Over the last year, I’ve been doing my best to expand my net as far as different types of cuisine are concerned. I’ve enjoyed all of my recent Greek restaurant visits and look forward to more in the future. Last September, I was attending a retirement party at Restaurant Ellada. On that night, I was introduced to a dessert known as loukoumades. It was around that same exact time where I heard the name Mr. Puffs for the first time.
Mr. Puffs is still a fairly new place which does something that no other place in the Greater Montreal area does and that is selling the Greek dessert, fresh to order. After being courted a little bit on Twitter, as well as finding out about a special day, I decided to make the trek to Laval to see what the fuss was all about.
Located in a highly residential part of Laval, as part of a fairly non-descript strip mall, you can easily just drive right past the place if you’re not paying any attention. However, for me, when it comes to food, I try not to make such careless mistakes.
December 21 was the first year anniversary of Mr. Puffs. So, on this day, me being lucky enough to have a nice break during the day made this the easiest time to come and see what Mr. Puffs had planned. Along with one of my teaching colleagues, we drove down Notre-Dame, keeping our eyes peeled for the orange sign that is the home of loukoumades. Upon our arrival, we saw the tent and we knew we were in the right place.
The interior of the store is rather small. There are a few tables, which were half occupied, and a counter where the ordering takes places. I wouldn’t call it a place where you can spend hours enjoying coffee, but a place where you could take a few minutes to sit while enjoying whatever it was you ordered.
The first thing I noticed was the sign on the left of the store. They make it a point to mention that they are not, in any way, Timbits. I remember the first time I saw loukoumades, that was my first initial thought. Once you bite them, you know they are different. This would probably be the best time to define what a loukoumades is. Basically, the short of it is that they are deep fried dough pastry, which can be covered with different types of glazing. That differs from Timbits because those are round doughnut holes, which loukoumades are not.
I allowed my colleague to step ahead to the counter as I took a moment to take it all in. I guess seeing the camera in my hand outed me. It didn’t take much time for the owners to identify me. Luckily, I’ve been interacting with them on Twitter, reducing the amount of awkward tension there would’ve been if they had no idea who I was. I wonder what would of happened if it was someone else and not me holding that camera. I was hoping on visiting without getting spotted because I knew things would be really different than a normal customer, and they were. I’ll touch on that a little later.
On this day, Mr. Puffs, for their anniversary, were offering free coffee and “treats.” Now, I’m not a coffee drinker, but that didn’t bother me since I wanted to see what desserts were being offered. So, our visit to Mr. Puffs included a very tiny cupcake, coffee, and a tasting plate of loukoumades. For one, the cupcake was the smallest I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I realize that cupcakes are one of the trending things right now, but I don’t see the appeal. That’s just me. I saved the cupcake for my return trip to the job.
Before getting settled to try the loukoumades, I took the time to order a whole box of 50 to be used to “bribe” my students later in the day. The price for the largest box is 14 dollars before taxes. That works out to about 28 cents apiece. My colleague took the smallest box, which only cost 4 dollars. For you information, you could get the medium box for 8 dollars. In my opinion, that’s pretty good value for your very hard earned money.
As I was waiting, I decided to take the opportunity to ask questions to round out the experience. From what I understand, Mr. Puffs started out at festivals as a food truck. In Montreal, food trucks are only really allowed as part of an event, as you can’t have them on any street corner. It’s a controversial subject here, so I’ll leave it at that. The food truck expanded to a store, which opened in 2010. The optimism of the owners indicated that they were planning to expand to the West Island and to a third location closer to the core of the island. I also asked about a location close to the South Shore and they appeased me by telling me that would be hopefully fourth. The fact that they are the only of their kind is hopefully a good sign of hope for the future.
This tasting plate has four different kinds of loukoumades. They include the sugar covered, Chocolate hazelnut, honey and maple. The actual orange plate was nice since it was my favorite color, but made it really difficult to take really nice pictures. We were handed forks and napkins, which signalled the beginning of the tasting.
This sugary treat is the closest to the most traditional version. Being a loukoumades newbie, this was the only kind I tried in my life. The last version I tried at Ellada was alright, but it was nothing compared to this. First of all, the loukoumades was made fresh to order. Secondly, the whole thing is made in eye sight. Lastly, who can turn down dessert? This version was nice and hot, but not so much so that it was difficult to eat. So, they went down easy.
Of the five different versions I tried, this version wasn’t my own personal favorite. Though it was pretty good for what it was, I didn’t really get the honey taste so much. Honestly, I have to admit that the both of us were a little confused as to which was which. I know we had to have it repeated a few times to ensure that everything was clear. Even with the information getting drilled in, it didn’t click.
This was, by far, my favorite loukoumades of them all, for obvious reasons. Who on this planet can turn down anything related to chocolate? Alright, I know people who would, but that makes them not normal. I was worried that this was another attempt at exploiting the chocolate hazelnut spread, but I was really wrong. This was actually good and would prove to be quite popular later on. Again, my favorite one of them all.
Before I move on, I have to mention a second misconception about the chocolate hazelnut spread. On Twitter, I asked about the spread and just said Nutella. I was quickly corrected, with the information that it was like Nutella, a spread that came directly from Greece. I’ll just say that I didn’t miss Nutella here at all. The Greek spread was so much better.
Of the five, this was probably the one that was the most difficult to identify. We were told it was maple and we began to doubt it a bit. We doubted it because it was a little difficult to get the maple taste out of it. I wasn’t until I had a second one where the taste of maple really hit me. Normally, I tend to prefer maple anything on French toast and nowhere else, but this was alright. It wasn’t chocolate hazelnut, but it was my second favorite one.
Me, being the “largely overweight” person I pretend to be, just had to try the fifth kind that my colleague bought to bring back home. These were covered in caramel. Now, I have to mention that I completely despise caramel in all forms. As a matter of fact, I turned down a taste of a caramel dessert at my last Greek restaurant outing because of that reason. It’s sticky and the taste just doesn’t do it for me. However, this was different. The caramel doesn’t overwhelm the loukoumades. Obviously, it wasn’t my most favorite kind, but it was really good for something I normally don’t like.
Since I’m a nice person, I decided to purchase a large box of 50 loukoumades for my afternoon classes. When you get 50, you get choose up to 3 different kinds to put. So, obviously, the first kind I chose was the chocolate ones. I rounded out the selections with honey and sugar. I brought the box back and within a few short hours, they were all gone. About 99% of the people who had one really enjoyed them. As a matter of fact, the first person I gave some to was a Greek colleague who added their stamp of approval.
The thing that really surprised me a bit was the fact that most of my students were fully aware of Mr. Puff’s presence in Laval. They saw the box, which I had covered in a plastic bag and they automatically knew. I even had one student who told me that they lived right next to the place. So, if the kids know about you, it’s a very good sign. I also have to mention that all the chocolate hazelnut ones were the first to go, just showing you which ones was the best.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the box was the thing I wasn’t expecting. We were getting ready to leave the store when I took about my money to pay for the box. I was told that the box was on them. It’s happened to me twice before, but it’s something that makes me uncomfortable. So, it’s my duty to be honest about it. It was very nice of them to make that “gift” to my students. I know the students were extremely grateful. Me, being a teacher, had to play the hero, so I told them I paid for them. So, the ones who actually read this page will finally realize that it was given to them. Mr. Puffs never had to do that, but they did and I thank them again.
I finally had a quiet moment during the afternoon to try the magical tiny cupcake. I actually forgot to ask what the cupcake was. With or without that information, it ranked up there with all the cupcakes I’ve ever had in the past. So, there’s not much else to say that it was really good.
Before I wrap things up for this last post of 2011, I have to mention that it was a really small world that day. While we were trying the treats, fellow bloggers @shutupandeatMTL and@Allspretty walked right in to the store. After some quick catching up, they were off to do the same thing I was doing, have treats. Again, it was really nice to see them.
Mr. Puffs, being a relatively new business, is making the right steps to survive in the long run. Other than the fact that they are unique to the area, there are other things that are quite interesting to mention. They also cater events, which is something that they are really proud of. The thing that really got my attention was something that affects my profession. Being a teacher, the unique properties of loukoumades fits with the environment I work in. First of all, they are completely Vegan, which means that the whole entire world can be potential customers. Seeing a number a different age groups in the store just spoke to that. Last of all, they contain no nuts at all. That is a huge thing in the educational world where peanut allergies can be fatal.
I know it might be sounding like a paid infomercial for Mr. Puffs, but I would beg to differ. If you were to only go on the loukoumades alone, this post would sound pretty much the same. The treats are something quite unique for Montreal and a place that I hope to return to in the near future, with money in hand. So, to end, I’d like to thank the staff and owners of Mr. Puffs, who made our visit there that day a real highlight to end 2011.