Wednesday, June 28, 2006


People tend to hit the road when summer rolls around. If the road you hit is Route 29 south toward Charlottesville, make a pit stop at From Scratch Baking Co. to sample some of pastry chef Josh Short's dreamy cupcakes and chef Erica Hall's flavorful sandwiches. The friends uprooted themselves from Washington last September to realize Hall's dream of owning a gourmet store and catering company.

Short's desserts are the first thing that will catch your eye in the small store. A beautiful opera cake ($4.95 per slice) -- layers of almond sponge cake, chocolate ganache and mocha butter cream gilded with gold dust -- shares space with the humble brownie ($1.95). Each day, he makes two or three types of cupcakes ($1.95 apiece). On a recent visit there were vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting; another vanilla on vanilla with a Tahitian vanilla-bean filling (similar to pastry cream) and crowned with a fresh cherry still on the stem; and vanilla with caramel pecan icing topped with a swirl of chocolate.

If you're channeling your mother, who would never approve of eating cupcakes before lunch, don't fret. There are many delicious sandwiches, served on house-made bread, in addition to daily specials. There may be a crab cake stack ($5.99) topped with microgreens or a bowl of freshly roasted summer squash, zucchini and tomatoes ($5.49 per pound).

From the sandwich menu, the Chicken Little ($5.49) -- chicken salad with lettuce and tomato on a croissant -- is outstanding. It's made from a no-frills recipe of chicken, mayonnaise, celery, salt and pepper from Hall's mother.

"People come down here for it all the time," Short says. "It's amazing that people go so crazy for chicken salad."

As for the name of the place, it's because "everything's from scratch," says Short. That includes the items sold on the shelves, such as apricot pistachio granola ($5.95 per pound); jams such as pink grapefruit and honey ($6.95 for 6 ounces); and scone and cookie doughs ready to be baked at home. Short and Hall even pick some of the fruit they use, and Hall has recently taken up beekeeping to supply the store's honey. "We've got to stick to our name, you know," Short jokes.

From Scratch Baking Co., 1770 Timberwood Blvd., Suite 106, Charlottesville. Open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call 434-970-2253 or visit

-- Rina Rapuano

Freelance writer Rina Rapuano last wrote for Food about Arax Cafe in Arlington.

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