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Cover Story

Fendu’s Love ‘A-Fare’

By Ali Resich Photos By LAWRENCE TABUDLO
February 12, 2017

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Chef and owner Niel Koep prepares fresh Lychee Caramel Flan ($4.99). A. Consillio photo

Chef and owner Niel Koep prepares fresh Lychee Caramel Flan ($4.99). A. Consillio photo

As all the sweethearts of the world prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the skilled bakers at Fendu Boulangerie will be pouring their own hearts into an impressive selection of European-style baked goods, just as they do not only on the Day of Love, but year-round.

Owner and chef Niel Koep infuses his passion for quality and scratch-made bites into freshly baked breads, pizzas, pastries, sandwiches, cakes and more, not to mention an array of seasonal treats throughout the year.

From now through Valentine’s Day, sparks will fly when lovebirds devour Valrhona Dark Chocolate Heart with Raspberry Mousse ($5.99). The heart-shaped chocolate cake is layered with smooth raspberry mousse that’s nicely contrasted with a crispy wheat flake layer. Koep says he designed the raspberry gelee-topped dessert to be a nice and light ending to any full-course meal enjoyed during the holiday.

Chocolate Mousse Cake ($36 for 7-inch)

Chocolate Mousse Cake ($36 for 7-inch)

Loved ones also will appreciate Marbled Pound Cake Heart ($8.99) come Feb. 14, while any chocoholic beau is sure to fall head over heels for Chocolate Mousse Cake ($36 for 7-inch; available year-round). The latter, a chocolate chiffon cake layered with chocolate mousse, is another specialty made with Valrhona chocolate produced by the premium French chocolatier. As a finishing touch, the whole cake is sprayed with chocolate for an appearance that’s as velvety as its flavor.

When it comes to the inspiration behind these and other scrumptious delights at Fendu Boulangerie, Koep says he always has dreamed of owning his own business, a goal that gradually developed since the New Jersey native took his first job in a restaurant at the tender age of 15. Three years later, he began his love affair with pastry while working at a French eatery, and eventually the baker worked in Lanai’s hotel pastry scene for 18 and a half years prior to opening Fendu.

Now that he’s at the helm of his own operation, Koep can customize his flavor combinations with his own creative twists, and judging from the busy bake shop’s loyal base of regulars, it’s safe to say customers have loved what he’s come up with.

Valrhona Dark Chocolate Heart with Raspberry Mousse ($5.99 each)

Valrhona Dark Chocolate Heart with Raspberry Mousse ($5.99 each)

One of the owner’s personal favorites from the bread line is Miche ($5.99) loaf, a classic wheat-rye sourdough, which he describes as “a denser bread; it’s the opposite of a baguette. It has a nice, thick crust to it, with a moist interior.”

On the sandwich menu, one stand-out is Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich ($7.99). Tucked into the shop’s homemade East-Indian-inspired Sweet Onion “Naan” bread, the creamy chicken salad is spiced with locally made Kaiulani organic curry spices. Juicy slices of local-farm tomatoes and Manoa greens add freshness to this fan-favorite. “It’s one of our best-sellers. We can’t change the recipe — people get mad if we change that,” Koep says with a chuckle.

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich ($7.99) and Basil Pesto Chicken Panini ($9.75)

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich ($7.99) and Basil Pesto Chicken Panini ($9.75)

Another winning sandwich is Basil Pesto Chicken Panini ($9.75), paired with goat cheese, bacon and tomato. With it’s rustic bun — a lighter ciabatta-style bread that crisps up beautifully when pressed into a panini — and its house-made macadamia-nut pesto, the sandwich represents Fendu’s dedication to making its products from scratch.

“We make everything here. It’s a lot of work, but you have control over it that way. I like to make my own stuff,” confirms Koep.

‘PEAR-FECT’ DESSERT

Though Fendu Boulangerie incorporates a plethora of island ingredients into its baked goods, the eatery’s pastries, desserts and breads remain rooted in European baking techniques. Bite into that tradition with a Pear Almond Tart ($2.95 per slice), crafted with classic French almond cookie dough as well as almond and pastry creams. It’s all topped with the sweet magic of sliced Bartlett pears.

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GRAB A SPOONFUL

The Manoa bakery recently brought back its popular Squash Soup ($7.99), combining butternut and kabocha squashes with a rich chicken broth and creamy mix of milk, cream and roux. There’s tons of flavor for your taste buds to pick up, from the curried shrimp and brioche croutons to subtle hints of cinnamon, maple and bay leaf seasonings. While available most days, you can call ahead to see if it’s “in stock.”

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A SLICE OF HEAVEN

When Fendu Boulangerie owner Niel Koep opened his bakery nearly eight years ago, he aimed to not only offer freshly baked breads and pastries, but also a full menu of hearty meals available to customers on the go. As a result, dining on a gourmet pizza from the bread shop gives the added benefit of a flavorful crust that’s made from scratch in house.

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While many pizzerias put sugar in their sauce or dough to boost the flavor, Fendu uses a traditional pre-ferment called pouliche in order to give the dough its bubbly yet crispy texture and nutty flavor. You won’t find any additives like chemicals or sugar in this bakery’s wholesome pies. Instead, the delicious-factor comes “through the fermentation of the yeast and the freshness of the ingredients,” Koep explains.

There are many rustic pizzas to choose from, including the unique Smoked Muscovy Duck Breast Pizza (8-inch for $15.25, 14-inch for $23), oozing with black figs marinated in balsamic vinegar to enhance their natural flavor. The sweet figs are balanced with savory smoked duck breast and robust pops of goat and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.

Fendu Boulangerie

Manoa Marketplace
2752 Woodlawn Drive, Manoa
988-4310
Monday-Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m.