2019 Outstanding Independents, Bakery: Palmer's Darien, Darien CT
When Megan Palmer Rivera joined her family’s grocery store after attending the Culinary Institute of America, she dreamed of opening a pastry shop. So, in 2007, she opened Palmer’s Bakery inside the store to replace the run-of-the-mill department that had been in place.
“We make everything from scratch,” Rivera says, excluding the artisan breads that are shipped from Manhattan daily. “I brought in a whole team of pastry chefs, who I trained, and we have a whole team of cake decorators as well.”
The five cake decorators are kept busy creating the 60 wedding cakes that the department turns out annually, along with the 65 specialty-order cakes and 50 case cakes. One popular case cake has been the unicorn cake, with the decorators changing the color of the mythical creature’s mane to match the season.
Meanwhile, the five pastry chefs produce a variety of signature products. The pear almond tart features a handmade shell with apricot jam, an almond frangipane cake and then Tahitian vanilla bean with poached pears laid on top in the shape of a flower. Tiramisu, on the menu year-round, features ladyfingers soaked in coffee Kahlua syrup layered with Marsala mascarpone whipped filling.
The house-made products are packaged in signature pink boxes with a gold logo.
“I feel like all of the products deserve that beautiful wrapping when you’re getting this beautiful tart,” Rivera says. “If we took one of our homemade products and put it in a plastic clamshell, I’m not sure I’d feel like it was worth the price.”
Made with only the highest-quality ingredients, the products are showcased under chandeliers, which helps clue in customers that the items are deserving of their higher price point.
The Palmer’s Bakery brand, along with Palmer’s Catering, which Rivera opened a few years ago, has proved so popular that the supermarket was rebranded from Palmer’s Supermarket to Palmer’s Darien.
The bakery “is a huge driver for business,” Rivera notes. “It gets new people in the store.”