Of cupcakes and ice-cold comfort
SUE KIDD; The News Tribune
Walking into Sweet Things Cupcakes & Couture is like wandering into a girl convention. On first glance, it looks as if a prom queen exploded inside the store and covered every available surface with sparkly things – purses, big flashy cocktail rings, rhinestone bracelets and even tiaras cram every nook of the remodeled Proctor residence that opened as a cupcake and baubles shop Sept. 12.
All girliness aside, the bakery serves up a delicious selection of cupcakes and the shop’s baristas pull a tasty espresso. That’s all they serve here – it’s a micro-niche cupcake and coffee place. Service is key at Sweet Things. They’ll ask you if you like your drink or cupcake, and care about the answer.
There isn’t really a place inside the shop to sit and eat, but outdoor patio seating may entice for early-fall al fresco dining – until the rain returns. The owners might add indoor seating later. The shop has an awkwardly placed elevated storefront, so do look up from street level for the cupcake sign. Cupcakes are $2.95 each, a bit more than other local cupcake bakeries. (By contrast, Hello, Cupcake charges $2.25 for a single cupcake.)
Typical flavors are represented, as well as more unusual varieties. The hummingbird skewed more to dense muffin than fluffy cupcake, and tasted like really moist spice cake dressed up with coconut, bananas and pineapple and topped with a cream cheese frosting. Owner Barbara Kiker, who owns the store with Patti Frank, said the hummingbird is the early-morning seller.
The red velvet with a cream cheese frosting was as perfect an example as that cupcake can be – a rich, moist chocolatey base colored a deep shade of red and topped with a sweet, but not cloying, cream cheese frosting.
The triple chocolate came with three levels of rich – a spongy chocolate base topped with a cloud of chocolate frosting and topped with dark chocolate shavings. Try eating that in one sitting. I dare you.
In other cupcake news: Indulge Cupcakes is in the process of moving from its downtown Puyallup location to a new store in downtown Sumner at 1913 Main St. Owner Jen Quaschnik expects she will open Indulge the early part of this month. Read the TNT Diner blog for more details. Reach the bakery at 253-447-7824 or indulgecupcakes.com
The following First Bites is republished from the TNT Diner blog.
How cold is too cold when it comes to beer? That’s the question some diners are posing when it comes to the frosty beer served at Hop Jack’s in Bonney Lake. When he opened in August, Hop Jack’s owner Mark Eggen told me that he wanted to serve the frostiest beer in town. The beer taps have some kind of high-tech frosting apparatus, so it’s not unusual for beer to arrive with ice crystals. And, indeed, the beer we ordered on a recent visit – Pabst Blue Ribbon, the Widmer Broken Halo IPA and Deschutes Black Butte porter – all came very frosty. A beer slushee can feel like the wine equivalent of being served a glass of syrah with ice cubes in it, so if you’re of the mind that chilly beer equals deadened flavors, take note. I thought the temperature of my porter was way too chilly. I couldn’t taste the deeper coffee notes of the Black Butte porter. The cold seemed to erase them.
Other readers who have contacted me also agree the beer is just too cold. As TNT Diner reader “barley jim” snarkily commented on the Hop Jack’s thread on the TNT Diner blog, “Even marginal beer deserves to be given a chance and (served) at a proper temperature, not frozen! I can never return and I may never erase that image from my memory. Why? Why? Wwwhhhhyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Question: How cold is too cold for beer? Would you drink beer with ice crystals? Comment at the TNT Diner blog and let other readers know.
Beer aside, I stopped in for dinner at Hop Jack’s and was greeted with a crowded restaurant on a Monday night – usually a slow night for restaurants, but not so at Hop Jack’s. The atmosphere reminded me of a Red Robin meets The Rock, which makes sense because Eggen previously was an exec at Red Robin and owns two Rock franchises in South Hill and Lacey. Eggen opened Hop Jack’s with partner Greg Troger, also a Red Robin alum. The menu has a something-for-everyone vibe and with affordable prices. Many entrees are $10 or less.
The barbecue quesadilla appetizer ($7.95) was a cheesy, smoky dish. And when I say smoky, I mean really smoky. I don’t know what was smokier – the barbecue chicken, the smoked chipotle mayo or the meaty chunks of bacon. The smoke was tamed with a drizzle of sweet barbecue sauce and cooled with a helping of mild salsa and guacamole. The grilled bread with brie appetizer ($7.95) would have been far better had the cheese not cooled to a congealed mass.
Stick with burgers and you’ll be happy at the value. The black and bleu burger ($8.95) came with a juicy patty that looked handformed, and dredged in spices. Atop the patty oozed a generous pile of pungent blue cheese, crispy fried onions, lettuce, tomatoes and a healthy smear of chipotle mayo. The flavor volume turned up noisy with the competing spices, chipotle mayo and blue cheese. This is a burger for someone who appreciates a full-palate assault from pungent, smoky, assertive flavors. Accompanying skins-on fries were crisp and tasty for freezer fries.
Pork pasta ($12.95) comes with something called “hog wings,” which turned out to be three pork shanks perched atop a plate of penne pasta tossed in a buttery alfredo sauce with roasted garlic, caramelized onions and mushrooms. The “wings” were tender and fall-off-the-bone good with a sticky, sweet glaze.
My dining partner joked that the Monster prime rib dip ($8.95) could have been renamed the “little goblin sandwich” because the sandwich was small on flavor and meat. It also was dry. A layer of melted cheese would have helped where the accompanying horseradish sauce did not. House-made potato chips were crisped perfectly.
Note: Hop Jack’s doesn’t have a dessert menu. That’s right. No dessert – which may be a good thing after eating pork pasta or a big blue cheese burger. Good news for you gluttons, though: Old School Custard is just a few doors down.