My friends and I are addicted to San Francisco’s b. patisserie maple-bacon kouign amann, and even with a change of venue and climate, Belinda Leong did not disappoint.
BY NADINE KAM
Not everyone has the good fortune to be able to travel to San Francisco for a taste of b. patisserie and the work of its James Beard Award-nominated pastry chef Belinda Leong, so MW restaurant brought a taste of b. patisserie to Honolulu.
Leong and her cafe/bakery business partner Michel Suas joined MW chef/owners Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka in the kitchen for their tea service brunch! Aug. 1 and 2, which never ceases to be a wonderful excuse to get together with friends or family.
MW was recently featured on Eater.com as one of “6 Killer Afternoon Tea Services From Around the World,” in the illustrious company of such institutions as the InterContinental Hong Kong, Ritz-Carlton Kyoto and Four Seasons Tea Lounge in Qatar. View the link here: http://www.eater.com/drinks/2015/8/5/9075797/notable-afternoon-tea-services-around-the-world
For my friends and I, the collaboration seemed like a mad experiment in baking. We always hear from pastry chefs that Hawaii’s high humidity is to blame for deflated, soggy pastry.
OK, we get it. They have simply set us up to have low expectations. But Belinda has proved otherwise. In skilled hands, we can have amazing puff pastry and bread here.
Belinda Leong, left, with business partner Michel Suas in back, next to MW’s Wade Ueoka, and far right, Michelle Karr-Ueoka.
Now, here’s the thing with Belinda’s pastry: One of my friends is obsessed with her kouign amann, a light, airy Breton cake comparable to puff pastry or a croissant, with a crunchy and buttery caramelized sugar crust. It is divine. So, when he heard I was going to San Francisco last year, he made me promise to bring some back.
I picked it up en route to the airport at 3 p.m., flew home, went straight to a dinner party of about 30 people to meet him, but we couldn’t enjoy it until 11 p.m., when the dinner party disbanded. We were not about to share this edible “gold” with mere acquaintances.
With the time difference between California and Hawaii, about 11 hours had elapsed since I walked out of b. patisserie. But, in the worst of conditions, bumped around with my luggage and airport security, in the frosty air-conditioning of the plane, in a taxi and finally, the trunk of my car, the texture and flavor was still amazing as four of us gobbled them up in the darkness of a dingy underground parking lot.
But again, those low expectations are hard to retire. When I saw the kouign amann here in petite form, a quarter of their full size in keeping with the meal’s petite proportions—the only way we could enjoy all 16 courses—I had my reservations. I thought that with the change in venue and recipe adjustment they might be dry. I braced myself for the worst. But, they were just as good as I remembered. It was one of those Oliver Twist, “May I have some more,” moments.
My friends were able to purchase a few extras. As for me, I plan to be in San Francisco very soon, and you know where I’m heading.
The morning feast started with b. patisserie’s light, crunchy granola, served over yogurt and strawberries.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.