Though Andrea Ballus' wedding frustrations propelled her into reality-television fame, the camera never focused on personal drama?instead, it zoomed in on the cupcakes. As she planned her marriage, Andrea couldn't find a bakery innovative enough to cater her reception. Rather than settle for tired designs, she decided to create her own cupcakes, mixing confections in signature flavors and garnishing them with edible art. These concepts led to the first incarnation of Sift?a dessert venue whose ingenious edibles have since won first place on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars and returned to compete on Cupcake Champions.
Sift Dessert Bar's current cupcake menu pays homage to classic tastes as well as cunning combinations, from the Snickerdoodle and Samoa to the Berry Good Cheesecake?a vanilla cake atop a graham cracker crust, filled with raspberry jam and topped with cream cheese frosting. Visitors can pluck their favorites from the onsite displays or order custom servings that suit a wedding or party theme. In the past, Andrea and her staff have festooned cakes with images of cheerful dragonflies, company logos, and Pink Floyd album art as well as holiday graphics for New Year's and Christmas.
Alongside their signature item, Sift prepares a separate catalog of nostalgic desserts, including whoopie cookies, french macarons, and ice-cream sandwiches.
For more than 30 years, Quiznos has toasted its submarine sandwiches to bring out the hidden flavors found in butcher-quality meats, cheese, and artisan breads. Its classic and signature subs take on a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles ranging from the prime rib mushroom and swiss to the classic italian donning black olives, mozzarella, red-wine vinaigrette, and plentiful sliced meats. Those closely monitoring their waistlines can take unabashed bites of sandwiches that have fewer than 500 calories, such as the pork-cuban, Baja-chicken, and veggie-caprese subs. Quiznos' Sub Sliders offer slimmer versions of sub fare and flaunt supreme aerodynamics when shot out of T-shirt cannons and into mouths. A selection of Flatbreads, soups, and salads round out Quiznos' varied menu.
Since its first pizzeria opened in 1978 in Palo Alto, Mountain Mike’s Pizza has stretched to encompass more than 150 restaurants throughout the West Coast. From the meat-laden Pike’s Peak to the vegetarian-friendly Mt. Veggiemore, 12 specialty pizzas—most of them named after mountains—arrive in portions from small to extra large, which can feed up to eight patrons or spark nostalgia in homesick, city-dwelling mountain goats. Diners can also choose their own conglomeration of ingredients, ranging from Louisiana-style hot links to sun-dried tomatoes, and supplement pies with an all-you-can-eat salad bar or a quintet of appetizer options including wings and jalapeño poppers.
Michael Thomas, Dan McGarry, and Johnny and Pablo Scurto, all native Californians, draw recipes from throughout Latin America to evoke the coastal cuisine of Baja California and the Yucatán. At Tres Hombres, nestled in downtown Petaluma and Chico, chefs translate these orchestras of flavor into dishes such as Michoacán-style roasted pork carnitas, ancho-crusted Atlantic salmon, and tacos stuffed with more than 10 fillings such as mahi mahi, sirloin steak, and shrimp. Chefs interact with customers and answer questions about preparation at the taco bar, which looks into the open kitchen. Bartenders shake margaritas blended from more than 160 agave tequilas and pour Mexican beers and Spanish and Chilean wines behind a full bar backed by an expansive collection of bottles only rivaled by the collection of a deserted-island post office. In keeping with Latin American communal spirit, the restaurant hosts nights of live music and salsa dancing, as well as a weekly farmers' market with local vendors.
Shree Indian Cuisine's chefs embrace culinary traditions from both northern and southern corners of the subcontinent and adhere to centuries-old techniques for baking naan. Orders of the traditional leavened bread can emerge from the kitchen plain or with sweet and savory fillings of nuts, fruits, and chilies. To accompany the naan, the chefs can simmer toothsome vegetables and homemade cheese in a fragrant sauce or roast small clay pots of marinated lamb, chicken, or fish in a tandoor oven. They can also customize the amount of spice in any dish, making it mild and savory or intensely hot, like the molten lava that warms George Foreman grills.
The fragrant curries and tomato-based sauces even fit into the dining room's decor, with its pale orange and wine-red walls that surround a stool-lined bar in the center of the space. Hexagonal Indian lanterns dangle from the ceiling, and the framed wall art also helps evoke the feel of southern Asia.
Within Bovine Bakery, the deep flavors of potent drip coffee awaken the senses and ready the palate for buttery, flaky, and sweet handmade pastries. Local and organic ingredients fill the kitchens, where loaves of bread rise beside croissants and bowls of muffin batter and scone dough. Beyond its breakfast staples, such as the Morning Bun coffee cake, Bovine Bakery also cooks up a menu of savory lunch entrees, including pizzas, quiches, and soups. Apart from their regularly delicious forms, these often come in different guises for those with dietary restrictions, helping guests avoid meat, gluten, or ingredients that rhyme with “orange.”