Patrick's Bakery and Bachman's: Garden of pastry delights

The café and the garden shop go together like coffee and a croissant

I've made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I'm convinced of the opposite.Bertrand Russell

There is something about gardening—agriculture's tiny twin—that is a tonic against the relentless storm of bullshit that we constantly weather in this crazy modern world. Agriculture is the taming of nature in order to guarantee human survival; gardening is the taming of nature in order to promote beauty.

Therefore, there is something restorative about drinking coffee while surrounded by palms and ficus and lipstick plants and orchids. There is something civilized about eating pastry and idly staring up at a bear-shaped topiary, without having your thoughts drowned out by a sea of cell-phone-wielding wankers and laptop-pounding drones.

This goofy utopia can be accessed at will by visitors to Patrick's Bakery Café, which is located squarely in the middle of the sprawling gardening oasis that is Bachman's Floral, Home and Garden. The experience of dining at Patrick's would be worth noting even if the food was average; the burbling fountain, yellow garden parasols, and iron faux-streetlights go a long way by themselves. But the fact is that the baked goods at Patrick's are drop-dead remarkable.

The café's apple chibouste tart ($4.95) was the first pastry I sampled, and it hit me over the head like a sledgehammer: "EUROPE," it proclaimed, proudly. The only time I could remember trying anything quite like it was while visiting a confiteria in southern Spain. The light, creamy custard; flaky, buttery pastry; and delicately spiced apple flavors of the chibouste were light years from the gorgeous-looking but ultimately leaden junk that often passes for high-end pastry desserts in even reputable American bakeries.

Sure enough, the proprietor of the Patrick's Bakery mini-empire (it has three area locations) is Patrick Bernet, a classically trained baker and patissier. To quote the café's website: He "began his career at age 13 and has worked in numerous five-star hotels in the south of France and was also the pastry instructor at the Cordon Bleu in Paris."

The Continental polish is far more than skin deep; subsequent orders all lived up to the chibouste's standard. A miniature chocolate praline cake ($4.95) had the ominous sheen of one of those gloppy post-dinner offerings that crop up in middle-of-the-road neighborhood Italian restaurants, but it defied gravity upon tasting; it was ethereal and bittersweet, adorned with tiny touches of gold leaf, light and elegant like a mousse. On the entrée side of things, the buchee a la Reine ($7.95) was like a hot croissant bread bowl, filled with a creamy mix of fat and flavorful mushrooms, chicken, dumplings, and chives. A bright note of citrus kept it from sitting too heavily on the palate.

There's no question that one of the major appeals of living in Minneapolis-St. Paul is the option of losing yourself in the swirling tide of modern urban living. But it should be noted that another, far more underrated opportunity is the option of losing yourself in a garden and a cup of coffee. James Norton

PATRICK'S BAKERY CAFÉ, 6010 Lyndale Ave. S (inside of Bachmans), Minneapolis; 612.861.9277

 
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