Depending on the Scandinavian address, they’re kanelbullar or skillingsboller. Around here – we just call them cinnamon rolls.
Dagmar Simard is a Tacoman by birth, Norwegian by heritage. Her cinnamon rolls – err, skillingsboller – looked every bit a Norwegian pastry, but relayed an American recalibration – a spice often subtracted outside Northern Europe.
“The only thing we’re missing is cardamom,” confirmed Simard, whose Norwegian mother and great aunt – both named Mona – taught her to bake as a youngster growing up near the Salishan neighborhood. She described her maternal elders with her signature salty humor, “Cranky old Scandinavian women; in flour sack dresses, with pudgy ankles.”
Peterson, with her son and husband, opened Sasquatch Cinnamon Rolls in April in a small cafe space in Freighthouse Square that long has hosted bakeries.
Before Sasquatch, the cafe was Seasonal Delights serving Tonya Reynolds’ cream cheese frosted cinnamon rolls from 2011 to 2013; and before that the space was home to Peggy’s Cinnamon Rolls, which operated at Freighthouse Square location from 1987-2007.
Simard said she and her husband are restaurant newbies with a wing-it style of running a small business. She was familiar with the Freighthouse Square cafe space because she operates another business, Simply Enchanting, nearby. Sasquatch’s hours occasionally run inconsistent and they’ve yet to settle a rhythm for specials of the day. Or, as Simard noted they try hard, but are still learning their way.
What they thrive at is over-sized desserts for sharing. Priced $3-$5 each, the rolls completely fill a 7-inch pie pan (yes, a pie pan). These shareable rolls have the trappings of a Norwegian pastry – at least when Simard’s husband is rolling them. Admittedly, she said (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) “he makes me so mad that his rolls look so much better.”
“Mine always look troll like,” she added. “My technique is different. … It’s the way he winds the dough.”
In the world of cinnamon rolls, there are the dense-and-squishy-gooey Cinnabons; the cream cheese laden fluffy rolls or the tightly rolled buns, tinged with brown sugar and butter. Sasquatch’s fall into that last category.
If desired, the rolls come topped with icing and a side of flavored cream cheese.
In true Norwegian fashion, Simard’s rolls are loaded with real butter (she uses Watkins cinnamon). She said she considered using bacon grease, the way she learned to bake growing up, but she didn’t know how Tacoma’s palate would assimilate to her style of old world European baking.
Speaking of which, she opened the cafe using traditional cardamom in her rolls, but skipped it after finding “95 percent didn’t understand the flavor.” One customer, accustomed to Scandinavian sweets, still requests the cardamom cinnamon rolls, said Simard. She’s happy to customize rolls in the Norwegian style – just ask.
She’s also got krumkake molds and hopes to start making the delicate cookies. She has plans for lefse and Norwegian meat pies. That will take some time to get started.
About the cafe’s name. Sasquatch isn’t a nod to the Freighthouse mascot in the food court, as I wondered. For Simard’s family, Sasquatch is a nod to a sci-fi infatuation with Wookies. You’ll have to ask her to tell you the story – it’s delightful, and so is Simard.
Sasquatch Cinnamon Rolls
Where: Freighthouse Square, 2501 E. D St., Tacoma; 253-954-7672 or facebook.com/SasquatchCinnamonRolls
Hours: Vary, but typically 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
Note: This cafe is cash only
Flavors: Regular cinnamon rolls come in a 7-inch pan and a choice of a flavored cream cheese topper. Flavors vary daily, but include variations such as caramel, coconut, bacon and flavors blended with nuts – named after celebrities. Be sure to check out the “Farrah.”