Dulce - and its new owner - ready to give your oven a lit­tle re­lief

Dulce has a new owner, but its Thanksgiving mis­sion is the same: Pro­vide hol­i­day cook­ing re­lief, one pie at a time

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Tantri Wija

On Thanksgiving, your oven is full. This can be a prob­lem. Most of the time, one oven is plenty for the av­er­age hu­man fam­ily group, ad­e­quate for a roast or casse­role or chicken with, if you like, a sec­ond dish on top for roasted pota­toes or some­thing. But when the pil­grims and the Na­tive Amer­i­cans got to­gether to Pin­ter­est the ideal Thanksgiving menu, clearly they had one of those houses with two ovens in mind. You’re serv­ing five or six dishes, and ev­ery­thing has to get baked or roasted at more or less the same time at dif­fer­ent tem­per­a­tures. Heaven for­fend a friend brings over some­thing that needs to be “kept warm.” And you could bake your desserts the day be­fore, but you’re shop­ping for last-minute in­gre­di­ents, iron­ing your pants, prep­ping your stuff­ing and clean­ing your house.

How­ever, the place you stop to get your car­damom cof­fee cake or daily crois­sant is, this time of year, go­ing into hol­i­day over­load mode, the bak­ers rolling up their flour-cov­ered sleeves and gear­ing up to bake off whole pies and cakes for peo­ple’s hol­i­day get-to­geth­ers. Par­tic­u­larly if that place is Dulce bak­ery on Cor­dova Road. Dulce is not ex­actly a “hid­den” gem — this min­i­mal­ist cafe with its be­wil­der­ing panoply of deca­dent baked goods has a de­voted fol­low­ing. But even if you fre­quent the place, you may not know — and prob­a­bly wouldn’t have no­ticed — that Dulce re­cently has come un­der new own­er­ship. Keith Maes­tas, long­time Santa Fean and new­bie restau­rant owner, very qui­etly took over the helm at Dulce about three months ago.

“I worked for a fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany in Santa Fe for 15 years, and I felt like I needed to make a change — for health rea­sons more than any­thing else,” he says. “I was seden­tary. I wasn’t on my feet. I was look­ing at a com­puter, look­ing at spread­sheets. An­a­lyz­ing in­for­ma­tion for the com­pany. It was a ter­rific job, but I’d been look­ing at that for 15 years there and an­other nine years be­fore that, so 24 years of sit­ting around. … What’s im­pres­sive is how quickly the days go in restau­rant work.”

Dulce is ac­tu­ally Maes­tas’ sec­ond foray into restau­rant own­er­ship — he bought plant-based, mostly ve­gan, clean-eat­ing haven Rasa Juice in June, strad­dling the full spec­trum be­tween vir­tu­ous health food and naughty pas­try. But the life­style fac­tor is not what’s im­por­tant to Maes­tas — it’s the qual­ity of the prod­uct.

“I was look­ing to make my own sort of in­vest­ments into busi­nesses I wanted to get into. If the prod­uct wasn’t ex­cel­lent, there was no good rea­son to buy some­thing,” he says. Maes­tas was a reg­u­lar at Dulce, which was near his home and opened early enough for him to grab a scone and a cof­fee be­fore get­ting to his desk job.

“Be­fore I was an owner, I’d al­ways come by. I lived around the cor­ner. I’d get a turkey sand­wich and take it home. It was one of the best turkey sand­wiches I ever had.”

Though the guard has changed, the ganache has not. Dulce re­tained the same bak­ing staff, recipes and ded­i­ca­tion to flak­i­ness and crumbi­ness (good traits only when used to de­scribe a bak­ery).

“We’re mak­ing sure that we’re do­ing ev­ery­thing we can do to make it the ex­act same ex­pe­ri­ence,” Maes­tas says. “There’s an ex­pected ex­pe­ri­ence, and I don’t want to mess with that.”

And that in­cludes the desserts, which you can pre­order, that Dulce’s sugar-dusted bak­ing elves churn out as the holidays ap­proach. Dulce is known for its gor­geous cup­cakes, crois­sants, gi­ant muffins and the­atri­cally high, New York-style cakes, but some­how cake does not have the same Thanksgiving lum­ber­jack-cui­sine cache as pie, so this time of year Dulce of­fers a suite of whole pies that you can pick up and lie to your rel­a­tives about hav­ing baked. Dulce has ap­ple, nat­u­rally, and pump­kin, or you can go a bit more ex­otic and get their “Crim­son Pie,” which is a bit like cran­berry sauce turned into a dessert.

“Crim­son Pie is a mixed-berry pie that fea­tures cran­berry,” Maes­tas says. “It’s a cold-weather tart pie. As the sea­sons go on, our tart fruits are very ephemeral. A cherry is not go­ing to last into fall.

We don’t want to do frozen fruit or out-of-sea­son frozen fruit.”

If you want some­thing more deca­dent, go for pe­can pie, or even its choco­late cream pie, which is an un­holy three-way mar­riage of pie, cake and pot de creme.

“It’s [an inch and a half] of choco­late cream in a choco­late cake crust,” Maes­tas says. “We take our cake ends and make our crust out of that, and then top it with whipped cream.”

And if you want pie for din­ner as well as for dessert, Dulce makes eight va­ri­eties of quiche every day, like quiche Lor­raine, ba­con potato, broc­coli mush­room, spinach and feta, chicken sausage, cau­li­flower or zuc­chini, and is a great way to wedge (ha ha!) a vegetable side dish into the fairly carb-cen­tric meal that is Thanksgiving. It’s also the per­fect thing to bring to all those potlucks you’ve been in­vited to.

You also can or­der whole cheese­cakes, in­clud­ing Dulce’s sea­son-ap­pro­pri­ate pump­kin cheese­cake, or whole loaves of its pop­u­lar pump­kin bread (it comes in mini-loaves, too, but un­less you’re not plan­ning on shar­ing, why bother?). And to save your oven one more thing, Dulce will even bake your din­ner rolls for you.

As for Maes­tas, this will be his first hol­i­day as a bak­ery owner, so the flood of pies is some­thing he has, as yet, only dreamed of. Dulce asks that you pre­order at least two days in ad­vance. They will be closed Thanksgiving, so be sure to get your or­ders in by Mon­day for pickup Wed­nes­day. And dur­ing those two days, Maes­tas will be lucky if he gets to sit down at all.

“I haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced it yet,” Maes­tas says. “But I’ve heard sto­ries.”


An­gela Evans pulls a tray of freshly baked pump­kin pies out of the oven Tues­day at Dulce.

Keith Maes­tas took over as owner at Dulce about three months ago.

An­gela Evans pre­pares crusts for pump­kin pie.

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