02.23.13 Dessert. Cupcake Anarchy (Located in New Berlin, WI but delivery provided)

Cupcakes have made their amazing little niche in the food world lately.  I don't even know when this all started but what comes to mind are Sex and the City and the Magnolia bakery.  Also, who doesn't know Sprinkles?  I did a Google search "when did the cupcake craze start?" to see if I could get any background on this topic.  The top link was a Wikipedia page for Magnolia Bakery.  Per this page, it stated that Magnolia Bakery was "credited with starting a 1990s 'cupcake craze.'"  So, I guess that's the answer... because Wikipedia is the all knowing reference right?

Cupcake Delivery
I've noticed cupcake places popping up in the past couple of years here in good ol' Milwaukee.  We often see these places when we drive around but sometimes we miss out on the smaller companies that we only hear about via social media, word of mouth or via ads here and there in the Shepherd Express.  So, thought I'd blog about my cupcake experience with the Cupcake Anarchy. 

Through the blogging and foodie networking, I noticed a name that stood out, Cupcake Anarchy.  It made me smile and so thought I'd check it out.   Saw that the company was local and they had a bunch of great options for cupcake flavors.  It just so happened that I was going to have a gathering at my home with some friends and so I decided to place an order for some mini cupcakes.

Apple Pie, Brownie and Bacon Maple Whiskey
I got in contact with Karen, the Cupcake Anarchist, to see what she offered.  I wanted to get two dozen cupcakes because sometimes, people don't want a full cupcake but still want a cupcake ya know?  And, who's going to only take half a cupcake at a party? Most won't.  And, it's time consuming to see who would do a "splitsies" with you.  Anyway, let me get of my tangent.  I asked her if she could do a mix and match for the two dozen mini cupcakes since there is a minimum number needed for the cupcakes (a dozen for the large and two dozen for the mini's).    She said she could and I left it up to her to pick the cupcakes to include in the two dozen.  I can sometimes be indecisive and with the number of flavors, I was struggling.  So, I left it up to her since she knows the cupcakes the best.   Prior to her deciding, she asked me if there were any allergies she had to be concerned about which was thorough and considerate of her. 

Vegan Chocolate, Coconut Cream and Cookie Dough
I provided her almost two weeks in advance notice for it which was plenty of time for her to plan.  Per the Facebook site, one week notice is requested for orders of two dozen or more and two weeks for custom cupcakes... yes, I said custom.  In addition to four categories (traditional, seasonal, anarchist and booze-infused cupcakes) of almost 90 cupcakes, you can request a cupcake of your own creation.  Something to also note is that they offer vegan and gluten-free options.   Karen got in touch with me and we set plans for her to deliver to my home the morning of the event.  Delivery is always a nice perk.  The boxes were nice because the cupcake had their own little slots that prevented them from sliding around and the box was tall enough that there wasn't a risk for smearing the frosting.  Some were so snug in their house though that they were a tad hard to get out but that's no biggie because if worse came to worse, cut into the box a tad.  The flavors she chose for me was a surprised and I didn't find out until I received them.  The flavors that she included in the dozen were apple pie, vegan chocolate chocolate, bacon maple whiskey, coconut cream, cookie dough and brownie.  There was four of each flavor.
I had about nine ladies over for a little gathering and the cupcakes were our dessert.  I asked those that ate the cupcakes, to provide some feedback on them.  So, here we go, let's get into the nitty gritty of the Cupcake Anarchy mini cupcakes. 

We will review the cupcakes in an order that I placed them in regard to which I liked the most to the one I liked the least out of the group.   But, I will include some thoughts that were provided to by the group as well.

Cupcake 1: Coconut cream
Our thoughts:  Definitely the one that people enjoyed the most.   Obviously though, if you don't like coconut, you might not find it you favorite.  But, even if you don't like coconut, I would recommend trying this one because it is delicious.  It's not too sweet or overwhelmed with coconut flavor.  I neglected to try the cake and frosting separately so not completely sure if there is coconut in just the cake, just the frosting, or both. 

Cupcake 2: Cookie Dough
Our thoughts:  The swirl to the frosting is pretty.  When you cut into the cupcake, you can definitely see that it's filled with cookie dough.  This was my second favorite.  I'm not always the biggest fan of cookie dough desserts but this one I enjoyed quite a bit.  Definitely a sweeter cupcake than the coconut cream.  This is a cupcake that I would like a mini versus a full one unless I had a nice cup of coffee to eat with it.  I can see this one being a popular among the masses.

Cupcake 3:  Vegan Chocolate
My thoughts:  I struggled with placing this one at third instead of second.  I think the main reason cookie dough beat this one out is due to how pretty and fun cookie dough looked.  What I enjoyed about the vegan chocolate cupcake is that they were nice and moist and the cake was a little more spongy versus a more dense cupcake.  This cupcake wasn't too sweet either which surprised me.  I'm typically not a huge fan of chocolate on chocolate but it was sooooo good, I had to have a half of another one.  (Yes, I did a splitsie and left the other half hanging only because it was my party and I could do what I want.  I actually broke all my rules by cutting them all in half because I wanted people to get the opportunity to try a little of each flavor and not feel bad about hogging all the cupcakes.)

Cupcake 4: Apple Pie
Our thoughts:  This one was another favorite for the group.  This one was so cute with its piping work and the apples on top.  Apples were also in the cupcake.  The cake itself was drier than the other ones.  But, we all found it rather enjoyable with this specific cupcake because, as Katie best stated, "it reminds her of an actual pie crust."  This cupcake is one that lives up to its flavor and name.  Definitely not only tastes like an apple pie but has all the textures of one including the fresh apple compote that it was filled with.

Cupcake 5: Brownie
My thoughts: Definitely had a struggle with where to put brownie.  Apple pie beat it out because of how pretty it looked.  I'm a sucker for presentation.  Brownie was oh so delicious but a little too rich and sweet for my liking.  It definitely wasn't bad and I almost feel bad placing is in fifth of six cupcakes but I think it's more of my bias of preferring fruit desserts over chocolate.  Also, if I do have something chocolatey, I prefer it to be less rich.  As said with the cookie dough one, it would pair very well with a cup of Coffee or glass of milk.  It was a treat to have the pieces of brownie because of the texture it added to it.  It was a little more chewy which I love about a good brownie.  The frosting was oh so good.  I had the childlike urge to lick the frosting off of all the brownie ones.  But, that definitely would have crossed the "I do what I want" line.

Cupcake 6:  Bacon Maple Whiskey
I wanted to love this one because if you know me, I love me some bacon.  The bacon was surprisingly still crisp.  And, when you take a nice even bite of the cake and frosting, it's actually pretty good.  But, the whiskey was definitely present and a stronger flavor than I would have liked.  I enjoy a whiskey here and there so that's why i was surprised I didn't love it in a cake.   It makes me think that it would a "guy friendly cupcake."  Could be a nice little valentine's present for a guy or even as a grooms cake if people go the cupcake route.  The maple frosting was delicious and I would be interested in having this on an apple flavored cake or even a nut flavored cake.  Perhaps if the bacon was crumbled over the top to disperse it out a little more, you can get a little bit in each bite  Definitely wouldn't be as pretty but with this cupcake, having even amounts in each bite would be nice. 

Brownie and Cookie Dough Splitsies
Overall, the cupcakes were very good.  The actual cake part of the cupcakes was inconsistent in regard to how moist they were.  Some were dry and some were perfect.  I'm definitely not a cupcake connoisseur but this was the group consensus.  From my mini cupcake experience from different smaller businesses and bakeries, I've noticed that it's tough to have consistently moist cupcakes.  The common trend with the cupcakes we had from Cupcake Anarchy were that the ones that had filling in the middle had a cake that was more moist.  But, I did have a few cupcake left over and put them in a Tupperware together and had them the next day.  They were definitely all a tad more moist.  Perhaps it was because of the container they are kept in?  I'm not quite sure.  Could it have been when they were made?  Or, I did see an episode of DC cupcakes and they did comment that if the batter is over mixed, it could be dry.  I'm not much of a baker other than things out of the box baking.  I prefer the decorating part versus the measuring and mixing.

Tower of Cupcakes
Despite them being a little dry there were a lot of good things that would make me want more. The flavors and all the flavor options are impressive.  I can't speak for all of them but the ones we had lived up to their names and what flavors they had in them.  The best part of the cupcakes was the frosting.  I could have eaten the frosting off of all of the cupcakes.  They had such great flavor, weren't too sweet and the consistency was divine.  It wasn't hard, dry or gritty.

Would I get cupcakes again?  Definitely.  I would try the regular cupcakes versus the minis.  There are so many fun flavors and options that it wants you to keep coming back.  Also, being a follower of Cupcake Anarchy on Facebook is a tease due to all the awesome pictures and the seasonal cupcakes that are offered are always fun.   I would recommend following them if you enjoy some food eye candy.  It definitely reflects the art side of food.

Do yourself a favor and check Cupcake Anarchy out.  Cheers!

Cupcake Anarchy
(262) 844-8712


02.09.13 Brunch. Simple Cafe (Lower East Side. Milwaukee, WI)

So, yeah, told you I'd be back... and brought Eddie and Jen with me this time to introduce them to the lovely Simple Cafe.  I won't go into all the details about the space and the service as it is pretty darn similar to the last blog.  This shows consistency with visits, which is good.  This time, they immediately sat us at one of the larger front tables and called them the community tables.  Some may not like this as you can be sitting immediately next to another group if it's a crowded time.  But, I typically don't mind this because it can open up to the opportunity to making a new friend.  And, friends are good.  

Jen and I ordered coffee and Eddie was content with water.  When Jen said she wanted milk, the server provided options for one or two percent or soy milk.  Lots of options.  

Let's get into the nitty gritty. 

Jen's pick.
Details:  Roasted butternut squash, sweet potato, baby spinach, tofu, zucchini, topped with two eggs any style (ordered over medium) and a side of wheat toast that she passed off to Eddie.  $9.95

Squash, sweet potato, tofu, and zucchini hash with two over medium eggs.
What she thought: The color to the hash was beautiful with all the different veggies mixed in.  Definitely a healthier option.  She enjoyed it.  Asked for a side of ketchup to eat with it.  Without it, it would be a little dry/bland.  This is usually why I get my eggs over medium.  The tofu was firm and lightly sauteed.  It didn't have a lot of flavor if you ate it separate from the remaining ingredients in the hash, but, that's not the intention of a hash right?  When the ingredients were eaten together in one bite, it was a nice combination.  A recommendation that I provided was to perhaps pour a little of the maple syrup on the hash for a little special kick. 
Two egg platter with Canadian bacon, Simple potatoes and wheat toast.

Eddie's pick.
Details: Simple egg platter with eggs scrambled, Canadian bacon and wheat toast with a side of Simple potatoes.  $7.95

What he thought:  He thought it was good.  It came with three pieces of what appeared to be pan sauteed/fried Canadian bacon that was thinly sliced.  The scrambled eggs were fluffy and not overcooked.  He enjoyed his meal so much that he already thought of inviting other people to come check it out. 

What I chose.
Details: Pumpkin Pancakes.  Buttermilk pancakes with roasted pumpkin and toasted pumpkin seed crumble, dusted with cinnamon powdered sugar.  $8.25 and a side of Bacon $2.50'ish.

Pumpkin pancakes and side of extra crispy bacon.
What I thought:  As expected, it was a like a dessert.  It was sweet and needed minimal syrup... or maybe the light syrup is just my preference.  The pancakes are moist and prepared well.  The spices are light and not overpowering unlike some pumpkin/squash/carrot baked goods can be.  The crumble and toasted pumpkin seeds added a nice texture to the bites.   I often can't go with just pancakes and that's why I ordered a side of extra crispy bacon.  The bacon wasn't necessarily thick cut but it wasn't thin and flimsy.  It was prepared as ordered, nice and crispy and no soggy parts.  It was a hearty serving of pancakes which provided an opportunity for left overs.  Some can't do left over pancakes but I love 'em. 

As we were finishing up our meals, I noticed outside and coming through the door a familiar face.  Four of our friends came through and into the restaurant per a recommendation I provided them a week ago after my first Simple Cafe adventure.  It was a nice surprise as I haven't seen a few of them in a while.  This is a situation in which the community table was PERFECT!  They joined our table.  Of course, we talked about the food for at least 10 minutes or so and, I stayed to see what they would order and what they thought.  Heather ordered the Korean breakfast bowl and a twinge of jealousy came over me.  I will definitely get that next time. All were intrigued by the Korean dish and it was topic of conversation for a while.  From the positive responses I heard (yes, I was eaves dropping) the Korean breakfast bowl was the highlight of their group's dishes. 

I think all enjoyed and may all go back again.  I know I will. Korean breakfast bowl... get ready for me.

P.S.  No rating for this one as it would be redundant to the last rating for Simple Cafe. 

"Does Lisa ever post a restaurant review with a rating lower than 4/5?"

Just a side note...

I've been approached in the past and have thought about this topic recently.  A friend asked me "where are the bad ratings, Lis?"  It's not that I haven't had any bad dining experiences, because trust me I have... whether it's bad service, bad food or a combination of both.  But, it usually takes me a while to write one blog and I'm usually more excited to share the good experiences and not the bad.  When I like a place, I want to share it with everyone because I want them to be in the food heaven that I was in when I dined at a good restaurant.  The rating system isn't all that scientific or specific anyway, so take it with a grain of salt.  It just acts as a quick reference for those that want a quick look into what a place has to offer... somewhat like a Clif'sf notes version.  Plus, even if i have a bad experience at a restaurant, I typically want to give it a second try before I strike it off my "go-to" list for restaurants.

With that, I leave you to continue to enjoy my four and up rating blogs.... just kidding.  I'm sure I'll eventually post one that's below.  Who knows? I might even have one that's below four but I'm too lazy to look back to all my posts to check. 

Eat, drink, and support local. 

02.03.13 Brunch. Simple Cafe (Lower East Side. Milwaukee, WI)

Last week, we were walking home from Landmark Lanes after a riveting bout of bowling and saw the Simple Cafe.  This was the first I heard about the new restaurants that opened up in the old Crank Daddy's location Farwell Avenue.  One of them was Simple Cafe, a brunch joint.  So, Christina and I decided to try it out for Sunday brunch.  Christina thought this was a great location for a brunch place to pop up because this block of the lower east side was lacking solid restaurant to pull people in. 

From the back of the restaurant.
It was a Saturday, around 1:00pm.  Upon looking into the store front, it looked empty but when you walk in, you realize that it's such a long space that you almost can't seen the whole place at a quick glance.  The building is long and the space has larger rectangle tables at the front and smaller square tables seated along both sides of the restaurant in the back.  When you first walk in, there is a counter with registers and happy people greeting you and waiting to seat you.  In the back, there is a coffee bar and benches along each wall that seat small square tables.  The restaurant is full of fun bright colors.  When you look around you notice small details that they have put into the space that include different light fixtures that include recycled pots and pans painted white hanging from the ceiling as light fixtures and all different types of bulbs above the tables.  The tables are a wood butcher block'ish style with brightly colored chairs... red along the walls and orange straight down the middle to pull your eye along the length of the restaurant.  The decor is very similar to their first location in Lake Geneva, per their website.  There is a good mix of the people that the restaurant have pulled in, middle aged couples, younger pairs of friends and smaller groups of people.
Coffee bar and the pot and pan lights.

There was immediate seating and when we first arrived the restaurant was about a third full but before we left, it was filling up nicely and bustling.  They sat us at a table in the back.  It was only a few minutes before a server took our beverage order and with coffee cups pre-set at the tables, how could you say no? I took the bait and had coffee especially since they support local and brew Alterra coffee... yum.   Christina, of course, was happy to find out they serve Coke.  It was out of the can, but a safe bet, especially when, per Christina, out of the gun Coke, is sub par.   First glance at the menu is overwhelming.  Not a good menu for the indecisive ones out there.  They may have a mini panic attack (not really).  The menu includes breakfast dishes, lunch dishes, soups, salads and a kid menu.  You definitely want to look at it all because it's not your usual breakfast menu.  Of course they have the simple egg dishes... the two egg, meat and bread... but then they have omelets, frittatas and hashes but with unique options and farm to table flare.  What's also unique to most brunch places is that they have Korean inspired dishes.  They have a Korean breakfast bowl that looks strikingly similar to bibimbap.  I noticed this immediately and got a little excited since I love me some bibimbap and made a mental note of it in case I didn't get it this round.  This would be a good moment to take an aside and fill you in on the 411 of the restaurant itself.

The original restaurant is located in Lake Geneva and per a blog on onmilwaukee.com, the restaurant owners were searching far and wide, from coast to coast to find the best location.  Lucky for us, they decided on Milwaukee.  The restaurant boasts its commitment to supporting local by being farm to table and having a commitment to sustainability through recycling and composting.  Christina had done some background reading on the establishment and informed me that, they are still currently using Lake Geneva for their source of food until they develop relationships with local Milwaukee area farmers.  Also, you will notice the Korean flare to the menu as she read that one of the owners brings their cultural cuisine to the menu. 

Now back to the important stuff, the food.  It was terribly difficult to decide on what to eat and our server was very patient with us and she actually complimented us on being very polite diners which was sweet of her to say. But, we finally decided and here's what we thought.  

Christina's pick
Details: The Simple Club.  House roasted pesto marinated turkey breast, fruitwood smoke bacon, lettuce, tomato, overnight oven roasted tomato mayo served on a toasted whole wheat bread with a side of Simple potatoes.  $9.25  She asked for the bacon on the side because doesn't really like bacon on a cold sandwich... to each their own, right?  I myself would want double the bacon on each side of the sandwich... it makes everything better. 

Blurry pic of the Simple club with side of Simple potatoes.
What she thought:  The sandwich was stacked 4 layers high which is always an impressive presentation.   Everything tasted very fresh.  She thought the pesto was a nice addition to the sandwich.   This was a nice accent because sometimes she feels that if it says it's marinated, you don't always taste it.  But, with this sandwich, she didn't.  She really enjoyed the bread that it was served on.  It was toasted but still soft.  It was a more dense bread versus an airy Wonder bread'ish slice (you know what I mean).  Lettuce was fresh and crisp which added nicely to the texture of the sandwich.   Between bites, she said that "this is definitely something she can't make at home."  She often rates things on if it is reproduce-able at home or not.  I think it could be, but as I always say, everything tastes better when someone else makes it for you, even a simple PB&J.  The hearty side of potatoes were simple, no pun intended, yet good.  They were a lightly seasoned roasted potato with the perfect crisp on the outside and a green onion confetti on top. 

My pick
Details:  Turkey, Bacon, Brussels Sprouts Hash.  House roasted turkey, shredded brussels sprouts, bacon, gruyere cheese, caramelized onion, potato and two eggs any style (I chose over easy).    $9.95 I chose to substitute a short stack of their buttermilk pancakes instead of bread. $2.50

Turkey, Bacon, Brussels Sprouts Hash with a short stack.
What I thought:   Love at first glance.  The presentation is great.  Love the large white plates (mind you... everything matches from the plates to the salt and pepper shaker).  Quite a large serving.  The eggs were prepared just right.  Any time there is a hash, I prefer a runny egg to use the yolk as something to give the hash a sauce.  Nobody wants a dry hash and when I mean nobody, I mean me.  But, with this hash, it was moist enough without the yolk running over it.  I've had a new found love for brussels sprouts lately so I loved this.   You'd think that the usual slightly bitter flavor of them might be overwhelming in this dish especially with the light flavor of turkey but it wasn't.  This was most likely due to them being shredded (for the most part, as there were some larger bites so if you're a anti-brussels don't get this), the creaminess of the gruyere and the sweetness of the caramelized onions.  This hash was nicely distributed and evenly balanced each ingredient so you got a little in each bite.  Of course, I may be biased, but the bacon made it just lovely.  It added that salt kick that most egg dishes need.  I'm typically a salter and a hot saucer, I know, I know, it's rude to do so... but, this one didn't need either of the two since it had good flavor.  This dish made me think of a Thanksgiving turkey dinner in one dish.  Would be a great idea for turkey day leftovers.  Definitely beware of how well the cheese is melted... not a first date dish as you do need to watch out for the long cheese strands that can be hanging from your mouth.  Don't pretend like you don't know what I mean.  The pancakes were cooked well... fluffy yet not overcooked and dry.  It had a nice moisture to it and didn't need a lot of syrup.

Other things to consider:
- Free, off-street parking available which is always nice for east side locations.  But, some of this may be removed as they do plan on expanding to outdoor seating
- Kid friendly as they do provide a kid menu
- Gluten free and vegetarian friendly
- Thorough with quality checks, refills on coffee and water
- No alcohol... so if you're in the bloody mary or mimosa mood, either pick somewhere else, plan to go to two places (one for food and one for brunch spirits) or make you're own at home.
- Changing seasonal menu since it is farm to table
- Christina commented that the bathroom was awesome and recommends checking it out
- They offer to give you a cup of coffee in a to-go mug on your way out

This was a great first experience.  I will definitely add it to my "bring people from out of town for brunch," list.  It's fresh, supports local and has a unique flare to the traditional brunch menu.  The size and appeal of the menu pulls me into wanting to go back again and again.   Plus, the nice server said we were the most polite she had all day and who doesn't like a compliment?   I know I do.  Check it out and feed your belly with some tasty, fresh, local food.  Cheers!

Simple Cafe
2124 N Farwell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202
  (414) 271-2124
simplecafelakegeneva.com  (on their flier they have simplecafemilwaukee.com but it's not up and running yet as of 2/9/13)
Monday - Friday 6am - 3pm
Saturday 7am - 3pm
Sunday 8am - 3pm