Nice Buns: Readers reveal a soft spot for Island cinnamon buns

Eric Akis Times Colonist April 6, 2005

CREDIT: Debra Brash, Times Colonist
Mark Engels and his wife Valerie relax with cinnamon buns and coffee outside their Bubby Rose's Bakery in the Cook Street Village. The bakery was readers' choice for best cinnamon buns on the Island.

With more than 500 reader submissions and more than 50 locations recommended, it's obvious Islanders have a sweet spot in their hearts and stomachs for cinnamon buns. The vote count was one of the tightest since we started our Best of the Island Series in the summer of 2003.

The cinnamon buns from Victoria's Bubby Rose's Bakery in the Cook Street Village rose just enough to finish first in the readers' poll.

"What makes them great, and I've tasted lots, is the soft inside dough, crusty outside, tasty and plentiful filling, soft caramel and lots and lots of halved pecans on top," says Wendy Cohen. "My running friends and I have a Sunday morning ritual -- one hour run, coffee from Fantastico and sticky buns from Bubby Rose's to go. Life doesn't get much better."

Another reader liked the Bakery's even-handed touch.

"Perfect balance of cinnamon, sweetness, bread and gooiness. Many thin swirls of bread ensure that there can be plenty of the cinnamon mixture without having it be too heavy or sticky in the filling area," wrote Joanne Barnard.

Just a swirl of cinnamon behind Bubby Rose's was Little Vienna Bakery in Sooke, which makes a European version of the bun called schnecke.

"Their cinnamon schnecke buns are superb and it's no wonder if you come late in the day that they're all gone! The buns are richly, sinfully delicious and we're certainly hooked on them," says Angie and David Sutherland. "This little bakery is the best new thing to Sooke."

After some careful consideration, reader David Stocks also voted for this bakery. "Well, it has been a big effort but I did the deed. I'm prepared to state that the best (cinnamon buns) are made by Little Vienna Bakery in Sooke. These babies are made with croissant dough. The texture is slightly flaky -- no squishy white stuff here!" says Stocks. "They are not excessively sweet, they have flavour -- the cinnamon shows through. Altogether, a delight, you owe it to yourself to check them out."

Victoria's Sally Bun finished third in the voting. "A delightful cross between a scone and a yeast bun, with the best qualities of both. The emphasis on cinnamon rather than sugar only adds to the experience of buns that are always fresh baked," says Al Rathbone. "Sally Bun's cinnies are the ultimate comfort food. Not on my carb-reduced diet, but then Mom always loved me more than Dr. Atkins could."

Rounding out the top five were Renee's Soup and Sandwich in Ladysmith and Esquimalt Bake Shop.

"Her (Renee's) cinnamon buns are definitely the best on the Island or anywhere else for that matter! They are big, with lots of cinnamon and the most delicious dough ever -- gotta be tops!" says Kay Hogberg, who e-mailed from Maryborough, Queensland, Australia. "My husband and I are devourers of Renee's buns when we are over in Canada," she says.

Paul MacDonald raved about the Esquimalt bakery: "I am a HandyDART driver and I get the opportunity to sample cinnamon buns from a great many establishments in the CRD, from Sidney to Sooke. (Esquimalt Bakery's) buns are large and moist; contain the proper amount of raisins and do not have an excessive amount of 'frosting' on them. Least of all in importance is the fact that they charge less than most places for their buns and yet deliver a superior product."

Note: Thanks to the kids and members of Chemainus elementary school cooking club for sending me the wonderful photo collage of you happily making cinnamon buns. Very sweet! Winner of the prize draw was Judi Kellow.

Eric Akis's columns appear in the Life section Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at ericakis@shaw.ca

READERS' CHOICES:

1. Bubby Rose's Bakery, 1-313 Cook St., Victoria

2. Little Vienna Bakery, 6-6726 West Coast Rd., Sooke

3. Sally Bun, 1030 Fort St., Victoria

4. Renee's Soup and Sandwich, 720 First Ave., Ladysmith

5. Esquimalt Bake Shop, 21-1153 Esquimalt Rd., Victoria

Notables: Village Patisserie, Oak Bay; The Roost Farm Bakery, North Saanich; Corfield Coffee Bar, Duncan; Rocky Mountain Cafe, Courtenay; Common Loaf Bake Shop, Tofino; Adrienne's Tea Garden, Saanich; Oldfield Orchard and Bakery, Saanichton; Barb's Buns, Saltspring Island; Pure Vanilla Cafe, Victoria

TASTING PANEL PICKS:

1. Old Town Bakery, 510 1st Ave., Ladysmith

2. Small Tall Treats, 9780 B Willow St., Chemainus

3. Miner's Cafe and Bakery, 2699 Dunsmuir Ave., Cumberland

4. Pioneer House, 4775 Trans Canada Hwy., Duncan

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005
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Tasting panel heads up Island in bun search

Eric Akis
Times Colonist


Wednesday, April 06, 2005







With the majority reader responses coming from in and around Greater Victoria, I decided the tasting panel should sample cinnamon buns from mid-Island locations you may be tempted to try when travelling up or down the Trans Canada highway.

After sampling four locations recommended by readers, some off the beaten track, the panel of TC restaurant reviewer Pam Grant and Susan Elrington, the amiable host of CBC Radio's On the Island, helped me determine whose was best.

"Top marks for aroma, good size; definite sharing material," wrote Grant in her tasting notes about the raisin and the apple cinnamon buns we tried from Pioneer House, located at Whipple Tree Junction just south of Duncan.

"Not quite enough apple to make an impact," said Elrington.

The same was true with the raisin one. In appearance, Pioneer House's cinnamon buns were also the most homemade- looking, lacking that more crafted appearance the others had, which was not necessarily a bad thing.

"These buns would go great with hot cup of coffee or tea," commented Grant. "For some reason the raisins stick out more in these, maybe they were poached and plumped before being rolled in the buns," said Grant of the large, round, domed brioche-looking cinnamon buns from Small Tall Treats in downtown Chemainus.

Elrington found them very sticky and gooey -- something you can't wait to tear apart.

I loved the dark, rich caramel and the awesome intensity of the cinnamon swirled throughout these buns.

"Hard to stop eating these," said Elrington. Thankfully we did manage to stop because we would not have had room to sample the next ones we tried, which were also in the "to die for" category.

"I love eating something and thinking my dentist is going to hate me for this," said Grant, when digging into the sinfully sweet almond, frosted and chocolate pecan varieties of cinnamon buns we sampled from Old Town Bakery on historic 1st Avenue in Ladysmith.

"Instead of peeling the layers apart, this is one I just want to eat all the way through," said Elrington, astonished, as I was, at how addictively moist, tender and delicious they were inside and out. "It virtually melted in your mouth," she said.

After slapping Grant's and Elrington's hands away, I managed to take the tray of Old Town Bakery cinnamon buns away and replace them with equally impressive looking ones from Miner's Cafe and Bakery, located in the pretty Comox Valley town of Cumberland.

They were the best formed ones of all we tried, with tight, concentric circles bursting with cinnamon and caramel.

They came in regular and walnut-topped, and I'm pleased to say the walnuts, which can sometimes taste a little off if improperly stored, were rich and fresh-tasting. They must sell a lot of cinnamon buns.

"Looks intimidating," said Grant, commenting on their "feed a family of four" size.

Once we dug in, Grant and I thought they had excellent flavour and nice, tender dough -- a perfect treat to enjoy after strolling the streets of Cumberland or hiking or skiing in the nearby mountains.

Elrington thought they were a little doughy and not her first choice, but said they had a hard act to follow. We all agreed with that summation. The cinnamon buns from Old Town Bakery were superb and we unanimously declared them our favourite.

To see if you agree, why not stop at these establishments next time you're in the area.

You're sure to get a tasty cinnamon bun from all and you'll also get a taste of some of the more historic parts of these communities.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005

HA! Not what you thought it was eh? LOL