Browsing Tag

Sharon Harter

Bakers for Black Lives Benefit at The Vino Gallery Sunday

Word spread across social media like hotcakes last Friday after a group of St. Louis-based bakers announced they were planning an old-fashioned bake sale to benefit ArchCity Defenders. Campaign Zero, and STL Mutual Aid.

The bakers, Tai Davis (Alchemy Bakery), Meaghan Coultrain (Formerly of Niche Food Group), Simone Faure (La Patisserie Chouquette, the link is to an entertaining Sauce Magazine interview), Sharon Harter (Bellwether and Polite Society), Hannah Kerne (formerly of Vicia), and Shimon Otsuka (Nathaniel Reid), named the fundraiser Bakers for Black Lives and enlisted Alex Head, proprietor of The Vino Gallery, to host the event on the patio at 4601 McPherson.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink  The Vino Gallery Tai Davis Simone Faure Shimon Otsuka Sharon Harter Meaghan Coultrain Hannah Kerne Bakers for Black Lives Alex Head

The event began at 10 a.m. By 10:20 a line stretched from The Vino Gallery to the former Llyweyln’s Pub.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink  The Vino Gallery Tai Davis Simone Faure Shimon Otsuka Sharon Harter Meaghan Coultrain Hannah Kerne Bakers for Black Lives Alex Head

Examining these photographs as I post them, I realize how quickly I’ve adjusted to the latest version of normal. People wearing face masks standing 6′ apart alongside boarded-up galleries and shops.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink  The Vino Gallery Tai Davis Simone Faure Shimon Otsuka Sharon Harter Meaghan Coultrain Hannah Kerne Bakers for Black Lives Alex Head

Cheers erupted from the crowd when a fire truck from the neighborhood’s Engine House 28 traveled east on McPherson.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink  The Vino Gallery Tai Davis Simone Faure Shimon Otsuka Sharon Harter Meaghan Coultrain Hannah Kerne Bakers for Black Lives Alex Head

This was the scene inside The Vino Gallery as organizers arranged baked goods to bring out to the patio for sale. The CWE’s The Cup donated cupcakes and Insomnia Cookies participated as well.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink  The Vino Gallery Tai Davis Simone Faure Shimon Otsuka Sharon Harter Meaghan Coultrain Hannah Kerne Bakers for Black Lives Alex Head

The event was scheduled to last until 2 p.m. but by noon all the pastries were gone, and because shoppers were invited to pay what they wished Bakers for Black Lives raised $12,000 in 2 hours!Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink  The Vino Gallery Tai Davis Simone Faure Shimon Otsuka Sharon Harter Meaghan Coultrain Hannah Kerne Bakers for Black Lives Alex Head

People continued donating long after the pastries were gone. I’ve copied part of organizer Hannah Kerne’s post on Facebook describing how the morning went. For more information, and how you can still donate, here is the link to Bakers for Black Lives Facebook page.

Within 2 hours, we raised more than $12,000 for ArchCity Defenders, Inc., STL Mutual Aid, among other racial justice organizations. I wish Facebook allowed us to bold that number. Before we opened at 10am, people had donated $1,000. By 10:30am, we were at $5,000 and had to cut off curbside pickup because our 1,500 inventory of baked goods was running out and the line was more than 2 blocks long. 1 hour into the event at 11am, we had raised $7,000. By 11:15am, we had to tell people they may not get baked goods but encouraged everyone to still donate. By 11:30am, we ran out of baked goods and were at $8,000, but people wanted to stay in line to donate for the cake raffle. By noon, people were still stopping by to donate and donating online. We soon realized that we had raised more than $12,000.

Reminder that this event was supposed to go until 2pm, and dozens of people continued to donate to get us to this number. Hundreds of people respectfully wore masks and socially distanced the entire time and joined in chants and applause as we ran down the sidewalk to announce the new donations numbers.

St. Louis showed the f*ck up today, and it’s clear there is a hunger to do more to ensure that tomorrow, and every day after that #BlackLivesMatter, and that the anti-racism work goes so far beyond a bake sale and its roots live far deeper than police brutality.

Also, we started this because food is our love language, and it turns out, it’s everyone’s love language.

We have already received messages from chefs and bakers around the country wanting to have similar events, and we plan to have future events, (hopefully around Juneteenth!), so please follow us on Bakers for Black Lives and on Instagram at @Bakers4BlackLives.

Meet the creators of Torta Bella

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink Services  Torta Bella Sharon Harter Kylah Brown Green Bar Italia

I first learned about Torta
Bella just before Christmas when the cake pictured above was left on my
doorstep. It was an unexpected thank you gift from a friend who had been using my
ridiculously-old, but still-functioning wheelbarrow all last summer and fall. The gift was a  simply decorated, simply delicious carrot cake from Torta Bella, which I had not heard of. I was also impressed by the attractive cake box with its
charming logo and tailored red ribbon.

When I learned that the pastry chefs worked out of Bar Italia, I was even more intrigued and determined to track them down so I could share the information with you.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink Services  Torta Bella Sharon Harter Kylah Brown Green Bar Italia

Let me introduce you then to the owners of yet another of the impressive number of small business based in the CWE: Kylah Brown-Green, left, and Sharon Harter, right, the creators of Torta Bella, a pastry and confection operation. Sharon, a self-taught baker, has been the pastry chef at Bar Italia for the past six years. Kylah, who grew up in the CWE and attended New City School, returned to St. Louis from Los Angeles with her future husband about four years ago, and started work as a server at Bar Italia. Kylah was drawn to Sharon's craft and asked if she could become her understudy. The pair enjoyed working together and became partners three years ago settling on the name Torta Bella. They arranged to utilize Bar Italia's kitchen for their pastry-making venture during off-peak hours.

When I met Kylah and Sharon at Bar Italia recently, they had prepared several pastries for me to photograph, including a scrumptious (I know, because I took it home) vanilla bean pastry cream & fresh fruit tart shown at the top of the photograph. Tea cakes (middle) are part of Torta Bella's popular dessert buffet, see below, and on the plate in front is a slice of a tempting three-layer Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake. It's available in a 10" round which serves 16 generously, $45. See ordering information at the end of the post.

Sharon and Kylah emphasized that they use only fresh ingredients and don't cut any corners (for instance, they do not use shortening in their frosting). For those with dietary restrictions, the pair can bake pastries, including wedding cakes, that are lactose- or gluten-free.
Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink Services  Torta Bella Sharon Harter Kylah Brown Green Bar Italia

 Photo courtesy of Torta Bella

Dessert buffets, with a wide variety of choices, are the most popular option right now at weddings, parties, baby showers, and corporate events. Sharon and Kylah love the challenge and creativity involved in putting these together. Brides might order a simple two-tier wedding cake as part of a color-coordinated dessert buffet for their guests. Options include cake pops (above), tea cakes (first photo), rectangular plates of gooey butter squares, tiramasu, panna cotta, cookies, etc., etc. Pricing for Torta Bella's dessert buffet starts at $3.50 per person.
Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink Services  Torta Bella Sharon Harter Kylah Brown Green Bar Italia
Photo courtesy of Torta Bella

Brides are requesting fewer embellishments on wedding cakes too, choosing simple ribbons and/or flowers instead; see Torta Bella's lovely Magnolia Cake, above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink Services  Torta Bella Sharon Harter Kylah Brown Green Bar Italia
Photo courtesy of Torta Bella

Torta Bella also makes birthday cakes for all ages, such as this adorable confection surrounded by cupcakes for a lucky two-year-old, above.

For more information on Torta Bella's pastries, call Sharon or Kylah at (314) 922-5955, visit them on Facebook, or email: tortabellastl@gmail.com. Plan on ordering at least a week in advance, though, if necessary, they will definitely do their best to bake the cakes as fast as they can.

P.S.:


Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink Services  Torta Bella Sharon Harter Kylah Brown Green Bar Italia

Photo courtesy of Maggie Rasp Pearson

Neighbor Maggie Pearson was thrilled to learn about Torta Bella in time for her son Auggie's 1st birthday. After the event she sent pictures of the lovely strawberry cake,

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Food and Drink Services  Torta Bella Sharon Harter Kylah Brown Green Bar Italia
Photo courtesy of Maggie Rasp Pearson
and the birthday boy looking a little overwhelmed with his brother Jack, mother, father and grandfather looking on. Maggie said they all loved Torta Bella's cake which they all thought was delicious. Thank you Maggie for sharing the photos!