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If you think hearty organic breads, sandwiches, and soups when you think of the Essential Baking Company Café, it's time to expand your ideas to include decadent desserts. The tartlets are grand: Fresh fruit toppings, fabulous custard, and a sugary pastry crust are what make a perfect tart, but pure fluid chocolate and lemon curd are not to be sneezed at. A white-chocolate cheesecake and chocolate mousse pyramid help round out the dessert menu. Stop by after dinner and see for yourself what fresh ingredients and a whole lot of butter can do.
I actually like the bread, and most times I've had a good experience. I would avoid going there in the morning, though - after waiting in line to order a loaf of bread the cashier walked past me, telling me to wait in the OTHER line in snippy tone of voice. Every other time I've been there I waited in the first line and things were fine. The difference this time is that because it was busy they wanted their customers to jump through more hoops to buy their product.
So - good bread, but avoid busy times (like the mornings)
I've been an Essential bread buyer for years, but when I go to their airy cafe in Madison Valley (there's another Essential cafe in Wallingford), my foremost thoughts are not about the bread. Instead, I dwell on the produce. Essential makes some of the freshest salads in town, and I once had there the sweetest cherry tomato I've ever tasted. The produce comes from a popular Seattle warehouse, not any special local farm, according to Neil Palmer, manager of the Madison Valley cafe. Still, he says, "We try to get organic." It pays off. A small salad makes a perfect lunch, and you don't even have to forgo bread, since it comes with crunchy, olive oil–brushed flatbread.—Nina Shapiro 2719 E. Madison St.,
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