Di Long didn’t start out to be a baker.
The driving force behind La Magie Bakery in downtown Bend, Long (her first name is pronounced “dee”) is a member of a well-established family of Central Oregon restaurateurs. As a teenager, she began working at the Szechuan Chinese Restaurant founded by her parents, Dan and Mai Long. Later, she opened Soba Asian Bistro in Bend and assisted her brother Howie at other restaurants and lounges, most recently 5 Fusion & Sushi Bar.
But how did a 35-year-old woman of Chinese-Vietnamese heritage find her true calling in a French-style pastry kitchen?
“About 2 ½ years ago, when I was working at 5 Fusion, (co-owner) Lilian Chu asked me to take a class at Marda Stoliar’s International School of Baking,” Di Long recalled. “It opened a new door.”
By the time the six-week course had concluded, Long was hooked. “I felt like I could do more stuff with baking,” she said. “Baking is precise, but there are so many flavors you can play with. You can cook so many more interesting things.”
Long credits Stoliar with providing the inspiration. “Marda is so full of knowledge, that even if you soak it up, it’s really hard to soak it all up,” she said. “She is amazing.”
And Stoliar reciprocates. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a student who learned as fast as Di,” she said.
Fast forward to late January of 2012, when Long opened her La Magie Bakery on Bond Street, near the corner of Oregon Avenue and next door to Soba.
If you understand a bit of French, you’ll know that “la magie” means “the magic.” And indeed, that’s what Long brings to this urban bakery.
The entry to the space, which once held a convenience store, is simple. A single display case — set far enough back from the door to accommodate lines of hungry sweets lovers — exhibits just enough of the bakery’s freshly prepared treats to get one’s salivary glands excited.
Counter attendants are fast and friendly. Place an order for a coffee and a croissant and you’ll have it before you can say “Abracadabra!” If it takes a little longer to prepare, as might be the case with a sandwich and soup of the day, it will be delivered to your table if the bakery isn’t too busy.
There are two seating areas. On the main floor, which seats 20, fresh flowers adorn tables of different heights and sizes behind large windows facing Bond Street. Handsome framed landscape photos by Stuart L. Gordon add an artistic touch.
Up a flight of stairs are another two dozen seats in several rooms and alcoves, some with plush seating. Two large dining tables can easily seat small groups and board meetings. Paintings and graphics of Parisian scenes add a feeling of France to this European bakery.
Nothing shows off Long’s flair for French pastries better than her croissants.
My favorite is the buttery almond croissant. The flaky pastry is painted on the inside with a sweet almond paste. On top, a light egg glaze adds a thin sheen that gives the croissant a golden crust after baking.
The brownies are outstanding. Denser than chocolate cake, not so dense as fudge, a small brownie from La Magie is like having one twice as large from a different bakery.
My creamy, lemony margarita cheesecake may have been prepared with a little too much tequila for a parent to recommend to children. The molded cake was delicious, even though the tasty bottom crust was very thick and difficult to cut through with a fork. I would have preferred something a little more graham cracker-crumbly.
A wide variety of cookies, cakes, cupcakes, tarts and petits fours filled the display case on each of my visits, provide ample temptation for any sweet tooth.
“We focus mainly on the sweets,” said Long, “because the sweets sell and people love them! We haven’t done tortes yet, we haven’t even done French macaroon cookies, but slowly we’re getting more stuff available for our customers.”
I’m actually a person who prefers savory items to sweets. So I was a little disappointed when I dropped by one morning, about a quarter past 9, hoping to feast on quiche, only to discover that Long hadn’t made her delivery yet from her off-site commercial kitchen.
It arrived not too much later, as I sipped on a caffe latte and read The Bulletin. And it was worth the wait. An adaptation of classic quiche lorraine featuring salted ham instead of bacon, the silky-smooth quiche was poured into a round mold, baked golden brown and finished with a generous sprinkle of parsley.
My only complaint was that I found it saltier than I prefer. The ham (or bacon) itself should have been sufficient without too much extra seasoning.
I discovered a similar over-seasoning issue with the chicken pot pie, but in this case, I found the dish too peppery, even though I like spice. My flaky luncheon pie was otherwise perfect, filled with saucy chicken, potatoes and slivers of red bell pepper, peas, carrots and parsley, then baked to a golden brown.
On separate occasions, my dining companion enjoyed a ham-and-cheese croissant and a Russian sandwich. The latter, in particular, was notable for its delicious, house-baked Russian black bread. It was layered with smoked ham, lettuce and tomato, with Dijon mustard and a tangy olive spread that perfectly complemented the black bread.
“We try not to do the same breads that other bakeries do,” said Long. Certainly, her La Magie Bakery adding a new dimension to French baking in Central Oregon.
Local Slice, a new pizza pub on Bend’s south side, will open to the public with an open house at 6 tonight. Chef and owner David Touvell said there will be no charge for opening-night pizza, but guests are encouraged to make donations to Bend-La Pine Schools or the Humane Society of Central Oregon. 19550 Amber Meadow Drive (at Brookswood Boulevard), Bend; 541-633-7903, www.facebook.com.
The long-awaited reopening of Jackalope Grill in downtown Bend is now scheduled for the start of summer. Chef and owner Timothy Garling has announced a soft opening “no later than” June 22 for the restaurant’s new location on Lava Road, on the ground floor of the parking garage. 541-318-8435, www.jackalopegrill.com.