September 05, 2008

Sweet Tooth: Cupcakes and Gelato

Mmmm. My birthday is coming up, and already someone asked me out for gelato to celebrate. And I bought myself a cupcake at D.C.'s only Cupcakery earlier this week to celebrate. How trendy of me.

Ok, so we've know about the cupcake trend for a long time--it all goes back to Sex and the City's obsession with Magnolia Bakery in the Village. And I'm all in favor of it.

According to the New York Times cupcakeries are about to launch chains.
Many of the cupcake shops have started to clone themselves. Magnolia opened a second spot on the Upper West Side in addition to its Village location. It plans a third store in Rockefeller Center this month. Buttercup Bake Shop now has two places on the East and West Sides of Manhattan. Within the last several years, Cupcake Cafe also now has two locations. Even with expansions, these places have retained their boutique appeal.

But Crumbs, which started in 2003 with a single store on the Upper West Side, is expanding more aggressively, with 40 planned stores over the next year and 150 within the next five years. (All self-financed.)
The worry is (warranted) that, like the last big sweet trend quality will diminish and expansion will only destroy the appeal of the Cupcake.

I'd be worried about that too. Maybe I'm a total snob, but I've had a lot of gourmet cupcakes, including Magnolia's, and they are not great. Good, but dry. The best part was the icing. And at Georgetown Cupcakes, the carrot cake was flavorless, but my iced latte delicious. There are few things worse than a bad cupcake--because all enthusiasm and whimsy is cruched.

The Gelatto front looks a little better. As the New York Times also reports the populatiry of gelato is on the rise.
Though gelato, that smooth and flavorful Italian ice cream, is not a novelty in the United States, it has struggled to gain a foothold. Many consumers were turned off by too many bad Americanized versions and that, in turn, turned off many would-be entrepreneurs.
Lately, however, gelato seems to be catching on, joining artisanal coffee, cheese and wine in catching the fancy of food lovers. With less than half the butterfat of regular ice cream, gelato is less fattening and healthier, and its dense, rich flavor and smooth texture can be highly addictive.
They mention in the article Dolcezza Gelato which is also in Georgetown, and is simply marvelous. Also good: Tango gelato and Gelato Naia in S.F., and Grom which has a location in New York's Upper West Side, in addition to their many European locations.

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