It’s the eve of Christmas Eve and and I’ll be cooking for tomorrow’s family festivities late into the night. With my favorite holiday foods on my mind and in my oven, I thought today would be the perfect day to debut a brand new feature we’ll regularly be running here at 365Barrington.com called “On the Menu”. To help showcase some of the finest culinary offerings here in Barrington, I’ll be talking to chefs at local restaurants to learn more about some of the most popular items from their menus. And I’m starting today with the amazing gingerbread houses you’ll only find at Ambrosia Euro American Patisserie in Barrington.
Ambrosia’s gingerbread houses are like edible works of art. They’re so masterfully crafted that Ambrosia’s owners, executive pastry chef, Richard Rivera and his wife Debby, only make 12 to 20 of these houses every year.
From weighing out the ingredients to mixing them properly to rolling out the dough in the specific configurations, Debby says making Ambrosia’s gingerbread houses is a very time consuming process. “Each one is unique. Richard would have it no other way because each one that goes out of here is like a snowflake. It has its own DNA.”
Ambrosia’s Richard Rivera spent years working as a pastry chef in some of Chicago’s finest hotels. He has worked in the company of Julia Childs and prepared pastries for France’s most distinguished chefs. But his unique skill for building gingerbread houses that are as delicious as they are sturdy can also be traced to his years studying sculpture and ceramics in college and at the Art Institute of Chicago.
“The first stage is scaling and mixing the gingerbread. The second is rolling out the gingerbread and configuring the pieces before they’re baked. The third is the construction phase when the gingerbread houses are assembled and reinforced and the last step is decorating.” The end result is so beautiful, Debby Rivera says less than 25-percent of their customers actually eat them.
While Richard works away behind the scenes, his wife, Debby says her favorite role is helping customers at the counter. She also says that over half of their customers live in Barrington. “I think people in the community truly want to support a family owned business. They appreciate that we’re not a chain. That we are are a family owned and operated business. It’s kind of an old fashioned thing. I’m so grateful that they patronize us with that as their intention.”
If you want one of Ambrosia’s gingerbread houses for the holidays next year, Debby says it’s a good idea to place your order now. There’s typically a waiting list by the time they start building the houses in mid-November. And you can spend the months in between sampling Ambrosia’s specialties. They offer fresh baked croissants, petit fours and baked breads daily along with delicious pastries and their most popular items like Triple Chocolate Bavarian Cake and Raspberry Charlotte. Just listing to Debby describe each of these sweet treats made my mouth water. They also offer classic espresso drinks, mochas, cappuccinos and hot cocoa with homemade whipped cream. To keep things fresh and new, they also change their menu every season to give you even more reasons to visit.
You’ll find Ambrosia Euro American Patisserie in The Foundry of Barrington at 710 W. Northwest Highway at Hart Road. You can reach them by phone at 847-304-8278 or find their menus online at DiscoverAmbrosia.com.