Recently, a friend and I were hanging out at Eclection, a super-cool handmade shop in Kernersville, N.C., sipping some wine and chai, gnoshing on some tasty local bites and plotting life.
The food was all local. Olives from neighborhood bistro, brie from a Chapel Hill cheesemaker and the most unbelievably soft and airy bread ever.
The shop owner, who I met while interviewing her for a newspaper article, told us she’d bought the bread at a local authentic Mexican bakery. My friend, who grew up in California, immediately started reminiscing about her favorite Mexican bakeries back home. And it soon became clear that this place in little old Kernersville, N.C., was the real deal, offering serve-yourself bread, sweets and pastries fresh from the oven.
The next morning, I was still thinking about that bread, so I set out to find the bakery. I’d neglected to ask the name, but I had a general idea of where it was. A Google search and my GPS led me to a strip mall storefront nestled between a fast-food drive-through restaurant and a Target store. When I first stepped through the doors of El Buen Gusto (“The Good Taste”), I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. The front of the bakery looked like a tienda or convenience store with its rows of snacks and canned foods.
But behind the cans of beans and tortilla chips, I spied the bakery cases and carts loaded with trays of baked goods, still hot from the oven.
I followed the lead of the more seasoned shoppers before me and grabbed a round tray and a pair of tongs. I began loading my tray up with whatever looked good from the amazing selection of doughnuts, sticky buns, danishes, croissants, turnovers and freshly baked bread. I didn’t really know what I was buying, as many items were not labeled and those that had tags were written in Spanish. My knowledge of Spanish is limited to what I’ve learned on “Dora the Explorer” and “Go, Diego, Go!” so I just followed my instincts, nose and belly. They did not steer me wrong.
On that first visit, I bought three loaves of the to-do-for bread I first tasted at Eclection, another loaf of bread, a couple of croissants, a strudel-topped bun, a cream cheese danish, and a rye-seeded sugar-dusted croissant — plus a canned Diet Dr. Pepper. It set me back a whopping $6.57.
What? Are you kidding me? All that for that price. A single muffin at any yuppie chain coffee shop would cost me at least half that. Whole Foods charges $3.99 each for its white chocolate baguettes, which I love, but which are so not worth that price.
And trust me, nothing at that yuppie chain coffee shop would be as good as what I bought at El Buen Gusto.
Back in the van, the smell of freshly baked bread was nearly intoxicating. I reached into the bag and pinched off a bite of the cheese Danish.
Before I knew it, that whole Danish had disappeared. Melted in my mouth. I wish I had another one right now.
So, get yourself to an authentic Mexican bakery. Stop reading RIGHT NOW and find one. Then you can come back and thank me.
A little update: We shared one of our loaves of bread with our neighbors. The next morning, their family took a 20-minute drive to the bakery to stock up on bread and goodies. I kinda feel like a drug dealer now. Or a trendsetter.
That same night, my husband was meeting some of his “boyfriends’ for some testosterone-fueled TV watching. His friend lives in Kernersville, and Bruce just happened to drive by the bakery and buy another load of goodies for us. He must have been craving sugar because he bought several fruit-filled empanadas, some cookies and a croissant-thingy filled with a gooey brown sugar filling. We are clearly hooked.