Bellevue. The Burbank of Nashville. But wait -- something changed.
Bellevue was the whitebread commuter suburb as recently as 1998, when food writer Kay West said that very thing in print. But something happened and now Bellevue is a veritable rainbow of ethnicity, with culinary beachheads established here and there.
Take Alpha Bakery, for instance. It's been open since 1998, and has possibly the most interesting history of any bakery in town. Owner T.T. Chen was a Chinese political reporter based in Japan for 20-odd years. He loved to bake, finding refuge from the political storm in the kitchen. He was the last person to interview the Dalai Lama. His articles swayed Chinese political opinion.
So naturally, he moved to Nashville to open a bakery in Bellevue. (Well sure he did! Who doesn't, I ask you?) Bakeries have wafer-thin profit margins, so the fact that his bakery is 10 years old means he's doing something right.
And that would be .... everything. Sunday lunch yielded one delicacy after another. A chocolate croissant at the pinnacle of flakiness, every bite a shower of buttery shards. A pineapple poppyseed muffin whose unexpected flavor profile is the kind of thing you might put together by accident, then grow to love. A chicken salad with a rich chicken flavor from a balanced mixture of light and dark meat. And a still-warm cream cheese claw that oozed warm, sugary cream cheese filling from a soft shell of sweet dough.
From strength to strength, that's been my experience at Alpha. Even after I spent $32 on baked goods, there were still so many things I didn't try, and now I can hardly wait to go back.