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Thursday, January 27,2011

An old-school specialty shop

By Clay Fong

 

 

 

I´m just old enough to remember that when my parents went shopping for groceries, their outings weren’t just limited to supermarkets. We’d go to locally owned specialty bakeries, produce shops and butchers, many of which are long gone, although two of them, Saag’s and Just Desserts, have become noteworthy retail brands. Trendiness wasn’t the driver for my parents’ patronage, it was the balance between quality and value that brought them to these shops.

 

Like most towns, Boulder seems to have lost these specialty shops, as evidenced by the departure of Herb’s Meats to Broomfield. But thankfully, there’s still a handful of these old school establishments. One notable example is Erhard’s European Café and Bakery, a cash-only business situated near the intersection of Baseline and Foothills in Boulder.

Sandwiches, soups and sausage lunches with potato salad make up the lunch choices, but the baked goods are perhaps the most distinctive items Erhard’s offers. Croissants, fruit turnovers, cookies and Linzer and marzipan tarts are just some of the tempting choices that made me half expect to see Augustus Gloop come through the door here.

My fevered imaginings of fictional gluttons aside, the actual customer base at breakfast seems to consist of those seeking both Old World tastes and community in a welcoming and serene setting. On a recent Monday morning, the bulk of the crowd here consisted of older European gentlemen with the familiar demeanor of long-term regulars happily shooting the breeze. Furthermore, the attentive counterwoman was both kindly and informative, enhancing the hospitable ambience.

Friend Tertia, her daughter Addie and I began our a.m. repast with a brace of $2.90 cappuccinos topped with a delightfully frothy head of milk. The coffee was of decent quality and helped me awaken, as the counterwoman, who had the air of a proprietor, heated up our $4.75 quiches. Tertia selected the veggie version, which was perked up by minced bits of tomato and pepper. The ham and cheese variant used these elements to contribute flavor without weighing down the dish. Each quiche possessed a homemade and not overly processed texture that highlighted the lighter custard qualities of prepared eggs. The crust was pleasantly understated, with hints of butter and an appealing flaky, rather than heavy, consistency.

Next up was a $4.85 peach tart, set off by a latticed top crust that had an elegant yet still homespun appearance with a whisper of sugar. While the sweetened fruit tasted more like preserves than fresh, this miniature pie successfully evoked bright summer flavors in the dead of winter.

Young Addie enjoyed the $2.85 chocolate croissant, which her mom Tertia considered to be among the finest examples that she’d ever experienced. Some versions of this classic feature the bare minimum of cocoa; this one had ample amounts of soft chocolate filling that had a taste profile resembling Nutella. As expected, the pastry itself was freighted with buttery tones, and like the best preparations, it had a subtly complex vanilla taste and velvety texture.

While Erhard’s focuses on a narrow range of offerings, namely European baked goods (they also do wedding cakes), it does this exceptionally well. In this era of do-itall supermarkets, this establishment reinforces the notion that small, independent, specialty food purveyors can provide excellent value and quality. And Erhard’s accomplishes this in a tranquil and congenial atmosphere perfect for a low-key but graceful morning meal.

Clay’s Obscurity Corner Augustus Gloop

Augustus Gloop was one of the winners of the Golden Ticket in Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the resulting film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. One of the bad kids in contrast to the almost saintly Charlie Bucket, Gloop was a gluttonous tyke who fell into the Wonka factory’s chocolate river and got sucked through a pipe, rendering him thin. Some theorize that the character of Uter from The Simpsons is partially based on Gloop. Both appear to be German and share a love of chocolate, and Uter once made a diorama based on Dahl’s book.

Erhard’s European

Café and Bakery 4800 Baseline Rd., Suite A109, Boulder 303-494-3635

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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