Monday, November 26, 2007

A T-Town bakery review and wish list

Independent bakeries have long held a soft spot in my heart. Perhaps it's rooted in my helping make chocolate chip cookies when I was still in diapers, or perhaps it's nostalgia from when I was 5 or 6 and my brother and I would cross the street from my family's bookstore in downtown Oregon City to Muno's Bakery to buy teddy-bear cookies. All. By. Ourselves. (With parents watching through the window, I'm sure.) While my husband is the household chef, baking has long been my niche in the kitchen. My aunt co-founded a fabulous little bakery called Vinmans Bakery in Ellensburg, where everything is fabulous and drool inducing. This weekend, I visited the kitschy Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland for my first time, and it inspired me to reflect upon the purveyors of baked goods in hometown T-Town, and ponder what might still be missing ...

In no particular order ...

Margaret's Cafe isn't your stereotypical bakery. It's actually more of a cafe, but Margaret does plenty of baking to qualify for this list. And since it's quite likely the one I frequent the most due to its proximity to work, I'll list her first. In addition to salads and soups and other great meals, she bakes her own rolls, offers coconut and peanut-butter chocolate cupcakes, cookies, biscotti, scrumptious brownies, occasional pies and so much more that I probably don't even realize. I tried her chicken stew the other week with a roll at the bottom of the bowl -- yum. And apparently around the holidays she takes roll dough and pie orders. And she caters, too.

Pao's Donuts is probably the place I frequent next often. If you hadn't guessed, they make donuts. Some of what I believe are the best within the City limits. And while not as quirky as some of PDX's Voodoo odd offerings, they are still unique. One of my favorites is the honey-glazed chocolate donut or the apple-spice. And the cruellers and fritters? Yum. Just make sure to bring cash. And I will warn you, the place doesn't look like much from the outside. I've talked to many folks who have seen it, but never ventured in. Let's just say they spend more time on the food then the decor, and that's a good thing. I love the fact that you get a wide array of folks in there, from families in beat-up Eurovans (that would be my family) to folks driving brand new jaguars. Great people, great donuts.

Corina Bakery. A fabulous place for cake, bars, cookies and so much good stuff. It was about exactly a year ago that I first ventured through their doors during my first month on the job in my still-pretty-new downtown career. I think it might have even been my first week on the day job that I walked through their doors and selected a piece of egg nog cheesecake. And while I'm done with eggnog lattes, I think I might be venturing back up the hill this holiday season to see if this tasty treat is back. Since that visit, I've become addicted to their magic bars, and they've gone from lovely hole-in-the-wall to lovely locale with a recent remodel that's as decadent as their goodies.

Hello, Cupcake. This cutie pie place in downtown T-Town, right smack on Pac Ave seems to have been busy since day one. I don't think I've been able to walk by once without seeing someone heading in, or heading out with a pink box. I tried a variety box back in September, and was a bit disappointed in the cake, but I've had a bite of their red velvet more recently, and I've heard other reports that makes me thing that they've worked the beginning bugs out -- which is fabulous. It's a great concept, and a great addition to Tacoma's re-emerging bakery scene.

Le Donut. I gotta say, I have yet to get here. Donuts are occasional Sunday morning treats and Pao's on the west end of 6th Ave is nearer to me than this downtown destination. But I've heard fabulous things and whole-heartedly encourage a try if you're in search of donuts near downtown!

I've also heard Upper Crust on North 21st does some bread baking and occasionally other goodies. And there's of course the Safeways around town. But as for independent bakeries, that's all I know of now that Frisbee's, Harbor Bakery and Elena's (did I remember that right -- it was in Proctor ...) are all gone. And what's missing, at least in my book? Bread. I think there's still a Great Harvest store in University Place, and that's just a small chain. But when it comes to independent bakeries and bread ... there don't seem to be any options right now. Am I missing someone? Because I gotta say, I may need to make an Ellensburg run soon ... or I suppose Olympia's Wagner's would be a bit closer. Because as much as I love bakery goodies, but I miss really good specialty bakery bread.


Jen said...

Have you tried Hess Bakery in Lakewood? (For bread, there's a pastry place on-site but they don't run it.) It gets rave reviews. Of course, I have not personally sampled their wares.

Kate said...

You know how I feel about this subject. If I could bake all day long I'd be super happy -- and if I can't do the baking, find me a place where I can delicious cake, a crusty loaf of bread and some treat I know I really shouldn't have. Wagner's in Olympia gets the closest marks for me. Then Corina -- although Corina floors me every time with that delicious Devil's Food Cake. And I love Pao's. Mmm, Pao's. We should make a donut date.