Village Baker Downtown

I was excited when I saw that the Village Baker was moving into the main floor of the new 111 Main building in downtown Salt Lake City. I’ve been a fan of Village Baker since I lived down in Draper and frequented their West Jordan location. The new downtown shop opened a couple months ago, and has had a brisk business ever since, without a doubt helped by the continued growth of the downtown workforce and the accompanying strain this growth has placed on downtown lunch spots. I rarely venture out for lunch past about 11:45 because lines at almost every downtown dining spot will be 10-15 people deep. Maybe I’ll develop a new measure of downtown economic growth and base it on the line length at 12pm at sandwich shops.

Breakfast sandwiches, coffee, soups, salads, pizza, sandwiches, a variety of sweets and pastries–you name it, and this place will likely have it. As opposed to Kneaders, Village Baker’s bread selection is less rustic and artisan and centers more squarely on traditional American bread pan breads: honey wheat, honey white, French, and sourdough, with other specialty breads such as sunflower whole wheat, raisin, multigrains, and cinnaburst loaves produced on a rotating weekly schedule.

One popular sandwich is the turkey cranberry ($3.74 for half, about $7 for whole). The turkey, which was somewhat clumsily and unevenly placed in the sandwich, mayonnaise and cranberry sauce were contained by two thick slices of honey wheat bread. This sandwich is one of their more popular menu items, and I can see why: it’s delicious. I wasn’t initially sold on cranberry on my sandwiches, but once I tried it, there was no going back. For an extra $2.50 you can make your sandwich a combo and get a beverage and your choice of either chips or a large cookie. Sorry Lays, but I’m going for the homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookie every time.

On another visit I tried the turkey, provolone, and avocado sandwich ($4.32 for a half sandwich and I think around $7 for the whole). This one came served with thin slices of bread despite my request for the thicker slices, and was, simply put, anemic and a little bit sad. It lacked the filling robustness I’m accustomed to at Village Baker. This sandwich was a boring dud.

The pizza is delicious, and extremely well priced at about $2 per slice. At that price I have to imagine they will give some other downtown pizza places a run for their money. The slices are generous, sauce well balanced, cheese is perfectly stretchy and gooey, and the thicker crust has the perfect chew. I’m a fan.

Their cookies are good, but sadly not as good as those that I remember from the West Jordan location. At West Jordan, the cookies are thick and chewy, whereas at the downtown spot they are much thinner. This results in a crisper, drier cookie that makes me yearn for their more robust southern brethren.

For breakfast, I was impressed by their savory breakfast roll ($3.59), which features hash browns, red and green peppers, mozzarella and bacon. The rolls are packaged for a quick to-go option, but the kitchen is more than happy to warm it up for you, which I would highly recommend if you have the time.

The space itself is bright, cheery, and well decorated. During the warmer months, patio tables are placed outside on the sidewalk, greatly expanding their capacity. During the colder times, diners are restricted to limited seating on the main floor, but Village Baker anticipated this and came up with a brilliant solution: they build a mezzanine floor above the kitchen, where I imagine 30+ hungry diners can fit at any given time.

Service is of the “order at the counter and take a number to your table” variety. I’ve always been helped by cheerful people at the order counter as well as those delivering my food. I’ve had them ask me how things are as they walk by delivering orders to other tables, which is greatly appreciated and shows me they care.

Does downtown seriously need another soup and sandwich place? Yes. While I’d love to see a bit more variety hit downtown dining spots, demand for noontime noshing continues to strain eateries, so it’s nice to have another sandwich spot to help relieve some of the lunch rush pressure. Village Baker is a top-notch addition, and I’m glad they chose to come downtown. Judging by their crowds, I think they’ll do just fine.

Amour Cafe is Open!

Amour Cafe, from our friends John and Casee at Amour Spreads, is open for business! Baker/gelato maker extraordinaire Amber Billingsley is behind the delicious baked goods at the cafe, which features everything from the traditional chocolate chip with Solstice chocolate to a beet root cake with walnuts and bourbon raisins. The baked goods selection varies day to day, as do the gelato flavors. 

Simple, yet beautiful decor throughout, including 120 year old salvaged church pews.

Homemade sodas are flavored using Amour’s very own homemade simple syrup. Full coffee/espresso drinks are offered, as are delicious pieces of toast with eggs, prosciutto, and of course, Amour Spreads.

Check them out at 1329 South 500 East. Open every day from 7am to 7pm. If you’re lucky you will be able to look into their kitchen from the window in the dining room and watch them work their magic in the back.

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Visiting Les Madeleines

“Siri, set the timer for 19 minutes.” No, this is not an Apple commercial featuring Cookie Monster. I’m at Les Madeleines bakery in downtown Salt Lake, visiting with Romina Rasmussen, owner and chef.

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It’s a sleepy Salt Lake Sunday morning, and Romina is experimenting with different yeasts in her croissants, testing and testing again to see if the new stuff yields the same results as her old stuff. Not quite yet, she says. Back to the old stuff for now.

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Romina hasn’t always been a baker. She spent her first chunk of post-college years in D.C, then teaching English in Taiwan, and then on to Hong Kong, working in employee communications and then as the speechwriter for AT&T’s CEO. Romina explained that expats hit a point at about year four of being abroad, in which they start to lose touch with their home culture enough that most have to decide at that point to stay or go home. Romina decided to come home, where she worked for another telecom in Miami, before deciding it was time to take a step out of the corporate world and focus on something else. Next stop: the French Culinary Institute in New York. 

After graduating the FCI and working as pastry cook at the Mandarin Oriental, her brother called with a proposition. He was the owner of Shaggy’s on State Street, and he had a spot two doors down that would be perfect for a bakery. And so began her next adventure: transitioning from hotel-scale baking to now owning and self-funding her own tiny bakery in downtown Salt Lake.

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It started with a rotating menu of baked goods, and then about her croissants from the Trib. But then the Kouign Amann (pronounced “queen amahn”) happened. She was the only employee at the time, baking, running the cash register, etc. So when someone approached her and asked if she had ever made them, she replied that she didn’t have time to experiment. “Well, what if I special-ordered some?” the persistent customer asked. “I guess I’d make some, then” was Romina’s reply. So out went the first special order, and from then on Les Madeleines featured Kouign Amann’s one day per week, which slowly turned into two times, then three, and on until she was making them on a daily basis.

The kouigns were hard to come by, and difficult and time-consuming to make. At first they were in scarce supply and limits to how many one customer could buy. When people came in to buy some, they would “act suspicious, without making eye contact, and would ask for the Kouign Amann.” So the Kouign quickly earned the nickname “crack,” and Romina became “the lady on State Street that sells crack.”

She moved into her new space (the old Urban Bistro space at 216 E 500 S), which had a full kitchen. Romina never intended to offer a full hot menu, but “it would be a shame” to not use the kitchen. About this time, the Food Network called, and featured the Kouign on an episode of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Romina’s phone battery died from the amount of online orders placed the night the show aired. Despite that this episode aired originally in 2009, it is still her most popular product.

But don’t look past her other creations, as her wall of accolades attests to her broad range of baking prowess.

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I stopped by and tried her Madmuffin breakfast sandwich without regrets (well, one regret–should have ordered two). Housemade English muffin, boar bacon, eggs, micro chives ensured I got my morning off to the right start.

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Ro is humble, and doesn’t feel the need to tout that she makes her own jams from produce she grows herself, or that her gelato doesn’t come pre-mixed in a bag from the factory. She believes that people will see and taste the quality, which is all the touting that she needs. Romina exhibits the entrepreneurial spirit, willing to take risks, jump out of the nest, and do something that others might perceive as risky to pursue her dream. And Salt Lake City is the lucky benefactor of this entrepreneurial spirit. We’re lucky to have her here.

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From Scratch Sweet Shop

We Utahns love our sweets (I type as I eat a bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream). And David Brodsky thinks he has just the think to satiate our sweet tooth. Brodsky is the owner of From Scratch, a restaurant tucked into Gallivan Avenue, that specializes in scratch-made products (all the way down to their ketchup and jams). He has been working on a small little space tucked into the side of the dining area that he has prepped to be a quick-serve counter serving various baked goods, and eventually, ice cream.

Having done the sit-down atmosphere at From Scratch, David wanted to try out the concept of more of a grab-and-go bakery. Bakery customers will be able to choose whether to eat their goods in the dining room (no waiter service in the morning) or take and go on their way to work or school. Publik coffee will be served, but for now, no espresso.

Brodsky plans on offering a rotating selection of pastries, including brioche cinnamon rolls with brown butter frosting, coffee cake, scones, cookies (four chocolate chip, peanut butter, cookie sandwiches), deep dish quiche, muffins with house made jams and butter, and, various breads.

Oh, and donuts of course. David has been experimenting to find the perfect cake donut recipe over the past several months, and has failed more times than he cares to admit. But he feels they have finally nailed it, and will be offering various flavors such as lemon, blueberry cake, traditional glazed, as well as chocolate with caramel.

For the lunch crowd, The Sweet Shop will sell various grab-and-go sandwiches to satisfy the demands of the ever-growing downtown lunch crowd.

Eventually, Brodsky intends to add an ice cream machine into the mix, turning out pints of various flavors. Think Bi-Rite in San Francisco or Salt & Straw in Portland. I’ve always thought it odd that there isn’t a high-end, small-batch ice cream maker in SLC, so this would fill that niche. 

Sweet Shop opens next Tuesday, August 25th. Hours will be 7:30-2pm and is located right next to From Scratch at 62 East Gallivan Avenue.

Eva’s Bakery

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Every now and then a place pops up that is so different, so exciting, so….unique to Salt Lake that I can’t help but get excited about it. When I first spotted its bright blue and yellow facade, I knew that Eva Boulangerie was that kind of place.

Located at 155 S Main St, between Braza Express and the (now closed) Bayleaf Bar and Grub, Eva Boulangerie stands out from the crowd as something special. The front of the building screams Paris, which accurately reflects the European bakery ethos located within.

As you might guess by the name, Eva Boulangerie is owned and operated by the same folks behind Eva Restaurant. Charlie Perry is the chef/owner behind Eva, and he’s had a strong desire to open a cafe/bakery in SLC that helps transport people to another part of the world, through both food and atmosphere.

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It took Charlie over nine months to renovate the bakery space into something reminiscent of a Parisian bakery. Immediately upon entry you’ll notice gorgeous blue, yellow and white floor tiles sporting a fun design. Like most main street stores, this one is fairly skinny and deep–I was surprised how far back the seating extended in this space. 

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The walls are lined with clean, bright white subway tiles and bright lights. Shelves holding a multitude of breads line the walls, with dangerously inviting sweet and savory pastries fill the glass case in front. The service staff is dressed in crisp white shirts and aprons. Head to the back of the space and you’ll find a wonderfully bright skylight which brings light into what would otherwise be a dark little section of the bakery. One of the co-owners of the space mentioned that they call the skylight their “$100,000 skylight” because it wasn’t until they started tearing down the ceiling that they even knew the skylight was there, which prompted them to change their architectural plans to bring in as much light as possible. It was worth it.

I had the opportunity to meet Lynn Perry, President of Central Milling and bakery partner. This guy knows wheat. You know your uncle or buddy who knows cars or sports like the back of his hand? That’s this guy, but with wheat. Central Milling is Utah’s oldest business, and the premier bakery supplier. I didn’t know so many types of flour existing until Lynn educated us. He takes great pride in his product, and Chef Charlie Perry understands that it takes good ingredients to make good products.

We were fortunate to have a tasting of many of their products. I’ll mention of few of my favorites here. Let’s start with the savory. The bakery offers $3 slices of pizza. The slices are very generous and the dough is crispy and flaky, with just the right amount of chew–in other words, exactly what you’d expect from a bakery. My favorite was the “Pig and Fig,” and if you’ve ever had a similar dish from Eva Restaurant, you know how delicious this is. Sweet figs and Creminelli ham top the pizza, providing a lovely sweet/savory contrast. At $3 per slice this is a wonderful little lunch on its own.

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Eva’s Savory Bread Pudding was my favorite savory item that I was able to try. Bread pudding containing leeks, caramelized onions, potatoes, and spinach, all topped with deliciously rich and salty gruyere cheese. I’m sure this will be my go-to dish in the future.

The bakery offers French Onion Soup daily. I’m also looking forward to trying out their steak sandwich, featuring slow roasted tri-tip, parmesan, arugula and olive oil.

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Breads. So. Many. Breads. Baker Ryan Moore uses no commercial yeast, relying instead on a twenty year old mother sourdough starter. I was very impressed with the leavening he is able to achieve without using yeast to “cheat.” Wheat bread, which can be too dense, is light and airy, a feat attributed to both the quality of the flour used as well as the baker’s expertise. Baguettes are browned, with a crispy crust and wonderfully soft, light insides–in other words, exactly how they should be. The kalamata loaf and the “One” baguette with seeds are not to be missed. The kalamata loaf takes 36 hours to produce from start to finish.

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Now, on to the sweets. Pastry Chef Alisa Watson, a Portland transport, has really knocked it out of the park. Goat cheese cheesecake. Rich and creamy. Caneles, which are dubbed “portable creme brûlée” were unlike anything I’ve tasted before. Don’t let the fact that the molds they are cooked in are coated with beeswax scare you off. Croissants are light, crispy, with just the right amount of toothiness. Stuffed French Toast is filled with lemon cream and topped with blueberry compote. We tried molten chocolate, gingersnap, and hazelnut cookies, all divine.

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The beleaguered Main Street has had a rough ten years or so. But, slowly and surely, life is returning to the thoroughfare which at one time exuded so much life and character. I hope that the uniqueness and character of Eva Boulangerie portends of good things to come to Salt Lake.

Eva Boulangerie
155 S Main St
Monday through Saturday
7am – 6pm 

See more photos of Eva Bakery on Flickr

Disclosure: I was treated to a press tasting event by Eva Bakery

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Gourmandise – The Bakery

Step into Gourmandise – The Bakery, and you’re immediately brought home. The welcoming, relaxed interior envelopes you in the aromas of freshly baked bread, rich pastries, and delicious soup simmering slowly on the stove.

Gourmandise’s executive chef and general manager is Jean-Jacques Grossi. Jean-Jacques began his baking career as a 13 year-old boy in France. After moving to Salt Lake City, he worked at various Salt Lake bakeries, including Bakers de Normandie and Brumbies, and eventually settled down at The Bakery, where he worked his way up from baker to executive chef.

The Bakery is owned by Pete and Wanda Hanssen, who immigrated from South Africa and purchased Gourmandise in 2006. It’s all about the family at Gourmandise, where several generations all work together.

The layout of the bakery is European inspired, which can lead to confusion for some. I remember my first time at the bakery, I walked in and didn’t know whether I should sit down at the table or order at the counter. Our host Becky gave us a tip: if you plan on staying to eat, sit down at a table and a server will come over to take your order. If you are looking for something to carry out, go right up to the counter to order and pay. If the weather is nice, I would recommend sitting out in their covered patio.

This unique layout causes service to be a bit sporadic at times, especially during the busy times. Water glasses can go unfilled as the servers try to handle their tables.

I have never left from Gourmandise disappointed with my meal. The Bakery has recently reinvented their quiches from ground up. They are made completely in-house from scratch using delicious ingredients such as creme fraiche and gruyere. Each day offers a different quiche. The Saturday quiche is roasted red pepper, goat cheese, and basil. If you have to make a special trip to The Bakery in order to try the Saturday quiche, do it. It’s that good. The goat cheese isn’t too overpowering, and the quiche was perfectly cooked. 

The cup of French Onion soup that came with the quiche had the perfect blend of sweet onions, salty broth, and gooey cheese. It’s their house special and it’s obvious why.

Other recommendations from Becky: for the vegetarians, the Chickpea Smash, which can either be had as a sandwich or a salad. The Smash consists of smashed chickpeas, olives, red onions and fresh Italian parsley. Another hit is the Portobello Panini. Grilled portobellos, red peppers, muenster, hummus, and basil aioli. I think I’m going to have to try that one next time. The Curry Chicken Salad is another Gourmandise classic. Think of a delicious chicken salad kicked up a notch with a rich curry dressing.

Another reason why I love Gourmandise: they’re open late. They’re the only bakery in Salt Lake that does so, staying open until 10 pm Monday through Thursday, and open until 11 pm Friday and Saturday. One thing that had us wondering is why they are closed on Sunday. I guess we can give them one day off, right?

If you’re looking for a place to relax with friends, bring a business acquaintance, or for some late night eats, make sure to put Gourmandise – The Bakery, on your list. I guarantee you’ll find a sweet treat you’ll love in their gigantic display cases.

Croissant Pudding

For a chance to win a $25 gift card to Gourmandise, leave a comment telling us what your favorite Gourmandise dish is, or what you’d like to try when you go. Or tweet @Broswhobrunch and tell us there!

Gourmandise – The Bakery
250 South 300 East
Salt Lake City

http://gourmandisethebakery.com

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