Butter, sugar, and flour. These three simple ingredients form the basis of each treat cooked up at Oakleaf Cakes. While the ingredients are straightforward, the cakes are anything but, as proven by head baker Amanda Oakleaf and the 4-foot-tall Dora the Explorer cake she constructed on the Food Network?s Cake Challenge. At her shop, Amanda and her team of artists, sculptors, and bakers create treats that run the gamut in flavor and function, from elegant tiers of red velvet to sugary cartoon figurines placed atop marshmallow fondant. Guests can dream up flavor combinations such as gingerbread cake slathered in white-chocolate buttercream or chocolate samoa layered in honey icing, or offer up a 3-D object for Amanda and her team to re-create in meticulous, edible detail. Regularly scheduled cake-decorating classes impart visitors with some of the team?s creative tricks of the trade, such as leveling cakes and keeping schoolchildren from swarming in through the doggy door at the sight of snickerdoodle cupcakes.
The bakery's from-scratch approach extends to the attached caf?, as well. Rather than keeping coffee warm throughout the day, staffers ground and brew each cup to order, using custom-roasted Barrington Coffee beans and an Aeropress. This cutting-edge brewing method is designed to extract exactly enough flavor from the beans to create the best brew possible, and achieves it in less than two minutes. Each sultry cup of joe perfectly complements the bakery's wide assortment of baked goods, which range from classic cupcakes, cookies, and muffins to wholly unique goodies including made-from-scratch pop tarts, artisanal marshmallows, and miniature cheesecakes.
Smoke is the barbecuer master's livelihood, but it's a delicate substance—too much and your meat tastes charred, too little and it's bland. Thankfully, Chris Thompson and Kate Economides have learned to tame the fickle ingredient. They smoke all of their meats on-site at Blackstrap BBQ, monitoring the slow-cooked pieces for hours on end. Their supply of oak wood lends a deliciously burnt tinge to brisket, sausage, chicken, and ribs, which are then rubbed with spices and arranged with down-home sides.
It can be hard to pick your meal, though, as The Boston Globe magazine attests: "Everything on the blackboard is irresistible." A classic single-meat plate comes with two sides and cornbread, but you can also pile sauce-covered bites between sandwich buns, which let you eat with your hands instead of large, unwieldy jai alai scoops. Then there's the Hog—a kielbasa wrapped in bacon, smoked, fried, and put on a roll. Most entrees come with sides, ranging from baked beans and collard greens to sweet-maple mashed potatoes.
Depending on your choice of meat, you get to sample different regional tastes. Ribs get a Memphis-style dry rub, whereas the pulled pork follows North and South Carolina traditions, and the brisket is all Texas. Kate and Chris serve these signature suppers from their Winthrop kitchen, but they also convey them to events through their catering business, Tastyplates.