“gingerbitz” is opening its doors in what owner Karen Zuckert calls the store’s “dress rehearsal” and I was invited for a sneak peek and sample several of Karen’s delicious creations.
Described as a bakery and café, gingerbitz is a welcome addition to New Canaan, which has yearned for a local bakery for many years. The longtime dream of New Canaan residents Andrew and Karen Zuckert, gingerbitz represents years of dedication. Karen is well known within Fairfield County for her amazing gingerbread houses that have graced many mantles, as well as featured at numerous holiday festivals. When the opportunity arose to open a bakery in town that would “broader showcase Karen’s talents,” the couple jumped at the opportunity. They painstakingly and meticulously renovated the location, developed relationships with vendors to provide organic products and Andrew embarked on his search for the perfect coffee.
Entering the café, the cases are filled with cakes, pies, tarts and cookies; sitting atop these cases are packaged gingerbread delicacies, all decorated for various occasions. Shelves are filled with house-made chocolate covered pretzel, ginger bits, iced gingerbread cookies occasions and marshmallow treats. In the back is the fully exposed kitchen, with Karen and staff busily preparing the day’s delights, “I never want to hide, I take pride in my kitchen.”
The welcoming aroma of the coffee and the faint buttery fragrance of breakfast beckons you to stay and enjoy the coffee and a pastry, pie or cake at one of several tables. Andrew researched numerous vendors and traveled the world before choosing Stumptown Coffee, out of Portland, Oregon. “They represented one of the most responsible coffee growers, are selective in the bean’s origin and offer several blends.” gingerbitz will initially offer two of these blends, the “Hairbender” and its bolder cousin, “Holler Mountain.” I sampled two cups of the Hairbender and it was also bold in its initial profile and was a perfect partner to Karen’s baked delights.
At lunch, the menu expands to include the soups and sandwiches of Chef Ashley Boucaud. Chef Ashley hails from the Caribbean, graduated from NYU and then followed her culinary passion and graduated from Johnson and Wales University in Providence. The opening selections include cream of mushroom soup, chicken soup, plus a ham and brie or a roasted chicken sandwich. For a healthy drink, gingerbitz will serve freshly squeezed orange juice or ask Andrew for a glass of freshly juiced organic carrots, kale, or other organic vegetables. At lunchtime, gingerbitz will offer these juices as a smoothie or combine with the soft serve ice cream for a more decadent drink.
In my first visit I sampled many of Karen’s creations. Overall these items were delectable and proved that high quality ingredients do not need an overabundance of sugar. Each of the items were mild in flavor and showcased the natural flavors of the ingredients, were not overly sweet and were reminiscent of those made at home.
The Key Lime Pie was sublime. The thin graham cracker crust and key lime filling were topped with a dollop of whipped cream. The filling was smooth, creamy and presented subtle lime flavor, and the thin crust presented balanced and wonderful combination. The Carrot Cake included the traditional carrots, walnuts, and cinnamon, with a touch of nutmeg and topped with a cream cheese frosting. The balance of the cake and the rich frosting was delightful, again mild in flavor. The two-layer Chocolate Cake contained chocolate mousse between the layers and frosted with a chocolate buttercream. Reminiscent of the chocolate cakes of days past, this was an outstanding combination of a mildly chocolate cake, and a creamy chocolate frosting. For the fruit lovers, the Strawberry Crisp was incredible; delivered full strawberry flavor, complemented by the slightly sweet and the cinnamon streusel topping. And don’t forget to take home a few cookies for the kids. The Apricot Thumbprint cookies were buttery and the apricot jam was delicious.
As gingerbitz slowly extends its hours and expands its offerings, I look forward to enjoying some of the best cakes, pies, tarts, and gingerbread creations from Karen Zuckert.
155 Elm Street, New Canaan, CT 06840