Interesting ... I love happening upon these quirks of food…
Sabletine Fine Pastries
203 King Street S, Waterloo
Lunch for two: $30
The French know from pleasure.
I believe it was the actress Catherine Deneuve who said something to the effect that while you can’t plan for happiness, you can plan for pleasure. So, pencil in some time, right now, for a pleasant pastry and coffee at Sabletine Fine Pastries in mid-town between Kitchener and Waterloo.
We have a few pastry shops in Waterloo Region that produce good genoise and éclairs and to that contingent we must include Sabletine. Owner and patissiere Kate Sauer has culinary training in Toronto and has lived in France—a small western town called Sables—the combined result of which has made her a very good pastry chef indeed.
The store she operates along with her brother and a small staff is itself small and quaint—somehow, that just seems right to me. There are a couple of tables inside and a couple out front, virtually on the sidewalk on King Street. Kitchen space is tight, but what Sabletine cooks up in the petite area is remarkable. It’s nice to have a place making such terrific French pastries right under our collective culinary nez.
A short blackboard lunch menu changes regularly with combinations of sandwiches in large and small sizes, salads and soups, as well as savoury tarts like quiche.
The caramelized onion and Cheddar cheese variety is excellent. The dish probably made its way into North American cookery as the Alsace-Lorraine offering of the 1950s, quiche Lorraine. On this day, Sabletine’s quiche is delicious with rich, savoury and eggy custard and a crisp, flaky crust baked in a circular wrapper of waxed paper.
A couple of salads are inventive and well executed. Instead of using walnuts, Sabletine’s version of the Waldorf—a salad with origins at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in the 1890s and whose scarcity locally is a shame—substitutes kamut, an ancient Egyptian high-protein wheat that is packed with flavour and nutrition. Blended within are cranberries, celery, and apples with mild dressing, and though it didn’t have the crunch that walnuts provide the Waldorf, it still had some great texture and flavour. Lentil salad with shredded carrot and thin-sliced green onion is bathed in a slightly lemony vinaigrette that provides a clean, crisp fresh taste.
For a sandwich, a lovely and fresh baguette (Sabletine bakes baguettes daily, an amazing epi, and rye bread on Saturdays) holds layers of tomato, crisp red pepper, caramelized onion, and avocado. The elements are all there (and are oddly accompanied by a little pack of Hellman’s), but they just don’t come together as well as do Sabletine’s other dishes.
But the pastries; oh, the pastries. They are, well, orgasmic. Tartes, macarons, Tatin, gateaux, choux pastry, croquembouche, ganache, jaconde: the Sabletine menu is a quick primer in French pastry courtesy Sauer’s training and experience.
Their flavours are tremendous and their appearance alluring—from the intricate architecture of the cassis and ventoux to the more rustic fruit tarts on puff pastry. In the morning, the display of sweets is like a jewellery case sparkling with the colours and textures of the rich delicacies. By day’s end, they will be gone.
Tarte au citron, at a few inches in diameter, has miles of flavour. The lemon curd is creamy smooth and satiny (an all too common blight on lemon tart is an overcooked curd which renders it rubbery), and is perfect in its delicate consistency that can just barely hold its shape on your fork. The balance of sweet and tart is ideal.
The beauty of a truly well-made tart is doubled when the crust, a pate brisee shortcrust, adds a wonderous crunch and flaky butteriness. It’s simply tart perfection: these elements of Sabletine’s tarte au citron are finally highlighted with a torch for a brulee speckling.
I am told by pecan tart aficionados that Sabletine’s ranks right up there with the best—ever and anywhere. The filling is nutty and not too sweet with delectable creamy texture and flaky, rich shortbread crust.
Named for a mountain in the French Alps, the Galibier is a remarkably rich layering of Belgian chocolate, hazelnut buttercream, mousse, and daquoise blanketed in a velvety chocolate ganache.
Sabletine prepares what they call morning pastries such as croissants (and not the machine-rolled ones), Danish and cinnamon and poppy-seed pastries. And try Sauer’s apricot tart filled with ground almond frangipane and apricots. Like so much else at Sabletine, it’s a deliciously pleasant balance of rich flavours and textures, delightful with a cup of strong coffee. You’ll have to plan to provide the Edith Piaf and Gauloises, however.
Been there? Try these …
The Bauer Kitchen
#102-187 King Street S, Waterloo
Another strong addition to the Charcoal Group. The ambiance is warm while the atmosphere is hot. Lots of energy. Lots of activity. Form meets function in terms of retro-industrial décor meshing with upbeat vibe with young and old(er) chilling together. Best of all? Solid food from TBK’s kitchen.
Manhattans Music Club & Pizza Bistro
951 Gordon Street, Guelph
Pizza. Jazz. Bistro. Club. Manhattans plays the pizza oven well and tinkles the ivories admirably. They’ve been around for a while now and have stayed true to their food and music ideals—nice. Sandwiches, panini, wraps, burgers, soup, and melts too. Decent wine list.
595 Hespeler Road S, Cambridge
Nice patio, bar area, and a couple of dining areas combine in relaxed elegance in the relatively new rendition of Blackshop! and its continental cuisine that moved from its Hobson Street home about three years ago. Probably one of my favourite spots for luscious Belgian-style frites.