10.11.2013

A sweet dream comes true

Sweet Mimi's Cafe

With the opening of Sweet Mimi’s Cafe and Bakery last Friday, owner and cook Jeannette Liebers realized a dream 10 years in the making.

The shop, located at 47 Phila St., serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and just delightful things to eat, concocted from local farm products and delicious imports. The menu features such dishes as Mediterranean strata, which is peasant bread layered with roasted asparagus, caramelized onions, sausage, cheddar cheese and roasted red peppers in a savory herb egg custard, and lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry sauce. She also bakes homemade scones, muffins and cookies.

On her first day, she and her staff used up 15 dozen eggs from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the daily hours. Tuesday she is closed, and that gives her a breathing space and time to refocus on her family.

To surprise Liebers, her 74-year-old mother drove up from Chevy Chase, Md., for the opening.

Liebers’s husband, Eddie, and their three teenagers, Max, Mimi and Charlie are big fans of her cooking and supporters of her new venture. Mimi, the only daughter, had the cafe named for her, so the two boys each have a menu item: coffee to the Max and Charlie’s sandwich. The latter is scrambled eggs, bacon and white American cheese on an English muffin.

“I used to eat that for breakfast every day,” Charlie said. “Now my favorite is Mom’s special here, the bacon pancakes with salted caramel.”

Although Liebers began her career in sales, cooking was always a major part of her life, dating back to an inspirational Italian grandmother.

“She always had her back to you because she was at the stove stirring a pot bigger than she was,” Liebers said.

Liebers studied at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and the Culinary Institute of America. She taught cooking classes, did catering and hosted a local cooking television show while living in Syracuse before moving to Saratoga. She remained interested in every aspect of the culinary arts, from sweet to savory.

When the Phila Street space that once housed Beverly’s came up for lease, Liebers jumped at the chance. She had enjoyed eating at Beverly’s and loved the row of women’s businesses on the block: Caffe Lena and Hattie’s Restaurant.

“The space here has always had a woman’s name,” Liebers said. “First it was Peggy’s Deli, then Eartha’s, then Beverly’s and now Mimi’s.”

It took a while to get there. Liebers said she was told no a lot as she worked to get the lease and renovate the space.

“I went up and down a lot of stairs with cookies and muffins, and did some arm-twisting,” she said, smiling.

The cafe is light and inviting after she and her contractors completely gutted and refitted the space. Now Sweet Mimi’s is just as Liebers wished. She wanted the space to be comfortable and happy, and by the sound of things (the place was completely packed at 7:30 a.m. opening day), she’s succeeded. She said it’s hard to believe it’s happening.

“I want this place to be a strong part of the community,” she said. “We needed more breakfast places.”

It’s worth noting that Liebers has an enthusiastic staff of 23, which vast number includes former clients, close friends, serendipitous hires and the entire Saratoga Springs High School hockey team, including son Max.

--Jennie






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