For the Romans, 'bread and circus' was a popular metaphor describing the tools of political leadership. During a famine in France when the population was demanding bread, Marie Antoinette famously quipped that they should simply eat cake. Luckily for us, we live in a time and place where both bread and cake is plentiful, and can often be found next to each other on the self.
For some of us, there's hardly anything as tempting as the confections found glittering behind the glass of a good bakery. And whether you're looking for a sumptuous, gooey cupcake or for a nutty whole-wheat loaf, the following Vancouver bakeries have got what you need.
Address: 1697 Venables Street
There's a rebellion underway in East Vancouver. It's been going on for over 30 years. It's a revolt against the characterless, colourless, flavourless mass-produced breads that have overcome our markets, and it's led by Uprising Breads.
Known primarily for the preservative-free loaves of sliced bread found on store shelves across the city, Uprising Breads also has their own bakery and cafe just off Commercial Drive on Venables. Free from artificial ingredients and sweetened only with honey and molasses, Uprising is famous for their artisan breads such as their Cracked Wheat and Sunflower, or their flagship organic multi-grain Grainful Bread. These are some of the best sandwich or toast breads you're likely to find and, surprisingly, they aren't that much more costly than your generic supermarket brands.
Sometimes, though, you aren't in the mood for a sandwich. Sometimes you just need something that's been covered in chocolate, drizzled with icing, or filled with custard. If you find yourself in such a mood, then head right over to the Uprising Breads Cafe. Not only do they have ample seating, pleasant decor and a great atmosphere. They have cinnamon buns. They have bundt cakes. They've got muffins and cookies galore.
If there is one thing though which you must absolutely try, it is their Apple Druzzle. I don't know what a druzzle is, or how it differs from a strudel, but I'm happy they exist. And you should be too.
Pastries range from about from $2-3. A loaf of fresh bread runs about $4.69.
Address: 1605 Manitoba Street
Telephone: 604 877 1183
Another artisan bakery that's been keeping the fires of authentic baking burning in Vancouver is Terra Breads. First opening their doors 22 years ago in Kitsilano, Terra Breads now has four locations throughout the city. My favourite is probably their newest location in Olympic Village. At 1605 Manitoba Street, this enormous bakery cafe is right off the seawall, with great views of the False Creek waterfront.
I got in touch with Jill Lansky, to get her take on the secret the popularity of Terra Breads.
While we do have a few of signature or notable products, what truly differentiates us is our fermentation process. Not all bread is equal, especially in terms of fermentation, and we believe this is what sets our bread apart.
The age-old preparation and preservation technique of fermentation enhances flavor and aids in nutritional digestion. Our natural starter takes its time with a 2-day sourdough fermentation process. The result provides great taste and texture, which slowly develop as the grains transform. There are also many health benefits including a low glycemic index (so you don't "crash") and enhanced digestion and enzymes, which, in turn, makes nutrients more bio-available to your body. We have 15 flavour profiles of Sourdough bread which is quite unique.
The variety of breads available from Terra is truly astonishing. And we aren't talking sliced bread. From cornbread to green olive fougasse with everything in between, you're pretty much guaranteed to find something you've never tried before. Ever wanted to try Fig and Anise bread? Well now you can. I'm told that Mary MacKay, the head baker, prefers the Pain de Campagne, an organic country loaf in the French style. Most of their bread loaves sell for around $5.50.
But that's only half the story. If it's your sweet tooth that's demanding satisfaction, you'll find an array of pastries and goodies that rivals even the bread selection. We're talking Belgian chocolate brownies, macaroons, and cinnamon brioche. If I had to recommend one thing, I'd have to go with the blueberry white chocolate foccacia. This Italian-inspired sweet is, unsurprisingly, one of Terra's top sellers. At $3.75, it's a real temptation.
A great place to visit for coffee and a snack, some dessert, or even for lunch. Not to be missed.
Address: 6533 Fraser Street
I discovered Breka years ago when I was on a mission to find a Napoleon cake. I had been hoping to find one of the Russian style rather than the French. The difference, apparently, is that the Russian cakes have several more layers. According to Russians, this is meant to symbolize all the layers Napoleon's vanquished army had to don as they retreated from the Russian winter. I settled for the three-layered French version, and I was not disappointed.
Since 2006, Breka on Fraser and 49th has been filling a big niche. This European-style bakery, which offers a huge variety of handmade breads and pastries, is open 24 hours a day. Now, in a town where pretty much your only option for a midnight snack is Tim Hortons, this in itself justifies inclusion on this list. But besides their hours, Breka is unequivocally one of the best bakeries in town. Since opening their first location on Fraser, two more spots have opened up on Davie and Bute, testifying to the popularity of this gourmet bakery.
Breka is a great if you're looking for a spot to hang out for bit. Whether you're a student needing to get some late-night studying in, or you're meeting a friend for tea, each of the Breka locations is cozy, classy, and comfortable. I spoke with owner Adam Granot about the diversity of their locations, and their customers.
We get call kinds of customers. We focus on the community and the location.
And it's true. Unlike many chains, each Breka has a unique vibe. In fact I didn't realize at firstthat the cafe I entered on Davie was an offshoot of the much-beloved spot on Fraser.
I also asked Adam what seems to keep the customers coming back.
Well, one of our more popular breads is the bee sting bread, which is a traditional yeast cake filled with whip cream and custard and is topped with candied almonds. It's a type of German wheat cake". And it's not the only the German-inspired item on the menu. Many of Breka's breads are of German origin.
They aren't just a place for those with German sensibilities. Breka boasts a seriously overwhelming assortment of pastries, pies and pretty things. I've already mentioned the Napoleon cakes. They also make a pretty mean London Fog. In addition to their Napoleon cakes, I highly recommend the chocolate éclairs.
Address: 1111 Davie Street
Unlike the other bakeries on this list, at Transylvanian Traditions you won't find any loaves of bread. This bakery is full-on, non-stop, take-no-prisoners pastries.
Most Canadians don't know much about Transylvania, except that vampires live there. Transylvania is actually part of modern Romania, the birthplace of Narcisa Stoian who moved to Vancouver is 2007. Not finding any of the Romanian deserts she grew up with, Narcisa took matters into her own hands. In 2008, Transylvanian Traditions opened as an old-fashioned, preservative-free, dessert bakery. They now offer over 25 different cakes and goodies, and have become a local favourite.
Everything we make is totally from scratch, Narcisa tells me. Nothing artificial and no additives.
This do-it-yourself approach is part of the explanation for their enormous popularity in Vancouver, because everything they do is unique.
Even our eclairs are different. We make our cream, our own filo pastries, nothing comes from the freezer.
But the care for quality and the commitment to truly fresh ingredients isn't the whole story. Transylvannian Traditions has made a name for themselves carrying a particular confection you definitely won't find anywhere else. This is, of course, the traditional Romanian kürtőskalács, otherwise known as Chimney Cakes.
A specialty of Transylvanian Traditions, this cake has been around for centuries in Hungarian-speaking regions, and now it's drawing visitors to this Vancouver bakery from as far away as Seattle. 'It's unique, very tasty, and not too sweet. Once they've had it, they always come back!" explains Narcisa.
Unlike most baked goods, kürtőskalács are made over a rotisserie grill. While historically animal horn was used for the rotisserie, Transylvanian Traditions is using wood. The pastry is wrapped around a mold and covered in sugar. As the sugar melts into caramel, they sprinkle on bits of walnut. It's then removed from the mold, producing a long, delicious tube.
They Chimney Cake sells for $5.50 for 300g. As Narcisa says,
Compare that to a croissant, which is maybe 20 grams for $3.75? It's just a great value for the quantity!
Meet The Photographer: Kevin Eng
Kevin's passion for photography has encouraged others to see the splendor and beauty of nature right at their doorstep, as he captures the sights of the day, and colors and mystery of world while it sleeps. Many of the subjects of his work are based locally in his hometown in Vancouver, B.C., where he first discovered his fascination with night photography. Kevin is currently working as a music teacher, music director for his church, and landscape photographer.