Olivier Dispas had a 20-year career with Microsoft, working in Africa, the Bay Area, then in Redmond starting in 2007. As a senior director at Microsoft’s headquarters, he was in charge of billions of dollars of business each year, according to his LinkedIn.
Two years ago, Dispas retired. On a recent weekend, he was bussing tables at a bakery.
When Dispas stopped working in tech, he says he wanted “to do something drastically different.” And he’d been missing the great croissants and bread he grew up eating in his hometown of Brussels. So he went to Paris to go to baking school and “got yelled at” like a “young apprentice” in a boot-camp-style program. Though Dispas says he didn’t love getting yelled at, he did love the physicality of working dough with his hands after so many years in the cerebral world of tech.
So in August 2020, he opened Farine Bakery and Cafe in Redmond and has been serving customers flaky croissants, crusty baguettes and other delicious French and Belgian breads and pastries ever since. He says he busses tables at his bakery because it helps him figure out what customers like and don’t like. Dispas sometimes still works with dough at his bakery, but his head baker, Jacob Baggenstos, who’s worked at Seattle’s Bakery Nouveau, handles most of the day-to-day baking. Dispas says he’s now working to open three more locations on the Eastside in five years, with a Bellevue location slated to open between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
At Farine Bakery and Cafe on a recent Sunday afternoon, sunlight filtered through windows that make up most of the walls, and “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield and other upbeat ’80s hits played through the speakers. The tables, all filled with diners, surrounded an open kitchen where Dispas’ staff made sandwiches and poured espresso shots.
I ordered the salmon tartine ($13) and a box full of pastries.
The tartine was the perfect light lunch, made with tender wild Chinook salmon lox, herb labneh and housemade fresh cucumber dill pickles on a toasted and buttered slice of the bakery’s country loaf ($6).
“Farine” means flour in French, and Dispas says flour is the base of every dish at the cafe. Baggenstos says the bakery uses specialty flours grown by Shepherd’s Grain, a growers’ collaborative in Eastern Washington, and milled by Cairnsprings Mills in Skagit Valley. The country loaf had a mild tartness from the French sourdough starter the bakery maintains and a complex grain flavor from the whole rye flour Baggenstos uses in the country loaf.
The triple chocolate Belgian éclair ($4.50) was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Its soft, flaky crust gave way under my teeth as my senses were pleasantly overwhelmed with rich chocolate paste and cream. The Belgian chocolate brownie ($3.50), which is gluten-free, had the chewiness I crave from every brownie and a balanced bitter-and-sweet chocolate flavor. The pistachio-strawberry tart brought pistachio cream and paste and pieces of strawberry for a pastry both earthy and fruity, held together by an ultra-flaky sweet crust.
The bakery also serves waffles and housemade lemonades with flavors like rose and blueberry.
When I showed up at the bakery at around 2 p.m., I was disappointed to see that only raisin croissants ($4) — no chocolate, almond or plain croissants — were left. But the light sweet glaze on the croissant and the pillowy, flaky texture (achieved, Dispas says, with a special croissant butter from Normandy) made me really happy. I guess I’ll just have to go back to try everything else on the menu.
Farine Bakery and Cafe
7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday; 16450 Redmond Way, #100, Redmond; farinecafe.com
151 Days Restaurant
4-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; 2720 152nd Ave. N.E., #150, Redmond; 151-days.business.site
151 Days Restaurant opened under an apartment building in early April without a lot of fanfare. But the owner, Yongshen Guo, put serious work into getting the restaurant running.
He bought a farm in 2019 to prepare for the opening of his restaurant. And he’d been raising the chickens he served to customers on opening day for at least five months.
Guo says he was in the restaurant industry in China for 16 years. After he moved to the U.S. and decided to open a restaurant in Redmond, he says he wanted to serve the best chicken possible. To him, that meant Bresse breed chickens, raised free-range for 150 days, thus the name of the restaurant. Guo says he couldn’t find what he wanted anywhere in Washington — typical industrially raised chickens are slaughtered at around 40 or 50 days and even small-scale farms rarely let their birds live longer than 100 days — so he started his own poultry farm in Arlington, Snohomish County, to supply his restaurant. He says letting the birds live longer gives them a more complex flavor. From the flavor of the chicken at the restaurant, I believe him.
The broth of the “Arlington Bresse Noodle Soup” ($14.99), made by simmering whole chickens, onions and spices, was velvety with collagen like a good tonkotsu ramen broth. The shredded chicken fell apart into strands among the hand-pulled wheat noodles as I slurped them.
Guo is from Hohhot, the capital city of the far-north Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in China, and he says the techniques he uses are from that region. But Guo says most of the dishes at his restaurant are his creations and wouldn’t be found in China.
My favorite dish was the “Steak Tajine Pot” ($14) with rice, which was actually made with short ribs, rice, potatoes and vegetables and chicken broths cooked in a tajine, an earthenware pot used by Berbers to steam stews of the same name. You can also order the dish with noodles, but it’s hard to imagine it could get better.
The dish was creamy like a good risotto, each grain of rice separated from its neighbors by fat, imbued with the buttery flavor of beef bones.
I scraped every last grain from my takeout box.