Find the bakery with a large storefront window on the corner of North 1st Street and Oak in Silverton, and if early enough, you just might catch the savory rolls pulled fresh from the oven.
Moist, light country-white bread, loaded with olive oil, mixed with diced purple onion, spinach, and soy-based “sorta-sausage,” sprinkled with melted Parmesan cheese on top and served hot from the oven with a warm pat of butter on the side – these fluffy-textured, aromatic rolls are the kind of creative, delicious dishes with a flair for variety that compel regulars to return daily to Rolling Hills Bakery and Café.
Even the basic continental breakfast comes with tantalizing choices: cheddar cheese baked into the bagel, with garlic and pine-nut cream cheese spread, or perhaps a Swiss cheese and dill bagel, with a spicy, red pepper “afterburn” cream cheese, to name two of the bakery’s favorite combinations.
It’s all part of owner Molly Ainsley’s vision for a community bakery.
“I want people to taste the bread,” she said, “the cinnamon rolls, whatever, and say, ‘Wow,’ and be surprised by how good it tastes.”
For someone with such a knack for flavor, the 63-year-old mother of two has surprisingly little prior experience in the food industry. In fact, the bakery itself is the culmination of a life change that took place only four years ago. As late as 2005, Ainsley was working for a film and video production company in Austin, Texas, when she says she arrived at a problematic realization: She hated the work.
At around the same time, she began having recurring dreams, she says, of rolling dough and spreading flour, of bowls, beaters and ovens. After quitting her job at the production company, she went to work for an upscale catering company. Upon seeing the kitchen, she said,it was love at first sight. After that, it was only a matter of time before she picked out Silverton on a map (“I wanted a small town, with a nice sunny summer,” she said), and pulled up stakes to come west and launch Rolling Hills.
Now, three years on, she estimates she has served well over 20,000 bagels. Her passion for baking has endured, and the customers keep coming.
“I really attribute it to all the joy I feel when I’m [baking],” Ainsley said. “The joy of the experience of the baking and cooking just kind of goes through that food into people.”
Today, customers can choose from quiches, lasagnas, and even a “silver chili” offered weekly with lean chicken breast, beans, chilies, cumin, vegetable broth, onions and a touch of cream cheese, one of her most unique and popular dishes. Lunch now includes grilled Panini options, including Mediterranean vegetables and cheeses, or turkey and swiss.
But even as Ainsley seeks to expand the menu in the coming months, she remains committed to healthy eating. All of her foods feature combinations of what she calls “longevity” foods – walnuts, cranberries, blueberries. She resists the urge to expand into baking more lucrative wedding cakes, because she won’t prepare anything that has sugar as a main ingredient, she said.
It’s her commitment to feeding good food to good people, she said.
“Feeding people is kind of like loving them.”
Ultimately, Ainsley views Rolling Hills as Silverton’s living room, where patrons come in, get good coffee and good food, and stay a while. It’s a place where customers can talk to friends, meet over business, or just look outside through the large storefront window at cars drifting by on 1st Street, and pedestrians stopping outside on the sidewalk to follow the aroma. Ainsley said she’s seen more than one customer drift off to sleep in one of her lounge chairs, which is perfectly fine by her.
“I love to watch people,” Ainsley said. “I really enjoy putting good food out in front of people and watching them enjoy it. I don’t know why, exactly.”