For the average traveler, a trip to Paris involves a passport and a plane ticket. But for thelucky residents of Centerbrook and nearby Essex, CT, all it takes is a quick drive down Main Street to enjoy the delightful new French inspired Savour Café & Bakery.
The name alone describes what you will do while enjoying their menu of pastries, signature sandwiches, salads and desserts. Start the day off with one of their Scones of the Day – baked fresh every morning, they feature unique and delicate flavors such as Earl Gray or Lavender, or traditional, like their Chocolate Raspberry or Lemon Zest. Come back for lunch when they have a rotating selection of panini pressed sandwiches, soups and warm entrees to sit and enjoy in the cheerful and Parisian-chic interior.
For those on the go, their take-out case is stocked with dish favorites like Chicken Marbella or Prosciutto Wrapped Filet. There is an assortment of soups as well as freshly made salads, such as the Savour Signature, a delightful mix of greens, walnuts, goat cheese, dried cranberries, apple and fennel, that is made complete with their house made Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
And if you are already starting to get hungry, their dessert selections will have you swearing off that diet until next week. There are fudge brownies, crème brulees, individual cheesecakes, 4-inch thick bread pudding, chocolate chunk cookies, and carrot cake; and that’s just the first shelf of the case. The talented pastry team is always adding show stopping numbers to their daily standards; the holidays bring out their creativity and their seasonal decorative sugar cookies fly off their shelves as soon as they are put out to sell.
Behind all of this is an owner who has managed to make this newcomer to the Connecticut Shoreline seem like it’s been open for years. Savour Cafe and Bakery is the dream and vision of Kim Thomas, a friendly and affable mother of 3, who has become a fixture in town after only 7 months of business. Her decision to open her shop was a long time coming as she has been cooking and serving up her recipes to friends and family for years; all the while being told that she needed to open up her own bakery someday.
Every exquisite detail of her shop has been well thought out and planned by Kim; the vintage counter lighting, the gorgeous tin ceiling in the foyer, even the carefully selected shades of yellow and blue that coordinate with the beautiful printed window curtains. When your turn at the counter comes, the warm and welcoming staff reflects the charm and precision of her carefully executed design.
With the Café busy round the clock (they open 7am-7pm daily, 8am-2pm on weekends), it was hard to get Kim to slow down long enough to chat; but we were able to steal a few moments of her time to get to know this new force in the local food landscape.
Let’s get the obvious question out of the way. How did your love of Paris and the theme for Savour come about?
I had a chance to visit Paris when I was 16 years old and just fell in love with everything the city had to offer – the culture, the food, the architecture, and of course the bakeries! The Eiffel tower has always found a place in almost every room of my home. It really is a city that stays with you forever. So it was always going to be the backdrop of my business; and combining french classics with some modern day favorites gives us so many great things to work with when putting together our menus.
What made you choose Centerbrook?
It was easy to fall in love with the town of Centerbrook. I grew up in nearby Killingworth and have always loved the CT River Valley and Shoreline. Centerbrook was a great central location to all of the towns that we wanted to be near. And I noticed a hole in the food landscape that I knew we could not only fill but flourish in. I wanted a small town with a big personality and this community is everything we hoped; warm, supportive and hungry!
What was the biggest challenge you have faced since you’ve opened your business.
I think any small business owner will tell you that it’s time. I wear more hats than I have heads! There is a constant demand on my attention for so many things; it can be hard to keep up with them some days. But I am so lucky to have found a great staff from the get go. It makes it easier for me to focus on the day-to-day business tasks knowing that everyone is happy and working hard to make the day a success. It is really such an amazing atmosphere in the kitchen and at the counter. A lot of laughs have gotten us through some of the longer days.
Speaking of your head pastry chef, Danielle Hoff is a big part of your bakery’s success. How has she and your kitchen staff helped shape the Savour kitchen?
Danielle and I met at a previous job where I was running the bakery department. I knew from the get go that she was someone I wanted on my team if I ever had the chance to open my own place. She has over 20 years of baking experience, knows everything you can know about pastries and she is a work horse. I have never seen someone with her dedication and stamina. She is in the door as early as 4am and gets so much done before most people are even awake.
We were lucky enough to find a second pastry chef, Eva, back in November, and she is amazing. She is a whiz with decorating, and as a Bulgarian native, she brings such a great European perspective into a lot of our creations. And in our savory department, our chefs Pete and Bobbie are a great duo. Pete has such a quiet reserve that really keeps things calm in a very hectic kitchen. And Bobby can chop, slice and dice with the best of them. The two of them keep things humming and great food coming throughout the day. Like I said, I am a very lucky lady to have found such amazing talent. I can’t wait to see what they all do next.
You are a mother of three; how are they kids handling the “new kid” in the house? Do your kids like to be involved with the business?
My kids have really been great. I have a 15, 13 and 10 year old so they are old enough to understand that I have to work some of the crazy hours that I do. But they know how much I’ve wanted this and I love that they get to see that if you put your mind to it, you can make things happen. My husband and I take turns and work as a team to manage their very busy schedules. My oldest son has always been a great help in our home kitchen and I love seeing him develop a love and talent for cooking. And my daughter is a real whiz with cake and cupcake decor. My youngest just wants me to bring home cookies. I think I can handle that!
Of all your creations, which of your foods are your personal favorite?
Wow, that’s like choosing a favorite kid! I think I’ll always say anything with Bacon. Especially our Bacon Jam on our BLT. Our Signature Cake with salted caramel and chocolate mousse. And my staff tells me I have to answer our Gingered Beets because I absolutely love beets.
What celebrity chefs inspire you?
You can’t be a fan of French food and not include Julia Child and Jacques Pepin in that list. And Ina Garden is always going to be a reference for us – her style of cooking is what I hope our cafe is; accessible, comfortable and delicious. Our head pastry chef is a big fan of Dorie Greenspan; she is the cookie queen.
What 3 things would say are the key to your success
I’d have to say having a simple and consistent menu, an amazingly supportive community, and planning. I spent several years building this business before we even set foot in the door. I couldn’t control everything, but preparation made the difference for me at the very beginning; although this business keeps me guessing all the time!
What’s the next challenge you want to achieve.
Maintaining & building on our reputation. We’ve had very generous supporters and online reviews and while it certainly makes us feel good, it is not something we want to take for granted. We come in every day trying to make things even better. And maybe a day off! That might be a good thing to shoot for!
Savour Cafe & Bakery, 90 Main Street., Centerbrook, CT is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 860-662-4438|