Who doesn’t need a little harmony in their life?
Since opening in April of 2015, Harmony Bakery has offered a variety of gluten-free and vegan fare under the direction of the Gorman family, best known as the onetime proprietors of the now-defunct but much beloved Puffins restaurant of Pikesville.
Originally from the Baltimore area, Don and Renee Gorman have been a part of the city’s food scene for decades, and over the years they brought in their daughter, Lisa, to help with their ventures, including Harmony Bakery.
Years ago, the Gormans spent a year apprenticing at a Japanese restaurant in Boston, where they honed their culinary skills along with learning what it takes to survive in the competitive restaurant business. With these lessons, the Gormans returned to the Baltimore area and opened Puffins.
From 1980 to 1996, the stylish and popular Reisterstown Road bistro offered seafood and chicken along with vegetarian options on a menu that was focused on healthy eating.
“We couldn’t make it just as vegetarian in the ‘80s,” recalls Renee Gorman.
After Puffins closed, the Gormans became a constant presence at the 32nd Street Farmers Market in Waverly, where they noticed that as time went on, customers were coming to them looking for vegetarian options.
“More and more people are becoming more aware of the environment and other issues,” says Lisa Gorman. “People are becoming more involved, aware and active as vegetarians and vegans.”
During their time at the farmers market, customers would inquire about gluten-free options, and the Gormans responded by converting some of their recipes so they could address patrons’ health concerns. Eventually, the Gormans converted the entire menu to be gluten-free, citing the importance of ensuring that food would be as safe as advertised.
The Gormans drew upon their own experience as bakers and restaurant owners, and began work on what they describe as an ongoing process to offer an entirely vegan and gluten-free menu.
“We were already bakers, so it made it a little easier,” says Don Gorman. “Once we got the hang of the conversion process, it was still trial and error, but it got easier as we went along.”
They say they source as much produce and ingredients from local farmers and sellers, working with what is fresh and from the area.
“Everything we use is seasonal,” says Lisa Gorman. “We change our menu based on what is in season and what we can get at the market.”
The menu changes for holidays and around what is available. For instance, this Thanksgiving, Harmony Bakery offered vegan and gluten-free versions of traditional fare, including vegan pumpkin pie and gluten-free bread for stuffing.
The Gormans and their bakery staff make all of the products from scratch on the premises, with a focus on organic and local ingredients. Along with baked goods, Harmony Bakery offers savory dishes, like gluten-free and vegan quiches, soups and tarts.
“People are gluten-free mostly for health reasons, and people are vegan mostly for consciousness reasons They really care about the planet and about animals and things like that; it’s really two worlds that have come together,” says Don Gorman. “It’s mainly about being more conscious about your diet and being more conscious about your life.”
The Gormans say they are happy with the shop’s location on Chestnut Avenue in Hampden, an area they have grown very fond of. “We’ve been shopping and supporting the stores here for 15 years, and we love the area,” says Renee Gorman.
Additionally, the Gormans say they have been delighted as other shops in the neighborhood have begun expanding their gluten-free and vegan options, because other businesses are showing their commitment to the needs of customers.
Along with customers from Hampden and those passing through, Renee Gorman says customers have told her that they have come to Harmony Bakery from other parts of Maryland, eager to check out their unique fare.
The Gormans say that to this day, customers come in who fondly remember Puffins and want to check in on their new restaurant. Renee Gorman says the vibrant Hampden area helps draw past customers from the nearby Pikesville community as well.
While Harmony Bakery is mostly a carry-out location currently, Renee Gorman says she applied and was granted permits to put tables outside the restaurant, where customers will be able to enjoy their meals once the weather warms up.
Harmony Bakery is located at 3446 Chestnut Avenue in Hampden The website is harmonybakery.net,and the phone number is (443)-235-3870.
Adam Barry is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
Photo of Lisa, Don and Renee Gorman by Harry Bosk
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