GIRDWOOD – The community bulletin board at The Bake Shop in Girdwood had postings: ‘Free couch!’ and ‘The Flower car is now for sale. $1,600 OBO, 1987 Chevy Celebrity wagon. 177,000 low miles.’
The message board is at the back of the small restaurant that is a Girdwood institution. Their claim to fame? A $4 sourdough sweet roll, drizzled with white icing, slivered almonds and served with a larger-than-necessary slab of butter.
Cosmina, 22, works the front counter. “I’m from Romania and I’m here one month,” she said with a thick accent, jotting down my order and then offering a reminder they only take cash or check.
The whiteboard menu features “The Summer of ’76” special which includes 3 sourdough pancakes, 1 egg, and 1 slice of bacon for $9.75. Honey and granola $6.25. Alyeska sourdough toast, butter, jam $3.50.
Mount Alyeska is the main attraction in Girdwood; it spawned the high-end Alyeska Hotel, Alyeska Resort, The Spa at Alyeska and plenty of mountain bike and ski options.
The Bake Shop sits at the foothills on Olympic Mountain Loop.
“You want me to heat these eggs back up, because your whole breakfast is getting cold,” said a slim, blonde, woman in black spandex pants holding a clipboard.
It was Stefanie Flyn, the owner of The Bake Shop, and a customer care specialist.
She wasn’t from here, either. “I’m an army brat that spent a lot of time in Germany,” she said.
Flyn gives me a behind-the-scenes tour of the ‘working end’ of the bakery. Shows me the white pails full of sourdough starter. “It’s a living yeast and we just feed it every day with flour and water,” she said.
Stefanie with sourdough starter
“You’ll notice in the historic pictures of the gold mining towns, each miner had a small silver pail at his campsite that was filled with a sourdough starter.”
Flyn flags a woman in the kitchen and orders a sourdough pancake to add to my breakfast. “Just so you can try it; it’s very light,” she said running off to another appointment but leaving me her cell phone number and a new sticker for my water bottle, ‘Better Buns at The Bake Shop.’
For breakfast I had a simple order of 2 scrambled eggs, toast and coffee in a glass mug. At the center of the table was a bottle of pure maple syrup from Michigan and a trio of glass jars filled with red rhubarb jam, a dark prune jam and a thick orange marmalade with wedges of rind.
The sourdough bread was sturdy enough to spread the jam on with a spoon. The coffee was hot and the atmosphere comfortable with walls of local art including wildlife photos, stained glass, and paintings.
Within a half hour the restaurant filled up. You bused your own table, and the growing stack of yellow and blue plates near the counter resembled the colors of Easter eggs.
$4 sourdough sweet roll at The Bake Shop in Girdwood, AK
Brooks making the famous sourdough bread at The Bake Shop
Makes me want to stay…..
Makes me want to stay…..
The Bake Shop sweet roll was served warm on a small red saucer with a square of butter. It smelled of cinnamon and raisins and I was forced to wrap it and carry it – enjoying it during a break on my ride up to Hope.
– It was a long 56 miles to Hope with an extended uphill called the Turnagain Arm. I balked at biker safety and rode into oncoming traffic because the shoulder on the other side of the road was wider. I could see traffic coming at me and because of construction on the two-lane highway I was protected in my own lane by a series of orange barrels.
– The rainy weather held on most of the day. The sun came out at 1:23 p.m. It was so significant, I checked my watch. Then it disappeared the rest of the day.
– There was a guy working a huge crane at the construction site. I glanced over and he caught my eye. He gave me a gruff hard-hat look, stalled his engine and yelled, “You’re almost there!” I waived, he was smiling. He was also lying – I still had a long ways to go.
– Took a brief break at a rest stop before the turn to Hope. I had 16 more miles ahead. Bad thing – with all the hill climbing and dressing in layers I was soaked and knew I’d have to change before completing the rest of the day. I ducked into the restroom. It was one of those where you held your breath and kept your mouth closed while you were in, and about 10 paces after you left.