We must cop to a bit of urban snobbery--a common saying aroun CakeSpy headquarters is "bad things happen when you leave the city". However, we humbly admit that we were proven wrong when a couple of us recently took a trek outside of the city to try some of the bakeries on the Eastside of Seattle--that series of towns and cities known for their malls and tech companies. Here's a batch of sweets worth leaving the city for:
Belle Pastry: Upon walking in, the first thing we noticed was the case of baked goods: gorgeous trays of croissants, pastries, cookies and cakes, all bathed in flattering light. The second thing we noticed was the clientele--there were actually French people in the bakery--at least three separate groups that we noticed were parlez-ing francais, and we're pretty sure they weren't just language groups. This is a good sign. The croissant was pretty standout; next time though, we're going for one of the decadent-looking cakes. You know we don't like to play favorites, but we've got to admit we liked this location far better than their newer second location in Ballard. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. 10246 Main Street, Bellevue (425) 289-0015; online at bellepastry.com.
The French Bakery: This place gets a bit of a mixed review. One taster's pain au chocolat was overdone; however, the rich, flaky Napoleon was extremely satisfying and simply oozed cream when bitten into--heaven. So we're willing to admit maybe the croissant thing was a fluke; online reviews, too, seem to be consistently positive. 219 Kirkland Ave., Kirkland (425) 898-4510; online at thefrenchbakery.net.
Hillcrest Bakery: This bakery is a treasure and well worth the trip to Bothell. It has a nordic bent--look no further for Rosettes, Jan Hagel cookies, and speculaas; however, they've also got a bunch of other goodies, ranging from cupcakes, cookies and scones to even, unexpectedly but deliciously, cannoli. Mon. - Fri., 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sat. 6 a.m. - 5 p.m.; closed Sundays. 10010 Main Street, Mothell (425) 486-5292; online at hillcrestbakery.com.
Hoffman's Fine Pastries: Amidst the chains in this suburban shopping center, this place is a little oasis of sweetness. The shelves are alluringly stacked with all sorts of baked goods, from confections to cookies to serious cakes; everything we tried (peanut butter bar--pictured top, orange shortbread cookie, princess cake, fudge brownie) was excellent. 226 Park Plaza Center, Kirkland (425) 828-0926; online at hoffmansfinepastries.com.
Honey Bear Bakery: We'd been curious about this place since Brooks Coulson Nguyen had told us it was one of her old favorites, and finally we got a chance to test it out. This is a homey bakery, with plenty of hearty baked goods which seem perfectly suited for rainy days--rich cakes, dense cookies and bars. The chocolate oat bar was a perfect breakfast treat. Located in Third Place Books; online at honeybearbakery.com.
Starry Nights Catering: Though they're not a retail storefront, their cakes are good enough to mention again. Online at starrynightscatering.com.
Sweet Cakes: This sweet little shop has been open for under six months, but it already seems to have a following--during our visit, it we encountered what seemed like a line of regulars. The shop is cupcake heavy, but doesn't subsist solely on the mini cakes; they also have a respectable selection of bars, cookies and whole cakes. We picked up a selection of mini cupcakes; the cake was perfectly respectable, but it was the frosting--rich, buttery, creamy--that really stood out. Tues. - Sat. 9:30 - 8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.; closed Monday. 128 Park Lane, Kirkland (425) 821-6565; online at sweetcakeskirkland.com.
As a side note, we haven't had time to hit up New York Cupcakes (warning--website has music) since it has gone under new ownership, but have heard good things about their new recipes. Thoughts?