Tuesday, July 01, 2008


203 King St. South
Waterloo, Ontario
(between Allen and John)

TripleQ and I have frequented Sabletine since it was first open. I could have posted a review of this patisserie a few months ago; however, there's always a voice whispering in my head, "Why not write about it after you try everything?" Ahem, what a sweet goal!

It is reasonable to assume that TripleQ and I are not into desserts judging by the contents of our blog. The truth is, I LOVE desserts, so much that one year I gave TripleQ a standalone mixer as "his" Christmas gift. Before Baby Martini's arrival, I used to spend hours in the kitchen making desserts. And by default, TripleQ is my assistant. (Strangely my patience in cooking is only limited to making desserts. Once my attempt at making California rolls resulted in flying fish eggs, imitation crab meat and avocados on top of plain rice, with seaweed on the side and cucumbers in the fridge.) To me making and having desserts is relaxing and almost therapeutic.

On the other hand, finding a bakery whose products are both delicious and easy on the eye has been a long and frustrating experience. Most of the time sweets are taken so literally; the sweetness dominates other senses, you might as well dive into a sugar jar. The finishes on some cakes are so messy, I have the urge to take out my offset spatula to smooth things out. Not to mention cakes with a phony taste, I feel as if I bite into styrofoam. Indeed there are several popular cafes/bakeries such as Cafe Mozart, Yukiko's and Nougat, just to name a few. Their cakes are decent; however, my quest doesn't stop there - I yearn for something more refined, more complex and more adventurous.

Call me girlie. Whenever I see beautiful, neatly-decorated pastries, I get so excited. I can't help biting my fingers, eyes scanning through each item like laser beams, shrieking while trying not to make nose prints on the display windows. The blemish-less, even-sized berries, the velvety chocolate ganache coating, arrays of circles, oblongs, rectangles and triangles in various colors and finishes...that's so...heavenly. I can never get tired of looking at those little dandy works of art. During our trips to Tokyo and Paris, my "dessert-dar" operated at its full potential, I wished my stomach was 100 times bigger so I could sample all the pastries in sight. I always remember the chocolate cake we got from Fauchon, not simply because of its flavor but how/where it was enjoyed - we had it on the grass in front of Louvre because I couldn't wait to find a more appropriate location; "I want it NOW"! I felt slightly guilty before we dug in to that cute little object but once we started, it was the point of no return. The cake was composed of three different chocolates, with a nutty crunchy core and a full hazelnut in the center. It was very rich and sweet but well-balanced - smooth and crunchy, dense and airy, bitter and sweet. We wanted to savor every bite, yet our hands couldn't slow down digging through its remains. After each trip (to Tokyo and to Paris), we couldn't bring ourselves to get pastries here for weeks. Am I asking too much? I think not. We can get nicely plated desserts, why can't we get equally, aesthetically pleasing pastries here?

One day TripleQ came home from work with a little paper box. He looked at me with a faint mysterious smile when I opened the box. His smile broadened when I shrieked. Since then we become regulars at Sabletine. Kate, the owner and baker of Sabletine, used to work in pastry shops in Toronto. She decided to open her shop in town to be close to her family. It's pretty much a one-person operation with help from friends and families. From my observation, things are gone fast especially after lunch hours; however, you can always call in advance to reserve.

My absolutely favorite from Sabletine is the lemon tart. The lemon aroma is pungent yet elegant. If your impression of lemon tarts is some sugary blob with overpowering, artificial lemon flavor, you should try the Sabletine's version. Unlike the conventional tarts, the shortbread crust of her lemon tarts is neither flaky nor floury. Normally I just pick up the tart and take a bite; its so crunchy that it's hard to cut. I am never a big fan of coconuts but I really enjoy her toasted coconut tarts. The composition is simple - shortbread crust, pastry cream, whipped cream and garnished with tasted coconut. But it is more difficult than you think to get it right.

Tarte au Citron (left; miniature version): a rich shortbread cookie crust filled with a tangy lemon curd, with a brûlée finish.
Toasted Coconut Tart (right): a rich shortbread cookie crust filled with a light coconut creme patisserie, topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut.

Not everything on the menu is made daily. For example, fruit tarts are only available on Fridays and Saturdays. The fruits are not cooked with syrup or glazed with apricot jam so the sourness from the fruits and the sweetness from the creme complement each other well.

Tarte aux Fruits: a rich shortbread crust filled with creme patisserie, and topped with fresh seasonal fruits.

Kate makes exquisite éclairs, a delicate choux pastry filled with a vanilla créme patisserie and topped with a shining chocolate glaze. The thin crust, slightly spongy main vessel and the creamy filling harmonize beautifully. I absolutely adore the eclairs with coffee cream filling. They are made with real espresso as opposed to instant coffee powder. The coffee eclairs are only available upon request so you need to call one day in advance.

The croissants and chocolate rolls (pain au chocolat) are also superb. The croissant dough is made and formed by a local organic bakery (which should be reviewed some other time) but we like Kate's version more. Kate states that she doesn't let the dough to rise as much so the end results are, though smaller, more moist and buttery.

The chocolate cakes are named after mountains in France: Le Ventoux, Galibier and Sancy. The composition of Galibier is quite close to the cake we had from Fauchon. All the chocolate varieties are nice, but they are not exceptionally better compared with those from other reputable bakeries in town. Other items not mentioned here are also nicely made. We just don't get them as often.

For me there's a good indication when I taste a good desert - it inspires me to get in the kitchen and make it. For this reason I've worked on tiramisu, creme brulee, cheesecake, molten chocolate cake, etc. I tried to make lemon tarts and coconut tarts after having the Sabletine's versions. Though I don't have as much time to perfect them as I used to, I am glad that I get to have something nice enough to tickle my dessert brain. Sabletine is truly a good addition to the region.

Here are some more pictures for your enjoyment. P.S. Kate, when are you going to make l'opera cake?