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Amernick, Bakery in Cleveland Park - Closed.


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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

I chatted with Ann Amernick today about a variety of things, and she said it would be okay if I paraphrased some of our conversation here.

‘Don’t post about the doughnuts!’ she pleaded. ‘Everybody wants the doughnuts. I’ve had people come in here and ask for doughnuts, and when they find out we don’t have any, they just walk out. Why can’t they try some of my other things? Have you tried my Baltimore Cake?’

Indeed I have, and it is fabulous (as are the doughnuts). I noticed she had hamentaschen today, and I asked her if she’ll continue to have it after this weekend. She said that, no, after this week it will be difficult to sell, but if people call her in advance, she’ll try and accommodate - not just for the hamentaschen, but for other things as well.

I told her how much I adore her focaccia, both the goat-cheese and the pizza version.

‘Don’t post about that either,’ she said. ‘We lose money on it. I use real Reggiano, have you noticed? And the goat cheese is the same one we use at Palena.’

Well, yes I have noticed, and that’s why I’m in there seemingly every other week. So what do you want me to write about, Ann?

‘Everything in here is made in-house except for the doughnuts, which are made down the block at Palena. All the ingredients are the highest quality I can find. Sometimes it seems that nobody cares about quality anymore - even Tom Sietsema thinks I need to do something new and different.’

I raised an eyebrow when she said that, because that’s simply not the impression that I’ve gotten reading Tom’s reviews and chats. And I questioned her on it.

‘Did you see what he said in his Dining Guide? He likes Frank, but he thinks my desserts at Palena need to change. Well, I’m xx years old now, and I do what I do, and I’m not going to change.’

I reiterated that Tom has come across as being squarely in her corner, but I also decided to play devil’s advocate. “Well, some of the things on the dessert menu at Palena are the exact same things you get here, and after a rich bowl of soup with a quail egg in it, you aren’t always in the mood for a shortbread cookie.”

Ann threw up her arms, and almost – almost – smiled. ‘Well, okay, but get the sorbet. The sorbet is wonderful – have you tried my grapefruit sorbet?’

I didn’t have a good response for this, because she was right. She continued:

‘I’m not going to do anything new and different, because I’m concerned about executing the traditional things in the right way using only the best ingredients. Someone needs to do this, and if I don’t do it, who’s going to? Have you tried my schnecken? It’s wonderful, they have this at Greenberg’s in New York. Here, take one home and try it.’

I was embarrassed that I didn’t know what a schnecken was – I always thought these things were called sticky buns. But I had it this afternoon, and yes, it was wonderful, every bit as good as her Baltimore Cake, her almond cookies, her cheese straws.

‘People need to try my things, they would love them if they’d just try them,’ she said.

I replied that people simply don’t know about them – who on earth knows what a schnecken is? And I suggested to Ann that she should put together an email list and send out an occasional email letting people know what she offers.

‘How am I going to do that?’

“Put a bowl out on your counter and have people fill out their email addresses. People want to know!”

‘Okay, I’ll do it.’

And I believe she will do it, and the next time I’m in there I’ll leave her my email address along with scores of other customers eager to receive regular updates about what this talented pastry chef is up to, what’s new and seasonal, and what’s coming down the pipeline. And I also believe that this bowlful of email addresses will sit there and languish, because Ann’s not going to take the time to figure out how to send out a mass email, because she’s too preoccupied doing what she does best.

Ann, you might be xx years old and set in your ways, but I cannot imagine Cleveland Park without your bakery, and I suspect a lot more people feel that way than you think. Biz hundert un tsvantsik.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

I've been in contact with Ann about this thread, and she wanted to add a couple of thoughts. First and foremost, she insisted on sharing any credit she gets here with her two coworkers:

"The two people that work for me are Noris Pineda and Noel Sanchez. They are the most loyal, hardworking two people I've ever known. I plated desserts at the restaurant for 3 years until this past September when Frank finally took pity on me and said "Let's get Noel to plate". So now Noel, goes down after a day at the bakery and works the night shift."

She continues to give credit to her coworkers:

"This bakery and the restaurant are miracles. To have survived 3 1/2 years in this economic climate is astonishing. It's due in part at the bakery because [of the] people who come in to help … On Fridays and Saturdays, Robert DeLapeyrouse comes in and bakes bread … We are so lucky. The point is that the bakery is a warm and welcoming place to the people who come in with like attitude."

I stopped in yesterday morning for a piece of focaccia, and in less than five minutes, I saw three people come in, ask for doughnuts, and leave without buying anything when they were told that the first batch was gone, and that the second batch hadn't yet come in (the doughnuts are made down the block at Palena). The "doughnut people" seem to be the bane of Ann's existence:

"... they want the doughnuts, in most cases, because Tom wrote them up and put a big picture of them in the dining guide. It became cool to wait for the doughnuts to get to the bakery, the 'in' thing to do, the new 'trendinistas.' I could write on infinitely about this subject. I'd rather talk by phone if you want to hear what we deal with. But I will relay to you one incident. We made a policy to not break twenty dollar bills for one or two doughnuts, if the customer didn't buy anything else. We had to. The bank usually runs out of one dollar bills early on Saturday, and no matter how hard I try I'm always floundering to keep the cash drawer supplied. A woman came in around 2 p.m. and asked Noris for 2 doughnuts and then handed her a 20. Noris told her we couldn't break a 20 for 2 doughnuts. The woman became angry, held the bill in Noris's face and said "This is American money". (Noris is Latino) She asked to see the manager. I came out of my office, (a proof box that's no longer operational) and came up to her and began to apologize, telling her that I understood her frustration, but I could not get any more ones, the bank was closed. She said she left her apt. just to get the doughnuts and all she brought was a 20. I said I was sincerely sorry but I couldn't do it. She was really angry and said her Satuday was made up of getting her doughnuts and that the doughnuts put "this bakery on the map". Well, that was the wrong thing to say to me, as you can imagine. So I said many customers bought a few other things along with the doughnuts and then it made it easier to break a large bill. (You could buy a few little cookies and it would cost 60 cents, you can't get cheaper than that). She said she only came into the bakery for doughnuts, that she bought all of her other pastries at Firehook. So I told her then that's where she should go and she said that's exactly what she would do. My feeling was that that story would go all over the internet making me and the bakery look like real [censored]s. And we're really not. We just don't understand how all these people think that the only thing worth buying at the bakery is a doughnut. And the one thing that we don't make. Think about it. It's so demeaning and hurtful to be confronted with this so often. And now since NPR did a program on the doughnuts, some people will come in just to irritate us and play on that whole business. I would like to chat with you about this and talk about what this bakery is really about…."

And she concludes by saying:

"Thanks for listening , Don, I really appreciate it… It means a great deal to know that some people do appreciate what we're about. Ann."

And thank you, Ann, for sharing your thoughts.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Saturday at Amernick, I ordered a dozen black-and-white cookies to freeze, and got a piece of my beloved black-olive pizza focaccia and a Baltimore cake for lunch. I ran into a friend of mine there who knows Ann, and when she came over to the counter, we said a very touching goodbye to her, and walked out the door for the final time.

My friend and I decided to have lunch down the street, so it wasn't until later that afternoon when I had the focaccia - I had just gotten into my car after playing tennis, and decided to enjoy it on the way home. As I was driving around the beltway, I got to the very last morsel, and with reluctance, I let it leave my hand. When I nipped into it, I bit directly into an olive pit, muttered an obscenity, and heard a faint laughter in the background that I'm certain came from Ann.

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

I believe Ann is not a businesswoman; she's a woman in business. See also Carole Greenwood and Yannick Cam.

Ann could increase her business by 20% by spending about two hours making changes to the way her wares are displayed. When you go in, the display case is not at all welcoming, and there aren't enough signs describing what is for sale.

I actually like Mark's idea of a dozen (or half-dozen) doughnut minimum.

Her dismissal of The Doughnut Maggots (of which I am sometimes one) notwithstanding, I'll happily choose her crotchety passion over someone elses wan practicality.

There was a little sign up last weekend that said something like "The cost of doughnuts is now $1.25. If you have bought milk or eggs lately, you'll understand why."

It's hard not to like this, and it's evidence that, deep down inside, Ann feels a grudging obligation to satisfy her Doughnut People.

She probably drives a Ford Torus.

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

I believe Ann is not a businesswoman; she's a woman in business. See also Carole Greenwood and Yannick Cam.

Ann could increase her business by 20% by spending about two hours making changes to the way her wares are displayed. When you go in, the display case is not at all welcoming, and there aren't enough signs describing what is for sale.

I actually like Mark's idea of a dozen (or half-dozen) doughnut minimum.

Her dismissal of The Doughnut Maggots (of which I am sometimes one) notwithstanding, I'll happily choose her crotchety passion over someone elses wan practicality.

There was a little sign up last weekend that said something like "The cost of doughnuts is now $1.25. If you have bought milk or eggs lately, you'll understand why."

It's hard not to like this, and it's evidence that, deep down inside, Ann feels a grudging obligation to satisfy her Doughnut People.

She probably drives a Ford Torus.

Don, I think Ann could increase her business by 100%. I went in there around January of 2004 inquiring about an internship in pastry. I could see her in the back (and hear her). She sent the retail worker out to tell me no. Her curt response to the worker who had gone back to relay my inquiry was rude. The place was empty. The display case was almost empty. The place was bleak and uninviting. I did not try so much as a 60 cent cookie and vowed to never return. I don't doubt that her product is high quality. Product is only one part of a successful business. If she cared more about prospective clients needs, she would be raking in the "dough." Regarding the $20 bill issue: I would have a thousand singles in a vault in the back of the shop before finding yet another way to tell clients "no." There is ALWAYS a way. People are successful in the food/hospitality business because they find ways to say "YES" or at the least say "no" in such a way that it sounds like "yes." This is clearly not Ann's style.

Conjures up an image of an unfunny version of a very funny SEINFELD episode. --"NO DOUGHNUTS FOR YOU! BALTIMORE CAKE FOR YOU!"

Thanks,

Chris

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Well, I guess her lack of customer service skills is no longer an issue since the storefront closed.

Is she still involved with Palena? Those caramels were so good as were the chocoate slab cookies (not chip). That said, there was this hazelnut dauphoise (or something like that) that I just must have never 'got' -- dry and bleah.

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Is she still involved with Palena? Those caramels were so good as were the chocoate slab cookies (not chip). That said, there was this hazelnut dauphoise (or something like that) that I just must have never 'got' -- dry and bleah.

she is still there and i have seen her in the restaurant a few times, most recently visiting with a toddler in the cafe. the caramels are soft and won't pull out your teeth, but of the things she makes, i like her cakes the best. she may not be a business woman, and i'm all for that, but she is the opposite of the soup nazi.

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