Restaurant review: Fearless Baking

Fearless Baking plies its craft on Bend’s north side

By John Gottberg Anderson / For The Bulletin

Fearless Bakery & Cafe

Location: 1900 N.E. Division St., Suite 102, Bend

Hours: 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday

Price range: Breakfast and lunch items $4 to $5.75; pastries $2 to $3.50, cakes and pies $17 and up

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: No

Vegetarian menu: On request

Alcoholic beverages: License application filed

Outdoor seating: Seasonal patio

Reservations: No

Contact: www.fearless-baking.com, 541-508-7469

Scorecard

OVERALL: B

Food: B. Great baked goods, but the selection and quality of savory items doesn’t keep up.

Service: B. Friendly and helpful, but there are clear signs of inexperience in counter service.

Atmosphere: B. Simple and homey, with wood-plank walls and concrete floors.

Value: B+. Prices are fair for blackboard items, but cakes cost as much as $70 on special order.

I like the new bakery and cafe in Bend’s Whistle Stop Business Center on Northeast Division Street.

Owners Elise Hurley and Abby Jensen adopted the term from famed chef and cookbook writer Julia Child, who wrote: “Try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”

But I haven’t discovered anything that’s “fearless” about Fearless Baking.

When I see a sign that calls me to Fearless Bakery & Cafe, I anticipate a variety of baked quiches and sandwiches on freshly baked bread to accompany just-out-of-the-oven pastries and scones and croissants.

At Fearless, that selection is extremely limited. The emphasis is not on savory dishes but on cakes and pies and cookies. Hurley and Jensen focus on special-order wedding cakes, bundt cakes, cheesecakes and more. They cater to gluten-free, vegan and paleo diets, but they delight in preparing orders for those without any dietary restrictions.

“Customized requests (are) welcomed and encouraged!” insists the Fearless website. I’d guess this is where the fearlessness comes in.

On recent visits, having not spied them in the display case of baked goods, I have asked for croissants. “We’re sorry,” I was told, “they were gone by 10.” I requested a slice of the quiche listed on the blackboard menu. (“We had it on Friday.”) I queried whether more than one sandwich was available. (“Sorry, this is all we do.”)

Breakfast choices

Fearless Baking is a homey establishment, occupying the one-time home of Be-Bop Biscotti. Wood-plank walls frame concrete floors with tables to seat about 20 patrons. The limited art includes two Jill Rosell photographs of a barred owl.

On a morning visit, I found the coffee to be as good as the pastries. The available protein, however, was less interesting.

From a choice of four breakfast sandwiches (“sandos”), I opted for the “basic” — one egg, over medium and broken, with two slices of bacon and cheddar cheese so greasy that it soaked through the rosemary English muffin on which it was served. Or was it a surfeit of butter? The bread, though tasty, wasn’t any sort of traditional English muffin; it was more of a yeasty biscuit.

With no quiche available, my other breakfast option was a stuffed empanada. Much like a pie pocket or a Cornish pasty filled with scrambled eggs and bacon, it wasn’t bad, although the heavy pastry left it dry around the edges.

I preferred the savory empanada that I sampled on another visit — a vegetarian option filled with black beans, corn, tomato, onions, kale and other taste tempters.

The three S’s

My lunch at Fearless consisted of a soup, sandwich and salad.

The soup of the day, as it has been on each of my recent visits, was a pumpkin soup. The thickly blended squash soup, with house-made croutons, needed extra seasoning, but that wasn’t a problem: On the counter I found a selection of seasonings that went far beyond the usual salt and pepper. And nutmeg goes very well with pumpkin.

The pumpkin theme repeated itself in my “Fall sandwich.” Sweet pumpkin butter was spread on oven-baked artisan bread, which was then layered with sliced turkey, cranberries and creamy goat cheese. The only thing it lacked with something crisp and salty — a shortcoming for which accompanying potato chips compensated.

A “Fall salad,” served on baby spinach with goat cheese and candied walnuts, promised fresh pears. It failed to deliver on that promise, however, substituting the same dried cranberries as were in the sandwich. Dressed with a heavy balsamic glaze, it was an adequate salad, though I really would have liked those pears.

Pastries and pie

As it should be, my highest regard for Fearless Baking is reserved for its baked goods.

With a caffe latte one morning, I sampled three separate sweets. I’m not usually a big fan of scones, which I often find to be heavy and dry; this one was quite the opposite. Baked with blueberries, it was surprisingly light, and was finished with a powdering of sugar.

A “snail” pastry, a glazed swirl with raisins, was similarly delicious. And a mound-like coconut macaroon cookie brought back memories of my childhood, when they were one of the favorite items out of my mother’s oven.

On one other recent occasion, I couldn’t resist a slice of sweet potato-bourbon-pecan pie, which I studied through the display case beside the Fearless cash register. Tempted like Alice in Wonderland, I thought I heard it say, “Eat me.” So I did.

It was perfect. I may have to buy a whole pie to share with my family for dinner.

— Reporter: janderson@ bendbulletin.com

SMALL BITES

The Airport Cafe, on the upper story of the Bend Municipal Airport building, has been rechristened the Jet City Grill & Catering under new owners. Breakfasts, served until 11 a.m., are priced $7 (cinnamon French toast) to $13 (New York steak and eggs). Lunches, including a Greek souvlaki plate, run $8 to $12. Open 8 a.m to 3 p.m. every day. 63136 Powell Butte Highway, Bend, 541-323-3755.

Spicy Lips Cocina Grill plans to add beer and wine to its menu next week. Open since July, Angie Farmer’s 10-seat café offers specialty pizzas ($14 to $28) and Mexican food — tacos from $2, burritos from $4 — as well as a selection of sandwiches and salads. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday. 2625 N.E. Butler Market Road, Suite B, Bend; 541-330-3955.

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