Sweet Spot

Lissa Gotwals
by John. T. Edge - North Carolina - Feb/March 2011

Scratch satisfies the itch for baked goods done right

The masonry facade at Scratch, a new counterservice bakery and sandwich café in downtown Durham, North Carolina, is butter yellow. (Really, it is.) Walls and tables recall various shades of heritage-hen eggs. The drinks cooler is stocked with mason jars of green-gold cider, fixed with handwritten tags proclaiming the farm sourced and the apple variety pressed.

In a glass-fronted display case, alongside ranks of sweet potato and chorizo empanadas and stacks of ginger-lemon coffee cakes, stand half-gallons of turmeric-pickled yard eggs, and quarts of beets that shine bright like garnets. On the far wall, a chalkboard scrawled with exuberant pink and yellow lettering heralds the provenance of the goods that fuel the kitchen of baker and proprietor Phoebe Lawless. Ever Laughter, an organic vegetable farm in nearby Hillsborough, gets a shout-out. So does Bluebird Meadows. And Fickle Creek, too.

If the food served weren’t so great—if the house-cured trout gravlax sandwiches and sea-salt-strewn chocolate crostatas and Shaker lemon pies weren’t so honest and flavorful—Scratch would be a bit too precious for its own good. But at this shoe-box storefront, opened this past June, each pie pulled from the oven, each brown-bag sandwich handed over the counter, has a backstory. Here, the local foods movement is not a mere marketing conceit, as is the case with too many of our region’s latest crop of restaurant concepts. The celebration of Carolina farmers and artisans is an operating ideal on which every Scratch dish depends—including a stupendous fried bologna sandwich, built on a house-baked roll, stacked with locally crafted lunch meat, smeared with coarse-ground mustard, tangled with loops of sautéed onions.