Chef Laurie McNamara is Chicagoland’s very own scone queen. She worked as the pastry chef at Scone City, a bakery-café co-owned by Tim Canning in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago that operated from 2015 to 2019. During that time, Canning also was co-owner of Lemon Tree Grocer, a specialty grocery store formerly located in suburban Downers Grove, IL that served as the epicenter of a scone baking operation that saw a rapid trajectory of growth, serving loyal customers via Scone City, Lemon Tree, and farmers’ markets.

McNamara now plies her pastry prowess at Cadence Kitchen & Co., a restaurant that opened in 2018 and occupies the old Lemon Tree Grocer space, as well as at The Foxtail, which opened nearby in Downers Grove this year. Canning is also chef-owner of those restaurants, along with another chef-owner, Todd Davies.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as restaurants have searched for creative ways to maintain their businesses, McNamara has revitalized her passion for scones, offering weekly orders for customer pickup every Saturday. We recently caught up with McNamara to learn more about her ongoing pursuit of pastry perfection.

 

Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: What led you to become a chef?

Laurie McNamara: My passion for pastry goes way back. I started baking with my grandmother when I was 6 years old. That passion drove me to pursue my Culinary Arts Degree and Pastry Certification at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France.

 

DJP: How and why did you first become enamored with scones?

LM: I enjoy “high tea,” which includes scones. Many times, the texture is dry. So I decided to try to come up with a superior scone unlike anything anybody has tasted before.

 

DJP: What makes your scones different?

LM: I use fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables whenever possible. I have derived a recipe that produces a scone with a light and moist texture. Gently incorporating the ingredients, and whipping the cream that is added, produces a lighter-textured scone.

By using flavor combinations that are unique, yet familiar, I have created a scone menu of sweet and savory selections driven by seasonal ingredients. I have also created glazes to complement the flavor profile.

 

Some of the regular scone varieties currently offered include:

  • Sweet
    • Blueberry with Lemon Glaze
    • Blackberry with Orange Glaze
    • Cranberry with Orange Glaze
    • Triple Chocolate
    • Cinnamon Chip
    • Raspberry White Chocolate
  • Savory
    • Cheddar Bacon Green Onion
    • Maple Bacon
    • Spinach Artichoke

 

Seasonal or specialty varieties include:

  • Gingerbread with Vanilla Bean Icing
  • Eggnog with Cranberries and Eggnog Icing
  • Peppermint White Chocolate
  • Pear Almond Crumble
  • Carmel Apple
  • Fresh Michigan Peach Blueberry
  • Fresh Strawberry Basil Ricotta
  • Butternut Squash Sage Goat Cheese

 

The most-popular scones are:

  1. Blueberry with Lemon Glaze
  2. Triple Chocolate
  3. Cheddar Bacon Green Onion

 

DJP: What are some of the highlights from the dessert menu at Cadence Kitchen & Foxtail these days?

LM: For the holidays, I am making a Reindeer Profiterole filled with house-made eggnog ice cream, with a brown sugar craquelin topping, complete with a red candy nose and licorice eyes.

We also offer a Tahini Dream Bar containing sesame shortbread crust, tahini caramel, white chocolate ganache, bitter-sweet chocolate, and toasted sesame seeds, served with house-made spicy vanilla bean ice cream and topped with black and white sesame seed brittle.

I am anticipating the summer Michigan peach season to prepare Fried Peach Pie, Pickled Blueberries, Crystalized Ginger Ice Cream, and Corn Flake Crunch.

 

DJP: What excites you most about baking these days?

LM: I am always in search of new and interesting flavor combinations that inspire me. It’s rewarding to know my passion for baking can bring enjoyment and happiness into people’s days.