Everything Bar Raval does is glorious. But in spring you can sit on their patio and have a fermented rhubarb doughnut, and chase that with a cocktail. Or you could just have a second doughnut.
There are few things as consistently satisfying as baking your own bread. But for every solid period of having our bread game together, of being in the rhythm of always having a long-proving batch of dough standing around the house, of cultivating sourdough starters and going months without buying bread, there is also a stretch where we lose that rhythm, where there is too much work or too much travel or where we spend our bread-baking time making sausages or chutneys or beer. In those stretches we buy bread from one of two places: Forno Cultura on King Street (which deserves a post of its own), and Blackbird Baking Company in Kensington Market. The amount of work that goes into the bread at Blackbird reminds me of Tamar Adler’s line in An Everlasting Meal where she reminds us that “If you’re going to choose a food not to make at home, choosing bread represents a judicious division of labor.” I love their baguette and their seeded sourdough, and they make lovely hamburger buns, too.
And suddenly, it is spring. Even here. I bought peach blossoms at the farmer’s market this weekend, and the first of the season’s rhubarb. My heart is full.
We also had some gelato, and if you’re in the city you should get some, too. There’s a Turkish place on Queen Street West that opened a couple of months ago, and inside is another business, named Death in Venice Gelato. The flavours are complex, and in some instances quite daring – we tasted a very intriguing hay gelato, and although it wasn’t part of the roster when we visited, I’ve read that they also do a delightful baba ghanoush and tahini flavour. When we were there they had a yoghurt, beetroot and rosewater gelato, a saffron, vanilla and ginger gelato, something they call break-up gelato (peanut butter and croissant), and a smoked chocolate and Jack Daniels flavour. But we settled for a scoop of the subtle ricotta, lemon, rosemary and honey gelato, and the very flavour-forward Mexican chocolate mole gelato, topped with a crumble of pumpkin seeds and cornbread. Both of these are of the best gelato I’ve had in the city. Do it.
I didn’t intend to stay away for this long, but sometimes that’s just how things end up working. I’m in Massachusetts for work, and have spent my days in the archive and my nights in an AirBnB room shared with one of those giants wooden giraffes we always see tourists walk around with on OR Tambo, and which my hostess did indeed bring back from South Africa. Seeing one of those curio giraffes in the wild is a slightly disarming sight.
Today is my mother’s birthday, and I am heartbroken. I don’t know what it says about me that I am almost 31 years old and miss my parents as much as I do, but I’ve been thinking about the day my paternal grandmother died, and how my mother picked me up from school, early, and took me home, and how my father came into my room, crying so bitterly he could not speak, and lay holding me on my bed for hours, just crying and crying, and how he was then the age I am now, and how then I thought, this must be the most awful thing that can happen to anyone, and how although I’ve added quite a litany to that list of awful things I still stick with my initial assessment.
This afternoon my mother baked lots of cake and the family had tea in the garden. They sent me a picture and I burst into tears when I opened it, walking the streets of Cambridge. I cry like my father.
The tea my mother prepared reminded me of a lovely conversation we had last week, about scones. I have discovered a most beautiful little shop in Toronto, named Kitten and the Bear. They sell only three things: freshly baked scones, small batches of jam, and just-brewed tea. They charge an exorbitant amount for all three these things, but it is a marvelous way to celebrate a special occasion. The scones are also the Platonic ideal of buttermilk scones, and although those who know me well know that I also inherited my father’s dramatic sense of hyperbole, I am not exaggerating when I say they are the best scones I have every had the joy of eating, and I have had my fair share of scones in 31 years. The conversation with my mother was centred around trying to figure out what it could be that made these scones as light and immensely flavourful as they are. Since eating them I have cycled through one after the other buttermilk scone recipe, hoping to recreate it, but none have brought the goods. My mother feels very fancy and expensive buttermilk and butter might do the trick, so that’s what I’ll try next. Our scones were served with three different types of jam – a strawberry, raspberry and cream jam, banana, bourbon and vanilla bean jam, and a spicy plum jam. We also had a citrus and whisky marmalade. I am warming to jam very late in life, and these were lovely. There was also – be still my beating heart – clotted cream.
Top tip: these scones are also sold to take-away, and they’re much cheaper that way. You can add your own cream and tea at home, and enjoy while sewing.
If anyone has an amazing buttermilk scone recipe to share, I’m currently auditioning candidates. I want to have this one down next time I’m home, to bake for my mother.
There’s very little that’s not good at Sud Forno. If you’re there for lunch have a slice of pizza (if there’s one with ‘nduja, the spicy Italian sausage soft enough to spread, have that), if you need bread grab a loaf, or if you’re sad, have a drink. Once we were so sad about a fucked-up visa situation that we walked all the way there from our house, about 40 minutes by foot, because at that point it felt like the only thing that would make us feel better was to sit in their window and look onto Queen Street West and drink Campari and soda.
Anyway. The bomboloni. Get the one with Nutella. They come in two sizes, small and large, and you should get the large one. (I’m writing this post while listening to a PhD student and her supervisor discussing one of her chapters, and I feel so sorry for this poor woman I might just buy her a drink before I leave. Or maybe some bomboloni. Spiked with bourbon. And heroin.)
Sud Forno 716 Queen Street West