You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to beat Jill Bates to the kitchen. She has even had to change the recipe of her daily routine in transitioning from fine dining to a highend bakery catering to a Park Cities clientele.
“The main difference is the early mornings,” Bates said. “At a restaurant, you are the last person there. Now, we are the first people here. Since I grew up in the industry, a lot of my friends work at night. It is a life adjustment for sure.”
Bates is the executive pastry chef at the just opened Sage & Sugar at 4314 Lovers Lane, making a switch from restaurant pastry chef to retail, turning out an inventory of treats for sale rather than preparing desserts for the dinner crowd. Bates has intentionally built a menu with “neighbors, families, professionals and Park Cities students in mind.”
The mother and daughter team of Alison and Ashley Sage Weinstein is behind Sage & Sugar, a café and bakery across from Highland Park High School that officially opens on Friday, May 5. “The concept for Sage & Sugar was inspired by my daughter Ashley, who is 16 years old now and came into the world loving to bake,” Alison said. “She spent a lot of her childhood during extra time in our kitchen.”
Ashley’s inspiration for baking did not come from her mother Alison, a journalist who spent time in the TV news and public relations world in New York City. “[Baking] skipped a generation,” Alison said. “I do come from a family that loved to be in the kitchen. Growing up, everything happened in the kitchen.”
Although born in the blue-collar East Bay town of Hayward, Calif., Bates grew up in Grapevine and then returned to the Bay Area to attend culinary school in San Francisco. “I watched my dad cook fried chicken and the kitchen was where all my family gathered,” Bates said. “But I wasn’t a baker until after I went to California. I went to regular culinary school to learn to cook.”
She worked at several San Francisco restaurants including the once popular, but now-closed Elroy’s as an oyster shucker. “It was the worst job in the world.”
Missing her friends and family, Bates came back to the Dallas area. “When I returned from San Francisco, I was looking around. That was the time you looked in the paper for jobs,” Bates said. “I got a job at the Mansion at Turtle Creek in the pastry department. They said, ‘Aren’t you more of a hot line chef?’ And I said, ‘I am a little bit of everything, but I am a fast learner.’ I basically followed [noted Dallas chef] James Wagner everywhere, was over his shoulder and the man taught me everything.”
Bates also worked at other prominent Dallas food spots like Fearing’s and Café Momentum. “I really got into bread when I was at Café Momentum. They gave me culinary freedom.” Artisan breads are available at Sage & Sugar.
Being so close to Highland Park High School, a late afternoon crowd of iPhone devotees can be expected. “It was intentional,” Alison said. “Ashley picked out this location. This space was designed for her [Ashley’s] contemporaries to have a place to go.”
The space is rectangular, with tables facing the locally deemed “Dallas’ Miracle Mile.” In the back is a secluded patio, framed in foliage with an artificial turf lawn and a scattering of chairs. The hours of operation are Monday, Wednesday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The bakery is closed on Tuesdays.
All pastries are baked on site, allowing for multiple daily bakes of sweet and savory items in “approachable Viennoiserie.” In developing
the baked goods selections, Bates teamed with James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Laiskonis, who led the pastry program at New York’s 3-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin for eight years.
Rich cookies, cupcakes, brownies, doughnuts and bread are featured. Favorites include the Cinnamon ‘Cruffin’ Brioche Feuilleté, a rich and flaky laminated brioche with cinnamon sugar; the Apricot Verbena Danish with sweet apricot and vanilla cream; the dense cookie Caramel Blondie, a classic Brownie and a Raspberry and Cream Glazed Doughnut dipped in a fruity and floral raspberry-rose glaze.
A point of difference is that the large kitchen behind the pastry counter is nut free. “We joked how great it would be to have a kitchen free from nuts,” Alison said. “We painstakingly source everything from salt to butter to sugar from manufacturers that are free from nuts. It is an arduous task.” Alison considers Sage & Sugar “a mainstream bakery free from nuts.”
The bright, bakery café walls sport messages like “Kinda Sweet, Kinda Salty” and “You Bake Me Happy.” The soft opening has been busy for the kitchen. “We have been overwhelmed with an amazing soft open. Sold out both days by early afternoon,” Alison reported.
Sage & Sugar has partnered with Dallas’ award-winning micro- roaster, Noble Coyote Coffee. Beans are sourced from suppliers who are honest, compensate farmers fairly and invest to improve their lives. The bakery is the first in Dallas with an Aremde espresso maker, a sleek machine designed in Australia that looks as more like a piece of modern art than high-volume coffee maker.
For the craft coffee lovers, drip coffee, doppio espresso, pour overs and French press coffees are available. The bakery café will also serve Frappuccinos, fruit-based blended drinks, cocoa and frozen sipping chocolate. The move from fine dining to high-quality retail is a welcome change for Bates. “The food is ready. I like that part,” Bates said. “I like to be very organized and time myself. I like to be prepared. There is no room for mistakes.”