No, this is not what I’m planning for lunch today. Because that would be silly. You don’t indulge in this much rich & yummy frosted baked goodness for your mid-day meal. These gems from Sweet Treats Bakery, in Tupelo, Miss., strictly are breakfast items. (Note No. 1: Actually, lunch today is a leftover half of the Mediterranean Veggie Flatbread Sandwich from City Hardware in downtown Florence, Ala., home of the only balcony dining on Court Street. Note No. 2: I wouldn’t actually eat ALL of this for breakfast. Some crumbs would remain. And Note No. 3: Both of these places are locally owned and locally managed eateries that serve fresh & flavorful food accompanied by friendly smiles and welcoming attitudes. Highly recommended — and that’s a completely unsolicited and un-paid-for recommendation.)
We’ve talked about art in one of my favorite adopted towns of all time — Chattanooga, Tenn., here and here. Now, art is good. I like art. I like people who make art, which is convenient since I work (most days) in an art museum. But when it comes to other things Chattanooga really is good at, have to put “coffee” high on the list. I’m not sure if it’s the mountain or the river or that whole we’re-cool-and-hipster-and-still-a-little-bit-country thing Chattanoogians have going, but folks there sure love and know their coffee. Me, too. At least the “love” part. Chattanooga fans surely will recognize where these two photos come from. On the left, it’s Rembrandt’s Coffee House in the Bluff View Art District, identifiable by its awesomely wonderful desserts. It’s one of those bakeries where you just stare through the glass and say “I want one of those and one of those and …” And, yes, the foam on my macchiato is a bit too foamy, but really that’s a minor complaint for such a fun location and satisfying sweetness. On the right, nobody could mistake the sturdy recycled tables and skillful foam art of Camp House Espresso, a few blocks from both the burgeoning Southside Art District and bustling downtown Market Street. The Camp House building truly is multi-purpose, housing at various times during the week a church, an entertainment venue and a clothing mission as well as a coffee house. That is sooooo Chattanooga.
Both my husband and Older Daughter are REM fans and were saddened to hear that the Athens, Ga., band was officially calling it quits. Husband JP has been a fan from practically REM’s very beginning, although of course Older Daughter wasn’t even born when future band members Michael Stipe and Peter Buck met in an Athens record store. (Historical note: “Record store” is an ancient term for the place in the olden days where teenagers would hang out and buy records, which were these sort of flat vinyl rounds that music came on back then. See also: “Antiques.”) So that tells you something about REM’s appeal and longevity. Coincidentally, Older Daughter and Son-in-Law recently spent a long weekend in REM’s hometown as a treat for themselves before Baby Boy No. 2 arrives in mid-November. And why did they choose Athens, Ga.? “For the food, obviously,” Older Daughter said when I asked the same question. That’s my girl! While Athens long has been known as a hip music town and of course the University of Georgia is there — with its football team’s new eye-catching all-red uniforms — it also has a growing reputation as a food destination. Luckily, it did not disappoint the baby-mooners. And although they didn’t see any sign of REM folks that weekend, several of the eateries they tried did claim REM connections. Here’s their list, in case you want to indulge in some REM
stalking research yourself (P.S. Older Daughter is a vegetarian who’s allergic to glycerin, Son-In-Law needs to eat lightly due to gall-bladder issues and they both tend toward gluten-free, sometimes ):
- Big City Bread Cafe — a bakery and cafe that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Highlights were the hummus, the roasted vegetable and tofu saute and the bakery’s cookies.
- Grit — a vegetarian paradise that also serves burgers. Offers great salads and sandwiches as well as Italian, Mexican, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes.
- Ike and Jane Normaltown Cafe and Bakery — a bakery/cafe known for its yummy doughnuts. Need we say more?
- Jittery Joe’s Coffee — a local roaster and wholesaler with several retail spots around town. I can smell it from here.
- Last Resort Grill — named after a 1960s Athens music club, the Last Resort was the most upscale spot on the kids’ food tour. Plenty of good entrees with a vegetarian dish right smack on the menu, which always is a good sign.
I promise you: These miniature cupcakes — “petit fours” in northwest Alabama-ese — are as yummy as they look. Here in my town, if you’re having any kind of party you’ve got to have petit fours from the Victorian Tea Room. They are so soft and tender and melty you barely have to chew them up. If it’s a celebration, you’ll find Victorian Tea Room petit fours. Over the years, I’d say I’ve served hundreds of them here at our house. When Older Daughter got married, she had four — count ’em, four — Victorian Tea Room wedding cakes that tasted just like big petit fours. People still come up to me and say, “I’m dreaming about those wedding cakes.” Yes, indeedy. The kind folks who make these will decorate the tops any way you like — flowers, baby shoes, class years in school colors. And even though Older Daughter has grown up and moved an hour away and has her own house and her own family, she adheres to tradition and wanted Victorian Tea Room petit fours for Capt. Adorable’s second-birthday party. And, really, they’re perfect for toddlers. Plus, adults gobble them up like them, too. As her contribution to the Captain’s party, Younger Daughter wanted to decorate them herself. So we ordered four dozen plain and YD tapped into her inner cupcake-artist to create these beautiful little bites of adorable cuteness. The plan was for me to do some, too. However, you see the polka-dot ones in the upper left-hand corner? And the one with the big gloppy dot in the middle? That was the one I started … until YD gently took the tubes of colored gel away from me and suggested that I merely observe. She was right. Also: We should have ordered five dozen, because they went fast. Check out the Victorian Tea Room at http://victoriantearoomcatering.com