Ken Roderman remembered that there used to be a British pub in Trolley Square that served Cornish pasties — pronounced “pass-tees” — the savory hand-pies that date back to medieval times.
“There haven’t been any since,” Roderman said. “So as far as I know, it’s not something you can get in the state of Utah, which I just thought was a crime.”
Roderman and his daughter-in-law, Marissa Roderman, are working to fix that oversight — by opening The Dough Miner, a new pasty cafe opening in Salt Lake City’s Maven West district, at 945 S. 300 West, just across the street from T.F. Brewing.
The history of pasties goes back to the Cornish mining industry, which started in the Bronze Age and collapsed in the late 19th century as tin and copper deposits were used up. Waves of miners in Cornwall, in England’s southwest tip, immigrated out of the country, with thousands of them landing in America — particularly in Michigan, Wisconsin and Montana.
They brought with them pasties, the pocket foods that sustained them through long hours in the mines. The Rodermans said pasties provided a high-calorie, high-protein meal that could be carried in a pocket or a pail. The dough pockets were traditionally filled with beef and rutabaga (also called “swede”) that would stay warm for hours.
The miners could hold the crimped crusts, the Rodermans said, so they could avoid ingesting the arsenic, copper and tin on their hands. They would then throw the crusts down the mine shaft, to feed the Tommyknockers, the mythical gnome-like creatures that, according to Cornish folklore, made knocking sounds to warn of pending mine collapses. (The creatures have no relation to the 1987 Stephen King novel “The Tommyknockers.”)
“What makes a pasty so great is that it’s portable,” Ken Roderman said. “It’s sealed up. We thought, ‘Wow, what a great idea for the adventure crowd out here — skiers, hikers — so instead of an $18 hamburger at a resort, in the morning you’ve got this nice pasty in your jacket, and you can eat it on the lift — and throw the crust down for the birds.’”
“Or eat the crust, because now we don’t have arsenic on our hands,” Marissa Roderman added, laughing.
The Dough Miner also will serve doughnuts, Marissa Roderman said, because many Utahns don’t know what pasties are.
The doughnuts will be made every hour, she said, four dozen at a time brought out to the case at the front counter — rather than just being fried first thing in the morning.
The doughnut flavors on the opening menu are: The “Gold Digger,” a classic cake doughnut with a salted brown butter glaze and a whipped cream cheese frosting; “Strawberries & Cream,” with fresh strawberry glaze, strawberry crumble and house-made whipped cream; “Death by Chocolate,” a chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate glaze and a chocolate ganache; “Chocolate Tantrum,” a cake doughnut with chocolate glaze and rainbow sprinkles; “Hot Chocolate,” a classic cake doughnut with chocolate glaze, hot chocolate-dusted marshmallows and whipped cream; “Silver Iron,” a chocolate cake doughnut with vanilla frosting; and the “Naked Miner,” an unfrosted classic cake doughnut.
“So they’ll grab one of these really good high-end craft doughnuts, and a really good cup of drip coffee,” Ken Roderman said. “And the idea is that they’ll take a pasty with them, so you take that warm pasty in our foil packet, and put it in your jacket, and you’ve covered your breakfast and your lunch, and you just pull it out and eat it on the hiking trail, the bike trail, the ski hill, wherever it might be. So it not only fits in with what people do around here, but it also has this really neat historical connection to the area.”
The hardest part of making pasties, Ken Roderman said, is creating the right dough. The Rodermans’ instructions to their baker were that the crust had to be tough enough to throw down a mineshaft, but shouldn’t have the mouthfeel of cardboard.
“It’s finding the right balance between sturdy and flaky,” Marissa Roderman said. “Our baker found a fantastic way to marry those two things. You eat it, and it’s like pastry — it has a flakiness and a crunch to it — but it still doesn’t fall apart. She just nailed it.”
The Dough Miner’s classic pasty features skirt steak, along with potatoes, onions, turnips and carrots. (Rutabagas, interestingly, were not popular in taste tests.) The cafe will also serve a breakfast pasty with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, cheddar cheese and scallions; a vegetarian breakfast version with onions in place of the meats; and a “funeral potato” pasty, with potatoes, onions and a buttery cheese sauce.
“We’re trying to take a 500-year-old concept and really take it to a new level,” Ken Roderman said. “And not just for the adventure crowd. I think these things are also perfect for construction workers. You might need a napkin, but other than that, you don’t really need anything.”
Once the cafe is up and fully running, the Rodermans plan to put The Dough Miner’s pasties in a food truck to take to local breweries, and some day to fairs and festivals. Frying doughnuts is difficult in a truck, but the pasties are super-portable — and taking them to different neighborhoods will educate Utahns on the versatile little hand-pie.
“Once you try a pasty,” Ken Roderman said, “you don’t go back!”
The Dough Miner, 945 S. 300 West, #101, Salt Lake City, 385-334-3389, doughminer.com. Soft opening hours, starting later this week, are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. A grand opening is scheduled for Wednesday, July 27.