A Taste of Europe in Steveston Village
Peeking through the window at the display case filled with tempting pastries and savouries is a regular occurrence at The Sweet Spot. In fact, owners Kirsten Degenhardt and Keiran Flaherty regularly find themselves wiping away the tell tale signs of fingerprints on the First Avenue window.
It is no wonder that people are eager to sneak a peek at the offerings inside the bakery. This little spot, which opened four years ago, has earned a glowing reputation and has garnered five out of five stars on Trip Advisor, along with an overflow of first class reviews from fans on other internet websites.
People are hooked on the extensive selection of patisserie (mousses, eclairs, cakes, tarts), Viennoiserie (croissants, Danishes and brioche), savouries (scones, quiche and daily sandwiches), and the array of other baked goods (madeleines, biscotti and their extremely popular chewy coconut macaroons).
The Sweet Spot bakery has been described as “the best outside of France.” These words are echoed by customers who yearn for a taste of food from their homeland or those who simply appreciate fine food.
Degenhardt and Flaherty are very modest, however they are flattered to hear people say their creations rank alongside respected Vancouver establishments such as Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Café and Thomas Haas.
In addition to the heavenly baked goods, you will find frozen meals to go. This is your chance to take home some outstanding entrees ranging from comfort food favourites such as macaroni and cheese, potpies and
meatballs, to gourmet fare. The menu is always changing; they like to keep things interesting for themselves and for their customers. On a given day you may look inside the freezer and find butter chicken, coq au vin, lamb shanks or cassoulet.
The freezer is also stocked with tasty soups, and again these are made in rotation. I spotted cream of cauliflower and smoked cheddar, lentil and bacon, and roast turkey and vegetable soup.
The Sweet Spot also creates house-made ice cream. One customer will purchase eight to 10 tubs of creamsicle at a time. Passion fruit, maple walnut, French vanilla and carrot cake were also available when I had a look. The chefs’ promise that winter ice creams will include gingersnap and eggnog flavours.
Everything about The Sweet Spot is teeny tiny. The front sales area is compact, and has four window seats where you can stop and eat a treat and drink a cup of Salt Spring Coffee or locally made Raintree Tea (from Steveston’s Raintree Wellness Spa).
Behind the scenes the kitchen is equally small. An asset is the large window facing Chatham Street that lets in natural light. Degenhardt and Flaherty work around the space seamlessly sharing only one stove and wall oven. This requires careful coordination to ensure that they each accomplish their daily checklist.
Degenhardt had always loved to bake as a hobby, however her original career was in the travel and tourism industry. Fourteen years ago she decided to transform her hobby into a career and enrolled at Dubrulle Cooking School. She received her Red Seal as a pastry chef and has never looked back.
Flaherty has been acquainted with kitchens the majority of his life. As a young teenager he worked as a dishwasher at Earls and worked his way up the ranks working with some of Vancouver’s top chefs at Moustache Café and West.
The business partners met while working at Opus Hotel in Yaletown where Flaherty was chef de cuisine and Degenhardt was pastry chef. Wishing to unite their skills and their love for good food, they opened The Sweet Spot in November 2010. With Flaherty’s wealth of knowledge on the savoury side and Degenhardt’s years of experience with pastry, their dream was to create a unique gourmet shop filled with quality products.
When asked if they would consider expanding their business the partners resoundingly said no. They are happy with the location, and find the size to be very manageable.
Their long workdays begin at 5:30 a.m. and they often do not leave until 6:00 p.m. The bakery is open five days a week (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays). In addition to food preparation they also package and label products, and Degenhardt manages the bookkeeping.
Both owners are very grateful to their supportive and loyal customers. Their dedicated staff, Helena and Wendy, shares a wealth of product knowledge. Degenhardt and Flaherty attempt, whenever possible, to come out and say hello to their clients.
They share kind words about the supportive neighbouring businesses that work together to introduce customers to one another’s shops.
Weekends are a busy time at The Sweet Spot. This is when brioche makes its weekly appearance and is often snapped up, along with plenty of other goodies, well before noon.
The holidays are almost here. The chefs remind customers to submit orders as far in advance as possible. What can you expect to see on the menu? Bûche de Noël, tourtière (frozen to take home), and stollen that they describe as, “less classic, more bready, fruity, brushed with brandy and butter.”
The next time you pass by the corner bakery you may very well see Degenhardt and Flaherty hard at work in their kitchen. This is where they are fulfilling their dream and also making a dream come true for many food lovers. Lucky Steveston.
The Sweet Spot Bakery
110-12000 First Avenue
Richmond BC V7E 3L9