It is not always a good idea to eat treats from strangers, but the woman in the blue apron-like shirt, who sits on her Seventh Avenue stoop with a bounty of baked goods for sale in the early morning hours, is some one to trust.
For the past six Wednesdays, Meghan Ritchie has been sitting on her stoop, between Lincoln and St Johns places, from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. to sell her baked goods to Slopers walking to the train.
A chalk sign on the stucco of her stoop reads: “Magpies Bakeshop Stop by for a Treat.”
And what a treat it is. Her baked goods are delicious, homemade and whipped up with organic milk and eggs from the farmer’s market at Grand Army Plaza.
Last Wednesday she was selling eggnog, spicy cheddar, cranberry and orange scones for $2, pumpkin donut muffins (with or without sugar on top) for $1.50 and mini Concord grape pies also for two bucks.
Ritchie makes her goods in her kitchen on the fourth floor of the brownstone, where she has been living for the past eight years, and they are made from simple ingredients. Then she brings them outside and it is a quirky scene: a woman selling scones and muffins to the dreary-eyed commuters. But they are not dreary for long.
“I am giving people something to smile about,” Ritchie said last Wednesday. “Everyone likes a treat.”
It is a humble operation: last week she sold out, like every Wednesday, and only made $170. She had an arsenal of treats, four dozen scones, three dozen muffins and one dozen mini pies, which takes about 10 to 12 hours to prepare and cook.
But she is not in it for quick cash, but rather for the long haul.
“This is just for me to get my name out,” said Ritchie, who wears her long blue blouse that has deep pockets, every time she is out on the stoop. “This is a way for me to build a reputation and hopefully get a space of my own. Ideally, I want a small, simple shop that combines a healthy lunch counter, with whole grain salads, and a bakery for baked goods and pies.”
Prior to Magpies, Ritchie and her former roommate sat on that stoop and sold fried donuts for two years, starting in 2007, under the name D’Lovey Girls.
Ritchie has a solid group of seven customers who come and buy scones or muffins from her every week.
“It is a great way to meet your neighbors,” the baker said. “You’re on your stoop talking with people. I am quickly becoming part of the community.”
The 30-year-old from Bainbridge, Washington has baked her whole life. Her stepfather supposedly makes “the best pie crust in the world."
Her family is always in charge of dessert for Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays. Even though she has not been formally trained, she has received a down-home education in baked goods that taste, well, damn good.
She is currently finishing a self-guided program in holistic health at the Natural Healing Institute of Naturopathy in San Diego. She studies in Park Slope and takes tests online.
“I'm not really practicing holistic health with my baked goods,” Ritchie admitted. “But I am trying to expand to gluten-free products and other healthy alternatives.”
Practicing a textbook holistic health approach to baking is not the point of Magpies, but what is important is that people like what they are eating.
“For me the most important thing is that it tastes good,” Ritchie said. “I still want it to be a treat.”
Her ultimate goal is the best taste made with few and simple ingredients. She cuts sugar when she can and she uses whole wheat or white whole wheat and organic ingredients, like milk and eggs in most recipes.
The most interesting thing she sells are the pumpkin donut muffins. They are mini orange-brown delights that have a spongy consistency and taste exactly like the name: pumpkin donuts. They are delicious. She only uses three ingredients: oil, pumpkin and some applesauce.
The scones come in a couple different flavors, but her favorite is the pear and ginger scones. All of her scones are made with traditional ingredients (and she adds cheese or eggnog or fruit depending on the recipe) like flour, baking soda and butter.
If it rains on Wednesday, she will be out on her stoop on Thursday, the rain check day. However, she will not be out this week for she has a big order of pies she is making for her clients and a couple of construction workers around the neighborhood.
She has put together a Thanksgiving menu and if you cannot bake your own (or even if you can) you should buy one of her nine-inch deep-dish pies for $30.
If you already have Thanksgiving taken care of, make sure to stop by next week for breakfast to go.
As a student of healthy eating habits, she does see the irony is selling baked goods, but she believes sweets are just as important.
“I think the health way of life is ideal, but there is something to be said how a treat feeds your soul,” Ritchie said while on her stoop. “Once in a while it is good to indulge. And it feels good when people come to me for a treat.”
To order from the Thanksgiving Menu below E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- EGGNOG CHOCOLATE MARBLE PIE, a blend of dark chocolate and eggnog spiked with a touch of rum in a fluffy cream pie.
- BUTTERMILK MAPLE PIE, “autumn in a pie” that packs a tangy taste with the deep sweetness of maple!
- SWEET POTATO BUTTERMILK PIE, a lighter version of this southern favorite. Made with whipped sweet potatoes, this pie has a “cheesecake texture” and the buttermilk gives it a “bright flavor.”
- APPLE CRANBERRY PIE, is a tart and sweet delight.