Started in 2009, Treet is a DC-based online bakery that serves up comfort sweets done right – think fudgy brownie bites, melt-in-your-mouth petit fours, and luscious buttery cornbread. Theresa Luongo Pinelli, the pastry chef, owner, and creative force behind Treet, takes a simple, straightforward approach to her baked goods. ” I like things that taste good – something home baked that you wouldn’t make yourself,” she says.
Pinelli didn’t always dream of being a pastry chef – she started out working in the corporate world, doing marketing in New York before she “hit a dead end” with her career. Pinelli had always loved to bake and entertain, and loved to throw massive and elaborate theme parties with her now-husband Vincent. “If we had a ‘white’ themed party everything would be white – white truffles, white wine, white cheese,” she says. In a day of “massive frustration” with her job, Pinelli realized that she had to make a change. During a brainstorming session with her husband she hit on the idea of going to pastry school, which would combine her love of baking, entertaining, and her retail background (Pinelli has an undergraduate degree in retail and consumer science from the University of Arizona).
Pinelli was an accomplished home baker, but she wanted to go to pastry school “to learn to fix things” that went wrong with recipes. Pinelli graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City in 2008. She worked seven days a week to complete her externship at 3 Tarts, a pastry shop in Chelsea, while also working a full-time marketing job. After she and her husband moved to DC for his career, Pinelli spent several months writing her business plan before launching Treet a little over six months ago.
While Pinelli prefers to make home-style baked goods – “I’m not a plated dessert pastry chef,” she says – her desserts are anything but mundane. “I believe you can play with texture and flavor in simple baked foods,” she says, an approach that shows in her playful, inventive take on classic American sweets. Take her “truffle shuffle” cookie, which pairs chocolate chunks and cloves for a flavorful twist on a classic chocolate cookie. Pinelli’s most “sentimental” menu item is her X-Ray Vision Carrot Cake with maple cream cheese buttercream, a recipe she developed before she went to pastry school. Her favorite menu item at the moment is an almond caramel bar, made with slivered almonds and a caramelized honey topping, solidified over a sable dough and sprinkled with kosher salt.
Pinelli also has a strong commitment to using locally sourced, sustainable ingredients at Treet. Pinelli only uses grass-fed milk and butter in her products, which she gets from Trickling Springs Creamery in Pennsylvania. She gets her free-range eggs from Waterview Foods, a local farm in Maryland. For Pinelli, using local dairy makes sense from both a business and culinary perspective. “The products are so much fresher and stay fresh so much longer – it enhances the quality of the product,” she says.
While Pinelli has no plans of opening a storefront for now, there are many ways to get your hands on her “treets.” Pinelli takes orders through her web site, www.treetshop.com, and has a stand at the Bethesda Central Farmer’s Market on Sundays from 10-2. When the Clarendon Farmer’s Market starts up again this spring, she’ll be there on Wednesdays from 2-7. You can also buy her cornbread and desserts at Soupergirl, the lunchtime soup delivery service. And, at this Sunday’s Bethesda Farmer’s Market, you can get a free brownie in honor of the Olympics if you say the code word “Olympics.”
Now doesn’t that sound like a tasty treet for a Sunday morning? I certainly think so.