Sunday, October 9, 2011

Friendly Bakers

So there's this place in Las Vegas. It's called Queens Reposteria y Panaderia. And their pastries are way too good. Vegas is about a thirty minute bus ride from Peña, and it's only 18lps each way so it's a cheap escape on the weekends! Being that it's higher in the mountains it's a little cooler there, and it's fun to walk around their square for a nice change of pace. A few weekends ago I went with the Lisa and Gordon crew, and we ended our trip with a visit to Queens. Since I've been here, anytime cake or pastries come up in a conversation people always rave about Queens. They're known for their moist, yummy cakes, and they have a counter full of delicious pastries. They have tres leches, cuatro leches (which adds dulce de leche...stop, just stop!) and chocoflan (a moist chocolate cake topped with a layer of sweet, creamy flan...) to name a few. They decorate them so beautifully. They have one that I've yet to see available by the slice, but it's decorated with chocolate shavings, drizzles and a parade of pirrouettes (those crispy cookie tubular things?) around the edges. I'm not sure where to start on the pastries. They have sugar donuts, semitas (sort of sweet rolls with a thick floury/sugary design on top) iced and stuffed semitas, iced donuts, thick slices of this pan that's good with coffee--it's like a vanilla cake with icing, chilenas--shortbread cookies filled and decorated with dulce de leche (stop it!) and loads more, but their churros take the cake. Hah pun intended I suppose? They have these churros that are so, so good. It's a long, ruffled edge pastry stuffed with dulce de leche, Then topped with a little drizzle, and a sprinkle of sugar and canela (cinnamon) they are so, so good. Ok let me stop :) Now I'm sure some thoughts are floating around about all these cakes and sweets and what has happened to our Courtney who was always sweet enough to avoid cakes and sweets. It would be a shame to visit a new country and not get a taste of all they have to offer, and sometimes I just want dessert.

Yesterday I started to wonder if we were creating a "pastry schedule" of sorts... Queens is family owned, and a few visits ago I met the owner and his son. Queens itself is a small little building with the pastry counter, and a reach-in fridge that holds the cakes. There are a few chairs in that area, and then a nicely-sized patio with a few tables and chairs. It was raining that particular day, so the crowd of us huddled inside. The owners were incredibly nice, and brought in some chairs they dried off for us. They have a little TV in the corner, and the Nats were on against...who can remember, but the owner's son Carlos is a big Red Sox fan so we got to talking about sports etc. As we were leaving Gordon and I were both hit with this incredible smell. As soon as we got outside it was like the heavy rain air hugged us with the warm smell of fresh-baked bread. Carlos was outside, so I asked him where the smell was coming from. He said, "Here, let me show you..." He gave us a mini-tour of their bakery! There's a building in the back where all the magic apparently happens. I learned that they make way more than what they sell in the shop. They make loads of semitas, semitas largas, and all sorts of little cookies that they bag and sell to local pulperias. He gave us a sample of semitas that were fresh from the oven. As Lisa likes to say, Que rico! They normally sell each bag for 12lps each, but he offered us bags of whatever we wanted for 10lps. Thanks, Carlos! Gordon loves to spoil us, and he got us a bag of these crunchy treats. They're big circles you could compare to filo dough or puff pastry, crunchy and flaky. I'd say they're a little bigger than a corn tortilla in size, and they're topped with a sugary yum. Perfect with coffee. As for the pastry schedule, the girls and I bused to Vegas yesterday and we were asked if they could expect us the same time next Saturday :)

When Carlos was giving us the tour he told us the story of the name. He's a...oh what are those called, he designs logos and things. So he designed their logo which is a deep maroonish crown/bakers hat with Queens written across in cursive. He said his mom is named Reina, and his sister is as well--Queens! Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting daughter Reina. One of my students, Sergio, was there and he came up for a big hug. When I went in to order a woman shook my hand asking if I was Sergio's teacher, and telling me she was his mom! Turns out mama is Reina, so that was a fun discovery. What a small world it is. We sat outside to relax into our pastries, and as I was gushing over my churro (it was my first one, and I think I fell in love) as started contemplating the benefits of having a student's family in the bakery business.

To clarify, I do not intend to be a regular Saturday patron, but it is nice to know it's there. And even better to know the owners are just so friendly!

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