Saturday, April 25, 2009

Style and Substance

Food, like many other subjects is filled with choices that impact the experience.  Occasionally everything comes together into a perfect experience, but more often than not, there are choices we must make to trade one element of an experience for others.  This is something that is done not only by us as consumers of food, but also by the people creating our experiences.  Flavor... Does it taste good?  Presentation...  Does it look appealing or visually interesting?  Ethics...  Is this a good fish to eat? Service...  Is that waiter ever going to come over here?  Atmosphere...  I eat under a drop ceiling at my desk, but do I really want one when dining out?  

We all have our priorities and certainly some, like food safety, can trump the rest of the experience. My preferences tend to lean in the flavor direction over all others.  I can deal with peeling wallpaper and sneers from waiters if the food is good.  

I was confronted with the choice between these when I had a several cupcakes recently.  First, I had a couple cupcakes from the Teacake Bake Shop in Emeryville, CA.  
Many elements of this place are very well done.  The presentation of the cupcakes is strong, the storefront is well designed.  Good service.  Admirable ethics, with donations to important causes like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  Unfortunately where the experience fell apart was with the cupcakes themselves.  They were dry.  

By contrast, soon after, I had some cupcakes made by the Cake Ladies.
I got these cupcakes from a table set up in a driveway.  The cupcakes were not as 'cute' or with the same attention to detail as the Teacake Bake Shop ones, though visuals are fairly subjective.  Certainly the experience lacked the professionalism of a storefront.  However, these cupcakes were moist and excellently flavored.  In this case, with lemon curd and coconut.  Tangy and well balanced.  Overall a great cupcake.  Want to get one for yourself?  I found mine around the corner from the Temescal farmers market in Oakland.  

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