Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tatte: rich, buttery, aloof

There's a bakery around the corner from my office that looks so immaculate, it makes me feel I've walked in on a movie set by mistake. Tatte, on Beacon Street in Brookline, is tiny and light-filled, and half the store is taken up with an oversized table holding a minimalist selection of perfect pastries.

Tatte's dessert selection is limited, but the star seems to be the nut box, shown above in the grande variety. The smaller one is equally pretty.

It's basically a pastry shell filled with nuts. Doesn't that sound lame? Okay, how's this: the pastry is so butter-loaded that it's practically shortbread. The nuts (pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts) are covered in a not-too-sweet caramelly coating. For a handful of nuts and a bit of pastry, it's amazingly rich.

I also picked up a ricotta-spinach brioche, which was likewise decadent, rich and buttery (but it had spinach, so it was healthy. Really).

And I had a fresh pear juice, which has a subtle note of cinnamon and caused co-worker Sarah to say, "Wow, it makes me wish it was fall already!" I don't love the sentiment, but I know where she was coming from.

So Tatte creates lovely treats (albeit expensive: my three purchases cost me $13). And yet I'm hesitant to recommend it. Why?

Because the counter staff at Tatte are decidedly unfriendly.

Now you know me: I'm a pretty laid-back, thick-skinned gal (and, allegedly, a bit of a ham). So it doesn't offend me personally if people are restrained or reserved. What does bug me, though, is when people who work in customer-service positions cop attitudes of superiority.

The salesgirls at Tatte were unsmiling and aloof. When I asked whether it would be okay if I took photos, they looked at me as though I'd asked if I could gut a fish on the counter. And then one said, "Well ... I suppose so," and the other said (though not to me), "The Phoenix sent a photographer round last week."

I don't often feel uncomfortable around other people, but here I did. So I picked up my change from the counter (because she wouldn't put it in my hand) and scuttled out.

And then I started wondering whether I was being paranoid. But cube-neighbor Nikki said, "No, the South End Buttery is exactly the same; they're very obnoxious. Plus their cupcakes are terrible."

I don't want to suggest this is a trend: the staff at
Sweet on Mass Ave are lovely, as is the owner of Kickass Cupcakes, so there's no direct correlation between bakeries and bitchiness.

But I'd be interested to know whether there are other examples of posh pastry shops with poor personalities. Or, for that matter, places where the service is as sweet as the confectionary.


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