- PHOTO BY DAN HARDESTY
- THE TREATS ARE SWEET: A mother and daughter team, Carol and Kelli Smithback at Sweet Pea Bakery in Arroyo Grande have garnered quite a following for their sweet treats.
Few aromas are better than the wafting scent of sweet pastries to lure me inside a good bakery, like the new Sweet Pea Bakery in Arroyo Grande. Their delicious, warm morning bun with aromas of cinnamon and orange would make a satisfying breakfast on a daily basis, were I to give in to my sugar addiction. A sweet veggie muffin, chockablock with shredded carrots, zucchini, or pureed pumpkin is just as good. And then there’s dark chocolate for which I harbor an insatiable appetite. Whip it into ganache, brownies with bitter walnuts, truffles, cakes, or cookies, add a cup of Italian roast coffee, and you’ve created the ultimate weapon to break down my armor.
That’s exactly why I don’t order dessert in restaurants. I find them irresistible. Yet from my first visit to the irresistible Sweet Pea Bakery at the corner of Grand and Brisco in Arroyo Grande I knew I’d return often. It was designed and operated by creative genius, pastry chef Kelli Smithback, who is a young entrepreneur at 25.
Smithback explained she started baking sweets while growing up in AG. “I couldn’t afford to buy Oreos, so my mom was the type to say, ‘Why don’t you make them?’ I started baking lemon bars and cookies with my mom’s help. In 1998 I got to visit my first Starbucks with mom and dad. I had the lemon poppy seed scone and loved it.” The 9-year-old returned home and searched the Internet for a recipe to make them herself. Her interest in baking began to blossom as she perused publications like Victoria Magazine where she found a lavender lemonade recipe.
“One day I said to my friend, let’s have a bake sale.”
Carol Smithback, her mom, is a landscape artist who worked at the Dana Power House in Nipomo. She inspired her daughter’s artistic decorating skills and now works with her at Sweet Pea Bakery, strictly on a volunteer basis. Carol handles the bakery while her daughter sells her exquisite pastries at the farmers markets.
Smithback started her business by selling her handcrafted pastries at local farmers markets, including Wednesdays and Saturdays in Arroyo Grande, and Fridays at Rutiz Farms on The Pike between Halcyon Road and Elm Street. Now she’s so busy at the bakery, she only sells at Rutiz Farm on Friday and farmers market on Saturday. For the latter she has to bring in extra crew to help meet the demand for her delightful pastries and desserts.
The name of her bakery isn’t original. Online, there are many bakeries of the same name across the country. Smithback may be the exception because it’s her family nickname. Dubbed by her aunt, Sweet Pea senior, once you see Sweet Pea junior’s charismatic smile you’ll see why the name fits.
- PHOTO BY DAN HARDESTY
- THE BUNS ARE BAKED: Kelli Smithback also sells her freshly baked morning buns at Rutiz Farms and the AG farmers market on Saturdays.
But it takes more than a sweet demeanor or talk about how passionate you are about your craft to set your business apart from the rest. It takes the boldness and confidence to do things differently, like taking classic pastries recipes and adding unique twists. Her good taste and creative thinking sets Smithback apart from most other bakers.
For example, her morning buns are made with croissant dough dusted with cinnamon/orange spice, baked, and then rolled in granulated sugar. It’s old fashioned and modern at the same time. I can’t order one without devouring the entire bun. One day, craving chocolate, I admitted I prefer the cake to the frosting. Carol told me many people prefer the frosting. But her daughter had the perfect answer for my appetite, the tuxedo chocolate cupcake topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
To learn more about the bakery and their hours visit, sweetpeabakeryag/blogspot.com. Everything this talented chef makes is handmade, from prosciutto twisted croissants to macarons and granola. She favors the all-natural Callebaut chocolate for cooking, and her full-sized or mini cupcakes are the sweetest gift to give to a friend. That is, if you can refrain from scarfing them down beforehand.
Friday through Sunday, May 2-4, Wine, Waves, and Beyond
Surf’s up! This charitable event does so much more than entertain us; it benefits a very worthy cause.
Over the past four years, Wine, Waves, and Beyond has raised more than $70,000 for AmpSurf. This nonprofit organization was established to “Promote, inspire, educate, and rehabilitate people with disabilities and their families through adaptive surfing and outdoor activities.” Over the last 10 years AmpSurf served hundreds of disabled veterans, adults, and children. Their unique programs use the healing power of the ocean to make them feel whole again and able to resume a normal life. Attend any of the following events, and you’ll feel great knowing your ticket purchases help AmpSurf. Learn more at winewavesandbeyond.com.
On Friday, May 2, the barrel-to-barrel tasting event happens at the Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach. It’s the Central Coast’s best event with outstanding wineries, microbrews, and restaurants offering delicious samples, a travel and lifestyle auction, and live music by Aloha Radio. Tickets are $60 per person. Saturday, May 3, features Hops and Hogs Chefs Throw-down at the chef’s garden at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort in Avila Valley. Firestone Walker, Central Coast Brewing, Figueroa Mountain, and Barrelhouse Brewing ales and stouts will be paired with roast pig prepared by five different chefs competing against each other. I sampled some of their delicious pork dishes, and they were impressive. Tickets are $75 per person, well worth the price for a fabulous meal, but seats are limited.
On Sunday, May 4, head to the Pismo Beach Pier. Beginning at 8 a.m. there’s a longboard surf contest for men, women, disabled athletes, and winemakers; $30 entry fee. The 805 beach classic begins at noon at SeaVenture in Pismo Beach with a free concert by Soul Sauce and the Crisptones. The SeaVenture chef will have barbecue and Firestone Walker brews available for purchase. Combined with the classic VW display, it’s a great day of fun on the beach.
Contact Cuisine columnist Kathy Marcks Hardesty at email@example.com.