Sunday, August 10, 2008

On the Oregon trail...

I'm baaaacccckkkk!

It's been entirely too long! Where have I been you ask? Well, I'll tell you. For seven weeks I was a camp counselor at a weight loss camp in the Santa Barbara area. This was my third summer working there, but this year was a DRAG. Half of our staff got fired, so needless to say I had to work a little bit harder than usual and wasn't able to, I had no internet. But I'm back now, and that's all that matters! I couldn't survive without baking, so I went to my friend Desiree's house a few times throughout the seven weeks and baked cupcakes and cookies. I ended up trying two new recipes that were pretty good: triple strawberry cupcakes and molten chocolate cupcakes (I forget where I found the recipe). I also baked gooey butter cookies for my camp's evening snack one night, and they were a hit :)

After my work in SoCal was done, I journeyed up to NorCal with a friend and stayed with my aunt and uncle in San Francisco for a few days. I had a blast! We went to a musical called The Drowzy Chaperone, and I loved it so much that I'm going to make a cupcake named after it. My aunt also took me around to several different bakeries: Kara's Cupcakes, Noe Valley Bakery, Tartine, Urban Bread and Citizen Cake. When I pulled up to Citizen Cake Elizabeth Falkner was standing outside! She's a lot shorter in person. I was too nervous to say anything, but I got a few cookies from CC and they were delicious. Here's my critique of each place and what I purchased:

Kara's Cupcakes - The pictures on the website make the place seem really fancy and hoity-toity. While it is very cute inside, it's not as nice as the pictures make it seem. The floor was kind of dirty, and it made the rest of the place feel that way too. My aunt and I ordered four cupcakes: Kara's Karrot, Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Ganache, Meyer Lemony Lemon and Fleur De Sel. I didn't get to taste the carrot cake, but I'm sure it was good. The peanut butter milk chocolate ganache was okay - nothing special. The lemon cupcake had a pretty nice tang in the filling, but it wasn't overpowering. And the fleur de sel was excellent, but expect salt people! The ganache on top of the fleur de sel was to die for. One thing I loved about all the cupcakes was how MOIST they were...I even left them out overnight and ate them a day later! Yum yum.

Noe Valley Bakery - It was a cute and quaint little bakery, something a lot like I would want for my own. I ordered a lemon mousse cake and a red velvet cupcake. Unfortunately I didn't get to try either :( The lemon mousse cake was beautiful, with a butterfly-shaped chocolate transfer on top and gorgeous layers. I gave the cupcake to a friend, and he said it was delicious and gave it a 9.5 out of 10. Damn, I wish I would have tried it!

Tartine - According to my aunt and uncle, this bakery has become very popular and won a James Beard award. I enjoyed the atmosphere, and was able to watch the bakers decorate cakes while I waited in line! I ordered a meringue and a chocolate cake cup but I had my eye on their tarts - they looked delicious! With a lack of appetite and/or time to eat it, I settled for the small items. The meringue was okay, but not what I was was too nutty for my taste. I liked the cake cup, but again not what I thought it would be - it looked like a reese's peanut butter cup but tasted like a bite of cake with a little ganache on top. It was kind of dry too :(

Urban Bread - Again, I didn't get to taste the bread (I just spent 7 weeks at fat camp, what do you expect?!?!) but the inside was cute. They had all bread, and some random cupcakes at the front counter. We bought the garlic cheese boulot, and it looks and smells amazing. From what I heard they also have some killer sourdough.

Citizen Cake - Very cute! Half of the building is a restaurant (dessert bar?) they recently opened, and the bakery section is very nice. I ordered a hazelnut cookie sandwich and a dulce de leche cookie. Both were very good...and messy!

I'm going to be doing a lot of baking and decorating this week, so hold on to your hats!!! I'll be back!