A number of years ago, my wife and I were somewhat smitten by the pastries a young lady would make and her parents would sell at one of the farmers markets in Davenport. She branched out to sell some of her pastries at local establishments through the week. Suddenly, she was gone - much to our dismay, but also somewhat thankful because the decadent pastries she made were adding pounds to our bodies. We had been hearing for awhile that she had been looking for a spot to sell her pastries, but nothing ever came about. For a long while, her business was dormant - she was working as a bartender (more on that in a moment) - until I heard about three months ago that she had secured a spot in downtown Davenport to reopen her business - the French Rose Bakery & Cafe.
The proprietor of the French Rose Bakery is a young lady by the name of Jennifer Ewert (pictured right). She grew up on the west side of Davenport and studied as a pastry chef at The French Pastry School in Chicago. Her baking facility was in an addition to her parents house on the west side of town. Her baking prowess became so popular that she would run out of pastries from time to time, much to my disappointment on certain days. She really wanted to get a place where she could bake and sell her pastries. I had heard that she was looking at a former bank along Kimberly Road to put her bakery in, but that fell through - as did a spot in the East Village of Davenport that I heard she was looking at at one point. Suddenly, she was gone. While I was unhappy that she was no longer baking, I was sort of relieved that I wasn't going to balloon to 400 pounds from eating her great eclairs and cinnamon rolls.
Let's go forward to 2014. I'd met Jennifer a couple of times, but it had been a long time since I had last seen her - probably 2009 or so. I had a buddy who owned the former Creekside Bar and Grill (now called the Bike Rack Bar & Grill) and I used to go in there on a somewhat regular basis. One evening, I was in there with my wife and she looked over at one of the female bartenders. She said, "You know who that is, don't you?" I told her I didn't. She said, "It's Jennifer from the French Rose Bakery." Sure enough, it was! Jennifer had been bartending for nearly a year at Creekside and I never made the connection. (My wife always says I'm not very observant.)
I called my buddy Randy over and said, "Do you know that you have a world class pastry chef working as a bartender?" He never knew of Jennifer's hidden talent. He just knew that she was a good bartender and was great with the patrons.
In fact, it was Randy who told me earlier this summer that Jennifer was getting back into baking and that she had found a spot in downtown Davenport to sell her goods. I was wondering where it would be - there was an old Quizno's sandwich shop that had stood empty for awhile, along with a couple of other spots that were open spaces. But then I found out that she would be setting up in what used to be a small sandwich shop inside the former Wells Fargo building in downtown Davenport. (In April, Wells Fargo moved to their new location a couple blocks away in the City Square building after 90 years in their iconic downtown building.) She now does her baking a floor below her shop in a basement room that was one used to count money at the bank.
Jennifer had a soft opening on July 28, the same weekend as the Downtown Davenport Street Fest and the Bix 7 road race. I was working the stage area for the street fest just behind the former Wells Fargo building and I went in to talk to her. She was handing out free samples with a friend of hers who was helping out and she seemed to be getting a steady stream of traffic. I asked her if she had any of her delicious maple eclairs that I loved so much and she told me, "No, not today. Sorry. But I will have them next week!"
Next week couldn't get here fast enough for me. I couldn't get down there on Monday or Tuesday, but I did make the time to get down there on Wednesday. The entrance to her cafe is just inside the door of 220 N. Main toward the back side of the building. (see map) She has a little chalkboard sign on the sidewalk pointing the way into her little bakery/cafe. Jennifer wasn't there - she and her mother, Mary, were delivering sandwiches to a law firm in the building while I was there. But she had a co-worker who waited on me.
The French Rose Bakery & Cafe is not big. There's no seating and it's carry out only. In addition to her baked goods, she also has a couple panini sandwiches on a lunch menu. The girl working behind the counter said they're probably going to expand the baked goods and sandwich offerings as time goes on, but they're just trying to get their feet wet for the time being.
Jennifer did have maple eclairs that day, in addition to her wonderful cinnamon rolls with a buttercream frosting. I picked up some maple eclairs for me and I knew that my wife would kill me if I didn't bring home a couple chocolate eclairs for her.
The eclairs are sinfully decadent with a large amount of cream filling packed inside. The maple flavored frosting was exactly what I remembered for over five years ago, giving the eclair its signature sweet taste. One is not enough, but two are almost too rich for me. They are just unbelievably great in their taste.
Just this week, Jennifer received the first ever "Know Your Worth" grant from the Royal Neighbors Foundation. She was presented with a check for $10,000 that will help with her start-up costs at the bakery. Jennifer is hoping at some point to be able to expand her business including having her own pastry truck with her face on the side of it. (Click here to see the full story with a video from WQAD.)
I promised Jennifer that I would do an update after she opened up - she didn't know it was me who did the original entry on the French Rose Bakery in 2009. (Click here to see that entry.) While I'm glad she's back in the baking business, my waistline is screaming, "Noooo!!!" And my bathroom scales are girding for added pounds in the coming weeks. I'm going to have to use a lot of discipline to not keep going back on a regular basis to have a couple of the maple eclairs or a cinnamon roll. Do yourself a favor if you live in or if you're visiting the Quad Cities and go check out the great pastries or have a sandwich at the French Rose Bakery and Cafe.
(French Rose Bakery & Cafe is open Monday's 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday thru Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed on Saturday and Sunday.)