What’s baking at the Dirty Pig

KEY WEST CUISINE


A custom made birthday cake by Kimmy Sue Solove. COURTESY PHOTO

A custom-made birthday cake by Kimmy Sue Solove. COURTESY PHOTO

The intoxicating scent of a carefully tended woodchip fire will hit you long before you reach the doors of 320 Grinnell St., but the smoke of authentic BBQ is not the only aroma tempting your senses as you approach the corner building. Underneath the fragrant layer of America’s cuisine, a powdery cloud of flour and sugar rising together in an oven mixes ever so discreetly into the already sweet perfume.

It is the work of Kimmy Sue Solove, along with her sidekick Julian Stone, whose artistic desserts have become just as much of an attraction as the St. Louis-cut spare ribs and the tangy baked beans that the Southern-style joint specializes in. The place looks like it could have been plucked right off of the Old Blues Highway heading out of Memphis and carefully placed in the middle of our tropical island, with vinyl records still in their original position on the wall.

It was after seeing a series of photos advertising the delectably picturesque creations, so tempting that they would even make a stubborn Mary Antoinette drool, that I reached out to see if I could get an interview with the artist behind the masterpieces and, quite possibly, a sample. For research purposes, of course. Deciding on which one to sink my teeth into, though, wasn’t easy. The confectionary creations all sound so good.

Kimmy Sue looks small standing next to one of her gigantic cakes. COURTESY PHOTO

Kimmy Sue looks small standing next to one of her gigantic cakes. COURTESY PHOTO

There is a total of nine indulgences to choose from on the dessert menu at the Dirty Pig, starting with Kimmy Sue’s famous double layer carrot cake covered with cream cheese buttercream frosting and chopped walnuts. Her chocolate bourbon cake includes a healthy spike of Key West Smuggler Company bourbon whiskey amidst rich chocolate and salted caramel. The brownie is served either hot or cold with a side of vanilla ice cream and she also does a nostalgic take on a chocolate chip blondie.

The dessert menu is an entire page worth of decisions that reads like a dream. I settled on the southernmost butter pecan cake with a side of chocolate drizzled beignets just to be safe, and I didn’t regret any of it.

Kimmy Sue’s desserts are worth taking a weekly cheat day for.

“I’ve had people tell me that it is the best carrot cake they’ve ever had,” Kimmy Sue smiles. “I bake from the heart. When it comes to baking, it is not just about following a recipe but how you feel doing it. I bake with love.”

When we finally get together for an interview, Kimmy Sue’s two kids, Todd, 13, and Lila, 12, are skipping back and forth between the dining room and the kitchen, stopping every so often to give Mom a hug. They laugh and giggle at a story with the hostess and run back to the smoker to have a quick word with Dad as he tends to the fire. When they are introduced to me, they are polite and shake my hand like young adults, always respectful of what their parents are doing. This is how they will spend their summer vacation, spending time with their parents at their restaurant.

Ben Solove, Kimmy Sue’s brother-in-law and co-owner, sits down at a table next to us and teases Kimmy Sue with goofy side glances to break her concentration as I ask her questions for the article. Giant piles of cookies are piled underneath a plastic dome right next to us, ready to be taken to a private party for devouring. The sound of blues music pumps through the speakers while an empty stage waits for a musician to fill it with their song. Just like her desserts do, when speaking with Kimmy Sue I immediately get the sense that I am in somebody’s home. There is a familiarity in the entire setting. It is exactly the kind of place where good homemade cake should be served.

“It’s a family restaurant,” Kimmy Sue explains. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for my kids.”

Kimmy Sue started baking the way most of us do — by reading the directions on the side of a box. But after her kids were born, she decided to start making her desserts with extra love and real ingredients instead. She even taught herself advanced baking skills, such as making her own fondant (a type of icing) out of marshmallows by watching DIY videos on YouTube.

Kimmy Sue’s husband noticed that not only was she passionate about the discipline, but she was also gifted in it. He eventually managed to persuade her to open her own business and she repaid him by encouraging him to take up barbecue. In true entrepreneurial style, Kimmy Sue started Crumb Snatchers Cakes out of the modest confines of her home and she has now been baking custom orders for over five years.

After the Michigan native relocated from a 17-year run in Phoenix, Ariz., to Key West just this past August of last year, she, along with her husband and brother-in-law, had the opportunity to put their talents together and open the Dirty Pig. Kimmy Sue is now responsible for making all of the desserts and continues to run her side business making custom cakes for a variety of events, including weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvahs.

“I first started out in the industry at the age of 13 with my aunt’s catering company,” she tells me, “but it was my husband that actually got me into opening my own business. He noticed I had an interest, so he enrolled me in classes at a local craft store and I just took it from there.”

You can sample Kimmy Sue’s treats at the Dirty Pig everyday between the opening hours of 11 a.m. and 2 a.m. For more information on ordering directly, visit crumbsnatchercakes.com.

“Think of the Dirty Pig as a one stop shop for good food and custom baked goods,” Kimmy Sue says. “It’s all made from scratch.”

So go on, treat yourself. It’s good for you every now and then. ¦

2 responses to “What’s baking at the Dirty Pig”

  1. Jan Medina says:

    Such a wonderful restaurant with such lovely, genuine people at the helm. Food is outstanding and desserts are sublime. Even better is how friendly the owners are and what a joy it is to eat at their restaurant!! Don’t miss visiting here!! Wonderful!!

  2. Steve Lardy says:

    Best place we were at during our recent visit to Key West. Great food, music, and the best staff and service we’ve seen in years.

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