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Behind the scenes at Boston's best bakeries, etc.

My sister, who holds a pastry chef's degree, will be in town next month for a weekend visit. Since she's never been to Boston, I'd like to take her on a quick tour of the city - but not just any tour, rather one that's tailored to her interests in all things pastry, sweets, etc. Currently she's working as a baker in a specialty bread shop, but she'd like to get into more specialized desserts and I want to share with her a sense of the opportunities for pastry chefs in a city like Boston.

I've already made reservations for afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental as a starting point, but I'm looking for a little more hands-on action at some of the local bakeries, chocolatiers or restaurants, something along the lines of a class or behind-the-scenes tour. We'll be out and about on a Friday. Nothing too large-scale, I'm not looking for a factory tour. To offer more direction, I'm already considering Flour, Chocolee Chocolates, South End Buttery, LA Burdick's and the like. I know this is a bit of a tall order, so I'd appreciate any thoughts or recs anyone has to offer.

Thanks!

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  1. You should definitely call or e-mail these places and explain to them that you'd like your sister to be able to get "backstage". You haven't mentioned Petsi Pies but Renee McLeod is a warm woman with a generous spirit and I'd be very surprised if she didn't welcome such a visit. Another possibility is Truly Jorg's in Saugus, because the owner is a Swiss-trained pastry chef. The bakery sells smaller cakes and individual pastries but also makes elaborate wedding cakes. That style of baking is not as common in the Boston area as in other large cities.

    1. Vicky Lee's in Belmont is nice and the owner is a character

      1. Lee Napoli at Chocolee on Pembroke Street in the South End is a former Pastry Chef and a sweetheart of a person. Yes, I know about the pun...

        1. Taza in Cambridge would be awesome, as would Sofra.

          1. both sofra (sofrabakery.com) and barbara lynch's stir (stirboston.com)have classes. it may be worthwhile to check their websites to see what they are offering in the dessert/pastry vein. though your sis holds a degree, it would be a good way for her to get to meet a couple high profile chefs in boston in a small group setting.

            1. You might want to scout out bostonchefs.com and look at the industry insider section which lists restaurant jobs in city and seems to be a "go to place" for opportunities.

              1. This guy started out from Switzerland and opened a tiny place in Chelsea.

                He then went on to Saugus. His stuff is amazing, but I don't know him personally.

                I'd give the shop a call and tell him your story and see if you can get her in to meet
                with him. It would be a great time I think.

                http://www.trulyjorgs.com/

                Good luck to your sister.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mcel215

                  Am heading to friends in Malden for dinner tomorrow and plan to try them out!

                2. the ladies in the pastry room at Formaggio are great. also, Lakota Bakery in Arlington. Fantastic cookies. What does Burdick's make inhouse?

                  1. What about the Langham and the prep it must take to put together the chocolate bar? Most of the hotels have to combine elegance with production. Also, get a tour of Finale. Like it or not it is a good example for an entrepeneur.

                    1. Just to clarify. Burdick's is awesome, but I think they make most of their chocolate at there non-Boston location.

                      Athan's is also very good two locations, Brookline and Brighton.

                      I would add Modern Pastry to the list, though not sure what is made in the North End now and what is made in Medford.

                      Flour is only so so with regard to real tasty sweets, though some have differed on that score many agree.

                      Truly Jorg's is just truly not very tasty. Pretty stuff, but not delicious. The same is the case for Finale; really gorgeous creations that don't taste like much of anything.

                      Patisserie is one of my real food passions, when in Paris I often skip lunch in lieu of 2-3 pastries. Boston is very limited in terms of real world class pastry, we're are a good bit better with regard to bread, where I would add Hi Rise, Clear Flour, Iggy's, and Danish Pastry Shop (though only for a few things and not really the pastry) to the mix. There are several others that elude me.

                      I like one of the other poster's suggestions of asking Formaggio your sis could pitch in there. They do not produce a huge amount, but what they do produce is very good.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        My sister-in-law is also studying to be a pastry chef at NECI, and we are going through the same issues of where to take her for some kitchen exposure as well. She spent the fall and winter at Tartine in SF, but like Flour they weren't concentrating on the sweet.

                        Thank you for the suggestions. There is also a Japanese bakey in Brookline, near St. Mary's, that I found to be wondrous. I love the stuff that comes out of Modern, especially the ricotta pie, and totally agree with you about Truly Jorg's. I don't think the Swiss were ever know for taste in pastry, and this place proves it.

                        1. re: aadesmd

                          Aaah yes, the Japanese place on Beacon is called Japonaise Bakery.

                          The do have several truly delicious items, notably the red bean cream puff, amazing!

                          Bit of a stretch for a pastry chef to spend even a few days though. They just don't do enough in the pastry realm. Though certainly worth an afternoon if only to learn the secret of that cream puff.

                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            And across the street from Japonaise is Tatte. I adore her work.

                            1. re: BostonZest

                              Tatte has been off my radar screen due to some mixed reviews when it opened and comments about over the top pricing. Can you comment more on Tatte, what is most tasty?

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                I love their brioche, butter cookies and fig biscotti. Yes, some of their prices are high but they use a lot of very good ingredients and each item is a work of art. When it comes to pastry, I'm a quality over quantity person. I'd rather have one great bite than an pretty nice large serving.

                      2. How's La Tene chocolate these days or Cafe Cakes?

                        Also, is this limited to mainstream bakeries or would the likes of Tabrizi bakery (Iranian), Yi Soon (Taiwanese/Chinese), Modern Pastry (Italian) be considered too? Would the exposure to stuff she hasn't trained in be more helpful? It would certainly be more specialised.

                        Also more on Brazilian bakeries here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/155470

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: limster

                          Good call Limster. Tabrizi and Yi Soon (two of my other favorites) would be great exposure to top notch Persian and Taiwanese sweets that are not at all common in the US.

                          I left them out in part because they were a tad exotic. With regard to Tabrizi, though a bit of a curmudheon I think he would not mind a volunteer for a day or two, but his repertoir, while amazingly tasty, is a bit limited.

                          With Yi Soon communication might be a bit of a challenge, but it would be worth a whirl. They certainly make a huge variety of interesting baked goods.

                          I must confess I need to get over to Cafe Cakes more often; sadly I think La Tene closed.

                        2. Yeserday, I happened to be in Salem and stumbled upon A+J Artisan Bread Co. It was mid afternoon and they were out of plain croissants so I got an almond one. Wonderfully flakey and not bready like most of the ones around Boston. I brought home an epi, a cranberry corn cake, brownies and an apricot ginger scone. Everything was wonderful. You might want to combine a touristy juant to Salem and stop in this place. The one disappointment was an orange rum cupcake. The cake was dry and the frosting was like eating a stick of butter...and I usually prefer buttercream frosting to the sugary kind. It was pretty busy, and most acted like they were regulars vs tourists. www.ajkingbakery.com

                          1. After a hiatus from CH for a few days, what a great surprise to come back and see so many helpful and thoughtful suggestions. Thanks everyone! There are one or two places that are sticking out to me as good choices given my sister's specific interests (she really enjoys making specialty pastries and chocolates), so I'll give them a call first. If I'm able to arrange any kind of tour, I will definitely report back to share how it went... keep an eye out in a few weeks :-)

                            Also appreciate all the suggestions on a personal note - now I can add several more places to my ongoing "To Eat" list!

                            1. I don't think that anyone has mentioned Canto 6 in JP - which may have the best pastries in the state... Delicious and the people who work there are really nice.