Eating pastries all in a row, rowing away for fitness in Montclair (Robin’s Nest)
As I stroll through town in search of new experiences and new people to interview, I imagine walking the streets of Paris and going into one of the many patisseries on the rues and ordering sweet delights to enjoy while sitting outside savoring my coffee and treats.
I didn’t have to travel far at all to find a business that brought a bit of France to Montclair, Jayce Baudry French Pastry.
Jayce Baudry opened his shop on Nov. 1, 2021, on Church Street. Baudry was born in Bordeaux, France, and came to New York in 2013 to work in restaurants as a pastry chef, honing his craft and showing off his talent for creating delicious and beautiful desserts, tarts and chocolates. He now lives in Jersey City with his wife and daughter.
When I asked why he chose Montclair for his business, Baudry said, “The pandemic was an amazing chance for everyone. It gave us a chance to stop and listen. I didn’t see it as a terrible thing. There’s no certainty about anything anymore. I had the chance to spend a lot of time with my daughter and think about the future.”
In fact, Baudry had to pivot and decide what he wanted to do after he was laid off during the height of the pandemic when restaurants were closed down.
His wife, Rebecca, makes pastries in the large basement kitchen area of Faubourg Restaurant, close by. She was laid off at the same time as her husband, and comes up with ideas for new pastries to sell, experimenting with different flavors and edible decorations for each. Other baked goods, such as cookies and cakes, are made on site at the shop.
She said, “We put a little twist to it. There are 10,000 types of pastries in France. We change around all the time, inspired by the season. We want to keep customers interested so they don’t get bored.”
There are 150 kinds of baked goods on rotation at the shop, so be on the lookout for new additions and surprises. Have a chocolate-enrobed marble pound cake boxed up to follow you home, as I did.
I was hungry, and ordered the French blueberry almond meringue, sprinkled with freeze-dried blueberries and slivered almonds. With a wonderful cup of cafe filtre on the side, I sat at a little bistro table located to the right of the shop, inside the lobby of The Clairidge theater, and had a second treat, passion fruit lavender meringue.
Lavender usually tastes like perfume to me, but this was light and not too sweet, almost like biting into a crispy fruit cloud.
There was so much to look at and so much to choose from, cookies and chocolates, macarons and pound cakes. Try a Paris Montclair, puffed choux pastry dough filled with homemade hazelnut praline, crushed toasted hazelnuts and hazelnut mousseline. Don’t worry about things being too cloying, as Jayce and Rebecca don’t have much of a sweet tooth themselves, and prefer savory foods.
Stop by the shop between 4 and 5 p.m daily to watch cookies and cakes being made, by looking in the large window facing The Clairidge lobby. Buy something for dessert, for breakfast, or just because you deserve a bit of France in your life.
You might have indulged in the sweets a little too much and are thinking about working off what you ate, or just keeping yourself healthy and fit. A short hike up the hill on Bloomfield Avenue brings you to Row House Montclair, where you can learn how to use a rowing machine and get your ergs in.
I looked up the word for myself, and an erg, short for ergometer, is a device that measures work done during exercise on various bicycle and rowing machines.
Row House was new to me, although it opened in 2019. Growing up in New York City, the term row house meant attached dwellings that share common walls. Row House Montclair is where you go to work out on rowing machines. Well, that makes sense.
I spoke with Alli Joseph, general manager of the Montclair franchise. Alli didn’t start out in fitness, and said, “I was not an athletic kid and didn’t play team sports. I have a very fast brain. I’m always in motion. I like to move a lot.”
She’s been a spin class devotee since college, and rode crew while attending Vassar College. That’s what competitive rowing is called by Americans, just a bit fancier.
Teaching and advocating for health and wellness follows her 25-year career as a journalist, reporter, producer and on-camera television host. However, she always worked in the fitness field on the side. Two knee injuries necessitated her exercising with low impact, by riding a bike or taking spin classes and teaching them as well.
I asked Alli to explain what takes place in a rowing class. She said, “It’s low-impact fitness, not aggressive, 45 minutes of straight rowing. This works 86% of your muscles, as you row at intervals and then switch to floor work, core work and cardio. It’s a full body workout.”
Sounds pretty comprehensive to me, and I assume that the members of the class don’t sing “Row Row Row Your Boat” together.
I've never seen a rowing machine before, and Alli went through all the steps with me before I attempted rowing for the first time. I work out on my stationary bicycle almost every day for at least 45 minutes, so the machine was somewhat familiar to me, but different in some ways.
It’s made for taller people, and adjustments needed to be made so I could reach the pedals and sit correctly on the seat. I had to keep my back straight, with the balls of my feet planted firmly on the straps.
I was coached to push back first with my lower body, then use my upper back to pull my hands towards my chest while holding the handles that spin the flywheel. After releasing my arms toward the base, I bent my knees to glide back to the starting position.
It was more fun than I thought it would be, and I can see myself taking a class once I remember how to follow the sequence of legs, body, arms, arms, body, legs and not forgetting to use my core by contracting my trunk muscles. Practice probably makes rowing easier, and using the legs is the key to a full body workout.
Row House is open 7 days a week, as early as 5:30 a.m. on weekdays and 8:30 a.m. on weekends, when classes are scheduled. The first class is free. You can pay per class, or become a member at the level you wish.
Contests and rewards track your fitness journey, with a Wall of Fame showing photos of student milestones, such as rowing an indoor half-marathon, 13.1 miles, or 21,097.5 meters. An oar with signatures on it is hung up for display, showing the names and photos of people who reached their goals of 100,000 to 1 million miles completed, something I can’t imagine doing myself. Then again, I’ve surprised myself before.
To come full circle, mosey back down the hill to Church Street for another meringue, madeleine or macaron, since you worked out so hard. Sorry if you think I’m a bad influence. Speed-walk if need be.
In this article:
- Jayce Baudry French Pastry
17 Church St., 973-531-6464
- Row House Montclair
638 Bloomfield Ave., 973-500-6550
Robin Woods is a local girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays, as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. Her writing awards include the Shirley Chisholm Award for Journalism and the Director’s Award of the Essex County Legacies Essay contest.