Amore Baking Company finds home at Brick Walk Promenade
Entering Amore Baking Company at the Brick Walk Promenade, 1215 Post Road, is like walking onto a movie set of a bakery and seeing actress Meg Ryan behind the counter playing the role of the bakery owner, as if it were a sequel to her acting role as an independent book shop owner opposite Tom Hanks in "You've Got Mail."
Instead of books, this new shop owner provides tempting treats of cupcakes, cakes, biscotti, breads, croissants and quite a variety of baked goods, just in time for Easter and Passover -- a time when family and friends gather. However, one does not need a special occasion to step into Amore to enjoy a sampling of owner Patricia Jonker's artistry with baking.
Amore's interior includes display cases filled with her breads, cakes cupcakes, biscotti, cakes and other baked products and an open work area where the mixing and baking is done either by Jonker or her pastry chef, Paige Howell. Jonker complements her own baking with breads, croissants, tarts, quiches and pastries from John Barricelli's Sono Baking Company, which is based in South Norwalk. Barricelli, a Fairfield resident, is a frequent face at Amore -- he enjoys stopping by on his way home from his own baking company, where he begins his day at 3:30 a.m.
"It's a great product line," said Jonker of the Sono Baking Company's products that are delivered daily to Amore. "They round out our offerings."
"She's a hard-working woman," said Barricelli, who stopped by Amore last week and offered praise for Amore's products, especially the cupcakes.
"We all have our own niche," Jonker said. Acknowledging there are a number of bakeries in town, she said each has something special to offer. She believes her niche is with the cupcakes and cakes.
While she noted there are a lot of places that a customer can buy a cupcake, she believes the quality of Amore's cupcakes is what is contributing to the bakery's reputation as a place to buy the tiny treats.
"Everything is natural. I like to look at our cupcakes as a premier product," said Jonker, who describes her cupcakes as "really little cakes. They have really evolved into a different personality."
Cupcakes used to be the baking a parent did with children at home to offer a little treat. Now, they have evolved into an art form of their own, complemented with the quality of a good-tasting piece of cake.
"They are really individual little desserts," Jonker said. "They are a little something for everyone to eat, yet still beautiful."
During a recent visit, Amore's showcase offered a variety of cupcakes. They included a dark chocolate cupcake with a vanilla butter cream icing and a vanilla and chocolate cupcake with vanilla cream icing.
"The Red Velvet Cupcake has made a huge comeback," said Jonker, citing the traditional, southern cake made with a cocoa-base batter and generally served with a cream cheese icing. Another variety is the coconut cupcake, topped with cream cheese icing and shredded coconut. Other cupcakes include Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing and a Devil's Food with milk chocolate icing.
An Amore specialty is the peanut butter and jelly cupcake. This is a vanilla cupcake filled with strawberry jam and topped with a peanut butter-based icing.
Jonker started offering a German chocolate cupcake and cakes when a neighboring retailer asked her to make one. "That's the new Red Velvet," said Jonker, citing how her German chocolate flavor has become a favorite among customers.
"Everything we do in a cupcake, we can do in cakes. Our audience is very important." she said, as she explained her willingness to accommodate baking requests.
In discussing her own products, Jonker took out a serving tray with an array of cupcakes with decorative icings reflecting the spring and Easter holiday themes. Not one for "bunny" cakes, Jonker instead channels her artistry into icings for her cupcakes. For example, one cupcake was topped with "eggs in a nest" icing; another was adorned with colorful icing of flowers.
In addition to cupcakes -- Jonker offers the "two-bite" size, which are quite popular for special events and holiday celebrations -- she specializes in cakes. This week, the showcase of products included her flourless marble and chocolate cakes for Passover. Also, atop the counter, Jonker displayed a cake in the shape of a dog. She offers a variety of cakes for special occasions such as children's birthdays.
Jonker is also known for a variety of biscotti, which she started baking as a hobby at home. She also packages the biscotti for a quick sale. She finds that the biscotti are a popular item with customers because her recipe results in a biscotti that is "not too hard," as the Italian cookie can sometimes be. The biscotti varieties include a toffee chocolate, a cinnamon sugar and one that is dipped in chocolate. At Christmastime, she bakes peppermint biscotti.
Jonker worked for 10 years in financial services on Wall Street. She most recently been home raising her two small children, now ages 6 and 8, and baking special treats for family and friends. As her interest in baking grew, she started taking recreational courses in baking at the Culinary Institute of America and at the Institute of Culinary Education.
A serendipitous conversation with Ken Kleban, co-owner of the Brick Walk retail development, led to her decision to open a small bakery Both agreed that the shop is a nice complement to the other retail establishment off the promenade and directly across from the parking lot where the Klebans set up a farmer's market in the spring, summer and fall. This spring, Jonker is looking forward to setting up chairs and tables on the shop's outdoor patio, so that patrons can enjoy coffee and a treat or a sandwich and salad that soon will be added to Amore's menu.
"I'm thrilled to have this outdoor patio," said Jonker, taking a break from work to talk about her bakery. "It's a great location. People love the promenade. It's really a great hub.
Jonker grew up in Canada, where her parents -- Italian immigrants -- had settled. In the 90s she took a position in institutional equities sales for the Royal Bank of Canada. While the two careers are quite different, Jonker said they both involve interacting with people, an aspect of the business she enjoys Also, her background in finance helps manage the business.
Amore's hours are Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; hours will be extended to evenings and Sundays in the near future. For more information, call 203-292-8475.