Argentine pastry becoming popular with locals
They’re rolling in the dough.
Two women originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, opened shops in the area at the end of winter selling empanadas, a baked turnover beloved by Argentines and, apparently, locals.
Fernanda Flesner opened Baires Empanadas (Baires being shorthand for Buenos Aires) at 295 W. Main St. in New Castle in mid-April 2019.
“I want to start the empanada tradition in my town,” she said. “It came to Argentina from Spanish immigrants.”
Flesner is experienced in neither business nor food service, so making her shop successful has been a learning experience.
“I studied psychology for three years in Argentina, then worked for customer service in a big mall, then came here and started at the bottom as a babysitter,” she said. That was 18 years ago. In 2012, Flesner joined Roaring Fork Schools.
But she harbored a dream to open her own business.
“I went back to school at CMC and got a degree in paralegal studies, and am now a year away from receiving a bachelor’s in leadership and management, currently taking marketing, finance and management classes,” she said.
Baires Empanadas has no set menu yet. Flesner said she is still working out what flavors customers are interested in, as there is no point in offering something that people won’t buy. She currently offers seven hand-made varieties: traditional beef; spicy beef; chicken; mushroom with caramelized onion and cheese; caprese; ham and cheese; and spinach with béchamel sauce. Each flavor is folded in a unique way to help identify them.
Her empanadas sell for $3.65 each, or $18.25 for six.
She also offers chimichurri, a sauce used in Argentina for beef but which she offers with empanadas, tailoring her offerings to what locals want.
Flesner also offers a dessert empanada with banana and nutella; alfajores, a confection popular in South America and other parts of the world; and pasta frola with quince paste, another dessert popular in Argentina and surrounding countries; and cold drinks.
Baires Empanadas is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
The Whole Empanada
Yanina Dobarro opened The Whole Empanada cafe at 31 Duroux Lane, Suite G, in Willits a month before Flesner’s shop, in mid-March 2019.
It’s a far cry from her training in the legal profession in Argentina. “I worked as a lawyer for a year and a half, but I didn’t like it,” she said. “I like the process of doing something. I discovered I’m an entrepreneur.”
In the U.S. she and her then-husband opened Francesca’s fresh pasta shop in Aspen, where she “introduced empanadas as an extra,” she said.
“I was the first booth in the farmers market in Aspen. I had the feeling that people would just like [empanadas], and I didn’t see them around. They’re something new, easy to eat.” And easy to like.
Her original idea was to sell wholesale. While she still intends to pursue that, she’s been very busy this summer with retail. “I was basically working every single day this summer. I did farmers markets in Basalt and Carbondale and concerts in Willits,” she said. Sales were about evenly split between the farmers markets and her cafe, where she also offers espresso and cold drinks.
She makes her empanadas by hand, but she could increase production with the machine she bought from Argentina. She said machine-made empanadas are “no different in quality, but they will be more perfect,” meaning more uniform.
Dobarro also offers seven varieties: beef; chicken; humita (sweet corn and white sauce based); vegan; caprese; onions and cheese; and ham, cheese and bacon, each named after a friend or family member.
Her empanadas sell for $3.75 each, $10 for 3, or $34 per dozen. Frozen cost $25 for 10.
Like Flesner, she makes chimichurri as an empanada garnish.
The Whole Empanada is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Still cooking up plans
Both women are eager to expand their business but need to hire some employees to make that feasible.
Dobarro said, “I can make a living just as the business is, but now it’s time to grow.
“The goal is distribution of frozen empanadas. Once that starts, I’ll need someone here every day,” she said.
Flesner said that she has more to add to the menu but can’t do it alone. She has little free time left after running the business, taking classes and being a mom.
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