By Kristina Sepetys
CHANGE OF VENUE ALERT: Blooms End has announced that the Saturday, January 13, 2024 pop-up from 10am to 1pm will be held at Hammerling Wines, 1350 5th Street, Berkeley. (The Hammerling tasting room is located between streets, behind Hammerling and Donkey & Goat on 5th Street and Vinca Minor on 4th Street.)
Mary Denham wakes up before midnight to start another special day at Blooms End. She bakes up an artful array of sweet and savory confections; gathers fresh flowers and vases; shakes out floral tablecloths; packs up cake pedestals, dishes, and an old wood letterpress drawer to display her baked goods; and dons an old-fashioned vintage party dress. Sometimes she brings her own country music mixtapes.
“Food can be really transporting,” Denham said. “I want to appeal to all of the senses.”
Denham has brought her world-building pastry experiences to nearly a dozen East Bay locations, from flower shops to pottery studios. But her events at Morningtide, a charming home goods shop on a side street off Solano Avenue in Albany, are particularly special to her.
“Morningtide was an early supporter,” Denham said. “There’s something about Albany. People there are really into food.”
In fact, they’re so into Denham’s food that her technically sophisticated sweet and savory confections move quickly and the pop-up events, which run from 10am to 1pm, sometimes sell out by noon.
“Blooms End is a customer fave,” Morningtide co-owner Lisa Wong Jackson confirms. “Our customers line up while Mary is still getting set up.”
Baking has been a life-long passion for Denham. “I’ve been baking since I was a kid in Livermore,” she says.
She went to culinary school at CIA in Napa, worked at M.H. Bread and Butter in San Anselmo, and honed her croissant skills at Neighbor Bakehouse in San Francisco. But her most formative experience came working as pastry chef at Outerlands. “That’s where I really started thinking about baking as art and my whole display as art.”
Denham is now offering her last pop-ups at Morningtide, one this Saturday, January 13, and another in February. She’ll have close to a dozen sweet and savory offerings that might include croissants, pastries, cakes, cookies, or scones. She gets many ingredients from local farmers’ markets plus butters from Marin and France and seasonings from Oaktown Spice Shop. Her specialty heirloom flours come from Capay Mills. “They sell whole, stone-ground flours, and source and mill their grains in California, identity preserved. I like supporting a company working to build a local grain economy,” she says.
Denham posts the menu, drawn by her graphic designer partner, Jason Cryer, the day before the pop-up.
“I always change it up,” she said. “It makes it feel like each event is an occasion.”
Denham promises to include some classic and some new offerings, like New Orleans-inspired King Cake slices, olive oil cake with grapefruit cream, brioche coffee cake with blueberries and cream cheese, and bitter and sweet Shaker Lemon Moon croissants. Savory pastries include claws made with lacinato kale, sunflower seeds, garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil; chorizo morning buns; and Urfa Butter Snails made with garlic, labneh, and herbs. A constant is her Blooms End trademark Coffee Cardamom Monkeys: croissant dough pieces tossed with flavored sugar and orange zest, baked up into a caramelized, buttery, crispy delight.
Beginning in March, Denham will have a permanent location, Blooms End at Neighboring Fields (a name taken from a Willa Cather novel), serving alongside the Tenfold Farmstand out of a mobile wagon next to Union Elementary, a one-room schoolhouse in Petaluma. She’ll offer her beloved baked goods along with Mother Tongue Coffee, a women/LatinX-owned roaster in Oakland, and teas from Molly’s Refresher, another East Bay pop-up. She’ll have her special charming details, including music, all set amidst the bucolic, pastoral beauty of Sonoma County.
“I hope people will come visit and make a day of it,” she says.
Blooms End pops up on Saturday, January 13 at Hammerling Wines (1350 5th Street, Berkeley) and Saturday, February 17 at Morningtide Shop (847 Cornell Avenue in Albany), and debuts in its permanent location this spring. For the latest news and updates, follow @blooms_end and Morningtide on Instagram.
Photos courtesy of Blooms End