great Expectations? First of all, their Slogan is a golden pineapple. Secondly, they offer an almost all-day brunch (until 3 pm) 7 days a week, which essentially means that you can simultaneously order bacon avocado toast, a gin & tonic and dessert without getting any strange looks! The resto-café, which is tucked away on the corner of 83’d Ave and housed in a former clothing store, offers only two desserts: a brownie-tiramisu which sits in a pool of mascarpone cream and a pineapple upside down cake w/ rum caramel sauce & whipped cream. Both are delicious, filling, and could constitute a meal in their own right.
Belgravia Hub: 7609 115 street
Time to walk 10-or-so blocks to the neighborhood of Mckernan/Belgravia, where a quaint little café called Belgravia Hub has been feeding locals since 2013. If you’re hungry for something salty, order their much beloved corn fritters and boneless pork bites but skip the main course and go straight to dessert. If you want to order all of it but don’t have the stomach space (the true dilemma of our generation), get minis of their Upside-down pineapple cake, Cinnamon apple Crisp or PB & J chocolate cake. Belgravia Hub also offers an everchanging gluten free Crème brûlée, vegan sorbet and amazing gluten-free waffles on their breakfast menu.
The Italian Centre: 5028 104A St NW
Who knew the Italian Centre made some of the best desserts in the city? If you’ve never had a cannolo from the Italian Centre – run, don’t walk, to this southside gem and eat one straight from the box. The pistachio chunks and pieces of candied fruit hidden inside create a beautiful contrast to the high-fat ricotta filling that is rich yet incredibly moreish. The shell, of course, is perfectly fried, sturdy and thick enough to create a really satisfying crunch. You could also order a slice of mango cheesecake and some lovely biscotti if you’re into that. Then – take a seat in the newly expanded café and treat yourself to some well-deserved people watching/eavesdropping. When in Rome.
Farrow: 8422 109 St
Farrow is the king of the gourmet sandwich in Edmonton, and if you haven’t tried their famous Grick or sunken your teeth into a ‘Chief Beef’ on marbled rye, you probably aren’t from around these parts. The hole-in-the-wall shop has kept customers loyal for years because of their fast turnover and devotion to fresh ingredients and quality over quantity, which is equally evident in their freshly made and incredibly creative baked goods. Sadly, these creations are often forgotten by patrons frantically trying to choose a sandwich from Farrow’s chalkboard menu. SO, the next time you visit Farrow’s 109th or new Ritchie location, try a cookie-dough stuffed croissant, an oreo cinnamon roll or a chocolate-bar stuffed cookie. Ordinary? no. Classically French? hahahaha no. Delicious & funky? Always.
Photography by Maja Staka