Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 in Review Part Two: Great Cupcake Wars and Other Tales.

Battle: Frosted vs. Sweet B.
Like sweaty ultimate fighters standing in opposite corners of the ring ready to kick some serious fluffy baked booty, Frosted and Sweet B. cupcake shops both opened in mid 2011 pretty much kiddy corner from each other at 5th and Sherman in downtown Cd'A. Immediately, the competition was deliciously bitchy. I'm acquainted with people who know both shops' owners (they come into my bar and blab), and they were constantly updating me on drama queen vibes from both contingencies.

On the internet side, the Yelp! flame wars started right away. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that "Ashley J." is an associate of the Sweet B. girls - she logged in and wrote this about Frosted...

"The store claims they bake them themselves but they are really shipped in from an outside bakery and jacked up in price. You would have a better experience at one of the MANY other cupcake bakeries in town. The store is small and cramped and down in a basement no where to sit and enjoy your over priced cupcake." 
...then she hopped over to the Sweet B. Yelp! page to write this:
"They have a darling store to sit in and enjoy a cupcake and bottle of milk. Just perfect for an afternoon snack with a friend or the kids. I actually found myself surprised that I enjoyed their store so much seeing as how I, honestly, am not a big fan of cupcakes...You can't chew on the undissolved sugar like you can at Frosted.. but hey, maybe you like that sort of thing. Sweet B bakes everything from scratch daily, as opposed to their competition who brings it all in from a local bakery and then calls it their own."
You go, Ashley J. And from what I've gathered, it's that last point of contention that was the coup de gras for Sweet B. Theirs were baked on site, whereas Frosted had them shipped in naked at the crack of dawn from some undisclosed location and then just broke out the frosting vats and sprinkles. And it is true, but this is actually okay with me, because they taste el yummo regardless. I've matched cupcakes from both shops against each other several times (too many!) and I'm willing to declare it a draw.

Both are creative with flavor varieties, both shops are welcoming and cordial, and I mean really, how could anyone complain about the one-two punch of a fresh, innocent Red Velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting arriving rapidly at your lips, no matter what the source? Can't we all just get along, fat, happy, and full of cake?

Closing: The Dive
Early in 2011, I found myself in Sandpoint for one reason or another (must have either been glass bong shopping or finding that perfect pair of used Birkenstocks), and came across The Dive. It was rather hard to miss. The exterior was a nice shade of traffic cone orange and the whoops and hollers from the mechanical bull riders inside the barn-like interior were echoing out into the afternoon streets. We decided to brave it and venture on in and we were pleasantly surprised by a fantastic, huge bacon cheeseburger and cheap, ever flowing pitchers of Laughing Dog Ale, as well as an incredibly convivial treatment from the guy working the bar where we decided to sit. Lots of people were in there, it seemed to be popular, thriving, and fun - especially on the weekends when a progressive dance type DJ took control.

Later that day, I "liked" The Dive on Facebook, like I always do with pretty much everything these days, and the online breakdown and drama that ensued on their page which fell in line with the place's sudden demise was both amusing and embarrassing. On September 19th, the owner posted simply "no more dive", but the before and aftermath included such peppery gems as this (hide your eyes when you read this, grandma):
Thank you to all the people in Sandpoint that said "fuck you" to the bigot racist, self-centered, assholes and biggest idiots I have ever met. This place went down hill because you can't do business, any business, in any town by serving shitty food, watered down drinks, and horrible service. You can't find quality employees buy fucking them over and paying shit wages. Fuck you, Lex Sparks and fuck you Jake Hatfield. You are the reason this business went to hell, and your better then everyone attitude is the reason everyone hates you.
Well, then. No idea what the reality of that high octane situation really is, but at least I'll always have the photo I took of a certain friend (you know who you are) drunkenly straddling the mechanical bull - possibly a lucrative future blackmail opportunity.

Opening: Fire Artisan Pizza
This year chain-store cardboard delivery service Domino's Pizza introduced a line of non-appetizing "Artisan" pizzas (sorry, but the idea of a "Tuscan Salami & Roasted Veggie" pizza pie makes my gag reflex go all giddy). Naturally, these were no different than a regular Domino's specimen, except for the fact that the dough was rolled in a rectangle and the toppings were *ahem* gourmet. Like any major American food chain, Domino's was acting response to a national trend. Wood oven fired old-old-school pizzerias have been torching up the nation like an Italian cigarette for a few years now, and the hotness finally hit Coeur d'Alene this year with the opening of Fire Artisan Pizza, next to the Christmas by the Lake shop on Sherman Ave. downtown.

The pizza pies that Fire puts out make the Domino's version seem truly patheti-sad indeed (and I did actually try the Domino's version when a customer at my bar ordered one and FORCED me to try it - it was pretty meh). Fire is a real deal hit - in fact out of all the restaurants that have opened this year, I get the impression that people are more jazzed about Fire than any of them. Because who doesn't love a delicious, oven-fresh pizza made with heart using exclusively local ingredients (when possible). Personally, I'm a cheese lover so for me, the Parma (prosciutto, gorgonzola, pecorino, mozzarella and provolone cheeses, finished with truffle oil) is like heaven on a crust.  

Closing: Ciao Mambo "Glacier Restaurant Group spokeswoman Erica Coffman, based in Whitefish, Mont., said the company regretted closing the North Idaho location." This blip from a short SR article that ran earlier this month was basically the only tidbit I could find on the closure of Hayden's Ciao Mambo Italian restaurant. In other words, no nitty gritty gossip or real explanation on the situation.

I posted something about it on the Get Out North Idaho Facebook page and someone commented that they'd heard the owner of the plaza it was located in decided to double the rent on them, and they basically told him to go eat a crunchy biscotti and got the heck out of there. Apparently, the owners are taking the money to their Spokane location, where they plan on installing a full bar of booze, something we here at Get Out north Idaho can always stand behind. Hayden -1, Spokane +2.


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