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Rising at 3 or 4 a.m. in the morning to bake confections and pies isn't just a job for Christopher Daughton. For this 27-year-old Cedar City native, it's a chance to recharge childhood memories.
"I remember the ambience of a warm tart on a summer's evening, right before the play," Daughton said, speaking from his Cravings bakery in Cedar City. "I almost see it as my mission to make sure other children enjoy the same thing."
So he does his best to replicate that experience 1,000 times every day. That's the upper limit of tarts he and business partner Ben Thrift bake every day for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Then it's on to English-style meat and cheese pies, along with their close culinary cousin, the "pasty."
Food at the Utah Shakespeare Festival is a lot like the works of the Bard himself, said concessions director Kristen Gee. It's true to the simple, yet satisfyingly rustic, style of British cuisine, but with a few allowances for Yankee tastes. And there's something for almost everyone.
"Unfortunately, I wasn't around during Elizabethan times, but I do think we replicate a good feeling for it. Shakespeare had everyone from the working man to politicians coming to his plays, and we try to keep them all happy," Gee said.
That means that if you don't find a savory meat or cheese pie to your liking, there's always a thick leg of turkey waiting inside the concession stand just outside the festival's Adams Shakespearean Theatre. It means a menu of tart flavors that change slightly with the creep of fall come October. That's when the pumpkin tart replaces the mixed-berry variety, but summer flavors of raspberry, lemon, cream cheese and apple-cinnamon live on. And some patrons are surprised to learn that the festival has offered espresso roasted in Logan by Café Ibis for almost 15 years.
Some items are the stuff of festival legend namely, Puck's Chocolates made by Walt Price, who also played Puck long ago in the festival's 1964 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Gee said Price's contributions as actor and confectioner are another example of how company members, even from decades ago, become part of the festival family.
Like costume changes between acts, there have been alterations over the years. When a change in tart recipe was called for three years ago, Daughton consulted with festival founder Fred C. Adams. The festival wanted a more flaky, yet durable, tart crust.
Cast members taste-tested each sample before a final recipe was settled upon. The new tart crust jettisoned the old lard-and-oatmeal combination for butter, plus a little sugar sprinkled across the top for a crystallized effect during baking. The result, Daughton said, was a cross between pie crust and cookie dough. It was also so successful that festival staff decided to use it for the pie crust as well.
A slight controversy ensued among the festival's UK-based patrons, who complained mildly that Brits would never make a pie crust sweet. It interferes too much with the pie's savory mixture of beef, carrots, peas and potatoes with a little gravy.
Daughton acknowledges the slight toward British tradition when it comes to pies, but politely reminds the offended that "the demographic around here is mostly American."
Gee defends the sweet pie crust on sales alone.
"They almost outsell the tarts," she said, prompting her favorite line of Shakespearean dialogue regarding food.
"I'd have to go with the line from 'Romeo and Juliet,' " Gee said. " 'Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.' "
50 years of Shakespeare
P The Utah Shakespeare Festival presents its 50th-anniversary summer season of plays through Sept. 3 on the Southern Utah University campus in Cedar City.
Shakespeare classics » In the outdoor Adams Theatre: "A Midsummer Night's Dream," directed by Fred C. Adams; "Richard III," directed by Kathleen F. Conlin; and "Romeo and Juliet," directed by David Ivers.
Contemporary plays » In the indoor Randall L. Jones Theatre: Meredith Willson's "The Music Man," directed by Jeremy Mann; Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," directed by J.R. Sullivan; and Michael Frayn's "Noises Off," directed by Jeff Steitzer. "Noises Off" will extend through the fall season, concluding Oct. 29.
Tickets » $22-$71; at 800-PLAYTIX or http://www.bard.org.
Also » The festival offers ticketed backstage tours and free daily literary and production seminars, play orientations and greenshows.
Check out video
For live video showcasing food offerings at the Utah Shakespeare Festival find the story online at http://www.sltrib.com/entertainment