01 November 2009

The Bake Shop

Happily over Halloween, we woke up this morning to an extra hour, which gave us time to go for a sweet bite at Neldam's before heading out of the neighborhood. This little neighborhood bakery specializes in Danish pastry, allegedly the oldest scratch bakery in all of Oakland. It's pretty charming, with a genuine DMV style numbering system and generically festive decorations strung all around and classic cakes that can be ordered ahead and customized with things like "Happy Retirement" or "It's a Boy!" This morning a young couple sat in the bakery's classic lawn chairs looking through a three ring binder to pick out their wedding cake.

Every time I've been there, no matter the day of the week, someone is picking up one of these cakes, which leads me to believe that a Neldam's cake is a sort of tradition in lots of Oakland families. This morning a woman who looked to have stopped by on her way home from church, dutifully took a number ticket though she was the only person in line and said, "It should be under Tina." No bother mentioning what should be under Tina, of course. The lady behind the counter produced the box and opened it so she could look over the script. "Oh yes," she granted, "That'll be fine."

It reminds me so much of Gene's Bake Shop, the downtown bakery located conveniently next door to my parents' store when I was a kid. I used to eat their seventy-five cent eclairs or M&M cookies while my parents were working and they were the go-to Saturday morning donut destination when friends slept over. Gene's was a scratch bakery too and everything was made fresh at the bakery, every single morning. When I was in junior high it went out of business after a fire and never reopened, but it was certainly around long enough to make an impression. It's no wonder I'm such a floozy when it comes to the smell of frosted cake.

Neldam's doesn't do eclairs or donuts, but I can highly recommend the bear claw: in this case, a chocolate almond croissant with course sugar dusted on top. And someday, I'm going to invent a special occasion for one of those cakes.

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