Noisette Pastry Kitchen: Supporting local farmers
Noisette Pastry Kitchen in downtown Eugene is known for its tasty croissants and friendly staff. With desserts, coffee, sandwiches, soup and an evening wine bar, there is something delicious waiting for every customer — but what makes Noisette unique is where many of its ingredients come from.
Tobi Sovak, owner of Noisette, has sourced many of her bakery products locally since she opened her business in 2012. Having lived in many different places in the U.S. and Europe, Sovak has found that the raw ingredients here in the Willamette Valley are exceptional.
“We have really great access to high quality ingredients and to the people who grow them,” she said. An advantage to sourcing locally includes the ability to communicate with farmers to find out what products are available. Because Sovak has worked with them for so long, she understands which ingredients are best during each season and can change her menu accordingly.
Some of the ingredients she sources locally include grain, produce, dairy, lamb, wine and hazelnuts. Sovak named her pastry kitchen Noisette, the French word for hazelnut, because Oregon is known as the largest hazelnut supplier in the U.S.
Other products, such as cheese, chocolate, vanilla and almonds come from all over the world. “A lot of the products that you would use in a pastry shop have to be sourced from farther away,” Sovak said. “Even though we do source from a lot of local farms, there is so much product that we get from elsewhere.”
The disadvantages of using local ingredients are minimal in Sovak’s opinion. “The only disadvantage would be if the season didn’t go as well as we thought it would,” she said. Because she runs a small business, it’s easy to purchase ingredients from larger sources when problems arise locally.
However, when sourcing locally, it’s not uncommon to find inconsistencies in the products. Sovak said she would love to find products that are the same shape, size and flavor. She recognizes that’s not always the way nature works though. “When products are at the height of their season we are aware of it and try to use them as frequently as possible,” she said.
Two things Sovak wishes customers knew more about include seasonality and local sourcing. “We try to do our best to educate our customers. Some people care a lot, some care a little and some couldn’t care less, but it’s important to us.”
According to Sovak, having staff and customers who are educated on the seasonal aspects of food is important. Many customers don’t understand that certain foods aren’t always readily available. Seasonal changes affect which ingredients are best.
Occasionally, people call in the dead of winter asking for a berry tart. They typically will agree to do it, but then have to buy the ingredients from retail. “It’s not something we prefer to do,” Sovak said. “Everything we serve is in season now, although we can get things that are in season somewhere else in the world.”
It took Sovak a couple of years to adjust to the seasonal differences when she moved from Los Angeles to Eugene, but being knowledgeable on which fruits and vegetables are in season has benefitted her business. One of Sovak’s friends explained how the heavy rainfall in Oregon creates an abundance of gorgeous fruits in the summer. Those fruits are what help her maintain a locally sourced pastry kitchen.
Next time you visit a bakery or restaurant, consider asking where they locally source their ingredients.
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