“What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done this summer?”
The question was an icebreaker at the August meeting of my writer’s network. Grandchildren and vacations dominated the discussion, but having neither, I cast about in my mind for something else to celebrate. In a summer spent chauffeuring my teen-agers to their exciting lives, one treat stood out: Irina’s Gourmet Bakery.
Local bakeries are elusive in this era of Costco and Krispy Kreme. As a child in Middleton, Wisconsin, I looked forward to kringle coffee cakes from Clasen’s bakery and bagels from Bagels Forever. Now I treat my family to Krispy Kreme or Panera Bread: delicious, yes, but undeniably generic. So this summer when I discovered Irina’s, I rejoiced.
The Kansas City Star ran an article about Irina before I found time to visit her shop. She emigrated from Ukraine more than twenty years ago, and took a job in a grocery bakery department, although she was trained as a computer programmer. After ten years with the grocery chain, she opened her first bakery in a neighboring suburb. I feel so lucky that she relocated closer to me! (You can find the Star’s full article and Irina’s location at http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/22/4360258/custom-cake-maker-irinas-gourmet.html)
On my first visit, Irina stood behind a display case filled with several varieties of pastry. Baskets of bread hung on the wall behind her. Through a cut-out window, I could peek into her kitchen.
I bought a chocolate almond torte and a Napoleon, which she packaged neatly in a pink box. My friend Jennifer ordered a dozen miniature tarts for a party.
The pastries won rave reviews from my family.
A few weeks later, I treated my two daughters to snacks at Irina’s, and sat with them at one of the three dining tables. We admired the display of wedding cake photos on the walls, and the rack of beautifully designed cake boxes in one corner. A treat for the eyes, as well as the taste buds.
Do you have a favorite bakery?