Bellaria Bakery & Chocolatier: An Interview with Larissa LeMay
During this holiday season, visions of sugarplums were dancing in my head, so I was ecstatic to hear that Larissa LeMay, owner of the fantastic Bellaria Bakery & Chocolatier in St. Louis Park, was able to find time in her busy schedule for an interview.
Tell us a little bit about Bellaria Bakery & Chocolatier. How long has Bellaria been open at your current location?
Bellaria Bakery and Chocolatier opened in St. Louis Park on December 14, 2006. It is a very specialized bakery and confectionery store with a focus on desserts. Bellaria is actually a Latin word that means dessert, so we thought it would be a fitting name for the products we offer. All of our products are created onsite. We also offer full espresso and coffee service, morning pastries, and a lunch menu, but desserts are our focus.
Tell us a little bit about what makes your truffles so different. I understand that they are award-winning.
Our truffles are different for several reasons. The main reason is simply how we make them. We start with blends of several truly wonderful chocolates, and blend them to create a unique flavor and texture, combining them with only the very finest ingredients: fresh cream, nuts, premium liqueurs, fruits, etc., without preservatives. We hand-roll each truffle in cocoa, then dip each truffle not once, but twice, in the highest quality couverture chocolate. Most truffles these days are ganache that is piped into hollow truffle shells. We do it the old-fashioned way—in small batches, and by hand. Our dark chocolate raspberry truffle and caramel milk chocolate truffle are the flavors that won an open international chocolate competition in Las Vegas in 2006.
Larissa, what is your history with pastry? What drove you to open your own bakery?
My history with pastry and dessert is one that I would classify as a passionate obsession. As a child, my favorite things to eat as well as make were pastries and sweets. I was quite spoiled with a grandmother who was one of the best bakers I have ever known. I grew up learning how to make European tortes and pastries when I was only a few years old, and by the time I was 6, I got my first cake-decorating magazine.
What drove me to open Bellaria was my disappointment with the state of bakeries today, and the lack of uniqueness of the products that you find in them these days. When I was younger, it was a real treat to go from one bakery to another, and see what each offered. Today, so much is mass-produced that you can go to several bakeries, and taste products that are virtually the same. It is more expensive in both ingredients as well as labor to create our products, but the products are so much better.
What are some of your hottest-selling items?
Our hottest-selling items are our truffles and fancy individual desserts. Our truffles have developed a following, and many of our little mousse tortes and other fancy desserts have as well. Our Petite Chocolate Cake is by far one of our best-sellers. It is a little square cake that consists of two layers of our dark chocolate cake, a center layer of rich vanilla buttercream, and is covered in dark chocolate ganache.
We must talk about the cakes! What is the price range for wedding or special-occasion cakes from Bellaria? What are some of the options someone would have to choose from as far as cake flavors, possible fillings, etc.?
We offer special-occasion cakes, such as birthday cakes that are more traditional, starting at $18. However, the custom cakes are priced by the design. We not only offer the very traditional wedding flavors, but flavors that are more unique, such as banana, pecan praline, orange blossom, and passion fruit as well. In fact, we offer 10 flavors of cake, and in excess of 20 filling flavors. We also offer wedding cakes in cheesecake as well. We are the only place in town that can turn cheesecake layers into a traditional- or modern-looking wedding cake.
Are there some holiday treats that only come out this time of year? What kinds of things could someone find at Bellaria for their grand holiday parties, Christmas dinners, or New Year’s Eve splurges?
One of the best seasonal items we offer is our stollen. It is traditional sweet Christmas bread that is full of rum-infused fruit, such as cranberries, raisins, and citrus zest, with almonds and a center of a delicious marzipan confection. It makes a perfect dessert or accompaniment to morning coffee.
We also have our Christmas cookies. Altogether, we feature over 30 varieties of them—some traditional, some home-style cookies, and elaborate European style cookies you will not find anywhere else.
We offer nearly all individual desserts in miniature sizes, from key lime tarts to tiramisu, mousse tortes, and cups. Of course, for a dinner party, a torte or large cake is fun, but individual desserts are a fabulous splurge, and a grand finale to a fabulous meal.
We get requests for diabetic-friendly desserts, and will have some that meet our tough standards prior to the holidays.
I really wanted to thank Lavender readers, as so many have been such wonderful supporters of ours, and great customers. We appreciate you!
Bellaria Bakery & Chocolatier
4430 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park