Expansion is underway at Minneapolis’s James Beard Award-Winning Restaurant Alma; Brew Creative and Chinook Book have moved out of the building, and Dunn Brothers is slated to move out by 2015.
When my pal Carrie Riggs started culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in 2011, even her wildest dreams didn’t conjure a position as the Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Alma. Yet, there she found herself in 2013, after a year under the tutelage of Niki Franciolli, Ryan Cook, and Jamie Malone at Sea Change, plus a year Café Maude. Although Riggs is relatively new to the pastry scene in Minneapolis, her sweet tooth is of historical proportions. She started baking apple pies with her grandmother at three years old, and was whipping up her own icing by age eight.
“I was always a lover of sweets—I was that kid,” explained Riggs. “I would make icing and eat it plain. If I was going anywhere or doing anything, I would bring dessert. Eventually, I started making cakes and cupcakes for weddings and birthday parties. When I visited Vietnam in 2011, the pastries there blew me away. I took a chance, left my job, and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu.”
With a forthcoming Alma expansion on the horizon for 2015 that will include an adjoining bakery and café, the pastry offerings at Alma will be expanding as well. So with the support of chef Alex Roberts and the staff at Alma, Riggs moved forward with the idea of hosting a series of bakery pop-ups to preview and test recipes and concepts.
“The pop-ups wouldn’t be at all possible without Alex Roberts and the full support of the whole Alma team,” said Riggs, “Especially my assistants Kristin Rice and Tiffany Singh, as well as Hannah Bredahl and Aisling Reynolds.”
The first Restaurant Alma bakery pop-up took place on September 21. Riggs used tried-and-true recipes that the staff members at Restaruant Alma had enjoyed, and prepared them with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. The menu featured faux-reos (Rigg’s version of Oreo cookies), gluten-free macarons, biscotti, galettes, and bread. It was an unmitigated success; they sold out of everything in about three hours.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Riggs. “We were anticipating about 100 people for the first pop-up. At least 200 people came, and then people kept trickling in even after we sold out.”
With one successful pop-up under her belt, Riggs upped her game for the second pop-up on October 18. She made bigger batches without skimping on quality and offered items such as almond financiers, biscuits and jam, cinnamon rolls, and scratch-made “pop-tarts” with fillings including ham and gruyere.
“For the second pop up, I made much more product—as much as was humanly possible for me to make while maintaining our standards for freshness and quality. We also had more people helping to keep the line moving,” said Riggs. “More than 300 people came, and we made it until 2 pm without running out of everything. “
For her third pop-up on November 16, Riggs will be introducing new items. She says she’ll be serving up caramel tarts, savory and sweet filled brioche, squash tartines, pumpkin shortbread, mini truffle brioche loaves, eclairs, and spelt chocolate cookies, and she plans to offer at least three bread options. She’ll also be selling frozen items that folks can buy and reheat for Thanksgiving, such as dinner rolls and pie crust. And because Restaurant Alma owns the building, they’ll be moving their pop-up to another area of the building that will give them more space for product and patrons.
As for the forthcoming Restaurant Alma expansion, Riggs said they’re hoping to be open by June 2015. After 15 years in the same location, Restaurant Alma’s interior will receive a subtle facelift, as well as an updated production kitchen. There will be an adjoining café that will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the café will house a bakery space where patrons can purchase grab-and-go items and coffee.
The pop-ups are piloting potential menu items for the bakery and café, and I’d be willing to be that the faux-reos, galettes, and “pop-tarts” will make the final cut, but there’s no need to take my word for it. Check out one of the pop-ups for yourself—the next two are scheduled for November 16 and December 21 at Restaurant Alma, 10 am–2 pm.
528 University Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414