Monday, October 02, 2023

A longer way for a danish

by Chris Ashby
| May 31, 2023 2:00 AM

It’s a long way to Tipperary and a pretty long way to the Polebridge Mercantile up the North Fork in Glacier. I have never driven up there just to eat one of its pastries, the famous bear claw, and I probably never will. It is just too far to drive up a bad road for a “sweet roll.”

However, some of my hungry co-workers at Glacier Park Lodge do make the trip and they unusually will bring me back one of the bearclaws. I will admit that they are delicious and I have eaten them with much enthusiasm. However, at my age one hopefully learns to wisely pick their battles and battling that road for a pastry is just one I don’t want to engage in.

Yet, I have flown 3,000 miles to San Pedro, Belize and walked two miles in tropical heat to munch down on a cinnamon roll and drink coffee. After all we do what we have to do, don’t we?

San Pedro is just south of Yucatan Mexico and Central America to the core: lush jungles, oppressive heat and humidity, and pretty good scuba diving.

The latter being my real reason for going there. Most of the year it is a tropical paradise, but during the hurricane season, not so much so. A plus to the country is that its official language is English, as opposed to Spanish. This is a plus for a Spanish challenged person like me. I can get by in asking for a beer or a bathroom in Spanish, but most of the time I just sputter along like a tongue-tied fool…and that is after spending two years in Ecuador as a Peace Corp Volunteer.

San Pedro, Ambergris Cay sits a few miles off of mainland Belize and is home to the second largest barrier coral reef in the world; first largest being Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It is a busy place, but lacking cruise ships it is not nearly as commercialized as Cozumel. It is also home to The Baker, a small bakery located a few miles south of the city center.

The Baker is the only reason I would hoof it several miles in heat and humidity to consume a cinnamon bun or an apple fritter. Believe me when I say its wares are not like one finds in the typical supermarket bakery.

The establishment is owned and operated by an Irish couple who have been baking their pastries for the past nine years.

They are so Irish that the male speaks with just a Gaelic brogue that you almost need an interpreter to understand him. The Baker’s menu is pretty simple consisting of drinks, sandwiches and of course, pastries. The baked items are pretty simple as well as well, such as cinnamon buns and fritters.

The place is always busy and is closed by early afternoon. The place offers both inside and outside seating. Even through the place is always busy, the owners are never too rushed to not come outside and chat with talkative customers like me. Aside from the food another reason to like the place is that the owners and staff never yell at each other in the course of their work. There are always a few local canines and one cat patrolling the outside patio to make sure no dropped food, intentional or otherwise, goes to waste and believe me none of it does.

These animals are never intrusive, always polite, and quietly operate as patio porters. As one knows a dog will eat anything, but a cat can be a little more particular. This is especially true of sweet things: cats as a rule are not fond of such. The resident cat here is an exception in that she likes and eats any and all of the cinnamon bun droppings.

Now I like to think that she, like me, appreciates the finer qualities of good pastries, but the truth is probably that she knows better than to let any food go to waste. She was not born to be pampered and feed gourmet cat food.

To her food is just food, period. Still she seems to appreciate the quality of the fare and my sharing it with her…at least for a cat.

I am not a reviewer or any kind of influencer, but I usually know a good thing and place when I see one. To me Belize and The Baker easily fall into the category of good things and places.

So hustle on up to The Polebridge Merc and bite down on a very good huckleberry bear claw. Having had them I know that they are excellent. I just would rather not drive all that way on a bad road to eat one.

Still I did go back to San Pedro, Belize after a five year absence to revisit The Baker and I was not disappointed that I did. It was and is that good.

Chris Ashby is a writer from East Glacier Park.

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