|Brother and sister bakers Evrim (l) and Evin Dogu. The Dogu siblings were born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Turkish parents. They credit their love of food to the dual cultures of Louisiana and the Mediterranean. All photos by Nicole Lang.|
Throughout the spring, Nicole Lang is blogging for us about her adopted hometown of Richmond, Virginia (aka RVA). We've chosen Richmond as the site for this year's Summer Foodways Symposium, which will take place from June 20–22. Over on her own blog, Food Punk, Nicole is telling more stories of the folks—from musicians to fashion bloggers—who make Richmond awesome. Check out her "One Day in RVA" series to meet these men and women.
A few years ago, I heard of a fellow baking the most wonderful bread and selling it out of the back of his car in Richmond. I’m telling you, there was a waiting list to get on the waiting list for this bread. It was something else.
That baker was Evrim Dogu, who in 2009 started preparing wood-fired, naturally leavened bread in the kitchen of his father’s restaurant in Northern Virginia. He'd bake the loaves in the middle of the night, then drive them to Richmond the next morning to sell to eager customers at the farmers' market.
On December 15th, 2012, he and his sister, Evin, opened Sub Rosa Wood-Fired Bakery in the historic Church Hill area of town. Richmonders were smitten, and the place was immediately packed.
Evin left a teaching position to focus on baking full-time; her pastries and desserts round out Evrim's selection of leavened breads. Evrim has enjoyed watching his sister refine her baking skills, laughing that, “There is nothing more satisfying for me than watching my sister enjoy—or dislike!—a dessert she is eating."
“Temperatures in a wood oven are always falling, so there is an order of what goes in according to the heat: first breads, then pastries, then tarts, and so on," Evrim explains. "Having Evin make them, it just happened organically."
Using North Carolina–grown grains, the Dogu siblings mill their own flour nearly every day. Everything at Sub Rosa is done by hand, without machines.
The atmosphere at Sub Rosa is both familiar and exotic—you can follow a slice of local beet-greens quiche with a Turkish-influenced dessert, like a rose water-pistachio shortbread cookie. (If you're wondering, the fig and manchego croissant is my personal favorite.)
In the early morning hours of April 3nd, a fire started in the back of the Sub Rosa building, causing extensive damage. Just as swiftly as the community had fallen for Sub Rosa, they took action to help.
“Within hours, a customer started a fund to help the people who lost their apartments upstairs—including Evrim—and to help us rebuild,” Evin says.
Across the street, The Roosevelt scheduled a benefit dinner, drawing food donations from a handful of other local restaurants. The Dutch and Company restaurant, another Church Hill newcomer, offered the use of its ovens so that Evin and Evrim could bake off their remaining dough.
By nightfall, Hardywood Brewery and the RVA Street Foodies banded together to host a raffle and benefit at their Food Truck Court.
“To have the community speak out like that, in so brief a period, to say, ‘Hey, we need you, we want you back’—it’s priceless," says Evrim.
The siblings tell me that, in the wake of the fire, they feel an even stronger commitment to be part of the fabric of Richmond foodways. In fact, says Evrim, he sees a great deal of overlap between the food in Richmond and that of his parents' native Turkey.
“In Turkey, we have many dishes that could be Southern if you swapped out the lamb for pork," he says. "And there are tons of collards there, too!”
Evin tells me she has been a nomad her whole life, but now she feels like Richmond is her home.
The Dogu siblings hope to reopen Sub Rosa in approximately six months. Speaking on behalf of the fledgling bakery's eager customers, I can hardly wait.