If you haven't been into Sugar Twist since it was remodeled, you're probably doing pretty well on your summer swimsuit diet.
What the expansion has done is add a lot more treats in the display case to the point that Sugar Twist can challenge Sweet Surrender for best deluxe bakery in town. On recent visits we saw up to eight different cupcakes available (the old place was cramped and frequently limited to three or four). There's a flat-screen TV near the cash register showing photos of some of their amazing custom cakes. But what has really impressed me is their continuing evolution of the cronut.
Scratch that. I don't want to get sued -- it's not a cronut. Seems as though the New York City-based inventor of the popular doughnut made with croissant dough has copyrighted the term and threatened bakeries all over the country if they use that word.
However, you can't copyright his innovative creation and though I've never had the original in the Big Apple, I'm hard pressed to imagine how the Sugar Twist product isn't just as good. I sampled it first when Sugar Twist began offering them last year but have noticed on subsequent visits that they've improved by leaps and bounds. The treat is now so flaky, just like the best croissants. There is the regular version ($2.25), the vanilla custard filled ($3.50) and an amazing version filled with pureed bananas and Nutella ($3.50). If only Elvis had lived long enough to enjoy that. Also worth mentioning is the pineapple upside down cake disk ($2.50) that has the most amazing, dense, buttery cake of any I've sampled.
The other great thing about the remodel: There's now enough seating inside.
New and different
Trader Joe's is selling roasted walnut oil ($4.99) that's perfect for zucchini bread recipes. Other new products include black rice imported from Thailand ($2.69 a pound) and Manuka honey imported from New Zealand ($10.99 for 8.8 ounces). That type of honey is touted in health food circles for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties due to a chemical called methylglyoxal. The honey comes from bees that pollinate the tea tree plant ... Consumer demand has forced Starbucks to bring back its cake slices (banana, iced lemon and pumpkin) after a poor reaction to the replacement mini loaves, though half the stores in the country never got rid of the cake slices. The company bought a small bakery chain called La Boulange that it is using to produce its baked goods ... Valentien Restaurant & Wine Bar has rolled out a new spring dessert menu that includes a chocolate coconut cake, lavender crÃ¨me brÃ»lee, passion fruit panna cotta, and a vegan lemon cake produced by De Coeur Bakeshop that is the only dessert served not made on the premises. It has layers of delicate cake, lemon curd, vanilla "cream," and macerated blueberries ... Benji's French Basque Restaurant has a new website: www.benjisbasque.com
... Tahoe Joe's has added three "signature steak sauces" to its menu: whiskey peppercorn, gorgonzola cheese and mushroom Marsala. The eight-restaurant chain is opening a new restaurant in Chino ... Macaroni Grill is offering a new three-course $10 lunch, Monday through Friday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Wine consumption rising
The California-based Wine Institute found wine consumption in America continuing to skyrocket, and the Beverage Information group wanted to find out where that's happening. California did not rank as high as you might think. Number one was the District of Columbia with 25.7 liters of wine per person per year -- about 34 bottles. New Hampshire was second, Vermont third, followed by Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, Connecticut and finally California.
At the bottom of the list were Mississippi, Kansas, Utah and finally West Virginia, which averages only 2.4 liters per person per year. The rankings may be influenced by tax policies as New Hampshire, unlike many nearby states, taxes wines more lightly.
Best grocery stores
Consumer Reports came out with a report based on consumer surveys and found that Trader Joe's and Costco were the most popular grocery stores nationwide.
Trader Joe's gets exemplary marks for service, perishables, prices and cleanliness. Costco was right up there except slightly lower on service. Sam's Club ranked many points above Wal-Mart, though both are owned by the same company.
The top gripes that cause people to go elsewhere: long lines at checkout counters, limited selection or poor food quality.