Carolyn Nugent and Alen Ramos, owners of Ulster Street Pastry micro-bakery, prepare pastries in their Denver eat-in kitchen on March 19, 2021. (Kevin Mohatt, Denver Post special)
The first time you pick up a box of pastries from Ulster Street on a Saturday morning will leave you wondering if you have come to the right place.
There’s the dead end of almost identical townhouses, nothing that heralds a promising new bakery but your GPS. Maybe another customer is idling in the parked car in front of you, just like you, double-checking the address before you park and leave.
(At this point, your pastry hunter might say something like, “My friends all went skiing today, but I stayed behind for that.” And you’ll laugh in agreement that he made the right choice.)
And then Carolyn Nugent will step out onto her porch. She will ask for your name and will be really happy to see you. Then she returns to the house to get the pastry box you ordered and paid for almost a week ago.
Pastry in hand, you will be surprised how satisfied you get it with the pastries. You will go home to your loved ones and feel complete. This little box is strapped into your passenger seat.
Carolyn Nugent and Alen Ramos, owners of Ulster Street Pastry micro-bakery, pose for a portrait in their Denver eat-in kitchen on March 19, 2021. (Kevin Mohatt, Denver Post special)
“We had a wonderful connection with the people who came to the cake shop,” said Nugent of the routine on Saturday morning. “You know, everyone has feelings (about) whether it’s nostalgia or just a pleasure.”
In late 2020, shortly after moving from Chicago, Nugent and her husband and 15-year-old baking partner Alen Ramos took advantage of Colorado’s Cottage Foods Act and started Ulster Street Pastry in their new eat-in kitchen in southeast Denver.
After a decade and a half between Las Vegas, Europe, California and Chicago, they got to plant roots, said Nugent, working in some of the most famous pastry shops in the world.
Their bigger story is rife: during the pandemic, the couple wanted to find a more affordable long-term living situation and a place to raise their 5-year-old son Tomás. They came to Denver, where Ramos’ family (originally from Venezuela) live today, and set out to get to know their new city the way they can best: through baked goods.
“We were just looking for a way to connect with our neighbors and the community through food,” said Nugent. “And we just want to open our own place.”
A tray of Dacquoise pastries will be on display at Denver’s Ulster Street Pastry on March 19, 2021. (Kevin Mohatt, Denver Post special)
By June, Ulster Street will be expanded into a real bakery in Parker, selling French and American baked goods on a daily basis, from croissants to cakes, sourdough breads and donuts.
“We want to make this iconic American pastry that invites people,” said Nugent. “But we didn’t work so hard in these kitchens for nothing.”
In “these kitchens”, the joint pandemic of Nugent and Ramos sounds incredibly unique.
For the past 15 years they have baked together at Joel Robuchon’s in Las Vegas. El Bulli in Spain; Pierre Hermé in Paris; The Fat Duck in Great Britain; L20 in Chicago; Bouchon Bakery in LA; Tartine in San Francisco; and many others.
Behind the scenes at these famous restaurants and bakeries, Ramos and Nugent watched and learned, yes, but they also helped give their employers Michelin stars, run businesses internationally, or restart pastry programs and write bestselling cookbooks on the way.
“Me and Carolyn have been working together for 15 years,” explained Ramos, “and have worked side by side on the same station for almost 12 years. For us, that’s just second nature. We push each other on, help each other at the same time and are extremely flexible. Now all we have to do is bake and sell and just hear people answer… ”he paused.
Carolyn Nugent, co-owner of Ulster Street Pastry in Denver, is putting the finishing touches to a chocolate cake by filling raspberries with homemade raspberry jam on March 19, 2021. (Kevin Mohatt, Denver Post special)
“I mean, we always were, but we never were,” Nugent stepped in. “We are exposing ourselves for the first time, which is scary but also feels good because we do what we love and people come. “
Just one day after their Saturday morning cake sale, Nugent and Ramos were almost sold out for the next week. Denverites have already got wind of their limited range of donuts, apple fritters, sticky buns, scones, and slices of pound cake and angel cake.
And the cul-de-sac on Ulster Street had new and returning customers, from a motorcyclist family to a son buying pastries for his father as a career baker (and sending Nugent and Ramos a note with his father’s reply to the donuts).
“Our goal is to keep the spirit of the Saturday pop-up alive,” said Nugent. “We want to be stationed (in Parker), but we still want a range in Denver.”
Customers who receive their orders can expect to arrive on Saturday morning for the time being, as soon as the pastries are warm. Nugent and Ramos have been up since 1 or 2 a.m. when they start rolling and baking, then frying and glazing. As soon as Tomás wakes up, they let him choose a single treat for the morning. At 9 a.m. they pack chocolates and pecan buns and look for customers through the front door.
“It’s a little boost,” said Nugent. “We literally put things in boxes when people come and this product is fresh.”
To order, check ulsterpastrypopup.square.site on the weekend for pickup the following week. They sell out fast, but keep an eye out for news on the upcoming Parker Bakery, which is slated to open sometime in June.
A box of El Secreto Denver pastries delivered to your home. (Josie Sexton, The Denver Post)
More baked goods please!
Check out these other cottage bakeries in the Denver area that offer home delivery or pickup near you.
The Denver Secret – Puerto Rican pastries from a couple with flavors like horchata, tres leches, churros and quesito cream. (elsecretodenver.com)
Black Box Bakery – Baked goods delivered in Denver, from croissants to bourekas to cinnamon rolls. (blackboxbakery.com)
Gnarly Mountain Cookies – Oversized biscuits in seasonal flavors from a local entrepreneur who offers wholesale and direct delivery to consumers. (gnarlymountaincookies.com)
Mtn High Challah – The local sisters’ funny challah bakery offers bread for pick-up and delivery on Fridays. (instagram.com/mtnhighchallah)
Funky Flame – Wood burned bread and cookies delivered to your doorstep from the Sunnyside neighborhood of Denver with subscription service. (thefunkyflame.com)
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