Waltzing Matilda's Laura Forer: "I Want to Make the Pavlova as Ubiquitous in New York as the Cupcake"
"Australia is trendy right now," says Laura Forer, pointing to cultural icons like Hugh Jackman and Naomi Watts and recent culinary developments in this city like meat-pie-slinging Pie Face (throw in the Musket Room, which offers New Zealand fare, and we can get on board with believing in an antipodean trend). "Hopefully the desserts will follow."
If Forer has any say in the matter, sweet treats from Down Under will soon reign: She owns Waltzing Matilda's, an Australian bakery, and she's on a mission to expose NYC to that country's unique pastries.
Forer is not Australian, but she lived there 10 years ago and fell in love with the food, which she describes as fresh and unique. She came home armed with cookbooks, turning out baked goods for her friends and family. "They would say, 'This is really good,'" she recalls. "But more importantly, they would also say, 'I've never had anything like this.'"
She realized then that there was an unfilled Australian dessert niche in New York City, and so she started exploring offering her treats commercially, putting up a website and letting people find her. And the Australians did: "I was the only person in NYC making this stuff," she says. "If an Australian wanted lamingtons [sponge cake covered with chocolate icing and a dusting of coconut], I was at the top of the list. If they were throwing a dinner party and wanted pavlova [a meringue and fruit combination], I was the only one doing it." Her repertoire also includes ANZAC biscuits--traditional Australian pastries with a rich history; they were sent to the troops during World War I--and the caramel slice, a dense (though not sticky) caramel bar topped with chocolate, which she's Americanized a bit by adding salt.
The novelty of her goods helped her build a sizable base, and last year she took her hobby pro, working with the Hot Bread Kitchen incubator in Harlem, which gives her reasonably priced space for baking and a community of culinary entrepreneurs that offer support. "You're working with other people in your same situation," she says of the experience. "You might be sharing your kitchen with a caterer who is going through all of the same things."
That gave her the infrastructure she needed to begin reaching out in earnest, and she's landed her treats in a couple of spots, including the Thirsty Koala in Astoria and Treehaus in Midtown. She's also had good luck with catering for Australian businesses, of which she says there are several in New York.
But Forer's plans are much more ambitious. Once she's built a base of retail and restaurant outlets, she plans to open a storefront, and then she'd like to take on New York's most iconic desserts. "We have a million cupcake shops, and doughnuts are becoming popular, too," she says. "I love those things, but when you take a bite of a pavlova, it's just totally different. I want to make the pavlova as ubiquitous in New York as the cupcake."
For now, she says, the best place to find her desserts is on her website; she'll deliver in Manhattan and ship throughout the States.
Hit the next page for pictures of her treats.