Story by Julia Pelish
Vacay.ca Visuals Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — Crack has made its way from Brooklyn to Canada over the years. Christina Tosi and the team at Momofuku are making sure an addictive namesake crosses the border, too — and no authority is giving them a hard time. The Crack Pie, which is a sugar high, has become one of New York’s most celebrated dessert items. It is among the habit-forming treats available at the newly opened Momofuku Milk Bar in Toronto.
Tosi’s desserts focus on flavours combined with textures and are inspired by the beauty of simple ingredients such as milk, butter, and vanilla. Her recipes are homages to heartfelt memories of times spent baking in her family’s kitchen, where she also developed a wicked sweet tooth by devouring as much cookie dough as possible.
Tosi, the Momofuku pastry chef, was in town on the weekend for the launch of the Milk Bar, which joins three restaurants in the 6,600-square-foot space adjacent to the Shangri-la Hotel. Momofuku is the brainchild of David Chang, whose Korean-fusion cuisine landed his New York flagship eatery, Ssam Bar, on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List from 2009-12. With Milk Bar, Momofuku adds a delectable dessert component that has satiated thousands of strung-out fans in the United States.
All of the desserts are made at the Momofuku Milk Bar bakery in Brooklyn and shipped the same day across the border. Maintaining the consistency of the product is why the goods are made in New York, Tosi told me on Saturday during an opening party for the Toronto Milk Bar. “We wanted to ensure that everything tasted the same and looked the same. That people have the same experience here that they expect when they go to the Milk Bar in New York,” she said.
During college Tosi studied electrical engineering, switched to applied math, majored in Italian all the while working part-time in a restaurant. Turns out it was in the kitchen job where she was happiest. So soon after graduating she enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York. She worked for the respected WD50 chef Wylie Dufresne, who in turn introduced her to his friend Chang. The innovative chef hired her as his facility manager eight years ago. She settled into a routine: office job by day then home to her tiny kitchen to bake at night. “It grew from that,” Tosi said of her relationship with Momofuku.
Chang was so impressed with the home-baked goods she would bring into work each day that he pushed her into creating a desserts program for the menu at Momofuku, whose name is Korean for “lucky peach.”
She was the winner of the 2012 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award and has turned Milk Bar into one of the trendiest dessert stops in Manhattan. Her first international outpost in Toronto figures to add to her busy work schedule. Thousands of people came out Friday to get their fix on Milk Bar’s first day.
That Crack Pie that is so famous has been on the menu at Momofuku Daisho — which shares the large space with Shoto and Noodle Bar — for several months, but now can be purchased for take-out in the tiny Milk Bar glass cube on the second level of the airy building. It applies a supermarket concept to bakery shopping: grab a hand basket, fill ‘er up, and pay. Other treats include cookies, cakes, baking ingredients, as well as T-shirts and Tosi’s cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar. A new cookbook, Milk Bar Life, is coming out in 2014.
Toronto Milk Bar Adds to Momofuku Empire
The opening day’s bestseller was the Compost Cookie, a concoction made from a mish-mash of some of Tosi’s favourite snack foods, including chocolate, butterscotch and potato chips, pretzels and ground coffee. In fact many of Tosi’s creations have grown out of the repurposing of ingredients. I learned this when I sampled the truffle birthday cake she demo’d at Daisho on Saturday morning. It is made from cake scraps (she hates to waste sweets) crumbled by hand, flavoured in a vanilla soak, scooped into bite-size balls, rolled in melted white chocolate, and then coated in sweet crumbs. After popping a few in my mouth, I too found myself in the line waiting to buy her cookbook, in which Tosi inscribed: “Julia! Never underestimate the power of crack pie!”
Hmmm, I thought, isn’t that exactly the way addictions start?
More About Momofuku Toronto
Address: 190 University Avenue, Toronto, ON. Second floor of the Momofuku building.
Hours of Operation: Milk Bar is open daily from 11:30 am–11 pm.
Prices: Cookies cost $2 each or 12 for $22. Crack Pie costs $6 for a single serving and $48 for a full pie.
Restaurants: Momofuku Toronto opened to much fanfare last September and features three restaurants. Shoto has an 11-course set menu each night while Daisho serves a la carte options. Noodle Bar on the ground floor is ideal for lunch, take-out or casual dining. There’s also a bar, Nikai, on the second floor.
Vacay.ca 2013 Top Restaurants in Canada Rank: 35 (Shoto) and 53 (Noodle Bar).
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