Capitol Hill food+drink | Amandine Bakeshop, Empire Espresso team up for a challenge in Chophouse Row

IMG_6741When you hear Sara Naftaly say “macaron,” you know the baker is creating something special. And you will try — and fail — to pronounce it with a similar accent.

But, as she talks about moving beyond macarons as “sugar bombs” by avoiding refined sugars and using only natural colorings, you will also know that the pastry chef is ready to move beyond the initial pitch behind her new Amandine Bakeshop — authentic macarons are good, but Naftaly has more interesting goals in mind.

“It’s kind of me as a baker, a very definite, personal expression,” Naftaly said.

“As much as beauty if important, flavor should come first. It makes it a challenge. It makes it more interesting.”

Amandine and its joined-at-the-hip sibling Empire Espresso opened this week in the slowly coming together Chophouse Row neighboring the centerpiece Chop Shop and just up the breezeway from locavore favorite Kurt Farm Shop and coming soon Bar Ferd’nand II.
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The project is now open on two levels of the Chophouse marketplace with a split ground floor/mezzanine cafe and bakeshop. Bruce and Sarah Naftaly’s much-loved Le Gourmand and Sambar shuttered on NW Market St in 2012. The duo announced the new Capitol Hill project in early 2014. Speaking of challenges, opening the new bakery and cafe has been a bit of a journey.

Naftaly said the original partnership with Slate Coffee didn’t work out, leaving her searching for a new companion.

“If I could make coffee the way I feel I can bake, I would make the coffee myself,” Naftaly said.

She can’t, of course. Enter Empire Espresso, the spunky Columbia City-born cafe with ambitions to be part of Capitol Hill’s rich coffee scene.

Naftaly tells CHS she was taken by Empire’s enthusiasm to be part of the project and a new partnership was born.

All that’s left is logistics. In a combination that’s a bit of a trend (See also: Hello Robin + Molly Moon’s) as food and drink operators explore the best way to optimize business and cover high rents, the bakery and cafe are operated separately but are, well, all up in each other’s business.

“It really is two businesses behaving one business in a very small space,” Naftaly says.

As the combination gets sorted out, Naftaly said she is looking forward to expanding her offerings and putting her nearly 20 years of baking experience on display with plated desserts, sacristans, scones, cookies, and, yes, many, many macarons.

Amandine Bakershop and Empire Espresso are located at 1424 11th Ave and is open 7 AM to 7 PM daily. You can learn more on the Amandine Facebook page and the Empire Espresso Facebook page.

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