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Small But Mighty: Vegan Truffles by The Smallest Bite

In general, I love desserts that incorporate great quality and massive quantity. But in my more refined moments, even I can admit that sometimes, small bites can be exquisite.

Such is the case with truffles by The Smallest Bite, a Rhode Island-based chocolate company run by Season James (perhaps identical cousin to Autumn Martin, who does chocolate in Seattle?) who recently sent me a parcel of pint-sized sweets for me to sample. 

The Smallest Bite specializes in organic, vegan truffles which are made with all natural, free trade ingredients. All of this may sound very granola, but the taste is anything but: these are deep, dark, and incredibly rich. They create said truffles in a collection of flavors which include the original (a bittersweet chocolate), a toasted coconut and pistachio variety, and the one we tried--the blackberry pretzel.

Now, I didn't sample the other flavors, but I am nonetheless pretty sure that blackberry pretzel must be the best. The blackberry provides a tart, subtle undertone, and the pretzel provides a delicious saltiness: both taste profiles are made even better by the extreme chocolatiness of the truffle.

The only catch with my parcel from The Smallest Bite seemed to be the packaging: my parcel arrived with the truffles overturned and the little candy cups overturned; in spite of this dissaray, however, the goods themselves were not damaged, and I was assured that this had not been a problem with shipments.

Want some for yourself? Order online at thesmallestbite.com.


Get Sconed: A Delightfully Carbohydratey Treat from Heavenly Pastry and Cake, Seattle

Scones are, in general, not to be trusted.

Oh, they look great in the bakery case, in all of their buttery, carbohydratey glory, often prettily glistening with various glazes or topped with fat granules of sugar.

But in general I tend to agree with America's Test Kitchen when it comes to the flavor reality: as they put it, "scones served in a typical coffeehouse are so dry and leaden that they seem like a ploy to get people to buy more coffee to wash them down."

But when I recently encountered the jam-filled variety at the Heavenly Pastry & Cake booth at the Capitol Hill Farmer's Market, I had a glimmer of hope. For one thing, it looked more biscuit-y than many American bakery varieties--it seemed more like a British scone (or at least a cousin to my favorite Grand Central Baking treat, the Jammer).

Happily, these scones tasted just as good as they looked: the texture was somewhere between cakey and biscuity, yielding but not  falling into the crumbly or spongy pitfalls that often plague lesser scones. The raspberry filling offered a nice texture and taste contrast to the butteriness of the main event, and almost (but not quite) made them taste healthy. 

Heavenly Pastry & Cake says on their menu of their scones that "we give these humble pastries the respect, and flavor, you deserve"--and after having tasted, I tend to agree.

P.S. Though they're not sweet, the pretzels ought not be missed, either.

Heavenly Pastry & Cake, retail storefront coming soon in West Seattle; they can also be found at several area Farmer's Markets. For more information, visit heavenlypastry.com.


Sweet (and Savory) Art: Paintings Mike Geno

Now, my first inclination is to say that Mike Geno's artwork is totally sweet: after all, he does have a great breadth of work comprised of thoughtful, painterly renderings of doughnuts, cakes both homemade and packaged (including Tastykakes!), and various candies.

But I wouldn't want to overlook his fine work focused on beef, bacon, and steak, either.

So what motivates this series of foodie-based art? Per the artist's website,

This series of food still life paintings is directly related to my obsessive enjoyment of food and how that enjoyment connects me to a larger community. More specifically these paintings are all ready-to-eat subjects that are presented in a range of displays including abstraction through decorative groupings as well as a more traditional single object presentation. I am interested in exploring, through paint, the attractive qualities of various food items that we are sold in the consumer culture we exist in. 

Of course, as the artist continues, "My intention is to address the subject in this context rather than monumentalize it and also to avoid the pitfalls of the over-traveled path of traditional food still life painting."

Ultimately, Mike's goal is "to be absurdly successful, perhaps less poor and the envy of all the right people"--and, I daresay, able to afford to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants to eat it. And it's a delight to travel this carb, protein, and sugar-heavy world through his work.

Paintings and prints by Mike Geno are available here, and will soon be available at the CakeSpy retail shop.


Sweet Banana Manna: Banana Cream Pie in a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Crust for Serious Eats

Please, please stop using banana bread as the final resting place for your ripe bananas. Because there's a much sweeter option: namely, banana cream pie. In a chocolate peanut butter cookie crust.

This concoction combines the classic idea of combining rich, creamy banana pudding with cookies, but in a far more decadent way. Rather than the classic Nilla wafer pairing, this pie capitalizes on the fact that both peanut butter and chocolate taste excellent with bananas—and brings all these harmonious flavors together, in one delicious place.

When topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream, this is not merely the stuff that dreams are made of, but the stuff of waking fantasy as well.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!


Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Smitten Bake Shop, Bay Area CA

When sweetness and cuteness are combined, what can I say? CakeSpy is absolutely smitten.

And the most recent crush? Smitten Bake Shop, in the East SF Bay Area. They don't have a retail storefront--in fact, they barely have a website--but they sure do have plenty of sweetness. As their website says, "our website may not be up and running yet, but our ovens are!". They are currently available for custom orders.

Per an email from co-owner Lisa, here's the story:

I do the baking and my partner Debra handles the biz and financial side. I bake out of a restaurant on Mondays when they're closed, but as we're getting busier, are looking high and low for a place with more flexibility/hours. We were surprisingly (happily) buried in Mother's Day orders, especially for our "Love You" sour cream heart cookies, and looking very forward to having a permanent home soon so we can be ready for the holidays.

Till then, find out more at their work-in-progress site, smittenbakeshop.com.


Cake Byte: New Art up at CakeSpy Shop!

So, sweeties, I have some bad news.

The original "Scenes from Capitol Hill" series of mini paintings I did for CakeSpy Shop is nearly 75% sold out! That means you missed out on many sweet original paintings, including the three pictured below, which are all now owned by people other than you:

But you should know that I'd never say something mean like "sucks to be you"--especially since happily, I have good news, too. I've done some replacement pieces which are now up in the gallery, including, but not limited to:

But if original art isn't your thing and you want some sweet stationery, why not check out these totally sweet new Toasties Getting Toasty while toasting marshmallows notecards?

And believe it or not, that's not all. There's even more awesome coming to CakeSpy Shop next month: a show featuring work by Kris Garland entitled Suspect + Fugitive! It features pop culture icons made from...well, largely food! For instance, "Dill Bert"--that is, Bert, made of Dill--pictured below left.

Here's the 411 on the upcoming show:

"Suspect and Fugitive" is a companion show to the 365 blog 
(suspectandfugitive.com) of the same name. All pieces in the 
series are composed of suspect (questionable) and fugitive 
(nonarchival) materials. Kris Garland, the artist behind the 
blog, has been making nonarchival pieces since 1996 when 
she learned that she enjoyed silk screening with nail polish. 
She has since moved on to working with food items as that 
is what she typically keeps in the fridge.

Artist reception: Thursday, June 10, 2010, 5-8 p.m. at 415 E. Pine St., Seattle WA 98122.

The items still left in the Capitol Hill Series are available online here; the Suspect and Fugitive artwork (and cards and prints) will be available in the store starting June 1!

CakeSpy Shop + Bluebottle Art Gallery, 415 E. Pine St., Seattle; open Tue-Sun, 12-7 p.m.


Morning Glory: The Lovely and Amazing Morning Bun

It's time to talk about the Morning Bun, that beautiful American adaptation of French breakfast pastries.

First off, what is this thing? As Carey Jones put it so beautifully on Serious Eats,

In my mind, the morning bun is the perfect synthesis of the classic croissant and the irresistible sticky bun. Call it a croissant in cinnamon roll clothing. It’s made of a buttery croissant dough, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar (and often walnuts or pecans), then rolled into spirals. Each one is baked in a muffin tin, and when the morning buns rise, they spill up and out of their little slots. Kept in close quarters, the bottom stays a bit doughy, like a sticky bun interior, while the top lifts into an appealingly flaky, cinnamon-speckled dome.

Legend (that being lore from a CakeSpy Shop customer Katie's friend) has it that this bit of sweet manna originated in the Midwest US, perhaps the result of French settlers trying to recreate a piece of home with the ingredients and supplies they had readily available? It is listed on the Wisconsin Food Hall of Fame, at any rate.

But regardless of where it came from, one thing is certain--these beautiful buns are just as tasty as they look, and if you see one at your local bakery, you should grab one. Of course, making a trek to Tartine for one based on the picture above wouldn't be out of the question, either (and while you're in the Bay Area, hit up La Farine, too!).

For more lore and love on the subject of the Morning Bun (and recipes/bakery suggestions too!), you might like to read Serious Eats, Pink Stripes, and Apartment Therapy.


Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Brooklyn Treat Shoppe, Brooklyn NY

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, at least one of them from the above photo is yum.

And it should serve to tell you pretty much why Brooklyn Treat Shoppe is CakeSpy's latest Bakery Crush!

This dessert catering company (read: no retail storefront at the moment), as the name might imply, is based in the borough of Brooklyn, and they specialize in sweets: cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, cupcakes, and other sweets, some of which don't start with the letter "c". They also do "cake art", including this sweet treat which vaguely resembles a cartoon version of the Seagram building (in the sweetest way possible!):Testimonials are loving: "to die for" and "what dreams are made of" are basically the tone of fans. Yup--chef Toniann Salvato sure does have a sweet future, based on what I see!

Check out the official Brooklyn Treat Shoppe website here; follow them on Twitter here.


Donut Delight: The Inimitable Experience of Early Morning Eating at Donut Pub, NYC

Here's the thing about Donut Pub.

The donuts might be merely good, but the experience of visiting the establishment is great.

Located at 14th Street and 7th Avenue in NYC, it's perched in a nether region that isn't quite the West Village, isn't quite Union Square, isn't quite Chelsea. It's been there forever (OK, since the 60s)--and is open 24 hours--yet somehow manages to be one of those places that people have never visited.

This place that lies in-between vibe carries over when you walk into the place: it perpetually feels like it's about 4 a.m. at Donut Pub--perhaps it's the clientele, bellied up to the donut bar, or maybe it's the weird lighting. Maybe both; either way, it kind of feels like you just walked into a David Lynch movie.

But it is this very ambiance that makes walking into Donut Pub and getting one of the first-fried specimens of the day at 3 or 4 in the morning, whether you're up early or late, one of the most exquisite donut experiences imaginable.

The "great whites" (black and white cookies, minus the black) are another story, though--not sure if I am ready to go there.

Donut Pub, 203 W. 14th Street, NYC. View the menu here.

Donut Pub on Urbanspoon


Mother's Love: Delicious Sweets at Mother's Bistro and Bar, Portland OR

Sometimes, I don't even have to seek out sweetness: it finds me.

Case in point: on a recent trip to Portland, OR, I found myself out to dinner with friends Mary and Dave at Mother's, a bar and restaurant downtown. It was all extremely delicious--most notably the biscuits.

When it came time for dessert, something terrible happened: they declared themselves to be "too full".

Happily, our perceptive waiter could sense my sadness at passing back the dessert menu, and soon after appeared with a small tray of cookies--a crumbly, buttery shortbread, and a sort of cherry-nut-oat cookie. 

Needless to say, this prompted discussion with said waiter about said cookies, which then resulted in even more freebies: this time, a sweet lemon-coconut bar which was beautifully rich and decadent. 

Happily, Mother's has a bakery case by the entrance, making it easy to go in and pick up some sweets-to-go, including big versions of the cookies we sampled.

And, most importantly, they're all baked on premises:

Mother's Bistro and Bar, 212 SW Stark St, PortlandOR; mothersbistro.com.

Mother's Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon

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