Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
BLUE MOUNTAIN, ONTARIO — If the definition of a great dessert is addictiveness then Denise Bello may have not only found a hit, but perhaps a calling. Until about a year ago, she had never made baklava, nor has she ever trained as a pastry chef. Yet, when her bosses at Tholos asked her to come up with a Baklava Cheesecake, Bello was game to try.
“I threw out the first four or five ones I made until I got this recipe right,” she said with a big grin while discussing the dessert that has become a minor sensation since it was introduced in 2011. The restaurant reports that patrons come in time and again for the treat, a gesture that has surprised Bello, a home cook who now contemplates the possibilities of her treat. “No one knows the recipe, not even in the kitchen.”
Tholos, a popular restaurant in the Village of Blue Mountain that serves mainstream Mediterranean fare, offers classic entrees and appetizers that will satisfy many appetites. The Baklava Cheesecake, though, stands out because of its flavour and the story of how it came to be.
“I’m proud of it because we’re not known as a dessert spot, but people come in here asking just for this,” said Bello, who works as a server at the restaurant and hasn’t studied culinary arts. Some fans of the dessert have encouraged her to market it to grocery stores — and to never give up the recipe, even to her bosses.
The cheesecake is delicious but not overly sweet. It has the nutty almond taste you expect from baklava, a phyllo pastry whose origins are actually Turkish, not Greek. In Bello’s version, the thin pastry wraps around the cheesecake. The dessert tastes like what you would expect from Eastern Europe with its delicate pastry and lack of sugary flavour, although you can taste the graham cracker crust and cream cheese in it.
“I’m not a fan of sweets at all but I love this one,” says Giovanni Boni, one of Bello’s fellow servers at Tholos.
Bello moved from Mississauga to the Georgian Bay area about five years ago and couldn’t have imagined the spotlight arriving for her. Whether the Baklava Cheesecake ($8) at Tholos sends her on the road to becoming the next Sara Lee remains to be seen. For now, it’s a Great Canadian Dessert that has been an unexpected addition to the attractions in Blue Mountain.
MORE ABOUT THOLOS AT BLUE MOUNTAIN
Location: 170 Jozo Weider Boulevard, Blue Mountains, ON (see map below)
Contact: Telephone, 705-443-8311, email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Menu prices: Entrees run from $19-$39.
Directions to the Village of Blue Mountain: From Toronto, take Highway 400 North and exit onto Highway 26, heading west toward Stayner. Stay on 26 for about 30 minutes until you reach Gord Canning Drive (formerly Mountain Road), which leads you into the resort. You can also take Airport Road North, which offers a more scenic, country drive, and connects with 26.