Question of the day: Do you know what I use to miss the most from where I grew up??
The picture probably gave it away, yes, The pastry! Aaah, the croissants (plain, chocolate, almonds..), the fruit tarts…
See, I was raised on buttery croissants. That’s is what we had for breakfast (either that or some awesome bread with -real- butter and jam, I emphasize of real butter, not that white crap they serve you in restaurants or what you find in regular grocery stores).
Back in 2001, I was working for an IT company in Pikesville, MD. My supervisor Phyllis (who became a really good friend afterwards) had a birthday coming up. I wanted to do something special for her so I asked one of my co-worker where to find a really good birthday cake. Without hesitation, she told me that Miss Dessert was the best in town and that I wouldn’t be disappointed (I think that was the name, I tried to look them up but couldn’t find them so maybe that place doesn’t exist anymore, it was near Liberty road if I recall).
Anyway, during our lunch break, I asked her if we could go to that bakery and check out what they had. She agreed and off we went.The bakery wasn’t too far from the office so it didn’t take us long to get there. We entered the bakery and there was a display room, with -very- colorful cakes everywhere: Orange, yellow, blue and all in between. They all looked the same to me, just a different color.
Silly French me, I was convinced that every color was associated with a flavor. For example, yellow would be lemon, blue would be blueberry or some other berry, orange would be orange, you get the picture. I called a salesperson over and pointed to the yellow one ( I happen to like lemon), and I asked “What is this one?”, he replied: “It’s a yellow cake Ma’am”.
Here is how the conversation went:
Me: “I can see it’s yellow, but what is it?”
Salesperson: “It’s a yellow cake Ma’am”
Me (getting frustrated): “I understand, but what flavor?”
Salesperson: “I don’t know what to tell you Ma’am, it’s a yellow cake”
Me (done with the yellow one, pointing now to the blue one): “So what’s this one?”
Salesperson: “It’s a yellow cake Ma’am”
Me (now looking at my co-worker with the WTF look, and now pointing to the orange one): “and this one?”
Salesperson: “It’s a yellow cake Ma’am”.
Now I am pissed off, either Americans are color blind, or everything is yellow in this country. I was so confused. My co-worker proceeds to explain to me that icing makes the color, but they all taste the same, and that I had to trust her and just pick a color, and that everyone would like it. Not knowing any better, I did pick a yellow, yellow cake, had them write “Happy Birthday Phyllis” on it and off we went. Back to the office, we sneaked in the kitchen, displayed the yellow, yellow cake, lit some candles, brought everyone in, then someone else brought Phyllis afterwards, we sang Happy Birthday, she was touched, we cut the cake, and everyone had a piece, including me. It was horrible. The end. (everyone else seemed to enjoy it though so I guess my co-worker was right by saying that it would be a hit).
And this was the beginning of my disappointment about bakeries in general in the US. I had croissants here and there but couldn’t get satisfied as nothing came close to what I was used to.
My quest began. Throughout the years, I did find some good places, Bonjour French Bakery Cafe on Falls road (http://www.bonjourbakerycafe.com/, very cute place with good espresso and croissants), Patisserie Poupon downtown Baltimore on East Baltimore Street (http://www.patisseriepoupon.net/, I even ordered my wedding cake from there and they speak french! they have fruit tarts to die for).
I thought that Patisserie Poupon was probably as close as I was going to get..Until I had the privilege to meet Jessica Knudsen, Executive Pastry Chef/Owner of Hawthorne Fine Breakfast Pastry in Severna Park, MD. I met Jessica a couple of years ago, she was convinced that I had a cheese business (because I always brought Cheese and bread to a party). Her first question to me when we finally had a conversation was where did I import all my cheeses from. My answer was Victoria’s Fancy Foods (http://victoriasfancyfoods.com/, I will be blogging about this place too!), Whole Foods or Wegmans. She thought I was joking, I was actually dead serious. I told her I actually owned an IT Company, she thought that was boring, and that was the beginning of an awesome friendship.
She told me about her job, actually not her job, her passion and started to describe what she does. Jessica is probably one of the most passionate person I have ever met, and it shows, in every single pieces of arts she makes in that little heaven of hers.
I am happy to report that my quest is over. I found France in Severna Park. I couldn’t believe it. I had to sample. and I did. Over, and over again. I fell in love!
Check out her website: http://hawthornefinebreakfastpastry.com/ and the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HawthornePastry, and look at all the pictures, especially the last one she posted yesterday:
New Danish, house-made lemon curd filled pastry, baked with a caramelized lemon sugar crust. Topped with fresh strawberries and glazed with hot strawberry jam. Damn you Jessica! I feel like I am getting fat just looking at the pictures! ( I haven’t sampled this one yet, I hope she will get the hint!).
Please know that Hawthorne Fine Breakfast Pastry is STRICTLY wholesale, which means that you can’t just go there and pick up what you want. You can however visit any of the places she sells to : http://hawthornefinebreakfastpastry.com/where-to-find-us/.
I personally wished she had one little retail store front, I’d be there every single morning!
So here is my advice for the day: if any restaurants, caterers or any specialty coffee houses are reading this blog, HIRE HAWTHORNE FINE BREAKFAST PASTRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Probably the best business decision you will ever make!
Stay hungry my friends!
(Man, I am dying for a croissant and a cappuccino just about now….)