Estelle Bakery returns with French treats galore
By Greg Sabin
There are pastries and there are pastries. The first category includes bear claws and Danishes wrapped in cellophane and laid out in an office break room, slightly sad and sweaty, sitting on a table next to a note about leaving a dollar and reminding the reader of the honor system or some fundraising enterprise.
At the other end of the spectrum are sugary, glistening dollops of brightly hued perfection, golden-hued sweet breads and fragile creations ready to dissolve with just the softest bite. I’m happy to say that Estelle Bakery & Patisserie traffics in the latter.
I don’t want you to think that all Estelle puts out are sugary delicacies, but they are the thing you first notice when you walk in the door of the Arden Way shop. The colors, the textures, the sheer decadence that is the pastry case at Estelle are simply astounding. Having been raised Catholic, I feel a certain guilt just being in the same room with such indulgence. To think of eating these treats almost makes my head explode.
But for you, dear reader, I entered the belly of the beast and took on the challenge of supping full on the sinful delight of French pastry. And let me tell you, it’s pretty darned swell.
Let’s start with things other than sweet treats because I don’t want them to get short shrift. First, the basics:
You might remember Estelle holding down a prominent corner on 9th and K streets for many years.
After leaving that location, the Estelle team set their sights on a commodious space on Arden Way near Fulton Avenue. This new outpost is large, serene and has a pastry case that seems as long as a bowling alley.
Just a few months ago, a second, smaller Estelle opened in Downtown Commons near Golden 1 Center. This petite locale is perfect for folks working Downtown or living in close proximity to the arena.
If you’re stopping in for breakfast, the options are numerous and tempting. Croissants—plain, almond, chocolate, ham and cheese—are prepared in the classic French fashion. Their buttery, flaky goodness is so thoroughly apparent, you almost don’t have to eat them to know they’re good. Eat them anyway.
A breakfast sandwich featuring ham, cheese, egg and aioli is a wonderfully indulgent way to start the morning. At most places in California, you’ll find a slice of tomato or avocado or a handful of arugula on your breakfast sandwich. Not at Estelle. You get a proper French breakfast sandwich, on brioche, without even the suggestion of fruit or vegetable.
Muffins abound. Scones prosper. And, like I said, croissants overflow.
However, while you’re still staring at the pastry case, may I suggest a slice of quiche for a lovely brunch or lunch? Served with a delicate side salad, ham or veggie quiche not only fills you up but does it with a certain Gallic homeyness that is hard to replicate. At Estelle, the insanely flaky crust might actually outshine the dense, flavorful egg filling.
Let’s move on to pastries. The first thing you might notice is the macarons. Let’s be clear: These are not macaroons, the fluffy balls of coconut, egg and sugar that are one of my favorite concoctions. Nor are we to confuse these treats with Macron, the surname of the current president of France.
These are macarons, small sandwich confections that combine light-as-air meringue cookies and indulgently sweet fillings, usually in rainbow-defying colors not found in nature. These little sandwichy treats gained popularity in the United States a little more than a decade ago. Now, macarons are sold in nearly every city in the country. Estelle happens to make them quite well.
Lemon, raspberry, lime, vanilla and other macaron flavors fill the case. Oversized versions stuffed with fresh raspberries and cream delight the senses.
Then there are the glistening raspberry domes, prettier than the topper of your favorite cathedral. Architecturally and visually stunning, these tiny almond cakes with raspberry mousse raise decadence to a new standard.
There are cookies, cheese Danishes, turnovers and sweet breads of innumerable quantity. There are candies and more. And then there’s the croixnut—a doughnut made from croissant dough. It is one of my favorite things I’ve eaten in a Sacramento restaurant this year.