It has been a very long time since I received a toy train for Christmas. This year it finally happened again! And lo – by another miracle – the choo-choo was full of bags of various kinds of posh German cookies that I also dimly remembered from childhood tea parties in other people’s houses. The company that makes the train – and the cookies – is Lambertz, a traditionalist giant from Aachen, Frankish Charlemagne’s old capital city. Their product range is vast and includes shortbread as well as Aachener printen cookies and lebkuchen – a soft, heavy, honey-sweetened, exotically spiced cookie-cake most like a form of gingerbread. There were gingery lebkuchen in my train, shaped like plump hearts and dipped in dark chocolate, with a moist squodge of apricot jam inside. There were also firmer, round cookies that tasted of cinnamon and were crusted with hard white icing. And wee cubes of apricot jelly covered in a fragile chocolate shell. The cookies will not last long but I’ll keep the train, I think.
Where can one find such a treasure? At Ararat, the wonderful gourmet food store on Avenue Road. Peter and Aurora Kashkarian have run their store for more than 40 years. Middle eastern treats and delicacies were always their forte (awesome feta and some of the best olives in North America) and remain so – but now they have a number of amazing German finds as well, including Asbach liqueur chocolates in a handsome wooden box that can be kept when all the sweets have been guzzled and used to hold postage stamp swaps or hanks of coloured silk.
Ararat International Fine Foods is at 1800 Avenue Road (just north of Melrose Avenue). Call them at 416 782 5722.