Dynamic husband-wife duo Dave Willocks and Wendy Braun of The Baker’s Table are staking their claim on the corner of Monmouth and 10th streets in Newport.
Directly across the street from their flagship restaurant, they’ve opened The Baker’s Table Bakery, an establishment that’s a bakery by day and a pizza joint by night — and it’s taking the locavore ethos a bit further by exclusively using local flour.
In late 2018, Willocks wanted to start a restaurant that made its own bread, i.e. The Baker’s Table.
“We did it, and it was incredible,” he says of the popular farm-to-table eatery. “But the problem was, our kitchen was too small. The restaurant was set up to be a restaurant, not a bakery.”
As the name suggests, Willocks is focused on making everything from scratch at The Baker’s Table, including the bread. “The bread is the canvas our food appears on. This is what makes food unique and personal and inspiring,” he told CityBeat in 2018.
But Willocks and Braun wanted to expand their baked goods program, and to do that, they needed more room. Luckily, the landlord who rents them the restaurant space was restoring a historical building directly across the street — which is where they opened The Baker’s Table Bakery.
The bakery is open 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, serving local Deeper Roots and Proud Hound coffee and a selection of teas as a sidecar to the pastries. They reopen at 4:30 p.m. as a craft pizza parlor with sustainably sourced Italian wines. But the focus is on the bread, especially in the morning.
“We really decided to prioritize bread here, and by prioritizing bread we had to de-emphasize other things,” Willocks says.
So instead of more time-consuming pastry options like croissants, which require a labor-intensive dough, they make their own puff pastry and a type of brioche charmingly called “rough puff,” which they use to make cinnamon sugar-dusted donuts stuffed with a seasonal filling. They also make whoopie pies — buttercream sandwiched between two cookies — along with cheddar scallion biscuits and seasonal fruit turnovers. The bakery carries grab-and-go sandwiches for both breakfast and lunch, as well as salads and a gluten-free grain bowl, all made fresh daily.
A variety of breads are whisked out of the oven each morning at 9 a.m. (literally, so don’t go before then if you want to pick up a loaf). The Baker’s Table Bakery offers naturally leavened and yeast-risen breads including sourdough loaves, baguettes, ciabatta and brioche.
The bakery sources its flour exclusively from Janie’s Mill, a farm and millery in Ashkum, Illinois — part of the five-hour radius surrounding the Ohio Valley that’s home to a wealth of centuries-old wheat varieties (Willocks uses the term “local” to refer to goods sourced within that radius).
“I think the future of baking is the farmer-baker-miller relationship,” Willocks says. “Our bread is telling the same story our food is, which is ‘This is what’s grown here.’ They call that terroir — the flavor of the place; the feeling of the place.”
For Willocks, the challenge has become integrating this principle of exalting local food into all areas of his restaurants, not just the convenient ones. For example, he had been using national King Arthur flour before he made the switch to Janie’s.
“I realized that I had no connection to flour, and flour was the essence of my products. And that felt disingenuous,” he says.
There’s a charming wholesomeness to the farm-to-table movement, but Willocks says that sourcing locally can be difficult. For example, an early frost suddenly could end the summer pepper crop, which would mean pivoting to a more frost-resistant veggie to add to their sausage pizza.
But it all really comes back to the flour.
“The grains are harder to deal with,” Willocks says of his choice to use only Janie’s Mill. The very backbone of the bakery caused Willocks and his head baker, Kallen Justice, a good bit of grief during the research and development phase. They ran two test recipes side by side for nearly six months leading up to the opening of the bakery until the outcomes made using King Arthur’s flour were indistinguishable from those using Janie’s.
Now, The Baker’s Table Bakery has locked in a dinner menu of about four to five pizzas ranging from $19 to $23, featuring margherita, pepperoni, bianco vegetarian and sausage pies. “We have general placeholders and then the details change,” Willocks says. This is the same approach they’ve taken at The Baker’s Table restaurant, which has moved to a seasonal prix fixe menu.
In the future, Willocks and his team plan to expand the antipasti section of the menu at the bakery with some shareable small plates like marinated olives, white beans with pesto and roasted beet salad.
Diners should note the building’s history and evolution as much as they do the food. Long before it was a bakery, it was a laundromat; before that it was a pharmacy dating back to the early 1900s, which Willocks says was challenging from a design perspective
“It’s a really cool space and it really forced us to think outside the box,” he says.
Wendy Braun is the sole mastermind behind both spaces’ design, Willocks says. She’s a poet and teacher by trade, but has a knack for finding just the right antiques to make the space.
“I’ve actually had people come into the restaurant and tell me that they’ve hired interior designers, paid them to come to dinner at our restaurant, and told them to make their house look like our restaurant,” Willocks says. “(Wendy’s) design work is affecting other people. It’s this interesting combination of timeless and vintage and warm and sexy, and she’s able to pull it all together.”
Together, Willocks and Braun have established yet another cozy, community-minded bistro that centers the spoils of the region.
“If I can make you experience something that’s very, very close to the Earth and sustainable and wholesome, and make it utterly delicious and pleasurable, you’re probably going to be more likely to cook like that,” Willocks says. “You’re going to be more likely to demand that from other aspects of your life. That’s really the whole purpose of the restaurant and the bakery.”
The Baker’s Table Bakery is located at 1001 Monmouth St., Newport. For more info, visit bakerstablebakery.com.
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