European-Style Belleville Bakery Opens Doors in Burlington | Food + Drink Features | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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European-Style Belleville Bakery Opens Doors in Burlington


Published January 17, 2023 at 1:15 p.m.
Updated January 24, 2023 at 1:30 p.m.

Chef-owner Shelley MacDonald with customers - DARIA BISHOP
  • Daria Bishop
  • Chef-owner Shelley MacDonald with customers

It's been a long, slow build toward the full opening of Belleville Bakery, which chef-owner Shelley MacDonald launched in late fall 2020 with weekly pickups from her Burlington apartment. On January 5, after six months of renovations and three months of takeout-window sales, the public finally stepped into Belleville's new brick-and-mortar location at 217 College Street — perfect timing for the second story in our Bakery Month series. (Diet in January? Not us.)

In the bright space with brick walls, a periwinkle ceiling and pendant lights crafted from industrial whisks, customers select from a daily menu that might include airy, moist orange-olive oil tea cake (from $4 a slice); indulgent mini Belgian chocolate tarts scattered with dried fruits and pistachios ($6); or individual, crisp-crusted quiches ($9) in flavors such as bacon-cheddar with broccoli or sun-dried tomato and pesto.

Baked goods at Belleville Bakery - DARIA BISHOP
  • Daria Bishop
  • Baked goods at Belleville Bakery

Customers can stay to eat and sip coffee, tea or fresh-pressed juices ($3 to $10) as they watch MacDonald; her husband, André Beaulieu; and a team of blue-aproned apprentices work in the open kitchen. Eliminating interior walls made the best use of the 1,200-square-foot space, previously home to My Little Cupcake, which is now focused largely on wholesale. And the layout, as MacDonald, 56, noted with a smile, "forces us to be better."

MacDonald and Beaulieu, a professional artist whose hyperrealist oil paintings hang on the bakery wall, originally hail from Canada. They moved to Burlington in 2020 after 11 years in Paris, where MacDonald studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu and started her first culinary enterprise. While her menu is not purely French, she said it's "European in sensibility." Or, more pointedly: "It's all homemade by somebody who gives a shit."

The bakery's hours — currently 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Sunday — and rotating menu of sweet and savory items will expand gradually, MacDonald said. The 4,000-plus recipients of her weekly electronic mailings can still preorder, and she takes a limited number of special orders.

Sun-dried tomato and pesto quiches - DARIA BISHOP
  • Daria Bishop
  • Sun-dried tomato and pesto quiches

MacDonald is a lifelong entrepreneur and believes strongly in direct customer communication, evident in her enthusiastic and prolific use of newsletters and social media. "I like the storytelling," she said. She also likes changing her menu weekly. "People become loyal to you and not to lemon bars," MacDonald said. Plus, she added, "It's way more interesting for the staff. I don't want to make banana bread every day."

What MacDonald does want to make — and eat — varies. "You make what you like, and you hope there are enough other people like you," she said. Her menu features many French classics, such as pillow-soft, buttery brioche loaves ($3 to $9 based on size) and nutty brown-butter almond financiers with an alluringly crisp bite ($2). Showstoppers include multilayered Eastern European Medovik honey-and-cream cake and lemon-blueberry genoise sponge cake swathed in deep lilac cream cheese frosting (both from $8 a slice).

Jessie Tarnoff frosting a Medovik cake - DARIA BISHOP
  • Daria Bishop
  • Jessie Tarnoff frosting a Medovik cake

The daily cookie roster ($3 each) might offer thin, chewy "ex-boyfriend" (ask MacDonald to explain) chocolate chip cookies liberally studded with chocolate chunks, or densely delicious, almost savory chocolate chip-cranberry cookies enhanced with rye flour and poppy seeds. Her straight-sided, frosted or glazed "babycakes" ($5 each; don't call them cupcakes) come in flavors such as lime-cardamom and chocolate-Champagne. Mini cheesecakes ($7.50) deliver intense, creamy combinations, including chocolate cookie-crusted pistachio and mocha with a cappuccino shortbread base.

The cheesecakes are definitely rich enough to share, but I would argue that we each deserve our own. Life is beautiful, or la vie est belle, as they say in French. Belleville invites us to indulge.

The original print version of this article was headlined "La Vie Est Belle | European-style Belleville Bakery opens doors in Burlington"

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