There aren't many better ways to beat the wintertime blues than by dipping a freshly baked pastry into a frothy latte. But with so many places around town, where does one go?
Here's a look at three bakeries in or near Downtown Boise that put out distinctly different styles of baked goods, not to mention tasty espresso drinks.
Janjou Patisserie, in Boise's North End, could just as well be on Paris' fashionable Right Bank, mingled with posh boutiques such as Dior and Chanel. It's that chic.
While this European-inspired artisanal bakery may seem out of place in a strip mall, at the corner of 17th and State streets, it has been a smash since it opened last year.
The pristine white decor, with splashes of orange and brown, speaks to the bakery's boutique sensibilities. The glass case gets filled every morning with flaky patisserie items and petits fours (stylish little cakes), fruit tarts, colorful macarons and chocolate eclairs.
Owner-pastry chef Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas, who moved to Boise in 2007, grew up in Israel, where she went to baking/confectionery school and worked in an upscale French-style patisserie in the affluent suburbs of Tel Aviv.
The high-quality ingredients she uses, such as imported Verona chocolate and specially churned butter from Cloverleaf Creamery in Buhl, are easily detected with each bite. Janjou Patisserie is a little more expensive than other bakeries around town, but it's well worth the price.
One morning I popped in for a latte ($3.65/12-ouncer made with Lizzy's Fresh Coffee espresso beans, roasted in Ketchum) and to check out the freshly baked offerings, which change daily due to the chef's whimsy.
Francophiles will surely like the authenticity of the chocolate eclairs ($4.50), a billowy, little tube of buttery choux pastry piped with velvety vanilla creme, lathered with a stroke of dark chocolate.
The choux framboise ($6), a puffy pastry cup bursting with whipped, parfaitlike raspberry creme and fresh raspberries, will also remind people of their trip to Paris.
Also delectable was the apple tart ($5.25).
This little disc of crumbly dough (filled with a spiced apple mixture) boasts the characteristics of coffee cake - really good coffee cake.
I was lucky to get my hands on a chocolate croissant ($2.75) - a golden-brown log of flaky puff pastry with a dark and delicious chocolate core- because croissants sell out quickly at this popular place.
Janjou Patisserie also serves various quiches (served with mixed greens), like one made with sauteed leeks and goat cheese.
Rolling in Dough recently debuted in the former La Vie en Rose spot in the Idanha Building.
Without a doubt, this Ketchum-based European bakery and bistro is an apt fit for Chateau-style architecture of the historic building, as was the previous tenant. The dining room has a classic French bistro feel to it, if not slightly understated, with a few antique parlor sofas and high-backed Queen Anne chairs.
The glowing glass cases out front get filled daily with colorful fruit tarts, chocolate eclairs and other sweet treats. Platters of patisserie offerings, such as croissants and sticky buns, greet diners as they walk up the front steps and into the bakery.
One morning, I stopped by for a latte ($3/12-ouncer made with Caffe D'arte espresso) and some freshly baked goodies for the road.
The friendly barista who took my order told me the pinwheels ($3.50) were straight out of the oven, so I surely had to try one of those. Buttery, custardy and flaky are adjectives that best describe this star-shaped pastry, still warm from a hot sheet pan.
I also enjoyed the chocolate croissant ($3.50), a stratum of flaky pastry, oozing dark chocolate, lightly flocked with powdered sugar.
Not so successful was the ham and cheese croissant ($4.75), mostly because the layers of puff pastry around the sliced ham and melty Swiss cheese were undercooked and doughy. The exterior had a good crunch, though.
I was much happier with the sticky bun ($3.25), a little knuckle of golden-brown pastry covered with gooey, sugary pecans.
Diners looking for something more substantial to eat can order from the bakery's small bistro menu, where they will find dishes such as quiche Lorraine and chicken schnitzel.
Big City Coffee is about as Americana as it gets. This popular bakery and cafe, which moved from State Street to the Linen District in 2006, has a profusion of vintage advertising signs and other mid-20th century collectibles artfully adorning the walls.
Owner Sarah Fendley and her crew of bakers turn out a daily selection of colossal baked goods - fun twists on American classics - that get displayed in an old pie case.
One morning, the bakery was busting at the seams, but the food and beverages still came out quickly. I soon received a steaming latte ($2.95/12-ouncer made with Doma Coffee espresso beans, roasted in Post Falls) that was robust and foamy.
Scones are a good pick at Big City, especially the buttery and crumbly blueberry scone ($3.50), dusted with sifted powered sugar. It's a blue-ribbon winner, for sure.
The pumpkin-chai muffin ($2.75) is another house specialty. This crusty muffin possesses all those comforting pumpkin pie flavors, drizzled with a creamy chai tea glaze.
Big City makes an excellent, cakelike bear claw ($3.50), a crumbly and moist creation draped with sugary icing and shaved almonds.
A salted caramel brownie ($2.95) surely took care of my sweet tooth. The thick-cut brownie square was super-moist and layered with a piquant caramel frosting and pecans.
Big City also offers a cafe menu that includes breakfast items, soups and inventive sandwiches.
Email James Patrick Kelly at email@example.com.