While many of us scramble on Valentine’s Day to find the perfect gift ideas or dinner plans, sometimes we forget about those who work on the front lines.
Meet Nadège Nourian, a French-born pastry chef and owner of the patisserie Nadège, where her progressive, yet traditional dessert style is revolutionizing the Toronto pastry scene. Nourian launched her namesake shop in 2009, and her passion for good food, quality products and attention to detail have made Nadège a hugely popular Valentine’s Day destination.
The Valentine’s rush starts for Chef Nourian four months ahead of schedule, when the team at Nadège plan and prepare their menu of Valentine’s Day offerings. While Chef shares that it normally includes many of the obvious hits—including chocolates and macarons—sometimes it includes the not-so-ordinary to keep people coming back for more. Nourian says, “Two years ago we created a little cake called, ‘Romantique Ivresse’ and it has become more and more popular every year. It combines berries poached in wine, raspberry coulis, madeleine biscuit and white chocolate mousse.”
Located on a strip of Queen Street West in Toronto that Vogue Magazine recently touted the second coolest neighborhood in the world, Nadège is not hard to miss. With its sharp white walls and pristine, brightly lit pastry cases filled to the brim with colorful macarons, cakes and chocolates, it’s a feast for the senses. The bakery adds a vibrant pop to an otherwise drab street. Some might compare it to a high-end gallery, where the food is the art.
With its chic interior and delicious treats, Nadège has oftentimes been a popular place for blind dates or just first dates, in general. No matter what the visit entails or the time of day, the shop tables can be found bustling with customers indulging in all things sweet. While Chef Nourian is widely known for her French-style macarons, Nadège also offers cups of creamy and rich hot chocolate that customers can be found heating themselves up from our Canadian winters with. Paired with decadent marshmallows, t’s heaven in a cup. My friend Rachelle swears by their hot chocolate, telling me “It is so divine, with a French-inspired twist on Mexican drinking chocolate.”
Although many months have been spent on preparations ahead of Valentine’s Day, the days leading up to the big moment can see the pastry staff of Nadège spending upwards of ten hours in the kitchen preparing almost double the typical amount of chocolate, frostings and batters for the thousands of cakes, macarons and chocolates headed out the door to make someone’s day that much more special. “It’s organized chaos!” Chef Nourian says. “But the biggest reward is making people happy each time they share one of our cakes or chocolates.” Last year, I surprised my partner with one of Nadège’s Valentine’s Day assorted bundles, including a cappuccino macaron (one of their top sellers) delivered directly to his work. The elated text message I received upon package arrival cannot be forgotten.
The kitchens at Nadège are always open for the public to watch, and on Valentine’s Day, there could be upwards of sixteen pastry chefs on hand to help handle the same-day rush. Chef Nourian explains to me that it’s that intensity that keeps her and her staff going throughout the day, “If you love your job and love the hustle and energy of the busy holiday season, you will love to work on Valentine’s Day. I think everybody realizes that it’s an important time of year.”
Amanda (Ama) Scriver is a full-time community builder and official ‘head bee in charge’ of the food, fat and feminism blog, Fat Girl Food Squad. When she isn’t busy kickin’ ass and takin’ names, she is having serious feels for all things coffee, hip-hop, the art of drag, Kardashians, pizza and Doritos. You can find more bylines from her at Eater, BizBash and Toronto is Awesome. Follow her on Twitter: @amapod.