Food Nostalgia 

Businesses find success by making it from scratch

Smoky Davis

Laurie Pearman

Smoky Davis

Not too long ago, stocking the pantry meant visiting the neighborhood butcher for the freshest cuts of meat, the bakery for a favorite variety of bread and maybe a cookie, the green grocer for the season's harvest, and the deli for those specialty ingredients.

As life got faster and time more limited, the giant grocery store emerged to take the place of the artisan food purveyors, offering just about everything in one stop, and many of those specialty shops fell victim to modern times.

But the art of preparing food from scratch hasn't been completely lost in the pre-packaged world of convenience. Some businesses are filling a niche that is part nostalgia and part quality, and in the process they are finding success by being a little old fashioned.

Whether it's buying a loaf of bread at Zeppole Bakery, a decadent treat from The Chocolat Bar or rich, locally-made cheese from Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese, the public is responding to the care put in to scratch-made products.

"We have a lot of older folks coming in here, and they like it because this is how food used to taste," said Andrea Maricich, owner of Salt Tears Coffeehouse and Noshery, an eatery that takes from-scratch cooking seriously.

Maricich and her staff prepare nearly everything themselves, from bread baked in the wee hours of the morning to in-house roasted meats and homemade preserves.

"People are surprised that we do so much from scratch," she said. "They are intrigued and they watch everything we do when they realize we really do make everything from scratch.

"A lot of people don't want to dedicate the time to get to that level, but for me, it's so worth it," Maricich added. "You can taste the difference in the food."

It's also a matter of taste for Pamela Hoevel, owner of Pamela's Bakery in Eagle.

"We think that preparing from scratch just tastes so much better," she said. "In a way, you almost have more control—you can control the flavors and the textures."

Pamela's Bakery has become known for its astounding assortment of cakes and goodies, each made from scratch and using traditional ingredients. While the results speak for themselves, Hoevel said the concept that there are so many subtly different cakes is sometimes a new concept for some customers.

"People are used to the same things from the grocery store," she said. "There's little difference in those."

Smoky Davis owner Gary Davis agrees that the extra time it takes him to hand cut steaks, make beef jerky or house-made pepperoni sets his business apart from the grocery store meat counters.

"It's just a superior product," Davis said. "You have control over what goes into it."

In an age when the neighborhood butcher shop is nearly a thing of the past, Davis takes pride in the fact that he has continued many long-standing traditions, including using many of the recipes that his grandfather developed when the store opened in 1953.

"There's not too many of the small guys around anymore," he said.

Most agree that it's not only a matter of the public being used to the taste of pre-prepared food but also that most people don't have the time for other options.

"It's easy for them," said Carolee Polfer, catering manager at Porterhouse Market in Eagle. "There are people willing to compromise taste for quick."

Porterhouse offers a wide variety of local meats, house-made salads and desserts, much of which is available for takeout. Polfer said making things from scratch has always been a focus, and as the market has added more homemade products, sales have reflected the customers' approval.

While scratch-made products are alluring, the effort put into them often comes at a higher cost than mass-produced options. Making things from raw products means there is more labor cost, and in some cases, even the raw ingredients cost more.

Davis said there are some pre-made products that sell for less than he can make them but added that he's never been tempted to stop doing things the old-fashioned way.

"It isn't inexpensive," Polfer said of scratch-made products. "People who come in here are willing to spend the extra money for what they like. You can buy this elsewhere for less, but they're willing to pay the price for things with real ingredients."

There's still a touch of nostalgia that helps make scratch-made foods so appealing.

"[There's something] that reminds them of what they used to make, or what their mom used to make," Polfer said.

Hoevel said clients as young as those in their 30s appreciate the touch of tradition.

"Going to bakeries used to be part of their childhood and part of their routine," she said. "I love it when moms pick up their kids from school and come in and have their special time."

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