Allen Pierleoni

What’s not to love at Julian’s Patisserie and Cafe?

Pastries in a to-go box from Julian’s Patisserie and Cafe, clockwise from left: raspberry-pistachio Breton, raspberry-vanilla cream puff and lemon tart.
Pastries in a to-go box from Julian’s Patisserie and Cafe, clockwise from left: raspberry-pistachio Breton, raspberry-vanilla cream puff and lemon tart. apierleoni@sacbee.com

First Impressions visits dining spots in the region that are new or have undergone recent transitions. Have a candidate for First Impressions? Email us at taste@sacbee.com.

Julian Perrigo-Jimenez knows his way around flour, butter and pastry bags, and is on intimate terms with heat dynamics. Just watch him work in his open kitchen at Julian’s Patisserie and Cafe if you want a vicarious lesson in baking at the next level.

On Jan. 3, he and his wife, Ashley Perrigo-Jimenez, jumped into the very competitive restaurant niche with their bakery-cafe in the Folsom Pavilions Shopping Center – a homecoming, actually, from their life in far-flung places.

“We have two young children, and we wanted to raise them here and be close to family,” Julian said. “We’ve been crazy busy since opening, but it’s nice to be hands-on and interact with the customers. We do everything by hand and from scratch. I’m passionate about working with chocolate, and really proud of our French breakfast pastries.”

In brief, Julian, 29, graduated from Folsom High School and later the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. The pastry artist worked in the kitchens of cruise ships, and at a series of hotels – the Fairmont in San Francisco, and the Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas. He has won honors in national pastry-making competitions and came close to taking the $50,000 prize on the Christmas-themed editions of “Cake Wars,” the uber-popular Food Network show.

Menu: The wall-mounted chalkboard shows crepes in two styles – savory (five, including ham and Swiss, and turkey and pesto) and sweet (six, including strawberry-basil, and raspberry-Nutella) – along with three breakfast items (egg, bacon and cheese croissant) and six lunch items (chicken-mushroom puff pastry, croque madame and her husband, croque monsieur).

On display in cases were glistening European-style delights that shone like gems – almond Florentines, vanilla-raspberry scones, palmiers, fruit turnovers, pains au chocolat, crisp chocolate-dipped shortbread triangles (“I’d come back for these,” said a lunch pal), giant chocolate chip cookies, almond-pear Danish and many more luscious-looking creations.

Price point: $4.75 to $8.75 buys flavors and textures that exemplify the baker’s art.

Ambiance: Well-lit and immaculate, though the small dining space can get crowded as lines of patrons ebb and flow. Some framed art and photos, and a vertical herb garden decorate the walls, but the stark atmosphere is in need of warming touches.

Drinks: Coffee, hot and iced tea, bottled drinks and sodas. A nice touch is the coconut water drinks from Coco Libre, along with Sanpellegrino sodas.

Service: Despite the long lines and semi-hectic vibe among some customers, the staff was patient and helpful, moving things along in a professional manner. We arrived shortly after 11 a.m. on a Saturday, to discover that some of the baked goods had already sold out.

On the phone days later, Julian said, “We’re starting to (discover) what sells out and what doesn’t sell so much, and we’re adjusting our quantities. But we want to make sure we bake everything fresh.”

One attraction is watching Julian and his staff move from station to station in the large, open kitchen area, grating chocolate onto eclairs over here, torching meringue toppings on lemon tarts over there. They’re expert and involved, and open to questions – but do keep in mind they’re working.

First impressions: What’s not to love? We shared two tender, blistered crepes – the California club (think club sandwich) and the lemon-blueberry, filled with house-made lemon curd that wasn’t too sour or sweet. “You can’t go wrong with anything that has lemon in it,” another lunch pal said.

We moved on to an extraordinary ham-and-cheese croissant and bought three treats to go. That night, four of us forked into a raspberry-vanilla cream puff, lemon tart and raspberry-pistachio Breton. All gone in 60 seconds.

Try it if: You have no plans to visit Paris any time soon.

Forget it if: Doughnuts and coffee are just fine, thanks.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

Julian’s Patisserie and Cafe

Where: 6610 Folsom Auburn Road, Folsom

Hours: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays

Information: 916-936-4735, www.jppastryarts.com

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