Another piece of Chophouse Row’s culinary mosaic is in place: Amandine and Empire Espresso have officially opened their joint space. It's at 1424 11th Ave, on the newer side of the complex and just south of Ericka Burke's Chop Shop.
Amandine is the long-held dream of one Sara Naftaly, who had begun kicking around the idea of opening her own bakeshop even before she and her husband Bruce decided to close their legendary France-meets-Northwest restaurant, Le Gourmand. Now, in this corridor-shaped room, industrial interior softened by wood and marble surfaces and a splash of purple wallpaper, she and her crew will produce a rotating cast of pastries, most bearing French and British roots.
There will be almond croissants and macarons in flavors like dukkah spice praline and white chocolate and dark chocolate with Algerian tangerine and habañero. Other creations somehow feel homespun, yet unfamiliar, like cookies stuffed with melty Valrhona chocolate, toasted hazelnut bits, and chunks of France’s chewy Carambar caramel candies.
The British-born, partly French-bred Naftaly is especially excited about sultana malt loaf, a snack she grew up with that packs malty flavor, plus “a little bit of crunch and a lot of squidge.” Amandine’s version is served toasted with a smear of Jacobs Creamery butter. It's an early arrival to the pastry case, along with Devonshire scones, buttermilk cake, far Breton with prunes, and the buttery almond cakes known as pain de Gênes. The bakeshop is trying to avoid refined sugars and use food-derived dyes whenever possible.
Rather than undergo a crash course on the finer points of coffee, Naftaly decided to find a partner who excels in the caffeinated side of things. Thus the owners of the lovely Empire Espresso in Columbia City have set up shop here too, complete with housemade syrups like cardamom and hazelnut, and even a housemade cashew milk. The two businesses are basically cohabiting and sharing the space—there’s only one cash register, etc.
Here's the secret of Amandine/Empire Espresso: The shop is narrow with minimal seating, sure. But walk through the glass door at the far end, go up the stairs, and you'll find a mezzanine that Naftaly correctly terms "a friendly, jolly space," with tables and ferns and the promise of an hour or so spent lingering over a cappuccino and brioche.
The bakeshop case started out the week bearing just about a half-dozen sweets, with more arriving as Amandine finds its rhythm. But the space is open from 7–7, seven days a week. Keep tabs on such matters on Amandine's Facebook page.