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Food Dude

September 13, 2012
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Crème Cupcakes and Dessert Bar

By Jim Duncan

Irish whiskey caramel mousse at Crème Cupcake is topped with Bailey’s-flavored whipped cream and accented with crunchy honeycomb and caramel drizzle, $10. 543 28th St., 554-9007. Tues. – Thurs., 7 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Fri. – Sat., 7 a.m. – midnight.

If any new trend is upon us, it’s an era of stand-alone dessert shops. One restaurant equipment sales rep recently said he’s never seen anything like the “fro-yo” (frozen yogurt) craze that opened in the metro last year which has been pacing at nearly one new shop a month. A new fro-yo just opened on the 2300 block of Ingersoll Boulevard, and another one is working toward opening on the 2100 block of the same street. That sales rep explained that the rapid expansion is encouraged by price markups which exceed anything else in the industry. One wonders how long prices can stay high with so much competition for a market handicapped by its climate half the year. And how long will people pay gelato prices for a cheaper product that really isn’t any healthier when it’s covered with toppings full of empty calories?

It’s not just fro-yo, though. I wrote earlier this year about a new candy-and-soft drink store in Valley West Mall and also about the cupcake craze. I found that much of the explosion of “stores” in that latter category were just websites that took orders and delivered. Notable exceptions were Bake Shoppe, Carefree Patisserie and Crème Cupcake, which moved and expanded last month.

In just two years Christine Moffatt grew Crème from a moonlighting sideline to a new 36-seat venue just off Ingersoll. Cupcakes are still her focus, though her menu recently advertised pies and tarts — whole or by the piece. I have yet to see any on display, though, and have been told they are now “for pre-order only.” Moffat’s cupcakes are built with quality controls. She says their key ingredient is high-fat butter that she uses exclusively instead of oil. She believes that good cake uses vanilla paste, not just extract, and that frostings should be made with cream and butter — never any water.

“You don’t want the greasy after-taste that shortenings like Crisco leave. And don’t put so much sugar in the frosting that you can’t taste the flavors,” she adds.

About a dozen flavors ($3) were offered on a rotating basis. A selection of the equally impressive Topped Doughnuts was also displayed. Those are delivered from a rather new shop in Ankeny that we raved about a year ago.

After 5:30 each afternoon, Crème also brings something new to town — a dessert bar. It’s run by Jess Dunn, who learned her trade from David Baruthio (Baru66). Cocktail pairings are designed by Blake Brown, recently of Americana. Savory thyme honey cheesecake ($9) was served with fresh fruit marmalade and blended creamy quark with thyme and honey for a bitter sweet flavor. The suggested pairing of a Bloody Mary ($8), made with fresh juiced tomatoes and spiced rum as well as the usual culprits, expanded the flavor profile considerably. An Irish “whisky” caramel mousse ($10) was topped with Bailey’s-flavored whipped cream and accented with crunchy honeycomb and caramel drizzle. It was simply delightful, (except for insulting Irish customers with the Scottish spelling of whiskey). A 151-proof rum with coffee, Kahlua and heavy cream ($8) was the most complementary suggested pairing I tried.

My favorite dessert was a classic Pavlova ($9) — lavender meringue baked and served with lemon cream and fresh berries. Its suggested pairing was from a universe with denser gravity, bringing cherries, peaches, balsamic simple and bitter herbs to a dark vodka party ($10), where the guests of honor were light and sprite. An almond flourless torte ($10) delivered ganache-like chocolate that melted in the mouth. Fried cake balls presented three different flavors along with a dip. CV

Side Dishes

Dos Rios introduced an infused drink — The Bertrand Special — to honor State Senator Rick Bertrand who added the wording about infusing spirits to a larger bill that finally made the practice legal in Iowa.

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