Karie Foster was searching for her true calling in the early 2000s. She was frustrated by her job in real estate, and wanted to branch out into a creative pursuit. After she hosted a cupcake-themed birthday party for her friend's daughter, she knew what to do. She noticed that even the adults at the party devoured her treats with the speed of an over-caffeinated auctioneer, so she decided to open her own bakery. Here, she specializes in the cupcakes and sweet treats she loved as a child, baking a rotating selection of family-recipe favorites such as mini cupcakes, sheet cakes, and chocolate-fudge pie.
The Long Beach bakery, named Miss Priss after Karie's childhood collection of prissy dolls, looks like a life-size dollhouse. Beyond the quaint storefront dressed in gauzy pink curtains, light pink hutches house baked goods accented with frilly pink bows, and a ruffled tiered cupcake stand displays rows of ornately frosted pastel goodies.
One of the original pioneers of the yogurt industry, Golden Spoon Frozen Yogurt has been whirling yogurt since the early 1980s. A bevy of rotating flavors includes tastes such as just chocolate, peanut-butter cup, café latte, butterscotch, and mango tart. Sample a small bit with a mini ($1.85 for 4 oz.), or take 32 ounces home to share in a quart ($6.15). Traditionally conical edible yogurt containers (small cone $2.40, waffle $3.50) make it possible for hands to hold the frozen delight. At 25–29 calories an ounce, health-conscious consumers can enjoy licks without translating each tongueful into the quantity of jumping jacks or flying starfish impersonations needed to offset it.
The original Beard Papa?s began filling the airs of Osaka, Japan, with the warm, wafting smells of its original-recipe cream puffs. A double-layer puff featuring piecrust on the outside and a mixture of vanilla custard cream and whipped cream on the inside, the successful little treats have led the bakery to expand to more than 300 locations throughout Southeast Asia, Russia, the United States, and the moon. The venerable bakery has also graduated to other pint-size desserts and Asian-influenced treats, including mochi ice cream and mango ice showers, a fusion of shaved ice, layered sweet sauce, and mango chunks.
In 2008, four sisters started Bambu Desserts & Drinks as a hobby. Today, the San Jose?born brand has established a major presence in the Bay Area, and has expanded to other states including Hawaii, Nevada, and Texas. Bambu?s success can be traced to the quality of its treats, as well as its variety: the menu is packed with about 100 Asian-inspired desserts and beverages. Tapioca balls float in their milk teas, which range in flavor from lychee to coconut to jasmine, and their dessert drinks combine such intriguing ingredients as coconut, pandan jelly, longan, basil seed?which form the Bambu special. Various hot and cold coffee drinks, such as Vietnamese coffee, caf? mochas, and lattes, put a spring in guests' step?more convenient than filling your shoes with jumping beans. The staffers also concoct blended coffees and smoothies, which come in flavors including strawberry, coconut, papaya, and avocado.
Bland, blue-box noodles and powdered sauce have no place at Elbows Mac n' Cheese, where the menu combines the classic American dish with gourmet influences from around the world. Its 16 macaroni dishes all melt with gobs of gooey cheese, just like the original, but in daring combinations. Swiss mac simmers with creamy alpine cheeses and crisp applewood-smoked bacon. Truffle mac combines mushrooms, garlic, and white-truffle oil in a creamy blend of goat and havarti cheeses.
In addition to whipping up variations on their signature dish, the cooks batter green-bean fries and twist their own pretzels to dip in four-cheese fondue. Cheese reprises its menu-starring role in Elbows? savory sandwiches, such as the indian-spiced masala melt with cheddar, as well as a chocolate grilled cheese that uses sweet croissant bread to bookend layers of white cheddar, semisweet chocolate, strawberries, and sliced almonds.
The creative cooking at Elbows Mac n' Cheese has paid off: CBS Los Angeles named it one of the best spots for mac 'n' cheese in Orange County in 2012, and David Tutera chose Elbow to cater on an episode of My Fair Wedding.
Tucked away in the kitchen of each Paris Baguette, bakers trained in French techniques craft buttery, flaky croissants and tart crusts, and their success at this has earned attention from the likes of the New York Times. In addition to pastries and sweets such as mocha rice balls, the bakers knead bread for their namesake baguettes and yeasty creations that hold an Asian twist, such as red-bean-paste-filled donuts. The experts also create fondant-cloaked cakes that venture beyond classic flavors into green tea, cappuccino, and sweet potato, delighting partygoers bored of the same laminated sheet cake that makes its appearance at each year’s birthday celebration.
To wash down these treats, patrons sip cups of java or more exotic drinks such as wheatgrass and black-sesame lattes, persimmon smoothies, and bubble tea. At lunchtime, many locations layer sandwiches, filling hungry stomachs with croque monsieurs and baguettes stuffed with chicken and pesto.