Back in early February, Amanda Faison, food editor at 5280 magazine, unleashed the news that Troy Guard, the chef/owner of TAG, TAG RAW BAR and TAG Burger Bar, would open a new Mexican restaurant, along with a bakery, in the Ballpark 'hood. And while Guard will oversee the still-unnamed south-of-the-border restaurant, his pastry chef at TAG, Noah French, will be the face -- and master baker -- behind the (also nameless) bakery and dessert bar, which will open on the corner of Broadway and Larimer in mid-October.
The concepts, which are completely separate (although you'll be able to walk from one to the other via an interior door), will continue to increase visibility in a booming neighborhood already strewn with of-the-moment restaurants, but while Mexican joints are a mainstay in Denver's culinary landscape, bona fide bakeries and sweet endings -- the kind where you can get composed desserts, fresh-baked scones, croissants, crepes, quiches and housemade ice cream -- are far less abundant, but French, a New Jersey native with a pedigreed culinary background, is determined to make the bakery and confection crib a destination for everyone who savors sin.
French and Guard met in 2000, at Roy's, in New York City, where they both worked. Prior to French's New York stint with Roy's (French also spent twelve years at Roy's in Hawaii), he was a pastry chef at various five-star hotels in Barbados and Miami Beach, and during the time he spent cooking and baking in other cities and countries, he and Guard stayed in touch. And two years ago, while French was in Barbados, he got a phone call from Guard. "He called and said that he wanted to do a dessert concept in Denver," recalls French, who declined. "I just accepted the job in Barbados, but I told him that if he still wanted to do the same concept in two years, to call me."
Guard didn't call, but he did send French an e-mail in early 2102 that reiterated that the vision was still alive, and was French ready to leave Barbados behind for Denver?
By the time March rolled around, French was in the Mile High City, meeting with Guard and searching for spaces. "We looked at all sorts of neighborhoods, and by this point, I was 100 percent in," says French, adding that it "was a great opportunity." For the next several months, he and Guard kept in constant contact, and in October of 2012, French bid Barbados farewell and moved to Denver -- for good.
The duo began plotting the bakery and dessert bar concept -- a 24-seat, 1,000-square-foot space, designed by Xan Creative -- and got to work on menu planning and aesthetic elements.
"It's a long and narrow space, a lot like TAG RAW BAR," reveals French, and will include eight seats at the counter, another eight butts reserved for tables and eight more seats on the patio. A completely exposed show kitchen will dominate the interior, he says, and along with breakfast, lunch and dinner, there will be a cold case with desserts, a grab-and-go area stocked with house-baked breads, sandwiches, salads and soups.
The breakfast portion of the menu, he notes, will focus on quiches, "killer croissants," muffins, breakfast burritos, scones and large dishes like French toast. Lunch will consist of sandwiches, large salads, soups and crepes, while dinner, says French, will feature fish, beef, including steak frites and hearty pasta dishes. And desserts, of course, will be pimped morning, noon and night, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. French hasn't solidified the syllabus for his sweets, but he gave me a teaser: sticky buns, parfaits, cookies, coconut macaroons, popsicles infused with local, organic teas, chocolate spheres and composed plates with a punctuated component, citrus, for example.
And there's talk, too, of spirits-spiked milkshakes. "My philosophy is to go with good, simple, bold flavors that are all pronounced," says French. "I like to be a little cutting edge, but still appeal to a person's familiar sweet tooth -- these are desserts that I like to eat -- and I like to do presentations that have a wow factor."
Wine, including dessert wines, along with local beers and cocktails, will also be part of the lineup, as will fresh-squeezed juices.
I spent some time with French last week, sampling some of the desserts that he does at TAG -- and will likely end up at the bakery. Here's a journey through the sugar highs.
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French's chocolate sphere, an orb sprayed with chocolate, warmed on the edges and filled with caramelized walnuts, marshmallows, squares of brownies and vanilla bean cream, and plated with caramel whipped cream, walnuts and raspberries. The chocolate sphere, once it's been draped with hot caramel sauce, poured tableside. Carrot cake cheesecake crowned with a cinnamon tuile, caramel glaze, walnuts and blood microgreens, and paired with sea salt-caramel ice cream. Citrus-orange chiffon cake, topped with a raspberry tuile and composed salad of grapefruit and oranges, and accompanied by a scoop of mandarin sorbet. Flourless chocolate cake, glazed with chocolate, and served with raspberries, caramel cream, drizzles of raspberry caramel sauce and a lemon sable cookie. Walnut and caramel turtles and pops... ...which can also be gift-boxed.