One cupcake looks much like another, which is why Red Velvet Cupcakery's pastry chefs pay such careful attention to what makes them different: the ingredients. Even before a Red Velvet customer takes a bite, they'll probably smell the presence of European butter, Valrhona chocolate, Maldon sea salt, local dairy products, French-style buttercream, and accents made from 24K gold leaf.
That difference was tasted by Washington Post Express, which concluded that Red Velvet's devil's-food cupcake "is sinfully satisfying" with its rich buttermilk cake topped with Valrhona bittersweet-chocolate ganache. It likewise hailed the red-velvet Southern Belle's whipped cream-cheese frosting as "simple, elegant, and too scrumptious for words." To ensure fresh cupcakes?and to keep their wastebaskets available for crumpled-up paper during "writer's block" montages?Red Velvet donates each day's remainders to local shelters and nonprofit organizations.
Enthusiastic baker Nefertiti Angelini hand-picks 97 percent organic ingredients such as tahitian and bourbon vanilla beans to shape cupcakes inspired by such iconic treats as s'mores, peanut butter and jelly, and key-lime pie. The confections pop out of the oven several dozen at a time before donning crunchy or juicy toppings, letting an expansive and ever-changing array of flavor combinations press their noses to the hand-labeled display case. Beyond their eye-catching exteriors, most cakelets harbor gooey centers overstuffed with cream cheese, ganache, peanut butter, or caramel matryoshka dolls. Aromas drift past the storefront's crystal chandelier and bright bouquets into its Reston neighborhood. The CupCake Ladi often expands her energies into charitable works as well: as the Orange County Register has reported, Nefertiti donates hundreds of cupcakes a week to fund ventures including German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County and the March of Dimes.
Since opening their first location in 1996, Robeks' associates and franchise owners across the country have been passionate about the benefits of healthier eating, and what they can do to help guests maintain active and healthy lifestyles, all through portable smoothies. Customers can step up to the counter and order from a menu of fresh, premium ingredients in unique, made-to-order combinations. Robeks Premium Fruit Smoothies aims to create innovative ways to reach the daily recommended 9-13 servings of fruits and vegetables without compromising on flavor. Each Robeks Premium Fruit Smoothies location makes a concerted effort to support the neighborhood it resides in, through local organizations, such as Save the Children.
The inside joke behind the name of Lara Stuckey's bakery goes all the way back to her childhood. As she told the Fairfax Times, "When my sister and I said silly things, we would call them 'fluffy thoughts.'" The reference to her youth is appropriate, considering that's when Lara got her start at baking by whipping up treats in her Easy-Bake oven. Her pursuit of culinary skills continued throughout her life, including during a period when she would design cakes at night after returning home from her full-time therapist job. At the urging of her friends, Lara eventually left her job to dedicate herself to her true passion at Fluffy Thoughts Cakes.
The bakery looks as cheerful as the story behind its development. Bright baubles hang from the walls, spotlighting display cases of specialty cakes and cupcakes made with Valrhona chocolate, pure European butter, and fresh fruit. Cupcake flavors rotate frequently, but they typically include inventive creations such as an apple cupcake with bacon bits and a pina colada cupcake that gives you the ability to play the piano if you practice the piano a lot while you eat it. Lara is also a longtime painter and sketch artist, so sculpting towering specialty cakes with intricate designs and imaginative shapes comes naturally to her.
The menu at Austin Grill represents more than 20 years worth of authentic, time-tested Tex-Mex favorites seasoned with 15 different homemade salsas, sauces, and dressings. A belly-filling roadhouse burrito wraps a fresh flour tortilla around seasoned ground beef and beans, all topped with a drizzle of chili con queso and served with a side of rice ($11.99 at lunch, $11.49 at dinner). Put off cumbersome decision-making and sample the country western flavors of the Joe Ely Big Combo, a medley of a grilled chicken taco, a beef barbacoa enchilada with ancho chili sauce, and a hand-rolled chicken tamale topped with Texas chili ($14.99). A multi-colored Bevo Salad blends house greens, cotija cheese, black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, corn relish, and crispy tortilla strips in tangy cilantro-lime vinaigrette ($7.99 at lunch, $9.99 at dinner). Mosey in on the weekends to lasso southern brunch specials such as the Austin eggs benedict ($11.49) and cornmeal pancakes with eggs and bacon ($9.59). Diners with more particular palates can direct their eyes toward the lengthy gluten-free menu.
From behind a frozen granite slab, the staff of Cold Stone Creamery uses twin spatulas to blend custom servings of ice cream and creative mix-ins to fit customers? exact specifications. Founded by Donald and Susan Sutherland in 1988, Cold Stone began under the hot Arizona sun, eventually spreading its frosty fingers to encompass more than 1,400 locations worldwide. Despite the size of the company, each location?s staff keeps up the handcrafted quality, making ice cream onsite every day and using those signature spatulas to create delicious pointillist art against the freezer wall.