My sister used to live along the Rondout Marina, in Kingston NY. I was strolling along the waterfront one day a few years back and being a coffee-a-holic, I needed a fix.
I wandered into this cute little tiny bakery. It was love at first site. Essell, the owner and baker, came out of his kitchen to greet me and talk tome like one of his family. He is a grad of the Culinary Institute of America’s pastry and baking program. He has created a bakery similar to those in Europe, and his customers love it. The place is lucky enough to have space for 4 people inside and 2 outside at the small cafe table.
His shop is always busy! He truly is the ‘Alternative Baker’. He bakes with all natural ingredients and has many organic products as well. Offerings free of cholesterol, wheat and gluten are just as tasty as the old standbys like Buttermilk scones and Sticky Buns. Essell was credited with the honor of having his now famous lemon cakes (hence the web-site) sold in the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Today, you can order from his web site and have them shipped right to your door!! He offers bunts, loafs and bite size minis for just $1!
The menu is extensive and I am always delighted to see something new and different every time I go. Once it was small cherry clafoutis, another time it was bite size cheese crackers with a kick of cayenne pepper. The scones and cafe au lait are my morning standard. The offerings for lunch are just as delish and include soups and sandwiches, but go early for the best selection. You can build your own sandwich with your choice of cheese, toppings and spreads with fresh greens for a mere $3.00 – $4.50 the difference being the type of bread….peasant roll, baguette or focaccia.My choice is fresh goat cheese, olive and basil pesto, red onion, red peppers, greens and olive oil on home-made focaccia bread. At $4.50 it was voted best bargain sandwich in the Hudson Valleyin 2005.
And as if he is not busy enough, Essell also bakes wonderful one of a kind wedding cakes. I live about 25 minutes drive from the Rondout, yet I find myself driving out of my way and make excuses to go there on the weekend. I am hooked! Of course, when we knew that we would be attending Mardi Gras and watching the Hudson Valley Horrors…
my first thought was that of excitement. "Oh, we can go see Essell" is what I always say. I go as much for him and for his food. That Saturday, I enjoyed my standard for breakfast and announced to him that we would also be back for lunch! To my chagrin, only a few hours later, we returned to find that he had sold out of all his sandwiches! Great for him… not so good for us. We happened to meet my Dad down there and he had also gone in for a cup of coffee. We were raving about Essell to my Dad and telling him how much we love going there. As luck would have it my Dad informed me that Essell and I have more of a connection than I ever thought… he bought our family’s extra freezer about 10 years ago when he was first starting his business! I think I will inform him that this should entitle me to cafe au lait on the house for the rest of my natural born life! I hope he will agree!