My main goal in the summer months is to avoid turning on my oven. Although that's not what "hot girl summer" refers to, a hot girl is exactly what I feel like — and not in a good way — whenever I cook indoors this time of year. Still, in kitchens all over metro Denver, ovens are working overtime as bakeries and bakery pop-ups churn out delicate croissant after scrumptious cookie.
More bakery pop-ups began showing up in 2020, but with the kick-off of the 2021 farmers' market season and increasing crowds as people come out of COVID hibernation, it's become nearly impossible to escape the sight — and smell — of dough-based confections, bread and even pizzas coming from a plethora of places.
Is this because we all tried making sourdough during the early months of quarantine and now have a better appreciation of the work that goes into high-quality baked goods? Are we all just craving carbs for comfort as we learn to be social creatures again? Is this part of the pandemic aftereffect of so many people choosing to take chances and make big career changes? Probably all of the above. Whatever the reason, it's something to celebrate.
Not that bakeries are new to Denver. Many of the spots thriving today have been around for years. Izzio Bakery, with its location in the Denver Central Market, has a history that goes back to 1994. Trompeau Bakery started making its French bread and pastries in a smaller space near the University of Denver in 2001 before relocating to 2950 South Broadway in 2011. In 2013, Babettes opened at the Source, beckoning Denverites to the new-at-the-time concept of a food hall with its crusty baguettes, even garnering the attention of national publications like Bon Appétit before closing that location, moving to Longmont and adding pizza to the mix in early 2019. Westword's recent pick for Best Bakery, Moxie Bread Co., began in Louisville in 2015, opened a second location at 4593 Broadway in Boulder in 2020 and a third in Lyons this year. And that's hardly a comprehensive list. There's also Grateful Bread, Katherine's French Bakery & Cafe, La Fillette Bakery, Azucar Bakery, City Bakery...the lineup goes on and on.
It's not all sourdough and French pastries, either. In 2018, Manri Nakayama opened Tokyo Premium Bakery at 1540 South Pearl Street after moving to Denver from Japan; it's the perfect complement to the Kizaki brothers' Sushi Den, Ototo and Izakaya Den restaurants down the block. Along with coffee and matcha green tea lattes, the bakery's shelves are filled with French-style pastries done the Japanese way — that is, to a whole new level of perfection. Each item looks like a work of art, with perfect orbs of peach poking out from delicate, laminated dough and tall, muffin-like pastries filled with egg and bacon. Shokupan, a traditional Japanese milk bread, is also available alongside baguettes and savory sandwiches. Grab a loaf; it makes for an incredible grilled cheese.
The metro area got its first-ever Armenian bakery when House of Bread opened at 2020 South Parker Road in Aurora last November. While it offers beautiful cakes and other sweet treats (check out the gelato-filled bomba), the real draw is the savory side of things (much of it halal): lahmajun, a round, pizza-like flatbread topped with beef or lamb with cheese and za'atar; mante, beef-stuffed dumplings baked with tomato sauce and served with garlic yogurt; and ajarski khachapuri, boat-shaped bread topped with heaps of feta cheese and eggs cooked just right so that the yolks remain runny for prime bread-dipping action.
Ana's Norwegian is a name you may have spotted at farmers' markets around town. Owner Anne-Marie Fanakrå started the business in 2020 after being laid off from an HR position in the entertainment industry. Like so many others, she saw losing a job as an opportunity to try something new: in her case, sharing the baked goods she loved and missed from her home country. On July 10, Fanakrå opened a brick-and-mortar location at 6770 South Yosemite Street in Centennial, where she offers six types of bolle — traditional Norwegian sweet rolls — ranging from cinnamon to chocolate chip. The menu includes other specialties like apple cake, raisin bread and dark rye bread, too.
In Wheat Ridge, at 3210 Wadsworth Boulevard, Dolce Sicilia turns out heaps of traditional Italian cookies, cannoli and thick Sicilian pizza by the slice that's worth the drive if you don't live nearby. And speaking of pizza...
While that's not the kind of pie that typically comes to mind when you're thinking about baked goods, two new bakeries have been bolstering their business with the classic combo of cheese, sauce and dough. Good Bread at 1515 Madison Street has created a cult following with its sourdough, doughnuts and sweet and savory pastries from baker and owner Gabby Yezbick, but your real priority should be Good Pizza Friday. Every Tuesday, Good Bread takes orders for pick-up on Friday; choose from cheese, pepperoni or the weekly special, all on sourdough crust. Recent creations included the cheeseburger pizza, which came complete with special sauce and ranch for dipping, and cacio al tartufo, with mushrooms, truffle cheese and arugula.
After moving to Denver from California during the pandemic, buying a mobile wood-fired oven from Fort Collins's Fire Within and launching a subscription bread delivery service named Funky Flame last December, baker Allison Declercq saw her loaves of San Francisco sourdough really take off. So did her regular "funky Friday" posts on Instagram, featuring Declercq joyously dancing around her oven with her dog, Magoo (and sometimes other special guests). Pizza is a new highlight, and this isn't just any pizza: It's Funky Za, made with a pinkish-purple-hued dough. The weekly menu is announced via Instagram on Friday, and text-message ordering is open through Sunday for Wednesday pick-ups in Sunnyside.
Funky Flame operates under Colorado's Cottage Foods Act, which allows people to sell certain food items made at home under a strict set of guidelines. While cottage foods became even more prevalent over the past sixteen months, Raleigh Street Bakery was doing it way before it was cool (or before a global pandemic forced a lot more people to look into it). David Kaminer sold his first loaf of bread in 2015 and is still going strong, with baked goods available by pre-order for pick-up on Mondays at Call to Arms Brewing and Fridays at "The Bakery" — aka his home — at 5245 Raleigh Street.
Another COVID-inspired cottage-foods bakery, GetRight's, not only sells ornate cakes, flaky croissants and perfectly baked breads, but raises plants as well as dough. Matt Dulin, who runs the business with his wife, Lindsey, took a winding road (literally) to this venture, spending years traveling the country by bicycle before settling back in Denver. The pandemic prompted him to move on his dreams and get GetRight's going; now online ordering is open Thursday through Sunday for the upcoming week.
Moon Raccoon Baking Co., another bakery that pops up at markets all over town, goes beyond the typical sourdough loaves with creative baked goods like a PB Cheesewreck, a dark-chocolate cookie with peanut butter M&M's, milk-chocolate discs and Cheez-It crackers, and a savory pastry with Carolina gold pork belly burnt ends, collard greens and cornbread from the Lost Boys.
Two more pandemic-born businesses are making major moves later this year, to much bigger spaces that will make it easier to get their goods. After waiting in line at Bakery Four, I found my new favorite bagel in Denver, along with plenty of other tasty options, from pastries and cookies to loaves of bread. Owner Shawn Bergin took over his small current space from another bakery that had gone out of business and began baking there in May 2020. The tiny shop, which is only open Thursday through Sunday, began selling out quickly; Bergin soon signed a lease for a 3,000-square-foot space on Tennyson Street that will allow him to bake more to meet the demand. It's expected to open this fall, which means more bagels (and all of the rest of his masterfully made goods).
Ulster Street Pastry is another cottage-foods bakery, with owners Carolyn Nugent and Alen Ramos selling sourdough bagels, bread, pies, cookies, "Big Fat S'mores" and more created in their home kitchen in Parker through pop-ups and weekly pick-ups at Annette. The final pop-up will be July 24, but if you miss out, no need to worry: The two are taking a break in order to open a brick-and-mortar called Poulette Bakeshop in Parker. If the tarte profiterole they recently posted on Instagram is any indication of what to expect when the new bakery arrives, we're in for a very, very special treat.
So while everyone's talking about the good kind of "hot girl summer," we propose a slight tweak: "hot baked goods summer," because all these loaves and pastries and sweets are the reason we're now eating bagels for breakfast, sandwiches on sourdough for lunch, pizza for dinner and pies for dessert.
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