Earlier this year, my cousin Eve (my dad and hers were brothers) had some exciting news. Her daughter Kate and Kate’s baker husband, Zach, had moved to Brooklyn and were going to be opening a bakery there. They hoped to have it open by summer.
Well, they’ve met their goal. Bien Cuit opened on Wednesday. A few weeks prior, Florence Fabricant included the pending opening in her NY Times “Off the Menu” column. But that was not all. She actually went to Bien Cuit before it opened, photographer in tow, and posted about it in the “Diner’s Journal” and wrote a shorter article for the front page of the Dining & Wine section, both of which were accompanied by a photo and went up on the Times’ website the day before Bien Cuit officially opened. How cool is that!
M, J and I were there on Wednesday afternoon. It had been several years since we’d seen Kate, and it was the first time we’d met Zach. Eve was there (she’d been here since Saturday helping with last-minute details), as was her sister, Jean, an excellent photographer who took the drool-worthy photos that grace Bien Cuit’s website. Both of them live in the Boston area, and we hadn’t been together in quite a while. So, a family reunion of sorts.
Kate and Zach have transformed what was formerly a bookstore into a wide, lofty, airy space with a brick wall on one side along which are several tables. There are also a few tables in front of the windows.
There’s a wonderful assortment of breads, display cases house croissants and pastries, and there are cookies and palmiers.
At the far end of the room, shelves hold a variety of jams and packages of grissini and lavash.
It being the first day, understandably, everything listed on the website’s menu was not available. But I’m sure that will quickly change. While we hung out for several hours, Zach was downstairs working. (I did get a quick peek at where he makes the magic happen.)
M and I had lunch before getting there, but J had not. So, she got a croissant with an artichoke and goat cheese filling. I had only a little taste of the croissant end. Buttery. Flaky. Delicious.
Coffee and tea are available. J had an iced tea (the teas are from Harney and Sons), which she said was delicious. M said the same about his iced coffee. The beans are from a Brooklyn purveyor though I don’t remember the name. There are other drinks, but I didn’t make a note of what they are.
During the time we were there, it was great to see a fairly steady stream of customers, including families with kids and strollers, all of whom left with a bag in hand. The young women behind the counter couldn’t have been nicer or more enthusiastic. They had worked in other food establishments and were thrilled to be a part of this new venture.
Of course, we took home a boatload of stuff.
We haven’t tried everything yet. So far, the Compagne bread, a plain sourdough, is excellent. I’m a glutton for grissini, and Zach’s are perfect. I bought an almond croissant knowing that it probably wouldn’t be quite as good the next morning as it would be if eaten when fresh. However, it turned out to be really good. I heated it slightly, which helped recapture some of its flakiness, and the butter and almond flavors were nicely balanced. I’m one of those who is not content unless gilding croissants with additional butter. And on top of that, I added some Confiture de Christine Ferber.
I’d heard that Ferber’s jams are fantastic but are not readily available here. However, Kate and Zach were able to arrange to import them from France (with the help of her younger sister, Hannah, who has been traveling in Europe). Yes, they are very expensive. But since we’re not planning a trip to France anytime soon, I figured this was my chance to try them, so I took home two jars: Airelle de bois d’Alsace and Pêche Jaune d’Alsace. It was the Airelle de bois that I slathered on the croissant. All I can say is OMG! The reports of these jams’ fabulousness have not been exaggerated!
Best of luck, Kate and Zach! I feel confident Bien Cuit will be a huge success.
Click here to see all my Bien Cuit photos.
120 Smith Street, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, NY 11211
(one-and-a-half blocks from the Bergen St. stop on the F train)