Went on a bakery run yesterday and took in seven of them around the Asheville area. Here are our findings in order of our trip... Please bear in mind that for most of these, it was our only visit and sometimes choice of product will make or break an impression...
for an apples to apples comparison we had hoped to pick something we could get at each place, but everything was so varied it was virtually impossible. so we just picked things we thought we'd like!
Creme Patisserie (640 Merrimon Ave) - overall the best of the places we visited. I had an eclair that was as good as my own - all components were wonderful and generous (they use vanilla pastry cream, which is my personal preference). Whole wheat florentine roll (stuffed with spinach, cheese and onion) - fabulous, and had a bite of my friend's chocolate "croissant" that was actually made with brioche. really good bread and chocolate.
Mother & Son (203 Stone Ridge Blvd - almost Weaverville) - disappointing. nice looking case of goods, very friendly people, but my multi-layer chocolate Oreo cake was dry and tasted slightly of freezer burn. My friend's palmier was not light and flaky as she felt it shoud've been. Their space was cute though and their lunch menu looked good.
The Bake Shoppe (146 Weaverville Hwy) - very tiny shop (take out only). lots of cookies and bars. seem to do a lot of custom cakes. Wasn't terribly impressed with the decorated cake examples I saw but they had been there awhile and I didn't see the book with all of the choices. They had customers looking at custom cakes while we were there, so they obviously have a following. I have taken Wilton's cake decorating classes and have a huge respect for people who do that for a living. It is hard work. I got a few tiny cheese "crispies" that my husband said were good.
The Sisters McMullen (840 Merrimon Ave location) - this is the second location for Sisters. I have frequented the downtown spot many times for cupcakes and whoopie pies and like them a lot (frosting sometimes a bit greasy, but overall I really like them). This location is bright and sunny and doesn't seem to focus so much on cupcakes. They had more savory items. My husband said their cheese danish was the best of the sweet things I brought home for him.
City Bakery (88 Charlotte St) - I've also been to the downtown location and have had their bread in many local restaurants. Love, love, love their bread. I haven't had any of their pastries. My husband had their bear claw and said it was pretty good (he wouldn't turn down another one), but thought the cheese danish from Sisters was a lot better.
West End Bakery (757 Haywood) - great warm space. good vibe. very W. Asheville. great lunch choices (we decided to eat something reasonably healthy here). had the curry/pumpkin/apple soup with spelt bread. while the soup was good, I was a bit disappointed in the flavor. could've had a lot more depth, but didn't. :( Bread was excellent though. My friend's peanut butter cookie was dry. I brought home a vanilla sour cream cupcake for my husband - he said it was very good. I haven't eaten the other one yet... :)
Filo (1155 Tunnel Rd) - love this building! gorgeous inside and out. warm interior albeit a bit sparse and a little noisy, but I didn't mind that. Had a chocolate bottom macaroon which was excellent and an oatmeal cookie with choc chips that was ok. Tasted flat like it needed salt or salted butter or something. coffee was very good. a group of older ladies had about 4 different desserts and there were a LOT of "ooo's" and "ahhh's" coming from the table along with lots of swapping of dishes. Their cake slices and desserts did look really good! I would've tried one if I hadn't been to six bakeries already. LOL
Overall, Creme was the hands-down favorite. Space was a bit sparse, but warm enough and everything we ate from there was REALLY good. For hanging out, I'd choose West End Bakery.
other opinions?? or other places I should visit? (obviously, we couldn't get to them all yesterday!)