PICS: BHRIKUTI RAI
You know your olfactory senses are doing just fine, even with all the dust and congestion blocking your nose, when you pass a bakery and the toasty aroma of sweet buttery bakery delights wafts out to the chilly sidewalk.
Bakeries have suddenly become a rage, not just in Thamel and other tourist areas of the country, but all over. They are even giving Indian sweet shops a run for their money with their delectable assortment of cakes, cookies, breads, and croissants.
Krishna Pauroti Bhandar was established in 1948 and marked the beginning of western-style loaf baking in Nepal. For 30 more years, Krishna at Kamal Pokhari was the only show in town, but things have changed of recent with bakeries and cakeshops springing up like mushroom patties wherever tourists and expats congregate.
Ghanashyam Rajkarnikar of Krishna Pauroti Bhandar remembers the days when his father Krishna Bahadur Rajkarnikar pioneered baking. "Although bread and buns are still popular, as a pioneer establishment we have diversified into cakes, cookies and pastries," he says.
But it is at Christmas that the Valley's bakeries do their briskest business, and it's no longer just for expats. "The new generation needs an excuse to celebrate and Christmas is suddenly fashionable here," explains Rajkarnikar.
Other bakeries too wait eagerly for Christmas to put up their special selection of Christmas delights. European Bakery at Baluwatar is in its ninth year and offers a wide range of breads from millet to garlic besides the assortments of pastries and cookies, says Bimal Bhandari, who bakes a special range of cheese and mint pies along with Christmas fruit cake and stollen bread this week.
Hermann Helmers is a pioneer bakery on the Patan side of town and baker Rita KC has noticed more and more local customers over the years at his outlet in Jhamel. "We had only a few orders for cakes this Christmas, but sales of puddings and mousse have gone up in December as always," KC says.
Other popular Patan-based bakeries like Fuji and Julies say that business is good during Christmas despite not having Yuletide delicacies. Radha Thapa of Julies in Kupondole points at the empty racks meant to showcase doughnuts, cakes and special Swiss chocolates, saying they vanish faster at Christmas.
While December does bring in extra business, it also comes with its own set of challenges. "Load-shedding is a real headache because it coincides with higher demand for items like our sour cream cookies," admits Bhumi Shakya of Fuji Bakery at Chakupat.
HOT OFF THE OVENS
Higher Ground Bakery
Linked to the Higher Ground Café in Jawalakhel, this bakery employs women at risk.
The delectable doughnuts and cupcakes are for those with a sweet tooth.
A favourite among locals, bagpackers and expats Pumpernickel has expanded
Since it broke away from the older Mabacos, Master Baker makes muffins, sandwiches and Swiss rolls.
Julie's Cakes and Pastries
In addition to the regular breads and cakes, Julie's displays a sinful assortment of Swiss chocolates.
The popular bakery continues to live reinvent itself with impressive range of cakes, pastries, cookies, chocolates and mousse.
The whole range of baked products and sandwiches, and yes, a restaurant on the side.
Jawalakhel, Durbar Marg
One of the original fast-food restaurants of Kathmandu, the Nanglo chain has outlets all over the country.
Jawalakhel, Durbar Marg, Gwarko
The assortment of pastries, cakes and buttery cookies and failsafe momos will have you craving for more.
Old Baneshwor, 9808663505
Purists swear by its doughnuts, but cheese plaits and patties also have a huge following.
The busiest bakery in this residential neighbourhood serves baking hot delicacies
Tucked away in an alley in Patan, Fuji is spick and span and has a fan club.
Krishna Pauroti Bhandar
It looked as though the building might collapse under the road-widening, but Krishna Pauroti survived and rebranded itself.
Kamal Pokhari, 4410067
A green Christmas
If Bing Crosby's song 'White Christmas' is hammering in your head this season and the wish for 'tree tops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow' makes you want to have trees and wreaths and lots of snow, look for a green Christmas next week.
After all, 'tis the season to be eco-friendly. Instead of chopping down fresh pine trees and branches, you can have a small tree in a pot, look after it throughout the year, and then when Christmas finally arrives you already have the habit of making it grow. Or why not follow the tradition in the Philippines where fresh pine trees are too expensive and locals prefer to make Christmas trees out of bamboo stalks and then decorate them with lights?
But, the best option is to plant poinsettias inside and outside the house, its red petals the perfect symbol of Christmas.