One of my 2017 New Year's resolutions is to up my breakfast game. While I feel pretty confident I have the brunch scene mastered, there are so many great, local places that make killer breakfasts that I have yet to explore.
Over the weekend my 17-year-old twin cousins drove out from Framingham to meet me at Koko Bakery, one of the places on my resolutions list. The bakery is on California Street in Newton, just two minutes away from Watertown Square.
There is one hour parking (no meters) on California Street, making it easy to come and visit.
The bakery space is small, but owner Nobuko Maruyama has filled it with beautiful touches.
The wood used on the walls and for the counter reminds me of something Joanna Gaines of HGTV's "Fixer Upper" would design. I also love the bulb light fixtures hanging above the counter. I have a thing for fixtures where you can see the filaments.
In addition to the charming design of the space, the bakery is also dotted with dog-themed decor.
You can read this blog post about how the bakery got its name and logo. The name Koko is a combination of the endings of the owner's name (Nobuko) and her dog's name (Kuroko). Together, that mash up becomes Koko! Nobuko (the owner) says she also loves that it sounds just like the baking ingredient cocoa.
There are pictures of Kuroko, a Shiba Inu, hanging on the wall right when you walk in.
Next to the pup's photos is a basket of dog treats. I am definitely coming back with Scout!
When we arrived, Nobuko was behind the counter and she welcomed us with a big smile and an offer to answer any questions. As we bent down to get a closer look at everything in the case, she appeared right next to us with a plate full of samples. Don't mind if we do!
Before opening Koko Bakery, Nobuko worked at Japonais Bakery in Brookline, the Boston Harbor Hotel, the Langham Hotel and the MIT catering department. She also received professional training at King Arthur Flour in Vermont. You can read more about her story here.
Nobuko and her team are genuinely excited to meet every customer who walks through the door, especially first time visitors. They pop around to join you at the bakery case with zero hesitation, pointing out things you might like.
We arrived at 9:00am so we were definitely in the mood for breakfast. On the top shelf of the bakery case were scones - blueberry and apple pecan.
To the left of the scones were the chocolate baked donuts. I had seen these on the Facebook page and already knew I wanted to try them.
The second shelf displayed a tray of decadent treats - blueberry danish, cherry danish and chocolate croissant.
To the right, a second tray of confections - sticky bun, almond croissant, spinach and mushroom tart and ham and cheese croissant. Are you drooling yet?
The bottom shelf houses the savory items - ham deli roll, bacon and onion roll, beef curry deli roll and corn and cheese deli roll. As a vegetarian I can't eat most of these, but I am betting the corn and cheese roll would taste delicious dunked in some tomato soup.
My cousins and I had our tongues hanging out like dogs on a hot summer day. How could we ever decide what try?
After much deliberation, we placed our order. Koko Bakery does not have any indoor seating, but they do have two chairs and a small table right out front. Since it was an unseasonably warm February day, we decided to sit outside. Nobuko brought us a third chair so we could all sit together comfortably.
In the end, we decided to try the baked donuts, the chocolate croissant, the sweet dog roll and the strawberry white chocolate muffin.
We attacked the strawberry white chocolate muffin first. We were so excited to get to eating that I forgot to take a close up shot of the muffin! I cut the muffin into six pieces (two for each of us). After the first bite my cousin said, "This takes like Captain Crunch!" Her sister chimed in, "This is really moist. I love the crystallized sugar on top." We all agreed that the best part of this muffin was that the flavor was consistent in every single bite. Some muffins disperse their goodies (like chocolate chips or blueberries) unevenly, but not this muffin! No matter which part of the muffin you bit into, you would get the full experience.
Next we tried the Valrhona chocolate baked donuts with vanilla glaze. On looks alone we knew we would love this, so we ordered two.
Once she had taken her first bite, my cousin piped up, "I really love that the glaze is covering the entire top and all sides of the donut."
These donuts were unbelievably light. Often times you eat a donut and you feel like you've swallowed a boulder. My cousin added, "These donuts are so light that you don't feel bad eating them. They are totally guilt-free!"
Continuing with the chocolate theme, we cut into the croissant. Look at how gorgeous and flaky this pastry is!
As I took my first bite, powdered sugar rained down onto my lap. The croissant was flaky, but still had a nice crunch.
My cousin described, "This is real chocolate in here. None of that paste or powder stuff. It's so wonderfully rich."
Our final treat was the sweet dog roll. I had seen these on Instagram and couldn't resist ordering one.
Just before we cut into ours my cousin pointed out, "Look at how much time they put into the detail of the dog's face - not just the shape of the pastry, but the eyes and the nose. It's so cute!"
When we were divvying up the pastry we realized there was a filling! I popped back inside to ask Nobuko what it was and she replied, "It's white bean paste!"
My cousins thought the paste tasted like potato. To me, it was very mild. Rather than having a strong individual taste, it just added a contrasting texture to the pastry. The bread itself reminded all of us of challah bread.
After making our tray of treats disappear, we went back inside because the girls wanted to get some items to take home to their parents.
When we first arrived we were so hungry that we didn't see a couple of items, like these jars of biscottis and cookies.
The girls picked out a few more things and Nobuko boxed them in the most adorable, branded takeout box.
As we walked back to our cars, my cousin said, "I loved this place. It's so clear they really take pride in what they do." I couldn't agree more. Nobuko and her team have created an inviting space overflowing with mouth-watering treats.
In addition to the pastries and cookies, Koko Bakery also serves lunch. Recent items have included beef stew, turkey chili, braised pork sandwiches, roasted portobello sandwiches and pizza toast. They also pour Ogawa Coffee. Remember my visit to Ogawa's Downtown Crossing location?