Buttermilk Bakery – Orlando, FL

It’s taken us over a year to try these off the wall, idiosyncratic or dare I say Craftsmen and Wolves-esque lineup of croissants, tarts, cakes, pies, financiers, cookies, and kouign ammans. As a self profressed food lover, it’s a travesty that I’ve waited so long. 

buttermilkbakeryI’m comfortable in my critiquing abilities and knowledge of the greater Orlando area, and so I it seems natural to see Buttermilk Bakery, aka I love Buttermilk as arguably the finest patisserie in Orlando. You can’t browse any of the reputable, nay popular blogger community figureheads without seeing top down shots of what I would consider their flagship flavor: The double baked matcha croissant. Of course, I followed suit, the lamb that I am. But let’s get serious. How many bakers in the area are performing at this level?  With a scope ranging from caramel cornflake crunch croissants to roasted sunchoke goat cheese & herb quiche, and about 100 other equally innovative creations, the answer is roughly 3-4. How many bakers in this area can actually deliver a quality product? I’m going to hold firm with 3-ish. We tried two items on our visit. The aforementioned double baked matcha croissant and a slow roasted strawberry pop tart for the kid.

Why the confidence in Buttermilk Bakery after just one first trip? They’re already firmly established pillars of the community. I mean, if they sucked, I’d have heard about it by now. So what I’m tasting on my first trip cant be a fluke. What I’ve been waiting a year to try has long been warmly accepted by the masses.

matchacroissantEven though I have strong ties to my dear friends (and partners to some extent) at Born + Bread Bakehouse  here in Lakeland, I was reminded by a t-shirt I saw at Urban Canning Co. stating, it’s about “community not competition.” It’s ok to show love to people doing great stuff similar to what you or your loved ones do. We can all learn from, and respect each other’s qualities and be better for it. Even though Buttermilk Bakery ain’t my kin, I still love what they’re providing to the people of Orlando and hope said people continue to sustain these craftsmen so that I can make a repeat visit on April 11, 2017.

The croissant was simply obese, the flaky crust moist with butter. Generously stuffed full and adorned with delicate, matcha tinged frangipane. The pop tart shell was akin to pie crust, flaking as easily as Talia Al Ghul in the Dark Knight Rises. The strawberry filling was extraordinary from the slow roasting which concentrated the berry to a paste. It was close to overwhelming how much strawberry came through, as they don’t skimp on anything.

To understand how highly I view Buttermilk Bakery, take note of my day. I went to Anh Hong, a staple in the Viet-centric neighborhood on Colonial Drive in Orlando for a delicious lunch with the family. This was followed by a trip to the bowling alley closer toward the attractions where my 7 year old son rolled a 92 on his first game ever. The intent was to quickly head back east after bowling around 4:30 pm to arrive at the Audubon Park Market right at 5 pm. Traffic dictated that I would arrive at 6 pm. The drive home normally from Winter Park area is 52 minutes. Traffic decided that 52 minutes wasn’t long enough. Traffic was thinking more like 1 hour 30 minutes. In conclusion, If you find yourself en-route to or from great pastry, your body will forgive 98 extra minutes on I-4.


Born + Bread Bakehouse – Lakeland, FL

As cooks, we steal. No one in the field can claim to be 100% original all the time. Maybe Escoffier? I’ll ask around. Someone had to teach us basic technique, perhaps peppered with a few tricks here and there to make us what we are but not what we can become. A good cook doesn’t stop at simple thievery, no, he borrows, gains inspiration and makes it his own. In the immortal words of Frank Black, try this trick, and spin it…yeah.

Here is the difference between us and them. We don’t usually open a cookbook or periodical of note and recreate a recipe verbatim. If you’re in that habit, the results are generally poor. We all have different palates and taste buds. We also live in different unique climates. Then again, when we find a recipe or interesting combination of ingredients, we steal it anyway. When you steal, you should do so for only these three reasons.

1. To learn a technique
2. To spin a plate you love while using your own style
3. To make something better than the “original”

Born & Bread logo

The moment you sink your teeth in the mignon of Jennifer Smurr’s interpretation of the baked good known nationally as a  morning bun, you’ll instantly realize that this form of appropriation is perfectly acceptable. This city is at long last progressing. I’ve campaigned for competent bakers in town ever since my first real adult trip to New York City, when I finally experienced a real baguette, not to mention pastry and now we have them. To taste a thousand flaky layers all in one bite is the result of science, math and art all being tied together like a perfect braided apple strudel. It takes a special set of hands to delicately craft baked goods in a way that can change the landscape of an entire community. To sustain people and make them smile in the same bite. I have a feeling the hands attached to Jenn have the passion to achieve these things.

Born & Bread 1

A classic American beauty with hair adorned in golden braids like something you’d read about in Greek mythology, the life of a model would be an easy career choice for her to make. One that actually played out to fruition. There was one problem. The passion, the spark, and the desire to create something she wanted to create just wasn’t there. By no means is modeling an easy career. As an outsider, due to my grotesque physical prowess, I can assure you that field is as cut throat as it gets. As a friend and ex-postal supervisor of her delivery area, I have had the opportunity to sample some of her early experiments. From the sweet potato biscuits with bacon jam, to the all the pastries and breads, she has totally immersed herself into the art of baking, taking cues from her travels all over the world. Nothing depicts her individuality better than the triumphant spin on the classic morning bun made famous by San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery. An item she fell in love with during recent a trip to the west coast. She made it her own and made it better than the original in my opinion. There are artisans who have created empires based on one thing. If that were the case in this instance the morning bun would be her rise to power.

 There is a flawless bite nestled into each one to help focus your oral aperture. In what is in theory, a croissant shaped to mimic a cinnamon roll perfection is found. The lead up to that one perfect bite literally unwinds like a king cobra striking its prey, and like a king cobra, this French pastry has an enormous range as it is flaky, buttery, crisp, chewy, bright, spicy and sticky sweet all in the same bite. And like a king cobra they can be deadly. Really if you think about it a certain way, these are more weapon than breakfast item. This perfect representation of a classic morning treat reminds me of one the best of the very best NOFX songs, “And Now For Something Completely Similar” from the album – Pump up the Valuum. Compare the progression of the bun with that of a song. Better yet, get a bun and play the song in unison while eating. Whatever you do, do not play the song backwards or you run the risk of pulling yourself into a Faul McCartney-esque vortex.  As it starts off with the singular driving force of a guitar track. As the song unravels (physically start eating your bun by pulling apart the pieces from the outside in) you are greeted with the harmonious beat of a double kick pedal on the drums in time with the lead (the cinnamon sugar swirl with a hint of orange zest). As you reach the crescendo, right before the lyrics come in, a pulsating slap of the bass bombards your speakers (taking a bite from the center in all its ooey goodness). Finally, Fat Mike’s angelic voice comes in (savoring the combined efforts of all flavors involved) and everything begins to move so fast you can barely stand it!

Born & Bread 2

Fast forward through a stint in an intense 3 month-long training program in Miami at ZTB Bakery, and then another few more months working on her business plan. She has zero need to carry the persona “Jenn the apprentice” any longer. She’s got her technique down to rival any patisserie in the country, with flavors that are going to leave few heads unturned. After a few more months of business planning has passed, she is ready to knock you down and make you curse all the days in which you unknowingly went without her goods. “Born + Bread,” her first foray into public legitimacy as a professional baker has finally risen. If you can breathe you should go find it.

And find it you shall, in two incarnations. She will be setting up a spot at the Lakeland downtown curb market on Saturdays to give people a taste of what’s in store. Secondly, look for her work showcased prominently at another exciting endeavor coming this spring to the Dixieland village. Concord Coffee is soon to be Lakeland’s truest version of a craft coffee shop, with Born + Bread on full display.

Craftsman & Wolves – San Francisco, CA

I recently heard Anthony Bourdain say on one of his various travel shows, while plowing down a famous Chicago beef sandwich (I believe it was The Layover), that the last meal of a trip is the most important. It’s the best gauge of how things went. A soggy alcohol sponge of a dipped Chicago beef with hot and sweets, turned out to be a cure for his ails, an obvious hint to the dive bar tour he endured the night before.

For me and James, choosing Craftsman & Wolves as our last meal was the best choice we could have made. In a city full of artists who love to play with food, C & W unequivocally holds the title in my heart in the bakery category.


If you are the type of person who eats with their eyes, you’ll notice how each dish at Craftsman is a study in the play between style and substance. This is a task so many attempt, but find themselves failing miserably. In other words, dropping the spherically shaped object.

I’m not sure if any of the crew at Craftsman were alumni of their legendary neighbor Tartine. But if they used to roll puff pastry at that hallowed boulangerie, it would make sense as both show similar respect and expertise in their respective pastry technique. The result is the only difference. The former being classic to the core and the latter having a lush contemporary aesthetic. Both will alter your mindset of what baked goods can be.

San Francisco is a great city for an architecture tour, and James schooled me on some of the more visually striking structures around town. If you feel a similar admiration for food, art or great design, Craftsman & Wolves brings it all together.

Craftsman & Wolves entry and pastries

Whether you’re enjoying the super thoughtful take on coq au vin with a perfect disk of puff pastry and baby pickled root vegetables, or a spellbinding savory muffin with a soft egg inside, you’d be hard pressed to find brunchy foods with more flash. The words house made are littered throughout the menu (especially all over the sandwich with ingredients like saucisson sec, cornichon, black mustard butter, baguette) clearly the back of house spends the early morning hours toiling away for you. For you!

CAW saucisson sec sandwich

I keep going back to how well the food looked, delicately presented in the storefronts glass encapsulated case like a mannequin sporting Prada in front of Neiman Marcus. Food stylists get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make food look good for the camera, while making it all but inedible. Craftsman’s dessert case is filled with delicious gems, deserving of a permanent installation at the SFMOMA. The spotlight should be on their playful take on childhood classics like the Swiss Cake Roll. Here it’s filled with coffee/lychee creme, or a modernized lemon meringue pie with an eerily marshmallow-like topping.

CAW pastry

Alert: After revisiting the online menu, I noticed something called a Cubano poptart. Return trip status: Imminent.

Craftsman & Wolves on Urbanspoon

Tartine Bakery & Cafe – San Francisco, CA

“In life, there are no Fastpasses.”

Each of us wait in a line almost every day, in anticipation of a service to be performed on our behalf. We wait on the phone for faceless, pseudonym-bearing voices to give us support, or take our money in one form or another. A majority of the time, we’re forced to grin and bear it with the patience of a saint, with the occasional Gary Busey inspired outburst.

That’s why I find it fascinating when people balk at my willingness to wait in line for food. It’s as if it’s reasonable to wait for any number of ultimately unpleasant activities, but only a buffoon would queue up patiently at a world-famous patisserie. The question is, which of those activities hold more worth to you?

When you were a kid, about 10 years old, do you remember getting in line for a roller coaster, say for instance space mountain, and being willing to wait 45, 60, 90, or even 120 minutes for a 45 second ride?! For some reason that’s ok. To most of us, as adults, it’s still ok, not as ok, but we find ourselves waiting often and for long stretches. Like I said earlier, we will wait for much less and much worse. I once spent my whole day off getting my oil changed, and the new oil wasn’t even infused with tartufo bianco!

Tartine queue

James and I recently found ourselves on the cusp of a bro trip to the west coast, with a 36 hour blitzkrieg of the greater San Francisco area. The research was minimal, however we’d both had a resource exceedingly more effective than any travel site, guide or chefs feed. Word of mouth from friends and colleagues. The consensus from everyone we spoke to was to shoot over to Tartine Bakery & Cafe for the some of the finest French pastry to be had in the states.

Walking down Guererro St. toward the bakery, on what appeared to me to be a dead quite Sunday morning as far as San Francisco goes, we joined a crowd of about 75 people lining the sidewalk, all with smiles on their faces and an eager yearning in their hearts fueled by the gentle wafting of freshly baked goods. Surprisingly, there are people who love food as much, if not more than me. We’re out there, we love to share, we love to visit one another and we love to wait for things worth waiting for.

There are many reasons for this seemingly odd behavior, many of which reside cozily in the displays lining the front counters glass enclosed case.

Tartine pastry case

First, waiting in line adds to the suspense. In almost every artisan bakery, items rotate so often every trip can offer a whole new experience. One day you might be looking forward to a morning bun, but then you see a blueberry frangipane tartlet with its 1,800 layers, buttery brown crust and tiny California blueberries adorning the crown.

Frangipane tart, double pain au chocolat, passion fruit lime cake

There is a fantastic phenomenon, possibly part of the owners ingenious plan, that often occurs while in the line at a great bakery. As each happy customer exits and passes by, full and happy, they leave behind an aromatic tail, a sort of pastry contrail if you will. This you’ll find more intoxicating than drakkar noir. With every inch you move closer to the door, your anticipation grows, until you find yourself planning an order far larger than you originally planned.

In the bread basket that is San Francisco, Tartine sits as the tallest baguette in the heap. Granted, there is great pastry to be had without the line. However that line you see out the door is the difference between good and great. It marks that moment reminiscent of your first coaster drop, where you feel your stomach float. We wait for that first bite of a double chocolate croissant, we wait because you don’t know if you’ll ever have another chance to savor another slice of passion fruit, lime and coconut bavarian cake. You’ll never forget what happens within these walls, and you’ll want to send all your friends to experience the same feeling. I was the recipient of that extra special moment of remembrance, and I thank my dear friends for sharing.

Tartine Bakery on Urbanspoon

The Baconing. Frescos – Lakeland, Fl

Since man began eating well, man has known that pigs taste good. What’s the best part of the pig? Everything. If I had to choose one part, for me the answer is simple. The belly. Attempting to research the origins of bacon and other cured pig parts, I found many different claims of invention. Ranging from prehistoric times to the Romans in 300AD, the British in the 12th century, then jumping over to the French in the 15th century. There are also reports as recent as the 18th century when proper bacon was invented by a chap named Wilson Poopoobiscuit. As accurate as I’m sure the Internet is there are two things that I am sure of:

  1. The Jews didn’t invent bacon.
  2. Without bacon in all it’s forms, the world would be like a never ending Cormac McCarthy novel. (Drawn out and dreary. Leaving little hope for humankind)
  3. Canadian bacon isn’t bacon.

Now I don’t understand why, but about 3 years ago bacon started trending. It doesn’t make sense that something so amazing could have ever lost its popularity. It’s cool to like bacon again. If you watch any kind of cooking, food travel or food competition shows, you’ll see almost every contestant using loads of bacon. It’s quick to cook, versatile and hard to mess up. You can eat it at any meal and is used in virtually every cuisine.

I usually don’t work holidays but today was different. I was one of a few people that volunteered to come in on Veteran’s Day. I told one of the guys who would be working that I’d pick up breakfast. The only place near me was the little bakery/cafe I had just raved over on a previous post called Fresco’s.

Something caught my eye as it seemed strange to be included on the breakfast menu. A BLT. Pure American classic in every way. The one thing that stood out and really catapulted my interest in eating a BLT for breakfast was the garlic aioli that it came with. Fresco’s without a doubt in my mind has come up with the best BLT I’d ever had, and guess what? It only cost 5 bucks. So…they make their own white bread which gets them a nice pat on the back. Then they add a generous stack of crunchy romaine lettuce, followed by two perfectly sized slices of firm beefsteak tomato. The bacon was pretty special too. Thick cut and kind of mashed together to form a patty-like conglomeration. There had to be at least 8-12 slices of bacon to form the super bacon mountain. Perfectly crisp enough that it broke off at first bite but also tender enough so that it didn’t shatter to bits. Then a schmear of that garlic aioli. One bite and it was over for me. I couldn’t even wait to drive the 1 minute from Fresco’s back to work. I finished the whole thing in record time sitting in my car. Like the real man that I am. Here is the one shot I captured before it was too late. Enjoy

If you have any BLT stories, hit us up and we can compare

Fresco's Bakery & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Mings Bistro: Restaurant or Sorcerer’s Den?

What do you do when you’re craving something you can’t have? For all you guys with their mind in the gutters, I’m talking about food of course. When you just can’t squeeze that extra $50 for a night free from the stove and the dishwasher, what do you do? What is the one dish that you just can’t cook as well as your favorite restaurant, no matter how hard you try? These are the kinds of things I think about constantly. When my mind wanders to the side of hunger and satiation, it consumes me like the third level of Inception. The only difference is my belly is my totem. Keep in mind the limits of this discussion don’t have to apply strictly to your favorites, but more on your own cooking limitations and the time it takes for preparation. For me the answer to these questions is this: The most logical conclusion as to why we all fail at some of the simplest of dishes is that, there must be some sort of spell or wizardry going on that only a few select beings know which allow them to make certain things taste so good, at least that’s how it seems to us normals.

My entries are as follows:

To make a long story short, I can’t make Peking duck. To explain why would take longer than your attention span will allow. It’s basically a 2-day process and I’m not really in the position to be able to spend that much time on a bird. That’s why I try and go to Ming’s Bistro (1212 Woodward St # 6 Orlando, FL) to get my fix. It’s some of the best duck I’ve ever had, but just speaking locally, it can’t be beat. Especially since I can’t do it any better myself.

When I crave sushi, I would not even fathom of making it at home. Here’s why:
1. I don’t trust any local fish market to have the same quality fish as any of the better sushi restaurants within a 50 mile radius.
2. If I could trust a fish monger, the cost of all the fish I’d want would be substantially higher than just buying pieces individually at a sushi bar.
3. If I could afford the fish and it was of excellent quality, I will never be able to make sushi rice anywhere near as good as the most untalented of sushi chefs.
4. I’ve tried all of the above and I stink at it. The best sushi in my area is at Shin Sushi 803 N. Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL. When I can afford sushi I go there. I will not settle for mediocre and I will do without until I can go.

For the sweet tooth:
I don’t know what else could be in this thing called an Ooey Gooey Butter from a place called Fresco’s Bakery & Bistro (132 S. Kentucky Ave Lakeland, FL 33801) but in any case it can’t be more than 5 ingredients. Why I won’t ever try to make it.
1. Making a tray might add up to 5000 calories and a couple hundred grams of fat. Butter is in the name so do the math.
2. I would eat the whole sheet at once.
3. I bar will do the trick for at least a couple months.
4. They’re only $1.50. Why make a mess?

What are your thoughts on this matter? What foods befuddle you when you try to replicate them at home, and what do the restaurants got that we don’t got?! Audience participation is strongly encouraged and lavishly rewarded (just kidding about that last part, but we will leave you a witty reply!)