Tag Archives: Culinary Institute of America

WildFlour Pastry, Charleston, SC

“Sticky Bun Sunday” has such a nice ring to it. Join the happy crowd smacking sticky fingers at this neighborhood treasure in historic Charleston.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

The main attraction on Sticky Bun Sundays at WildFlour Pastry in Charleston, SC

Friends meet up at WildFlour Pastry

The Sunday morning line at WildFlour Pastry stretches out the door and down Spring Street, but nobody standing in it seems to mind waiting. In chatty groups or as cuddly pairs or alone, people laugh and talk or read newspapers or thumb iPhone keypads in the shade of breeze-ruffled palmetto trees as they anticipate the treat ahead.

It’s Sticky Bun Sunday at WildFlour Pastry, a weekly tradition just three years old, like the bakery itself, but about as established as any upstart tradition can be in city as steeped in them as is historic old Charleston, South Carolina.

Sticky Buns arrive at one of WildFlour Pastry’s window tables

The line gradually moves forward each time someone emerges sporting a satisfied smile or toting a to-go box, disappearing on foot or by bicycle or in a car that has been idling nearby or circling the block.

Once inside the close quarters of this narrow storefront operation, I find a tiny seating area including a pair of tables wedged into twin alcoves with broad windows facing the street. There’s a somewhat roomier courtyard just out a side door with more tables tucked among garden greenery. Finally reaching the service counter at the front of the line, I trade $3 for a red plate bearing a fine specimen of Sticky Bun Sunday’s glorious signature pastry: a WildFlour Sticky Bun.

Courtyard dining at WildFlour Pastry

It’s a delightfully gooey (because it’s loaded with butter) sweet roll coated with cinnamon-sugar and topped with about as many pecans as can fit. It’s served warm and with an optional thick blob of creamy white icing on top.

Looking around as I eat, I spy a few neatniks approaching this delicacy with a fork and knife, performing a sort of culinary surgery and carving off small bites like they’re savoring fine steaks. Others, like me, just pick it up and let the sweet ooze drip, happy to lick sticky fingers later. I even see a few quick tongues tidying up sticky plates, messy chins be damned.

All Hail Pastry Chef Lauren Mitterer

Behind the counter leading her small team of fellow bakers (currently WildFlour has four employees) is owner and sticky-bun queen Lauren Mitterer.

The WildFlour crew, hard as work

A Chicago native and former Seattle-area resident, Lauren went to the University of Virginia on a rowing scholarship (earning a seat on the U.S. Rowing Junior National Team), took a degree in studio arts, and went on to develop her creative bent in the food world, graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 2004. She has worked as a pasty chef at Tavern on the Green in New York City, Larkspur Restaurant in Vail, Colorado, and Red Drum Gastropub in Mount Pleasant across the Cooper River from Charleston. She’s been nominated twice for awards in the pastry chef category from the prestigious James Beard Foundation, once while working at Red Drum and once at her own WildFlour Pastry.

Lauren struck out on her own by opening WildFlour Pastry in September 2009, leasing a 700-square-foot space on the first floor of a petite two-story cottage in Charleston’s Cannonborough/Elliotborough area, a delightful old neighborhood tucked between the city’s bustling King Street commercial district, the Medical University of South Carolina, and The Citadel — The Military College of South Carolina.

Come on in, the pastry’s fine

She introduced Sticky Bun Sundays soon after opening, and at last count was making around 200 of the hefty sweet rolls for the occasion each week, frequently running out of them before the 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. serving hours end. (Hint: go early!)

The walk-in retail side took off quickly enough, but to bolster the operation Lauren also set up a catering business, creating wedding cakes and setting up dessert bars at special events. Through WildFlour Pastry she also supplies baked good to such noteworthy Charleston restaurants as The Macintosh nearby on King Street, Next Door in Mount Pleasant, and her former employer Red Drum, also in Mount Pleasant.

But Wait, There’s More

Like most of the Sunday morning crowd, I was at WildFlour for the always-satisfying Stick Buns. But many other choices crowd the showcases. Such as:

Double Chocolate Brownies at WildFlour Pastry

• Apples caramelized in brown butter and spiced sugar, nestled into phyllo pouches, baked, garnished with caramel sauce, and topped with aged cheddar

• Double chocolate cookies made with cocoa powder and dark bittersweet chocolate

• Double chocolate brownies, likewise combining cocoa power and dark chocolate and cut into large squares

• Scones, both sweet and savory varieties, in a constantly changing lineup that recently including strawberry jam, blueberry lemon curd, ham and cheddar, pesto and mozzarella, goat cheese and roasted red pepper

• Plus a host of biscuits, cookies, cupcakes, custards, turnovers, tarts, cakes, sweet breads, croissants, and more

Last Word

A glimpse into the WildFlour sense of humor

What does Lauren love most about running her bakery? “Everything!” she says. “It’s been such a challenging and rewarding endeavor. The people I encounter on a daily basis are probably what I appreciate the most, and also the freedom to create menu items and just play around with pastry ideas at my leisure.”

Sticky Bun Sundays

Don’t miss Sticky Bun Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every week at WildFlour Pastry. Bring friends to hang with or something to read in case the wait gets long, but don’t let the prospect of a delay deter you from a popular, worthwhile, tasty experience.

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WildFlour Pastry

73 Spring Street

Charleston, SC 29403

843-327-2621

www.wildflourpastrycharleston.com

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Sweet Auburn Bread Company, Atlanta, GA

“People are always happy when they come into a bakery,” says Sonya Jones, explaining why she loves being a baker.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Sweet Auburn Bread Company owner Sonya Jones experiments with peach pies during a creative diversion from her usual focus of baking treats made from sweet potatoes.

The day I visit Atlanta’s queen of sweet potato baked goods, she’s up to her elbows not in sweet potatoes but…peaches. “I’m getting ready to do a baking demonstration focused on peaches at AmericasMart,” says Sonya Jones, owner of Sweet Auburn Bread Company in downtown Atlanta. “They’re in season right now, so I’m trying out all kinds of recipes.”

Peach cobbler, peach muffins, peach bread, peach ice cream, peach jelly-cake (a confection involving peach jam spread between cake layers), and other peachy goods fill the tiny workspace, with crates of fresh peaches still waiting to be converted into showpiece treats.

Luckily for me, Sonya is in tasting mode, so I get to try a little of everything. “Nice peach muffin,” I say between bites, “but really I came to hear more about your sweet potato goodies.”

“No problem,” she replies, breaking out her signature happy grin and leading me to a mixer slowly stirring a bright orange mush. “I have plenty of those in the works too.”

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Paul’s Pot Pies, Marietta, GA

Steaming hot pot pies from Paul Lubertazzi’s Traveling Fare Cafe really hit the spot any time of year.

story and photos by Bakery Boy

Paul’s Pot Pies from Chef Paul Lubertazzi help keep his Traveling Fare Cafe on the minds of many in Marietta, Georgia, especially when they get hungry.

Around lunchtime people in downtown Marietta, Georgia, follow their noses to Chef Paul Lubertazzi’s place just off Marietta Square. For 27 years the amicable owner of Traveling Fare Café & Caterers has been cooking and baking aromatic meals for dine-in or take-out. His most alluring creations, called Paul’s Pot Pies, have achieved cult status among a hungry following, and they just might be the best pot pies in Georgia. No matter what the weather, hot or cold, a good pot pie is never out of season.

Here’s a primer on a heartwarming comfort food source you should keep on speed dial if you live anywhere close to this city just to the northwest of Atlanta—or if you are willing to pay the extra price to have pies cold-packed for overnight shipping anywhere.

WHAT MAKES THESE POT PIES SPECIAL Fresh ingredients, daily preparation in small batches, reasonable prices ($7.50 for a 6-inch pie to serve one, $21.95 for a 10-inch pie that feeds five or six), and most importantly taste.

PAUL’S STORY A New Jersey native and Culinary Institute of America graduate, he cooked in hotel kitchens before launching Traveling Fare Café in 1984. His mother Patricia, wife Roberta, brother Tommy, son Brayden, and daughter Renae help out.

INGREDIENTS “I get everything fresh from a butcher and a farmers market—big chunks of chicken or beef and lots of corn, carrots, broccoli, pearl onions, green beans, and peas,” Paul says.

A flower shape cut from pastry dough, Paul’s signature, tops each Paul’s Pot Pie.

CRUMBLY CRUSTS Paul rolls pie dough bottoms just before filling and baking, so they don’t get soggy waiting. He uses puff pastry for the tops for a crisp look and buttery taste.

TRADEMARK TOUCH “I top each pie with a flower shape cut from dough,” Paul says. “It’s my symbol, a tulip with stem and leaves. I’ll put people’s initials or other shapes there by request.”

VARIETY COUNTS Paul makes at least eight different kinds of pot pies. A few examples and what’s in them: Chicken Pot Pie (white meat, peas, potatoes, carrots, corn); Pot Roast Pot Pie (eye round, potatoes, onions, carrots, peas); Vegetarian Pot Pie (feta cheese, cannelloni beans, spinach, broccoli, carrots, zucchini); Italian Sausage Pot Pie (sausage, mozzarella, provolone, onions, zucchini, bell peppers, marinara); Creole Shrimp Pot Pie (shrimp, rice, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers); Pizza Pot Pie (ground beef, mozzarella, provolone, onions, bell peppers).

CATERER’S RX Paul is no doctor, but when people are feeling a little under the weather, he cheerfully prescribes that they “eat a chicken pot pie and call me in the morning.”

RAVE REVIEW Local orthodontist Dr. Gerald “Gerry” Samson frequents Paul’s for pot pies nearly every week. “I like that they’re made fresh, the portions are generous, and they’re consistently delicious—the best comfort food ever,” Gerry says. “For Christmas, as a thank-you gesture, I give pies to my dentist friends who refer patients to me.”

Look for Paul's Pot Pies at Traveling Fare just off Marietta Square downtown.

GIFTING PIES Show up with pot pies at any sort of party—housewarming, birthday, football—or when visiting new babies or sick friends. They’re sure to be hits. Treat yourself sometime when you just don’t feel like cooking.

MAIL ORDER OPTION “For people who live far away and still want a Paul’s Pot Pie, we ship overnight packed in Styrofoam and dry ice,” Paul says. “It costs $12.50 to send a $21.95 pie, but to some devoted pot pie eaters, it’s apparently worth the price.”

TIPS Order ahead to avoid hearing the dreaded words, “They’re all gone!” Eat there at one of four small tables, or get a hot pie for take-out, or carry one home to freeze for later (cooking instructions provided).

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Traveling Fare Café & Caterers

10 Mill Street, Marietta, GA 30060

770-428-6092

www.travelingfare.com

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FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE AREA

Marietta Welcome Center, www.mariettasquare.com, 770-429-1115

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.atlanta.net, 404-521-6600

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VG’s Bakery, Farragut, TN

 

Thumbprint Cookies. Photo by Andrew Hock.

Everything made from scratch and no compromising on quality are the twin mantras practiced at this excellent bakery west of Knoxville.

by Bakery Boy

“Fresh ingredients are the key to baking from scratch,” says David Gwin. Photo 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:

Scones

• 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

Chocolate Cake

• 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

Multigrain Bread

• 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

Macaroons

• 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

 

Katie Gwin (left) and her mother Vanessa Gwin. Photo by Bakery Boy.

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.”

 

Katie with more Thumbprints. Photo by Bakery Boy.

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.”

Sticky Buns

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:

Multigrain Loaves

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

 

A salvaged jewelry case adds a special touch. Photo by Bakery Boy.

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.]