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  Perhaps we can admit to a slight bias as locals, but it is my firm belief that this region does the holiday season like no other. From the twinkling lights that reflect off window panes on centuries-old homes to town centers draped in garland, the holidays are a truly magical time to be a New Englander.  A popular destination for residents and visitors alike, Figtree Kitchen in Newburyport might want to consider a revolving door this time of year, because all it takes is one bite of their kouign amann (for the unfamiliar that’s a pastry made with laminated croissant dough) for first time customers to become return guests. Figtree’s baked goods are familiar fixtures at the Newburyport Farmers’ Market on Sundays and at their café at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, and earlier this year customers were treated to a major upgrade when the bakery moved into a downtown space on Liberty Street. While you can rest assured traditional items are prominently featured on their menu, it is Figtree’s commitment to quality ingredients and their unique spin on baking that land this shop on your holiday must-visit list. 

Bringing Figtree to this new location in Newburyport was a natural move for owners Michael Shea and Brian Murphy, both longtime fans of the city and the communities that surround it. If you were to describe the space as cozy you wouldn’t be wrong; it is indeed small, but also warm and inviting. While the kitchen onsite is very much in operation, the bakery also has a 1,000-square-foot space in Rollinsford, New Hampshire, that allows them to prepare dough and complete other prep work off site, making the quaint confines all the more manageable. 

Shea attended culinary school “later in life,” as he describes it, and he and Murphy are both actively involved in planning the bakery’s menu, which includes signature items as well as a rotating selection of new recipes. Shea also credits Murphy with playing the role of “product line visionary,” overseeing everything from bakery renovations to décor and design choices.  Many of Figtree’s established menu items could easily double as ideal additions to a holiday brunch, including their almond croissants, an item with such a devoted following that Shea says customers “make special trips for it.” Their morning buns and cinnamon French toast croissants are also not to be missed (all I can tell you about the French toast croissant is that it’s about ten times better than it sounds). 

Dinosaur donuts are one of their most popular items with children and can be found in store or at the farmers’ market (In truth, you should arrive early if you want a chance of snagging one!) Their baby babka comes in cinnamon or Nutella, a choice that no person with a sweet tooth should ever have to make.  Figtree has a full assortment of sweet and savory scones and tarts, macarons and so much more. Their wheat-free options include cookies, tarts, and scones, all with wheat-free doughs, which Shea says “have to be good, not just wheat free” to make the cut at Figtree. 

The breakfast and lunch selections far exceed what you might expect from a bakery-type establishment, and include egg flat wraps (again gluten free options are also available) and sandwiches. Their quiches pull double duty as visually appealing additions to any holiday table and are just as delicious to eat, simply bring home and pop in the oven, no true cooking required on your part! The macarons are picture-perfect and make great hostess gifts (especially if the hostess happens to be you). 

If you’d like a specialty cake for a holiday table or another occasion, Figtree is more than happy to oblige. Special seasonal items include gingerbread snowflakes and baby cakes, and a list of tarts that may well go on for days (roasted pecan and caramel, cranberry walnut, pear frangipane, and snowflake linzer to name a few). There’s no shortage of gingerbread here, you’ll find it in the form of cookies and cakes, and their ready-to-go biscotti bags and gingerbread house cookies are sure to delight any recipient. If help with holiday catering is what you desire, Figtree is an old hand at full scale breakfast and lunch platter catering as well as hors d’oeuvres trays for holiday parties both big and small.  Figtree believes in serving both their customers and the community, especially those in need. They do this year-round through daily donations of their baked goods to local organizations. A bakery with a heart as sweet as their treats—that might be the one thing I don’t mind standing in a holiday line for.    Figtree Kitchen 3 Liberty St., Newburyport,  978-255-4076