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Silva's Patisserie offers big taste in minibites

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  • Silva's Patisserie offers big taste in minibites

    Washington Times, DC
    Dec 31 2008

    Silva's Patisserie offers big taste in minibites

    Bakery's small pastries satisfy without guilt

    Karen Goldberg Goff (Contact)
    Wednesday, December 31, 2008

    In health-conscious circles, it's nutritionally correct to turn down a
    big, gooey piece of cake. With a tiny, two-bite concoction, though,
    one can rationalize all the way through dessert.

    Silva's Patisserie turns out minipastries worth ruining that
    diet. Mother-and-son proprietors Silva and Harry Sarkee opened the
    tiny shop in Vienna 15 months ago and have developed a following as a
    place to get beautiful and delicious little creations. On any given
    day, there are about three dozen varieties: Eclairs, Linzer tortes,
    fruit tarts, carrot cake and Key lime pie are among the staples. Rich
    squares of flourless chocolate cake, spoon-size cupcakes and creme
    brulees the volume of a shot glass also are big sellers.

    The display case at Silva's Patisserie in Vienna is full of all kinds
    of goodies. The shop makes a huge variety of minature pastries from
    all over the world, including macaroons, cannoli, linzer torte,
    truffles and more. Everything is made completely by scratch on
    site. (Barbara L. Salisbury / The Washington Times)

    This replica of Jackie Kennedy's wedding gown is made entirely of
    sugar by Silva Sarkee, who together with her son Harry runs Silva's
    Patisserie in Vienna, Va. The two are third- and fourth-generation
    pastry makers; Silva's grandfathers both made all kinds of
    confections. This dress is on display in a box at their shop on
    Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. (Barbara L. Salisbury / The Washington Times)

    "When we opened up the shop, Harry said, 'Let's do minis,'" Ms. Sarkee
    says. "Everyone is health-conscious. We're used to rich flavor, so
    these are small portions, but they still have that flavor. You can
    make something that looks like a million bucks, but then if it doesn't
    taste good, what's the point?"

    The Sarkees say first-rate ingredients and Old World techniques are
    the keys to their recipes. They use the best-quality butter, and their
    breads (those are full-sized) contain organic flour.

    Baking has been a family tradition for the Sarkees for four
    generations. Ms. Sarkee learned by watching her grandfathers back in
    Armenia. Mr. Sarkee learned by watching his grandfather and, of
    course, his mother, here in the United States.

    This flourless chocolate cake is a Silva's signature item. Everything
    at Silva's Patisserie in Vienna is made on site from scratch on a
    daily basis, including breads, pastries and cakes. The shop has been
    open for about a year and a half. (Barbara L. Salisbury / The
    Washington Times)

    "I was three years old, and my grandfather gave me an apron," says
    Mr. Sarkee, 30. "That's really my first memory, making bread. Baking
    has to be something in you. There are a lot of bakeries out there, but
    not a lot of bakers who know how to manipulate the flavor to make it
    taste great. You have to have the passion."

    Mother and son opened their first bakery, in Falls Church, 11 years
    ago. Mr. Sarkee later spent a few years as a pastry chef at the
    Kennedy Center. The family also briefly owned a California bakery.

    Now they are back in Virginia, where Mr. Sarkee and most of the bakers
    arrive before dawn to start the day's baking. He goes through 200
    pounds of butter and 100 pounds of sugar in a typical week. What ends
    up in the case out in front is made fresh daily, and the rotation
    changes seasonally to use fresh ingredients.

    In addition to the minipastries, Silva's also makes muffins, tea
    breads, breads and tubs of hummus and other Middle Eastern sides and
    salads. The minis are mostly priced at $1.49 each.

    Harry Sarkee puts cinnamon roll dough through a special machine to
    roll it out thinly so that he can then add the butter and cinnamon
    sugar. Mr. Sarkee makes anywhere between 30 and 50 different
    confections every day, including breads, pastries and cakes. (Barbara
    L. Salisbury / The Washington Times)

    These French truffles for sale at Silva's Patisserie in Vienna look
    like upside down lollipops. All images were taken Monday, Dec. 29,
    2008. (Photographs by Barbara L. Salisbury / The Washington Times.)

    Ms. Sarkee primarily attends to the small, beautiful details, such as
    handcrafting bright-colored marzipan fruits and putting the finishing
    flourishes on petits fours. She is the person to see for special
    orders such as wedding cakes and custom fondant designs. Her proudest
    work - a hand-folded replica of Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress made
    completely from sugar - hangs in the bakery, inspiring both bakers and
    customers as to what sugar and imagination can do. ig-taste-in-minibites/