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A&E >  Food

Cupcake crusaders

For Sweet Frostings partners Judy Rozier and Sally Winfrey, only downside to treats business is the early hours

Layne Pavey, left, helps customers at Sweet Frostings downtown at the corner of First Avenue and Washington Street. The large windows at the corner location bring daylight into the colorful shop. (Christopher Anderson)
Layne Pavey, left, helps customers at Sweet Frostings downtown at the corner of First Avenue and Washington Street. The large windows at the corner location bring daylight into the colorful shop. (Christopher Anderson)

Judy Rozier and Sally Winfrey are living the sweet life now. There’s just one small problem with it: The days start at 4 a.m.

The baking duo got their start working together selling cupcakes and goodies at the Funky Junk show last spring. They opened Sweet Frostings at the corner of First Avenue and Washington Street (that’s across the street from the yellow Taco El Sol truck) in November.

Rozier is the former owner of a mortgage firm and Winfrey worked with bakeries, including Safeway, URM stores and ADM Milling Co., for more than 31 years.

Rozier said she retired, but returned to the stressful mortgage lending business when the markets took a dive, though she was beginning to hate it.

“I was driving home from work one day, stressed out as usual, and I stopped at a local cupcake vendor and bought two cupcakes. I got home, took a bite and I threw them away,” she says. “I thought ‘I’m just going to have to do it myself.’ I had never baked, ever. I never spent any time in the kitchen because I owned the company and I was a single mom and I didn’t have time for that stuff. So that night I went online and looked at some recipes and picked some out and I baked for 60 days straight.”

She found solace and joy in perfecting recipes and dreaming up gorgeous ways to present the treats. Word of her baked goods was spreading through friends and she was approached at the last minute to make cupcakes for the Funky Junk show when a vendor backed out.

She called her friend of more than 20 years for help. Together, she and Winfrey baked more than 300 cupcakes and threw together a booth in less than three days. They sold out the first day and had to quickly bake more that night for the second day of the show.

“People came back to the show, just for the cupcakes,” Rozier says.

With years of experience in the baking business, Winfrey was reluctant to join Rozier in her plan to open a retail bakery. “I thought, ‘It takes a lot of cupcakes to make a living,’ ” Winfrey says.

But she was won over by Rozier’s enthusiasm and faith.

Tall windows bring the winter light into the brightly painted shop by day. At night, pedestrians and drivers can see the bakers working in the kitchen. The bright paint colors and tiles – Tiffany blue, lime green and rose – give a cheerful springtime feel.

A long counter holds the day’s treats, displayed atop cake stands and trays. Cupcakes, cookies, whoopie pies, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, scones, chocolate brioche, cake truffles and French macarons are among the goodies displayed. Regular customers are learning that there is no telling what new creations they’ll find from day to day – jam-filled pastries they describe as Pop-Tarts for adult palates, lemon bars, brownies, blondies and raspberry bars.

There are 15 or more flavors of cupcakes each day. In addition to the popular salted caramel, other flavors include vanilla, carrot cake, spicy Mayan chocolate, orange Dreamsicle, chocolate chip cookie dough, confetti, snickerdoodle and the “Elvis,” which is a peanut butter cupcake topped with banana frosting and chocolate chips.

The cupcakes are $2.75 each or $30 per dozen. Other goodies range in price from $2.75 for muffins up to $4 each for the chocolate brioche. French macarons are $2.

Since the bakery opened, they have been working 12-hour days, six days a week. Things have slowed a little since the end of the holiday season, enough that the business partners have started dreaming about the possibilities of expanding so they can offer more seating and perhaps a meeting room for kids’ cupcake parties, baking and decorating classes.

Each cupcake comes decorated with a little heart, Rozier says, “Because at 47, God showed me my passion and part of my heart goes out with each and every one of these.”

Sweet Frostings, 15 S. Washington St., is open Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Sunday and Monday.

Burgers and cagouilles aux lardons?

So how does one kitchen crank out both burgers and ribs, and confit de canard and râler le filet?

It’s not nearly as hard as many people imagine, says chef Jason Rex, who co-owns Rex’s Burgers and Brews and Fraíche with Connie Naccarato. They’ve got one chef dedicated to each restaurant – casual burgers, appetizers and sandwiches or fine French dining – and they take the tickets in order.

The duo behind Scratch restaurants in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene and Rain Lounge have opened the two new restaurants from the single kitchen and dining areas that used to be Niko’s, 14 N. Post. St.

Rex’s Burgers and Brews was a longtime dream of Rex, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. He says it’s no surprise to him that customers are loving the build-your-own burger bar. Diners choose from a list of meats, cheeses and other toppings. All of the meat is ground in house – beef, buffalo, elk, turkey, chicken or duck are possibilities. Salmon and black bean burgers are also offered.

The grilled patties are topped with any other cooked toppings customers choose – grilled onions, roasted peppers, sautéed mushrooms, grilled pineapple, fried egg – and then served on a sturdy house-made bun. Then, diners can finish them with a trip through the fresh toppings bar.

But Rex wants people to know the menu doesn’t stop there. Steaks, salmon, baby-back ribs (best in town, he says) and pastas are the other entree options, ranging in price from $12.95 to $18.95. Two pages of appetizer options range from pork sliders and fish tacos to buffalo chili cheese fries and jalapeno bacon wrapped tater tots.

Rex’s Burgers and Brews is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Reach Rex’s by phone at (509) 474-0564.

Naccarato says they decided to turn the former Niko’s wine bar into fine French dining at the suggestion of an employee, after they realized the sheer square footage they would be covering. The result is the intimate 36-seat venue Fraíche.

Although Rex wasn’t surprised by the Spokane area appetite for burgers, he says he was taken aback by depth of area palates for classic French styles.

“Almost every ticket that comes back has the tartare (beef tartar) or the snails (cagouilles) on it,” says Rex.

The snails are prepared in duck fat with pepper bacon, onions, peppers, butter and white wine. They’re served with a warm baguette ($9). Boeuf tartare is prime chopped tenderloin, minced onions, black pepper, caper berries, quail egg and baguette ($8).

Entrees include beurre poches au hornard, or butter-poached lobster, served with parmesan risotto for $37; champagne-poached sockeye salmon served with Brussels sprout hash with smoked bacon and beurre blanc ($23); and râler le filet, an 8-ounce certified prime beef filet, served with roasted potatoes, mushroom duxelle, French brie and compound butter ($32).

“It’s all familiar foods that I am presenting in a little bit different way,” Rex says.

Desserts include creme brulee, chocolate lava cake and apple tart, $7 each.

Naccarato says they are offering special three-course meals, paired with wines that have been popular. Fraíche is open Monday through Saturday 4 p.m. to close. Reservations are recommended by calling (509) 474-0575.

New owners at Celebrations Bakery

There are new owners at the helm of the cupcakery in the Garland neighborhood.

Amber and Joe Owens purchased the business this summer and took over operations during Garland Days. Amber Owens, who runs the business with baking help from her mother, Terry Fels, says the transition was so seamless that many customers still aren’t aware of the change.

Owens studied education at Eastern Washington University but started baking after her son was born. She mastered specialty cakes, especially those decorated with fondant, and sold the confections out of her home.

She says she had only just started dreaming about owning a bakery one day when they noticed a Craigslist advertisement for Celebrations. The owners initially backed away from the sale, but later approached the Owenses again. Joe Owens is the general manager for Davenport Hotel restaurants, including the Palm Court Grill, Fireside Lobby and Peacock Room.

Amber Owens and her mother crank out more than a dozen different flavors of cupcakes each day. During a recent stop, the selection included chocolate espresso, pumpkin spice, blueberry pie, red velvet, chocolate banana and traditional chocolate or vanilla cupcakes piled high with buttercream frosting and decorations.

The bakery, 713 W. Garland Ave., also offers cakes, cake pops, French macarons and cookies. Owens purchased recipes from the previous owners, but has been working on improvements, experimenting with new flavors and switching to higher-quality ingredients.

Cupcakes sell for $2 to $2.50 each. Cake pops are $1.50. They offer $1 “happy hour” cupcakes on Thursday afternoons and update the bakery’s Facebook page with the ever-changing daily flavors. Customers also can score a free cupcake on days when they post a secret flavor.

Celebrations is open 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sunday. Reach the bakery at (509) 327-3471. The website is http://www.celebrations

Small bites

• If you’re jonesing for a gourmet grilled cheese, you’ll find Mommy G’s in a new location. The rolling grilled cheese wagon is now in the parking lot at Staples, 2426 N. Division St., mostly.

Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, noon to 4 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 7 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday noon to 4 p.m. Call ahead to (509) 723-6326 and they’ll make the sandwich and have it ready. A menu is posted on their Facebook page, along with details when they park in other locations.

The Chill Spot, 2706 N. Monroe St., is closed.

Owner Rick Purcell says the frozen yogurt shop and bistro closed the doors on Nov. 30, the one year anniversary of the business. He did not provide more details about the closure.

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