Michelle Gayer is multitasking up a storm at her new bakery. In just one 10-minute time span the one-woman speed demon was working the cash register, frosting cupcakes, dipping sugar-coated almonds in chocolate, carefully placing a half-dozen rhubarb-oatmeal bars into a cardboard box, extolling the virtues of her triple-chocolate brownies to a customer who seemed wary of their $2.50 price tag (a steal, by the way), and laughing. Always laughing.
The Midtown Global Market is fortunate to have landed Gayer, formerly of the Franklin Street Bakery, not just for her prodigious gifts as a baker, but for that gutsy, infectious guffaw. The Salty Tart may be modest in square footage, but it's full of ambition, evident in its ever-expanding-daily selection.
On that afternoon last week my eyes immediately landed on little square chocolate shortbread sandwiches filled with bittersweet chocolate ganache, tender sugar cutout cookies iced in springtime white and green, super-moist coconut macaroons, chewy orange-chocolate meringues, golden cornmeal-rosemary cakes and those fantastic rhubarb bars.
"Thank goodness we opened in time for rhubarb season," Gayer said. "Can you imagine having to wait another whole year?"
For these beauties? Absolutely not. Squares of golden puff pastry topped with roasted tomatoes, thin Parmesan shavings and chives were clearly aimed at lunchtime appetites, as were delicate brioche crowned with tangy caramelized onions. Coming soon: sandwiches, a drill Gayer got to know very well during her tenure at Trotter's To Go. That's the quick-service branch of Charlie Trotter's, the top Chicago shop where Gayer worked to great acclaim as the pastry chef.
"You know I'm all about the savory," she said, with a laugh, of course. "I'm just waiting for my bread oven to arrive." So are we, Michelle, so are we.