When I stopped by Nohra Belaid's pastry shop last week, the space was barren and white and the glass cases were empty. All that changes later this week, when her Inés Patisserie starts dispensing classically French pastry creations.
Belaid closed her original place in Madison Valley last year, and now occupies a far more visible stretch of Madison at the foot of the new Viva apartment building at 11th Avenue. The new patisserie will soon be filled with her macarons, cannelés, mille feuille, napoleons, tartlets in seasonal flavors like strawberry pistachio, and of course those spectacular croissants. She's playing around with one flavored with za'atar; "it's a big crave right now in Paris."
The old Inés offered mostly morningtime concoctions; in Belaid's new space she will make more proper dessert pastries, like the ganache-coated religieuse named for their resemblance to nuns' habits.
The old patisserie felt tucked away. The new one is roughly the same size, but with a much-improved layout and a lot more light, thanks to two walls worth of windows. The laminating machine is perched against one of those walls, giving Madison passersby a full view of its proceedings.
The counter-height glass cases—with drawer-like shelves that might display engagement rings and tennis bracelets as easily as tarts and croissants—might not register with customers, but they're a big damn deal to Belaid, who bought a ticket to San Francisco so she could scope out the similar models at culty pastry shop Craftsman and Wolves. She likes the clean lines, but most of all she likes the smaller size, since filling it doesn't require a high-volume, low-quality output or—quelle horreur—a stockpile of frozen pastries. "They hold just enough for the day."
Inés Patisserie will open at 7 on weekdays and 8 or 9 on weekends, all the better for availing oneself of the La Marzocco espresso machine. Belaid's not big on Facebook, and the patisserie's website has yet to be updated so I suggest casting an eye toward her space on Friday to see if doors are open. How very French.
Inés will likely evoke comparisons with Crumble and Flake, thanks to its artful croissants and minimal quantities, but Belaid hews to the ways of her homeland, while Crumble and Flake's Neil Robertson wraps his own ideas around his classic pastry training. For the record, she digs his chewy-os.
Meanwhile, our handy pastry quiz tests the layperson's knowledge of words like "macaron" and "canelé."