By Kathy Mak
There’s no denying it, eating counts as sightseeing, and when you have a sweet tooth, bakeries, pastry shops and other sweet stops are the attractions! You don’t have to go far in Vancouver to find every possible sugary delight, from award-winning ice cream, to-die-for pastries, and gourmet macarons to handcrafted chocolates. But, finding some of the unsung sweet treats further afield can be the real taste-adventure. Take this sweet-packed outing to discover a selection of local, laid-back gems in Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond and Vancouver, all easily linked by convenient public transit and short walks.
Your self-guided, sweet tasting spree begins in downtown Vancouver with an early morning stop at Cartems Donuterie (534 West Pender). It’s hard enough to resist regular donuts, but resistance is futile when it comes to Cartems’ donuts as they are dreamy! (And, literally, Cartems was born out of a dream by the owner. ) All ingredients are fresh, locally sourced, and organic when possible. Not only do they offer a higher quality donut experience, they also have gluten-free, baked donuts, and the flavour combinations are off the charts! How could you not like a Canadian Whiskey Bacon donut? By the time you leave, you’ll be all smiles, just like their logo.
Public Transit: Take a short stroll to the Waterfront Station and catch the Skytrain on the Expo Line (direction: King George) or Millennium Line (direction VCC-Clark). In about 18 minutes, detrain at the Metrotown station. Tip: buy a Translink DayPass for greater convenience and flexibility.
Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby is British Columbia’s largest mall and second largest in Canada, with nearly 400 stores. If you can hold back from shopping, make your way through the mall to St. Germain Bakery (located near the Superstore). With their understated mall location, you probably wouldn’t guess that this is a renowned bakery. St. Germain has had a long history of culinary awards, including the International Culinary Olympics in Germany. Most recently, they received the 2015 Chinese Restaurant Awards for Best Bakery Shop in Metro Vancouver. For anyone unfamiliar with Chinese pastries, the top classic choices to try are the egg custard tarts and the coconut tarts. You may also want to try their signature chocolate cake or Fresh Mango cake. Then, there’s the Green Tea Rice cake or Mochi Rice cake for the more adventurous palate.
Public Transit: Tear yourself away from shopping and re-board the Skytrain on the Expo Line (direction King George) or Millennium Line (direction VCC-Clark). In about 11 minutes, disembark at the New Westminster Station.
The quaint municipality of New Westminster – also known as “The Royal City” – is historically important for being BC’s original capital city. From the Skytrain station, enjoy a brief 7-min. stroll to Royal Avenue and to the Cloud 9 Specialty Bakery (1025 Royal Avenue), voted the best bakery in the city for many years by the readers of the New West Record. You’ll soon see that Cloud 9 is in the most unlikely of locations for an artsy gluten-free bakery. But once inside, you’ll be in pastry heaven! Unpretentious yet innovative, Cloud 9 specializes in sinfully delicious gluten-free baked goods, from sweet to savoury, with some dairy-free choices. Their popular cupcakes, bars and cinnamon buns are among the favourites of locals! Be tempted by the crowd-pleasing peanut butter bar, a brownie base covered with peanut butter icing and a chocolate topping. And don’t leave without tasting their exquisite cinnamon buns, which they have mastered and may even currently be the only gluten-free cinnamon buns made by a bakery in Metro Vancouver out to the Fraser Valley. Cloud 9 is also the Canadian leader in gluten-free baking mixes, which are sold nationally in several grocery chains, as well as Costco. All this, started by four recreational hockey buddies!
Public Transit: After browsing through the River Market, re-board the Skytrain on the Expo or Millennium Lines (direction Waterfront), disembark at the next stop: 22nd Street Station. Catch the #410 bus to Richmond (approx. 50 minutes) and disembark at Aberdeen Centre in Richmond. Walk 5-min to the next sweet spot.
Excellent Tofu (4231 Hazelbridge Way) is a small, family-run dessert shop with a well-deserved reputation for making some of the best traditional, Chinese-style soy pudding in the region. Made fresh daily, you can choose from hot or cold silky-soft soy pudding with a choice of 25+ sweet toppings. A few of the more interesting flavours include black sesame paste, grass jelly, red beans & coconut milk, and the extra special bird’s nest soy pudding!
Public Transit: Peruse Aberdeen Centre before walking to the Aberdeen Station. Take the Skytrain on the Canada Line (direction Waterfront) and disembark in Downtown Vancouver at the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station (18 min.). Walk to Homer Street in stylish, historical Yaletown.
Cap the sweet day with a stop at XOXOLAT (1271 Homer Street), pronounced “sho-sho-la,” an extraordinary boutique shop of all things chocolate! You’ll be instantly enamoured by XOXOLAT’s extensive collection of single origin chocolate bars imported from around the world, which is known as the largest in Canada! Organic and Fair Trade chocolates are also in abundance, plus a line of blended chocolates that are hand-crafted by their chocolatier. As you get carried away by all the choices, try not to miss their “West Coast Breakfast” dark milk chocolate bar, showcasing maple caramelized bacon with a pinch of espresso! It’s bitingly good. And, be sure to save room to taste the cardamom crème brûlée white chocolate bar and the maple bacon caramel dark chocolate bar with a whiskey layer! Your sweet-tooth-satisfying outing is now complete! Sweet!