The ever-updated Loblaw's at VP/Gerrard has another major reno - a new bakery department - and it's really something else. Likely a pilot test, the theme is "real food". They emphasize the quality of what goes into each item (providing detailed ingredient listings) and post large signs listing what their products do NOT contain.
There's a wide selection of house-baked breads, pastries, and cakes. Some of the stock is widely available, but I've never seen most of it at another Loblaw's location. They also have a better than average selection of decent brought-in stuff.
Almost everything on display is gorgeous though, regretably, the flavours don't necessarily live up to the promise of the great ingredients and beautiful appearance. Still, it's an exciting idea for a company that hasn't done much right in the recent past.
I found the breads to be the big winners. While not necessarily the best of breed, most of what I sampled tasted really good - especially the sourdoughs and the breads laced with olives, peppers, and other interesting ingredients. An otherwise great kimmel bread lacks any rye flavour, though I would definitely get it again. They usually provide samples, though this seems to depend on who is at the counter.
I was impressed by the cookies - especially a "pecan pie" cookie with an obscene calorie count (but also 6g of protein to ease the pain).
Pastries don't hit the mark, though they still leave most other supermarket versions in the dust. The "decadent" all butter croissants are bready - not flaky and not decadent - though the almond variety has a good, unsweet, almond paste filling. The danish taste good, but are all oddly dry. Though nothing is "calorie-reduced", they seem to be using much less butter than they should.
A goat cheese/roasted pepper quiche looked high-end, but had an underbaked crust and an insufficient flavour hit from its good ingredients. Some baking time at home fixed the crust, but overcooked the filling and ruined its creamy texture. Again, a good idea needing help.
They have Montreal, NY, and pletzl (flat) bagels, all of which I found decent. The chocolate babka was one of the better ones I've had in Toronto, with really good chocolate but, once again, the cake (and no butter in this one) was too dry.