Master Baking A Dream
WORDS Merlin Varaday | PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden
St. Honoré Boulangerie Owner and Master Baker Dominique Geulin grew up in Etretat in Normandy, at the mouth of the Seine River. The oldest of four children, who would naturally follow in his father’s footsteps as a Master Baker, Dominique speaks fondly of heading downstairs from the living quarters above the family bakery to head to school, and being surrounded by the enticing smells and bustle of a French bakery in the early morning.
After high school, Dominique studied at the baking school in Rouen, and then, in 1981, headed over to an internship at Le Panier Bakery, which had just opened in Portland. Dominique has also delved into what he terms “baking adventures” all over the world, including in Africa, Taiwan and Japan.
His dream on returning to Portland in the late eighties was to open St. Honoré Boulangerie. The renowned Portland business now has four lovely locations: NW 24th and Thurman St. (2335 NW Thurman St.), SE Division St. (3333 SE Division St.), Lake Oswego (315 1st St., Suite 103), and a new branch at SW Broadway and Washington (501 SW Broadway St.) in downtown Portland. All have outdoor seating, except SW Broadway, which is set up to facilitate easy “grab and go” lunches for downtown workers, and is a preferred spot for Portland visitors to check out.
Dominique has passed his baking expertise on to the ever-growing St. Honoré Boulangerie team. “Now we have evolved, and I like to keep the door open to employees who have new ideas, and we collaborate to create these products together. We see a lot of changes throughout the seasons, with everyone’s input. Each store has their own baking team, and they make everything fresh every day.”
How did St. Honoré Boulangerie get its start? We opened the door in December 2003, and it was a long-time dream come true. For many years I had wanted to have my own bakery and retail cafe that would be a reflection of my personal experience growing up in France. My desire has been to incorporate all the aspects of French baking that I learned from my parents, especially my Dad, and then also, later, my teachers at the baking school.
What are some of your favorite items on the menu? What should guests be sure
to not miss? That’s a hard question! It’s like asking me which child I like the best. I usually start my day at the Thurman St. branch with a nice cup of dark roast coffee and a croissant. For my lunch, I enjoy a grilled sandwich or a salad. There is always room for a nice snack, such as a pastry. People often enjoy one of our desserts in the afternoon. We cater from early morning with breakfast items, through light fare to swing by and grab for dinner on the way home.
And it’s a great place to meet your friends or discuss business matters…? Yes, especially at Thurman St., in Lake Oswego, and – now – in downtown Portland. The SE Division St. location is more of a dinner destination. They might sit outside and enjoy a nice croque monsieur with a glass of wine. In winter they might enjoy a quiche or a soup. We can accommodate a wide variety of people, depending on their preferences.
What about catering? We have a special catering menu that we offer for people who want to put together parties, meetings and weddings or other celebrations. We assemble a croquembouche on an edible nougatine base, or a similar tower created with several layers of different flavors of macarons. We can do it with whatever colors you have chosen for your wedding, and the wedding planner will coordinate connecting us with the florist to add matching flowers. We finish it off with lit sparklers! We did one recently for a wedding at The Nines Hotel. It was a crazy day. We were at the Bastille Day celebration at Jamison Square, and in the middle of it I went and assembled the croquembouche. We can cater anything you ask for.
What partnerships have you forged to present the items in the bakery that are not created by your staff, such as beverages? We have featured Cafe Umbria Coffee since day one. I really like the culture of that company, and the high quality of the coffee that they have brought over from Italy. For teas, we work with Smith Teas. We have done a lot of collaborative work with them. For example, we created a “London Fog” flavored macaron with Earl Grey tea. We also offer beer and wine, and all our flour is from Shepherd’s Grain we were their second customer when they started. We try to work with local growers as much as possible. We partner with Kiyokawa Family Orchards in the Hood River Valley for the cherries and peaches in our seasonal clafoutis. They deliver to our stores twice a week, fresh from the orchard.
What is your idea of the perfect meal? It all depends! I like to have nice, fine food, but I also go in for junk food, like potato chips with a beer and a hot dog. But, of course, I will use a frankfurter sausage on a baguette, with dijon mustard, to put a little twist onto it. I also improvise for dinner with whatever is at the store or the Farmers Market. I like it to be unplanned. This time of the year, barbecuing is my thing (fresh local lamb or salmon, for example).
Enjoy St. Honoré Boulangerie’s outdoor dining during the sunny season, then watch for seasonal events at Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day. St. Honoré Boulangerie is open every day of the year, other than Christmas Day. Also, ask about gift cards!