by Stacia Friedman
The next time you are in the Market at the Fareway behind the Chestnut Hill Hotel (formerly called the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market), stop by Barry’s Buns for a free sample and to watch Joel and Jen Singer bake up six varieties of buns, along with butter cake and bread pudding. All from 100% natural ingredients. No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
My thighs ballooned just watching Joel slather cream cheese icing on a giant bun. (If you are wondering who Barry is, that’s Joel Singer’s middle name.) “I always wanted to be a baker, and I have this childhood memory of my father coming home with sticky buns,” said Singer, who chose Chestnut Hill for his first location. “Chestnut Hill is a really nostalgic community. It’s the way it used to be with mostly small businesses.”
Barry’s Buns is a family business in the classic sense. Singer does the baking. His wife Jen serves customers. And his mother-in-law and sisters-in-law help out with other aspects of the business, including caring for Singer’s two daughters, aged 3 and 6.
“The customers have been amazing, so welcoming,” said Singer, who is now open Thursday through Saturday and plans on opening on Sundays in the near future.
Singer, who grew up in the Somerton section of Northeast Philly, has a degree in Baking and Pastry Arts from Johnson and Wales Culinary School. He served as assistant pastry chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel and was the regional baking coordinator of Whole Foods Market in the Mid-Atlantic Region, overseeing 20 locations.
“Everything is made fresh right on the premises every day. Our best seller is the large cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing. We also have sticky buns with raisins, walnuts, apple crumb and plain. We bake them on a large sheet so customers can choose a crispy outside bun or a soft and gooey inside bun, depending on their preference,” he said. “We always ask our customers for feedback; we always want to improve.”
But wait, there’s more! Singer also serves up Liege-style waffles, which originated in Belgium. “It’s a sugar waffle made with butter-enriched dough and crystalline Belgian pearl sugar,” he said. “We top it with with banana and Nutella, strawberries and whipped cream, and in the summer we will have waffles with ice cream as well as chocolate-dipped waffles.”
My favorite? The bread pudding which Singer suggests serving warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. If you are hosting a brunch, shower or afternoon tea, order a half-sheet (one dozen) of your favorite buns and watch your guests go nuts. Or raisins.
More information at 267-784-7140 or www.barrysbuns.com
SHARP AS A TACK
If you are like me, you have an old kitchen knife that has great sentimental value but lost its edge back in the Nixon Administration. That’s how I felt about a knife that once belonged to my mother and sliced its way through my childhood and adolescence, which I could never quite manage to throw away. Or sharpen.
That is, until Neil’s Sharpening Service arrived at the Market at the Fareway. When I handed my beloved 50-year-old knife to Walter Ramos, my expectations were low. I was what you call a “knife abuser.” I plunked the knife in water and stored it haphazardly in the utensils drawer. I half expected it to fall apart in Ramos’ hands.
Less than a minute later, Ramos slipped my knife into a cardboard sleeve and handed it back with a smile. Like new. I was amazed. He had brought it back to its original sharpness. I could now slice a tomato as thinly as parchment.
Neil Jacob, 61, the owner of the sharpening service, pointed out that Ramos is not an employee. “He’s just a helper,” said Jacob, whose family has hosted Ramos, a Guatemalan immigrant, since he was 16. In the interim, Ramos graduated from Bishop McDevitt High School, attended one year of college and is now working on improving his English. Helping out at the sharpening kiosk gives him plenty of opportunity.
Neil’s Sharpening Service is new to the Fareway Market but familiar to locals who shop at the weekly Farmers Market at the bottom of the Avenue at Mermaid Lane. “I’ve been there for five years but opened a stall inside the Fareway Market because I want a more permanent location,” said Jacob, who still travels to 30 different farmers markets a month, sharpening not just knives but gardening tools, chain saws and hair-cutting scissors.
If you visit his new stall, you will also find wooden writing implements, bottle stoppers, toys and magnets which Jacob, who is self-taught, makes on a lathe. Originally from East Brunswick, NJ, Jacob settled in Ambler with his wife Rosemarie, who volunteers at the Ambler Theater and breeds Rottweilers.
How often should you have your kitchen knives sharpened? “Every six months to a year,” said Jacob. (OK, so I was only off by a couple of decades.)
More information at 215-678-2131 or www.neilssharpeningservice.com