Blogging from Bakeries.
My new favorite coffee shop is Lae nani Resort on Kauai’s east side. But coffee isn’t the main ingredient here. Sure, there’s a blackboard of coffee offerings from lattes and cappuccinos, Americanos, espressos to plain-old drip. But the baked goods take center stage here. Starting with the aroma.
“What’s baking? It smells great.” I asked as soon as I stepped foot inside.
“Brioche hamburger buns.” The reply came from the back of the shop.
“Hamburger buns?” I asked. “Hamburger buns can smell that good?”
“Yes, they can.” The baker emerged from the back. He wore an aloha shirt over khaki shorts and blue ballcap over greying hair. I could interview him, I thought, but, sometimes, I like to enjoy the essence of the place. And this place had essence.
There's a reason real estate agents suggest lighting candles or baking cookies before an open house. In A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman wrote that of all the five senses, nothing is more memorable than smell. A scent can have us reeling back the years to a favorite childhood experience or generate a violently physical reaction in our bodies. Helen Keller said, "Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived. The odors of fruits waft me to my southern home, to my childhood frolics in the peach orchard. Other odors, instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief. Even as I think of smells, my nose is full of scents that start awake sweet memories of summers gone and ripening fields far away."
Maybe the science behind smell, the inner workings of that olfactory gland, is what caused me to fall instantly in love with Passion Bakery & Cafe.
I glanced at my phone. It was 12:15 p.m. The blackboard listed breakfast and lunch choices. For lunch, sandwiches: Turkey, ham, salami ($6.95). Roast beef ($8.95). “Can I still order breakfast?” I asked. I love a place that lets you order breakfast all day long.
“I’ll make you whatever I’ve got,” said the baker—and, most likely, owner of this shop in a corner of a smallish shopping center--Kinipopo--in which a clothing store, wedding cake bakery, jewelry store and the Mexican restaurant Monico’s Tacqueria is located. (Side note: Monico’s is an award-winner. In the summer of 2011, Sunset magazine gave kudos to the eatery for its fish tacos. I order the cheese enchiladas with mole sauce. It’s not on the menu, but Monico has never hesitated to serve me my favorite dish.)
“I’ll have the Jalapeno and Mozzarella Croissant Eggwich ($6.95).
And, then, the bakery display got my notice. It was filled with croissants; pecan and macadamia nut shortbread cookies; bear claws with macadamia nuts; pistachio nut baklava; mac nut torte, muffins, coconut cream mini cake, cookies, and poppy-seed brioche twists.
I set up my office—laptop and phone—on a metal bistro table covered in a vinyl tablecloth sporting a leafy island motif. Stacks of 50-pound flour bags lined the walls--unbleached white flour, bread flour, vita-grain. Cans of Blue Sky soda and Hawaiian Sun Green Tea stocked the shelves below the cash register. A stereo played an upbeat song. Original art by local artists decorated the walls.
It was hot but ceiling fans plied the air. Old time coffee grinder took up one corner. Tazo, Harney & Sons, Might Leaf, Stash, Numi and Good Earth make up the tea selection. Bags of Lundberg and Barbara’s crackers and chips filled a display next to the cash register--which was an iPad. It even accepted credit cards. The swiper was a little testy, but it finally read my card after a half-dozen swipes. I signed with my fingertip. I input my cell number, and, seconds later, I felt my phone vibrating.
My sandwich was delivered to my table, and it was everything I’d hoped it to be—flakes of a light and airy croissant raining down upon my shirt.
When I actually listened to the lyrics, I heard, “What about the Lord? My friend. Hallelujah.” I looked around again, a little more closely. On a bookcase, there were two Bibles, the game Sorry, a backgammon board, a stack of albums--as in vinyl--and a box of French Vanilla Coffee Mate.
The baker moved on to baking cookies: white chocolate, oatmeal, peanut butter and macadamia nut. This would not be the place to come if I ever gave up sugar for the Lenten season again.
Another song came on. “How far is heaven? I’ve just got to have some faith.” a male voice sang, and I tapped my toe and dipped my head. The CD changer spun again, and Neil Diamond’s voice wrapped me in the blanket of happiness in which I’d found myself.
A woman came in for a cup of hot tea. Another arrived, saying, “It’s my friend’s birthday. What do you recommend?”
The baker escorted the woman to a special refrigerator filled with desserts. “Passion Fruit Cheesecake,” he suggested. “Or Triple Chocolate Cheesecake, or Passion Fruit Chiffon Pie.”
Neil Diamond gave way to Michael Jackson. “You give me butterflies inside.” Elsewhere in the world, I thought, the media buzzed with the trial of the famous singer's doctor.
A mother and daughter—I assume—breezed in. “Do you sell breads?”
“What’s today?” the baker asked.
“I make my artisan breads on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Come back tomorrow. It’s worth the wait.”
As I left, Joe Cocker started singing his rendition of Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.
Bread. That’s as good a reason as any to return to Passion Bakery & Cafe. But, to be honest, it will be for the Passion Fruit Cheesecake. God help me.