Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter week is a great time to check out Pastiche Fine Desserts at 92 Spruce Street in Federal Hill.  It is a comfortable and welcoming bakery, with a fire place and a display case full of some incredible looking desserts!

Owners Eileen Collins & Brandt Heckert started by providing restaurants in the Providence area with their homemade desserts.  They had such a great response that they decided to open Pastiche in 1983 on Federal Hill, long before the neighborhood became a destination for great food.

With all of the great restaurants now flourishing on Broadway and Atwells, the location couldn’t be more perfect. “Even though parking can sometimes deter people from coming to this area, what’s better than having a great meal, coming in to get some dessert, and taking a nice walk back to your car?” says Amy Foster, the manager of Pastiche. Between the environment, the cakes, tarts and cookies and the friendly staff, it’s a great place to go any time of day, for any occasion.  
The overall concept of Pastiche according to Brandt is simple, but he believes it’s what has kept them in business for 30 years. “Being there, having a great product, but most importantly always being consistent.” This means sticking to their core values, buying local whenever possible, and always paying attention to detail and quality.  Amy added that it is important for her to hire the right people: a staff that gets along translates into great energy and customer service in the front of the house, which they also cite for their success.  

The sitting area was so comfortable I didn’t want to leave. Lucky for me, I got to sample a cake from Pastiches new Spring/Summer menu, which offers lighter desserts like a lemon custard tart or the passion fruit coconut cake, which was the one I got to try. It was a perfect spring dessert, light and not overly sweet, and the passion fruit mousse filling was bright and super-fresh.

Need a dessert for the Easter holiday?  Pastiche will have lots of desserts on display, but be sure to call ahead to be safe.  Popular items like their beautiful fresh fruit tart always sell out!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Travel Dispatch from Marcala

Eric Lepine is our Head Roaster and recently returned from a trip to Honduras to source top microlot coffee as well as reconnect with members of the COMSA cooperative. In addition to lots from small farms COMSA coffee is also currently a key component of our Whisper Espresso Blend. New Harvest has been sourcing from COMSA since 2010. Here are Eric's reflections on his trip:
                Marcala is a municipality in the Honduran department of La Paz, located in the southwest of the country.  It is home to the COMSA Cooperative where we source a variety of coffees of great quality.  My goal in Marcala was to source various microlots as part of our single origin offerings for 2013.  Look for these coffees to be available for late spring or early summer!
                I arrived in Tegucigalpa on a Saturday afternoon.  If you haven’t flown into the airport here before let me tell you that it is quite an experience unto itself.  I am told this is the second shortest runway in the world due to its location in the mountains.  Landing here is difficult and my plane definitely bounced off the runway practically knocking me out of my seat.  The first day here was spent meeting the other 9 roasters and buyers who were accompanying me on this trip.  We had a really great dinner and some drinks and retired early to make the 3 hour trip by bus to Marcala.
                Day two was also pretty low key.  We drove to Marcala, set up shop at our new hotel and then the people of COMSA arranged for a celebration of which included dinner, presenting us all with cupping aprons and a live performance by Guillermo Anderson.  I had not heard of him before but apparently he is a world renowned musician.  I really enjoyed it actually.  He plays a fusion of traditional Honduran folk, Caribbean and blues and his songs are very centric to Honduran life.  It really struck me as pretty incredible that not only COMSA had arranged this for us but that Mr. Anderson was overwhelmingly happy to perform for some coffee roasters and farmers.
                The third day was when we got down to business.  Over the next 3 days we would cup coffee from 109 farms, visit 5 farms, the COMSA wet and dry mills and have quite a lot of great meals and conversations with producers.  The members of COMSA are hardworking, savvy and incredibly proud people.  The quality of the coffee here is great and we were able to find a great many truly excellent coffees even in light of the coffee rust problems that are beginning to greatly affect many farms in Central America.  Some farms here have entirely succumbed to devastation from coffee rust or Roja as they call it in Central America.  COMSA estimates that this will affect 30-40% of all production.  Despite this, most of the producers seemed to have a very positive attitude and they believe that in the long run this epidemic will cause them to modernize and find new solutions to these problems and will allow them to stand on stronger legs in the future.
                I am thankful for the experiences I had and the people I met in Marcala.  I fully expect coffee quality to increase each year despite the decline in production.  The producers here are incredibly resilient and I am confident that they will indeed triumph over adversity and it inspires me to do what I can for my part to share the quality and hard work that is the literal fruit of their labor.