Have you ever come to a store and seen it spilling out people and wondered, is it worth it? Why is the place on that top 10 list? Or where did all these people even come from? There are so many other great ice cream shops, restaurants or bakeries? Why are people here? I have these questions all the time when I walk around Seattle and I see the new fad restaurant crammed full of people or maybe it is just a local place that has been around for a long while.
Bakery Nouveau is one such place. If you are hoping for a quick trip at 10 AM on Saturday morning. You better think twice. There are people pouring out of the doors, twisting around alleys and crowding into corners just to get standing room at Nouveau.
What makes Bakery Nouvea so special you ask? Bakery Nouveau is a busy little Bakery with two locations. The owners has quite the pedigree. It is owned by William and Heather Leaman. William was the captain of the 2005 Bread Bakers Guild Team for the USA. With his leadership, they won gold in the “World Cup of Baking”. The man has more than paid his dues! He has also created an iconic Seattle Bakery. Even non-foodies know of it’s Alki location!
When you walk in, you get the smell of the fresh espresso shot just pulled, the rich smell of lamented dough and the tantalizing smell of crispy caramelized sugar. I cannot argue with the ambiance created in this bakery. There are near a dozen employees running around the back. They are either helping customers, pulling bread out of the oven or making a cup of coffee.
The front is no less busy. People oooh and awh at the display case. Pointing out to their friends their favorites. Some of them have their camera phones pulled out to quickly snap a picture. This moment must be remembered and immortalized for some. Others, it is just a chance to make their friends on Facebook jealous.
Some people are there with friends, other business mentors and still others, like yours truly, to just enjoy the scene of people.
I have been quite a few times, and most of their pastries are hit or miss. So I wanted to take a moment to give my opinion on what is done well, and what is merely mediocre. They do several pastries really to the highest quality. It is why I always go back! However, Bakery Nouveau also has several pastries that I would stay away from.
Maybe it is because, I myself just don’t like the pastry as a whole. Maybe I could travel to 1000 bakeries and never find one that made satisfactory versions of chocolate cake. However, I highly doubt it. I have had a decent piece of chocolate cake here and there.
Below you will find a list of my Order This! Not that!:Double Baked Chocolate or Almond Croissant:
Let’s start with a classic. All I have to say is thank goodness they got this right! A Chocolate Croissant and their drip coffee is their perfect pair. There is just enough sugar dusting the top that you don’t need to sweeten your coffee. The flaky dough just seems to accept being paired with the bitter black tea. What is even better is the carmalley crust at the bottom created by the butter and sugar. I can imagine the poor sheet pan that had to bake off this delight. Even when properly sprayed, this concoction of butter and sugar, delicious, but messy. The entire partnership of bitter coffee and flaky pastry is perfect for a calm weekend.
Then of course, there is the moist middle layer with almond or chocolate filling. Some purist don’t want any form of filling in their croissants. It’s as if you took a croissant and decided you wanted a pie. The butter laden dough with a good douse of nut filling. It just all comes together. I love it. It is basically a butter bomb, but in a good kind of way. I have to restrain myself from ordering two!
Bakery Nouveau really knows how to make some beautiful works of art. All their pastries have such a clean sheen. No matter the angle, these cakes sparkle. They call out to you! The first time I walked in the door, the Phoinex Cake just yelled at me. Eat me, please.
This is one of the few cakes I like at Bakery Nouveau. It actually looks clean, not mass produced liked some of the other cakes Bakery Nouveau offers. It has a sleek hazel exterior, a pillowy soft texture and a beautifully layered interior. When I first bought it, I assumed it was just a caramel mousse. Slicing into it, you find a hidden treasure trove of layers. There is a layer of nougat, cake and creme. Bitter, sweet, creamy, crunchy, so many things in one bite.
Each pairs so well with the other. The nougat contrasts the creaminess of the rest of the dessert. The bitter notes from the caramel keep the entire thing from becoming too sweet. This dessert is a beautiful song and dance. Where each dancer perfectly compliments the others movements.
Again, paired with a cup of coffee, it matches the nuttiness of the toasted coffee and brings out some caramel notes. Plus, there is a cute little Bakery Nouveau placard. If you need a cute gift to bring to a significant other, this is a great choice!
Caramel Apple Tart
Finally, the last hit has to be the Caramel Apple Tart. Flakey, buttery and sweet, what else could you ask for on a rainy Seattle Saturday? The sweetness of the apple on the luxuriously buttery dough. The apples so perfectly lined up like little toy soldiers really shows the time and care that went into making this dessert. This is the kind of dessert you expect to be a picture in a pastry book or food porn on Instagram.
This is the kind of pastry that on its own is great, you don’t even have to order that cup of coffee. Why ruin the pure apple flavor of the tart? The other two cakes play really well with the bitter and caramel notes. This morsel produces its own set of complex flavors that don’t need to be challenged. The choice is yours in the end of course!
The perfect round opening and the gently coated surrounding makes for a elegant presentation.
It is actually really bad. Again, this is one of those desserts I have to refrain from eating two!
Chocolate cake is a hard sell for me. Maybe I am just picky with chocolate layer cakes(Someone Prove me wrong please!). I have rarely found a chocolate caked I liked. Even when I worked at a place where I made the chocolate cake, I didn’t like it. I remember working at LUC and making the chocolate cake there. I swear, it came across more like a chocolate protein bar not a chocolate cake.
Most chocolate cakes are dry, and bland. Trying to chew them just causes some weird reaction in the mouth that stiffens the jaw and hardens the gullet. This cake is just that, tasteless, and not very pure in chocolate flavor. It almost makes me think of dry toast. Screaming to have jam and cream cheese placed on top of it. The butter cream and ganache don’t help either. It really just makes the entire cake stiffer and harder to swallow. The cake itself looks so promising. It has that dark roasted chocolate complexion. A good ratio of filling to cake, and nothing too fancy on it to distract the mind from what this really could be.
Personally, I love chocolate. I have even made it from scratch. I try not to be a boring person. That doesn’t mean I stray away from safe flavors. I am a fan of going out of the box, but I love chocolate in so many forms I always have to try the mandatory chocolate desserts on any menu. Yet, this slice of cake really leaves the mouth yearning for some milk, and a different cake.
You know Tiramisu right? It is usually moist, covered in a soft and airy mascarpone cheese frosting and a dousing of coco on top. There are so many places to buy a decent Tiramisu, even Costco has a decent option. It’s not a hard cake to make.
In fact, I bet you have even made it yourself once or twice! Maybe you got creative and added your own twist. It is pretty hard to get this cake wrong. Yet, similar to the chocolate cake, this cake really does come across as quite bland from Bakery Nouveau. We are talking about Tiramisu, it is supposed to be a pick me up. Whether you prefer it soaked in rum, coffee, brandy, or some other form of alcohol or syrup. It should have a decent amount of flavor from the syrup and coffee. Sure, the cake shouldn’t be gushing syrup but it also shouldn’t feel dry and dull.
I know mascarpone is not the most flavorful thing in the world. The basis of marscarpone is fat, it is border line straight cream. There are still ways to amend the dullness of said product. A little vanilla, coffee or salt will help entice the eater that much more. So little can be done to take this cake, or custard, whatever you consider it, to the next level.
I would rather have a Costco Tiramisu, than order the Bakery Nouveau Tiramisu. That is how unpleasant this cake was. If you follow my blog, I don’t often bash on a pastry. After all, I want to recognize good food. I don’t really care too much for bad food. I just wanted to take a moment to point out some of my less preferred choices.
Below will be some cakes that made neither list. They are actually worth ordering once. The nice thing about Bakery Nouveau is that its pastry case is almost always full and there are so many options. I have been to many other bakeries. Including places like General Porpoise, Cafe Besalu, Midori Bakery and so many more. I often run into the issue where the pastry case is empty or maybe I am limited on what my options are. I actually prefer the limited options, but if you don’t I would say Bakery Nouveau would be great for you!
This is just one of so many bakeries in Seattle and it is one of my favorites, despite me picking some of their pastries apart.. If you would like to just have a quiet morning and watch the people on Capitol Hill, then order yourself a Double Baked Croissant and enjoy the view!
Oddly enough, after I wrote this. I began to wonder if Bakery Nouveau is really my favorite bakery anymore. Almost everything from Midori Bakery is perfect. Where as Bakery Nouveau has so many options, that few are actually good.
I have a similar problem when going to Molly Moon’s. Do I dislike the place due to it’s popularity, or has its popularity caused its product to suffer? Can good quality product be massed produced? While I struggle with these existential questions, you should go and try all the bakeries you can. Come to your own decision about where the best bakeries really are!
I will have to take a trip to Cafe Besalu to reconfirm the order of my own top X bakeries in Seattle. However, I think there might be a new favorite. I do believe Bakery Nouveau has fallen a little bit from the top of the list.
Maybe you have a different opinion? Maybe you are a Bakery Nouveau Enthusiast ? What is your favorite bakery? and What is you go to order?
P.S. If this isn’t the kind of Food Blog you are looking for, here are some more from other sources that are great! I want to make sure that you have the option to visit as many as you can. There are lots of good writers out there(and I am not one of them). I constantly have to google “How to be a good writer”