Empty Nester Saturday AM “Crawls” – Episode One: Bakeries
OK Boomers, let’s get up on Saturday morning and do fun stuff!
That’s what my husband and I decided to do…now that we are empty nesters. No more sleeping in!! Adventure awaits…literally right around the corner.
We were trying to figure out how to liven things up on weekends and decided to do what we call “The Saturday Morning Crawl.” You know, like a pub crawl where you and your party move from one bar to another over the course of an evening…except in this case, we substitute the pubs for places a bit more Saturday morning friendly!
So….in this week’s episode, we did a Bakery Crawl…progressing from one Richmond bakery to another, sampling sweets all along the way. While we didn’t face the risk of driving under the influence, the chance of getting a serious sugar high is a factor, so we decided to limit our selections to two at each place. There are only so many sweets you should really eat in one morning, so we only crawled to three establishments, but what a trio! Three of the best bakeries in town, I daresay in the state, are located within walking distance of each other here in Richmond, VA, in and around the environs of the historic Church Hill area.
(By the way, Church Hill is also the location of Historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. It’s even re-enacted at the church on certain days. Check out their website to plan to see a re-enactment…and then crawl to the bakeries after!!)
Here are the three standouts:
Did I say the best bakeries in the city, in the state…try the WORLD! These are big words I know. The flaky pastry here is off the charts, out of this world, heaven. Rob and I have traveled everywhere in our 35 years of marriage and I am not kidding, this is the best we’ve ever had.
The unassuming little corner shop location was abuzz this past Saturday around 11AM. There are only a few tables and some bar stools around the window, so everyone was good-naturedly packed in and jostling. You can’t help but be good-natured around all these beautiful sweets!
Rob ordered a savory selection, a meat-filled hand pie called a “borek.” Good Lord, who comes up with these amazing things?
I, of course, ordered my all time, traditional, favorite, a chocolate croissant (pain au chocolat). Even the cappuccino was heavenly; it tasted just like the one I would get before class every morning at the little café in Rome when I did my semester abroad, almost 4 decades ago.
It all made me so very happy…I can’t sum it up any better than that. We got a loaf of bread to go and it felt like it weighed 5 pounds.
It was hefty! Look at the picture…it is beautiful, am I right? Light Sesame Rye, I think, and it tasted absolutely as good as it looks.
If you only do one thing in Richmond, go to Sub Rosa! But of course, if you are in Richmond you will be doing any number of fun things.
WPA was our next stop, also a fabulous hip little corner spot in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Another selection of delectable, unique choices. Take a look at their website if you want to be inspired. We tried two things here as well: First, a chocolate cherry muffin (now THAT is a match made in heaven) which paired so, so beautifully with my second coffee! It is more dense than fluffy…a sweet comfort food. I would like to have one every morning for the rest of my life. Second: small sweet bread nuggets called a “canales” which is a WPA a bakery favorite, and are described on the website as “carmelized crepe batter.” Ok, I’m in!! Gluten-free. Also great with coffee, and their size and shape were perfect if you want a small bite. Of course, a dozen is good too.
WPA makes any number of macarons, cookies, cupcakes cheesecakes, cakes and pies, in fabulous flavors. For example in pies: chocolate almond chess, tagalong, Mexican chocolate, almond buttermilk. Lavender macarons? How fascinating. They have a Roosevelt Restaurant Coconut cake that I want to try for my birthday! (You can order all these for special occasions, so I will be coming up with lots of special occasions.)
We took our canine companion Coco on our crawl, and I loved that pups are welcomed with a water bowl outside. You can sit on the benches outside and enjoy your own pastry, while your furry friend enjoys a tasty WPA doggie cookie. Everyone is happy.
What struck me when I walked into this third hip and cool bakery was the beautiful macarons in the case. They are like food art. The colors!
Macarons are gluten-free by the way. Here the macarons had to be one of our two selections, they were just so enticing. The choice was difficult, but I chose wisely and got the Whiskey Chocolate flavor. We also got a bakery favorite, aptly called a “Whisker”, which looks Oreo-like in that it is two chocolate wafers with cream inside, but there is really no resemblance otherwise. These are cookies taken to a higher plane of existence, the wafer somewhat crispy, crazy good.
They have a full coffee bar as well as sandwiches, so you can stay for lunch! But the main attraction at Whisk is the many beautiful flavors of pastries and what the bakery calls “Viennoiserie.” I have never heard that term, but I am assuming the style of baking hails from Vienna, and that sounds delightful to me. And the éclairs! I already have my selections for next time bookmarked. I want to try these éclairs as well as the Chocolate Babka bread, which is only available on weekends.
OK, and here are some additional attractions: Whisk offers baking classes. Heck, make a day of it! They also have a selection of wine and Mimosas available, and happy hour Tuesday-Saturday from 4-6 PM. Happy hour among these beautiful treats would be like dying and going to heaven, yet it’s just a matter of jumping on I-64 and 95 and going right downtown.
So many eateries in this town, SO little time.
If you don’t live in Richmond, plan your own Saturday AM Bakery Crawl! Most larger towns have a nice selection of bakeshops, and sampling is a great way for empty nesters to spend a Saturday morning and have a small adventure. Diet starts Sunday.