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The Red Dessert Dive Runs a Small Batch Bakery with Treats From Scratch

By Marina Jokic

Nestled in Houston's historic Heights neighborhood, the Red Dessert Dive has multiple personalities. Part bakery and café, part bar, it capitalizes on the best aspects of any meal, the dessert and alcohol. Owner Jessica Lusk discusses the long path to realizing her dream of opening a bakery and the challenges and rewards along the way.

Lusk grew up with home-made pastries and baked goods. She learned to love desserts (making and eating them) so eventually she decided to use her skills to start her own business. Red Dessert Dive was born out of a genuine love for baking?a funky and casual bakery, it has become part of the local landscape and urban spirit.

Visitors can enjoy a piping hot coffee paired with a delicious dessert or sandwich, or opt for a beer or a glass of wine. Red Dessert was created more in the European tradition of coffee houses, serving sweets, savory options as well as alcoholic drinks.

"Red is an actual dream come true," says Lusk. "I literally eat desserts for a living," she exclaims. Of course, Lusk emphasizes, the process of establishing her business in the area was not easy, especially contending with so many other similar establishments. She had to figure out how to set her bakery apart from the competition. Persistently chasing her passion eventually paid off as Red Dessert has become an iconic café and bakery in this Houston neighborhood for locals and tourists alike.

"Once I decided to make Red happen, I traveled the world to perform totally pertinent sugar research," Lusk adds jokingly.  During her travels and studies, she learned the intricacies of baking from scratch and the vital importance of using the freshest, most wholesome ingredients she could find. "You must bake fresh daily, you must use the highest quality ingredients and freshest fruit available," she underscores. That has been the mantra for Lusk, and has made all the difference with her customers.

Breakfast enthusiasts should try the signature kolache, or sweet breads, made with various toppings like cheese, bacon, and chives. Warm muffins, croissants, scones, quiches, and beer bread are quite popular among customers as well and always fresh. The bakery also offers filling sandwiches such as the Jalapeno-Bacon-Egg Sandwich, Curry Chicken, and the Hummus Wrap.

If you want to skip directly to dessert, then try Red's salted caramel brownie, banana pudding, or their seasonal cheesecakes.

Mastering a repertoire of baked goods also required an equal mastery of caffeinated concoctions. Lusk and her expert staff make a number of coffee drinks -- espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, and latte as well as the everyday drip brew, café au lait, French Press, and iced coffee. These are designed to pair well with whatever delicate and seasonal dessert the staff has created.

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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