Today we stop by Ovenly, Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga’s little café in the front of their bustling production kitchen in Greenpoint. They opened the shop last spring, a year and a half after they began wholesaling their baked treats and bar snacks to local businesses citywide. So, what to try? Erin recommends a slice of their seasonal pumpkin olive oil bread, fresh from the oven.
Ok Erin, what do we have today?
This is our seasonal pumpkin olive oil bread. It’s a quick bread, meaning there’s no yeast in it. It’s made with pureed pumpkin, extra virgin olive oil, butter, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, a little cinnamon, and it’s topped with pepitas and a sprinkle of raw sugar. It’s not too sweet. The pumpkin flavor is really defined. I’m a pumpkin fan, so I think it’s really delicious. It’s one of our seasonal specials – we’ll probably have it until sometime in January.
We love reading different recipe books. We wanted to do something with pumpkin, and as we were thinking about what to do, we read lots of recipes. You often see pumpkin bread with cream cheese or warm spices, but we wanted to do something a little different. The ginger is a little unique and adds a nice kick that works well with the creamy sweetness of the pumpkin, and the olive oil adds a nice kind of floral note which plays really well with the pumpkin too.
So you have the sweetness of the pumpkin, the warmth of the clove and nutmeg, and the kick of the ginger with the richness of the butter and the floral note of the olive oil. They all work really nicely together. And then you have a little crunch from the raw sugar on top, and a nice earthy nuttiness from the pepitas.
So how did you end up here, making pumpkin bread and everything else you guys make at Ovenly for a living?
I’m from Chicago. Agatha is from Connecticut. We had totally different careers before starting Ovenly. I worked for ten years in non-profits and Agatha worked in psychiatric research. Both of us grew up in homes where cooking and baking was a big part of life.
Before we met, we were both doing a lot of food related things on the side. I was working as a part-time personal chef while I still had a full-time job. Agatha had a little dessert club. We met at a food-focused book club. We’d all read something and meet to talk about it and eat food together.
The month we met we were reading a book about Indian food for the book club. When we all got together Agatha brought her pistachio cardamom cupcakes, which I loved and which we still make here today. Someone asked why no business had formed yet out of the book club. We talked about it for a while, and Agatha kind of hung around at the end of the evening and said, “I’ve been wanting to start a business. We should talk.” We met a few weeks later and ended up talking for almost a year about all kinds of different ideas for a business.
Eventually we decided we wanted to do some unique bar snacks. We started making things like our spicy bacon caramel popcorn. Agatha had a friend who was opening a bar here in Greenpoint. It was going to be a café during the day and a bar at night. The owner said, “I’d love to carry your stuff. Can you do bar snacks for nighttime and breakfast pastries for the day?” So we ended up making both things to go with your coffee and things to go with your beer.
When did you open the shop?
We opened the shop this past spring. We distribute now to about sixty five different places in the city and to about five stores outside the city, so we needed a pretty big kitchen. We have a 1,200 square foot kitchen in the back, and the small shop here out front. We serve a lot of our special products here – things that are only available here, like the pumpkin bread, our Black Forest muffins, quiches, and soups along with coffee and tea and fresh squeezed orange juice. We were spending so much time in the kitchen and never got to serve anything we were making directly to the public, so we thought it would be fun to have a shop where people could come in and hang out.
Ovenly is located at 31 Greenpoint Avenue, just past West Street near the waterfront.
Photography by Morgan Ione Yeager. All rights reserved.