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French desserts will once again be available at the corner of Ninth and K streets downtown as the owner of a popular East Sacramento cupcake shop plans to open Estelle’s Patisserie on Dec. 1 in the building that formerly housed Danielle’s Creperie.
“This has been my lifelong passion,” said owner Esther Son. “I’ve always dreamed of owning a bakery, ever since I was a little girl.”
Though not traditionally trained as a baker, Son said she considers herself self-taught, and she has extensive experience in coming up with recipes and tweaking them until they’re perfect.
Her cupcake shop, Esther’s Cupcakes, has been in business at 2600 Fair Oaks Blvd. for two years.
“We were always coming downtown because we had a lot of clients at the Capitol,” she said. “The politicians and the lobbyists would bring in our cupcakes for gifts at fundraisers, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to order from us.”
The pastry shop, however, will have a much broader set of goods. Some of the menu items include French macarons, croissants, green tea madeleines, fresh strawberry cakes, puff pastries, French baguettes and even sandwiches such as ham and cheese on a croissant.
Fruit tarts and quiches loaded with vegetables will also be available, and coffee from Temple Coffee will be sold.
Most desserts will be in the $3-$4 range, and Son said customers will be able to get lunch and a drink for about $8.
Though Son is Korean-American, she said she chose to focus on French desserts, starting at the roots, and then modifying them with Asian and American influences.
“The root of all dessert and pastry making is French,” Son said. “Not that American, Asian or Italian styles aren’t as good, but I wanted to go back to the roots and then improvise.”
The name Estelle, she said, is the French version of Esther, so it was a natural choice.
A self-described perfectionist, Son said she and her staff – the patisserie will employ about 10 workers – spent six months perfecting the croissant.
“We boast of our butter croissants,” she said. “We don’t buy pre-mixed or frozen croissants. It’s 100 percent homemade, and there are not many of those in town. It’s really flaky and buttery.”
With a husband who is a physician, Son said that even though her business has a variety of desserts, being health-conscious is still important.
“We need to educate people on what good dessert is,” she said. “Some people are used to Twinkies, and they are so unnaturally sweet and oily, but a dessert doesn’t have to be overwhelming.”
To get away from processed foods and make even a buttery croissant more healthy than the alternative, Son said she focuses on using high-quality ingredients bought from local sources whenever possible.
“We avoid shortening and corn syrup,” she said. “It’s hard to say dessert is healthy, but you can work on it by reducing those kinds of ingredients.”
Also available will be diabetic-friendly and vegan items. There will also be “almost-gluten-free” items, and Son explained that to legally call something gluten-free, it must be produced on separate equipment, which is something she isn’t set up to do.
One of the clients of her other business, Esther’s Cupcakes, is the J. Crew store in Arden Fair Mall.
“We use Esther for her cupcakes for special events for our store clients,” said Manager Sophie Pena. “Her cupcakes are a special, unique treat. They look amazing; they taste amazing. You just look at them, and you can tell they’re hers.”
Pena said she is looking forward to going down to the patisserie and trying Son’s other baked goods once it opens.
The building, at 901 K St., was formerly Danielle’s Creperie. At 3,000 square feet, it has a seating area of about 1,000 square feet that can hold 25-30 people. A few more tables will be put on the fenced-in patio that fronts K Street.
K Street will open to vehicular traffic for the first time since the 1960s on Saturday, and Son said that was one of the reasons she chose to open a downtown location.
“I’m really excited to see the city and urban life turn around, and I want to be a part of this,” she said. “If I can make a little change to the downtown lifestyle, I’ll be so honored.”
That sentiment, according to Downtown Sacramento Partnership Business Recruitment Director Valerie Mamone-Werder, is key to turning around the blighted K Street area that has seen improvement over the past year with the opening of numerous new businesses, including Tequila Museo Myahuel and the nightlife trio of Pizza Rock, District 30 and Dive Bar.
“I think that getting these tenants, these merchants and retailers that really get downtown is refreshing,” she said. “We have a lot of naysayers, but we have people who see downtown for what it is and can be, and she sees what we do have, and what’s coming.”
Having lived in Sacramento for the past 10 years, Son, 34, said she plans to raise her two children, ages 5 and 6, in the area.
Also scheduled for late winter and early spring openings are another cupcake shop in the Westfield Galleria at Roseville Mall and another Estelle’s Patisserie in the Arden area.
“I’m not here to come in and then go out of business in five years,” Son said. “I plan on being here for the long haul.”
Estelle’s Patisserie, 901 K St., will initially be open from 6 a.m. - 7 p.m. on weekdays. If business warrants, Son said, she will stay open on weekends.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.