349. Mshalale Cheese, Ashta Ice Cream, & Sheesha Water Pipes

Where can you find zaatar in Toronto? My husband’s quest for that Middle Eastern herb mixture led us to Arz. There we found several, not just one, variety. We also found soft white Mediterranean-style cheeses like mshalale, and ashta and mistika ice creams. We found water pipes, olive oil soap, and keffiyehs, the red and white scarves worn on male Arab heads.

Mshalale. Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

Image Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

Though Arz is primarily a bakery, it has a huge selection of other goods, like olive oils from Lebanon, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Morocco, Egypt, etc. Finding this Scarborough-based store was exciting as I like Middle Eastern food. We became ecstatic when we discovered Lebanese ice creams for the first time. We bought one to try and it didn’t disappoint.

Some of its many olive oils. Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

Image Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

We have the thinnest pita bread in Toronto,” said owner Armand Boyadjian, who owns the store with his brothers. “We bake it ourselves every day without preservatives.” He started cooking when he was a 14 year old lad in Lebanon. His maternal grandmother inspired his recipes for its frozen entrees. The store also has elegant Parisian-style cakes, the product of his years in Paris.

Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

Image Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

Armand took me into his spacious basement kitchen where we watched one of his cooks prepare kebee for sale in the store’s frozen food counter. Kebee is meat cooked with onions, pine nuts and spices sandwiched in a cracked wheat top and base. Along with the likes of stuffed grape leaves and lamb chops, it is one of several frozen entrees which Arz sells in-store under its own brand name. We couldn’t resist trying it, and I really liked it.

Kebee. Meat and cracked wheat. Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

Image Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

While many other Toronto stores sell baklava, Arz has several different varieties of the popular Mediterranean sweet, among them pine nut, cashew, and the favourite pistachio. They too are made daily from scratch, he says. Nothing is left at the end of each day.

President Armand Boyadjian and Baklava.

Image Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

Arz has a small cafe in the store where staff like Rita Sabri sell shawarma meats, pastries, and hot coffee. It also has a deli and a ready-to-eat section. Staff are friendly and seemed pleased to explain how to prepare items like the mshalale, the twisted cheese that looks like skeins of yarn or noodles. It’s made in brine and is very salty unless you rinse it before using.

Rita Sabri

Image Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

Arz was started as a bake shop in 1989 in 2000 square feet. It moved to 1909 Lawrence Avenue in 2001 where it expanded to 12,000 square feet. It will be opening a branch soon at Cawthra and Dundas in Mississauga. In the meantime, the telephone is 416-755-5084 and the web-site: http://www.arzbakery.com/ . It costs nothing to explore this store. But it’s hard not to sample items that look interesting like the kebee or one of the baklavas. I’m anxious to try the fresh-baked pita too. It shouldn’t cost much.

Frozen Kebee.

Image Copyright ©2013 Ruth Lor Malloy

For another culinary adventure, see: http://bit.ly/XJhTAA . It’s about our visit to Toronto’s J-Town, Little Japan.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *