Beam yourself to France for half an hour by diving into a chocolate truffle tart with sips of rich coffee in Uptown Kingston. Or take some of Séraphine Bakery’s delicate pastries home and extend the trip, imagining yourself across the Pond from your own patio, with madeleines or rose macarons to transport you there.
Tess Kelly does most of the “small-batch” baking at her young shop, which just started bringing France to Uptown on June 14. Small-batch means that they have certain things every day, Kelly says, but a lot that changes daily as well. They offer special items in small batches that are only there until they sell out. So everything is fresh every day, but you may not find that pistachio macaron or sour cherry/toasted pecan scone that you loved last week on this Thursday’s menu.
Small-batch also means that the cookies, cupcakes and tarts are all made with the highest-quality ingredients, like local Feather Ridge Farm eggs and a high-butterfat butter from Vermont. Kelly uses no oil – although it would be cheaper – and no preservatives to extend shelf life.
Kelly wishes to retire to France one day, she tells me as she stirs a big bowl of rich chocolate ganache. But in the meantime she visits often, and is now bringing Paris to Kingston, via Séraphine.
It’s a multisensory experience: The taste of French pastries – like plain or chocolate croissants – brings you to France via your palate, and the large black-and-white prints of French scenes bring you France visually. French music piped in rounds out the Continental experience, and pastries are packed in neat little white boxes or aesthetically pleasing white paper bags – no plastic here. Décor is simple and spare: plain white walls on one side, brick wall on the other, gleaming wooden floor and white café chairs and tables. When I was there a Frenchman and his American wife were visiting the shop with their young daughter Séraphine in tow.
Kelly points out that her bakery is the only place in Kingston where you can get real macarons (not “macaroon,” which is an eggwhite-based cookie). The macaron is a pastel-hued ground-almond confection that is all the rage these days. At Séraphine, these crispy treats come in an evolving roster of enticing flavors: lemon, pistachio, rose, raspberry, strawberry, vanilla and chocolate.
Other dainty cookies on rotation include raspberry thumbprints, Linzer tarts, chocolate chunks, double-chocolate brownies, lemon madeleines and more. I sampled a rich bouchon, a decadent brownie bite, cork-shaped, sugar-dusted and intensely fudgy. An array of tarts, small and large, are in the pastry case, “mixing the French spirit with an American heart,” coming in banana cream meringue, lemon curd and seasonal fillings from pumpkin to pecan.
Kelly named the bakery after Séraphine Louis (1864-1942), a self-taught French painter known for her flower subjects and secret pigments. Kelly has been in the restaurant business about 30 years, she says, and before Séraphine she had a business making custom cakes, which she still does. She can make them in sheet size or a variety of round sizes, and in flavors that include red velvet, super chocolate, lemon drop, carrot/ginger, coconut, flourless chocolate and old-fashioned butter cake. A daily special cake is for sale by the slice in the shop; the day that I visited it was butter cake with raspberry filling and hazelnut butter.
The über-popular cupcake is well-represented with variations like a raspberry filling or angel cake batter, or with frostings like cream cheese, chocolate ganache or Swiss meringue buttercream. Custom wedding cakes can sport gold or silver, edible flowers or monograms.
Savory offerings include a quiche du jour, with or without salad, and last but not least, to wash it all down there is an assortment of satisfying libations, from Stumptown Coffee – small-batch-roasted in Brooklyn – to tea; peppermint, chamomile or chai was a recent sampling. Perrier and Stumptown’s Cold Brew quench summer thirsts.
Find Séraphine at 39 North Front Street, at (845) 331-0201, www.seraphinebakery.com, on Facebook or Instagram @séraphinebakeryny. The bakery is closed Mondays and open most early evenings.