Tattooed on one sleeve, a cupcake death’s head with a cherry on top, complete with candy hearts for eyes and nose cavity; on the other, a four-tiered cake on a pedestal, inscribed, “Let them eat cake.” Kelly Dull wears the quote well, indeed she has been helping people eat cake for her whole young career. Standing behind the counter at the brand new North Bakery in Federal Hill, just a block east of its parent restaurant North, she has the excited look of someone who has arrived just where they are meant to.
Stretching in front of her on a single milled piece of downed cherry are more than a dozen baking trays, and I’d like to eat what’s on all of them. Pies, cookies, cakes, macaroons, tarts, scones, all the traditions are here, but with some intriguing variations. Her lemon tart has rosemary worked into the crust. There’s a lemon cake with coffee curd for sale, lest you thought curd was just for lemons. This one is made by brewing coffee in milk and using that as a custard base. The Dan Dan handpie, a square stuffed pastry, speaks to the bakery’s connection to North. Less squid, it uses the same ingredients as the phenomenal Dan Dan noodles they make just down the block: the fat sticky chewy rice morsels, the braised goat and fermented chili, but now with pastry encapsulating the lot. Faux-reo’s are exactly what they claim to be, not so much a reverse engineered Oreo, but what a self-hating Oreo dreams it could be, were it not made in a factory. The textures are similar, but here you actually taste dark chocolate, offset by the cream filling.
The sign outside announces, “Game of Scones - breakfast is coming” and at time of visiting there were two survivors, Cheddar Jalapeño and Lemon Rosemary. Despite her welcoming friendliness, Kelly is not a sweet summer child. Strangely enough, especially considering the evidence lined up before me, Kelly says she does not have a sweet tooth and prefers more complex flavors and savory baking. You can see this approach in her offerings. There are still lots of sweet things, but they are balanced, and not saccharine. Even the simple classics are a lot more thoughtful; her chocolate chip cookies are melty with generous chunks of good dark chocolate that holds its bitterness, and they are delicately sprinkled with rock salt.
Kelly has worked around the country, including learning from Wendy Kromer of Martha Stewart Weddings fame, and most recently in Chicago at Magnolia Bakery. When James Mark, who attended Johnson & Wales with Kelly, gave her a call over the winter and sketched out the project, she immediately accepted and soon after moved, much to the joy of the North restaurant staff, who were eager taste testers as Kelly developed her menu.
Kelly and her team will also be offering all manner of custom made cakes for weddings and any other events. As she puts it, “I make dreams come true,” which, if your dreams are highly sculptural and involve flour and sugar, is no overstatement. The bakery is open from 7am to 6pm and in addition to all the baked goods offers North Carolina-based Counter Culture Coffee, one of the darlings of the boutique micro-lot coffee world. 70 Bat- tey Street. www.northbakery.com
Openings and Closings
Bocado Tapas Bar opened June 20, bringing tapas and churros y chocolate to Valley Street. Bocado roughly translates to mouthful, or a bite of something; but in addition to typical tapas plates, the restaurant also serves larger dishes like Paella. This is the second location for Bocado, having enjoyed success in Worcester since opening in 2006. Bocado is open for dinner and late night seven days a week. 60 Valley Street, Providence. 270-6080, www.bocadotapasbar.com
Blue Grotto on Federal Hill has abruptly closed and gone into receivership, following on the heels of the Vintage Restaurant in Woonsocket, also owned by Mike Danahy. For some workers as well as those with party reservations, the closure came without warning in what appears an unfortunately messy end for a restaurant that under various owners has been a fixture serving Italian food Federal Hill for over three decades.
The Hope Street Farmers Market is running a logo competition, inviting local artists to compete to design their new market logo. In addition to being able to say “do you know who I am” as they peer over a basket of heirloom tomatos, the winner will receive a $300 cash prize, along with $100 in fresh bucks market currency. Entries must be received by August 31, and an entry form and other information can be found at www.hopestreetmarket.com