Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Sift"in Through Napa

Okay - so I lied.  My big plan was to go to Kara's Cupcakes for my first review.  It is local, right by my house, and I already know it's good.   However, I was watching "Cupcake Wars" on the Food Network, and saw a competitor from Napa, who owned a cupcakery called "Sift."  She had flavors on the show such as "Pink Champagne".  Say no more.  I'm coming.  We ended up going this weekend, and so Kara's has been pushed to the back burner for now.

Sift Cupcakes is located in downtown Napa, on Main Street.  For all of the times I have been to Napa, I have never been to the downtown, and let me tell you, it is very cute.  I perused their menu before going, and couldn't wait to try some of their creative flavors.

I saw their super cute sign right away, and really couldn't contain my excitement knowing that this place would be the topic of my first blog review!  Exciting stuff!

Photo by Mike Fujii
The place was kind of random - there is a cupcake counter set up on the other side of a boutique/dress shop - a bit odd.  Plus, they didn't have any tables inside, and only two outside.  They are moving locations, so hopefully this will be improved in the future.  I liked how they presented the cupcakes -  on cake display stands with glass tops.  It was very homey and welcoming.  They had cute t-shirts, and signage - but the set-up was a bit off putting.  We had to eat our cupcakes standing up because between the two tables, there were only four chairs, and a family who had arrived earlier than us took them all.  :(


I wanted to try quite a few cupcakes based on their menu.  Luckily I had four friends with me, so we really got to taste quite a few (and share them...).  This is how things looked by the time we were through:

But, let's not get ahead of ourselves...The finalists were:

Irish Car Bomb (Chocolate, Guinness & Irish Cream)

Thank you, Nick Rose, for your hand modeling.
Photo by Mike Fujii
I am not a huge fan of Guiness beer, but my friend had his eye on this one, so I thought I'd try!  It definitely had a kick to it, but the beer flavor wasn't really overwhelming.  I won't rate this one because I am not too stoked on the flavor profile.  But he enjoyed it!  Ate every last bit!  That's a good cupcake!

Ooh La La (Traditional Red Velvet)

Thank you, Emily Rose, for your hand modeling.
Photo by Mike Fujii
My husband and I decided that it would be a good idea to use the Red Velvet as our universal comparison.  Almost every cupcakery  has one, and thought it would be interesting.  This Red Velvet, unfortunately, was forgettable.  It didn't really have much flavor - definitely not the tart/cocoa flavor many do have.  Compared to some of the others, it was one I would pass on.  It was a simple presentation, but not super original - also kind of forgettable :(


Black Cherry Jungle (Chocolate & Very Black Cherry)

That's me!
Photo by Mike Fujii
This is another one I will abstain from judging.  I don't like cherry.  But, my husband does!  Plus, it was super cute.  My husband is not a sweets person (though he is sweet ;) )  But he gobbled this cupcake right up!  Again, another great endorsement.  The presentation was super cute as well - loved the cherry on top and the chocolate drizzle!

The Samoa (Coconut, Caramel & Chocolate)

Oh. My. Gawd.  Wow.  That is about all I have to say.  Have you ever had the Samoa Girl Scout cookies?  Well, these cupcakes sure give those a run for their money!  This was, hands down, my favorite.  It is sweet, gooey, crispy (because of the cooked coconut).  I mean, life was goooood eating this cupcake.  Loved everything about it.  Done and done.  

(Messy and Inviting...)
(Should have had a 6)

Pink Champagne (Rasberry & Champagne)

Too bad my excitement for this one was short lived...
Photo by Mike Fujii
I was soooo excited to try this one - I love love LOVE champagne.  Unfortunately, it did not live up to my high expectations.  I don't know if it was cooked all the way through, as the texture was a bit thick and doughy.  In both taste, and texture, I likened it to Play Dough - not really what I'm looking for in a cupcake no matter how much I enjoyed eating the stuff as a kid.  I only had two bites, and I couldn't really do any more than that.  For a girl who loves her sweets, that says a lot.  The presentation was, again, simple and nothing super special, though it did have sparkles.  But maybe that contributed to the play dough flavor?

Vanilla (self-explanatory)

Thank you, Mira Polochko, for your hand modeling.
Photo by Mike Fujii
This cake was very simple, for a friend with simple taste!  The cake was light and fluffy, and very delicious in it's simplicity.  Perfect for a summer day (too bad it was raining :( )


Overall, this place was cool, but definitely not somewhere I would run back to.  Most of the cupcakes we tried were okay, but only one was AMAZING!  Sorry Sift :(

Overall Experience

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cupcakes for Cupcakeries!

So, in thinking about how I was going to "score" my visits, I had to think about what I look for when I eat cupcakes, and buy from cupcakeries.  I came up with three essential categories:

1. Ambiance.  The place has gotta have it.  I love quaint little places that feel like some imaginary perfect Grandmother's kitchen, with a touch of modernity and a bit more pizazz.  This is a must, and is, admittedly, completely subjective.  But, it's my blog, and I'm the boss!

2.  Taste.  Another "must."  I am not down for a crappy tasting cupcake no matter how cute the venue is and how beautifully its frosting is.  I am looking for good and strong flavor, maybe something unique (savory?  random spice?)

3.  Presentation.  They say you eat with your eyes first, right?  So true!  I love cupcakes that are simple and clean - I don't need a lot of fireworks here, though sometimes those work!  I love little "extras" that tell you something about the flavor, too.  Like and umbrella for a "Mai Tai" or a lemon candy for a lemon cupcake.

I will be rating on a 5 Cupcake system, with 5 cupcakes out of 5 being the best you can get!

I am thinking my first visit will be to a local venue, but a big Bay Area Cupcake Queen: Kara's Cupcakes, which is within walking distance from my house.  I will definitely be walking there so that I can "earn" that cupcake.  I've been there before (many, many times), but am looking forward to reviewing it and really thinking about what makes it so great (hint: S'mores Cupcakes!!)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cupcake Dreamin'

I'm just an average California girl with a more than average obsession with cupcakes!  I love to eat them, bake them, look at them, buy merchandise associated with them - you name it!  I love it!

Cupcakes are the quintessential American dessert.  They are small.  Simple.  Decadent.  Sweet.  Savory.  Colorful.  They are all of these things, packed into one, tiny (or sometimes SUPER sized) indulgence.  I love how many things can be done with this simple idea, and am fascinated by the life that the cupcake world has developed in the last few years.  It is for this reason that I started this blog.

My goal with this blog is to visit cupcakeries around California (or hell, just places that sell cupcakes), and hopefully beyond sometimes, too.  I want to enjoy the delicious creations and the unique vibe these places have to offer.  To try new flavors, and compare and contrast classics.  Marvel at decorations and salivate over flavors.  And so, my blog is dedicated to such adventures.

My forthcoming posts will (hopefully) review some of the yummy cupcakeries in my neck of the woods and beyond.  Pictures, flavors and reviews - and celebrations of all things cupcake!  I have included some photos of some of my recent enjoyments.

These are the cupcakes we enjoyed at my wedding!  Simple, and so delicious!
Cupcakes by Batter Bakery - San Francisco (Red Velvet, Carrot, Lemon, Rasberry, Chocolate)
Photo - Courtesy of Frederick Ng

The cupcakes from my shower!  Close-ups below!
Cupcakes from Once Upon a Cupcake - Auburn, Ca
Flavors: Key Lime, Oreo, Red Velvet, Carrot, Mint Chocolate, Chocolate
Love the simple, yet perfect, decorations on top.  No mystery flavors here!
These were definitely a favorite - red velvet.  The topping was perfect for the day!


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