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My main goal during the summer months is not to turn my oven on. While “hot girls summer” doesn’t refer to it, a hot girl is exactly what I feel like – and not in a good way – when I cook indoors at this time of the year. Even so, ovens in kitchens across Metro-Denver work overtime as bakeries and bakery pop-ups produce tender croissants after tasty biscuits.
More bakery pop-ups began popping up in 2020, but with the 2021 farmers market season starting and the crowd increasing as people wake from their COVID hibernation, it’s nearly impossible to escape the sight – and smell – of dough. Confectionery, bread, and even pizza from a variety of locations.
Is that because we all tried to make sourdough in the first few months of quarantine and can now better assess the work behind high-quality baked goods? Do we all only crave carbohydrates when we learn to be social beings again? Is this part of the pandemic aftermath of so many people choosing to take risks and make big career changes? Probably all of the above. Whatever the reason, it’s something to celebrate.
Bakeries aren’t new to Denver. Many of the spots that thrive today have been around for years. Izzio Bakery, based on Denver Central Market, has a history that dates back to 1994. Trompeau Bakery began making its French bread and pastries on a smaller space near the University of Denver in 2001 before moving to 2950 South Broadway in 2011. In 2013, Babettes opened at The Source, luring Denverites to the then-new concept of a food hall with its crunchy baguettes, and even caught 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 latest pick for Best Bakery, Moxie Bread Co., started in Louisville in 2015, opened a second location at 4593 Broadway in Boulder in 2020 and a third this year in Lyon. And that’s hardly an exhaustive list. There’s also Grateful Bread, Katherine’s French Bakery & Cafe, La Fillette Bakery, Azucar Bakery, City Bakery … the offer goes on and on.
It’s not just 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 is the perfect complement to the Kizaki brothers’ Sushi Den, Ototo and Izakaya Den restaurants. In addition to coffee and matcha green tea lattes, the bakery’s shelves are filled with Japanese-style French pastries – a whole new level of perfection. Each piece looks like a work of art, with perfect peach balls sticking out of tender, laminated batter and tall, muffin-like pastries filled with egg and bacon. In addition to baguettes and hearty sandwiches, there is also shokupan, a traditional Japanese milk bread. Take a loaf; it makes an amazing grilled cheese.
With the opening of House of Bread on South Parker Road 2020 in Aurora last November, the metropolitan area received its first Armenian bakery. While it offers lovely cakes and other sweet treats (check out the gelato-filled bomba), the real draw is the savory side of things (a lot of it halal): lahmajun, a round, pizza-like flatbread made with beef or lamb with cheese and Za’atar; Mante dumplings filled with beef, baked with tomato sauce and served with garlic yogurt; and Ajarski Khachapuri, a boat-shaped bread with heaps of feta cheese and eggs that are cooked just right to keep the yolks runny and dip the bread perfectly.
Anas Norwegian is a name you might have spotted in the town’s farmers markets. Owner Anne-Marie Fanakrå started the company in 2020 after being laid off from an HR position in the entertainment industry. Like many others, she saw the loss of her job as an opportunity to try something new: in her case, to share the beloved and missing baked goods from her home country. On July 10th, Fanakrå opened a stationary location at 6770 South Yosemite Street in Centennial, where they offer six types of bolle – traditional Norwegian sweet buns – from cinnamon to chocolate chips. The menu also features other specialties such as apple pie, raisin bread and dark rye bread.
At Wheat Ridge at 3210 Wadsworth Boulevard, Dolce Sicilia has tons of traditional Italian cookies, cannoli, and thick Sicilian pizza that are well worth the drive if you’re not nearby. Speaking of pizza …
Good Bread’s special cheeseburger pizza is indeed Good Pizza.
While that’s not the kind of cake that usually comes to mind when it comes to baked goods, two new bakeries are strengthening their business with the classic combination of cheese, sauce and batter. Good Bread at 1515 Madison Street has made cult status with sourdough, donuts, 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 collection on Friday; Choose from cheese, hot peppers or the weekly special, all on a sourdough crust. Recent creations included the cheeseburger pizza, which came with a special sauce and ranch for dipping, and cacio al tartufo with mushrooms, truffle cheese, and rocket.
After moving from California to Denver during the pandemic, buying a mobile wood-burning stove from Fort Collins’s Fire Within, and starting a subscription bread delivery service called Funky Flame last December, baker Allison Declercq saw her loaves of San Francisco sourdough really take off. Like her regular “funky Friday” posts on Instagram, in which Declercq happily dances around her stove with her dog Magoo (and sometimes other special guests). Pizza is a new highlight, and it’s not just any pizza: it’s Funky Za, made from a pinkish-purple batter. The weekly pass will be announced on Instagram on Friday, and SMS ordering is open until Sunday for collection on Wednesday in Sunnyside.
Funky Flame is governed by the Colorado Cottage Foods Act, which allows people to sell certain home-made foods on strict guidelines. While cottage foods have become even more common in the past sixteen months, Raleigh Street Bakery made it long before it was cool (or before a global pandemic forced a lot more people to deal with it). David Kaminer sold his first loaf of bread in 2015 and is still going strong. Baked goods can be found on Mondays at Call to Arms Brewing and on Fridays at “The Bakery” – also known as His Home – at 5245 Raleigh. Can be picked up on pre-order street.
Another COVID-inspired cottage food bakery, GetRight’s, not only sells decorated cakes, flaky croissants, and perfectly baked bread, but also grows plants and batter. Matt Dulin, who runs the business with his wife Lindsey, took a winding road (literally) to this company and spent years cycling the country before settling back in Denver. The pandemic caused him to continue his dreams and get GetRight going; Online ordering is now open from Thursday to Sunday for the coming week.
Moon Raccoon Baking Co., another bakery popping up in markets across town, goes beyond the typical sourdough breads with creative baked goods like a PB Cheesewreck, a dark chocolate chip cookie with peanut butter M & Ms, milk chocolate slices and Cheez-It crackers, and a hearty one Pastries with roasted Carolina pork belly, kale and cornbread from the Lost Boys.
The line forms at Bakery Four even before it opens at 8 a.m.
Two other pandemic-born companies are making big moves to much larger rooms later this year, making it easier to get their goods. After queuing at Bakery Four, I found my new favorite bagel in Denver, along with loads of other delicious options from pastries and cookies to loaves of bread. Owner Shawn Bergin took over his small current premises from another bakery that had ceased operations and started baking there in May 2020. The little shop, which is only open Thursday through Sunday, sold out quickly; Bergin soon signed a lease for a 3,000-square-foot space on Tennyson Street that would allow him to bake more to meet demand. It is expected to open this fall, which means more bagels (and all of the rest of its masterfully crafted merchandise).
Ulster Street Pastry is another cottage food bakery with owners Carolyn Nugent and Alen Ramos that sell sourdough bagels, breads, cakes, cookies, “Big Fat S’mores” and more that are done in their home kitchen in Parker Pop-ups and weekly picks are made-ups at Annette. The last pop-up is on July 24th, but don’t worry: The two are taking a break to open a stationary Poulette Bakeshop called Poulette Bakeshop in Parker. If the Tarte Profiterole you recently posted on Instagram is an indication of what to expect when the new bakery arrives, then we are in for a very, very special treat.
So while everyone is talking about the good kind of “hot summer for girls”, we suggest a little tweak: “hot baked goods summer”, because all these breads and pastries and sweets are the reason why we now eat bagels for breakfast, sandwiches on sourdough for Lunch, pizza for dinner and cake for dessert.
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Molly Martin is Westword’s Food & Drink Editor. She has been writing about the Denver dining scene since 2013 and has eaten her way around town long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito place and spends the nights sipping cocktails on Colfax.