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Cake to Cure a Broken Heart

December 23, 2014

Crisan isn’t closing. That’s the silver lining. Even after January first, you will still be able to order one of their cakes, a platter of treats, or a dozen croissants. All Over Albany has the full story and grabbed a quick interview with the bakery’s owners.

But at the start of the new year, their Lark Street cafe will be no more. That front parlor will be converted into a cake decorating space and private tasting area.

The seating itself was always very limited to just a small handful of tables and chairs. I never knew if there would be an open table when I wandered through the bakery’s doors. And a trip down there meant I had to deal with Lark Street parking. For big city standards, the parking is painless. But for our small town, its lack of readily open spots and long, bumpy one-way streets can be particularly infuriating.

Plus one has to deal with the sometimes unpleasant smell of Lark Street itself. This wasn’t my observation, but rather it came to me from one of my children.

I know it was a hard decision for the owners to turn away from the cafe and focus on cakes. One can only spread oneself so thin before the strain starts to make tears in the fabric of life. And while I’m quite relieved I will still have access to these marvelous cakes, I do think it’s important to mourn the loss of the cafe.

And it’s a terrible, terrible loss.

There isn’t a lot of beauty in downtown Albany. There just isn’t. Sure, some of the buildings are nice. The park offers some green space. But the Empire Plaza is cold and gray. And don’t get my pal Alan Ilagan started on the fashion choices of those who work in the area.

Crisan’s cafe was a delightful respite for the eyes. Forget the intricate layered cakes with their fanciful decorations and naturally vibrant colors. The cafe had a charming style, all its own with handmade touches and edible art under glass and along the walls.

But my favorite part may have been the plates and utensils.

I’ve got a snapshot of a stack of Crisan’s mismatched plates as the header to my personal Facebook page. One has an edge of carnival colored stripes, another is a more elegant plain white plate with just a simple gilded band around the rim, and the third has a repeating pattern of stylized black teardrops.

On top of the stack was the most peculiar fork I had ever seen. It was small, but heavy. It felt solid in the hand, and perfectly equipped for the task of eating a special treat. Three sharp and wide tines cut easily through layers of buttercream and genoise, and helped to portion out delicate bites of pure pleasure.

There’s nothing else like this in the region, or at least so far as I have found.

The cumulative effect of all these elements is that Crisan’s cafe was a place where I could always turn my mood around. It’s almost impossible to be unhappy when eating a butter-packed brioche and sipping on a thick and luscious glass of hot drinking chocolate at one of their sundrenched tables.

Even if their cakes are available elsewhere, it’s not going to be the same. And I’m sad.

Nothing lasts forever. Restaurants and bakeries especially. Let this change serve as an important reminder to get out and enjoy the people, places and things that you love while you can. It may not be the most joyful message for the holiday season, but it does seem like a timely one.

I’ll be posting through the week, but I don’t particularly expect people to be reading. Regardless what you celebrate, enjoy it. May your travels be safe, your meals be delicious, and your family visits be peaceful.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. DEN permalink
    December 23, 2014 11:52 am

    Will they still make gelato?

  2. December 24, 2014 3:26 am


  3. December 24, 2014 2:59 pm

    I lived at Lancaster and Lark for a couple of years, and a stop at Crisan was always a welcome respite from the sometimes dreary experience I had of walking down Lark every day. I wish the owners the best. (And may I add that I’m going to miss Caffe Vero as well?)

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