By Victor Meier
Date Night finally arrived for my girlfriend and I in the form of an intimate evening spent with local restaurateur, baker, chef, mother and wife (to say the very least), Elizabeth McGuire.
As regular readers of The Sheet are aware, Elizabeth is the proprietor of the East Side Bake Shop located at the McGee Creek Lodge.
McGuire opened the East Side Bake Shop in McGee Creek in April. This in spite of the fact that she’s the proud mother of “Scottish twins” (nearly three year old son Owen and one and a half year old daughter Esha), and wife to a husband (Scott) who travels for work one week out of every month.
“Multiple people have told me I’m a masochist,” she laughed in a Sheet interview in May.
McGuire’s inspiration to open a bakery in McGee began in 2010. A McGee resident since 2006, she was commuting to Mammoth every day to a sales job at 80|50. She had always thought that McGee Creek Lodge seemed like the perfect spot for a coffee shop, she said. McGuire, who baked all through college in West Sonoma County, said she’s used to the early morning baking routine. That routine requires her to wake up at 3 a.m. every morning, she said.
When it initially opened, East Side Bake Shop offered delectable baked optons, including lemon bars, raspberry bars and gluten-free fig bars, as well as coffee and lunch items, including soups, salads, quiche and frittata. As if all of this weren’t enough of a challenge, in November, McGuire decided to try her hand at dinner.
Friday night I was lucky enough to attend one of Elizabeth’s dinners, which featured Guest Chef and Wine Maker David Scheidt from Mastro Scheidt Family Cellars of Dry Creek Winery, located in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California.
The East Side Bake Shop has a very comforting ambience. While others may associate the Bake Shop only with the bakery, I found the Bake Shop to be a charming dinner venue indeed.
It is rustic and warm, with an upscale urban/mountain appeal that still can be inviting and accommodating to families. The Bake Shop reminded me of restaurants I love from Napa Valley and the Lost Coast. On the walls are striking photographs featuring the work of local artist/photographer David Huebner.
The Menu was simple, elegant and filled with comfort foods that I personally have come to love. Unless you are a vegetarian, how can you go wrong with slow roasted pork on the menu?
Before you accidentally mistake my description of “simple” as common or muted, the menu was far from either. “Simple” simply means letting the natural flavors of one’s food shine without masking over them with a lot of spices, breading, sauces and the like.
Simple in this case is much like Chef Jamie Oliver’s “Naked Chef” classification.
My girlfriend and I started with a delicious white bean purée served with toasted baguette slices. Later courses arrived with favorites of mine like flat pasta, pork shoulder and lemon cake.
The second course brought a deliciously simple Italian soup done perfectly. It was only my respect for my lovely better half that I refrained from slurping down that broth like a child from Oliver Twist. Please sir, may I have some more?
The ravioli stuffed with cheese and spinach was the perfect, creamy accent to this wonderfully light and flavorful broth and the perfect addition to the soup.
The third course was a Caesar Salad. For my personal taste, the salad dressing was a little bit too sweet and lacked the amount of anchovy that I like from my Caesar dressing. However, the presentation of our salad was done in an aesthetically pleasing way. Everything was fresh and the croutons were made in house.
Sweet or not, that is a hard blend to beat.
Dinner combined the fourth and fifth courses, which involved some classic Italian “working man” favorites. There was a Bolognese Sauce served over handmade Taglitelli pasta and cuts of slow roasted pork shoulder served over a perfectly executed creamy polenta.
Dessert was a moist yet very lightly flavored, double layered lemon cake separated by a limoncello butter cream and topped with powdered sugar.
Later Chef David informed me that he put limoncello in the cake batter itself too.
All told, the evening was quite special for me as I enjoyed the company of a truly wonderful woman, while benefiting from the hospitality of Elizabeth McGuire, immersed in the charm of the East Side Bake Shop’s collaboration with the engaging and talented David Scheidt.
My girlfriend and I sat at the bar, where we were permitted friendly access to both Elizabeth and David, who shared intimate details about our experience. How else would I be able to tell you that the pork shoulder was seared in a cast iron skillet and then slow roasted for five hours?
Caretaker and Manager of the McGee Creek Lodge Jeff Meadway attended dinner, but lay down his fork, mid bite, to accommodate the needs of the lodge and its guests.
Otherwise, Jeff provided great company and was a wealth of historical knowledge. Jeff also organizes and, along with Elizabeth, hosts a family friendly evening of bluegrass music at the McGee Creek Lodge every Saturday night, starting around 4 p.m. and lasting until 7 p.m. or so. You know … “Mountain Time.”
The East Side Bake Shop’s Saturday night dinners offer al a carte options, and support local businesses like Sierra Sundance, Side Door and Black Velvet. Moreover, the Bake Shop is a culinary asset to the Inyo/Mono Community and no matter the occasion I strongly suggest making reservations or at least plans for an evening with Elizabeth.
It is a short distance to travel in order to feel like you are hundreds of miles away from your cares.