Sweet Talk

Above: Freshly baked lemon tarts topped with toasted meringue
Photographs by Kyle Norton

If ever a tradition needed to be imported to our shores, it’s kaffee und kuchen. In Salzburg, Austria, that’s coffee and cake at four in the afternoon. We, too, can indulge in this fortifying afternoon repast: Patisserie Salzburg has opened in the Harbor Point section of Stamford. Here, you can sip a cup of Illy coffee while sampling sumptuous European tortes and tarts, with their thin, ethereal layers of cake, mousses, jams, fruits, nuts and chocolate.

The thirty-seat café is the sibling to Patisserie Salzburg of Rye, which Parviz Shakiban opened twenty-five years ago, inspired by the creations of Austrian pastry chef and co-owner Manfred Hirz. In Harbor Point, the contemporary glass-fronted shop is bright and clean inside, with pink walls and warm-white shelves rising behind the glass display case. Customers line up along the case, some peering over shoulders to ogle the bounty of tortes, tarts, strudel, croissants, Danish, muffins, éclairs, Napoleon and cookies within; a smaller display is devoted to savory dishes. The patisserie also does a strong take-out and catering business.

American work schedules may not match European dreams, yet anyone can still indulge in a weekend patisserie brunch. So, on a recent Sunday, I gathered some friends and ordered up slices of tortes and tarts, and quickly learned that the patisserie lives up to its reputation with well-crafted, traditional European treats. All were distinguished by delicate textures, deep flavors and spot-on sweetness. There’s a sense of discovery in eating these cakes and identifying and savoring the components.

There’s so much for chocolate lovers here. The chocolate mocha torte, topped with cocoa-dusted chocolate, reveals dark chocolate cake, fluffy mocha mousse, raspberry jam and finely chopped hazelnuts. It was one of our favorites. The Black Forest has four layers of rich, dark-cocoa cake filled with cherries and whipped cream. The Seven Layer cake alternates super-thin rounds of cake with chocolate mousse and whipped cream, all coated in shiny dark chocolate. During our sweet brunch, though, almond flavoring in the Seven Layer came across a tad strongly.

Fresh and preserved fruit are featured in many desserts. The raspberry mousse torte, with moist vanilla cake, airy raspberry mousse and slim raspberry gelée has a dreamy quality. It also comes in strawberry and passion fruit. Add to that displays of fruit tarts that glisten with fresh mango, kiwi, strawberry and blackberry over a buoyant vanilla custard. The pastry crust is brushed with chocolate to keep it crisp and add a kick. It’s a lovely little dessert that feels light, and even a bit healthy.

The lemon tart was the surprise sensation of the afternoon. The flavor was wake-up bright and fresh, with sweet-tart lemon carried in a smooth, silky texture supported by tender, short crust. Dollops of meringue clouds browned under a flame added an extra sweet, wispy texture. This tart drew everyone aback for seconds. Because of its palate-cleansing qualities, I’d always include it in a tortes-and-tarts party.

Don’t pass up the apple strudel, which was classically European: a bounty of soft apples, tangy and fresh, with a natural sweetness, wrapped in paper-thin, crisp and crackly layers of strudel.

Speaking of layers of thin, buttery pastry, Patisserie Salzburg’s croissants are American large, soft and luxurious, as are the popular almond croissants and pains au chocolat.

With everyone’s sweet tooth sated, we considered passing on the European cookies. We’re glad we didn’t. Among the selection are Sarah Bernhardts, dark chocolate coating a mini dome of buttercream sitting on crunchy almond meringue. The dainty macarons in shades of pale pink and pistachio are not only light with a just-right amount of filling, but they are also adorable. Here’s a tip: Order a mix of these along with a combination of lace cookies, almond sticks and coconut macaroons, and savor them for days.

Patisserie Salzburg serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Based on the quality of the baked goods and prepared savory foods, we look forward to returning for the dinner menu, which is based on European and Mediterranean favorites from the Rye location. And now that the warmer months are here, we plan on doing it al fresco.

A fresh cup of espresso with macarons (caramel, pistachio, chocolate), a coconut macaroon and a stack of linzer cookies


PATISSERIE SALZBURG

10 Harbor Point Road
475-292-2200
patisseriesalzburg.com

CUISINE
European

HOURS
Daily, 6 a.m.–10 p.m.


(not) just desserts

Patisserie Salzburg also offers bites for those with savory tastes

HOT OR COLD, TAKEOUT OR EAT-IN
Patisserie Salzburg has a changing array of prepared foods for morning through night, which includes daily quiches, salads and roasted vegetables, among other treats.

A HEALTHY CHOICE
A salad of glistening baby spinach leaves looked fresh and inviting, with well-cooked hard-boiled eggs displaying proper technique (no gray sulfur ring, here!), a pleasure to see and eat.

OUR FAVORITE SALAD
The hearts of palm salad with green beans, avocado, radicchio and tomato was fresh, lively, and had just the right amount of vinaigrette. It had nothing to do with Salzburg, but we loved it anyway.

SEAFOOD DELIGHT
Flatbread covered with sliced smoked salmon and scattered with briny capers is impossible to resist, especially if it has been freshly made and paired with smooth cream cheese.

PAIR IT WITH SOMETHING SWEET
Sandwiches, on baguettes bound with wax paper and string, look cute and appetizing. Sure, you could get similar concoctions elsewhere, but why bother? Grab your sandwich with something sweet, head out to the boardwalk and enjoy a picnic lunch while taking in the fresh sea air.

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