I first came across the now ubiquitous Kouign Amann at Farm:Table, and not knowing entirely what it was, was persuaded (quite easily, to be sure) to pick one up on my inaugural visit. I will save the details of my love affair with this crispy sugary croissant at a later date, but this divine experience had an even greater impact on my palate of pastries, as it introduced me to Belinda Leong.
Belinda, owner of B. Patisserie (Facebook and Twitter), is no newbie to the world of sweets. She spent one year in Paris under the tutelage of Pierre Hermé (macaron KING of the world), supplied pastries to Bar Agricole, and was Head Pastry Chef at Manresa as well a little restaurant called Gary Danko - just to name a few.
This ain't her first rodeo.
It is no exaggeration that every time I was able to get my hands on one of her pastries, I took full advantage. Working down in the South Bay, my pickings are generally slim. Places that carry her creations are either not open at 6am, close by the time I return home, or have been long sold out. My weekend jaunts about town, however, are often times accompanied by a little piece of indulgence when I can snag one.
When I found out that Belinda was popping up at the Four Barrel Alley this Sunday, I knew I had to be there. I purposely ignored the menu she posted just days before, because to be honest, it didn't much matter to me what she was serving - I knew it would be stellar and I would happily devour it.
Now if there's one thing I'm good at, it's being on time. And by "on time" I mean ten minutes early. So, as I hopped on my bike and made my way down Caledonia, I was taken aback by the line that had already formed!
As I stood in line, I eyed the menu and saw that most of the items strayed from her normal offerings!
The sugar brioche was up next. Killer good. What I think Belinda does best of all in each of her confections is that she achieves balance. Here, the brioche was buttery and sweet, but in a subtle way. The cream was light, and the berries added a brightness that contrasted with the vanilla components. It was almost like a handheld brioche pancake with berries and cream.
I started asking around how people found out about her pop-up. Mostly the answers were along the lines of a Spaceballs relationship: "My brother's cousin knows a guy who had one of her pastries at a friend's bachelorette party..."
Word of mouth travels a long, LONG way.
Other attendees included personal friends of hers, former Gary Danko colleagues, and just regular Four Barrel customers in for a happy surprise. But as I re-entered the line for my second round on the tip that her caramelized onion and bacon tart tasted like French Onion soup (yes, my dedication to this blog knows no caloric bounds. You're welcome.), I received the best answer of the day:
"She's actually catering our wedding, and we've only had her Kouign Amann."
You two are my heroes.
Freshly stocked with a French Tart Flan and the savory "French Onion Soup"tart, the three of us took our seats on the sidewalk and exchanged stories. The two met in D.C., where they were both involved in environmental work in one form or another. They uprooted to the west coast to be closer to some family, and are actually only here until Jacob starts law school (for environmental law) at Lewis and Clark Law School. Leeann works for an environmental non-profit and is from Ann Arbor (GO BLUE!), and her brother is actually in the Hockey Pep Band: the best band in the country. Fact.
After the wedding, they'll take a "mini-moon" before heading up to Portland. Such incredibly nice people who deserve nothing but the best that life has to offer. They just seemed to genuinely happy together, and not in that really annoying clingy-kissy-pet names way. Just plain happy.
Maybe it was the sugar high, but I doubt it.
Their wedding will be in a small little park in San Mateo at the end of July, and though I just met them, am so excited for their lives ahead together (and, you know, the amazing food they'll have at the reception.)
I promise my priorities are in order.
We shared our desserts, and they even let me try some of the potential wedding items that Belinda had made for them! (For what it's worth, the lemon curd/granola/fruit has my vote. I think with the park setting and the weather, it would be much more app
No need when that person is Belinda Leong.
I guess I should get back to the food.
The real surprise for me, however, was the French Tart Flan. I'm not usually a flan fan, but I figured since I had tried virtually everything else on the menu, why not go all-out?
Belinda - I wish you nothing but all of the success you deserve. You have proven yourself in restaurants around the world, but now you have the chance to show your stuff for what it really is: your own. I feel lucky to have such easy access to your work, and rest assured that I will continue to consume it as often as I am physically able.
Leeann and Jacob - May your life together be as rich in happiness as Belinda's Kouign Amanns are in butter and sugar :)