For many, travel is a crucial part of our well-being. The need to broaden our minds, to change the scenery, to feel transported is necessary, especially after an interminable winter. Spring will arrive, any minute now, so divest yourself of your faux furs, your full-body wrap, your blanket robe, get outside, head to picturesque East Aurora, and get yourself to Elm Street Bakery. At ESB the food satisfies another vital need: scratch made food, sourced locally whenever possible, using high quality ingredients that ultimately nurture the soul.
The rustic board-and-batten clad structure, located at 72 Elm Street, welcomes with a hint of nostalgia. Inside, warm-toned wood, colorful landscapes by local artists, and retro barn light fixtures give off a welcoming vibe. When you walk in the door, you feel transported, to a point in the past, or maybe a European farmhouse. It’s the kind of place where you could spend all day. And theoretically, you could. ESB serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. (I have on more than one occasion enjoyed all three meals in one day from ESB.)
Elm Street has an open market layout; self-serve for breakfast and lunch, with table service for the dinner hours. On one side is the bakery/coffee section. They feature freshly baked breads of the highest quality, breakfast sandwiches, bialys, scones, croissant, memorable pastries and sweets, locally procured juices (from the Finger Lakes), blissful macaroons.
On the opposite side is the lunch area and a small market offering cheeses, jams, beverages, biscotti, coffee beans, charcuterie and prepared foods. For lunch, soups, salads, sandwiches and pizzas are offered. The Jambon Buerre sandwich is a thing of simple, three-ingredient perfection; ham, butter and baguette. The Three Cheese Panini, with cuba cheddar, smoked gouda, swiss and onion jam on sourdough is a decadent, buttery, crispy delight.
The center section offers bar seating, a front row seat to the action. The wood fired oven is the centerpiece of the open kitchen and you can watch the cooks moving pizzetti in and out of the open mouth of the brick oven with long, wooden paddles.
My good friend and wine aficionado Eric and I made several visits lately. This is a favorite spot not only for the food, but also for the excellent wine list. ESB also has a great beer selection and they feature local brews. One busy Friday night, while waiting to be seated, we were offered a glass of the featured wine. It was a 2015 Depaula Monastrell, from the maker Bodegas Ponce, an earthy, rustic wine which seemed to match the personality of the place. It paired well with the food.
The wood roasted Brillat-Savarin was a silky hot triple cream brie, combined with baguette and vollkornbrot, a dense brown bread. Served with pistachios and dried apricots, it was a great place to start. The Chicken Liver Pate always pleases, and the shallot jam is a nice, sweet touch. For salads, we had the Bacon and Avocado, with frisée, radishes and vinaigrette. It was a great variation of a classic Salade Lyonaisse. I considered ordering the Chicken and Biscuits, but wanted to opt for smaller plates. The Spaghetti Squash Bolognese is a perennial favorite. Finally, we chose two six inch pizzas to complete the meal (knowing there would be leftovers, the next day’s breakfast with a fried egg. Highly recommend.) We had the Sausage & Pickled Jalapeño, and the Butternut Squash & Speck. Fantastic.
On another occasion, we had the Pan Seared Cod, with white bean stew, romesco and sunchoke chips. The Braised Beef Meatballs were a superior version of a red sauce joint classic. They were presented with toasted sesame batard, another splendid product of the bakery.
Elm Street Bakery excels at many things, and at its core, it is a superb bakery. The breads are of the caliber that compel you to eat them unadulterated. They require nothing. The highly regarded, rustic pizzas are available in six- and twelve-inch sizes. The crust is the best I’ve had.
ESB has excelled since 2011, with a succession of top shelf chefs at the helm. It has attracted top notch talent (like Brad Rowell and Jen Boye) and continues with an excellent staff led by Mark Notarpole as head baker and Dan Borelli and Dave Murphy as co-chefs.
Elm Street succeeds in consistently creating experiences that soothe the soul, a quality often lacking in some places. The secrets of their success become obvious. The food is made with a sense of giving, and at the risk of sounding too syrupy, of love. They don’t skimp on quality. And they have created a familiar and nurturing aura.
Head to Elm Street, for a “…vacation from the hustle and bustle of daily life,” as it says on their website. You will be pleasantly transported, satiated and sustained, and warmed, from the inside out.
Images courtesy Elm Street Bakery