Kolache waits for no one 

click to enlarge food_nicavid_4088a_330jpg
Nicavid's Bakery and Cafe co-owner Janie Spalding stands along side a selection of baked goods from her shop near the Medical Center. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

There's plenty to fill your belly at Nicavid's Bakery, but plan your trip wisely

A full pastry case is one of the most hopeful sights in the world: row after row of promise, sweet and nourishing. A sparsely populated pastry case, on the other hand, is a ponderous thing: Does it signify a booming business or a shiftless baker? One will either feel lucky for snatching up the last cookie or terribly disappointed at having wasted a buck on stale, day-old pastry.

These were our thoughts as we bellied up to the lunch counter at Nicavid's Bakery & Café. Our plan had been to eat a very small lunch and a very big dessert, but the pastry case held only a basket of what looked to be seasonally decorated sugar cookies, part of a strawberry cake, a slice of pumpkin pie, a single triangle of baklava, and one lonely crème brulée. The lunch menu, however, offered a nice variety of soups, quiche, salads, and sandwiches. And so we reassessed our priorities and went to Plan B, ordering large sandwiches and, with some trepidation, servings of the strawberry cake and baklava.

Nicavid's is a cheery spot, with lots of sunlight, clean white walls, and red-trimmed cupboards. A box frame proudly displays graduation jackets from the New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier, Vermont, belonging to Joshua David Spalding and Amy Nicole Flint, the bakery's chefs. (Nicavid is a combination of their middle names. We had mistakenly thought it was a Persian name, which was only reinforced by the baklava - but this is, after all, a cautionary tale of first impressions.) Spalding and Flint started the bakery two years ago, after working at various country clubs and restaurants around town, as a business venture with Spalding's parents. The store is fed primarily by business traffic along Fredericksburg Road, which subsides on the weekends, so the bakery closes shop Saturday and Sunday. Otherwise, Spalding reports, Nicavid's does pretty well "as long as it's not raining."

But, at noon on a Friday - surely the primetime of workaday lunch hours - there were only two other diners in the bakery which, again, gave us pause. That is, until the food came, and then we were happy to have found a quiet lunch spot.

The DC had ordered the David, a roast beef and salami sandwich that arrived warm and layered with roasted red and yellow bell peppers, marinated shallots, and Swiss cheese. Though the fillings melted together deliciously, the DC was most smitten with the earthy yeast and wheat flavors of the crusty beer bread; toasted crunchy it made a good textural companion to the warm meat.

It may be said that a vegetarian sandwich is the true test of a sandwich board. Many a dry offering, all sprout and no flavor, has been sold by that name. Not so at Nicavid's: sautéed mushrooms and red onions, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, cucumber, romaine lettuce, and Swiss cheese, all layered on a dense, sweet honey wheat roll. Though we wished the roll were a little warmer, the overall taste was quite nice: just enough moist, savory, tang, and crunch.

Nicavid's Bakery & Café
5115 Fredericksburg
349-2222
Hours: 7am-6pm, Mon-Fri
Price range: $2-$9
Major credit cards
Handicapped accessible
And, yes, we did feel very lucky for having snatched up the last bits of dessert. The strawberry cake - layers of light white cake, strawberries, and whipped cream frosting - went down quickly and with little fanfare, but was declared mighty fine afterwards. We took our time with the baklava, enjoying the density of the honey-nut filling and light crispiness of the filo dough in small bites. Almost too rich alone, the nutmeg-spiced baklava tasted especially nice when combined with a sip of coffee.

So what's the deal with the pastry case?

The breads, much to our disappointment, are currently not available for retail. Apparently, the baking duo has tried offering breads but they don't sell: "We haven't found our bread niche yet," says Spalding. So, for now, the honey wheat, beer bread, and challah are only available for sandwiches and special orders.

As for the pastries and desserts, Spalding says the trick is to get to the bakery early in the day - unless, of course, it's raining - when the case is swelling with muffins, Danish, kolache, filled croissants, cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, coffee cake, cookies, and other assorted dessert items. Nicavid bakes all its breakfast pastries, desserts, and bread fresh daily, and they don't keep the day-old stuff. All of the goodies are available for special order as well.

So, in the end, the pastry case was half full, signifying a well-executed stocking strategy for the bakery and a call to action for the consumer: Get up early or call your orders in - the kolache waits for no one!

By Susan Pagani


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