Southern Belle welcomes you
SUN PHOTO/LIZA MORROW Dawn Dugger and Andrea Spring get ready
for tea time at Southern Belle Bakery and Cafe in the Manatee West
Shopping Center at Manatee Avenue and 75th Street in Bradenton.
Andrea Spring is finally doing a bakery.
Spring is best known for her pies. Usually these pies are baked along side her husband, Ed, and daughter, Serena, at their family owned restaurant, The Sign of the Mermaid, in Anna Maria.
Last year Spring entered the National Pie Competition sponsored by Crisco and took first place in the “other” category with her Chocolate Espresso Explosion Pie. She also was awarded top prize in the citrus competition with her key lime pie, which ultimately captured the title of Best Overall in the entire event.
This year Spring won first place in the nut category with her Macadamia Crunch Pie and honorable mention with her Apple Oatmeal Crunch Pie. That really got people talking.
"Everybody kept asking me to sell my pies,” she explained. “So we opened a Web site to do just that. I was only looking for a storefront in Bradenton to support the orders online but it turned into this café.
“Now I’m so busy that I really haven’t worked on the Web site at all. I don’t even know how to get my e-mails from it.”
In September, Spring, her sister, Dawn Dugger, and mother, Connie McClure, opened the Southern Belle Bakery and Café, which has many local food critics buzzing about their Southern bistro cooking. A true family affair with Dugger out front greeting the guests, Spring running the kitchen and mother keeping everyone smiling.
"Dawn and I used to go to lunch to catch up with our children, our lives and each other,” Spring said. “She volunteered to be my assistant at the first pie competition. That was the beginning.
“Since we opened the Southern Belle we don’t have much time to go to lunch together anymore. So we decided to turn this bakery into our lunch spot. We can eat the food we love most for lunch here," she said.
Don’t expect only Southern food at Southern Belle. This is a contemporary menu of sandwiches, subs, salads, soups, pressed sandwiches and appetizers, along with all kinds of pastries and sweets. Especially noteworthy is the home-spun appetizer of spinach dip with water chestnuts, sour cream and scallions.
Another beginner is the pimento cheese dip, a bowl of zingy cheesy dip escorted by baguette slices, rolls and crackers. Other lunchtime standouts are the bayou chicken gumbo, absolutely exemplary and spicy, but not too hot, and the classic Southern blue crab soup spiked with sherry.
One of my favorite ways to dine at lunch is to start with lots of appetizers and leave room for dessert, or in this case, desserts. I can worry about entrees later when the night is cooler and hearty appetites return, which brings us to Spring’s forte – her sweet creations.
I can fault none of them, but my personal favorite is the Macadamia Nut Crunch Pie, a warm puffy pineapple macadamia nut pie. The pastry is crisp and golden; the filling is firm and full of flavor, slightly golden on the edges, topped with a chubby squiggle of real whipped cream.
Raves are also in order for the rich chocolate torte layered with dark oozy chocolate sauce and the chocolate mousse – a devilishly intense combination of a hardened flaky chocolate exterior covering layers of rich dark mousse.
Irresistible, so why resist? Eating all these dishes for lunch should have elicited at least a twinge of guilt. After some soul-searching the only regret was not having more dining companions to order more. That’s exactly what Spring likes to hear.
"How could I have just made pies? she asked. “Impossible when there are so many delicious things to eat. That is exactly why we are adding tea time to our regular menu.
“The sharing of pots of tea and nibbling on small plates full of tiny sandwiches and sweets is something I am really looking forward to bring to Bradenton. Tea is relaxing and fun."
Southern Belle’s Macadamia Nut Crunch Pie
• 1 c. dark karo syrup
• 1 c. sugar
• 3 eggs, beaten
• 1/4 c. melted butter
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp. rum
• 1/4 c. coconut
• 1/4 c. crushed pineapple drained
• Half of 5-ounce jar macadamia nuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix all ingredientsd and pour into prepared crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Check pie and if still liquid in center, cook up to another 20 minutes or until puffed and not liquid in center.
Serve with fresh whipped cream.