I love this job.
“Hi Steven! This is Sarah from Sarah’s Bakery up on Bridge Road,” the voicemail began. “I just went down to Capitol Market and picked up a 30-pound box of fresh peaches, so I’ll be making peach pies all day today and tomorrow.”
“Thought you might want to stop by and enjoy some fresh pie, maybe sample a few other goodies while you’re here.”
It’s been ages since I’ve visited Sarah’s Bakery, which is sad considering how much I love the place, what with all its baked-fresh-daily, all-butter, no-shortening treats. As I explained to owner Sarah Plumley (between bites of pastries and cookies and brownies, oh my!), I’m so often on the hunt for new food spots that I don’t get to visit many of my old favorites as much as I’d like.
I even once had a chef from a local restaurant I adore ask why I didn’t like coming there anymore, since it had been so long between visits. It’s not you, I pleaded (between bites of culinary perfection). It’s me.
But this week’s visit to Sarah’s filled me with new resolve to support the local restaurants and food businesses I love more often.
Celebrating five years in the Bridge Road Shops this September, Sarah is known to many as “The Pie Lady,” which is the treat she most specialized in when she first got started.
“Pie is still my favorite,” she confesses, “but we’ve recently branched out to offer so much more.”
I knew about her cases of drool-worthy pies, cakes, cupcakes and brownies in an array of ever-changing flavors. I’d even heard folks wax poetic over her savory shepherd’s and chicken pot pies.
But I didn’t know about the cheesecakes, cake balls and cannolis. Or the filled croissants, muffins, breakfast breads and scones. Or quiches flecked with spicy sausage and cheddar; spinach, feta and Greek dressing; ham, cheese and peppers; broccoli and cheese; and more.
And when I found out there are now fresh-made smoothies, a full espresso bar with expanded coffee options and expanded hours in which to enjoy them? Well, I just may become a stalker.
My simple sampling last week soon turned into something much larger, because there were just too many temptations to ignore.
I sunk my teeth into a fat chocolate chip cookie made from a recipe the New York Times once declared number one in the country, which Sarah spiked with a little J.Q. Dickinson salt. I bit into a rustic peach and blueberry hand pie, a cherry cheesecake pastry and decadent, 2-inch-thick peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake brownies.
I inhaled a stellar slice of savory tomato pie (with a thin creamy, cheesy base under the tomatoes and fresh basil over them) and a super-soft chocolate éclair stuffed with pillowy cream.
And that fresh peach pie she had teased? Great crispy crust, delightfully tart peaches and just enough subtle sweetening to let those fresh peaches sing.
That pie was so worth my long-overdue trip — and helped pave the way for more visits to come.
IF YOU GO: Sarah’s Bakery, 1011 Bridge Road, is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. For information, call 304-343-2253 or check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sarahsbakerywv/.
▪ ▪ ▪
As good as all of the sweet treats were that day, it may have been the savory tomato pie that left the most lasting impression.
Flaky puff pastry. A tangy rich base. Fresh sliced tomatoes and basil. Simple ingredients, all baked together until the flavors blended beautifully. I told Sarah it was similar to a go-to tomato tart we make at home, but ours adds caramelized onions and Niçoise olives to the mix. And, I must confess, “ours” is actually the cover recipe from Gourmet Magazine’s May 1995 issue, one of many we’ve held onto (and stolen from) for years.
So kitchen thieves we are — but culinary crooks with good taste!
Tomato and Onion Tart
2 large onions (1.5 lbs.), sliced thin
2 tbsp olive oil
Butter pastry dough for a single-crust 12” (packaged or homemade)
½ lb Jack or Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
½ lb plum tomatoes, cut into half-inch wedges
½ lb medium yellow tomatoes (about 2), cut into half-inch wedges
¼ cup Niçoise olives, pitted
In a large heavy skillet, cook onions with salt to taste in oil, covered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove lid and cook onions, stirring occasionally, until golden and any liquid evaporates. Remove skillet from heat to cool onions slightly.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 14-inch round (about 1/8-inch thick). Fold round in half and transfer to a 12” tart pan with a removable fluted rim or a 12” quiche dish. Unfold dough, easing to fit, and trim overhang to 3/4 inch. Fold overhang toward center and press against side of pan or dish.
Spread onion mixture over dough and top with cheese. Arrange tomato wedges and olives in concentric circles over cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Bake tart in middle of oven 1 hour, or until pastry is golden, and cool on a rack. Remove rim of pan if necessary. Serve tart warm or at room temperature.
Recipe from Gourmet Magazine, May 1995.
Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/foodguy. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”