All Photos by Molly Ressler
The sweet scent of fresh baked pastries, hot from the oven, and the sharp smell of coffee lures professionals, families, and old friends to a small cafe in downtown’s Abbott Square Market. Cat. Cloud. Companion is a partnership between local coffee roasters Cat & Cloud and the community-minded, pastry and sourdough masters at Companion Bakeshop.
Erin Lampel, owner of Companion Bakeshop, has served Cat & Cloud coffee at her Westside neighborhood bakery for about a year. After serving first Blue Bottle from San Francisco and then Four Barrel from Oakland, Erin was looking for a Santa Cruz roaster to feature. “We really needed to find our own flavor and do something a little different,” she recalls. The locally roasted coffee by Cat & Cloud, whether it’s a hot mug of light-roast or an expertly crafted cappuccino, proved to be a perfect complement to Companion’s sweet and savory baked goods.
Baking up a business plan in Abbott Square Market
By the time the Abbott Square Market in downtown Santa Cruz began looking for vendors, you could find Cat & Cloud’s coffee at Companion Bakeshop and pastries and avocado toast from Companion at Cat & Cloud’s hip coffee shop in Pleasure Point. At first, Erin wasn’t overly enthusiastic about opening a second business. Fortunately, Cat & Cloud owners, Chris Baca, Jared Truby, and Charles Jack, were more than willing to partner with Erin and open a cafe that doesn’t quite fit the label of coffee shop or bakery but is a perfect mix of both.
“It’s a lot of work putting yourself out there,” explains Erin. “It’s exhausting, not knowing if the community will like what we like. Cat & Cloud worked really hard to get where they’re at and I appreciate that. I connect with them in that way.”
A coffee shop/bakery hybrid
From the beginning, Erin only served highly-sought after coffee, putting Companion Bakeshop on the map. Literally. Visitors to Santa Cruz would Google “Blue Bottle Coffee” and her bakery was the only spot that popped up in the search. Cat. Cloud. Companion takes this coffee shop/bakery hybrid a step further. The small space not only hosts a state-of-the-art espresso machine but there’s actually a fully-functioning bakery tucked behind the wooden shelves lined with coffee and granola. A team of bakers, both an early morning and afternoon shift, roll up their sleeves in this mini kitchen and bake everything you see in the pastry case except for the bread and croissants. (Those are baked over at Companion’s Westside location.)
Coffee & pastry pairings from the experts
Everything these bakers create is sinfully delicious, but there are a few especially mouthwatering treats that are only sold at Abbott Square. First up, is the seasonal special baked and displayed in a rustic cast iron pan. “The cast iron pan shows an approachable way to baking that people recognize,” explains Erin. “It might make someone think, ‘I want to try that at home!” In the height of summer the cast iron special was cornbread with padron pepper butter. As we head into fall, it’s a fruit buckle, a moist buttermilk cake with the last of summer’s peaches hidden beneath the sweet, streusel topping. The baristas recommend cutting the sweetness of the buckle with a black cup of light roast.
For those who prefer savory snacks, Companion’s breakfast sandwich on a buttery biscuit (also only served at the Abbott Square location) washes down well with a cappuccino. Another decadent dessert that pairs well with any caffeinated beverage is the shortbread made with Cat & Cloud espresso. Just be careful not to consume this double hit of caffeine too close to bedtime.
If you’re interested in learning the tricks of the trade, Companion Bakeshop on the Westside offers hands-on workshops for aspiring bakers, from sourdough basics to the particulars of pie. Visit their website for a calendar of upcoming workshops. In the meantime, we recommend taste testing as many baked goods and coffee drinks as possible from their new spot downtown in Abbott Square or on the Westside at the original bakery.