By reporter Steven Smalley
Plenty of Magnolia neighbors want to know the latest happenings behind the brown paper window covers at the (formerly Finn?s) bakery. Finally, we can confirm delicious news for food lovers on the bluff. Our little bakery at 3204 West McGraw Street has new owners. Named after their child, as Finn?s was, it?s called Petit Pierre Bakery.
Little Pierre is the seven-year-old son of Laure and and Alex Le Benoist (luh ben-WAH), former Parisians, current Magnolia residents, and proprietors of the soon-to-be boulangerie in the Village. Scheduled to open October 19, Laure and Alex are planning the menu, fixing the oven, and giving the space a complete remodel. Magnolia Voice got a first look inside the bustling effort to speak with the owners who have lived in the United States for only three months. If you haven’t guessed, they?re French.
?Every day we see people pressing their noses against the window: ?When will you be open??? reveals Alex, the designated front-of-the-house impresario who recently spent a four-year civil service hitch in Tahiti, French Polynesia.
?In the beginning we wanted to go to San Francisco,? he explains. ?It was too big for us and too expensive. A friend told us to check out Seattle. We took a trip to see if running a business here was feasible. We fell in love. There is lots of space, and nature, and people smiling. Plus people in Seattle are food lovers. We thought we could introduce our French recipes to the people in Magnolia who would be worldly enough to appreciate our cuisine.?
In the back of the house, the engine behind the endeavor is Laure, a master baker whose family recipes are the backbone of the menu.
?We have?a family pastry business in a tiny village in the north of France, but I was trained in Paris,? she says. ?Our idea is to make very good products from scratch and from very good local ingredients. We?re going to have some French pastries such as macarons.?
Don?t imagine these macarons like the clumps of coconut you see in supermarkets. These are classics, she tells us.
?The macarons will be Parisian,? Laure describes. ?There are two small wafers with dark or white chocolate ganache inside, or simply a fruit pur?e. They?re tasty. We?ll have six or seven different flavors at a time, and then alternate seasonal flavors throughout the year.?
Then get set for an original.
?We?ll make little cream puffs named ?Choux (shoo) Chic.? Choux is a cream puff with custard inside. They?re very new here. You don?t have any small cream puffs in Seattle,? she points out.
That?s just the start. Morning customers can choose from a variety of tartlets, pastries, chocolate or almond croissants, and different flavors of Madeleines, a little French sponge cake with pistachio, almond, or hazelnut filling.
There is even a specialty, created just for Magnolia. Laure designed an open-faced ?Magnolia Croissant??baked with various fruit fillings.
?It?s going to be cool,? she exclaims.
Helping Laure in the kitchen is her baker, Ray who happens to be married to the barista, Beth. Lattes and the rest of Seattle?s brown brew favorites are served featuring Stumptown coffee, the same as Finn?s.
A wonderful selection of bread will also be sold, but not baked on-site.
?We are going to sell bread, but we?re not going to make it,? Laure revealed. ?We just don?t have the right oven to make great bread here. Our bread will come from the Tall Grass Bakery. When we saw the bread there our reaction was, ?Wow!? We would rather not sell mediocre bread when we can get it from such a wonderful bakery as Tall Grass.?
As for taking up residence in Magnolia, ?It?s like an island here,? Alex notes. ?It?s not downtown. It?s quiet and so lovely. We are so excited.?