Once upon a Tart...: Soups, Salads, Muffins, and More from New York City's Favorite Bakeshop and Cafe


A cookbook in the tradition of The Silver Palate and The Barefoot Contessa . . .

In New York City, famous for its food and restaurants, locals are reverential about the bakeshop and café Once Upon a Tart. For more than a decade, they have been lining up at the store mornings and afternoons, waiting patiently for their signature scones, muffins, soups, salads, sandwiches, cookies, and—of course—tarts. And pretty much since the day the café opened, patrons have been ...

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A cookbook in the tradition of The Silver Palate and The Barefoot Contessa . . .

In New York City, famous for its food and restaurants, locals are reverential about the bakeshop and café Once Upon a Tart. For more than a decade, they have been lining up at the store mornings and afternoons, waiting patiently for their signature scones, muffins, soups, salads, sandwiches, cookies, and—of course—tarts. And pretty much since the day the café opened, patrons have been asking—sometimes begging—the proprietors for their sweet and savory recipes. Good news: the wait is over.

In Once Upon a Tart, the café’s founders and co-owners, Jerome Audureau (a New Yorker via France) and Frank Mentesana (a New Yorker via New Jersey), go public with their culinary secrets (“We don’t have any,” says Frank. “That’s our biggest secret of all”) and recipes. They also tell their inspiring success story, from selling tarts wholesale out of a warehouse in Long Island City to opening their now-famous outpost in Soho.

In nine delicious chapters ranging from savory tarts to cookies, the authors instruct and advise home cooks on everything from how to make the flakiest tart crust (“keep the dough cold”) to making sandwiches (“condiments are key”) to how to diet (“you want half the calories, eat half the scone”). Once Upon a Tart is packed with more than 225 easy-to-prepare recipes, including all the store classics that have earned Frank and Jerome the devotion of their customers: Caramelized-Leek-and-Celery Tart, Creamy Carrot Soup with Fresh Dill, Pork Loin Sandwich with Frisée and Rosemary-Garlic Aioli, Buttermilk Scones with Dried Currants, Banana–Poppy Seed Muffins, and Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart with Crisp Topping.

Says Frank, “We believe that deep down, everyone is a cook.” Adds Jerome, “And that a little butter in your life is a good thing.”

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Editorial Reviews

T. Susan Chang
[T]he book stands as a small, tasty tribute to a craft worth mastering.—The Boston Globe
Publishers Weekly
Once Upon a Tart, a charming cafe in New York's SoHo, was founded by two refugees from hotel management intent on a dream. Audureau, who ran a tarterie in Avignon, France, his home town, saw that New York had not discovered this French lunch delight the savory tart, with its accoutrements of salads and the finish of a sweet. Jersey-born Mentesana learned to cook from his Italian grandmother. The cafe chefs add unusual twists to traditional recipes for example Zucchini Tart with Curried Custard and Dried Currants and Chickpea-Tomato Soup with Fresh Rosemary. Zestful loving touches, such as Tomato Chutney with Golden Raisins as a spread for sandwiches, are what make this book and the cafE a standout. In chatty, accessible style, Audureau and Mentesana explain everything from blanching vegetables to how to cool tart crust and how to make apricot glaze for sweet tarts. The cafE's regulars will be ecstatic to have this generous offering of recipes for their favorite tarts, scones, tea breads, and cookies, such as My Mother's Are Better Ginger Cookies and the Chocolate-Pecan French-Style Macaroons. Each section, from salads to condiments, is carefully presented and full of ideas and hints. The lunchbox-size book (9 x 7) and lovely photos make for a cozy, lighthearted presentation. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Audureau, who had an earlier tarterie in his native France, and Mentesana, who grew up in New Jersey, opened their shop in New York City's SoHo some ten years ago, when the now-trendy neighborhood was still somewhat off the beaten path. Their original menu featured only tarts, both sweet and savory, but over the years they've added to their repertoire delicious muffins and other quick breads, soups and sandwiches, salads, and cookies. Most of their recipes are easy to prepare, and the instructions, like the readable headnotes and the dozens of helpful tips scattered throughout, are written in a conversational style. Mouthwatering full-page color photographs add to the appeal of the book. For most collections. [Good Cook Book Club selection.] Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375413162
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/22/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 8.02 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Mentesana has spent ten years as owner of Once Upon a Tart. He is the creator of several cooking curricula for children and has recently broadened his involvement with food to include food styling, photography, and gardening. He holds a degree in hotel management and met partner Jerome Audureau while working as a food and beverage director for the French Accor Hotel Group. Frank learned to cook from his Italian grandmother and learned to love food during long forays through markets with his father. His proudest achievement by far is his son, Matthew. Frank lives in New Jersey.

Jerome Audureau grew up in Avignon, France. While running a summer business as part of his studies at Maxine’s Hotel and Restaurant School in Paris, he developed an idea for a café dedicated to tarts. He brought this idea with him when he came to the United States, and, along with partner Frank Mentesana, made it into Once Upon a Tart. After ten years, Jerome is still responsible for running the café, remembering which customer likes which cookie, and generally making people feel good. Jerome lives in Long Island City.

Carolynn Carreño is a writer living in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart with Shamey's Crisp Topping
makes one 9-inch tart

When Frank was growing up, there was an annual backyard party given by his neighbors. "It was the kind of event where you were sure to see people you hadn't seen since the same party the year before. And that you wouldn't see again until next year's party." Frank particularly looked forward to the strawberry-rhubarb crisp brought every year by a woman named Shamey. Shamey gave Frank the recipe from which he created this tart.

1 pint strawberries, stems removed and berries cut in quarters
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed, leafy ends removed, and cut into 1/2-inch slices; or tart apples, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 par-baked Flaky Tart Crust
1 recipe Shamey's Crisp Topping

1. Position your oven racks so that one is in the center, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Toss the strawberries, rhubarb, flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a big bowl. Dump this mixture into your par-baked tart shell and spread it out evenly. Using your fingers, sprinkle Shamey's topping over the fruit, taking care to cover its entire surface area, especially around the edges.
3. Place the tart on the center rack in the oven, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until you see fruit juices bubbling up through the topping and down around the sides of the tart. You may want to place a baking sheet under the tart to catch any spilled juices.
4. Remove the tart from the oven, and set it on a wire rack to cool slightly.
5. To remove the tart from the pan, rest it on a wide can. Make sure the tart is steady and balanced, then slide the outside ring of pan down off the tart. Move the tart to your work surface, and slide the tart off the pan bottom onto a rimless serving dish or cutting board. We love this tart fresh from the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Shamey's Crisp Topping
makes about 2 cups (enough for a one 9-inch tart)

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 ounces (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

1. Dump the flour and the brown sugar into the bowl of the food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse until they're just integrated. Add the butter all at once, and use the pulse button to cut butter into flour. Stop pulsing when mixture is the texture of moist crumbs.
2. Remove the blade from the food processor, and dump the crumbs into a big bowl. Add the oats and nuts. Work them into the crumbs with your fingers until the topping is stuck together in big clumps. It should not be one whole ball of dough but more like.... well, like crisp topping. Only not cooked.

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Jerome Audureau and Frank Mentesana
Q: How did you each start cooking? When did you just know it would become a large part of your life?
I have been cooking for as long as I can remember. Food was everywhere in our family. We ate it, talked incessantly about it, grew it, shopped everywhere for it, and ate it again. My Italian grandmother lived in our house while I was growing up. She was the kind of grandmother who cooked every day. I loved to watch her. Then there was my Dad who loved to shop for food and would venture into other cuisines in addition to his native Italian. He roasted whole pigs on an open pit and baked clams in the ground. It was all fun for him.

: When I was a kid, I spend a lot of time looking at my mother in the kitchen cooking. Then when I was 6 years old I got a children’s cookbook for Christmas and every Wednesday I spent a lots of time trying those recipes.

Q: What do you love most about cooking?

Jerome: Cooking is a type of art. You can express yourself by mixing ingredients; if you are creative and have a good visual sensibility you can reach an incredible result. I like to cook for other people—it makes me feel like I’m sharing my creativity with them.

Q: How did you two become partners?

Frank: Jerome and I worked for a large French hotel company (Accor). As I was supposedly moving up the corporate ladder, I found myself spending more and more time in meetings…you know the kind behind closed doors, at a large conference table. I was 25 years old then and realized I was becoming less and less creative as Iinteracted less and less with customers. This was one of the things that attracted me to the business in the first place. So when Jerome and I had the idea of starting something of our own (no matter what it was), I thought it would be a good life change.
Q: When did you know that your café would be a success?
Jerome: Our first Saturday in business, we got discovered by Florence Fabricant, a writer for the New York Times Food Section. She did a write up on us the week after. From that point on we kept getting some other strong reviews, but I think we really knew that our café was a success after few people asked us if we would like to franchise “Once Upon a Tart.”

We always thought the café would work. We had prepared well for it. We attended small business classes, wrote a business plan, tested and re-tested recipes. I don’t think we ever for a moment thought “what if it doesn’t work?” We believed if we worked hard and kept at it, it would be a success. What we didn’t suspect was how quickly the business would take off. We had a great product, a wonderful store, good press and a lot of youthful energy.

Q: How did you find the space for the shop? Is there a story there?

Jerome: I was riding my bike all over the city looking for those “FOR RENT” signs. I was in Soho one day and saw a sign on 135 Sullivan Street. Even though the gates were down and the storefront was painted in a dark gray color I had a great feeling about it. We took the space right away.

Q: What dish do you crave that would surprise your customers?

Frank: It’s not what I crave most, but from time to time I will make hot dogs baked in a casserole of baked beans and would never admit it. But in general, I think people think that because I cook, I make a huge, extravagant meal every day. The reality is I tend to keep it simple. One of my favorite meals is spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Q: Your aesthetic taste is so apparent—from your distinctive packaging to the design and decorative detail of the shop. Can you tell us where that comes from?

Jerome: I love art and design. Every Christmas I always make my own gifts for relatives and friends. A few years ago I took some architecture classes and considered becoming a designer, but I am still cooking and making window displays for Once Upon a Tart, which is fine with me.
Frank: I think that Jerome and I have different tastes and styles, but they seem to complement each other. I have a much more country style (somewhat conservative) and Jerome has a much more modern approach to style. The influence comes from my love of all things old and worn and Jerome’s love of all things new and high design. It seems to make a good combination.

Q: What made you two decide to write this book?

Jerome: From the time we decided to open a café, we’ve wanted to write a cookbook. At first we wanted to write a cookbook for kids, but one day, one of our regular customers asked if she could be our agent and work with us on a cookbook proposal.

Throughout the years of running Once Upon a Tart, customers have always asked us for one of two things—first, to open another store in their neighborhood and secondly, for us to disclose our recipes for a specific item or to write an actual cookbook. That was our motivation. Janis (our agent), who lives down the block, had been a customer since day one; so there was a certain comfort when she approached us with this long-standing idea.

Q: What’s the strangest request you’ve ever gotten from a customer? Did you oblige him or her?

Jerome: One of our customers who lives on Sullivan Street walks her dog, Fred, every day and all the neighbors feed the dog with treats. Every September 23, for the dog’s birthday, she asks us to make some decorated cookies in a shape of a dachshund to give to all the people that feed Fred during his walk.

Q: What advice do you have for the kitchen amateur or cooking novice?

Frank: I think it is important to not be afraid of making mistakes (so maybe don’t try something brand new for a dinner party of 12, save the testing for just you and your family). Keep learning. There are so many books and magazines out there. The cooking novice can learn a lot through reading (this is definitely one of my greatest tools). It is a great way to learn about techniques (nfusing oils, roasting vegetables, etc.) before applying them to the food you want to eat. Pay attention to new ingredients at the market. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the grocer at the Asian market what he does with a certain ingredient or how the butcher would make a cut of meat. Another thing that I believe is important in cooking (if you are not using an actual recipe) is a kind of taste memory. This means you remember flavors and combinations and are able to apply them in cooking. I think this can evolve if you pay attention to the flavors you are eating. With baking, it is a bit more exact. Get to know your equipment, be aware of oven temperature, and do it often to learn how things should feel and look.
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2004

    I Love That Book

    It is rare to find a cookbook that has some creative and great recipes. I try so far most of the recipes after 3 weeks that I purchased the book. I love Once Upon A Tart caf¿ in NYC and was so glad to buy that wonderful cookbook.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2003

    Tarts for the Heart!!!

    Wonderful book full of easy yet surprisingly unique and favorful tarts. Gorgeous photographs and straight forward approach to cooking/baking. The book is infused with warmth,humor,and personality. Incredibly fun journey through the kitchen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2003

    Once upon a Tart...: Soups, Salads, Muffins, and More from New York City's Favorite Bakeshop and Cafe

    This cook book offer you some very easy & creative recipes. It is not easy to find a cook book with simple & great recipes. I love it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2003

    Once upon a Tart...: Soups, Salads, Muffins, and More from New York City's Favorite Bakeshop and Cafe

    I look at a lots of cook book and finaly find one that make me want to try the recipes. I try most of the recipes in this book and all turn out so tasty.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2003



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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2003

    Once upon a Tart...: Soups, Salads, Muffins, and More from New York City's Favorite Bakeshop and Cafe

    This book offers a great creative selection of Sweet & Savory recipes. I enjoy reading and making lots of the recipes from this book. The method are very simple well explain and the result for sure excellent.

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