- Marlene Lacasse/Daily
BY DAILY ARTS STAFF
Published February 14, 2013
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Hand-crafted Asian pastries is the name of the game at Eastern Accents. Claiming to be the first Asian bakery in Ann Arbor, this joint specializes in those desserts you would normally expect to find only in Chinatown.
“Ben and Carol Sun founded Eastern Accents 17 years ago,” said longtime employee Charles Lindsay. “(He) grew up in China, and has always loved baking.”
Lindsay explained how, after mastering his family’s traditional pastry recipes, Ben Sun moved to Boston to pursue a traditional pâtisserie education. It wasn’t long after that the young baker met Carol, a University grad. The couple married and opened Eastern Accents.
“To this day, Ben comes in every morning at 3 a.m. to start baking,” Lindsay said. “Everything here — all of our buns, cakes and pastries — are made daily.”
The bakery itself looks a lot like a coffee shop: There are small tables and chairs scattered about. People sit near the front windows sipping hot beverages, lackadaisically typing on MacBooks and periodically pausing to watch jaywalking pedestrians.
One wall is covered with an Asian-inspired painting of mountains and flowers. Another sets the backdrop for a comically small electric fireplace. The space is cozy and relaxed — just the spot for a fresh-baked good to go along with a warm cup of tea.
For your sweet tooth, there’s the red bean moon cake — a dense, chewy cake surrounding a thick and grainy red bean paste. The Asian-style cakes, which aren’t as sweet as you might expect, are made with fluffy frosting spread thinly upon two layers of sponge cake stuffed with whipped cream and fruit.
The sesame balls are also exceptionally scrumptious. Spoonfuls of tacky rice flour dough are fried and artfully dotted with crunchy seeds. These greasy and thick, gummy-sweet treats would make an ideal mid-afternoon metabolism boost and, of course, are easy on the taste buds, too.
Other dim sum favorites include the egg tarts, mango pudding — a big seller at Eastern Accents — and sweet cream buns. Everything is authentic and — best of all — homemade.
So whether you’re craving hard-to-find Chinatown goodies, looking for something a little different for dessert or are just bored with the cliché of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, there’s something for you at Eastern Accents.
Lindsay sums it up best: “This is a great place for an afternoon dessert, a hot spot for a couple who wants a quiet corner in the heart of Ann Arbor.”
Sweet Gem Confections
Sweet Gem Confections, located within Morgan & York Fine Wine on Packard Street, is a small, locally owned chocolate shop where all the chocolates are handmade in-store. Upon entering, you can see the fruit reductions cooling on the shelves, bowls of ingredients on the central cooking table and rolls of colorful ribbons hanging in the back of the room.
Nancy Biehn has been running the shop on Packard Street for seven years, and cooking chocolates professionally for 15. Her business on Packard mimics a model she ran into 25 years ago in Oviedo, near the coast of Spain, where she used to buy chocolates from a shop that exclusively sold chocolate made from scratch.
The fruits and mint she uses are either grown by her, in her garden or bought at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. The wine she uses in her chocolates is from Jackson, Mich. The cream, from a local farm. The cocoa, the same that Zingerman’s supplies.
Biehn said on some days she has two helpers, also professionals, but it’s clear by the size and atmosphere of the shop that she has had a hand in creating every item on the shelves.
On the note of personal affect, Biehn said her favorite part of the job is talking with her customers, who seem to be few, but very loyal.