For a holiday that's supposed to be all about love, Valentine's Day is actually quite polarizing. But even if you fall into the camp that believes V-Day is a fake holiday invented by the people who manufacture candy hearts and greeting cards, your cynicism shouldn't prevent you from eating something sweet on Feb. 14 this year, even if you're single — you don't need a sweetheart to indulge your sweet tooth.
We recommend you bypass those candy hearts, because they totally taste like dried toothpaste. There are superior desserts to be had, so try out some of these new kids on the block.
At Julia's, the art of baking is in the genes. The Murfreesboro bakery, which opened in late 2007, is a family-owned enterprise run by Julia and Roger Clapp and their daughter Lauren, and Julia's mother owns the original HomeStyle Bakery in Antioch. "Family-owned" does not mean small; Julia's employs over 30 people, including a master baker, five degreed culinary cake designers and a production and customer service team responsible for the more than 160 options available in their brick-and-mortar outpost.
We met the Julia's team on their brand-new food truck, a hot-pink hyperglycemic vehicle filled with an impressive variety of sweets. While they can't fit everything from their shop on the truck, they offer about 60 cakes, pies, cheesecakes, pastries, cookies, bars, cupcakes and candies, mostly in single portions. (Full cakes and pies are available too.)
Julia's is known for inventive cake creations — in addition to custom cakes, they offer everything from a "Bootylicious" cake to a surprisingly realistic "Cheetos Bag" cake, not to mention their chocolate fudge pie, a family recipe that she says took a top prize at the Tennessee State Fair for 12 years running.
While the miniature version of the fudge pie that we tried from the truck was indeed delicious — rich, but not cloyingly sweet, and just enough crust to balance out the filling — our favorite was the pineapple upside-down petit cake ($4.99). This tiny bundt-shaped delicacy was perfectly baked golden goodness, slightly crunchy around the edges, mouthwateringly moist on the inside, and accented with a big enough slice of pineapple (and a cherry on top) to count as a serving of fruit. If you're enjoying Valentine's Day solo, this is a considerable treat, but two could share.
A close second was the oatmeal raisin whoopie pie ($2.99). A caveat to whoopie pie purists: Julia's version veers from the standard — the outside pieces are more cookie than cake, the inside filling more frosting than fluffy. Picture a delicious grown-up version of a Little Debbie Oatmeal Raisin Cake. Again, big enough to share, but probably more fun to keep to yourself.
Other winners include the ganache peanut butter mini pie ($2.99) and the dangerously addictive, big-bite-sized thumbprint cookies (75 cents each). We were disappointed with the salted caramel petit cake ($3.99), not because it wasn't tasty, but because it wasn't salty enough for our tastes.
If you don't want to drive to the 'Boro for your sugar fix, Julia's truck will be in the Nashville area full time starting in March, and the weekly schedule will be available at borobakery.com and via Facebook and Twitter.
Suzanne Loving, proprietor of The Loving Pie Company, which had a soft opening in November 2012, is doing her part to make lovable mini city Berry Hill even sweeter. Loving initially envisioned her outpost as a coffee shop-slash-pie shop, but quickly discovered that patrons were coming in search of lunch. Accordingly, she started offering a few savory pie options. She plans to expand both savory and sweet pie options after a grand opening in March.
Loving calls her pies "deep dish," like Chicago-style pizza. That means you get a lot more of the good stuff. Her pie crust, buttery and flaky yet substantial — it has to be, to hold that bounty of good stuff — will never be left on the plate. You'll have to find another way to cut a few calories.
Loving started with family recipes that she tweaked along the way, including the red velvet chess pie ($4.45/slice or $25/pie), which she says "just happened one day." You might expect this pie to be over the top, as both red velvet cakes and standard chess pies are fairly intense, rich desserts. But Loving somehow creates the perfect Frankenstein union of the two, and while it is indulgent, you certainly don't feel as if you just consumed mass quantities of butter and sugar (although you did).
Loving's chocolate pecan pie ($4.45/slice or $25/pie) has been an early crowd pleaser; she says it's her best seller so far. There are two distinct camps when it comes to pecan pie: lighter, custardy filling vs. sticky, gooey filling. Loving opts for the former, throws in an insane amount of chopped pecans — throughout the entire slice, not just on top — and then douses everything with bittersweet chocolate. Drown your sorrows in this, but you'll probably have to hit the gym the next morning.
If you're looking for a plateful of true comfort food, nothing's more comforting than apple pie ($4.25/slice or $22/pie). Loving serves this pie piping-hot, and it's even better (duh) paired with a scoop of local ice cream from Pied Piper Creamery. Tastes just like Grandma's but much, much better.
The Loving Pie Company also offers vegan and gluten-free personal pies ($6) and asks for 24-hour notice for special orders. You can purchase pie by the slice or whole in the cozy little shop, where you can also order brewed or pour-over coffee ($2-$4). If you like variety, try the pie sampler, which gives you a slice of each kind for $24. Just try not to eat it in one sitting, because then you'll be quite uncomfortable ... and possibly still single.
Delivering flowers to your girlfriend? So 2012. Show her you really care by sending her something that says, "I love you, even if you can no longer fit in your skinny pants." That is the real definition of true love.
Jake's Bakes takes instant gratification — well, 60-minute gratification, anyway — to a whole new level. Give Jake's a call (429-4264) or place an order online (jakesbakesnashville.com) and you'll have a dozen freshly baked cookies delivered to your door, or someone else's door, within an hour. (Check the website to ensure you fall within Jake's delivery radius.) This is much more romantic than pizza delivery, in case you're wondering, and much more satisfying than flower delivery, unless your girl likes to eat flowers.
Owner Jake Veyhl keeps his cookie options simple: you can choose from classic chocolate chip, triple chocolate (a mix of semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips in chocolate cookie dough), Rainbow Room (topped with M&Ms) or white chocolate almond. Because warm cookies like to hook up with milk, Jake will also deliver 2 percent or chocolate milk, or if you prefer, half-liters of Coke products or water.
As promised, our cookies arrived warm, with that incredible just-out-of-the-oven smell wafting out of the box. We sampled the classic chocolate chip, which was exactly what you'd expect from a standard, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie: chewy, melty and delicious. The white chocolate almond was equally good, although we would have liked more almonds thrown in the mix.
A half-dozen will run you $12.99, a dozen $15.99. (For prices on large quantities, visit the website.) This is definitely a cute, inexpensive way to score points. The cookies are far superior to those elaborate cookie bouquets that used to be so popular, because these cookies actually taste as good as they look. Maybe we've been super-sizing too long, but we did feel like the cookies could have been a little bit larger. Then again, if you're trying to score, you don't want your partner all gorged out on cookie dough.
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