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BENEFIT & r & & r & Sweet Success & r & & r & Building a gingerbread house is not easy. Oh, I know, I've seen it done on television -- the happy homemaker crafting and creating with her kids the perfect cookie-coated mansion. But that's just TV magic. When I built one a few years ago with my nieces and nephew it was a complete disaster: I was covered in goopy frosting, and they were completely disappointed when our one-story, sweet-sided dwelling caved.





But, there is something Norman Rockwell-like about building a holiday abode from cookie dough. And who says you have to do it yourself? Isn't that why we have architects and chefs?





It's also why there is the Christ Kitchen Gingerbread Build-Off on Sunday at the Davenport Hotel. Five teams will compete in an Iron Chef-like competition of guts and glory mixed with cookie dough and candy. It will give you that nostalgic gingerbread feeling without the work or the calories. You and the kids can watch the creative process and go home to a clean kitchen.





In the competition a chef is partnered with an architect. Restaurant owner and competitor Deb Green says she has no idea what to expect but it should be fun.





"It's for a good cause," says Green, who co-owns Madeleine's, the downtown bakery and restaurant.





The competition helps to raise funds for Christ Kitchen, which provides job training for women in need.





"It's a privilege to be asked," says Green.





The teams are allowed to build the structure prior to the event but then are given three hours to decorate it in front of a crowd.





Green's team, which includes local architect Doug Heyamoto, is creating a French-style castle complete with a moat. Green says it's going to be "quite a challenge."





Architects and chefs will vote on the houses and the public can cast their own ballots for a dollar donation.





Everyone is invited to view the competition starting at 10 am on Sunday. Also, kids can decorate their own mini-gingerbread homes for $10, with proceeds going to Christ Kitchen. The kids' event will run from 10 am-4 pm.





-- LAURA PAPETTI





Christ Kitchen Gingerbread House Build-Off is at the Davenport Hotel, 10 S. Post St., on Sunday, Dec. 9, from 10 am-1 pm. Call 954-0554.





CAF & Eacute;


Sweet Life


Sitting inside the new CAF & Eacute; DOLCE, one of the newest entries in the city's coffee scene, it's striking just how close the Riverpoint campus is. Look out the window, across northbound Division Street, and the campus buildings are -- right there, just on the other side of Midas Muffler. The caf & eacute; opened on Veterans Day in the space formerly occupied by Zoe -- between 211 and Fast Eddie's -- and owner Briana McLaughlin hopes to capitalize on both the proximity to campus and the burgeoning late-night activity in downtown's east end.





"We get a lot of students in doing late-night studying," she says. "We'll probably be staying open until midnight late in the week."





McLaughlin is only 20, but she has lots of experience under her belt at Ruby's and Nevada St. Brew, both owned by her mother, Annette Kissell.





The menu includes a variety of sandwiches, either standard combos or made to order, along with a soup of the day, salads, bagels and pastries from Sweetwater, and coffee from Waverly.





The interior's design takes advantage of the historic architectural features of the building, like the exposed brick wall, the original wood floors and the panels of original wainscoting around the front windows. Walls are painted in shades reminiscent of coffee, and the big east-facing windows allow plenty of natural light.





"We've been painters for the last couple of months," laughs Kissell. "It was pretty much an empty space when Bri found it. She came up with the interior design, the colors, and where everything goes."





McLaughlin and Kissell plan to put in a computer bar along the front of the space, by the windows, to allow patrons to watch the traffic flowing by while working on their laptops, taking advantage of the caf & eacute;'s wireless Internet access.





-- ANN M. COLFORD





Caf & eacute; Dolce, at 221 N. Division, is open Mon-Wed 6 am-8 pm, Thu-Fri 6 am-midnight, Sat 8 am-midnight and Sun 8 am-6 pm. Call 747-5638.

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