by Ann M. Colford and Susan Hamilton & r & & r & Delectable Desserts BAKERIES & r & The Audubon neighborhood is coming into its own. A variety of shops along Northwest Boulevard -- from a nursery brimming with spring blooms and kitschy antique shops to a cute pottery shop and the mainstay Downriver Grill -- give this area a distinct character.
Audubon's newest shop, Stefanie's Isn't It Sweet, features unique desserts. "I had my eye on this location for awhile," says owner Stefanie Mehaffey. "I live in this neighborhood. It has a real sense of community, and I wanted to be part of it."
When I stopped by to see the bakery, Mehaffey was in the midst of decorating a birthday cake in bright pink and yellow. The shop was full of sweet scents and customers picking up cakes and baked goods with the help of three other women behind the counter. "My mom, my best friend and her mom have all come on board to help me since it's gotten so busy," Mehaffey explains.
There are reasons Stefanie's is so busy: Her desserts are delectable, and the variety is staggering for a small shop. She utilizes high-quality, all natural ingredients to make everything from espresso cream cakes to Madagascar vanilla cheesecake bars.
The dark chocolate, chunky, sweet-mint sandwich cookie I tasted convinced me that Mehaffey knows her stuff. Chewy cookies laced with chocolate are sandwiched around fluffy mint buttercreme with small chunks of chocolate, creating a dreamy blend of textures and flavors. A coconut-toasted almond dome brings exotic flavors to white cake with a perfect crumb. Small Lemony Snicket Cakes have a wonderful citrus flavor and glaze. The High Five Chocolate Torte is an impressive tower showcasing chocolate in myriad forms, including truffle, mousse and fudge.
Another chocolate dessert is the diminutive -- but substantial -- Chocolate Bomb. Mehaffey fills devil's food cake with a fudge filling, covers it with chocolate mousse and dusts it with chocolate shavings. Big Bites, Mehaffey's name for "adult cupcakes," are covered in white or dark Belgian chocolate. Six varieties of biscotti -- from double chocolate to triple nut -- are also available.
"Spokane is ready for the next step of desserts," Mehaffey says, as proof of the popularity of her baked goods. -- Susan Hamilton
Stefanie's Isn't It Sweet, 2702 W. Northwest Blvd., is open Mon-Fri 8 am-6 pm (excluding Wed), Sat 10 am-4 pm, Sun 11 am-3 pm. Call 325-0500.
La Dolce Vita CAF & Eacute; & r & Back where I come from, virtually every town square or city neighborhood boasts a little mom and pop sandwich shop where the cold cuts are sliced fresh to order and a small Italian will set you back just a few bucks. (That's a sandwich, wise guy -- get your mind out of the gutter.) The traditional East Coast Italian deli sandwich comes stuffed with the usual ham or turkey, plus more exotic fare like prosciutto, capicola spiced roast beef, cheeses and marinated veggies, and it's a flavor that's hard to come by beyond the urban confines of the Northeast.
That's why I was happy to stumble into Juliano's on a recent Saturday at lunchtime. The Juliano's Club begins with real capicola -- a spicy Italian ham -- then piles on smoked turkey, bacon, fresh Roma tomatoes and lettuce till you get a sandwich that's nearly too big to bite. The capicola tastes like home to me, bringing back a rush of memories. The sandwiches ($6-$8) are like the old neighborhood deli gone upscale a notch, especially when the homemade pita is available. Each sandwich comes with "petite" samples of the two house salads: a pasta salad with corn and vegetables, and the knockout Italian bread-and-tomato salad known as panzanella. The samples are small, as advertised, but you wouldn't want any more if you're planning to finish the sandwich. (The two house salads, along with four others, are available in larger side orders as well.)
Juliano's is the dream project of Cindie Hoerner-Wandler and her husband, Jim, whose mother inspired the shop's name. Their journey into the food business began with the coffee shop at the Fred Meyer store on Sprague and Sullivan; now, with the help of chef Sean Haskell -- formerly of Sam's on Regal -- they've created a sunny Tuscan-inspired space at the end of a nondescript strip mall across from the NorthTown parking garage. They serve Four Seasons coffee with Haskell's freshly baked scones, muffins and & eacute;clairs in the morning and then offer sandwiches, soups and salads for lunch. They deliver to nearby offices for those working lunches when you just can't get away, and they're hoping to offer "dinners to go" come fall. With Haskell's pastries and the flavors of the Italian deli close at hand, life is sweet indeed. -- Ann M. Colford
Juliano's, 120 E. Wellesley Ave., is open Mon-Sat, 8:30 am-3 pm. Call 487-7788.