A Trip to Bountiful Bakery and Cafe
After the death of her young daughter Libbie, longtime Austin caterer Becky Nichols was inspired to create a business where a portion of the profits would benefit children living with cancer
Reviewed by Virginia B. Wood, Fri., Jan. 12, 2007
A Trip to Bountiful Bakery & Cafe
3201 Bee Caves Rd. #106 (West Woods Shopping Center), 328-7100
Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm; Saturday, 8am-5pmwww.atriptobountiful.net
People are prompted to go into business for themselves for a variety of reasons. After the catastrophic illness and subsequent death of her young daughter Libbie, longtime Austin caterer Becky Nichols was inspired to create a positive and life-affirming business where a portion of the profits would benefit children living with cancer. Nichols formed the Loving Libbie Memorial Foundation and expanded her successful catering operation into a retail space in West Lake Hills. She set about decorating the airy, high-ceilinged space with mismatched French country tables and chairs and hired a staff to help her produce the pastries, desserts, and savory foods in her repertoire. The Trip to Bountiful Bakery & Cafe is tucked into the Westwoods Shopping Center alongside hair salons and fast-food outlets. The sign is barely visible from the road, and Nichols couldn't invest in a big, splashy ad campaign to launch her new eatery. Yet West Lake neighbors and others have been eagerly making the trip there since the business opened in mid-2006.
Nichols recalls that she was putting the finishing touches on the interior when a woman stuck her head in the door, curious to know what kind of business would soon occupy the space. "We got to talking, and I told her my whole story. She said she would be sure to come back when we were open and bring along some friends," Nichols says. The curious woman went one better she sent out an e-mail relating Nichols' story to her entire address book and encouraged them to support the new bakery/cafe once it was open. Something in that e-mail must have struck a chord with people, because it has made the rounds of Central Texas several times. Early readers of the e-mail are the core clientele at Bountiful Bakery, and "I still hear new customers talking about it when someone asks them how they heard about this place," Nichols marvels months later.
Thanks to the anonymous angel's e-mail and very good word of mouth, Bountiful Bakery & Cafe is off to a good start. Customers drop by for coffee and pastries all day, having cozy conversations around small tables or committee meetings at large ones. Lunchtime finds a crowd enjoying comforting soups and distinctive sandwiches, topping the meal off with a slice of pie, a luxuriously decorated cupcake, or a selection of cookies. Bountiful's attractive menus caught the eye of a friend of mine at a preholiday church bazaar, and I was eager to get by there for lunch myself. The sandwich choices were so inviting, we could only narrow the list down to three, sharing a Fried Green Tomato and Bacon ($6.99), the Grilled Shrimp BLT ($8.99), and the Mojo Chicken ($7.99) sandwiches. My fondness for BLTs is well-documented, and the unique fried green tomato variety here is very impressive, so impressive it made my list of Best Bites for 2006 ("Virginia B. Wood's Bites"). The grilled shrimp sandwich didn't quite hold together (more moisture, sliced shrimp, a little more time in the panini press?) but had some good flavors, as did the spicy Mojo Chicken. The sandwiches come on a choice of breads with side salads or Kettle chips and make very satisfying meals. While I'm eager to try one of the new Blue Plate Specials or the house chicken salad or pimento cheese on future visits, it might be difficult to forgo my new favorite sandwich once I'm actually there.
The Bountiful Bakery pastry cases have plenty of cookies, brownies, and dessert bars to tempt walk-in customers. It's also possible to order off the large, diverse printed bakery menu, which offers decorated cakes in many sizes and flavors, a mouthwatering selection of 9-inch pies at different prices, and a list of such party desserts as Banana Pudding, English Trifle, flavored cheesecakes, and the Flan Cake. This ingenious house specialty is an old-fashioned pudding cake with a Southwestern twist: Nichols lines a Bundt cake pan with caramelized sugar and then adds a rich butter-cake batter, which is topped with a flan mixture. The concoction is baked in a water bath, and what emerges is moist, dense butter cake capped with quivering caramel custard and an intense caramel syrup. I've never seen anything quite like it. Like everything else here, it's worth A Trip to Bountiful.