Ask Kurt Huffman how much his restaurant empire ChefStable used to spend on bread, and he'll answer quickly: "A lot." Bread markups are notoriously high, and for restaurateurs with a stake in as many spots as Huffman—Ox, Ración, St. Jack, Grüner, Lardo—developing your own baking operation makes sense. Duane "Stumptown" Sorenson has shown it works with Roman Candle bakery, which ferries bread and pastries to Ava Gene's, the Woodsman Tavern and Market, and his local coffeehouses.
And now Huffman has Frice Pastry and Philippe's Bread. Sharing a North Williams Avenue storefront with the just-opened third outpost of Lardo, the operation has a small seating area, lined with vases of freshly cut tulips, and a massive kitchen. Peek past the loaves stacked on utilitarian wire shelves and you'll see bakers scooping butter from vats beside a machine that looks like R2-D2. That's a $25,000 fermentolevain, which keeps liquid sourdough starter at its ideal temperature. The natural yeast gives a nice tang to Lyonnaise native Philippe Garcia's bread: chewy ciabatta; flaky baguettes, some with sesame seeds or olives; walnut-studded campagne loaves.
Sweets are an even better reason to visit. They're prepared by Alissa Frice (nee Rozos), former pastry chef at St. Jack, and displayed like precious gems in long glass cases. In addition to her familiar madeleines ($4 for a dozen, baked to order) and a refined lineup of brioche, scones and croissants, Frice has an array of kaleidoscopically hued tarts and mousses, each $5.
The banana cream tart is a fresh and classy version of the perennial summer-camp dessert, and a milk chocolate bombe with apricot puree is decadent but not overwhelming. My favorite, though, was a little cake Frice calls a chiboust. Cut just larger than a Jenga block, it layered springy green tea custard and a band of lemony yuzu gelee, with chocolate threads zigzagging across the top. It was light and faintly sweet and a little grassy, like the first whiff of summer.
- Order this: Olive baguette with herbs, matcha-and-yuzu chiboust, croissant.
- Best deal: Madeleines ($4 for a dozen).
EAT: Frice Pastry and Philippe's Bread, 4082 N Williams Ave., 971-266-8348. 7 am-7 pm daily.