A Frosted Fantasy

Feet on the ground, shoes in the sugar: Martin says she and her second in command, Patty Salmon, keep special sugarcoated shoes at the store. If they didn't, all of their shoes would be crusty. Since the cakes all have to be fresh for the weddings--and nearly all weddings are on Saturdays--they bake on Thursdays and ice all day, and often into the night on Friday, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, and getting lost in these extravagant cakes. Maybe too lost. "So many times I've come home Friday night and I'm totally exhausted and"--she makes a horrified face--"ewwww, what's that? There's buttercream behind my ear."

Still, as much as Martin wants to insist that she's not an artist and her cakes (some of which are visible at www.gateaux-inc.com) are merely the bride's will made into dessert, she will admit she never goes to the weddings that feature her cakes. "If I had to watch one of them get cut apart I'd start to scream," she says. How awful, I marvel, nodding at a lavender cake in corduroy-rolled fondant and covered with hundreds of piped cherry blossoms. How could they?

 

Craig Lassig

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Gateaux

15705 35th Ave. N.
Plymouth, MN 55447

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Plymouth

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TABLEHOPPING:

NOISOME CHOCOLATIERS:When I first wrote about B.T. McElrath, who I think is the maker of the finest artisan chocolates in all the land, he was working all by his lonesome in a basement in southeast Minneapolis; one man, a couple of machines, a few hours' labors making chocolates no one was particularly asking for. What marked his days most seemed to be a monastic silence of sweet-smelling echoes.

Three years later, monastic silence is a thing he dreams about at fitful midnights. McElrath now has six assistants, a couple more basement suites, and works 16 to 18 hours a day making chocolates as fast as he can for a populace that can't go back to the farm once it's seen Paree. Or once they've tasted zinfandel-balsamic-vinegar truffles, anyway.

Zinfandel-balsamic-vinegar truffles, for those of you who haven't committed past Eaters' Digests to memory, are the sort of thing McElrath, a onetime chef for Faegre's and the New French Café, has made his name perfecting. Specifically, they're chocolate truffles flavored with a reduction of wine and vinegar, the flavors combining in a deep, distantly thunderous, highly satisfying way. "You wrote about me in my monastic cell," said McElrath, when I caught him on his phone in the midst of his pre-Christmas chaos. "I use that sometimes. It seems funny now. Wait--I can't hear you. That grinding is the machine--the toffee. People love that stuff. I can't make it fast enough."

That toffee comes in silvery tins in half-pound and one-pound sizes, and is a buttery, crisp, buttery, sweet, buttery, fresh, buttery delight. (Butter!) Know anyone who loves Heath bars? Make them see heaven: Boxes at the Uptown Lunds go for $17.99 a half pound; $27.99 a pound. Other things preoccupying McElrath this week include red, raspberry-mousse-filled chocolate poinsettias (available in a nine-piece sampler box for $11.99), and chocolate champagne bottles for the New Year. "A week after New Year's, the Valentine's Day push starts--basically, it's all fun and games until Easter," says McElrath. So, the question remains, with all that busy, noisy production, why can't we find McElrath chocolates from sea to shining sea? They're basically still only available in the Twin Cities area.

McElrath sighs audibly--even in all that racket--when I ask him this. Clearly, he gets asked a lot. "These candies are somewhat alive. They're delicate. For this type of product to have a decent shelf life, it must be handled carefully." No extreme heat, no extreme cold, no excessive aging in warehouses--in short, they need attentive retailers to treat them nice and make them feel like folks. McElrath says he has talked to big retailers before and none seemed up to the task. There's hope for those who don't live within shopping distance of a Lunds, however. Though he wouldn't divulge details, McElrath says there is a major retailer trying to figure out how to showcase his li'l tykes. And, for what it's worth, coincidentally or not, McElrath chocolates will now be available in two Chicago-area Nordstroms.

B.T. McElrath Chocolatier; 2010 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, (612) 331-8800. Following is a partial list of places to buy McElrath chocolates: Most metro area Lunds and Byerly's; Cooks of Crocus Hill, 877 Grand Ave., St. Paul, (651) 228-1333; Turtle Bread Company, 3421 W. 44th St., Minneapolis, (612) 924-6013; and Bridge Square Gallery, 16 Bridge Sq., Northfield, (507) 663-9089. (Butter!)

So just remember, all that racket? That racket tolls for thee!

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