More scratch-made authentically prepared baked goods are always better. More fresh and delicious brunch and lunch creations served in a stylish setting are always better.
The best part, though, about the openings of Auspicious Baking Co.’s Sandfly branch and Collins Quarter at Forsyth might be no longer having to wait for satisfying sustenance at their respective original locations.
Patiently and happily, we have all done it because we knew what was at the end of those lines.
Since Anthony Debreceny renovated the property on the northwest corner of Bull and Liberty and opened The Collins Quarter in 2014, the weekend queue for a table from 10 a.m. onward has often been staggering and for great reason: everyone wants to sit outside amid the bustle, whiling away two hours over short rib hash or the B.L.A.T. and fries with some coffee or adult beverages.
On Sunday mornings since 2017, thousands of us have parked illegally along Skidaway and Germain Drive to join the dozen-deep line at Auspicious, dedicated to the worthy pursuit of fresh-baked pastries, the buttery aroma wafting out the open doors and making us dream of Paris.
The waits are over. At long last.
Tomorrow, drive down to the Shops at Sandfly, where Katie Bryant and Mark Ekstrom have opened a second Auspicious bakery and retail shop in the retooled former home of a Great Harvest Bread Company franchise. Buy enough chocolate pistachio croissants and vegan maple buns to survive the weekend.
Come lunchtime, head downtown and be one of the first to dine at Collins Quarter at Forsyth, which officially opens after six months of reconstruction and renovation to the great white fort.
WANTS AND KNEADS
Perhaps you heard that collective cheer echoing over the islands and throughout The Landings this past Friday when the doors soft-opened at Bryant and Ekstrom’s new bakery in Sandfly.
If the couple is tired, their genuine smiles do not show it.
“It’s been amazing, absolutely rewarding,” said Ekstrom, as a steady stream of eager eaters breezed in and then out with paper bags stuffed full around noon. “A lot of long hours have gone into this place here. It’s nice to finally be open.”
For now, this shop will be open on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through the rest of March.
“Come April,” said Ekstrom, “we’ll actually have our grand opening and be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.”
He and Bryant are going to hold onto the Derenne property, which will keep the same Sunday (8 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Tuesday (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) hours of the last two years. Each Monday through Wednesday will be set aside for the Auspicious team to focus on its blooming wholesale operations.
Oui, mes amis: the Auspicious pastries will soon be available for retail purchase five days a week.
The Sandfly location looks and feels and, best of all, smells like the Derenne original but is three times the size. The wall of front windows, high ceilings, and expansive kitchen space make the entire experience even more inviting.
For food fans, there is parking, and there is room inside to queue up.
For Bryant, Ekstrom, and their team of happy bakers, 900 square feet has given way to 2,800 square feet, and more space has already translated into a more efficient operation. They signed the lease in November of 2019 and purchased all of the equipment left behind by the former bread retailer, including a massive oven.
During the renovation, they installed another bread oven and a walk-in refrigerator, converting the former one to a freezer, as well as a couple commercial dough mixers and a large stainless steel work table.
“What’s really amazing is the time saved with the equipment that we have,” said Ekstrom. “A 12-hour cracker shift that was running in Derenne took us an hour and a half to run through our large oven here.”
The same goes for the pastry preparation: the oven at the Derenne bakery can handle between 6 and 8 trays at a time; at Sandfly, 18. More croissants for everyone!
“Growth in the wholesale is definitely an avenue that we’ve been looking at,” Ekstrom added, “but we haven’t had the means necessary to do it.”
For those who once bought bread at Great Harvest, they will notice the slight reconfiguration of the interior retail space, which feels like a roomier version of the Derenne Auspicious.
For the last five months, the challenge was keeping up with their purveyed wholesale orders while both providing retail at Derenne and also outfitting this new space. Already, they have tripled their staff.
“It was a fine dance these past few weeks,” Ekstrom said with a laugh, admitting that it was an “all-nighter” the Thursday before this soft opening and that he still had a paint brush in his hand at one o’clock in the morning.
That being true, he said that the greatest challenge with moving in was not so much the space itself or any renovation but what they could do in it.
“Instead of mixing 40 pounds of dough, I’m now mixing 140 pounds of dough,” he said enthusiastically.
That first Friday, the tasty treats behind the glass included the usual array of Auspicious standards - croissants both sweet and savory, monkey bread, a variety of cookies, sweet buns, whole loaves, and more - but Bryant and Ekstrom are already planning to add more to their menu.
On the docket are cake by the slice and homemade cold-case items like tapenades, lemon curd, and panzanella salad. In April, they plan to introduce made-to-order sandwiches, including not only the French staples but also unique flavors that their kitchen has been eager to tuck into their beyond-compare breads.
Ekstrom credits Bryant entirely for the delicious palate: “Katie comes up with the menu ideas and all the flavors, and we’ve got a couple really awesome people who turn it out.”
Bryant’s mother, known as Mama Kelly by everyone in the Auspicious family, is the operation’s wholesale manager and has been with the bakery since Day One. Ekstrom praised her and said that she has been a “huge help with running everything,” especially during this expansion process.
If you think you rise early each morning for work, consider Bryant, who begins her baking days at two o’clock. Some days, she starts at three, and Ekstrom said that he is usually in by 4 a.m. — all in order to make delicious baked goods for us.
“Seven days a week for the last three years,” he said with his smile still as broad as the Auspicious logo.
This is a happy place run by genuinely happy people who humbly thank every customer for visiting. Nice people do not ‘finish last’. They run this bakery.
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The last food was served at the Fort on Forsyth in November of 2017.
The next dish served there will plated up this Friday, when the pristine white landmark in the park is christened as Collins Quarter at Forsyth, adding a fourth restaurant to Southern Cross Hospitality’s Savannah slate.
It’s all just a little bit of history repeating for native Melburnian Anthony Debreceny, who opened The Fitzroy two years ago on St. Patrick’s Day. Now, two of his restaurants will bear the amalgamated name of his hometown’s famed Collins Street and his conceptual nod to the French Quarter.
Debreceny originally submitted an RFP for the property in March of 2018, and the ‘tender’ was awarded by the city last May. Renovation started a bit later than he would have liked, primarily because the plans for the site had to be redrawn; accordingly, real work had to wait until late-September.
And it truly ended up being a total reconstruction project.
“We’ve done everything,” Debreceny said of remodeling of the fort’s interior cafe space, executed by The Kicklighter Company, LLC. “HVAC work, we’ve done plumbing work, we completely redid the electrical work because it was a cement building, and the conduit was only running down the cement beams.”
Perhaps because the renovation will soon turn into actual restaurant operation, Debreceny spoke of unforeseen building and permitting delays with incredible calm, far more than I had when we were without a kitchen at our house for eleven months during a renovation that went cataclysmically wrong.
To be able to run lighting on the other side of the interior, to put speakers in the ceiling and outside on the patio, and to run electrical lines outside; not to mention adding new fire safety mechanisms and security cameras throughout, a suspended ceiling and bulkheads were constructed to run conduit. And that was just the electrical.
Cosmetically, the redone restaurant looks gorgeous and then some, as Amber Scott (Amber Scott Design) realized Debreceny’s vision for the revitalized property.
Even though a few interior areas have been closed off, the space looks and feels roomy, cleverly configured around the structural cement columns to create the feeling of a conservatory. The terrazzo floors, which had a tendency to be slippery, were replaced with a beachy wood-look vinyl tile. Fresh white walls and white table tops are complemented by pale wooden chairs, and a long two-way banquette with light sage leather cushions runs down the length of the dining room lit by golden mesh light fixtures.
“That was the goal,” said Scott. “We wanted to keep it as airy as possible and not be hindered by the column line.”
The feature wall is a bright green tiered garden of tropical plants resting on floating shelves. Another high-top table will give out onto the front windows, offering perhaps the best view of the park.
“Out there is stunning,” Debreceny said of the scenery that diners will enjoy from wherever they sit.
At one end is a cocktails bar that creates an L with the obliquely open kitchen, and the coffee bar has a new take-away pass-through, much like the one at The CQ on Bull, where folks will be able to buy baristaed bevvies, cups of Leopold’s ice cream, and Savannah Square Pops for a picnic in the park.
Now girded by a semicircle of wooden planters, the front patio will have three distinct spaces, including a more casual corner with movable bistro furniture that will allow parents to relax at CQ while still keeping an eye on their kiddies in the adjacent playground.
“We’re going to have more seats than we’ll have the ability to feed,” Debreceny said wryly.
Another obligation of the property’s lessee is the bathrooms, which have been completely renovated. Amen and thank you.
Starting this Friday, lunch will be served during all five weekdays (11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), and a brunch menu will be offered on Saturdays and Sundays. The name is the same, but the menu will be totally different at this CQ, though Debreceny promises the brunch, especially, will have Australian roots.
“I can tell if a restaurant is Australian-owned just by the menu,” he said. “It doesn’t have to have VegeMite or meat pies. It’s just the plating style,” just one quality of the fare at the original CQ that has made it a brekkie best bet.
Debreceny added that he really wants to begin dinner service by the beginning of April. Before then, he deserves some nights off.
“I’ve spent every day here for six months,” he admitted, “plus trying to run The Fitzroy, trying to run The Collins Quarter, trying to gear up for The Deck.”
Then again, he recognizes that he is as hands-on as a restaurateur can be, and the success of three, soon to be four, eateries is down to him. Or ‘down under’ to him.
Sorry: I couldn’t resist.