Crisp Bakeshop is the best bakeshop in Sonoma County. Ok, there might be others that are good – though I have yet to find them – but this kind of quality is difficult to top. When you take a sip of their latte or bite into any pastry, cookie or dessert they offer, you don’t think “This is good…”, you think: “OMD! This is amazing!” and your eyes pop open and you just have to say that out loud.
My friend Valerie thinks I should have a bumper sticker that says “I break for bakeries”. If I was a sticker-on-my-car kind of person, I would. Whenever I drive through a new town, my eyes automatically scan for bakeries and coffee shops, developing extended x-ray vision because I am really good at spotting them. That is how I found Crisp.
Last February, I started driving through Sonoma regularly on my way north to Sugar Loaf Ridge Park for a series of Shinrin-Yoku (forest bathing) walks that were taking place on Saturday mornings. Since I would be gone most of the day, I would stop to pick up a sandwich at my usual favorite bakery in Marin. One morning, the freeway exit to such bakery was closed, and going around the big block would have added a half an hour to my driving time, making me late. When you get up at 5:30am, every minute counts.
I was really bummed, and a grumbling commentary started off in my mind along the lines of…. bummer, what am I going to do now, all I have is water… and what if I stop someplace and it is not good…. Because I am rather spoiled food-quality wise; but you know that, don’t you? Then an image flashed through my mind, and I remembered a promising-looking bakery I had glimpsed out of the corner of my right eye while driving up the previous week. That would be my stop, in the hope that I would find a treasure.
My step perked up just walking past the outdoor seating area, and when I entered, my expectations rose even further. The TLC and style used in creating and caring for the intimate, industrial-chic space was, to me, an indicator of more quality to come. The display looked wonderful and, as I stood in line behind a few people who were clearly regulars, I asked the woman in front of me: “Is this as good as it looks?” “Better!” she replied. I could hear her mouth watering in the way she said the word and, had she had multi-sensory vision, she would have seen me jumping up and down in delight…. inside.
When it was my turn to order, a problem arose: what to choose. I wanted this, and this, and this and that, and OMD look at that! On that first day I took my latte to go, and picked up two savory pastries, two sweet and a couple of cookies, which I later shared with the group up at Sugar Loaf so we all got to try a little of this and a little of that. Food for the gods.
And the latte? One of the best I have ever had. Ever! And it has been consistently so each time.
Located on West Napa Street (CA 12) past the Sonoma town center, Crisp Bakeshop is the labour of love of Chef Moaya Scheiman and his wife, partner and Pastry Chef Andrea Koweek. When they considered their next step in life, their desire was to move away from the stressful rhythms of restaurant life, and go for something smaller and closer to their hearts. Crisp Bakeshop was born: a small, intimate place that is big in quality, where Moaya and Andrea can share their passion while also have a life, and where regular customers become friends.
The window by the order counter allows people a glimpse into the baking kitchen. Moaya explained how his original idea had been for an even bigger window, one that would wrap around the corner and encourage even more connection between customers and bakers. It turned out to be impractical and he had to settle for the one window.
Crisp Bakeshop tempts customers with several choices throughout the day. In the morning it is mostly breakfast pastries, both savory and sweet. Then, with lunch hour, it becomes a sandwich and cookie/dessert shop for the rest of the day. Everything looks tempting, but even the most normal-looking items are far from normal, and always leave you surprised at how incredibly good they are, often with a touch of something different that makes your taste buds soar.
See that divine looking thing topped with blueberries in the image above? That is one of my favorite items! It is a Brioche Sugar Bun ($3.50) topped with a generous amount of vanilla custard and fresh seasonal fruit. For me it is like biting into a memory from childhood when, during summer vacations on the Tuscan coast, we would get up early in the morning to get to the local bakery and pick up bomboloni (custard filled dough nuts) before they were all gone. This brioche is a perfect blend between a brioche and a dough nut, and when you bite into it and get a bit of custard, I challenge you not to moan.
The bakeshop features an array of contemporary renditions of American classics with French infusion, as well as Asian undertones that are evident in the fact that nothing is ever too sweet. This is the result of Moaya’s living in Asia for fifteen years, particularly in Japan, where he developed, in his words, “a great love of junky Asian bakeries.”
At which I had to laugh because, having lived on O’ahu for 11 years, I knew exactly what he was talking about, even though in Honolulu I stayed away from the horrible in favor of the great.
The menu is constantly evolving and changing, following the seasons and the creative flair of Andrea and Moaya, who like to use organic and sustainable, locally sourced ingredients from the California wine country. By now you know: they get extra kudos for that!
Just to tempt you a little, or a lot, here is a list of all I can remember: Butter Croissant; Almond Croissant ($3.65); Rhubarb Crumb Croissant ($3.65); Twice-Baked Brioche with Passion Fruit, Coconut Cream and Macadamia Nuts ($3.50); Fig & Walnut Scone ($3.15); Crystallized Ginger Scone ($3.15); Breakfast Biscuit with Maple & Ham and Wagon Wheel Cheese ($4.25); Mushroom, Kale & Gruyere Cheese Strata ($4.50); Bacon, Egg & Cheese Hand Pie ($4.50); Ham & Cheese Croissant ($3.65; Chocolate Croissant ($3.25); Chocolate Cinnamon Bourbon Bread Pudding ($4.54); Raspberry Poptart ($3.15); Pizza of the Day; and Spanish Torta.
Above you can see the list of lunch sandwiches they feature. Although Crisp does not bake bread for sale, which is why they call themselves a bakeshop instead of a bakery, they do bake the bread they use for their sandwiches. I have tried one so far, and it was delicious!
Then there are the cookies, bars, sandwich cookies ($2.75), cupcakes and divine macarons (ca. $2.00 each). None of this is ordinary, everything is extraordinary. After falling in love with them during my first visits, over the years I had become tired of American cookies. That is, until I tried the ones at Crisp. Chewy, chunky, flavorful, crisp when they need to be… My favorites are the Salted Chocolate Chip Chunk and the Chocolate Cherry.
Macarons come in beautiful colors and wonderful flavors like Lavender, Peach, Pistachio, Rose Water, Pomegranate and Blood Orange. I have been swooning over the ones I tried over the past few weeks: Lavender, Peach and Rose Water.
Crisp Bakeshop is in their 4th year of activity and, for all of their delectable array of shop offerings, most of their business comes from wedding cakes. When I talked to Moaya back in early March, he told me that they had already sold almost seventy cakes, and that just in the first three months of the year. Since they wish to remain a small business, they find themselves having to turn down requests for birthday and other celebratory cakes, as they are already operating at full steam and capacity. However, they do offer a series of mini cakes in pick-up-and-go style through the shop (image at the top of the post). Here again, the flavors are not those of your usual cakes, and what I have seen on display so far are…
Ready? Here goes: Brown Butter Cake with Salted Crème Fraîche Caramel and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting; Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Filling and Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting; Chocolate Cake with Pomegranate Chip Filling and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting; Lemon-Verbena Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and Honey Buttercream Frosting; Almond Cake with fresh Rasperries and Lemon Buttercream filling, White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting; Sour Cream Poppyseed Cake with Blackberry Curd Filling and White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Don’t those sound just wonderful? I have enjoyed the Almond-Raspberry cake, but the one I am yearning to try is the Lemon-Verbena, or even the Sour cream-Poppyseed with Blackberry Curd. These mini cakes are around $20-24 and serve 4-6 portions. I added the white rose decoration when styling the shoot just for fun.
As you may have figured, Crisp Bakeshop has become a regular stop on my way to forest walks, as well as a favorite meeting place with my fellow walkers. One day I brought a cooler with me and ordered some tempting items that I would pick up on my way back south so I could take them home and photograph them in good natural light. The original idea had been to try one of the cakes, but then I saw some of the glorious desserts they had created. I picked two: a luscious looking Strawberry Tart, and the most perfect Lemon Meringue Tart I had seen in a while. Then I spotted the gorgeous macarons, noticed the amazing flavors they came in, and I just had to add a few of those as well. I photographed everything as soon as I got home. I love photographing beautiful desserts. They are so full of color and so photogenic!
Good thing I have willing friends who help me eat!
Aren’t they just gorgeous? Please restrain yourself and do not lick the screen. Just come to Sonoma and I will take you to Crisp. What would you choose?
It was really difficult to select which images to include and which to leave out, because I loved them all. But because of the blog spacing, with vertical images I can give you a big view, so I favored those. And just because I really loved this close-up as well, you get to see the Lemon Meringue Tart once more.
Hey! What did I say? No licking of the screen! *wink, wink*
10/22/18 UPDATE: Alas, the wildfires of October 2017 took their toll on many businesses, and a few months ago Crisp Bakeshop closed. A sad loss, yes, but not entirely, as Andrea’s delights can still be enjoyed through another Sonoma top favorite of mine: The Girl and The Fig. Andrea now works within their catering structure, and you can even order cakes, cookies, macarons and other delights on line at this link.
MORE FUN TO BE HAD IN SONOMA