Tuesday, November 30, 2010

La Patisserie

Earlier this fall, I heard a new French bakery would be opening. And then I found out it would be just blocks from my house! I found La Patisserie on both Facebook & Twitter, and anxiously awaited news of their grand opening. So I was thrilled last night to see that they would in fact be up and running this morning. They open at 7 am, and I walked over around 8 am, and was immediately greeted by a trio of friendly women behind the counter, including pastry chef and owner, Soraiya Nagree.

Located on Annie Street, just off South 1st, La Patisserie is in a converted old house, most recently a chiropractic office. The front two rooms are set up cozily with seating areas, an enclosed play area for the babies, and some commercial sweets & treats as well. The light-filled back room is the bakery counter, with work space off to the left. (They do the actual baking in their commercial kitchen space in East Austin they said.) Coffee, espresso, hot chocolate, and tea are all available too.
Everything looked good enough to eat! Ha ha ha.... Seriously though, I had a hard time deciding WHAT to get. I asked what the "morning buns" were, and Soraiya told me they were one of her favorites. It's like the French version of a cinnamon roll. Yes, please! And an almond croissant, and a mini-palmier, and 3 different macaroons, and she threw in a cookie that I would have called a madeleine, except it doesn't have the ridges... I can't remember what she called it, but I do remember she said brown butter. So she put everything in a box, and I headed back home.
I dove right into the morning bun. I don't think I've ever had anything quite like it! It is like a cinnamon roll in that the dough is covered with cinnamon & sugar, and rolled up though not as tightly as a traditional cinnamon roll. These appear to be baked in large-sized muffin tin, and there's a little bit of a hollow space created by the loose rolling. It's lightly crunchy on the outside from the caramelized sugar, and as you peel back the layers, you see the multitude of them, though not flaky like a croissant. As you get towards the center, it's that squishy, tender just-barely-baked dough core. The whole thing is a wonderful contrast in textures, and you don't come across this kind of flavor by using margarine. There will most certainly be more morning buns in my future.

Almost four hours later, I am still full from my morning bun, but I have managed to nibble on the some of the others for the sake of getting this blog post done! The palmier -- nicely flaky and very light. All three of the macaroons have really distinct (in a good way!) flavor to them: the peppermint chocolate, cardamom orange honey, and caramel fleur de sel. The cardamom probably surprised me the most; I absolutely love the flavor of cardamom, and am usually disappointed because I find the flavor isn't prominent enough in things like this. Not in this case. It took a moment, but the cardamom really pops through. The brown sugar thingy is barely crisp on the outside, with a solid, yet tender crumb. It would be a great tea cookie. I only nibbled on the end of the almond croissant, but it's nice and crunchy on those outer tips, and there seems to be a multitude of almond paste inside! Hopefully, I can save it for breakfast tomorrow.

And there's a multitude of things to go back and try! Opera cakes, madeleine, brioche rolls, eclairs....This is going to be very, very bad, so close to my house! Congratulations to La Patisserie on their opening today, and here's to years of sweet success!

A closer look at some of the sweets:

East Side Pies

As with (dessert) pies, a crust can make or break the deal. Pizza pies of course can be your deep-dish Chicago-style, your more average "regular" crust, or a thin crust, often very hard to do right. East Side Pies has perfected the art of the thin crust pizza. It's practically wafer thin, and it stays crispy all the way through, from the edge of the crust to the center point of your slice. And it stays crispy through the duration of your eating an entire pie. My fourth (and final) slice of the evening was just as crisp as the first one that I slightly burned the roof of my mouth on. Go figure.
The place could best be described as a dive. There's a door with an opening, and yes, you're inside the shop, but only about 3 or 4 people can fit in the space. The counter/case to your left has pizza by the slice for sale, and it's where you place your order for whole pies. Not like the other guys in the shop couldn't hear your order, because I don't think the whole interior is much bigger than 150 square feet, with the big oven taking up much of the wall opposite the doorway. There's seating out on the patio, where a window opposite the above-mentioned counter is stationed to hand out the re-warmed slices.

There's a lot of pizza options. Either build your own, or their creations. Now, they have some things that I just don't think belong on a pizza, such as hummus and spinach curry, but I guess don't knock it til you've tried it. We got the Lu' -- with pineapple, bacon, ham, & jalapenos, and we added feta cheese. We sat at a table under the covered patio, listening to the buses on Rosewood whiz by, and the brief stoppage of one lady, trying to beg off some food. I was amused by all the posters & fliers that were up on the walls. Most were for past/upcoming music shows, but then there was the dichotomy of a poster for a lecture by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and a show called "Spanksgiving". We'll just say one looked a bit more clean cut than the other!

The pizza pie itself was quite lovely. Again, a wonderfully thin crust (my father would approve), an appropriate amount of tomato sauce, that did have some flavor, but did not overpower, and our toppings of choice. I realized that since the crust was so thin, I could eat four pieces, as I wasn't filling up on bread dough. My friend swears by the Moontower Pie, their white pizza with ricotta, mozzarella, romano, feta & goat cheeses.

A lot of their business is carryout. It was a nice November evening to sit outside, but in chillier or hotter weather, it may not be the best spot. I asked, and they crank the oven to 575 - 600 degrees; I'd imagine it takes about as long to build the pizza as it does to sear it in the oven. East Side Pies did just open up a location on Airport Blvd. & 53rd Streets, but a south location would be fantastic. And it's another spot where you can use your Go Local card for a free drink. So if you need to experience the perfection of a thin crust pizza, head east.

Trailer Travels -- Holy Cacao

A high school friend I had not seen in 20 years was in town over Thanksgiving, and I wanted to show him a bit of our food trailer scene. We met at the Torchy's Trailer Park on South 1st, where I devoured the Turkey Mole (taco of the month) and the Trailer Park tacos. It was a beautiful crisp, sunny afternoon, and as we finished the tacos, our attention turned to Holy Cacao, one of Austin's original cake ball establishments.

Holy Cacao has a variety of cake balls, coffee, hot chocolate, and chocolate shakes. Still being a bit stuffed from the tacos, I got three cake balls to eat for later. They are $2 each, or 3 for $5, and since I am a proud Go Local cardholder, my three were $4.50. Yeah, Go Local!!!
My selections:
  • Brass Cake Ball -- peanut butter cookie dough dipped in more peanut butter, and coated in chocolate & crushed peanuts. This was my favorite; I really liked the consistency of the ball & it had great peanut flavor.
  • Rabbit Cake Ball -- carrot cake with cream cheese dipped in white chocolate & crushed walnuts. Mmmm, walnuts!
  • Diablo Cake Ball -- chocolate cake mixed with ancho/cayenne cream cheese frosting, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with cayenne & cocoa toasted walnuts. You definitely taste the cayenne!
Tasty little treats!!!