Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Discussing Cupcakes, SweetArt

The cupcake, America's first trendy treat of the 21st century, and it couldn't be more fitting.  With flavor combinations throughout the country that would require a renowned team of statisticians to total,  prices that range from under $1 for the mini ones to over $5 for the truly decadent, and an individuality that screams, "no sharing necessary", Americans can't seem to get enough of them.  No more fighting over which flavor to get or who got the bigger half, everyone gets to pick, and buy, their own.  

Personally, I'm against the whole phenomenon.  Desserts are meant to be shared!  But at an average of 6 bites per cupcake, are you really willing to risk a bite of your red velvet in exchange for the chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting?  For me, that would be an ill advised trade since I don't care much for cream cheese frosting, but then there's the guilt of depriving your friend of a wonderful taste of red velvet.  Questions abound...

Putting the moral issues aside, though, let's return to the item at hand.  Cupcakes are certainly not created equally.  Most stands excel at different aspects of the treat.  Some have perfected a moist cake, while others churn out heavenly butter cream icings.  As with most desserts, it seems that simplicity breeds the best cupcakes.  When there are multiple toppings, fillings, and complex flavored cakes, something is bound to go awry.

But there is one place that seems to get it all right; the cake, the icing, and even the atmosphere.  Nestled into the quiet neighborhood of Tower Grove North, SweetArt puts out tray after tray of simple yet flavorful cupcakes such as the lemonade-blackberry cupcake pictured above.  Not only are the cupcakes well made, the bakery manages to create an environment that encourages sharing and community.  Family inspired art created by co-owner Cbabi Bayoc hangs throughout the store, lovingly nudging you to share one of those 6 precious bites.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Dogtown Allstars

Let's just get this right out in the open to start; I love funk, be it Sly and the Family Stone, Tower of Power, The Meters; it's all candy.  Loving funk, though, is both a blessing and a curse.  It's a blessing for pretty obvious reasons, just listen to "If You Want Me to Stay" by Sly and you'll be sold (it gets me every time).  The curse is that the golden age of funk passed by about 10 years before my conception, and since then, it's been a rare occurence to see a live funk show that lives up to its billing.  But I refuse to believe that funk is dead.

So all that said, I would like to start this review with a thank you.  Thank you Dogtown Allstars for putting on a hell of a live show and instilling me with a little more hope for the future of funk.  

The Allstars are about one thing, and that's laying down a groove.  Drew Weiss sticks out some of the more complicated beats you'll hear live these days, while Andy Coco's fingers lay down a steady bass foundation.  Adam Wilke, guitar, is strong on the comp and dishes out some great bluesy solos, but it's Nathan Hershey on the Rhodes Piano that really fills out the band's sound.  The 3 or 4 (if you count their arrangement of "Bitch" by the Stones) originals show a lot of promise.  Taking strong hints from The Meter's riff funk and MMW's early jazz lines, the tunes find the proverbial groove "pocket", although do tend toward the repetive, but then again, so did The Meters.

All in all, the Dogtown Allstars set out to get the crowd up and dancing, and that's exactly what they accomplish.  With grooves as steady and exciting as the Allstars play, don't pass up a chance to see them around town.

Buy their cd here. (Support your local artists!)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How To Eat a Doughnut

Although it might seem like an ordinary, not even particularly attractive doughnut, what you are actually observing is a ~3 inch round piece of baker's heaven. Luckily for you, they're are pretty easy to come by if you live in the St. Louis area. Sold exclusively at World's Fair Doughnuts, simply ask for the buttermilk variety and you're all set. For those of you not quite as proficient at thoroughly exploring the depths the doughnut, I have provided a short, step-by-step procedure to aid in your tasteful endeavors.

Step 1: Observe the doughnut, preferably in natural light, paying close attention to the luster of the glaze. View it from many angles as you try to assess where the perfect first bite should occur. I recommend a narrow area of the doughnut to ensure a clean chomp to the center.

Step 2: Once you've discovered the prime location to begin your journey, proceed headlong into your first tasting. While chewing, first note the impeccable texture of the buttermilk cake, so elegant, yet so mysteriously spiced.

Step 3: Continuing around the doughnut (I recommend a clockwise direction), the next bite should have you focusing on the glaze. For the true novice, it is advised that you break off a small piece of the glaze and eat it on its own as the full experience of the doughnut may cause difficulty in distinguishing the individual elements. Notice how the hardened glaze provides a mild crunch to contrast the cake within, while still fulfilling its more formal role adding a sublime sweetness to the overall picture.

Step 4: Now that you have fully appreciated all aspects of this "diamond in the rough", feel free to finish your doughnut at whatever pace feels comfortable for you. However, please ensure that you savor every moment of the doughnut with the utmost of care; you never know what sort of enlightenment may be waiting in the perfect bite.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pie of the Every-Other-Week or So, Part I

Last week it was brought to my attention that the Sugaree Baking Company of Dogtown had recently opened its doors to the casual sweet tooth, like myself. From 11-6 on Fridays and Saturdays, Sugaree serves some of the freshest, most delectable pies in St. Louis.

Pictured above, and the first "Pie of the Every-Other-Week or So", is the personal sized (6" in diameter) blackberry pie. A tender, yet flaky, all butter crust encapsulates a perfectly sweetened filling, keeping the tartness of the blackberry healthily intact.

In a time where bakeries in the U.S. are few and often faulter on quality, Sugaree is a true neighborhood gem that would normally be reserved for fairy tales and Hollywood. A friendly staff , and welcoming decor make for an excellent destination to pick up an amazing pie for the weekend.