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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pastry Chef Luis Villavelazquez Wants to Do More Than Sell You a Cupcake. He Wants to Blow Your Mind

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 3:26 PM

click to enlarge Can Villavelazquez spark a bakery revival from a stall at Ferry Plaza? - 7X7
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  • Can Villavelazquez spark a bakery revival from a stall at Ferry Plaza?
At 7x7's Bits + Bites yesterday, Jessica Battilana broke the news that, as of next week, Absinthe and Arlequin To Go pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez will start selling pastries at the Thursday Ferry Plaza farmers' market. Today SFoodie asked Villavelazquez to say more -- like, what's a brilliant fine-dining pastry chef doing hawking cupcakes at a sidewalk stand? Villavelazquez told us he sees it as just another way to push our boundaries. Lucky us.

"It was kind of my promise to Absinthe," the one-time Orson pastry chef said. "When I started here I promised a couple of things, like organizing the pastry kitchen, making it more efficient and profitable, just making sure that my style comes through. They pretty much gave me the green light. The second step is, we can't grow any bigger at Absinthe, and at Arlequin we have a set style. The idea is to expand the bakery program here by having it be more visible. People at the farmers' market are more open to food -- especially Thursdays. I think I can do some cool combinations that people would love."

Truth is, Villavelazquez thinks that while restaurant pastry departments can be on the cutting edge of current techniques, ingredients, and concepts, neighborhood bakeries have been left behind to molder in the realm of boring old currant scones and brownies. "There hasn't been much of a revival of the bakery," he said. Take cupcakes. "Cupcakes have been pretty standard in the city," Villavelazquez said. "There are so many new ingredients out there, like essential oils that can be mixed in the frosting."

When Villavelazquez appears at ferry Plaza next week (he plans to show up personally for the first several weeks), expect to catch a glimpse of the neighborhood bakery's new potential. The cupcakes he's expecting to bring include one with cocoa nibs and cassis, filled with huckleberry jam, and with violet essence in the frosting. A vegan chocolate- chocoale chip with maple sugar frosting. And one his sous chef developed: a cream cheese-filled squash cupcake with brown butter frosting.

Then there are the cookies: whole wheat chocolate chip, and something he calls 99 percent chocolate chip (chopped up chocolate containing 99 percent cocoa mass, mixed with chocolate chips containing 70 percent; "they're really intense," Villavelazquez said). Scones will include a garam masala, brown sugar, and persimmon variety, and a pecan butter: a regular scone split and sandwiched with house-made pecan butter, and a glaze containing Rittenhouse 100-proof rye whiskey.

Villavelazquez also plans to sell beignets with two special fillings, Nutella and maple-bacon. Plain begnets, and those filled with custard, raspberry jam, and chocolate are already offered at Arlequin (and, as Battilana reported, at the Preferiti di Boriana shop in the Ferry Building).

Villavelazquez and his pastries will debut at Ferry Plaza, Oct. 22, 8:30 a.m. And in case it all sounds too rich? Fear not -- the Absinthe/Arlequin stall will set up right next to Blue Bottle's.

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