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America's Best Bakery Opens

America's best bakery gives Houston a sneak peek — and this new hotspot isn't just sweet

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Common Bond bread basket
Assorted breads included preztel rolls, olive loaf and baguettes. Photo by Dragana A. Harris
Common Bond pistachio cake
Pistachio strawberry lemon cake. Photo by Dragana A. Harris
Common Bond chefs and owners
Co-owner Kathy Sanders, left, Ryan Kennedy, Roy Shvartzapel, Jillian Bartolome, David Morgan, Drew Gimma, Brad Sanders. Photo by Dragana A. Harris
Common Bond lobster bolognese
Lobster bolognese with parmesan froth Photo by Dragana A. Harris
Common Bond vitello tonnato
Vitello tonnato: veal breast, hamachi aioli, sweetbreads Photo by Dragana A. Harris
Common Bond gel
White verjus gel with Granny Smith apples, passionfruit and vanilla. Photo by Dragana A. Harris
Common Bond Roy Shvartzapel
Roy Shvartzapel plates dessert. Photo by Dragana A. Harris
Common Bond oxtail consomme
Oxtail consomme. Photo by Dragana A. Harris
Common Bond kunik cheese
Kunik cheese with candied kumquats and black bread crouton. Photo by Dragana A. Harris
Common Bond goodies
A Kugelhopf to take away. Photo by Dragana A. Harris
Common Bond bread basket
Common Bond pistachio cake
Common Bond chefs and owners
Common Bond lobster bolognese
Common Bond vitello tonnato
Common Bond gel
Common Bond Roy Shvartzapel
Common Bond oxtail consomme
Common Bond kunik cheese
Common Bond goodies

The Recipe 4 Success Chef's Surprise dinner on Monday featured a slight twist on the monthly program of bringing in top Houston chefs to cook for R4S donors. Usually, the chefs are high-profile names with well-established restaurant, but this dinner featured chefs from a restaurant that isn't open yet.

Of course, when that restaurant is Common Bond, the highly anticipated bakery/cafe set to begin its soft opening Wednesday morning, exceptions can be made. 

"This is the first off-site event for us," executive chef Roy Shvartzapel told the 20 diners who attended the dinner, before adding that the term didn't seem wholly appropriate since they don't really have a "site" that people can visit. He told the diners that the menu reflected the years of training Common Bond's team of chefs and promised that "a lot of thought, a lot of trial and error" went into the preparations.

For good reason. Shvartzapel aims to make Common Bond "the best bakery in America."

 Although Common Bond has been billed primarily as a bakery, the savory items demonstrated that the cafe component will execute at a similarly high level.  

Joining Shvartzapel at the dinner were his business partners, the mother/son team of Kathy and Brad Sanders, executive pastry sous chef Jillian Bartolome, head bread baker Drew Gimma, chef de cuisine David Morgan and executive sous chef Ryan Kennedy. Together, they served an eight-course menu that previewed Common Bond's sweet and savory offerings.

Highlights included Gimma's breads, particularly a baguette that had a deliciously crunchy exterior and soft interior, an oxtail consomme with a depth of flavor that would be the envy of every ramen broth in Houston, a vitello tonnato that swapped the traditional canned tuna for hamachi and, of course, the dessert of pistachio strawberry lemon cake. Despite working in an environment best described as a fancy home kitchen, the chefs plated each dish with the same care that they will when Common Bond opens.

Although the restaurant has been billed primarily as a bakery, the savory items demonstrated that the cafe component will execute at a similarly high level.

Attendees left with a kugelhopf, the German pastry that seems poised to become Common Bond's signature sweet, and the highly coveted information as to when Common Bond will finally open its doors to the public.

Common Bond will soft open for breakfast Wednesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and for lunch Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Full time service begins Tuesday May 20 from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Update: Common Bond will be open Tuesday through Sunday but is closed on Monday.)

Shvartzapel says he's hoping for a quiet soft opening. Sorry about that.

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