Food & Culture
Pastry: An Affair to Remember
Chef Ewald Notter of Dote Coffee Bar makes it easy to fall in love with pastry and chocolate
By Stefanie Ellis January 19, 2023
Most romances unfold in predictable ways. An invitation for lunch, where you share sandwiches in a loud café, silently wishing your bread was crisper, but never giving up on the idea that one day it might be. An awkward laugh as your fingers touch while you both reach across the table for sugar in that coffee shop near your office where you don’t even really like the coffee. And on that rare day when you’re given chocolate, you feign delight at this run-of-the-mill calorie bomb, always believing there is more out there in the world.
Somewhere, you know there is a flaky and tender croissant slathered in ribbons of rich dark chocolate ganache. And next to it a coffee swirled with blood orange ganache, turning it in to the best mocha you never knew you needed.
You might not have expected to find love at Bellevue’s Dote Coffee Bar, but now that you have, your pastry dating game will never be the same. Co-owner Ewald Notter, a trained pastry chef and chocolatier from Baden, Switzerland, is also not whom you’d expect to find crafting the menu at a coffee bar.
But that’s where his co-owner, Sarah Doud, brewed up some magic. Doud, who previously cofounded UK-based Seattle Coffee Co. with friends Ally and Scott Svenson (who later founded MOD Pizza), was given the opportunity to create something for the new Lincoln South Food Hall in 2017 at The Bellevue Collection. She was looking for something creative and different, and thanks to a series of coincidences, she met Notter. She knew immediately that he was the secret ingredient needed to set Dote apart.
“When you look at his incredible talent, you think about fancy things,” she says. “He’s the Chihuly of chocolate, an absolute artist, but he also really cares what things taste like. His ganache is made of just four ingredients and they’re all what you think they are. Our pumpkin spice latte has real pumpkin in it. For us, it was about breaking things down to be really simple.”
Making art look simple is a testament to the talent of the artist creating it, and Notter has it in spades.
Take his pistachio tart with apricot caramel. It’s a love letter to the pistachio, taking what is already a stunning violin concerto and elevating it into a symphony. The pistachio ganache is thick and shimmery, with a with a flavor so pronounced, it’s as if Mickey Mouse’s sorcerer character in “Fantasia” convinced an army of pistachios to march into his pot, swirling stardust and butter around each individual nut.
Notter’s ganache — which varies in flavor by season and is available in individual jars — is also swirled into coffee, tucked into croissants, sandwiched between macarons, and used to make chocolate pralines and bonbons. His 40-year journey through the pastry world is expansive and full of flavor. His own love affair with sweets began in the early 1980s when he learned to blow and pull sugar at the International Sugar Decor School in Zurich. He ended up buying the school but sold it back to his teacher after just a year. Notter then started entering competitions and gaining attention. Shortly thereafter, he was recruited to teach in the United States.
He lived in Maryland for 10 years, where he opened the International School of Confectionary Arts, and then moved to Orlando, Fla., and stayed another 10 years, opening the Notter School of Pastry Arts. All the while, he participated in workshops and competitions across the world.
“If you do something a lot, you become better and more creative,” he says of honing his craft. “Now it’s very different because of Instagram and Facebook. You see a lot of successful people on social media, but in my time, you had to create in front of a judge. When you teach, you do the same thing. Often it doesn’t come out how you want or it breaks and you have to fix it in front of the students. In competition, it’s the same way. Often, I broke a piece during the competition and fixed it, and that impressed people.”
Notter has authored five cookbooks and has too many pastry awards to count, including winning the gold medal alongside the U.S team at the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie in Lyon, France. He’s been invited to the White House four times and was the first inductee to the Pastry Art and Design Hall of Fame in 2000. Six years ago, when a former teacher asked him to move to Seattle, he said yes. Then came his opportunity with Dote.
“I never worked with coffee, and this was an ideal partnership,” he says.
Expansion plans are a secret for now, but Doud and Notter say they’re hoping to be in an additional location by spring of 2023, with more plans on the horizon. For now, their food hall location boasts their full suite of pastries, crispy baguette sandwiches and ganache-laced coffees perfect for a holiday date. No longer will you feign delight at the chocolate you’re given. In fact, you might fall in love all over again, every time you visit.
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