She is beautiful and slightly intimidating with her sleek yoga body and lush brown hair. She pushes the oversized sunglasses up, though, and slowly she surveys the cherry red tables, overflowing flower beds and criss cross of shade and sun. Your eyes meet hers, she’s smiling, and you know she likes your choice…your style.
Well, not exactly “your style”, because you are standing in the courtyard outside of Spruce Confections. The dappled lighting and twittering birds, those are just part of the beautiful tableau we call Boulder, but the red tables, elegant vibe and sweet-baked fragrance wafting everywhere is all the work of David Cohen, owner of this bakery, a second in North Boulder, and Two Spoons cafe. The fact that gorgeous people seem to flock here is frosting on the cake, so to speak, but it all seems to be part of Cohen’s desire to focus on the smallest of details.
I’ve always been curious about what chefs, bar tenders, restaurant owners, food writers and other foodie-drinkie types eat and drink, what they like and dislike, and what compelled them into the juicy pond of palate pleasing. The following is a boiled down distillation of a funny, rambling chat I had with Cohen recently:
On the genesis of Spruce Confections: I ran for “Dessert Baker” at a co-op I joined in College at Oberlin, and won, because of the popularity of my running mate, Daria. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I rode my motorcycle to Cleveland to read baking books at the public library. Its basically all I did for 6 months. After school, around 1992, I moved to Boulder, and tasted an amazing brownie at a bar in Denver, where I was playing piano. Long story short, I met the lady who made it, decided I could do it if she could, and invested my last hundred bucks in a mixing bowl, whisk and a bunch of oats, chocolate chips, flour and baking ingredients. I made my first Old B cookie from that shopping spree and it’s still my favorite.
On what he eats at home: I have a wife, 3 kids, a small flock of chickens, a couple of bee hives and a wallaby, so it isn’t just me. But for breakfast I make a gluten-free waffle, heavy on the almond butter, chia seeds, and blueberries. Another favorite, I call it Boulder Toast, is a toasted bread heel, a layer of almond butter, a layer of banana slices, some plain yogurt, maple syrup and cinnamon. Dinner is carry out, most of the time. I hit Whole Foods for the prepared dishes, because it’s fresh and I have to deal with a lot of different tastes, though I am the only vegan in the house. We are all about salads, Indian food, pizza, sushi…stuff like that. If we cook dinner at home, my wife Heather uses a cast iron skillet and onions, peppers and tofu are almost always in there…
On where he goes for food/drink in town: Happy hours, mostly. Kitchen Next Door for the veggie antipasti platter, Zolo for the tequila—a shot, not a marg— the vegetarian tamales, chicken enchiladas, and the guac. Amazing, all of it. Pizzeria da Lupo is my favorite pizza, but the happy hour got cut short. Now it’s over at 5, so we’ve found ourselves at Basta a little more. Oh, red wine, I love really good red wine and tequila.
On trends he sees: Obviously, the gluten free thing. Thank goodness the whole carb scare trend went away! I embrace the gluten free movement lightly; we are working on a signature scone that is gluten free, and that will be followed by some tea breads and muffins. Also, light roast coffee seems to be ramping up, though I am not a huge fan. And cross dressing…seems to be on fire.
Finally, Boulder Tips You May Not Know: At Spruce…come on a sunny day, and if it is a summer weekend, you are likely to see a charming band that’s been playing here for about 5 years, sometimes unannounced. The band changed their name recently, but it was Savoy Espresso. Also, people don’t seem to know about our happy hour at Two Spoons, and I think it’s the only gelato happy hour in town. I don’t think enough people know about the brunch at Aion, or the happy hour at either Kitchen Next Door, or da Lupo.
(c) Allan Parr, 2012