“Let’s move to Olympia.”
Have you ever eaten at a restaurant that made you want to move closer just so you could go there more often? I feel that way about my half dozen favorite restaurants in Barcelona that make me dream of an alternate life, but stateside, I most recently had that feeling when trying out Left Bank Pastry in Olympia.
I was in town at RL Ray Violin Shop to do some surgery on our little one’s cello. They pointed me down the street to Left Bank Pastry to pass the time while they did their thing. Set back twenty feet from the sidewalk is this small pastry shop with pale green paint and a window full of temptations. Between the street and the storefront are planters that snake back and forth. You know a place is in demand when they have a permanent snaking waiting line out in front to handle the crowds*.
There was just a crowd of two ahead of me that midweek afternoon, giving me just enough time to eye the goods on display in the window. I wanted two of everything but managed some restraint. You can find many pithy sayings about the measure of a man, but how does one account for the measure of a pastry shop? My wife’s test is their pain au chocolat, or chocolate croissant. I got those, plus decadent chocolate Sachers (individually baked chocolate cakes with a square indentation filled with chocolate cream), a Kouign Amann, and a chocolate Paris Brest. “I detect a theme here” said the man at the register. Mmm chocolate.
Fast forward to later that evening, after a successful sleepy time routine, and we pulled out our treats. One bite in and I was making my suggestion to move to Olympia. Yes, it was that good even after the hours of waiting. I know there is an unspoken rule that real estate agents are supposed to gush and say that every business around them is wonderful. I can’t. I only want to tell you about the best that I can find. For the other end of the list you’ll have to ask me in person.
I looked into the history of the shop and found that the owner, Gary Potter, decided at age 30 that he wanted to change careers and be a baker. So he went full steam ahead and moved his family to Paris so he could study at Le Cordon Bleu. He then moved to Olympia and opened Left Bank in 2011. Rated by Food and Wine Magazine as one of the top 100 bakeries in the USA, I’d say that Left Bank is proof it was a winning gamble. Before I ever tried anything, I knew I was looking at quality. There is an undeniable aura you can just feel sometimes. When the proprietor starts his career by traveling across the globe for the best culinary education, that aura is all the more obvious.
You never know where life will take you. One minute your child is smashing her beloved cello, the next you’re in a world class pastry shop. I returned for more the next week, getting another chocolate croissant and trying out their croissant doughnut modeled presumably after Dominique Ansel’s famous Cronut. I’ve been to his bakery when I lived in NYC but never bothered to stand in line for the Cronut—you have to get there early in the morning for your maximum order of two. We had the fortitude to save a croissant doughnut for the morning’s coffee. It was still perfect, light in texture, and cello smasher approved.
* Expect to wait in line on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings. Do not be surprised if the line goes around the corner.
Would you like to learn more about the South Puget Sound? REALTOR® Andrew Mikhael loves exploring all that this region has to offer, and he’s ready to help you find your home here. You can get in touch with Andrew here.