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Bakery with benefits

DINING REVIEW: Village Bakery and Cafe 

Bakery with benefits

A well-made sticky bun is a beautiful thing. It should be tempting but looks like trouble: tall and dark, with promises of something sweet. Shaped slightly like a cone with the point lopped off, it should be covered in deeply-colored caramel and topped with fat pecans that hold on tight. The dough should pull apart in long strands and be yellow from all the butter and eggs contained within. And with each bite, all of this comes through: the browned sweet complexity of the glaze, the maple notes in the nuts, the fatty silk of the butter and eggs, and a whisper of cinnamon warmth.

It's easy to wax poetic about a good sticky bun, and it's easy to get your hands on one now that there's an outpost of the Village Bakery & Café in Rochester. VBC opened its second location at the Culver Road Armory over the summer, next to its sister restaurant TRATA. Both businesses are part of the Two for Seven restaurant group, which includes Black & Blue, jojo Bistro & Wine Bar, and VBC in Pittsford.

click to enlarge Egg salad, basil chicken salad, and tuna salad on mixed greens with toast points. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Egg salad, basil chicken salad, and tuna salad on mixed greens with toast points.

It would also be easy to only order a breakfast pastry and a cup of coffee. An entire display case is heaped with croissants, scones, muffins, twists, bear claws, and of course, sticky buns. But stop there and you'll miss out: Though the Culver Road VBC lives up to the bakery in its name, it really shines in its café offerings.  

Simple, well-prepared meals are what make VBC a reliable standard for breakfast and lunch, and not a sweet flash in the pan. There is a commitment to not serving products that use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and to make dishes with local produce, free-range eggs, and nitrate-free meats. This includes quiches stuffed with cheese, farm-fresh salads served with bright vinaigrettes, and sandwiches thickly packed with fillings.

The trio savory salads ($9.50) plates scoops of chicken, tuna, and egg salads on a bed of mixed greens, and served with well-buttered toast points. The egg salad has a clean, eggy flavor. The chicken salad actually tastes like chicken, and walnuts provide pockets of crunch. Dill perks up the tuna, which could use more mayo. Underneath is a bright green salad with plump grape tomatoes; crisp, julienned carrots; and a long, curling ribbon of thinly sliced cucumber. It's served with a vibrant lemon vinaigrette, which tastes good on the vegetables and the tuna salad. Familiar, comforting, and wholesome, eating this feels like Saturday afternoon at Grandma's house.

click to enlarge A sticky bun from the Village Bakery and Cafe. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • A sticky bun from the Village Bakery and Cafe.

A mayo blended with lots of dried cherries tops the turkey sandwich ($8.50). It's similar in taste to turkey and cranberry sauce: the turkey is roasted and sliced thickly, though the cherries are sweeter and more luxurious. There's bacon, too — as usual, it's a welcome addition, though the sandwich doesn't necessarily need it. VBC's table bread provides a solid foundation: It's soft but not wimpy and the crust has a good chew. The sandwich comes with a whole dill pickle that it isn't just a garnish. Its pucker cuts through the sandwich's richness and adds an enjoyable crunch.

Egg sandwiches are a VBC signature. There are eight suggestions to choose from, plus the option to build your own (prices range from $6-$8.50). If you have the time to sit and eat, try ordering your sandwich "deconstructed" so that the main components are presented on their own. You'll be able to really taste and savor the ingredients' quality.  It's almost shocking how good a simple plate of VBC's scrambled eggs and cheddar taste. It doesn't hurt that those eggs can be eaten with a strip of maple-glazed bacon and a buttery croissant, either.

Many of the meals feature VBC's house-made bread, baked at the Pittsford location and brought in at 5 a.m. daily. There are a rotating selection of batards, baguettes, and boules for sale in the $4-$6 range. To sample before committing to a loaf, there is the toast tasting ($3.95). Four fat slices of bread — your choice from a given day's offerings — are served hot from the toaster with a butter and strawberry jam. The walnut raisin is a particular favorite of mine. It has a touch of chew, a gentle sweetness and plenty of crags for butter to melt into.

If there's a weakness, it's an unevenness with the desserts. Macarons ($1.95) had an excellent texture though their flavors were muted. The madeleine ($0.75) I sampled was pretty to look at, but tough and flavorless.  According to Director of Operations Alexandra Greco, VBC would have been happy to give me a new treat and a gift card for future use had I brought this to the staff's attention.

Individual flourless chocolate cakes ($4.25), however, were good and a nice offering for those who stick to a gluten-free diet.  More like truffles than cakes, they are velvety and smooth. Funnily, the cake bites ($1.65) look like oversized truffles but have the texture of a moist cake. They are almost black, and have a rich chocolate flavor.

VBC has quickly become my regular breakfast and lunch spot. I don't think I'm alone, as I've seen a steady uptick in customers during my visits. That's OK — I think there are enough sticky buns to go around.

Find Laura Rebecca Kenyon on Twitter @LauraKenyon, and you can dig through her recipe archive on her personal website, LauraRebeccasKitchen.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was edited to correct the spelling of macarons

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