- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
I have read many glowing comments on Facebook about Éclair by Gather Wine Bar owner Kari Ziegler. Her shrine to local wines is directly across the street from Éclair in the old village. She often recommends the ham and cheese croissant. My first taste test, however, had to be the chocolate-dipped cupcake, like a Hostess cupcake gone gourmet. At Éclair the decadent, rich marshmallow-like filling sits atop an intense chocolate cupcake and the entire treat is dipped in dark chocolate. I couldn’t eat it all, it’s so rich, and costs only $3. I was impressed at discovering they don’t store a lot of cakes in the display, they prefer baking them to order.
The first visit I was waited on by Éclair owner and pastry chef, Jeremy Davenport, a fellow alumnus from the California Culinary Academy (CCA). I told him we were both CCA alumni and we shared a few laughs over the ups and downs of attending culinary school. All students study the full gamut of classical cuisine, but many, like Davenport, discover they’re passionate about the pastry classes. “As soon as I got into CCA, I knew I wanted to specialize in baking.” His diploma hangs proudly on the wall behind the display case.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
Davenport spent the first few years after school baking professionally for other bakers: Farb’s, a wholesale bread bakery, and at the luxurious Bacara Resort near Santa Barbara, where he apprenticed with the pastry chef. He also attended the Culinary Institute of America in Napa for a wedding cake course by a teacher who was formerly with specialist food purveyor Dean & DeLuca. “When she started talking about shipping pastries, everyone in the class started asking questions about it, but she didn’t provide details,” he recalled with a laugh. “She said she spent a lot of money trying to figure out how to ship goods and wouldn’t share the secret other than to say she used dry ice.”
Davenport’s pastry expertise shows in his beautifully-crafted croissants, both sweet and savory, strudels, and éclairs. On his website, eclairbakery.com, you can view his artistic specialties and wedding cakes. They also offer a mouth-watering selection of cupcakes, muffins, cookies, and quiche. Every Thursday night Davenport attends the SLO Farmers Market (across the street from Novo) to offer his éclairs, cupcakes, and fresh mini-doughnuts. I was surprised to hear of his participation in SLO, and Davenport explained his interest: “I want Éclair to be a community-based bakery, not
- PHOTO BY STEVE
I loved Lewis’ clever cupcake dressed in white coconut. She coined it the Yeti, a huge improvement over Hostess Snowballs. A native of Arroyo Grande, after one-and-a-half-years at Éclair, Lewis says the bakery isn’t just about making cookies: “I put a lot of love and attention into my work. I’m always trying to learn new techniques and experimenting all of the time. I test things on my family all the time.” Lewis is a vegan and enjoys creating vegan pastries. “My family enjoys the vegan treats, even though they aren’t vegans. We use Plugra butter and Valrhona chocolate. We’re dealing with delicious and flavorful ingredients, so the finished products naturally taste delicious.”
“My vision is to eventually add a deli and make it a place where people can hang out. It’s slowly getting there,” Davenport finished. He and Lewis have started a breakfast club once a month in tribute to the late John Hughes. The first Saturday breakfast featured Monte Cristo sandwiches and big pancakes, and it was a big hit with customers. Find them on Facebook for updates about the breakfast club. With tables inside and two patio tables on the front sidewalk, there’s no reason why you can’t start hanging out there now. ∆
You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.