Flora + Fauna becomes FARM Hospitality Group’s signature bakery at a familiar address

No surprise, they have done it again.


The ‘they’ are the folks of FARM Hospitality Group, and the ‘it’ is Flora + Fauna, which softly opened last week in the longtime home of local legendary bakery Back in the Day.


That another baked goods-based eatery took over this space is no coincidence. This past Thanksgiving, the FARM folks hosted a ‘misfits’ feast’, and owner-chef Brandon Carter invited Cheryl and Griffith Day, who already had plans to end their twenty-two year run and sell the shop on the corner of Bull and West 40th Streets.


“They wanted to pass it on to somebody who would take care of it,” Carter said, recalling the Days’ telling him that they would love it if he and FHG would buy the building.


The deal was not inked that day over a slice of pumpkin pie, but the oven was turned onto the idea, if you will.


Valentine’s Day 2024 marked Back in the Day’s last day in business, FHG closed on purchasing the property on March 1, and a mind-bogglingly short eleven weeks later, Flora + Fauna was serving customers in the redesigned and reopened space.


In a spot that begs to be a bakery now and forever, the Days’ legacy lives on in FHG’s fifth restaurant concept, this one under the direction of executive chef Annie Coleman, chef de cuisine Tyler Kenny, and FOH manager Declan Carter.


click to enlarge Flora + Fauna becomes FARM Hospitality Group’s signature bakery at a familiar address
Casey Eastwood


PASTRY PRACTICALITY

“Why not?” Brandon Carter rhetorized with a grin when asked about expanding FARM Hospitality Group’s fold yet again.


“We have built our team for growth, so the next challenge is to get to scale,” he explained. “We’ve had baking operations, but not a bakery.”


Those familiar with the previous four eateries in FHG’s stable are well aware that Strange Bird, Wildflower Cafe, and even the eponymous flagship restaurant do not boast of capacious kitchen spaces. Only Common Thread, thanks to the ingenious renovation of the stately property’s former garage, has plenty of preparation room, though even that was not designed to be Bake Central Station.


Because of this, Carter and Co. had been looking for a spot that could become the group’s baking operations hub while also being its own lucrative location.


Even two days into its unadvertised opening, he and Coleman could not have been more encouraged by the inherent efficiency Flora + Fauna will furnish while simultaneously filling “a gap in the market and a gap in our portfolio,” per Carter.



QUICK TURNAROUND TO CUTE CAFÉ
Former fans of Back in the Day will be so pleased to be back in the space because Flora + Fauna lovingly and artistically restored much of what had been part of the former’s footprint.



The walls that had been put up a few years back are now down, reopening a dining room that avails itself of the giant windows along both Bull and West 40th. The ageless painted concrete floor has been epoxied and gleams beneath light sage and smoky blue chairs and warm wood tables. New fixtures sparkle overhead in a space that is white and crisp and clean but still has the feeling that it has been there for decades.


The original entry area is more open. Half a dozen loaves for grab-and-go are displayed on the wall behind Back in the Day’s repurposed counter, spruced up with gold-veined stone that matches the new countertops, and fresh bouquets are racked for purchase by a cold case of juices and sodas.


Above the breads are a short list of baristaed bevvies, but your eyes are going to be drawn down to the bountiful baked goods behind the glass. The clear conundrum is having to choose between Arnold Palmer Crullers, Morning Buns, Morning Glory Bundts, slices of Blueberry Olive Oil Cake, and plenty of pains, including the Pain Suisse filled with pastry cream and chocolate chips and topped with pearl sugar.


Amazingly, Coleman confessed that she and her team were working out the bakes just eight days before the doors opened, playing with the impish variables of temperature and humidity that can perplex even the most experienced pastry chef in a new kitchen.


“I really lucked out,” said Coleman about her team of bakers. “We brought in Ashley Place, who was already working for the company, and Blair DeMauro, whose passion for Viennoiserie is amazing.”


“I don’t even have words for how fortunate I am for her to have reached out,” Coleman added.


Speaking of where the magic happens, a most notable and attractive renovation choice was to re-expose Flora + Fauna’s kitchen to the view of its patrons. The reclaimed mullioned panes with their peeling paint once again afford a peek from the dining room into the land of laminators and floured tabletops.


Both Carter and Coleman concurred that one of the most major selling points of the space was the incredibly equipped kitchen created by the Days, a pastry chef’s paradise.


“We have used all of the equipment that they had in there and only switched out the sheeter,” Coleman said. “They already had everything here that we needed. I just reorganized the space to match how my mind works.”



In a touching and fitting homage to the bakery’s forerunner, one of Flora + Fauna’s featured items is Cheryl’s Biscuit, made from Day’s own recipe and available on its own or “swagged out,” per Carter, as the foundation for sandwiches or smothered in gravy, including a vegetarian version.

click to enlarge Flora + Fauna becomes FARM Hospitality Group’s signature bakery at a familiar address
Casey Eastwood


PARISIAN PROCESS PLUS SAVANNAH FLAVORS

When FHG took over the restaurant space in the Jepson Center in February of 2023, Carter tabbed Coleman to head up its culinary operations, but she will be the first to tell you that Flora + Fauna is the bakery she has long been waiting for.


Right out of college, she landed her first pastry experience at Independent Baking Co. (Athens), though it took a few tries to get her foot in the floury door.


“I think that I took my resume there three or four times over the course of six months leading up to my graduation from UGA,” Coleman shared. “They hired me as a barista, and I just kept harassing the bakers with questions every day until they had a staffing issue.”


“I just didn’t stop after that,” she said of her pâtissière pursuits.


A little more than a year later, she was off to Ferrandi Paris, where she completed the famed culinary school’s pastry-focused international program.


The Beaufort-born baker returned to the states in 2016, landing in D.C. and serving as pastry chef at The Dabney, Reveler’s Hour, and Tail Up Goat, during which time she also met and married Opie Crooks. In 2021, the couple came down the coast to become fellow chefs in the FARM Hospitality Group, of which Crooks currently serves as director of culinary.


Flora + Fauna’s overflowing counter certainly contains items that look like they are straight out of a 7e arrondissement boulangerie, but look closely and see that Coleman and Kenny have created unique baked goods that blend traditional French techniques with distinctly southern flavors.


Instead of a classic croissants aux amandes, theirs stars pecans both in its pecan-pie-esque filling and toasted on top. The Morning Bun is reminiscent of a palmier’s lamination but is better in this peel-apart, cinnamon-sugary donutlette.


The sneaky standout, which is saying something among all this deliciousness, is Coleman’s clever Arnold Palmer Cruller whose flavor more than lives up to its name, glazed with the moniker beverage: “straight lemon juice, really strong brewed tea, and lots of sugar,” said the chef.


Up and down the menu, Flora + Fauna features Savannah spins on French familiars: the Parisienne Ham sandwich served on a baguette; Mushroom Conserve that comes with “Bourson’ish” cheese; a burger topped with melty Gruyere and slathered with Dijonnaise; a side of Pommes Frite avec aioli.


Breakfast menu items, including Cheryl’s Biscuits that can be, are served until eleven a.m., when the lunchtime sandwiches come available.

Impressively but again not surprisingly, Flora + Fauna feels like a FARM Hospitality Group restaurant without in any way copycatting its other four concepts. Because of FHG’s commissary kitchen, some house-made ingredients might appear at its new bakery while also accompanying a dish at another resto, but there is a determined uniqueness to them all and to the menu items at each.


The approach is the opposite of formulaic, which connotes a perfunctory process more befitting a restaurant chain. Au contraire, what FHG possesses is a programmatic ethos that underpins without pinning down, allowing each of its concepts to be discretely special.


Case in point, Flora + Fauna in its very name is both Bakery by day and Supper Club come evening, the latter aspect rolling out in June: a $55 prix fixe menu of three choices per three courses, which promises to be an unbeatable bargain.


Savannah meets the Seine right up the street in Starland.


Flora + Fauna Bakery and Supper Club (2401 Bull Street) is open Wednesday through Sunday weekdays from 7a.m. to 2 p.m and weekends from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner hours to come.

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