An afternoon at the Red Tea Box, Toronto

I am watching Meilleur Patissier de France (Best pastry chef of France) on M6, my favourite TV station/guilty pleasure.

Today’s challenge was to make a “Voyageur” almond cake, so named because it can keep for 3 days at room temperature. The tricky bit for the 12 contestants was the fondant icing. Ah, yet another ‘false friend’: fondant is just regular glazed icing to me, while what anglos call fondant icing is pâte à sucre (sugar paste) here, and such cake decoration is almost non-existent in Paris*.

On the other hand, we saw some stunning examples when in Toronto a few weeks ago, at the Red Tea Box.

One of our favourite neighbourhoods in Toronto is the stretch of Queen St W. by Trinity Bellwood park. Our friend Fauna kindly sacrified her Friday afternoon off to battle traffic and fetch us from Pearson (when is Canada’s largest city going to have a subway line to the airport, like a normal metropolis?),  then brought us here for some mid-afternoon sustenance.

I had been here 10 years before, again with Fauna (my source of all things cool in TO), and had never forgotten the experience. It was my first time tasting white Chinese tea, and I went gaga for the savory-sweet, Asian-influenced nibblies served in bento boxes. Since then I’ve made many trips to Toronto and tried repeatedly to visit, often dragging Torontophobic, tea-loving HerrKaa to prove the city has its merits even if there are no mountains, but this place would always be closed, ultimately reinforcing entrenched stereotypes.

The server was very friendly and we enjoyed being able to banter with her unhindered by linguistic mental gymnastics. She did tend to mysteriously disappear for long stretches, but this suited us fine as we needed time to choose from the extensive tea menu and to dither between soup of the day, a tea bento, or a gooey dessert.

In the end, HerrKaa opted for a chocolate hazlenut toffeecake, while Fauna and I split a tea bento that featured along with the savouries a chocolate lavender mousse. Because I am greedy was famished I also had a cauliflower, pear and wasabe soup to start. All this was accompanied by a huge pot, practically a vat, of steeped black tea. Such a thrill compared to the minuscule pots of tepid water you get when you are order tea at a typical café in France!

The Red Tea Box (phone for opening hours as they can be irregular)

696 Queen St W, Toronto

416-203-8882

* In Paris, you can order pretty cakes decorated with rolled fondant/pâte à sucre at the American (and I think Canadian)-run Sugarplum Cake Shop, near Contrescarpe. David Lebovitz has a good write-up here.

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