Bakery Review: Salt & Straw, Portland, Oregon

The Salt and Straw isn’t a traditional bakery.  In fact, there is nothing traditional about this place; it’s half ice cream shop/half bakery.  We came for the infamous ice cream combinations like blue cheese and pear, chevre with marionberry habanero jam, and coffee and bourbon, but were pleasantly surprised to see it was a bakery too.

The location is in the Nob Hill section of Portland and the area is fantastic.  It’s one of those stroll down the street to window shop kind of places usually reserved along a coastline.  Salt & Straw has a lovely set up with wall to wall windows that open and give you the outdoor setting without the uncomfortable patio chairs.  It seemed like the place couldn’t go wrong.

With so many interesting combinations to choose from, it was exciting when the woman behind the counter asked if we wanted a sample.  We quickly listed through a couple each to get the full experience.  My friend accidentally dropped his little silver spoon (no plastic tasters here) which was met with a heavy sigh from the worker.  When she dished up my marionberry, a glob of jelly was about to run off.  In my attempt at a save, the ice cream fell off the spoon and another scowl was given.  I only made matters worse by being indecisive about my coffee too.  The one in the hat showed nothing but annoyance with my presence.  When a third co-worker made her way in she sighed she was back again and grumbled “It feels like I never left.”  There was one employee who excitedly talked foodie with the people in front of us in line and I wished he’d been my ice cream distributor.  He glowed the excitement of how the combinations were something different in the culinary norm.

While I know it’s work and if we all had the choice we might not do it, but this is service for freakin’ sake.  Although I like the foam art on the top of my latte, it wouldn’t kill you to be a little respectful or appreciative of the fact I dropped five bucks on it.  It was a thought Tia and I talked about most of the time we sipped our coffee and ate our ice cream.  We agreed for our made up bakery, if we are lucky to have employees, it will be the expectation they enjoy working there.  And not that fakey Subway Sandwich greeting of “HI! WELCOME TO SUBWAY!” you’re hit with when you walk through the door.  Something more genuine.  Like a simple smile of appreciation.

Is that flower giving me the bird?

Bakery Review: Saint Cupcake, Portland Oregon

Portland has a ton of bakeries to choose from.  We need a trip with the sole purpose of a bakery tour.  On our concert road trip, we happened upon Saint Cupcake while walking the downtown Portland streets in the morning.  The first thing to grab our attention is the awesome whisk art in the front.

If you’re slow like us (or maybe a little hung over), after wondering why there is a giant whisk on the street, you’ll turn to find a super cute store front.

The inside delivers the same kind of cuteness.  It looks like something straight out of a Martha Stewart magazine.

If the decor isn’t cute enough for you, then the display will put you over the top.  I LOVED the fact they didn’t have the traditional curved front cases.  Instead, their uniform displaying of cupcakes kept in line with the contemporary edge of the place.

The other side with non cupcake treats was even more adorable.  I was most excited about the cake plate creations.  Sugarbelle did a fab tutorial on how to make these a few months ago and I was smitten.  The eclectic, brightly colored base with a food safe saucer on the top was too much!

Now that I’ve gushed over all that is cute, I must tell you what I wasn’t impressed with.  The open kitchen concept is not something I like.  I guess it’s so you can feel part of the creative process.  Years ago when I lived in Long Beach, there was a fabulous bakery where they had a window so you could watch the cake decorator.  This view didn’t involve watching the dish washer scrubbing cake pans or the baker elbow deep in mixing a batter.  It only had the cool, clean, and fascinating part to watch.

But you’re probably wondering most about how it tasted.  Let me be fair by saying we did not eat the cupcakes until the next day.  But they weren’t anything too impressive.  They have a few basic flavor variations (vanilla and chocolate), with a couple creations with interesting names (Fat Elvis and Big Top), and all were fine cupcakes.  Would I drive five hours for them?  No way.

What we did take away from Saint Cupcake were some great ideas for decor.  We saw some things we hadn’t seen before, which sparked the imagination and excitement.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about their baked goods.

Bakery-Envy

On a recent trip to Portland for an Elliott Brood concert, Tia and I stopped at some bakeries to try out the goods.  We did more than just taste their sweet treats (tough research, I know).  We also checked out the look of their store.  Since we are years away from having a location different from our kitchens, we are focused on making sure when it does come to fruition, it’s a place we’d love to go to day in and day out.

Bakery of the Day:

In typical Eugene fashion, it was pouring rain when this picture was taken.  In an attempt to save my hair from frizzing out more than it was, the artistic picture suffered.

Good — The Decor:

I loved the funky green wall.  It went well with the whimsical cake image pictured above.  It gave the place a fun, but chic feel.

Good — The Selection:

While we are looking a bit smaller for our bakery, the Sweet Life delivered a huge selection.  They had stacks of cakes, cookies, pastries, and bars.  I LOVED their display of merangues as well.  It was a fabulous display of individual jars.

 

Not So Good — The Space

It seems a lot of bakeries love to have a long narrow space so they can put out as many goods as possible.  The downside to this is the fact there isn’t enough space for two people to be in the same area.  Yes, while I am notorious about bumping into things, I nudged at least two people.  Also, Tia and I could not complete a conversation without being in someone’s way.

Not So Good — Cookie Decorating

While other people might not sweat the small stuff when it comes to decorating cookies, my exposure to the mad skill on the internet has raised my standards.  While the Sweet Life had some cute cookies, reasonably priced, they weren’t as clean a product as they could be.  I understand they aren’t going for that, but it sticks out to people who appreciate beautifully decorated cookies.

When all is said and done, this was a great bakery.  If you are ever in the Eugene area, you should really stop by and try the Tiramisu cake.  It’s one of those recipes I’m going to try to make our own creation.  A version may even pop up in our very own dream bakery.

Treats,