Sweet Pop-Ups for the Holidays

Brie Mazurek, CUESA Staff
November 15, 2013

This fall, CUESA welcomes two pop-up vendors to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to sweeten up your Thanksgiving and winter holidays. Both are regular market-goers themselves, sourcing many ingredients for their seasonal creations from our farms and vendors.

Pies Made with Love: Three Babes Bakeshop

Pie making comes naturally for Lenore Estrada and Anna Derivi-Castellanos of Three Babes Bakeshop. Anna’s Italian great-grandfather was a French-trained pastry chef for JP Morgan who eventually opened his own bakery in Stockton. Lenore was the child of an avid pie maker.

“I’d come home and there’d be 10 pounds of apples for pies, and I wasn’t allowed to start my homework until they were peeled,” Lenore recalls. “I didn’t mind it, but it was definitely a chore.”

Growing up in the Central Valley, the two girls met in the third grade and, as teenagers, they baked pies to give away to their friends. Later, Lenore moved back East to work in finance, and Anna to San Francisco, where she landed at Other Avenues food co-op. When Lenore decided to return to California to be closer to her family, she approached Anna and another friend, Katrina Svoboda, to start a pie-making business.

In March 2011 they drafted a business plan, in April they raised $10,000 through Kickstarter and found a commercial kitchen space, and by May they were baking and selling pies. The startup launched modestly, with pie delivery and a weekly pop-up out of a shipping container at Stable Café. Katrina eventually left the business, but the name, Three Babes Bakeshop, stuck.

As their business has grown, supporting local farms has remained close to their hearts. “We always knew that we wanted to promote farmers in the Central Valley,” says Lenore. “We’re from a community where a lot of people are affected by cancer and air quality problems, so sustainability has been a big issue for us.”

Three Babes’ signature Salty Honey Walnut pie features Chandler walnuts from Old Dog Ranch, a fifth-generation family farm that Anna and Lenore grew up with. “It’s great to be able to get product from the farm that we grew up next to and to convey that relationship to our customers,” says Anna.

They also source liberally from Ferry Plaza farms, including Hidden Star Orchards (the Smits are hometown friends and neighbors), Devoto Gardens, Yerena Farms, Frog Hollow Farm, Dirty Girl Produce, and GL Alifieri, among others. And all pastry ingredients are organic, down to the sugar, baking powder, cream, eggs, and flour, which is locally milled at Giusto’s. “Organic is something we won’t budge on,” says Anna.

To ensure quality, all pie crusts are rolled by hand, a labor-intensive process. Anna oversees the recipe development, kitchen, and sourcing, while Lenore handles business planning, sales, and marketing. With just a handful of full- and part-time employees, it’s a lean crew, but it bulks up during the holidays, their busiest time of the year.

For Thanksgiving, you can look forward to their Classic Apple (recently named one of the country’s best by Food & Wine), Bourbon Pecan, Sugar Pie Pumpkin, Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan, and their latest creation, Pear-Cranberry Crumble, featuring Taylor’s Gold and Warren Pears from Frog Hollow Farm.

In the last two and half years, Lenore estimates they have made 300 unique varieties of pie (some more successful than others), but they’ve streamlined their rotation to 20 to 30 of their finest. “We experiment less now because we know what people like,” says Lenore. “But we still get really excited about the fruit when it comes into season.”

Operating as a pop-up for the last two and half years has been exhausting, the Babes admit, but it has allowed them time to test their product, try out different business models, and build a loyal customer base. Plans to open a brick-and-mortar pie shop are in the works for 2014, but in the meantime they are excited to be popping up at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

“The best part is that many of our farmers and friends from the food community are also selling here, so it’s just a lot of fun,” says Lenore. “And the customers here care a lot about the same values that we do.’

Classics with a Modern Twist: Tout Sweet Pâtisserie

Yigit Pura’s inspiration for his pastries is eclectic to say the least, taking cues from French technique as well as “a sci-fi movie, a T.S. Elliot poem, or a drive down the Big Sur Coast.” From his early memories making dark caramel with his mother in Turkey, it has been a rollercoaster ride to pastry stardom for the young chef.

After moving to the United States, Yigit began his culinary career in his twenties, working at acclaimed kitchens in San Francisco and New York, including the Four Seasons and Daniel Boulud’s Daniel. After a stint at Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas, he met Janet Griggs and MeMe Pederson, co-owners of Taste Catering, and returned to San Francisco to become their executive pastry chef in 2007.

In 2010, Yigit competed and was named the winner in the first season of Bravo’s “Top Chef: Just Desserts,” which brought him into the national spotlight and became the impetus for opening his own pastry shop. With MeMe as CCO and Janet as CFO, the three launched Tout Sweet Pâtisserie at Macy’s Union Square in September 2012. “Yigit is the magic, Janet is the business, and I’m the ‘do my best to make it all happen’ person,” says MeMe.

In addition to his more “sentimental” creative influences, Yigit is endlessly inspired by the seasonal flavors and variety of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Tout Sweet’s creations feature ingredients from farms such as Bernard Ranches, Swanton Berry Farm, Lucero Organic Farms, County Line Harvest, and Tory Farms. Non-local ingredients like vanilla and chocolate are sourced with attention to fair trade principles.

“We are spoiled to make pastry in San Francisco, where we are so abundantly gifted with incredible produce, dairy, and everything else,” says Yigit. “We engage the farmers directly to know what varieties of heirlooms are coming up, so we can create desserts that do the fruit justice.”

This fall, you’ll find a colorful array of holiday treats, like macarons, tarts, cakes, cookies, and patés de fruits. Their signature Tesla tart (named for its “electric” flavors) highlights passionfruit, yuzu, and citrus. “You should have seen Yigit’s face when he saw fresh passionfruit at the market for the first time this year!” says MeMe. And Yigit raves about the Rouge Vif D’Etampes heirloom pumpkins from Eatwell Farm in their pumpkin tart: “The pumpkin is so sweet and perfect for a tart, not to mention it has a really sexy, deep orange-red flesh.”

With so much hype already surrounding Tout Sweet, why pop-up at the farmers market? “It’s really a chef’s dream come true, so our enthusiasm can’t be stated enough,” Yigit gushes. “Not to mention it’s really where all the local food lovers in San Francisco go regularly, so it’s great exposure for new clientele, and a new and perhaps more convenient location for our existing loyal followers.”

Look for Three Babes Bakeshop and Tout Sweet Pâtisserie in the south driveway by MarketBar on Saturdays through the end of the year.

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