Today in not-sad pastry news, here’s a cute cookie box from a cool pastry chef. Frolic & Detour is yet another pandemic-inspired pastry box, and this one’s a little bit old school, in a small but classic pink bakery box, but tricked out with cookie illustrations and hot pink washi tape. The cookies are good, thick, round drop cookies, the kind that many get nostalgic about, but with some interesting twists on the flavors, and a serious roll on the sprinkles. So even if it is yet another tedious weekend sitting on the couch at home, at least you can pretend it’s your birthday with a multi-colored confetti cookie.
Anabel Lee is a former lawyer turned pastry chef who trained at 20th Century Cafe and worked at Oyatsuya dessert pop-up. (“Frolic and detour” is actually a legal term, referring to an employee who wanders off duty.) She’s been toying with the idea of a short and sweet menu of cookies for a few years now, and even pre coronavirus, picked up a cottage food license, and started baking out of her home kitchen near Japantown. “When the pandemic happened, I thought I would put everything away for a while …. When I thought about the term ‘essential businesses,’ I was like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t include me,’” she says. But the demand for cookies never stopped, and she’s now selling through coffee and wine shops, and popping up alongside sandwiches and ice cream.
“Even though I’m a one-woman show in the kitchen, the bakery’s definitely not a one-woman show,” Lee says. “The lifelines of other small businesses have been so important…. without them, I don’t think I’d have the business I have today.”
Lee loves how cookies are small, compact, and portable. “It’s just like a cozy, simple thing,” she says. “And for the menu, I wanted to keep flavors that are comforting and familiar, but make it just a little bit different. Nothing too fancy, just small riffs on old favorites.” The birthday cake cookie is the best seller, with cream cheese to soften the dough, and sprinkles rolled all the way round. The strawberry cookie was inspired by Pocky, a childhood favorite. She also folds in Chinese flavors: the peanut butter cookies are infused with jujubes (Chinese red dates), the snickerdoodles get warmth from star anise, and the pineapple shortbread is the cookie version of Taiwanese pineapple cakes. And the hazelnut brownies rely on kinako (Japanese soybean flour), which makes them both fudgy and crinkly on top, and incidentally gluten free.
The pink pastry boxes were out of convenience, in that they came in exactly the right sizes to tidily stack five or 12 cookies. Lee says she’s always loved stationary, and she found a local artist to create the postcard that she tapes on top. She also finds different artists to create her pop-up flyers every month, which have featured cookie-nibbling kittens and bunnies, hot lips and rainbows, and other fun designs.
You can order a cookie box for next-day pickup at either Saint Frank Coffee in Russian Hill or Fig & Thistle wine shop on Market. Frolic & Detour has also been popping up regularly at Deli Board and Garden Creamery, so check the website for those specific dates. It’s possible to pick and choose different flavors, and if it’s actually someone’s birthday, it’s possible to request a cute stamp on the box. And it’s always a fun idea to throw in some of “the cutest stickers ever.”