You may have had the pleasure of tasting Mary White's raspberry rhubarb tarts, cherry buttercake, or rustic apple pies at her HoneyBee Bakery stand during a farmers' market. Bea's Bonnet brings the same goods, plus a little bit extra, into a bricks-and-mortar nook on Atwood Avenue. On warm days, you may find the bakery stand set up in Bea's Bonnet's backyard, right next to the Capital City bike path.
On a recent evening trip to Bea's Bonnet, the offerings were few in number, likely due to the late hour, but uniformly high in quality. A pork empanada, buttery and golden with a thick twist of crust along the seam, was well seasoned enough to be eaten at room temperature. A chocolate sandwich cookie, filled with vanilla buttercream and glazed with chocolate ganache, was elegant and decadent, an Elizabeth Taylor of the cookie world. A round loaf of wild rice bread got tucked under my arm to be taken home and enjoyed for several days.
White has an expert hand with pastry and breads of all kinds. Excellent baking requires balance, especially when it comes to texture. White's sharp cheddar biscuits are oversized but perfectly executed, tender and crisp, and not over-cheesed as some are. The filling in a Meyer lemon cream tart is silky and light, rich without being heavy. A giant chocolate chip cookie is exactly as it should be: a deep, caramelized gold, with crunch at the edges and a soft, chewy middle. My favorite of the bakery items is a caramel-sauced cream puff, which I will immediately buy, àla Pavlov's dog, whenever I see it from now on.
The selection at Bea's Bonnet seems to vary according to whims and weather, so don't go expecting a full meal; this is a snack shop, not a full cafe. It'd be a great stop before a road trip, on a bike ride, or when putting together a picnic basket.
And though the selection may not be giant, what is there is fully realized, a perfected ideal. In a town - no, a neighborhood! - filled with exceptional bakeries, Bea's Bonnet carves out a niche with its expert technique, top-notch local ingredients and unabashedly simple yet lovely creations.