Cupcake Challenge: Who took the Cupcake?

This past Saturday was the Nesquik Cupcake Challenge at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel thrown by our good friends at Drink-Eat-Play. I have put off writing this for the following reasons.

1. I am lazy
2. I have been waiting until the official winners are announced
3. Writing this will force me to look at a million cupcakes, something I vowed to not do for another month
4. I will have to remember all that I consumed on this fateful day

Josie was unable to attend this event due to work, so just as an FYI, I am blaming her for making me consume all of those deliciously sweet calories. Here was my experience on the day of the event.  I was planning on eating a sensible breakfast prior to arriving, but in typical Carina fashion I walked in to breakfast at 11 and asked if I could order off the lunch menu. One corned beef sandwich and french fries done and I had only three hours before the cupcake event. I drove home and napped and did 5 minutes on my treadmill pretending like that would help. I arrived at the Cupcake Challenge right at the start of the event and was handed my judging card. I thought I was important because I am a food blogger, but in true democracy my vote had the same weight as everyone else. I am all about one man and one vote. The first place I headed when I entered was the Polkadots cupcake stand. I wanted this for several reason. First, they won last years event and I wanted to support a local Pasadena store. Furthermore, I have tried to try their cupcakes numerous times and they are always closed when my sweet tooth acts up. They had a beautiful display and I finally got to see one of their famous cupcake cakes. Yup, these are all made of individual cupcakes.


The first cupcake I had of the day was the Lucky Charm, which was a perfectly moist pistachio cupcake. The other cupcakes devoured were a blur but there were some major highlights and I have decided to give unusual awards to mix up the challenge a bit. The most beautiful cupcake that unfortunately didn’t have the taste to match was the Salted Carmel from Tavern Restaurant, it was dusted with gold and a homemade macaroon was placed on top.

Another favorite of mine was the creative booze filled cupcakes from Speakeasy Sweets. They had an Amaretto Sour and an Irish Car Bomb cupcake. I am not crazy about either drink but I love the cupcake creativity and, well, everything is better with some hooch.

The best dressed cupcake server award went to the cute girls at Friandise Pastries.

My favorite cupcake display hands down went to Two Parts Sugar and I found it hilarious that they did a Naughty and Nice display and that a few hours in only the nice remained. Is this really the City of Angels?

Taste wise there were three cupcakes that absolutely blew (blue) me away. The first two were from the same bakery called Blue Cupcake. They had a Sweet & Salty Vanilla and a Pumpkin cupcake that had pumpkin bread stuffed with pumpkin mouse, cream cheese frosting, and topped with a toasted pumpkin seed brittle. I asked if Blue Cupcake had an actual store and apparently at the moment they are only serving at Farmers Markets.  The thing that sold me on both of the cupcakes submitted by Blue Cupcake was that the cupcake consistency, it was not too wet and not too dry. My other favorite was the last cupcake I tried, it was rose petal by Sugar Bliss Sweets in Santa Barbara. The actual cupcake was infused with rose water but it was this frosting that knocked my cupcake top off, it was perfection.

As you can see from my ballot those were all of my winners. Blue Cupcake’s Sweet & Salty vanilla for best traditional and they also took the cupcake on my judging for their Pumpkin cupcake in best original and the Rose Petal cupcake was the best overall.

The official results of the Cupcake Challenge are as followed:


Best Traditional
1st Place:  Big Man Bakes “Red Velvet”
2nd Place:  Blue Cupcake “Sweet and Salty Vanilla”
3rd Place:  Southern Girl Desserts “Red Velvet”

Best Original
1st Place:  My Delight Cupcaker “Breakfast Cake”
2nd Place:  Jus Minis “Caramel Banana”
3rd Place:  Two Parts Sugar “Chocolate Covered Strawberry”

Best Overall
1st Place:  Jus Minis “Caramel Banana”
2nd Place:  My Delight Cupcaker “Breakfast Cake”
3rd Place:  Two Parts Sugar “Chocolate Covered Strawberry”

I don’t want to disagree with the consensus but most people came in with their own cupcake tupperwares and boxes and grabbed one of each and exhibited something I don’t know a lot about, self-control. I am just saying that some people’s cupcakes looked like the main picture, placed beautifully into a box and consumed in a leisurely manner. That was not the case with me. I took instant bites and made this kind of a mess. Whatever, I am uncouth.

I know I am complaining about calories and too much sugar, but in all honesty it was a sinfully sweet time. I owe a big thanks to The Minty for being my cupcake sampling partner. I don’t have our official digital photobooth pictures but here is my picture from the picture.

Also, I want to give a big thank you to Drink-Eat-Play and to Quick. I have been referring to Quik the bunny as my new boyfriend. What’s so crazy about that? He is tall, dark, and handsome and goes at it like a rabbit. I would continue but this reminds me too much of that Funny Bunny Friday.

Nothing Morose about Montrose

Since mid-October Montrose has played home to the UG global headquarters and it has been a joy for us exploring this foothill neighborhood. Where Ocean View and Honolulu meet is not a beach front view, but it is just as charming. It is another land of candy shops, ice cream, sewing and pet stores. You feel like you have been dropped into Main St. of any town in America. When Josie was here full-time we had regular walking strolls to the delicious frozen yogurt place down the street called Fro-Yo Life. We would walk in and say “Fro-yo life” in our most gangsta voices and scare children while playing games of Connect Four that they let you borrow. Josie would get her enoromous peanut butter fro-yo with a ton of chocolate, granola, and cookie dough toppings and I’d get a small fruity fro-yo with mochi, rainbow sprinkles, and yogurt chips.

Our other Montrose favorite is the New Moon, which despite causing Josie the shrimp incident has fully redeemed itself. They have the greatest staff and owners and a Chinese Chicken Salad that makes the UGs swoon. We are counting the days until their lounge opens. They have also provided us one of the funniest dining moments when they showcased their new system to clearly mark food that Josie cannot eat.

Since Josie has returned back to her full-time job, aka the one that actually pays her, I have had to discover some places on my own. One of my favorites became Gourmet A Go Go, which is where I would get an artichoke with balsamic and some brisket on a regular basis. Through Twitter I learned that a new restaurant called Fork was opening in Montrose. I went on the first day lunch was served and immediately realized that the space was far too familiar and was the former home of Gail Connell’s Gourmet A Go Go.

Sitting down at the counter, I spotted Gail and she said the restaurant is a new concept with her and another chef, Michael Ruiz. As it says on the Fork site: “The goal is to share a common space to keep costs down while offering a new dining option to the area”. This is a clever concept and something  that has worked brilliantly for our friend, Chef Ludo. Like Chef Ludo, Michael Ruiz is  a good looking chef with tattoos, a large French influence, and a lot of creative dishes. I wish I would have come in for dinner to explore that side of the menu, but alas after a breakfast of gummy worms and chocolate covered pomegranates my lunch had to be simple and vegetable heavy. I ordered the tomato, mozarella, basil, and olive tapanade panini. It was good and I was glad to learn that the bread was from another local favorite of ours Berolina Bakery.

Again, my panini was good but Chef Michael Ruiz was the chef and owner of Bistro Verdu and Ingredients and I want to come back in for dinner and to completely stick my fork in to this restaurant and their working class bistro menu concept. As far as the dinner menu goes we want to try the pumpkin ravioli, duck confit salad, and the short ribs.

Anyway, Montrose is a great little neighborhood and we are proud to have our business blossom in such a yummy and kind town!

Beer and Dessert…Yes Please

Girls at Dessert Decadence

When I woke up on Friday, I really had no clue what I was going to do for the weekend. I knew I was going to see Josie sousin’ it up in Chef Ludo’s kitchen on Friday but that is where my plans ended. Josie and I are actually fairly booked up on weekends but this one was full of possibilities. We were thrilled when we got an email from Dan of Drink:Eat:Play offering us two great events on two weekend days. The first event was a charity event that involved beer and lots of it for a good cause. It was the Brew Haw Haw that benefited the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on Saturday at the Autry. The second event was Dessert Decadence on Sunday hosted by Drink: Eat: Play.

Josie works at the Kitchen for Exploring Foods on Saturdays so I knew she wouldn’t be able to attend the beer event and invited my new Pasadena blogging friend, Christina, of Hot Pink Manolos. I had to promise her I wasn’t trying to make her my new bff after spending all of the night before with her. What can I say? She is a fun girl that likes to eat and drink, that is like everything I look for in a friend. She agreed to come but we were both hungover from all the wine the night before from Noir Food and Wine, Third Stop, LudoBites, and then I continued on to Tony’s for some whiskey. When she called I recommended we get some food first and took her to Huarache Azteca where I went with Josie earlier this month. It was delicious and she was stuffed but now we had a problem. We had 30 minutes to kill and didn’t want to be early for the Brew Haw Haw. I have a couple membership for the LA Zoo from an old relationship and recommended that we go there. It was excruciatingly hot but the Zoo is one of my favorite place you must read my review. The key to having fun at the zoo is embracing all of the complaining that you will hear/partake in. This kangaroo says it all:

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When we arrived at the Brew Haw Haw, nothing felt better than a nice cold one. There was a great announcer, a silent auction, a band, some snacks and food, and plenty of beer. Just sitting under an umbrella on a sunny summer day was perfection. My only complaint was having to get up to fill my glass. I am a cider lover so was a big fan of the Strongbow and raspberry cider booth, as a Chosen One I am a big fan of the Chosen Beer-He’Brew which had a booth, and as a girl with a great sense of smell (possibly part of being Jewish) I loved the lavender White Orchard beer from The Bruery. It was a great day and I was so happy to go and support a cause that is so serious. On a funny note I did find a guy there that was wearing a shirt that read: Sun’s Out, Guns Out!

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After beer and sunshine I was in need of a nap. I went home and rested and Josie made up for my beer fun by hitting up Lucky Baldwins in Pasadena for the dark artisan beers. She was a big fan of the x-mas strong ales. Don’t forget beer enthusiasts, Lucky Baldwins has their annual Belgian Beer Fest August 15th-30th. Anyway, I stayed home and purchased an airline ticket to Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, and Tokyo in October for a graduation/birthday trip. FYI, I am totally ready and awaiting restaurant/food tips. The next day, Sunday, Josie went shopping in downtown and I had a school study group. We met at Hollywood & Highland about a half an hour before the Dessert Decadence event. I felt the need for real food and grabbed a hot dog before indulging in desserts. Dan thought it was hilarious that I thought hot dogs were “real food”. I found it hilarious that when I told Josie she said she just grabbed a bacon wrapped one in downtown and ate in on the way there. Josie found it hilarious that I brought my hot dog into the Louis Vuitton store and snuck bites when the guard wasn’t looking. We walked into the Renaissance Hotel and were so impressed by the giant room of sweets.

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Alright, on to the sweets! One of our favorites and the first thing we tried was the peanut butter and jelly rice krispy treat from Milk & Krunchies. Upon eating this I said, “Forget the bread, this is how all PB &J’s should be served!”

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Another favorite was the giant and shockingly moist red velvet cupcakes from Swirls Cupcakes. Double-points to the owner for friending me on Facebook before even meeting me.

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Our favorite display and flavor creativity came from Layers Cupcakes and their grapefruit and hibiscus cupcake. The thing that kept me hydrated throughout the event was the Naja iced tea. Imagine my happiness when I learned that Layers and Naja joined forces to create tea-infused cupcakes or CuppaTeacakes.

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We were also really into ice cream, gelato, and sorbet that day. The Strawberry Port Wine gelato from Paciugo and the cucumber sorbet from Carmela Ice Cream were delish! Another favorite of ours was the popcorn panacotta and the mango and coconut tapioca with a meringue on top from Cafe Del Rey.

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Josie is not that big of a dessert person and was sad with how much she was unable to finish. She kept saying,” If this was meat or cheese, I could do so much better!” I also managed to spill my favorite dessert at the exact time Josie took a picture of me. We do not make up our uncouthness.

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I also commented on how my hair was pulling a Josie, falling directly in front of my face. But one of our favorite parts of the event was meeting a magician named Derek Hughes. He did a lighter trick that made me scream and a card trick that made Josie yell, “Are you the Anti-Christ?” After he left with his girlfriend, I looked at Josie and said, “I want to have sex with a magician!” She nodded and without skippimg a beat replied, “Me too”

Anyway, it was a fantastic weekend brought to us by our new friend Dan-who is solely responsible for my social calendar. Get ready for his LA Sake Fest on August 15!

Also, if you were able to get tickets to Food GPS’s LA Beer Float Showdown you, too, were also able to enjoy a beer and dessert filled weekend.