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Fresh & amp;amp; Tasty

by ANN M. COLFORD and CARRIE SCOZZARO & r & & r & CASUAL Little Flower

Judging by the crowds that lined up for the grand opening of LITTLE GARDEN CAF & Eacute; on Northwest Boulevard a couple of weeks ago, there's been pent-up demand for a low-key place serving coffee and light meals in the Audubon neighborhood. Owner Corina Little, who says she's had a lot of help from friends and family to get the place off the ground, certainly didn't think she'd see a line of customers snaking out the door.

"I didn't anticipate this many people," she says with a touch of wonder in her voice. Still, she had hints that people were watching the developments at the caf & eacute;: "When we were doing the remodeling, we had more than 200 people stop by in the last two months to see if we were open," she says. "The neighborhood support has been wonderful."

The caf & eacute; occupies two storefronts in a tawny adobe-looking strip directly across from Audubon Park, yet retains a cozy feel inside. The smaller of the spaces, called the library room, holds sofas and chairs and bookcases while the larger room has several tables along the outer walls. Tucked in back is a play area for children.

The menu stays the same throughout the day, with Doma coffee, pastries from Sweetwater and the Rocket, quiches, plus a selection of ciabatta sandwiches (available grilled or not) and salads. I tried the Italian sandwich on whole wheat, grilled panini-style ($6.75), and I will definitely be back to check out the other varieties.

"When we started, we just wanted to be a little neighborhood coffee house, but there's not really a place to get sandwiches [nearby], so we added the other menu items, little by little," she says. "We try to make it a little healthier than usual, with the salads and the whole wheat ciabatta."

The caf & eacute; will be open from early morning into the evening, and Little says they're aiming for college students looking for a nice place to study.

"The idea behind the late hours is that we have wireless Internet, and SFCC is right down the street," she says. "A lot of parents go to college, so they can bring the kids to the play area while they study."

Little understands the needs of young parents because she is one herself. "I have two little girls, and they go to Finch Elementary, right across by the park," she says. "I was looking for something I could do and be a mom, too."


Little Garden Caf & eacute;, at 2901 W. Northwest Blvd., is open Mon-Fri 6 am-9 pm, Sat 7 am-9 pm, Sun 7 am-3 pm. Call 328-5500.

BAKERY Sweet Thing

Say the word "cupcake" without grinning. I double-dog dare you. Fluffy little cakes poofing over their pleated paper cups, crowned with a shiny pastel swirl of sweetness -- cupcakes are cute, innocent, a throwback to childhood birthday parties and potluck get-togethers.

What's the difference between a cupcake and a muffin? "Ingredients," says Jill Buhrlen, owner of Sandpoint's HEY CUPCAKE, which opened in May. Buhrlen purchased the site three years ago and renovated it (along with Downtown Crossing, next door, which she also owns).

Not only are cupcakes fluffier than muffins, they're frosted. Hey Cupcake uses butter cream or cream cheese on top of favorites like vanilla and chocolate, which are always offered. Other flavors -- like dulce de leche, green tea, pumpkin and strawberry shortcake -- vary daily.

In addition to experimenting with new flavors, Buhrlen plans to add cinnamon rolls, breakfast cupcakes and coffee drinks to her menu. She'll also be changing her opening hour to 7 am on Oct. 15 to accommodate early risers.

Buhrlen's cupcakes are not cheap: For about the price of a box of supermarket cupcakes, you'll get one of hers. They're $2.50 each when sold the day they're baked, $1.50 for day-old. A box of a dozen is $25. Leftover cupcakes are donated to the women's shelter.

Hey Cupcake also serves Dreyer's brand ice cream -- cones, malts, shakes, splits -- and an assortment of candy.

In a town known for organic, earthy and urban-lodge chic, Hey Cupcake is easily the cutest eatery along Sandpoint's busy First Avenue thoroughfare. The brick exterior of the former City Beach Bistro has been transformed with a bright pink awning and goldenrod walls. Candy-colored paintings of flowers, ice cream cones and, of course, cupcakes by local artists Maria Larson and Nan Cooper festoon the interior and exterior both.

A visit to Hey Cupcake feels a bit like being inside one of Willie Wonka's fantabulous factory showrooms: It's just what the doctor ordered to put a little fun into your daily routine.


Hey Cupcake, 204 N. First Ave., Sandpoint, Idaho, is open daily from 11:30 am-4 pm. Call (208) 265-6757.