by Alice Levitt
25 Winooski Falls Way, Winooski, 654-7069
There are numerous reasons to go to Cupp's in Winooski: sticky buns that taste like drinking butter and honey; cute cake pops; coffee that's flavored to taste like s'mores. But there are two words more enticing than any of those: cupcake bar.
Recently, baker Gretel-Ann Fischer struck on the brilliant idea of making DIY cupcakes sans the mess. Each week, she posts a new list of cake flavors, buttercreams, fillings and toppings. Tell her staff what you want, et voilá, you've got precisely the cupcake you crave.
But that's just dessert. On Saturday afternoon, I was hungry for a real meal, not just the sweet stuff. So I ventured where I never had before on the Cupp's menu — to the savory side.
The How 'Bout Them Apples salad, with fresh Macs, smoked gouda and bacon, sounded appealing, but I'd had a similar salad for dinner the night before. The Slick Chick wrap with Asian slaw sounded great, too, but on this rainy, chilly day, panini felt like the appropriate choice.
And the Forgetaboutit was exactly what I needed. Lightly toasted, homemade white bread was filled with bouncy, saline fresh mozzarella and tender slices of chicken. Herb-crusted, oven-roasted tomatoes were the dominant flavor, but fresh basil and creamy, herbaceous pesto aioli did great work, too. It was like a complex, flavorful chicken Parmigiana deconstructed and stacked onto a sandwich.
I appreciated the bagel chips on top of the salad, but the greens themselves were past their prime. I had to push nearly half of my salad's blackened baby lettuces to the side of my plate. What was edible was dressed in homemade maple vinaigrette that was definitely more maple than vinegar. It was a tad sweet for my taste, but my dining partner adored it.
He was also enthralled by his Hawg Wild panini. There aren't many bakeries serving house-smoked pulled pork. The layer of smoke on this moist meat was just enough and it complimented the sweet, lightly spicy barbecue sauce that dressed it. I would have preferred the caramelized onions on top to be cut thinner and caramelized more, but thankfully, they stayed in place within the sandwich with the help of a layer of Cabot cheddar.
Finally, it was cupcake time. I started with a vanilla one, filled with coconut-white-chocolate ganache. It was like a dense punch of coconut inside the airy pastry. On top, the peanut butter buttercream was also full of flavor, but sweet enough so as not to suggest satay in combination with the coconut. To that end, toffee chunks on top also helped enormously.
Round two, vanilla cake with peach ganache filling. I didn't know how one would make a peach ganache. It turned out, it was by adding peach flavor to chocolate ganache. The deep, rich chocolate was delicious and luxuriously soft, almost melty. However, the big flavor obscured the peach. That wasn't exactly a problem. With decadently buttery vanilla buttercream on top, the cupcake was still a hit.
As was a chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream. Though the moist cake crumbled when I tried to cut it in half to share, the messy treat was still delectable. The cherry ganache within was strong enough to acheive the flavor of a chocolate-covered cherry.
The best thing about the cupcake bar is that it changes every week. I've seen flavors as diverse as wasabi and different flowers. All the more reason to keep on hitting the bar...
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.