Tarts de Feybesse, Vallejo, and Pop-Ups Around the Bay Area
When you first lay eyes upon the creations of Tarts de Feybesse, you find yourself astounded that they were made by two chefs whose forte has come on the savory side of the professional kitchen.
But when you realize that husband-and-wife founders, Paul Feybesse and Monique Feybesse met while working at Geranium, the rarefied Copenhagen restaurant that was the first in Denmark to receive three Michelin stars, you realize the talent, precision and artistry they obviously possess.
They began baking for friends and family, plying what they had learned on their own and from pastry chef colleagues along the way. Baking required an attention to detail to which they were already accustomed, so it was not that great a leap, Monique says. If their savory side does come into play, it’s in their restraint of sweetness in their desserts. Instead, she jokes, they’re always wanting to add just a touch more salt, in order to create harmony and balance.
Pre-pandemic, they started to craft a baking business out of their Vallejo home, quickly building a clientele through social media for their breads and fine pastries, done up in a strikingly singular, modern aesthetics. Then, once the pandemic hit, the business really took off. Because who can turn down strawberry tarts, opera cakes, and eclairs with such distinctive fillings as blackberry violet?
Definitely not me. So, when Tarts de Feybesse held a pop-up last Sunday at Camper restaurant in Menlo Park, I threw calories to the wind and pre-ordered.
When I was a kid, a St. Honore cake was the birthday cake my mom always got me, knowing I couldn’t resist the tiny cream puffs that ringed it. It’s a good bet, though, that I never had one as refined as the one by the Feybesses.
This 6-inch St. Honore tart ($35) is done up high with mounded bands of whipped cream that snuggle seven filled cream puffs that have been dipped in glossy caramel that hardens like on candied apples. The base is a buttery, crunchy cookie-like crust with a clean snap that holds a filling of soft vanilla pastry cream. It’s an instantaneous celebration in your mouth, even if the only thing you’re commemorating is the end of the day.
The brioche feuilletee ($20) is a stunning loaf covered in a swoosh of pastry swirls as crisp as a fine croissant. Slicing into it, the interior reveals its tender, pillowy self full of layers. There is butter galore in this, and you can taste it profoundly in every bite. It’s like the love child of a brioche and a croissant, but exponentially richer tasting.
The couple were too kind to gift me a Parisian flan ($30), which has become their signature dessert. The 6-inch diameter tart stands regally tall at 2 1/2 inches. It is quite hefty in weight. The thin, flaky crust supports a bountiful French custard filling that hogs the spotlight with a veil of dense, shiny burnt caramel. The flan is perfectly smooth and pure lusciousness.
Pro Tip: You can order items for pick-up at their Vallejo home. Tarts de Feybesse also does pop-ups occasionally at other locations in various Bay Area cities. Follow its Instagram page or get on its email list to get the lowdown on when they happen.
Sometimes, you find the unlikeliest things at gas stations. Including fresh-baked, monster cinnamon rolls that are worth a stop — even if you already have a full tank.
Spinners in Sacramento has been around for more than 30 years, and it is indeed located inside a Union 76 station.
It was started by husband-and-wife, Larry and Sandy Taing, refugees who fled Cambodia. And it has become a sugary institution.
I have my husband, who grew up in Sacramento, to thank for these cinnamon-y babies, as he brought them home one day after visiting relatives there.
They are about $5 each, and come in several flavors, including limited ones. Like all of them, the regular is a hand-sized, spiraled roll that’s yeasty and yielding, buttery throughout, warm with cinnamon spice, drizzled with a modest amount of glaze, and definitely sweet tasting overall, but not achingly so like many others made elsewhere.
The walnut one might be my favorite, as the nuts add a nice pop of crunch here and there, and also mellow out the sweetness of the roll ever so more.
The apple one is almost like an apple danish fashioned out of a cinnamon roll. The apple pie-like filling weighs down the center of the roll a bit, turning it more gooey and sweeter, if you’re so inclined.
Pro-Tip: During holiday times such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, Spinners also sells trays of take-and-bake cinnamon rolls so you can bake them fresh in your own oven to enjoy exquisitely warm.
Real Pie Company, Sacramento
From that same trip to Sacramento, my husband also brought back pie. Does he not know me or what?
Real Pie Company was started by husband-and-wife Fred and Kira Babich. She was a baker and pastry chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Ristorante Piatti in Sonoma and Yountville, and Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford. He is not only an avid home baker, but a commercial helicopter pilot, former Los Angeles producer of commercials, and former content program manager at LeapFrog Enterprises in Emeryville.
Together, they take pride in creating both sweet and savory pies by hand, made with local, seasonal ingredients fresh from Sacramento area farms. You can even enjoy a pie milkshake. Yes, the ice cream of your choice with the pie of your choice — combined into one.
You can get a whole sweet pie for $28 or a slice for $5.75. The latter is what my husband went for.
The Jumbleberry pie is a double-crust one brimming with marionberries, cherries, wild blueberries, and raspberries. The crust is wonderfully flaky, and the jammy filling a berry lover’s delight with just the right amount of sweetness and acidity.
The butterscotch-banana cream pie replaces the usual vanilla- or banana-pudding-like filling with full-on creamy, fluffy butterscotch custard instead. If banana cream pie could be improved upon, this is the ideal way. It’s almost reminiscent of a banana split, what with its chunks of fresh bananas folded into it. A crumbly graham cracker crust supports it all, and a smooth top of whipped cream completes it.
Pro Tip: You can also find Real Pie Company’s pies sold by the slice or half pie at Nugget Markets in West Sacramento, Roseville, and Elk Grove, and at the farmers market at Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova.