lemon poppyseed scone at sugaree baking co. photo by mabel suen

Sugaree Baking Co.'s return to Dogtown with new owners is a great success

Barely a year after Pat Rutherford-Pettine and Jimmy Pettine closed Sugaree Baking Co. at 1242 Tamm Ave., the business has reopened in the same spot with new owners, Megan and Derrick Cobb. The former owners, who launched Sugaree in 1999, have passed on all old recipes to the Cobbs, who are tweaking them and bringing new things of their own to the table as well.


sugaree baking co. in dogtown // photo by mabel suen


Bags of soda bread were on the counter and we were told that some chocolate cupcakes in the display case had been made with a dusky Heavy Riff stout. They were festive-looking – capped with a froth of icing and, of course, emerald sprinkles. Indeed, they had an interesting earthiness, a barrelly dampness. But the icing was lightweight and oddly thin: not stout enough.

I will confess unabashedly to being a fan of soda bread. I'll even buy it from Schnucks. I love its mystery, its betwixt/betweenness. It's a bread! It's a scone! It's a rock! But toasted and lashed with something like salted Kerrygold, it can almost always be lifted.

I cut a slice and put it in the toaster, and then wondered a minute later if I'd done things in reverse, put the butter on first. The soda bread fizzled in the heat and the kitchen was smelling jammy, feeling cozy with the scent of roasty fruit and sizzled butter. It was certainly one of the best loaves of its kind I've had.

I told myself I was allowed to have Sugaree's key lime cheesecake for my next breakfast. It had been sitting in the fridge for most of the weekend, and it was small — so dainty in its delicate paper collar. But for its size, that duplicitous little cake — the color of sunshine, and fragrant as a waxy leaf in an Islamorada citrus grove — weighed a wad.

"What accounts for it?" I asked Megan Cobb. "Oh, just the usual," she said.


sugaree baking co. co-owner megan cobb and head baker christi rund // photo by mabel suen


People who don't like almond essence may not swoon for the Coconut Chiffon. I don't and didn't, though I certainly fell for this one's looks. It's the wedding dress of cakes: heart-stoppingly white, seemingly feather-boa'd with shreds of tender coconut. And I also was impressed by the impossibly light cream between its layers. It isn't the Chiffon's fault that when cake's in the house, I want heft. I want to have to ask for help getting it up the aisle. (Sugaree, by the way, sells this beauty whole, and by the slice.)

I'm not mad about fruit pie, but I will scale a craggy peak for meat. My grandmother's steak and kidney, her steak and Guinness, her chicken and leek, et cetera, set a high bar and made a hard (and fat) arse of me. Usually, I don't even bother. But at Sugaree the other day, in the name of "work," I ordered one. Actually three (they're small-ish).

I'll say this: It was the best meat pie I've had in recent memory. What was good about it? The crust, for one thing (it shows up elsewhere in a fruity version as well as a pop tart), and its delightfully distinct ingredients for another. I knew it was beef I was eating (shreddy and generously chunked), and I knew the peas were fresh (because they popped), and that the mushrooms came from the woods not the freezer. And I knew I adored the pastry, which managed to be at once delicate and robust. That's a mean feat. Such was its sublime familiarity, I found myself — as if on strings — rooting through the fridge. Was it a Worcestershire sauce bell that was ringing? And please tell me it wasn't ketchup I was after? Because, for this pie, either of those would have been an affront. It's perfect just as it is.

The smallest things on offer at Sugaree are the fig newton and the dog biscuit. Fans of the former may actually be able to tell themselves these wholesome little parcels are the healthier choice. They are rough and wheaty, and would look nice — I pretentiously thought — joined by some bloomy plums and a bit of blue cheese on a charcuterie board. Inside, the fig paste is what Nabisco tries for, but never, ever achieves: soft pastry and an unctuous jam minutely explosive with seeds and wisped with orange. As for that dog biscuit, it's made with peanut butter and applesauce. Thick-cut and almost cakey, it was hard not to pop one in my mouth.

And then ... the croissant. "Be still, my heart. Simmer down, my teeth!" What did they do to these nuts?

Forget all the poncy French ones I've had in all the poncy French places; this one has gone down in history, and it was only last month. As for appearance, the David Attenborough in me wants to say it most closely resembles a pangolin. It's densely scaled — positively packed with almonds which, for once in their life, were juicy rather than dry as a primordial bone. I wondered, as I marveled, if those slivers had been boiled in butter. I'm still puzzling. Darn, I'll have to go back.

OK, so if scarcity breeds urgency, I admit to feeling urgent. I returned for another couple of single-serve beef pies the following day and was met with some terrible news: Not only were they sold out, but they wouldn't have more for a few weeks. "What?!"

Yes, it's true. Next Friday, I was told, Sugaree would be offering chicken pie; the week after that, crab. So it's going to feel like Black Friday both those days, at least for me. But full of anticipation and all the Sugaree things I've rapidly come to love, I'll be more than sweet.

This article was originally published by the Riverfront Times.

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