Everything made from scratch and no compromising on quality are the twin mantras practiced at this excellent bakery west of Knoxville.
by Bakery Boy
Just when you think you know thumbprint cookies, along comes VG’s Bakery to change your whole perspective on the matter. “We make ours four inches in diameter and thicker than most, then load them with icing,” says co-owner David Gwin. “Nobody has a thumb that big, but we call them Thumbprints anyway.” They sell for $1.25 each or $12 for a baker’s dozen. Yes, even as giant as they are and with a discount for buying in volume, VG’s throws in an extra cookie to sweeten the deal. How nice is that?
REASONS TO LIKE That’s just one of many reasons to like this bakeshop in suburban Farragut, Tennessee, just west of Knoxville. Others include:
• Big, soft, moist Lemon Blueberry Scones or Apricot Pecan Scones
• Cream Cheese Sweet Rolls almost the size of a pie pans
• Pies bigger than pie pans because crusts and whipped cream overflow the rims on Key Lime, Chocolate Cream, and Coconut Cream versions
• Layer cakes ranging from Red Velvet to Caramel, Carrot, egg-and-dairy-free Chocolate Fudge, and more
• A series of cookies on the scale of the impressive Thumbprints, including Lemon Iced, Double Chocolate, Oatmeal Raisin, Chewy Ginger, and Peanut Butter
• Pan breads including great-for-toasting English Muffin, hot-on-the-tongue Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread, and whole-wheat cracked-wheat Multigrain with lots of seeds
• Muffins that rise from baking tins and crack open like blooming flowers full of blueberries or cinnamon or (in those dubbed Morning Glories) with carrots, raisins, cranberry-raisins, walnuts, coconut, and pineapple
• Almond Macaroons, Coconut Macaroons, Chocolate Raspberry Oat Bars, and miscellaneous other goodies that fill showcases depending on the baking staff’s creative mood on any given day
• Because they’re always experimenting with new baked goods, each visit hold the promise of a few pleasant surprises
THE V.G. IN VG’S Vanessa Gwin—a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, a former sous chef, the daughter of a baker, head baker at VG’s (named for her initials), and co-owner along with her Knoxville-native husband David—makes everything from scratch. “That’s something Vanessa insisted on from the beginning, that we’d take no shortcuts and never compromise on quality,” says David, a former consumer-electronics engineer and tool-and-dye salesman who helped her launch VG’s Bakery in 1999. “It all has to be fresh-made from the best ingredients we can find.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR Daughter Katie Gwin has worked with her parents in the bakery since her early teenage years. Now she has a journalism degree from the University of Tennessee and is working toward another degree while still helping at the shop. Son Riley Gwin, a high school senior, is currently “a skateboarding fiend, so we don’t see much of him around the bakery,” David says with a laugh, adding, “but there’s hope!”
FARMERS MARKETS The Gwins set up shop at as many as eight farmers markets each week during the spring-to-fall growing season. “We take some of everything we bake to each one, except for desserts that would melt outside in the heat,” David says. “Cookies and sticky buns sell best because they look good and smell good and can be eaten right out of hand. People also buy a lot of bread to take home to eat along with the produce they get.”
David serves as secretary-treasurer of the East Tennessee Farmers Association for Retail Marketing (F.A.R.M.). “That might seem surprising, a baker leading a farm organization,” he says. “But when you think about it, we use a lot of flour, and flour is near the end of a food system that starts with those who plow fields and grow wheat. The same is true for most ingredients.” Markets they stock include:
• Knoxville Farmers Market, Laurel Church of Christ, Knoxville, Tuesdays & Fridays
• Market Square Farmers’ Market, Market Square, Knoxville, Wednesdays & Saturdays
• New Harvest Park Farmers Market, New Harvest Park, Knoxville, Thursdays
• Dixie Lee Farmers Market, Renaissance Shopping Plaza, Farragut, Saturdays
• Oak Ridge Farmers Market, Jackson Square, Oak Ridge, Saturdays
ABOUT THAT SHOWCASE One long wood-and-glass showcase adds an interesting element to VG’s Bakery. “It’s an awesome antique jewelry case we got for free from a coffeehouse we supplied baked good to that didn’t need it anymore,” David says. “We paid $100 to have it moved and then fixed it up to hold cookies and pastries. Makes a nice touch, don’t you think?”
ALL WORTHWHILE “We’ve been here just long enough that little kids who came in holding their mama’s hands are teenagers now and can drive here on their own,” David says. “They have fond memories of VG’s and get the same treats as always. It’s the kind of thing that makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
LOCATION VG’s Bakery, 11552 Kingston Pike, Farragut, TN 37934. Just west of Knoxville take I-40/75 Exit 373, go south on Campbell Station Road, then west on Kingston Pike to a shopping center on the left anchored by Kohl’s department store. VG’s is squeezed between an H&R Block tax preparation service and a Bahia Tans tanning salon.
HOURS Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
INFO www.vgsbakery.com or 865-671-8077
[Special thanks to photographer Andrew Hock of www.visualdelicious.com for his close-up images of baked goods.]