Category Archives: Bakeries

Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 33 (All-Sweets Edition)

The St. Honore tart by Tarts de Feybesse makes any day that much more special.
The St. Honore tart by Tarts de Feybesse makes any day that much more special.

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.

The jaw-dropping brioche feuilletee.
The jaw-dropping brioche feuilletee.

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.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 32

The mixed grill plate of chicken and lamb from Athena Grill.
The mixed grill plate of chicken and lamb from Athena Grill.

Athena Grill, Santa Clara

It would be understandable if you thought you’d gotten lost while trying to get to Athena Grill in Santa Clara. Surrounded by low-slung industrial buildings, it doesn’t look at all like a neighborhood where you’d find a restaurant of any sort.

But this casual, family-owned Greek restaurant has been drawing a loyal following to this spot for the past 19 years.

It’s the type of simple, oregano-fragrant food in ample portions that you picture yourself enjoying at an outdoor cafe overlooking the Aegean Sea. When you get the food to-go, just be prepared to work up an appetite, inhaling the heady garlic the whole way home.

It’s one of the few places you’ll find smelt ($11.95). These tiny fish, lightly breaded and fried, are about the size of the french fries they come with. In fact, you may have trouble distinguishing the two at first glance. Squeeze on some lemon juice and dunk into the container of skordalia, a creamy potato garlic dip. They’re mild tasting, and edible in their entirety.

Fried smelt and fries (back), and grilled sardines with garlic fries (front).
Fried smelt and fries (back), and grilled sardines with garlic fries (front).

If larger fishes are more your speed, go for the grilled sardines mezes ($12.95). They are marinated in olive oil, garlic and lemon before getting crisped on the grill. You have to debone them yourself. But that’s easy enough to do. They are tender, slightly stronger in taste with their rich oil, and just a joy to dig into.

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Discover The Unsweetened Tooth

Would you believe these decadent peanut butter mousse brownies have no sugar added to them?
Would you believe these decadent peanut butter mousse brownies have no sugar added to them?

Those peanut butter mousse brownies above are everything you expect — decadently rich, deeply fudgy, and loaded with irresistible sweet-salty, smooth peanut-butter goodness.

But they also lack something surprising — added sugar.

They are the creation of a unique Seattle bakery, The Unsweetened Tooth. As the name implies, this bake-to-order shop makes treats with no added sugar. Yet, they taste every bit as satisfying as their conventional counterparts — and minus the unpleasant aftertaste of so many sugar substitutes such as Stevia.

The bakery was started by Jude Sharp, who worked as an engineer in the tech industry in Silicon Valley with her fellow engineer husband, for years. But a health scare put her on a different path. After learning that she might become diabetic and lose her sight if she didn’t drastically change her dietary habits, she decided to give up sugar, and lost 100 pounds in the process.

Using her engineering know-how and love for tinkering, she built a commercial kitchen, and started coming up with no-sugar recipes after the couple moved to Washington state. In 2016, she launched The Unsweetened Tooth there.

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Milk Bar’s French Toast Muffins

All the wonderfulness of French toast -- in a convenient muffin form.
All the wonderfulness of French toast — in a convenient muffin form.

I love this delectable Christina Tosi recipe for “French Toast Muffins” for so many reasons:

  1. It lets you make a load of “French toast” in one fell swoop.
  2. It is a genius use of all those odds and ends of various bread loaves on the verge of freezer-burn at home.
  3. It’s easy enough for kiddos to do, making it an ideal way to spoil mom with breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. In fact, it’s featured in the “Milk Bar: Kids Only” cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2020), of which I received a review copy.

You probably know Pastry Chef Tosi as the founder and owner of the phenomenon known as Milk Bar bakery, as well as for her judging prowess on TV’s “MasterChef.”

Her creations at Milk Bar are beloved for their nostalgic effervescence and joyous kid-like appeal. So, a cookbook like this is a natural. It’s sure to entice kids into the kitchen with recipes such as “Coco Cabana Cereal Squares,” “Compost Pancakes,” “Donut Shakes,” and “Corn Dog Waffles.”

She even instructs how to judge if baked goods are done, by employing cocktail umbrella toothpicks to demonstrate, as well as trouble-shoots problems such as cupcakes or muffins sinking in the middle (You’re opening and closing the oven too much.).

For “French Toast Muffins,” you rip up bread slices into small pieces “as if you were feeding ducks in the park.” (One of the best recipe directions I’ve ever read, by the way.)

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Meyer Lemon Tea Cakes with Pomegranate Glaze

Meyer lemon juice and zest flavors these cute little cakes.

When a good friend gifts you a few late-harvest Meyer lemons from her backyard tree that have ballooned into the size of oranges, you know you need to do something special with them.

Not just halved and squirted over fish on the grill. Not just sliced to garnish glasses of iced tea. And not merely juiced to make mundane lemonade.

Nope, these babies were made for “Meyer Lemon Tea Cakes with Pomegranate Glaze.”

This easy-breezy recipe for individual cakes is from “Sweet” (Artisan, 2013) by Pastry Chef Valerie Gordon.

A monster-sized Meyer lemon.
A monster-sized Meyer lemon.

She owns one of my favorite bakeries in Los Angeles, Valerie’s Confections, which I always make a point of visiting whenever I’m in town just so I can snag a slice of her impeccable rendition of the iconic Blum’s coffee crunch cake.

For this recipe, Meyer lemon juice and zest are incorporated into this cake batter, along with creme fraiche (I actually used plain yogurt instead) for tang and moistness. The batter gets distributed amongst large muffin cups that are buttered but not lined.

Once they are baked and cooled, turn the cakes upside down to dunk the flat sides into a glaze flavored with Meyer lemon juice and pomegranate juice. You are left with precious little cakes simply too cute to resist.

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