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Talking Fruute Tarts: WeHo’s Newest Culinary Craze

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Sep 18, 2011

Tucked comfortably in the Pavillions Shopping Center in the heart of West Hollywood - and just blocks from the famous Beverly Hills sign - is a new curiosity: a small dessert shop called Fruute.

What's so intriguing about the store is that it doesn't sell the de rigueur chocolates, yogurt, or cupcakes. Fruute exclusively sells mouth-watering tarts that are not only beautiful, but also infused with interesting and inventive flavors.

Yo Santosa, the founder and creative director of the marketing and branding firm Ferroconcrete, co-owns the shop along with her mother Christina and her sister Sylvia. Each of the women brings her own specialties to the endeavor. Since her mother is a baker and, as Santosa boasts, "really, really good with flavors," she comes up with the recipes for the tarts. Sylvia is a fashion designer in Singapore, so she designs the looks of the tarts which Yo describes as "very contemporary." With Yo's marketing experience, she came up with the store design and the website, and she also directed the photography.

The product is really the first of its kind. Featuring sixteen different tarts with flavors like Green Tea, Black Pepper, Sea Salt Caramel, and Wasabi, these aren't your grandmother's tarts. They are slightly bigger than bite size, and each cost $3 apiece.

Walking in the small shop, the d├ęcor is spare and uncomplicated. Like an art gallery, this visually puts the tarts front and center, making the treats works-of-art themselves. In fact, if they weren't so delicious, it would seriously be a shame to eat them.

In a wide, see-through case, the tarts are displayed in precise rows that allow customers to eye each of the creations with hungry eyes. Every edible invention is an electric feast for the taste buds. Hints of berries, pepper, and other spices dazzle your mouth until you truly want to sample every single one.

It's a delightful experience which makes sense coming from the spirited co-owner Yo who just had her tarts included in gift bags that were given to Emmy nominees staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. I talked to her by phone and her infectious energy is clearly what brings such vibrancy to the shop.

EDGE: What was your defining moment of inspiration for Fruute?

SANTOSA: [My mother, sister, and I] were going to start a restaurant in the beginning, but we started thinking that our passion is not food like that. Our passion is definitely dessert. I started talking to my mom and we decided our favorite dessert was tarts. But they always come in big sizes and they always glaze the fruit and it’s only one or two flavors that exist, so why not do mini-tarts? I don’t like eating one big dessert by myself; I like to taste different flavors. We always share four things, you know? And get a bite each. So that’s how it came about.

EDGE: Was your family always creative?

SANTOSA: Yeah, I think so. Early on, we knew all of us were going to be Art Majors. I think that’s just because we suck at math. [laughs]

EDGE: Between Pinkberry and Crumb, why do you think these types of dessert stores are so popular?

SANTOSA: I’m very familiar with Pinkberry, because I have a branding company and we’ve been working with them since they had one store. With them it’s light, refreshing, and it’s a really nice environment to hang out at. For places like Crumb, I think it’s popular because it’s cute, easy to bring to parties, and easy to eat. With our tarts it’s not super sweet. It’s really well-balanced. So for people who are not crazy dessert lovers, they can still enjoy it.

EDGE: I’ve sampled a couple of the tarts and you’re right, they are pretty light. My friend and I split a few so we could both try them. He went to culinary school so he’s good about pulling out the flavors. He gets very, very excited about these types of things. He was looking at the tarts and his eyes got really big. How did your mom come up with the combinations? They’re really interesting. Like the Black Pepper which I thought would be really strange, but it’s kind of one of my favorites.

SANTOSA: That’s her own flavor. The same thing with the Wasabi. She experiments with a lot of stuff. When she’s in Singapore she works in research and development - she comes up with recipes and teaches the employees how to make them.

EDGE: Your sister comes up with the designs of the tarts which are really beautiful. How does she come up with the ideas?

SANTOSA: We want it to feel accessible and young, but not intimidating. We’ve always liked simple stuff; super pared down and not a lot of angles. I think that’s the basis for how she designs it. In the Green Tea she stuffed a blueberry inside a raspberry and we thought it was funny. It looks really cute. The people in the kitchen were like, "why are we stuffing a blueberry inside a raspberry?" Some of the designs are so intricate that we have to use tweezers to put things on top of them, because they’re so tiny and have all these little parts.

EDGE: How many flavors do you have?

SANTOSA: We have sixteen, but we are definitely coming up with different flavors for the winter and other seasons.

EDGE: Are you going to retire any flavors?

SANTOSA: We are going to retire some, yeah. [With others] we’re just trying to use the freshest ingredients for the season.

EDGE: What about the packaging?

SANTOSA: We designed it at Ferroconcrete. We decided to use 100% recyclable materials, but have a little surprise when you open the box with the clouds. It’s optimistic. It’s happy.

EDGE: And it’s interesting, because the design doesn’t allow the tarts to move inside the box.

SANTOSA: It is tough because most fruit tarts you get have a sugar glaze on top. That’s partly to allow the fruit to last longer outside in the open, but also to keep the fruit in place. But we don’t want that. We want to keep the fruit as natural as possible. That’s why we build [the packaging] like we do so it doesn’t shift around.

EDGE: Why did you choose West Hollywood for your first store?

SANTOSA: It was between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, but at the end of the day we feel West Hollywood is a hipper environment and open to new things. Once we saw the place we really liked it. We liked the foot traffic. We thought it was perfect!

EDGE: Do you want to expand?

SANTOSA: That’s tough to say. We’re trying to figure this one store out, but eventually, yes, we would love to do more than one store. [chuckles] You ask a lot of questions!

EDGE: That was actually my last one.

SANTOSA: [laughs] I was bracing! It gets tougher as we go along.

EDGE: You’re all done. I think I’m gonna’ go try some more tarts! The Wasabi I’m a little afraid of.

SANTOSA: We have people that will come in and order four Wasabi! It’s funny, you either love it or some people are like, "what IS this?"

After that statement, how could I not go try the Wasabi? Sweeter than expected, it does have an interesting kick to it, much like the Black Pepper tart which has a sweet blackberry flavor punched with a subtle prick of pepper.

The Sea Salt Caramel is another favorite - sweet and salty with just the right amount of crunch. Other favorites: Pistachio topped with a strawberry, and the Mont Blanc, a caramelized banana tart with a touch of rum.

Whatever your flavor preference, Fruute has a tart for you. And while some have balked at the $3 price tag for something you can eat in one to two bites, chocolate shops charge about half that for one piece of candy.

These artistic edibles have a little something more to show than a disc of chocolate and nuts. With ingeniously original flavors and an architecture that reminds one of Tim Burton on a "cute" day, Fruute is a delicious new brand located in the coolest and hippest part of Los Angeles. Don’t miss out!

LINK: Fruute

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.


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