The daughter of a dentist, Kara Haspel Lind took a drastically different path in 2006 when she opened her first cupcake shop in the Marina. Now with multiple stores and a mobile cupcake van, Kara’s Cupcakes is a sweet San Francisco institution. That doesn’t mean that Kara is set in her ways, however. Recently, she expanded her offerings to include something a little bigger: 6- and 9-inch cakes. The cakes are available in all of the signature cupcake flavors, as well as two cake-only variants. We spoke with Kara about exploring new edible territory, plus her favorite places to eat before dessert. GROUPON: So what made you decide to venture into the cake space? And can you tell us a little more about the cakes themselves? KARA HASPEL LIND: Cupcakes are a mini celebration (even if you’re just celebrating that you finished lunch!), and we wanted to offer guests options for the larger celebratory moments in their life. We’re keeping it special by having two cake-only flavors: Paradise and Chocolate Eclipse. The Paradise cake is made with organic bananas and passionfruit-curd filling. It’s covered in cream-cheese frosting, then sprinkled with fresh toasted coconut. The Chocolate Eclipse cake is a chocolate cake filled with Italian meringue marshmallow, covered in rich chocolate ganache frosting. All of the new cakes are ready-made daily and by custom order, which requires 24 hours notice. G: Sounds delicious! You have a well-established brand when it comes to cupcakes in San Francisco. Besides the new cakes, what else differentiates Kara’s from other bakeries? KHL: Our sweet treats are baked daily (sometimes hourly!) in small batches, so guests are enjoying their cupcakes a few hours, if not a few minutes, out of the oven. Community is also an important focal point for our cupcakes. We like to use local ingredients that are sustainable and organic. G: What sorts of local ingredients? KHL: Take our seasonal strawberry cupcake, for example. We use Yerena Farms organic strawberries in that. Poli Yerena, a Bay Area small farmer, created his own business with his family and his strawberries are to die for. They make a delicious strawberry cream. Our salt comes right from the bay—from the red salt ponds you see when flying to and from SFO. [We also use] Giusto’s flour, Petaluma farm-fresh pullet eggs … These are all conscious decisions to make a difference in our community, which is extremely important to us. G: Speaking of the community, can you tell us some of your favorite places to go when you aren’t eating dessert? KHL: For coffee, the new Peet’s on Chestnut Street. For breakfast, Gott’s egg sandwich. And for lunch or dinner, Padrecito in Cole Valley … delish and fresh! This interview has been condensed and edited. Photos courtesy of Kara’s Cupcakes.Read More
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When walking around San Francisco in the winter, the urge for a cozy place to sit and a warming drink are undeniable. Here are some of the more unique places to sit, relax, have that warm drink in an equally warm ambiance in SF. 1) Vesuvio Cafe: An icon in the North Beach area in SF, established in 1948. Located across the street from the famous City Lights Bookstore, Vesuvio Cafe remains a historical monument to jazz, poetry, art and the Beat Generation. Artists, chess players, cab drivers, business people, tourists, and more all frequent this unique cafe. Grab a cozy booth in the upstairs area - it's warm and shelters you from the elements while providing a view of the North Beach streets below. 2) Buena Vista Cafe: Open from the early morning to 2am every night, this cafe, located just to the left of the Powell-Hyde Cable Car's last stop in Fisherman's Wharf, has one of the most famous Irish Coffee concoction around. The ambiance inside is warm and friendly, and has the feel of a neighborhood pub - exactly the kind of place to be on a cold day. 3) Hollow: Hollow is so cozy that it almost resembles something out of a fairy tale, or a hobbit's nook from Lord of the Rings. This is not a "run-in / run-out" place for coffee. It's a "sit down, relax, and enjoy" type of place. The shop serves up cinnamon roll biscuits, freshly baked goods, tea by the pot, and of course - coffee. 4) Philz Coffee: Philz is a California institution, and the Mission location is the original. Try the Mint Mojito coffee, as well as the vegan cookies. The relaxed atmosphere and friendly baristas will make you feel at home immediately, and their ample seating guarantees that you will be able to rest your feet while being sheltered from the cold outside. 5) Le Marais Bakery: Located in the Marina, this tiny French bakery and coffee house offers delicious house made coffee, hot chocolate, and other warm drinks; along with freshly baked pastries, cakes, breads, etc. They also serve hot meals for those who want something more substantial. The atmosphere is bright and airy - with plenty of seating on cozy, corner benches that will make you want to sit there for hours. 6) The Monk's Kettle: Not exactly a coffee shop, but guaranteed to warm you up on a cold day, this gastropub is located in the Mission and open until 2am daily. Named after the world’s first craft brewers, Belgian Trappist monks, who brewed beer in kettles, The Monk’s Kettle is an upscale neighborhood tavern that sets the standard in pairing beer with food. It's a small space, but has a nice ambiance with a long bar and tables/booths off to one side, and a semi-open kitchen in the back. 7) Wattle Creek Winery Tasting Room: Located in Ghiradelli Square, this tasting room is the perfect place to stop when the weather is chilly outside. Their tasting room is warm and spacious and has beautiful views of the bay. Try their Reserve Sparkling Syrah, and be sure to ask about their custom tastings!Read More
Ooey-gooey salty goodness. Salted caramel, like bacon, will not die as a food trend. This buttery confection keeps chefs, bakers and dessert makers inspired to try new creations. If this is good news to you, then here are a few spots to get your salted caramel fix in San Francisco. Salted caramel bread pudding from Schulzies Bread pudding served like ice cream? That's Schulzies. Located in Hayes Valley this unique shop opened by fourth generation San Francisco native Sarah Shulz, serves bread pudding in a cone. It fits since she serves it cold, an interesting twist on the classic. And while all her flavors are delicious (there are 108 of them, although only about a dozen served daily), if you are a salted caramel fan you'll love the salted caramel sutra. Milk chocolate pot de creme from RN74 So you might be asking where is the salted caramel? Trust me, its there. If you order the milk chocolate pot de creme on Michael Mina's RN74 menu it comes with cocoa nibs, salted toffee, and salted caramel whipped cream. The combination is so delectable that you'll wonder why they don't just change the name. The crunch and saltiness of the toffee mixed with the caramel whip cream is perfect with the chocolate pudding; it doesn't come off as cloyingly sweet. Perfect with a glass of red wine. Salted caramel ice cream from Bi-Rite We rarely see heat waves in San Francisco, so we've just gotten use to eating ice cream even when its chilly. The biggest decision to make is where. Bi-Rite Creamery? Mitchell's? Or Humphry Slocombe? When it comes to salted caramel, it's easy. Bi-Rite is the only one that carries it. In fact this spot is often attributed to creating the salted caramel craze in the first place. You have plenty of time to dream about their sweet cream and smoky caramel while you wait in the really long line to get in! Caramel de Sel Donut from Dynamo Donut The sweet of the fluffy dough combined with the slightly chewy of the caramel glaze by itself would be sufficient, but then you get a hint of a citrus zing from fresh orange zest and nutmeg. That's pretty complex for a donut. BONUS: It's worth seeking out these next two food truck treats. Find them at Off the Grid or SOMA Streat Food Park or any of their other regular haunts around the city. Salted caramel creme brulee from The Crème Brûlée Cart These tasty little custard treats already have caramelized sugar on top, but when you add a little sea salt, wowza, that makes all the difference! Salted caramel mochi from Simply Mochi Sweet and salty goodness wrapped in a glutinous rice rice cake. Unless you are eating a truffle, this is the purest form of eating salted caramel. The mochi casing is the perfect wrap, its taste so subtle that you get the full salted caramel experience. It looks like salted caramel is here to stay and San Franciscan are the ones that benefit from the craftiness and experimentation of the city's best kitchens.Read More