Whether through naivete or determined optimism, I never quite believed that the classic St. Louis inquiry of “Where’d you go to high school?” was a sly social stratification. Perhaps it’s the small town girl in me, wherein that question often leads to “Did you know Katie Whiffenpoof? She used to date my brother,” or “Was McGonigle still teaching when you were there?” It’s an attempt to establish commonality.
My late husband, the Brooklyn kid, never quite got this. Once, having dinner in a restaurant, we were politely approached by another diner who recognized us. A little conversation, during which he said our most recent book was in his glove compartment. Would we sign it, please? When Joe took out his pen, he asked the gentleman’s name. He gave the name – he’d earlier said he lived in Farmington – and I put two and two together. “Were you,” I asked, “an Eagle Scout?” Yes, he acknowledged, he had been. “Your father delivered my first child,” I said.
All this is by way of acknowledging that Nathaniel Reid (who is not the gentleman with the book) is a Farmington guy, from the county where I was raised, although to the best of my knowledge we have no other ties. He’s a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and worked his way back home, most recently at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton. Now he’s opened a bakery-cafe in Kirkwood, doing lots of to-go business and offering limited seating at a counter.
As well as the pastries, there are some sandwiches on the housemade breads as well as quiche. Some of us remember a zillion years ago when quiche became a Thing. Shortly thereafter America was cursed with a book called Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, and suddenly it was as though quiche had been given a long first name that was irreversibly linked with it. Nonsense, I say. People rave over chicken pie, why not allow the pleasure of egg pie? Reid’s quiche is a fine thing, hearty and satisfying. The custard itself is tender, there’s plenty of it and the crust remains crisp because the turnover rate is obviously high. This particular one was the classic Lorraine, with pieces of ham and I wonder if perhaps a bit of onion juice had been added, so tasty was the egg component. Chicken salad lolled alluringly on a very crisp croissant, the chicken nicely chunky, a little celery here and there, but not too much, mostly very classic.
It would be sheer insanity to pass on having dessert, of course. And it’s easy to get it to go, but succumb one must, at least for a croissant to take with one’s afternoon tea, untraditional but highly encouraged. I’ve had several goodies from that case, from macarons to almond croissants to that golden passionfruit pastry whose name eludes me. But I always come back to the kouign amann, layers of croissant-like dough tucked into muffin cups that have been buttered and generously sugared so that the exterior is crunchy and the interior tender and rich. And if that isn’t enough, there are jars of housemade jams and goodies of chocolate, like the Easter eggs they were selling.
Order and pay at the counter, grab a seat, and make sure you observe as people come in for the first time.
Nathaniel Reid Bakery
11234 Manchester Rd., Kirkwood