This Hard-To-Pronounce French Pastry is Now in Honolulu
Kona Coffee Purveyors is serving the specialty kouign amann from San Francisco’s popular b. Patisserie at its new flagship café in Waikīkī.
Belinda Leong, co-owner of b. Patisserie in San Francisco and pastry chef extraordinaire, with her specialty kouign amann, now sold at Kona Coffee Purveyors at the newly renovated International MarketPlace.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
There aren’t many pastries I’m not familiar with.
I avidly seek out bakeries when I travel and there are very few carbs I refrain from eating.
But kouign amann wasn’t something I had encountered before.
Kouign amann (pronounced kween ah-mon) is a fairly obscure French pastry that originated in the coastal region of Brittany. Twenty years ago, you’d have to travel to France to sample this dense, sweet version of a croissant. Think flaky palmiers in the form of a muffin.
But this unique, labor-intensive pastry—like its croissant cousin, made with laminate dough and tons of butter—has started popping up in boutique bakeries including Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo (better known for the famous Cronut).
The kouign amann is like a croissant—only better.
And then came Belinda Leong.
The chef behind the popular b. Patisserie in San Francisco, which opened in 2013, has quietly mastered the kouign amann. She learned it at Fauchon in New York more than 10 years ago and has since perfected it on her own.
“This product was just really unique and I thought, I’m going to keep trying to make it,” says the James-Beard-nominated pastry chef and San Francisco native. “I knew once I started making it, everyone would love it.”
It’s been the signature pastry at b. Patisserie, which she owns with fellow pastry chef Michel Suas. On a typical Saturday, the quaint bakery in Pacific Heights can sell 1,200 kouign amann.
Lucky for us, Leong has brought this pastry—and a few others—to Kona Coffee Purveyors’ flagship café in the newly renovated International Market Place. Susannah Schoolman, a pastry chef at b. Patisserie, moved here to head the in-house production. Which means these pastries are the real deal.
On opening day in Waikīkī, Leong sold 300 kouign amann, well more than expected.
Maybe you’ve had kouign amann on a trip to San Francisco. Or maybe you were lucky enough to attend a pop-up event at MW Restaurant last year where Leong brought her pastries here.
Now you can have freshly baked kouign amann—plain ($5.50), chocolate ($6) and black sesame ($6), which is only available twice a year in San Francisco—whenever you want.
If you want more, Kona Coffee Purveyors is also selling b. Patisserie’s popular croissants, madeleines, banana bread, gluten-free almond cakes and giant chocolate chip cookies. The bakery has also created a few unique-to-Hawai‘i menu items including a passion-fruit/lemon tart ($7) and a Kona coffee tart ($7) that uses coffee brewed at the café. And it’s open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
The black sesame kouign amann is only sold two days of the year at the San Francisco bakery. Here, it’s available every day.
Other items on the menu include this tapioca coconut passion verrine ($7).
A unique menu item is this Kona coffee tart ($7), a collaboration between the bakery and its tenant, Kona Coffee Purveyors.
Leong will be back to visit her bakery several times a year—and sneak in bites of local food, too. She loves mochiko chicken, musubi, misoyaki butterfish, kālua pig and just about any plate lunch.
“Why wouldn’t I want to open here?” she says, smiling.
Inside Kona Coffee Purveyors, International Market Place, 2330 Kalākaua Ave., ground floor, 845-1700.
READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX