One of my other pastry stops in Chicago was Floriole on a bright weekend morning. The minute I walked up to this bakery with my friend, I had a feeling this was special.
The large, welcoming, warm wooden space feels like a second home to me. Local residents lined up the counter waiting to order their cup of coffee or tea and a couple of beautiful golden brown pastries for themselves or family. The gentle scents of butter and yeast waft out from the kitchen in the back, I can’t help but ask the hospitable, driven owner and head baker Sandra Holl for a mini tour of her kitchen.
This bakery initially started as a Green City Market stand back in 2006 and in 2010, they opened this large space. For Ms. Holl’s background, she was trained at San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy and worked as a baker at the notable Tartine Bakery.
You can tell walking through the bakery’s kitchen, everything is made with love, care and patience. The bakers there were working on laminated baked goods, meaning puff pastries, which Sandra told me, is their signature.
Tantalized by the sight of their deep dish quiches and boules of bread baking, I had to head back out to the cafe and order a couple of things to eat.
My friend and I dug into the crowning jewel of the entire brunch – the deep dish arugula and cheddar quiche. I usually have reservations about deep dish food items but this quiche I’ll overlook it. The wonderful, deep golden brown puff pastry quiche meets the ethereal, silkiest egg custard that’s nuanced with cheddar and arugula. We’re swooning every bite we took of this sublime pastry.
The cranberry galette was incredible. Flaky, buttery, sweet from the sprinkling of turbinado sugar yet juicy, tart bites from the cranberry. The chocolate croissant ($3.50) was superbly flaky and tasted of fresh sweet butter without being greasy and the bittersweet Valrhona chocolate had the right amount of sweetness and rich flavor. The ham and cheese croissant ($3.50) was the kind of breakfast pastry I wish I can eat every morning, and the puff pastry equally as flaky as the chocolate croissant.
The lime tart with gingerbread crust ($5.25) was familiar but with a twist. The super firm, crisp gingerbread crust was a great contrast to the firm yet silky, sweet-tart lime filling. My friend, who is obsessed with lime tarts, loved this variation as well.
The final two we were able to eat were a slice of fine-crumbed lavender-lemon pound cake ($3.50) and the not overtly decadent yet rich, chocolate Valrhona brownie. The texture of the latter is more fudge-y than cake-like (which I prefer in a brownie).
To wash down all of these delicious baked goods, we had a well-made cappuccino and a good, slightly earthy drip coffee. On our way out with a few pastries, we also had refreshing iced peach tea to go that barely sweetened.
When I came back the next day from this visit, I reheated in my oven, the butter croissant ($3) and the boule of sourdough bread ($5.50) I was eyeing on when I was in Floriole’s kitchen. They were amazing. The croissant made me reminisce of my vacation in Paris less than two years ago. The sourdough bread is subtly tangy and the not too thick crust made it a great.
I really like this bakery a lot. It’s different than most bakeries I’ve been to, especially in New York City, where I tend to find either an upscale French-style bakery or something that’s simply American but lacking the rustic elegance that Ms. Sandra Holl and her team provides to Chicago. I wish I had a bakery like this around my neighborhood. This bakery was one of the few things I envy about Chicago and what makes this city a very good food city.
To view more photos of my visit to this bakery, please click through the slideshow (or view my Flickr set):
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