St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest city in the US and right in the midst of some of the marvelous historic sites sits Sherry Stoppelbein’s Hot Shot Bakery n Café. Rose Hammitt and I made a quick tour of St. Augustine before heading home from our Jacksonville Beach Florida trip. Rose was thrilled to visit a bakery and try out some good eats.
Good food is what Sherry Stoppelbein is all about. For the past thirty years she has been a local fixture, running three restaurants, a bakery and her award-winning hot sauce company. This busy lady brought all of her businesses under one roof and the result is the Hot Shot Bakery n’ Café. “I have been here six years,” Sherry said. “I always had a much larger place than this.”
The café is small but busy! On our stop I had a wonderful turkey and bacon Panini and Rose fancied the freshly made chicken salad. We both had to have desert and Rose selected a chocolate chip cookie and I chose a chocolate peanut butter concoction. If you go away hungry from this lovely stop, it is your own fault. We had to pack portions of our lunch for the road; we couldn’t put it all away.
Using locally grown fresh fruit and produce Sherry said, “You won’t see anything we didn’t make here ourselves except for the bread. We are the best in town.”
While sitting at or little table we noticed next to us, the famous “Wall of Flame” that indicates those brave enough to try Sherry’s chocolate hand dipped locally grown Datil peppers. “The Datil has been used by the Minorcan community here in St. Augustine since the 18th century, and rates from 100,000 to 300,000 on the Scoville scale,” Sherry said. “One taste and you will love the Datil!”
After graduating from culinary school Sherry made her first Datil pepper sauce. “I keep coming up with new sauces using the Datil pepper only with different levels of hot sauces.”
Sherry is of Minorcan descent. The Minorcans migrated to St. Augustine in 1777 bringing seeds of their Datil pepper which today is part of the St. Augustine culture.
The story of the Minorcans in St. Augustine begins when the Spanish brought labor for the indigo plantation in New Smyrna. Eight ships with a group of Minorcans, from the island of Minorca which is located off the coast of Spain, were onboard. Minorca is the second largest of the Spanish Balearic Island. The islands are 50 to 190 miles off the coast of Spain and form a province of Spain. Minorca is small, only about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide.
St. Augustine history states that the Minorcans believed themselves to be contracted as indentured servants to Dr. Andrew Turnbull, the indigo plantation’s owner; however, they were treated more like slaves. After nine long years, settlers that had escaped made their way to St. Augustine, where after hearing their tale of woe, the Minorcans came under the protection of Governor Patrick Tonyn. Today many of those settlers became the core of St. Augustine’s population.
Sherry is one of those descendants who grow the Datil peppers. “I just picked some,” she said on our visit. “They usually grow from June to October. The Datil is an exceptionally hot pepper. Datils are similar to habaneros but have a sweeter, fruitier flavor.”
Rose took home a bottle of Datil Be Good hot sauce for her son-in-law who loves a little heat in his food.
With full bellies and a true admiration for this charming chef, we headed back to Illinois with memories of the “Wall of Flame” great food and a new knowledge of Minorcans and Datil pepper! For more information about the Hot Shot Baker or Datil Be Good sauces, log onto www.hotshotbakery.com.