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Brigit1- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

Tucked in the back of the Owen Sound Artists' Co-op on 2nd Avenue is an oasis of artisan food - fresh and made by hand. Birgit's Pastry Café has been a dream of its artist-baker owner for a very long time. When she turned 60 and the opportunity arose at the iconic Mackay Building in downtown Owen Sound, Birgit decided it was now or never.

Since 1994 Birgit's baking has been a staple of the Owen Sound's Farmers Market Saturday morning experience. Opening a full-time restaurant was scary, she says, and took her out of her comfort zone. brigit2"But frankly if you're not scared it's probably not worth doing."

Birgit's interest in food science meant she was always researching her ingredients and processes. From 2000 to 2002 she even worked with the Canada Food and Agriculture Research Centre, studying the properties of spelt. She still blends that ancient grain, some locally produced, into her baking. Flour and sugar, the backbones of any bakery, are always organic in Birgit's kitchen. The basic ingredients of leavening and flour are the same in all baking, she says, but the proportions and process determine whether what comes out of the oven is bread or cake or cookies.

brigit3Birgit refers to her treats as "Euro sweet". She uses less sugar, and she takes it as a personal challenge never to never use icing sugar or fondant as decorating short cuts. Pastry cream, butter cream and cream cheese are the filling and icing elements of her treats, and many are fruit or nut-based.
A print maker, potter and metal sculptor, Birgit's interest in design is carried through in her baking. "It's important that everything is as visually appealing as it is appetizing."

Birgit's Pastry Café has become a favourite downtown lunch spot, with their specials every day, soups, salads, pot pies and sandwiches. And of course anything you taste, you can take home. The Café caters for meetings and gatherings, lunches, appetizers, dessert trays.

Birgit says she has "more ideas than time" but she always has new products in development. After the fascinating problem-solving process, she trains her staff to produce the consistent high quality her customers have come to expect.
Organic bread is now available by the loaf, and in the next few weeks there will be ragout, meatballs and vegetarian balls. More prêt à manger products are still to come.

It is a challenge not being directly on the street – sometimes even the letter carrier has a hard time finding the Café. But Birgit is happy to be surrounded by the varied craft and art of the Co-op, and customers have a beautiful route to their table.

brigit4Back in January 2016, the day before the Co-op moved in its displays, Birgit looked out over that big, clean wooden floor. She and her husband Garry had the same idea. They put on a waltz and danced around that open empty space to Murray McLauchlan's Farmer Song - "These days when everyone's taking so much, there's somebody giving back in..."

The café is open 9:30 to 5 when the Artists' Co-op is open - closed Sunday and Monday.


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