I’ve been told that I’m a pretty decent cook. I know my way around the kitchen. I’ve even successfully executed intricate, mind-bending Charlie Trotter recipes at home. However, other than making pizzas and the odd loaf of banana-nut bread, I rarely use the oven. I can’t begin to fathom baking a croissant from scratch, much less something otherworldly like Romina Rasmussen’s kouing aman at Les Madeleines Patisserie & Cafe. Baking, especially in high-altitude places like Park City, can be tricky. And, it’s typically a long, drawn-out affair which requires, more often than not, precision and technical skills I don’t possess, not to mention patience. The last time I baked baguettes from scratch—three of them—it took me half a day.
So, when it comes to baking, I leave it to the pros. Now, I just stroll into Eva’s Bakery when I want a fresh-baked baguette—especially on Mondays, when they’re only a buck apiece (normally $2.50). Eva’s has the look, from outside, of an authentic French boulangerie, with a faÃ§ade that pops with blue and yellow-gold hues. It amazes me that it’s taken so long for someone to open a boulangerie here in Salt Lake City. Pierre’s Country Bakery in Millcreek is the only other local French-style bakery (as opposed to patisserie) I know of, and it’s excellent. Other places do baking, but most are full-service eateries, not necessarily focused on bread.
I don’t think that Philippe Gosselin, Grand Prix winner of Paris’ Best Baguette award, has to worry too much about competition from Eva’s Bakery. But, if you’re looking for a damned good Utah version of a baguette, I can recommend Eva’s with confidence.
But, let’s back up a bit. For starters, who is Eva? As is the case with Charlie Perry’s small-plates restaurant, Eva, up the street (317 S. Main), Eva’s Bakery is named for Perry’s great-grandmother, Eva Coombs. According to Perry, he was frequently at her side in the kitchen, where she “was renowned for cooking with an abundance of both love and butter.” Sounds like a lady I would have liked to know. Anyway, Perry opened Eva and Eva’s Bakery in her honor.
“I love what you’ve done with the place!” is what I’d suspect Eva Coombs would say about Eva’s Bakery. It has just the right vibe; you really do feel as if you might be in Paris, except that the service is much friendlier here. The operation is set up for dine-in or takeout. If you dine at Eva’s, you’ll order at the front counter and someone will deliver your food—if it requires heating or other preparations—to your table. You settle up when you’re finished eating.
Eva’s Bakery opens early, at 7 a.m., so it’s a great spot for a cup of java and a light, flaky croissant—as good as any I’ve had in Paris—or something more substantial like the French frittata ($8), a baked omelet with a choice of ham, GruyÃ¨re, spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms. Like the croissants, the breakfast spanakopita ($6) has a beautifully flaky phyllo wrapping and is made with organic eggs, spinach and tangy feta cheese. Spanakopita at a boulangerie? Hell yes!
For lunch and early dinner (the bakery closes at 6 p.m.), fresh salads, sandwiches, pizzetta and soups are the mainstays, but you can always also get fresh-baked pastries, cookies and, of course, rustic breads made with nothing other than local organic flour from Central Milling (Utah’s longest-running business), water and salt. There are Kalamata olive loaves to be had; a “super seed” loaf with black sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and oats; fresh wheat burger and hot dog buns made especially for holidays like July Fourth, and much more.
My favorite, though, is the classic baguette. And, at Eva’s bakery, you have multiple baguette options. There is the classic French sourdough, the “country” baguette with more wheat and a nuttier taste, and even a ciabatta baguette, which is soft and great for sandwiches or dipping into Eva’s French onion soup.
My favorite menu items are the deliciously decadent open-face croque monsieur with Creminelli ham and bubbly GruyÃ¨re, and the pizzette: small, personal-size pizzas ($3). There’s a brilliant pizzetta made with Creminelli ham, sweet/tart figs, blue cheese and arugula, but I also like the more traditional prosciutto, sausage and mushroom pizzetta. Unfortunately, as much as Eva’s Bakery might feel and taste like a little slice of Paris, you’ll be smacked back into reality as soon as you realize there is no wine to sip with your niÃ§oise salad.
Well, if, unlike me, you do decide to take on baking yourself, here’s an exceptionally useful tool for your kitchen: Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller with Sebastien Rouxel. Keller has long been my favorite American chef and, like his other cookbooks—Bouchon, Ad Hoc at Home and The French Laundry Cookbook—Bouchon Bakery is a heavy, coffee-table-style cookbook with gorgeous photography and thoroughly tested recipes. Keller apprenticed as a young chef in Paris at my favorite restaurant, Taillevent, and his deep love for French baking—everything from croissants, tarts, brioche and cakes to cookies, breads, confections, scones and muffins—is evidenced in this fine cookbook.
Of his time in Paris, where he lived above a boulangerie, Keller says, “Every morning, I woke to the smell of baking bread. I learned that a bakery is an anchor—it draws a community around it. Baking is a unifying force.”
Along with very good recipes for French-style baguettes and Keller’s TKO—his take on the Oreo—Bouchon Bakery is brimming with great technical advice, such as the importance of weighing ingredients for baking versus measuring. This excellent book might even motivate me to turn on the oven.
155 S. Main, 801-355-3942