Fifteen years ago, Robert Duensing made it his mission to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
Duensing — who ran a corporate gift basket business at the time — started with 56 recipes, which he narrowed to three. His wife, Cherrie, helped him draft the final recipe, which produced thick, soft cookies with just the right amount of sweetness.
Duensing’s chocolate chip cookies were so popular that his Olathe-based gift basket business morphed into a cookie business with fans all over the metro. One of them was local radio personality Toby Tobin, who regularly raved about Duensing’s cookies on air.
“At that time we were in Olathe, tucked in the back of an industrial park,” Duensing says. “People were driving from all over to come see us.”
In 2011, the Duensings opened Best Regards Bakery & Cafe in a shopping center at 119th and Glenwood in Overland Park. The location was more accessible for customers — and the space came equipped with an expensive Bongard oven.
The French oven is a baking behemoth: It’s four feet wide and nine feet deep with room for 40 loaves at a time. Duensing had no idea how to work it, but was determined to learn.
“If you don’t know how to drive and somebody gives you a Lamborghini, you learn how to drive,” he said.
It took seven months for Duensing to master the Bongard, which he uses to make five kinds of naturally leavened bread: French country, rosemary, whole wheat, Asiago cheese and marble rye. That fresh-baked bread is one of the reasons that Best Regards has become famous for grilled cheese sandwiches.
The sandwiches are completely customizable: Customers choose from six types of bread (including Udi’s gluten-free bread), 20 cheeses and add-ons such as avocado or Black Forest ham.
I’m a purist, so I stick with the signature grilled cheese sandwich, which squeezes thoroughly melted extra sharp cheddar and creamy Havarti cheese between two slices of perfectly toasted whole wheat bread. During April — which happens to be National Grilled Cheese Month — the sandwich is $8.50 with a side of house-made tomato soup and a chocolate eclair. The deal saves about $4.
The chocolate eclair at Best Regards might be one of my all-time favorite indulgences. Duensing says he uses an “old-school German” recipe to bake the puffy hollow shells, which he fills with scratch-made pastry cream and tops with a dark, shiny coat of chocolate.
Best Regards also bakes delicious cinnamon rolls, sugar cookies, cream puffs and a St. Louis specialty called gooey butter cake. The cake has a chewy crust and a moist, buttery top. It reminds me of a really good lemon bar, without the tart lemon flavor.
Duensing says some bakers use corn syrup and yellow cake mix to make gooey butter cake. Others fill their eclairs and cream puffs with instant pudding. But he’s adamant about making everything from scratch and using only premium ingredients such as pure cane sugar, European butter, King Arthur flour and Madagascar bourbon vanilla.
It worked with his chocolate chip cookies, and it works with everything else on Best Regards’ menu.
“When you use the absolute best ingredients and get out of the way,” Duensing said, “it’s amazing how good food can taste.”
Best Regards Bakery & Cafe
Location: 6759 W. 119th St. in Overland Park
Hours: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
Credit cards: Yes
Parking: Free lot
Don’t miss: The signature grilled cheese sandwich ($5.99), made with whole wheat bread, extra sharp cheddar cheese and Havarti. During the month of April, the sandwich is part of an $8.50 meal deal that includes a side of house-made San Marzano tomato soup and a chocolate eclair.