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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, February 26

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Openings Sat Aug 16 2008

Chaos Theory Cakes

The newest venture from Michelle Garcia, organic bakery maven and general punk-rock princess, glams up cakes, tortes and other confections for West Lakeview. Chaos Theory Cakes, which threw its grand opening party last weekend, is much in the same vein as its cousin shop, the Bleeding Heart Bakery -- sweets served up with a goth circus flair. As the more grown-up face to the growing Garcia empire, Chaos Theory's cakes feature ingredients as diverse as onions, peppercorns and avocados, as well as more standard Oaxacan chocolate, blueberries, and fluffy whipped cream. Not all in the same recipe, though it probably wouldn't be that much of a stretch. More below the fold.

The new space, just south of Belmont on Lincoln, is all hot pink and lime green, with diaphanous window dressings and delicately foreboding empty birdcages. Colorful minimalist seating clusters and antique telephones are scattered throughout the small but friendly shop. The bakery creations themselves seem to reflect these themes, with gallettes bursting forth with fresh fruit next to Sailor Jerry inspired layer confections, colorful gelees and garnishes embellishing the strata of opera-style tortes. Looking into the bakery cases is like peering into a kaleidoscopic funhouse, and the complex and surprising flavors of Green Tea Cake with sweet red beans and a sort of deconstructed take on Carrot Cake are a similar taste experience.

The Avocado Cake was a particular stand-out, and not simply for its novelty. Avocado desserts are not completely unheard of -- I've always noticed the avocado smoothie on the endless menu at Joy Yee's with mild interest, though I've never actually ordered it. And the creamy consistency that makes guacamole so tempting to many of us seems like a plausible parallel to rich buttercream. Chaos Theory's Avocado Cake combines the cool richness of the green fleshy fruit with a balsamic-spiked chocolate ganache studded with peppercorns, little landmines of heat. " an angry peppercorn," noted my companion for the evening, several minutes after taking a first bite. Velvety whipped cream and moist layer cake add substance to tie the whole cake together. It's not Dominick's sheet cake to be sure, and despite what might seem like an improbable and potentially dangerous flavor combination, is nothing that will end up on this blog, ever. Which might make it a gift in and of itself for upcoming birthdays or other cake-centric celebrations. Good to keep in mind.

Garcia seems to be at her best when working to combine seemingly opposed forces. Punk rock and sugar sweetness. Anti-establishment and archetypically domestic. Artifice and organic. And most importantly, the combination of salty or savory and sweet in her cooking -- a tension that stems from Garcia's original interest in becoming a "real" chef when cooking schools were still pushing girls to pursue training as pastry chefs. According to an overheard story during the opening party, Garcia gave in to the pastry pressure, but has kept her interest in the broader range of culinary options alive through her innovative and surprising combination of ingredients to create distinctive desserts.

The only thing I couldn't get behind was the "graffiti" style mural splayed out over one entire wall. The colors and swirling style of the painting make all the featured baked goods look a little...past their prime. Not very appetizing. But certainly not a reason to stay away -- just keep yourself oriented towards the cooler cases and everything will be just fine. Deliciously, decadently fine.

Chaos Theory Cakes
2961 N. Lincoln Avenue, 773-281-2353

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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