West Vancouver's Temper Pastry evokes Paris

The West Van shop offers standout European-style sweets as well as lunch treats

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      When he set up shop in North Vancouver in 2005, Thomas Haas became the city’s most talked-about pastry chef and chocolatier. Then came Thierry Busset of Thierry, and Christophe Bonzon, who helms Burnaby’s Chez Christophe Chocolaterie Patisserie. Now, there’s Steven Hodge.

      Hodge is the chocolatier and pâtissier behind Temper Pastry, a Dundarave café filled with the kind of European-style bonbons and baked goods that have made the aforementioned spots hop. And it’s already getting Haas-style lineups after opening in January.

      Hodge, who grew up in the same West Vancouver neighbourhood that houses his shop (his parents still live up the street), studied at the California School of Culinary Arts, specializing in pastry and chocolate. Over the years, he’s worked at several restaurants in California and London, England, been pastry chef at Coast in downtown Vancouver, and apprenticed with local master pastry chefs and sugar artists Patrice Cordier and Dominique Jerry. Then he landed an opportunity to work alongside Haas as a pastry chef.

      In a phone interview, Hodge explains that being around the German chef for close to five years did much more than allow him to hone his skills in the chocolate arts.

      “Thomas was inspirational and motivating,” Hodge says. “I also really learned the business side of things; I learned a lot about how to run a little shop, about running a small, family-style business. With Thomas, you became part of the family. It was like a lifestyle, and it was fun.

      “I’ve learned things from every place I ever worked,” he adds, “even the bad places, because then you learn what not to do.”

      Walk into Temper—which has a sleek, clean aesthetic with its white marble counters, backsplash, and tabletops—and you might as well be at a pastry shop in Paris. It carries a vast selection of exquisite cakes, tarts, brioches, croissants, galettes, scones, truffles, chocolate “sculptures” (rounded teddy bears are Hodge’s signature item), and pretty sweets (look at the vivid green on the tequila-lime chocolates and the intense pink on one made with Pimm’s).

      One of the standout pastries is the laminated brioche, which looks like an oversize thimble and is named after the baking technique that involves alternating layers of dough and butter—in other words, this thing has even more butter than your basic buttery croissant. Topped with a smidge of icing sugar, it tastes light even though it isn’t.

      The Charlie Bite (named after Hodge’s daughter) resembles a cinnamon bun, only it’s not overly sticky or sickly sweet. It’s formed with squares of dough that are arranged almost like Rubik’s Cube parts; once baked, they tear off easily into perfect bite-size pieces.

      Potica, a rolled pastry that originated in eastern Europe, is cinnamon-y too, slightly sweet with a walnut-and-brown-sugar paste.

      There are savoury selections as well. Aside from quiche Lorraine, there are a handful of sandwiches made with artisan loaves from Mount Pleasant’s Swiss Bakery. Montreal smoked meat is sourced right next door at Sebastian & Co. Fine Organic Meats and dressed simply with mustard and a pickle. A thick slice of yellow heirloom tomato is camouflaged within melted aged white Cheddar in the grilled cheese on French sourdough. Chunks of tender chicken are tossed with celery, grapes, and walnuts for a hearty Waldorf-salad sandwich on cranberry-pecan bread. The Cheese Bite is the same idea as the Charlie Bite, only it’s made with green onion and applewood-smoked Cheddar.

      Prices range from $2.95 for a croissant to $5.50 for a green salad to $9.50 tops for sandwiches.

      Temper is licensed, offering craft beer (Black Kettle, Hoyne, and Four Winds) and wine (Tightrope, JoieFarm, and Burrowing Owl, among others).

      While the idea of lingering over a glass of, say, Black Sage Merlot with your strawberry basil black pepper-truffle sounds appealing, keep in mind that the place is usually packed. There’s a good-size patio, but with the tables and chairs not wiped down on a regular basis, you probably won’t want to sit outside anytime soon. There’s no shortage of front-line staff—there were six on our visit—but service still fell short. I wanted to try a curried-chicken sandwich but none was in the display case even though it wasn’t yet noon; I asked if any were available but was told they were sold-out. After I selected something else, a dozen of my first choice appeared on the shelf. Other orders were mixed up, and hot drinks (one forgotten) were slow. (We had a few rounds of food, and friends came to join us midway through; there was confusion over all of our items.) I’ve heard similar complaints from friends who’ve been.

      Those kinds of wrinkles won’t keep people away, though; the goods are simply too good. Just don’t be in a rush. That’s the European way, anyway.

      Follow Gail Johnson on Twitter at @gailjohnsonwork.