Bee Good

Bernal Heights has gained a neighborhood spot that makes us want to live nearby

Former Chez Panisse pastry chef Stacie Pierce, owner of Little Bee Baking, has lived in Bernal Heights for a decade and has always wanted to own a little shop on Cortland. "I wanted someplace I could walk to," she says, the remainder of years of wistfulness lingering in her voice.

Pierce transitioned out of the restaurant world and into catering and custom baking when her daughter was born in 2010. After hearing a minuscule sweet shop was up for sale, she rustled up a business plan and funding as quickly as possible.

Little Bee, now open for two weeks, is a modest proposition: Four Barrel coffee, Three Twins ice cream and a handful of buttery cookies ($1.50). Pierce's apple-quince tarts look as minimalist as the shop but taste like the orchard on a bright fall day.

Stacie Pierce with her apple-quince tartlets

The destination sweet is her flourless brownie ($4). Some customers are buying them because they're gluten-free; we're buying them because they taste simultaneously creamy and crackly, ridiculously airy given the wallop of chocolate they deliver.

A bigger oven is on its way, but even after it arrives Little Bee's operation isn't going to get much grander. Pierce will continue to make custom cakes, and take-home pastry dough is in the plans.

"I don't want to win a James Beard Award," Pierce says. "I want to win best neighbor award."