111 Orange Street
Scratch is a cute shop tucked into Orange Street in downtown Durham, a walkway that often doubles as a skateboard thoroughfare and an art gallery in the form of metallic sculptures in planters. A few outdoor tables are very appealing on warm days. Inside, pastel egg-shell colors dominate.
They sell coffee, baked goods, desserts, and sandwiches, and there is no shortage of originality in their wares. On my first trip, I had only planned to get a coffee and get some work done, but I found myself unable to resist the Mexican chocolate cream pie ($3.75). Spice and chocolate is a weakness of mine, and this pie absolutely exploited it.
I saw that chili powder sprinkled on the whipped cream, and I could not say no. I’m so glad I didn’t. Each bite was an exquisite balance of heat and sweet. It tasted and looked homemade, unlike some of the fancier bakeries that aim for presentation over flavor. The moist crust of chocolate cookie crumbs was almost chewy, like they had resolidified into a cookie as the crust baked. This pie was amazing.
Of course, I also had to get that coffee. Through Twitter, I heard about the intriguing coffee infusions Scratch does. This day, the special was Love Like a Ginger ($4.25), a latte made with fresh ginger syrup and lemon zest.
Now, I’m not a huge ginger fan—it’s often too strong for me to enjoy it—but it worked wonderfully in this latte. The ginger element was recognizable, but it wasn’t so strong as to dominate the drink. The specialty coffee drinks are served in bowls, as you can see, but I was assured it was only 12 ounces of drink.
On my second trip, I was excited to see that the coffee special had changed to the Purple Rain ($4), the drink that had convinced me I needed to get my booty to Scratch to try it.
It’s a lavender-infused latte and quite the experience. Drinking it bore little resemblance to drinking coffee and plenty to lying on a fluffy bed of grass surrounded by lavender plants. Honestly, I’m not sure how else to explain it. The mouthfeel was airy and pleasant, but the lavender was overwhelming for this coffee fan—I could not taste the coffee at all. For me, Love Like A Ginger was the more successful latte invention.
My second visit was mainly intended for sampling Scratch’s savory pies rather than sweet. I was sorely tempted by the marinated beets sandwich with charred spring onion mayo and bacon jam on rye bread ($8) that was listed with about six other options on the lunch menu board. However, I held firm and chose the broccoli crostada ($5) with caesar salad bread crumbs.
The crust was excellent: a little chewy with plenty of buttery flavor. The caesar salad seasoning that had been tossed with the bread crumbs was essential for livening up the crostada, making for a tasty filling that would have been too plain otherwise. I’d have liked something else mixed in with the broccoli, maybe chunks of parmesan or thick bacon bits, but the filling was good regardless. The crust was definitely the star, though.
Although the Purple Rain didn’t work for me and the crostada could have used a little somethin’ somethin’, I found Scratch to be fantastic. With the cute location and the everchanging baked goods and sandwich list featuring inventive and fresh, local ingredients, it’s a win for foodies. Now I need to test their regular espresso drinks to see how they measure up to the specials!
Reviewed 26 Jan 12 and 15 Feb 12.by