Swiss Alps Bakery
It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas
Let’s face it: The holidays come earlier every year. While out buying the stuff to make my kid’s Halloween costume in mid-October, I was already getting barraged with those big Santa/reindeer/snowman lawn globes, to which my kid quipped, “It should be Christmas all year long!” My holiday visions, sans sugar plums, were of my dad yelling about Ritz crackers, my siblings arguing over whose children had better manners and me wondering if my in-laws’ house was quieter.
In the spirit of early holiday scouting, I took a trip up to Swiss Alps Bakery on Menaul (it’s in a small strip of shops across from the Coronado Mall) to try and get myself in the mood to buy 18 packages of batteries and spend two months vacuuming tinsel out of the carpet. The little bells on the door sounded when I entered, and I was greeted by a sweet staff and an even sweeter aroma coming from the back.
Glass cases line one wall, with each case at least partially filled with goodies like giant elephant ears ($1.45), bizcochitos ($.65), cookies, cakes, pies and some fancies in a cold case like éclairs and swans (puff pastry filled with cream, $1.99).
According to smiling employee Pam, “Raimund makes all the fancy stuff, for sure.”
Raimund is owner Raimund Pepe, who I found out is both well-traveled and well-studied in his field.
“Italian, German, Dutch, Swiss,” said super-helpful employee Angel, “his motto is he can do anything.”
Judging by not only the tempting pastries on display, but also by thumbing through Raimund’s photographic portfolio, Angel had it right. I saw breads twisted into just about any shape, a dazzling wedding cake covered in marzipan fruits and dozens of perfect, white petit fours with a hand painted-Christmas light on each.
Then came the pretzels. I actually used to live up the street from this bakery, and I still get a thrill remembering one Saturday morning feast of big, soft, pretzels, fresh from the oven and laced with fat hunks of salt. They only make the pretzels on Saturday, and may have a few strays left on Sunday, but don’t bet on it. I overheard another customer asking about them on this trip; she was smart and discussed placing an order so she wouldn’t be left out.
I decided to sample a cross-section of goodies I had never tried before. I bought a loaf of the farmer’s rye bread ($3.45), a huge meringue ($.85), a Swiss almond scone ($.85) and a piece of iced cinnamon cake ($.95).
I've never been a huge fan of meringue, but I was pleasantly surprised with theirs. It was perfectly light and sweet all the way through, with no eggy aftertaste. I was even more enthusiastic about the scone, which was pure butter, crisp and thick like a cookie, and filled with toasted almonds that had magically stayed crunchy (unlike the limp, chewy almonds you sometimes get at other places). The cinnamon cake was dense, not overly sugary, and had a nice spiciness to it. I also appreciated that they didn’t overdo the icing.
Angel volunteered some early holiday advice for me: Stock up on pies and hard rolls. Swiss Alps pies are made from scratch, right down to the fillings and hand-peeled apples. They don’t mind the extra work here.
“It’s a regular thing for us,” said Angel.
There was obviously a ton of work that went into what I saw before me, and I can imagine the extra effort they’ll expend to keep the holiday crowd rolling in rum balls and rich, buttery stollen. I even spied a linzertorte ($12 medium, $17.50 large), and it doesn’t get any more festive than that. A real linzertorte is a thing of beauty—an almond crust with a lattice top, filled with spices and moist with red currant jelly.
After thanking everyone for being so darned cool, I took my loaf of rye bread home to turn into toast the next morning. I have no reservations about recommending it to others. Thick, whole grain goodness is the best way to wake up in the morning--especially when you're coming down from a previous evening's sugar binge, as I did at Swiss Alps.
Am I ready to face the family, the stack of holiday baking, and the next two months of my kid wanting everything he sees on TV? Nope. But I am ready to put on my “Christmas Fifteen,” and not apologize for it.
The Alibi Recommends:
Pretzels (only on Saturdays)
Fresh breads (try the rye)
Hard rolls and pumpkin pies for the holidays
Swiss Alps Bakery, 6607 Menaul NE, 881-3063. Hours: Tue, Thu and Fri 7 a.m.-4 p.m; Wed 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sun 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Closed Mon. Price range: Inexpensive to moderate. Small patio, credit cards accepted, retail and wholesale, wedding cakes by appointment, diabetic goods available.