I have been closely tracking the progress of the recently opened 3 Sisters Bakery. This bakeshop full of gourmet creations is nestled deep in the centre of residential Alta Vista. A fellow foodie friend, JK, shares food interests and she regularly peppers me with foodie highlights when she makes a new discovery. Her news bulletin about the 3 Sisters Bakery came at the beginning of May when she saw activity at the new location. Recently her update said it finally opened early June!

3 Sisters Bakery is situated at 1791 Kilborn Avenue in a generally unattractive strip mall. A branch of TD Canada Trust anchors the west end of the mall and 3 Sisters is 3 doors down. They have prettied up their look with a colourful teal green awning.

In case you are wondering, there really are 3 sisters! Carol, Rosemary and Joan Brazeau share their mission statement on a plaque just inside the door:

All products in this store have either been freshly made by us or we have tested and chosen what we feel are the best products available in every category. This is an ongoing process and we would appreciate your input.

With errands in the neighbourhood Friday, I decided to pay an impromptu visit. I was stunned to see how much was tucked into this small place – coffee bar, baked goods, pastries, handcrafted chocolates, gourmet specialty dry foods, gourmet specialty frozen foods, sandwich shop, gourmet ice cream bar, art gallery, and a meeting place.

While browsing, I was lucky to have the opportunity to chat with one of the sisters, Rosemary. She lives in the area and is fully aware of all the driving that she does around the region to buy her favourite food items. A focus for the store is to bring those products to the neighbourhood under on one…..awning. If Alta Vista neighbours are regularly driving beyond their community for great food products, she wants to add it to the already long list of choices now featured at 3 Sisters. Just let them know!

Rosemary said 3 Sisters has been very well received for the short time that they have been open and they have been showered with flowers and cards of well-wishes from neighbours, now clients, that have been waiting for such a jewel to been placed among them. 3 Sisters is working hard to keep the place well stocked. Their hours are ambitious. They are open from 10 am to 9 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closing only on Monday.

The beautiful L-shaped counter groaning with the many baked treats, was designed after their grandmother’s kitchen counter. You pick up on the warmth that you might expect at grandma’s house as soon as you enter the store. Considering what they had to work with mall-wise and store foodprint-wise, they have done a decent job with trying to create a cozy feel.

There are limitations though from the onerous number of by-laws placed on the plaza, Rosemary says. For example, there are severe restrictions on the number of seats that can be made available for her patrons. With a large seniors contingent among her already loyal customers, this is something she wants to change. Rosemary says that many have already been talking to the local councillor, Peter Hume, looking for help.

Also, only 25% of the baked goods can be made on site. (I don’t know the motivation of the by-law but perhaps they don’t want to frustrate neighbours by permeating the smell of baked goods through the neighbourhood. Because that could get annoying. Only to those dieting I suppose.) More work for the 3 Sisters. They have been doing additional baking at a spot downtown.

Rosemary likes the idea that 3 Sisters can be a meeting place. When the school bell rings, the area around her place is littered with bikes. Many young people are popping in on the way home for a sweet treat or a cool something from one of her other big attractions. The Gourmet Ice Cream bar.

Lois ‘N’ Frima’s homemade ice cream is now available in Alta Vista! Considering how hot it was when I visited on Friday, my first reaction was that this was as good as printing money. Her prices are fabulous. Maybe too fabulous. Something Rosemary knows she needs to revisit to hit the right price point for running such a stand. But she is very aware that she wants it to be a reasonable price for her clients. She gets that ice cream goes with summer and the whole experience needs to feel yummy good. Even the part about paying. Don’t miss that her sign says that they do sundaes and milkshakes too. She is really aiming to please.

As for the baked goods and pastries, it is no surprise that they are selling Ottawa-based Art-is-in Boulangerie Dynamite bread. It has become so popular around the region and for many, this will save a lot of driving. Perhaps the closest destination for the bread before was Serious Cheese on Bank Street in Old Ottawa South. But with Serious Cheese soon to relocate to Kanata, this would have made the trek even further. The timing of 3 Sisters’ arrival couldn’t be better.

The Art-is-in Boulangerie bread is used in the prepared sandwiches at their sandwich counter. They are ready to go and can spend time in the panini press if that is your favour. 3 Sisters is choosing to forego the standard cold cuts and instead enjoy such feasts as grilled chicken, roast beef or vegetarian. When you pick up your sandwich you can also grab an iced tea or a Kiju organic juice. (I love Kiju juices. They are located in Kitchener, Ontario. Get to know their brand.)

The eye candy in the store is the plates and plates and plates of baked goods and pastries. They are made up of products from Dolci (Ottawa-based and all their items are gluten-free), Art-is-in Boulangerie (pain au chocolat and the almondine), Dufflet and 3 Sisters.

Rosemary was quick to mention that they had many gluten-free choices and they tasted so good. As she was pointing them out, her finger was moving like a Gatling gun. I couldn’t keep up with her efforts to identify. Suffice it to say, you will have plenty to pick from. In fact, Rosemary spoiled me with a gluten-free cupcake as evidence that she wasn’t talking out the top of her hat. I don’t do cupcakes and I don’t gravitate to chocolate for my sweet treat. She was right. That gluten-free treat was indeed good. (This rating was validated by the mister.)

With so many gluten-free choices, where is the signage? Rosemary acknowledged it is something they need to get to as this was not the first time it had been mentioned to her. This is a great feature of 3 Sisters and getting the news out about some gluten-free bakery choices would surely make them a destination location.

Little did I know, the mister had secured one of the nut-free brownies. It was substantial. Later I had a chance to taste it. I have no idea who baked it or whether it was gluten-free but I can tell you that ‘plank’ of a sweet was also delicious.

Degas Chocolates by Laura Holmes were also on display with the baked goods.

Their coffee bar features locally roasted beans from Francesco’s Coffee Company on Bank Street in the Glebe.

The takeout freezer section includes gourmet specialty items from Scratch Kitchen in Ottawa and Restaurant Les Fougères in Chelsea in the Gatineau Hills. I have tried Scratch Kitchen’s products and my favourite is the Madras Chicken Curry.

The gourmet specialty items displayed in the hutch include a number that are very local: cookies from Dolci gluten-free bakeshop, chutney from Major Craig’s Chutney, jams from michaelsdolce, and mustards, jams and jellies from Restaurant Les Fougères.

Going further afield, there are Rootham Gourmet Preserves from Guelph. My favourite is the Tangy Red Pepper Jelly. The premium condiments by Redhead Pantry are from Chesterville.

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There is more….

Just Wing’it products are from Merrickville. Honey and tea by Bay Woodyard come from Honey Pie Hives & Herbals in Milford near Picton. Wheat & gluten-free polenta chip crackers come from Dendy & Co Fine Foods in Richmond Hill. Flavour infused oils come from Celestial Delights in Durham Region.

The 3 sisters are also committed to supporting local artists. Already on display for sale are works by Patty Woodyard.

It is still early days and some details for starting a business have yet to be addressed – business cards and a website, to name a few. We hope to see them on Facebook and Twitter too. Right now, the focus is on the customer experience, the quality of choices and the freshness of product. Alta Vista has been longing to have their fine food tastes serviced closer to home. Rosemary says she isn’t trying to be a foodie but when you have clients who are, I suspect that makes her one too. Lucky Alta Vista.

3 Sisters Bakery
1791 Kilborn Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario
613.695.9122

Tues to Sun: 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays
*** UPDATE TO HOURS AS OF SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 ***
Tues to Thurs: 7:30 am – 6 pm
Fri: 7:30 am – 8 pm
Sat to Sun: 8 am – 6 pm

Three Sisters Bakeshop on Urbanspoon

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