Seeing Double with Gigi

Gigi's Cupcake, Chocolate Salted Caramel
Gigi’s Cupcake, Chocolate Salted Caramel

I’m not the person that goes to a cupcake shop. Because a) I might go bananas and eat myself into a sugar coma, and b) I imagine the cupcake store patrons wear a lot more makeup than I do and get mani/pedis done regularly.

But I was ambushed at work by a box of Gigi’s cupcakes. Caught unawares, I saw myself reaching for a chocolate salted caramel creation with an afro of whipped butter icing topped with a liberal bath of chocolate ganache. It was a blur after that. Once I figured out how to get that huge thing into my mouth (hehe that’s what she said).

Ten minutes later the sugar entered my blood and my eyeballs started to vibrate in my skull. There was a lingering taste of chocolate and salt and maybe some caramel. I was smelling the number mauve. I could see the walls breathing.

For a franchise, these things were pretty dang good. I’m not going to be judgy about baked goods if they’re actually fairly decent. That said, I’ve heard other people complain, so I guess you can give a recipe to a franchisee, but you can’t make them bakers.

I would eat the hell out of another one of these any day.

Gigi’s Cupcakes
Gainesville on Archer Road:
3524 SW Archer RD, Suite 130,
Gainesville, FL 32608
352.240.6122
Gigiscupcakesusa.com

[Girl21]

Fresh Off the Vine

We’d heard some rumblings about this local bakery popping up quietly in town. There were breads showing up at Ward’s and Citizen’s Co-op, farmer’s markets, and then The Top! What? How did this sneak under our radar?

I hunted them down online and stalked them on Facebook. And then like a big, wet, unexpected kiss from an overly friendly dog, I saw that they were actually opening up a storefront right across the street from Satchel’s. Boom! There you go. Vine Bread & Pasta.

I always said that the reason I wasn’t heavier on the scale was because Uppercrust was across town, and harder to get to. Now this place is right around the corner. I could walk there if I wanted to (yeah, like that’ll happen). So when The Man and I had a spare morning free, we went to check this place out.

If you’re driving there, you will miss it. It’s back off the road in a little warehouse park between the Ole Barn bar and the row of storefronts next to it. It was hot the day we showed up (check their days and hours before popping in), and it was a typical warehouse space, so as the summer warms up, it should get painful in there for working.

Anyhow, we grabbed up some pastries and a loaf, and scurried home because we hadn’t even had coffee yet (gasp!). We got a cheese croissant and chocolate croissant, a cranberry scone, and a country loaf. The croissants were tasty; the pastry dough was not as flakey as Uppercrust’s but miles better than Flour Pot. I would have liked a bit more cheese in the cheese one, maybe another kind of cheese in with the Swiss? And a great deal of the chocolate in the other croissant was designer and you could taste the quality.

The country loaf is a sourdough, and I can count the ingredients on one hand. It’s good bread. That being said, we did one set of sandwiches with it which wasn’t very successful, and then one set of grilled sandwiches, which worked out better. The bread didn’t quite hold up in its unaltered state, and required a bit of toasting or grilling to give it some structure. And the whole heel of it turned out to be a giant air pocket, which was disappointing, but happens with wild bread like this. On the whole (haha, pun intended), it was a nice, simple bread that somewhat lacked the stronger sourdough qualities we were expecting.

The scone was nice, and I’ve craved and scored a few more since our first visit. It feels like eating a bowl of oatmeal instead of a pastry. Happy belly and happy mouth–almost a meal in itself. The cranberries are a nice touch, but I’d love to add a hint of orange or lime to give it a little pop of flavor.

We’re looking to get our hands on more of the other bread styles, including the rosemary baguette. And I really, really, really want to try some of their fresh pasta. Overall, it’s good bread, and a local business, so I highly recommend trying it if you can (look at their site to see what other local businesses use their bread, like Tempo Bistro, Manuel’s Vintage Room, and Civilization).

We will be watching and tasting, and keeping our fingers crossed. This bakery has some growing to do (haha, another pun! I am so not funny), and there’s a lot of potential here. It’s fresh off the vine and might need to ripen just a little longer (okay, done with the horrible plays on words here, I swear).

Vine Bread & Pasta
1801 NE 23rd Ave, Unit C2
Gainesville, FL
352-682-8038

VineGainesville.com (their site has been down since I last checked 5/14)
On Facebook

Check site for hours and other place to get Vine products.

[Girl21]

The Orphaned Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

Expectations. What you think something is going to be is as important as what it ends up actually being. What you think it should be makes or breaks the results before you even meet face to face. Ask anyone who’s joined an online dating service.

Friends bought a Groupon for Cake Classics, a long-standing cake maker here in town that specializes in weddings and other upsetting events. In a pinch, to use the Groupon before it expired, she ordered a cake on the fly. She was less than excited when she got the cake home and had a piece. I heard about the cake in a mysterious way when she offered to bring it along to an impromptu late-evening get-together.

She had ordered the carrot cake, which was quite nice, expecting something larger and slightly different. Carrot cakes generally arrive with cream cheese icing, according to many fans. (There are people who would rather eat slugs than carrot cake. You know who you are.) There was cream cheese icing between the layers of this one, but the outside was just a general sugar icing. The kind of overly-sweet icing that feels like pure cocaine injected into your eyeballs. Not that I’ve had that, but it feels like a jolt to the body in an unwelcomed intrusion.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t bad. The cake itself was quite nice. There were just enough raisins. The density of the cake was just right, with just enough carrot. The icing was not the icing on the cake though.

I was taken aback but not surprised that at the tail end of the night, when the house had finally cleared out and I was washing up glasses, I found the cake box left behind with more than a third of the cake sitting quietly. Waiting. Orphaned. I adopted it.

Yes, carrot cake needs cream cheese icing. Yes, the sugar icing was like a bad Disney movie. Yes, it was quite small for the price she paid (even with a Groupon). But essentially the expectations didn’t match the reality and it was abandoned in my kitchen.

This worked too well for me, unfortunately. That was the week of the month that I become a sugar vampire (but not with glittery skin). I finished the cake, nibbling away over the week. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Not so much of the icing. But my expectations were different.

12″ Carrot Cake
Daisy Themed, Cream Cheese/Butter Cream Icing
Cake Classics
www.cakeclassics.com
Phone: (352) 371-1665

[Girl21]

Chocolate Bourbon Torte, The Top

Chocolate Bourbon Torte

Whether you like Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” or Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer” when you’re in the mood, you’re going to want to pull it up on your playlist (or slide the record onto the turntable), and then turn the lights down low for this piece of deliciousness.

You’re more than welcome to eat the Chocolate Bourbon Torte while you’re at The Top, but chances are, you’re too full from dinner. We usually have a piece to go, and carry it home with us for later. In private. Yes, with the lights down low.

It’s a sinfully dense chocolate cake base with a thick, gooey, caramely, bourbony, nutty layer of rich filling and a thick skin of dark chocolate icing. If it sits at room temperature long enough, the nutty filling starts to ever-so-slowly ooze out the sides and drool at glacial speed down the sides of the cake. I doubt you can leave it sit that long though. It whispers from its to-go box. Possibly in French. Venir ici. Le lécher. Le dévorer…

One piece is enough to share between two people because it is so rich and dense. And of course sharing requires you to sit quite close to each other. We don’t generally look for excuses to get close, but bringing a piece of torte home is a treat.

One night I lost control of the to-go box and the cake rolled free along the floor of the car, gathering lint from the rug before I could rescue it. I swear I was not drinking that night. An accident, pure and simple. The Man looked properly sad at the loss.

I still ate it. After attempting to remove some of the lint of course. I at it for breakfast the next morning, after he had gone to work to avoid his eye-rolling. It was luxurious. And for once it was all mine!

I think I played “Your Heart is Black as Night” by Melody Gardot.

Chocolate Bourbon Torte
The Top
$DoYouCare

[Girl21]

Pistachio Pinwheel, Uppercrust

Pistachio Pinwheel

I’m not a competitive person by nature. No really, it’s true. But when I race into Uppercrust on an afternoon and see only one pistachio pinwheel left in the case, I’ll elbow my own grandma out of the way to get to the front of the line.

We have always gone for our regular pastries at Uppercrust, but one of the staff recommended these funny looking guys one day, and we’ve been hooked ever since. Generally, anything with pistachio in it is fair game. Add that to the flaky, puffy, sugar-topped pastry of a pain au chocolate, and it’s more than you could imagine. I don’t even mind the last lumpy and hunch-backed pinwheel in the tray.

There’s a $5 French name for the pistachio pinwheel, but I barely clawed my way through my French classes in high school (I got a D++, so that was technically passing), and so I have a mild aversion to memorizing anything to do with the language. And besides, Pistachio Pinwheel describes it perfectly, and it’s a bit festive.

Unless you like hearing your arteries harden as you eat, I absolutely suggest sharing one of these with someone rather than attempting one on your own. They’re as big as your hand, and topped with a butter/pistachio deliciousness. And then sprinkled liberally with that chunky decorator’s sugar. The Man and I can finish one between us easily, but one is usually enough. If anything, split a pain au chocolate also. Chocolate!

The other day when I dashed through Uppercrust and made my ridiculous purchases, I am pretty sure I didn’t physically harm any of the customers who were in my way. I think I did cackle a little though when I left. I don’t think anyone heard me muttering, “My precious… My precious…” though.

Pistachio Pinwheel
About $3.75-4.50
Uppercrust

[Girl21]

Vittoria’s Italian Coffee & Pastry, Daytona

Friends and I discovered this pastry shop by accident on a girl’s weekend to Daytona. A few months later, on a trip with my boyfriend’s family, I nervously suggested it for breakfast. It’s one thing to over-eat sugary pastries with girlfriends. But his family is Italian and I wasn’t sure if this Italian pastry shop would be scoffed at as not Italian enough.

Suffice it to say it was a big hit. Vittoria runs the place and she’s a five-foot-nothing Italian lady from New York who’s been in the business forever (you can read the yellowing newspaper articles framed on the wall). And the cafe is a tiny little converted storefront decorated exactly like your grandmother’s house was when you were a kid. Well, my grandmother’s at least.

She makes everything by hand from real ingredients. Don’t look for fat free or sugar free anything here. Aside from a broad selection of traditional pastries and cakes, she also does panini, coffees, and special requests. Call ahead by a day or two and she can make just about anything on request. Some of these pastries I had to Google when I got back just to find out what it was I had breathed down.

Mmmmm… cannoli, tiramisu, cream puffs, almond cookies… I am drooling on my keyboard as I type. If you’re in the Daytona area, you absolutely must stop in and have a few goodies. Last time we were there it was still a cash-only shop, so we recommend bringing at least $100 on you… trust me.

Vittoria’s Italian Coffee & Pastry
3106 S Atlantic Ave / Van Ave
Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118
(386) 788-6063

[Girl21]