Every now and again, I ask folks from the community to contribute to The Formaro Files, especially if they have a food experience worth sharing. So, here’s one to get us rolling – this entry, written by local food writer Tom Perry, is an account of recent visit he and his wife made to Crème Cupcake, 543 28th St., Des Moines. 

Since opening a little less than a year ago at its new location just north of Ingersoll Avenue, Christina Moffatt’s Crème Cupcake has made a sweet transition from bakery to sophisticated nightspot. Sure, the cupcakes there are amazing. Proof of that came just last month with Crème Cupcake’s star turn and runner-up finish on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. But for an honest-to-goodness, change-of-pace experience, go in the evening (perhaps after dinner) to Crème Cupcake’s dessert lounge; a place where desserts and cocktails are paired.

Smart and sophisticated: “Violet” it’s blueberry semifreddo, Himalayan sea salt, chevre, butterfly soup. Pictured with the Violette Bubbles.

Prior to our visit, we had heard only praise for the evening scene at the place. One friend called it “smart and sophisticated.” Another described it as a “great way to cap off a night out.” They were both right on the money. Crème Cupcake’s dessert lounge is truly a special place, with an urbane vibe all its own.When we arrived on a Saturday evening, after taking in a performance downtown, every table in the cozy dining room was taken. We grabbed two spots at the small bar – this gave us front row seats to the non-stop whir of the cocktail-making show.

Even though it was a warm evening, I had been craving a port wine. After I ordered, I regretted my decision, only because it didn’t give me the chance to sample the talents of Blake Brown, Crème Cupcake’s chief mixologist. My wife was smarter than I – she ordered “The Upper West Side,” Brown’s riff on on a cocktail with roots in New York City. Made with Grey Goose vodka, mint leaf, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Secco Bubbles, strained up, the drink was amazing.

Blake Brown at Crème Cupcake: A mixologist who honors tradition by putting his own spin on classic cocktails.

Now a word about Blake Brown: Blake first made a name for himself cooking up fantastic, classically-inspired cocktails at Des Moines’ Americana. He’s a guy who takes his craft seriously – when asked about his motivation, here’s what he’ll you:

“What inspired me to do classic cocktails is the long tradition of bartending and mixology. I wanted to take the time and study up on something that is meaningful. Hopefully, someday, I will be part of that tradition. And the best way to learn your trade is to start with tradition.”

For our dessert, we decided to share the Chef’s Dessert Sampler. For me, one rule of thumb is that if you’re not sure what to order, go with the chef’s choice. We were rewarded with the three perfectly-portioned desserts being featured that evening. Key lime pie, pan perdu and the chocolate crème brûlée were plated in such a way they were almost too pretty to eat. Each dessert was splendid – I’m a guy who loves to eat, but I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Still, I enjoyed every bite. What I most appreciated is that while some restaurants try to cut corners with their desserts, Crème Cupcake drills down its focus on dessert – and you can taste it.

Key Lime Pie as featured in the dessert lounge of Crème Cupcake – a perfect summertime treat.

Our experience was totally positive. The only caveat to the recommendations we’ve been making to our friends has been that the place can get packed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. The bustle can create a lively vibe – anyone who prefers mellower settings might be wise to visit on a weeknight. Whenever you decide to visit, an evening at Crème Cupcake is a great way to cap a night out.

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