Farine + Four Opens in Omaha
In my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, there was a cafe/bakery called Choice Market that, in and of itself, was a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Choice had the most amazing breads, French pastries, coffee, sandwiches, salads, walking brunch... everything. And it was a real neighborhood place. The world and its wife (and its Stokke stroller and gorgeous rescue dog) turned up there on Saturday mornings -- and maybe once again later in the afternoon to grab a baguette for dinner. You always ran in to someone you knew, got some good tips on other things that were going on that weekend and, of course, ate gourmet, handheld food that you would still remember nearly ten years later.
Since I've been in Omaha, I've often wished we had our own version of Choice, and today, finally, Farine + Four has come along to make my dreams come true. Anchoring the Leavenworth Triangle, Omaha's newest bakery is bright and modern, with an open kitchen and access to a generous patio space where its owner Ellie Pegler imagines people will gather to eat house-made ice cream in the warmer months.
Ellie grew up in nearby Lincoln, NE, and had been attending law school when she decided to change direction and enroll at the French Culinary Institute (now called the International Culinary Center, or ICC) in New York. After graduating with degrees in the culinary arts and bread programs, she worked at legendary restaurants including Aquavit and Marea.
Obviously, she was killing it in New York, so why leave it all behind to take a chance on opening a business in Omaha?
"It was Christmas Day, 2015, and I was baking bread alone in the kitchen at Marea," Ellie recalls. "No one else was in the restaurant. I wasn't with my family, and I just decided it was time to do something else."
Over the next two years, Ellie re-enrolled in the ICC to earn her culinary entrepreneurship degree and started laying the foundation for Farine + Four, even enlisting her best friend from culinary school, Brett Regot, to move out to Omaha to help her.
A food stylist who has worked for Food & Wine, Bon Appétit and Williams Sonoma, among other publications, Brett will oversee Farine + Four's savory program, including gorgeous gourmet riffs on New York's favorite breakfast, the bodega bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. "For the most part, we want to focus on simple food," Brett said. "Nothing overly complicated. Sometimes celery is just delicious."
Even the name Farine + Four conveys simplicity, no matter how you look at it. Farine and four are the French words for flour and oven, respectively, but four can also represent the four straightforward ingredients that are at the heart of all great bread: flour, water, salt and leavening.
Ellie says she will try to source as many ingredients locally as possible. In some cases, this means hyper-hyper locally: watch for the magnificent flour mill which will soon preside over the shop.
"We hope to mill almost all of our own flour," says Ellie, who already house-mills the flour for her smørrebrød, Danish rye bread that she perfected at Aquavit (but that also evokes the Scandinavian heritage of many Midwesterners).
Ellie and Brett are constantly recipe-testing and they're looking forward to growing their menu as they settle in. Ellie, who's also a trained sommelier (as you do), hopes to even incorporate a wine program eventually.
For now, though, they're enjoying the warm welcome they're receiving from customers and local businesses alike. "It's a real sense of community," says Brett, noting that many of the store's design elements were created locally, the aprons are from Artifact, just down the street, and the soap they use is from Benson Soap Mill. "When you start a business in Omaha, everyone is rooting for you to succeed."