By Jennifer Kornegay
Add this to your 2014 New Year’s resolutions: Eat a cow patty at Sweet P’s Eats & Treats in Pike Road. It may not be the most appetizing name for a dessert, but its rich, decadent layers of moist chocolate cake glued together with buttercream and enrobed in cooked cocoa icing are so endorphin-eliciting delicious, you won’t care what it’s called (or that checking this item off your list actually negates that other resolution where you swear off sugar).
Plus, dubbing their chocolate extravaganza a “cow patty” is just one part of the clever marketing campaign that is centered on this bakery and sandwich shop’s mascot, Sweet P, the pink cow. And not just the cute cartoon version of a pink cow that’s in Sweet P’s logo. She’s a real live cow who is Pepto-Bismol pink and, if you’re lucky, she’ll be at the restaurant to greet guests during your visit.
The Sweet P story started with owner Kadra Parkman’s burgeoning baking business. She was making cookies and selling them from her home for a few years, but as demand grew, so did her need for more space. Her husband Brendon owned a building on a bluff overlooking Highway 231 that was the former home of Partridge Pines restaurant, so she began work there. The original idea was to use the commercial kitchen for her baking and use the front of the restaurant as a little shop that was only open during summer to lure folks in for something sweet while they were on their way down to or back from Florida’s beaches. Whether it was the spark kindled on the couple’s first date years ago at Partridge Pines still lingering in the air and adding something special to the food or simply Kadra’s strengthening culinary skills, when the doors first opened in July 2011, the positive response was overwhelming. So much so that Kadra almost instantly decided to stay open year-round and to add sandwiches and salads to the menu of baked goodies.
Today, Sweet P’s is bustling, especially around lunch, when it appears plenty of people have zero problem going out of their way to get their midday meal there; Kadra’s savory items are threatening to surpass her desserts’ popularity. Her personal favorite is the French Dip sandwich. The “Happy Plate” is another great choice and aptly named; a scoop each of sharp pimento cheese, peppery chicken salad and potato salad with a kick of bacon plus a little cup of heaven you can hold in your hand (a cupcake in the flavor of your choice), should leave you feeling just fine.
But what about that pink cow smiling at you from the rug when you enter the restaurant or from the mural behind the cupcake display? Where did she come from?
“My two-year-old daughter Raley,” Kadra says. Kadra married into the Parkman family that owns Parkman Cattle Company, so cows are a big part of her and her children’s lives. While struggling to find the right logo for her new venture, Raley’s passion for pink and their proximity to pastures saved the day. “We are off the beaten path, so I knew our logo had to be memorable,” Kadra says. “Raley loves pink, and we were riding down the road, passing some of our cows, and she just kept saying, ‘Pink cows mama! Pink cows!’ I thought, ‘That’s it!’”
And so Sweet P was born, the P standing for Parkman. They had a designer draw the happy heifer for the logo, but Kadra wanted to go further. “I wanted to use a real cow, too,” she says. They picked a pure white female out of some cows being delivered to the cattle company, one who was gentle and had a “perfect pink nose,” to be the official Sweet P, a role the same cow is still cheerfully playing. “She is so docile, and she actually poses for pictures,” Kadra says. She doesn’t stay pink though. She’s re-colored with a safe, non-toxic hair dye made each time she’s called upon for an appearance or photo op. When she’s done with her close-up, she is hosed down and the bubble gum hue washes right off.
It’s fun to meet Sweet P the cow, but the true “sweet” P may be Kadra herself. Funny and bright, she’s also practically dripping with the kind of tempered warmth that defines a Southern lady. Her hard work and determination are obvious in every facet of Sweet P’s, from the fabulous foods made using recipes she’s developed and those given to her by family and friends, to the colorful local art she’s procured for the walls, to her most recent successes, the bottling and sales of her Sweet Vinaigrette Dressing – she’s sold 100 gallons in the last nine months – and the equally stellar sales of her refrigerated cookie dough.
Sweet P’s motto, “Simple food. Simply sweet,” describes the pure basic delights you’ll find there; there’s nothing too fancy or contrived. Yet the saying belies the massive effort that Kadra and her family have put into creating something really good and sharing it with others. Simple, yes. But an authentic simplicity that’s not so easy to achieve.
Sweet P’s Eats & Treats
11775 Troy Highway
Pike Road, AL
If you want to find out when Sweet P will be at the restaurant, check her Facebook page. You’ll also find info on daily specials and the current cupcake flavors available.