Here it is mid-December and finally cool—though not even consistently cold—enough to think about baking holiday treats (or at least eating them). I'm just getting off the phone with an old, close friend, a Manhattanite who loves bread (like any good Italian). He reminded me how impressed he was last summer, on his annual trip to the Triangle, with our exploration of local bread bakeries and dessert shops that continue to spring up.
We've come a long way since he first visited here in 1986. Back then, there was (and, of course, still is) Ninth Street Bakery (286-0303, www.ninthstbakery.com), the old Wellspring Grocery (now Whole Foods Markets) and earlier incarnations of A Southern Season (929-7133, www.southernseason.com). But they were fewer and far between.
Though we can't claim the availability that New Yorkers can, on the way home from work most anywhere in the Triangle we can pick up a real baguette, a dozen fresh dinner rolls, a loaf of challah—and have the real thing on the supper table to round out the simple soup or pasta we throw together (or heat up from some ready-to-eat source) at the end of a workday during the hectic holiday season. Add all the options we have for ordering (well in advance) sweets and desserts to grace our table, and we have a lot to choose from indeed.
There are excellent local bakeries like the Weaver Street Markets in Carrboro and Chapel Hill's Southern Village (www.weaverstreetmarket.com), Café Carolina and Bakery (four locations across Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill, www.cafecarolina.com), Croissant Bakery and Café (981-0032), and Durham's beloved Guglhupf Bakery and Patisserie (401-2600, www.guglhupf.com). Cary's La Farm Bakery (657-0657, www.lafarmbakery.com) also has a stand at the State Farmers' Market (www.ncagr.com/markets) Saturdays and Sundays through the winter alongside the vegetable stands which also have baked goods. All of these bread-focused bakeries also have café tables and some even have full café menus. And there are chains like Great Harvest Bread Company (932-1112, www.freshbakedbread.com), Panera Bread (www.panerabread.com) and Gourmandises de France (788-0379, www.gourmadisesdefrance.com).
Desserts and breakfast goodies are available at shops like Durham's Francesca's Dessert Caffe (286-4177, www.francescasdessertcaffe.com), where key lime ice cream pie is among my family's favorites; Mad Hatter's Café and Bake Shop (286-1987, wwwmadhattersbakeshop.com); and Victoria's Sweets in Morrisville (379-8634, www.victoriashomemade.com). Once in a Blue Moon Bakery in Cary (319-6554, www.bluemoonbakery.com) makes a wide variety of tea breads—banana-walnut, cranberry-almond, pumpkin-apple—popular for gift giving. There's also Raleigh's Edible Art Bakery and Dessert Cafe (856-0604, www.edibleartbakery.com) specializing in holiday cakes, pies and cheesecakes and Hereghty Heavenly Delicious (519-9161, www.hereghty.com), where the visual beauty of their European style creations reminds me of window-shopping for patisserie in Paris. Jubilee Bakery in Carrboro (259-0369, www.jubileebakery.com) e-mails us that they are slammed with orders already for their cupcakes and cookies, so plan ahead and order early by phone and online.