Kickass Cupcakes-April Happy Hour

April 28, 2010

There are some things I will miss when I go abroad for the entire school year. I’ll miss my friends, family, and the Tufts community. I’ll miss the Dunkin’ Donuts; something tells me that they won’t be as ubiquitous in Madrid as they are here in Boston. I’ll miss american holidays and customs, like Thanksgiving and Football (no, not soccer). But more than anything, I’ll miss the food. Things like gargantuan breakfasts or frozen yogurt vendors.  Oh yeah, and cupcakes.
Monday night was probably the last Kickass Cupcake Happy Hour I will attend until September 2011. After all, I won’t be here over the summer. You know the drill: last Monday of every month means three free cocktail inspired miniature cupcakes. Fittingly, I went with a friend who recently got his Bartender license, for which he had to memorize over one hundred drink recipes. This month, we had Chocolate Kahlua Kiss, Scorpion, and Lemon Drop.


The Chocolate Kahlua Kiss was easily my favorite. The chocolate cake was very moist, and the white chocolate flakes garnished on top of the mocha frosting provided a nice contrast. The Kahlua cream filling was disappointingly subtle; I didn’t even taste it. Maybe there just wasn’t a lot of filling in it. It is interesting to note how prevalent fillings have become in cupcakes. It seems as though half of all cupcakes offered at bakeries nowadays have some sort of filling. As cupcake vendors become more and more common, the offerings become more and more complex.


On that note, the Scorpion was probably the most ambitious. I found the almond cake to be a little on the crumbly side, but the orange liqueur frosting tasted great. I’ve made a Gran Marnier frosting before, and that had turned out quite well. The crushed cherry jolly rancher garnish seemed superfluous and detracted from the orange frosting. On the whole, it was certainly a different cupcake, but not one that I could see myself actually ordering, especially if it were full-size.


The Lemon Drop succeeded where the Scorpion had faltered. The Lemon Drop consisted of a Lemon Cupcake soaked with Limoncello and topped with a lemon frosting. By using Limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur), the Kickass bakers tempered the sugary cupcake with perceptible tartness that I certainly appreciated.
I noticed that Kickass had updated (i.e. raised) the price of their cupcakes from $2.75 to $3.00. Not exactly sure when that happened, but as long as they keep offering free cupcakes at the end of every month, I can’t complain.

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Kickass Cupcakes–February Happy Hour

February 25, 2010

“One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.”
-Forrest Gump


Seriously, February, are you kidding me? One full week of rain? This is Boston, not London. I’m going through socks like Kleenex thanks to these oceanic puddles.  Luckily, February is about to end. This past Monday was the last of the month. And we all know what the last Monday of the month means… free Kickass Cupcakes!

Like always, the free mini-cupcakes come in three different “cocktail-inspired” flavors, which got me makes me think of LMFAO’s magnum opus, “Shots.” In this song (assuming you can call it that), Lil Jon enumerates his favorite drinks. Surprisingly enough, his alcoholic regimen fits in line with Kickass cupcakes’ menu. Desipte his usual policy of exclusively yelling monosyllabic words, Lil Jon catalogs various drinks, such as “Lemon Drops” and “Kamikazes.” At one point, he loudly declares his affinity for “jello shots.” Cue the Strawberry Jellow Shot—a Vanilla cake with a strawberry jello shot center and whipped cream top.

When the song reaches its crescendo, Lil Jon ebulliently erupts into an expletive-laced climax—“Fuck all that shit, give me some Gin!” Cue the Chartwoozy, a Gin soaked cupcake with chartreuse frosting and lemon sugar. This was the real winner of the evening. I could pick up on the Gin, but it wasn’t overbearing. And the frosting did have hints of Chartreuse (liqueur made from brandy and aromatic herbs) and a vaguely citrusy aftertaste.

There was also a chocolate cupcake with brandied chocolate ganache center and chocolate frosting dusted with nutmeg called Chocolate Hot Toddy. This was decent, but disappointed in comparison to Kickass’ previous chocolaty efforts, such as the Brandy Alexander and the Somerville Glory.

Even though I could’ve left without buying a cupcake, I couldn’t help but get a Champagne Cupcake. I’ve made a couple of batches of champagne cupcakes in my day, so I figured this would be a good comparison. The cupcake was filled with fresh strawberry, which I actually preferred to the Jello filling of the free mini.

Rain sucks, but I’ve learned that it can be easily smothered with baked goods. Because who really needs umbrellas when you’ve got cupcakes?


Dave’s Fresh Pasta

January 27, 2010

Pasta gets a bad rap. Maybe we should blame Mr. Atkins for villanizing carbohydrates? Or perhaps the blame lies with all those school cafeterias for flooding the market with bland versions of spaghetti and meatball. The overabundance of pasta has turned many of us off to the dish entirely. After all, how many of you dreaded the dinner doldrums of “Pasta Night” growing up? In the end, pasta’s affordability and non-threatening cooking instructions proved to be its undoing. Which is unfortunate, because pasta can be truly delicious and original.

Case in point—Dave’s Fresh Pasta. After my sweet potato gnocchi in St. Louis, I decided to finally hop on the DFP bandwagon. This shop sells day-fresh pasta and ravioli along with plenty of homemade sauces. The flavors of pasta and types of ravioli fillings range from the traditional (egg pasta and spinach ravioli) to the unique (squid ink spaghetti and Butternut Squash ravioli). Along they way there are pasta flavors like Lemon Basil, Saffron, and Chipotle. The homemade sauces are equally eclectic. With 5 different kinds of basil and a myriad of red and cream sauces, the number of “pasta-bilities” is endless.

I imagine Charlie Bucket’s experience in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory was quite similar to my trip to Dave’s Fresh. While there wasn’t a river of red wine or a tribe of orange-skinned midgets singing as they pressed paninis and cut pasta, the vastness of the store and options proved astounding. There were gourmet cheeses and chocolates and wines galore. And the samples! The free samples! Screw Sam’s Club—if you want free samples, go to DFP. A big basket of bread, flanked by cheeses and oils a plenty, was just begging to be sampled. Between the daps of avocado oil to the homemade tzatziki sauce, I took my fair share of free food. I could’ve spent hours gazing at the shelves of food, but in the end I decided on the chicken sausage and fennel ravioli with the arrabiata sauce.

The only bit of advice I can give is that you should separate the ravioli prior to cooking. The prescribed cooking instructions directions told me to drop the ravioli in and stir to separate. This didn’t work. I ended up splitting some of them open in my feeble efforts to detach them. The ravioli itself was decent, but the sauce was incredible. If you’re looking to pair your pasta with a spicy red sauce, this is the one to get.

So don’t give up on starches! Go eat pasta! Show all those low-carb sissies what’s what.


Snappy Sushi

December 18, 2009

Finals suck. They are truly the bane of my existence, the academic equivalent of a dementor’s kiss. Thanks to my tests, I have been unable to cook, exercise, or have any fun this past week. My only outlet—supporting the Beelzebubs on the show NBC’s The Singoff—pales in comparison to cooking/eating, my ultimate stress-reliever. Having completed my exams, I decided to let loose a little and hit the town.

My friend Lily suggested Snappy Sushi, an offbeat sushi spot in Davis Square. Let me preface this with a confession—I’d never ordered sushi before. I know a lot of people are like addicted to sushi, but not me. It’s not that I dislike sushi; in fact, the one or two times I’ve had it I kind of enjoyed it. I figured that tonight was the night to break loose and pop my sushi cherry.

Unconventional would be the best way to describe Snappy Sushi’s rolls. Snappy features “fancy rolls,” which are made with brown—not white—rice and contain different sorts of ingredients that what one would normally see in sushi (or so I’m told). I went with the flow since I lacked any preconceived notions about what sushi should be, but I imagine that Snappy’s methods could grate the nerves of sushi purists.


Lily served as my mentor, helping me decipher the myriad of options on the menu. While they had conventional fare, I went for a few of the more avant-garde alternatives—the Boston Lobster Roll (avocado, cucumber, and green leaf rolled together, and dressed with chopped lobster meat mixed with red onion and flying fish roe) and the Newbury Fashion Roll (eel over avocado, cream cheese, cucumber, and flying fish roe).


All of my nervousness over exams melted away as I savored the rich flavor of the Lobster Roll. It was served piping hot, a Godsend given the hypothermal weather outside. Maybe this is an ignorant suggestion, but I would’ve diced the cucumber in the roll, it was a little overwhelming to get one big piece. Other than that, I had no other issues. Since it was my first time eating “real” sushi, I have nothing to compare it to. I realize that the method and ingredients may not be legit, but fidelity can be overrated.

I have an 8-page paper due on Monday concerning Deconsolidation and Democratization in Venezuela and Mexico for my Latin American Poltics class. As thoughts of Hugo Chavez, the PRI, and Rafael Caldera swim through my mind, I can’t help but smother them with thoughts of lobster sushi.


Columbus Day Cupcakery

October 11, 2009

HONK! FESTIVAL AND OKTOBERFEST
KICKASS CUPCAKES, THE UPPER CRUST, SWEET CUPCAKES

Molasses Ginger and Chocolate Orange

Ah, Columbus Day weekend! It makes for a nice little rest stop after a month of school and makes the cold, inexorable trudge toward Thanksgiving a little more bearable. The various towns held festivals to celebrate the holiday. Davis Square played host to the Honk! Festival on Saturday night, while Harvard Square held Oktoberfest. Why am I writing about this? Because it proved to be a rather eventful culinary expedition! So read onward, brave reader, and see what’s in store for ye! (That was my generic pirate voice, just FYI).

How many times have you seen a random street performer and wondered, “Gee, that guitarist/trombonist/accordionist is mildly good.” Well, Davis Square’s Honk! Festival brings all of those lone performers together. Each parking lot and open plaza becomes a makeshift stage for these sketchy musicians and a dance floor for the even sketchier audience. Now, I use the term “musician” rather lightly, and I mean “music” in the loosest sense of the word. Honk! logo courtesy of http://honkfest.org/
Remember the end of “Easy Rider,” when Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda finally make it to Marti Gras but drop some really bad acid? That’s kind of like what it was like walking about the insanely crowded streets of Davis that night. We walked about, aurally and visually taking in the bizarre setting. The dissonance created by this amalgamation of eccentric street performers gave Davis Square a sort of symphonic schizophrenia.

Spongebob Oily-Pants

Spongebob Oily-Pants

A sense of claustrophobia began to overwhelm us, so my friends and I sought shelter in Kickass Cupcakes. My friend Rob and I both ordered deep fried cupcakes, but just like the acid in “Rider,” the cupcakes proved to be a frightening endeavor. The dish starts with a plain vanilla cupcake, dipped in batter and then deep-fried. It is served in a paper cup along with some chocolate syrup and some whipped cream. This sounds good on paper, but wasn’t. The cake was bland and the syrup tasted cheap and artifical, like Hershey’s. This was such a disappointment given the sophisticated flavors they normally offer. I mean, Kickass offers rum soaked cakes and raspberry champagne fillings! The worst part: the cupcake was fried poorly, so it was literally sopping with oil. I expected a little crispiness to the edges, but no. It was like eating a sponge. Moral to the story: never order a fried cupcake from Kickass. And, Kickass, do us all a favor and retire the fryer. Brattle Street minus cars + copious amount of tourists

Today was Oktoberfest in Harvard Square. I’ve never seen Harvard Square so crowded! It was super-intense. While some people go for the parade, I went for the food. I was craving one of those quintessential Italian sausages, but my cohorts and I ended up getting some pizza. The Upper Crust had pizza by the slice, so we stopped by their kiosk. They had set up two industrial-size ovens, which birthed pizzas of four different varieties—Cheese, Chicken Pesto, Peppers and Mushroom, and Pepperoni. I got a slice of the Pesto Chicken and left impressed. The thick sauce was chunky from all the tomatoes. Like any true St. Louisan, I firmly believe that the thinner the crust, the better the pizza. Crust’s crust delivered, serving a pizza with a crisp thin crust that allowed the sauce and toppings to shine. After checking out their website (which enumerates their toppings, from ricotta to scallops), I’m quite sure that my search for the perfect pizza is over.

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie... Pesto Chicken from Upper Crust

The traumatizing experience I had at Kickass on Saturday left me determined to revitalize my love for cupcakes. So to Sweet we went! Alas, they were once again out of that ever-elusive red velvet cupcake. I settled for a Molasses Ginger and a Chocolate Orange. You already know how great the Molasses Ginger is, but the Orange was new. I made some Orangettes over the summer, so I’m pretty familiar with the chocolate/citrus combination. The cake was a nice dark chocolate. Whether intended or not, there were tiny bits of chocolate in the cake, almost like chocolate chips, that I really enjoyed. The vanilla bean buttercream infused with “fresh sweet citrus flavor” was tasty, but wasn’t citrusy enough for my liking. If I wanted a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, I’d have ordered that. But I wanted the Chocolate ORANGE cupcake! A Gran Marnier buttercream might’ve been nicer. The cake was topped with one of those candy orange slices. While it looked kind of nice, I thought it really cheapened the cupcake. I mean, I buy those fruit slices at Walgreens. It totally goes against the “Madagascan-Vanilla-Bean-Buttercream-infused-with-citrus” vibe that the rest of the cupcake gives off. I’m not a snoot, but if you’re going for sophistication, then please be consistent. Maybe some candied orange zest

Molasses Ginger and Chocolate Orange
On the whole, a pretty intense weekend. But I still have one day left! The blog has slowly veered into restaurant territory, but I promise to actually make something in the next post.


Kickass Cupcakes: Happy Hour

October 2, 2009

Cupcakes

Virtually every situation in life can be described in culinary terms. Some of these have become famous, such as “easy as pie,” “life is your oyster,” “I’m in a real pickle,” or “icing on the cake.” I try to sprinkle food-references into my day-to-day life whenever possible.

For example, my visit to Lyndell’s Bakery on Sunday reminds me of the sharp contrast between the two halves of the black and white cookies they serve. I’m split in my assessment of Lyndell’s baked goods. On the one hand, they have what I think to be the most amazing Black and White cookie with the fresh, fluffy cake topped with a generous layer of creamy buttercream frosting. On the other hand, I had a comparatively uninspired cupcake—dry cake with a ho-hum chocolate flavor. Yes, my cupcake was dirt cheap ($1.25), but the cupcake itself just didn’t do it for me.

It was inexpensive and decent in taste, but I needed something a little more.

It was inexpensive and decent in taste, but I needed something a little more.

Just a tad on the dry side

Just a tad on the dry side

Well, my need for a great cupcake led me once again to Kickass Cupcakes. At $2.75 a pop, the cupcakes are more than twice the cost of Lyndell’s; however, the unique flavorings at Kickass really kick Lyndell’s “vanilla-or-chocolate” ass. Sorry, that was pretty lame. I’ll keep the puns to a minimum. My two favorite flavors: The Mojito, a rum-soaked cake with lime mint frosting, and the Green Monster, a Chocolate cupcake with a chocolate beer ganache center and a stout frosting. I don’t often go due to the prices, but it’s a great little treat.
Kind of picked over by 6:45
Kickass Cupcakes holds a cupcake “Happy Hour” from 5-7pm on the last Monday of every month. These two hours of pure happiness consist of free cocktail-inspired mini-cupcakes. This month, the three freebies Kickass gave away were Chocolate Brandy, Banana Daiquiri, and a Caramel Appletini. You were allowed one of each flavor.
P8010690
My favorite was without a doubt the Chocolate Brandy. This had a chocolate cream filling that was just delicious. I’d like to take this time to just say how nice fillings are. Don’t get me wrong—I love regular cakes, but biting into that buried treasure really does it for me.
Banana Daiquiri
If you’ve had banana bread or banana muffin, you’ve tasted the Banana daiquiri cake. The frosting was some kind of cream cheese frosting. It would make a great breakfast cupcake, if there is such a thing.
Too sugary
The Caramel Appletini was too sugary for my liking. The apple flavor was artificial, which was a real turnoff. They garnished the cupcake with bits of green apple jolly rancher, which no doubt contributed to this saccharine artificiality. The banana one tasted like banana baked goods should, which made this even more of a disappointment.

I think I’m gonna go give Lyndell’s cupcakes another chance. Perhaps this Saturday. Until then, I’ve got these photos to keep me going…

So good, so chocolately