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A very happy 2012 from the Ladies Who Brunch! Our first outing of the new year took us to Crushcakes & Cafe in Santa Barbara, CA. My fellow ladies, Marie and Anna, and I decided to mix some brunch business with a little shopping pleasure at Yellowstone Vintage Clothing. Deciding where to eat was an arduous task, as there were quite a few contenders. We settled on Crush Cafe after an afternoon of instant messaging and linking, using only the most rational arguments – Marie said it best, “I think the cupcakes pretty much sealed the deal.”

The cafe and  bakery have separate sections, so you you can get a sneak peek at the cupcakes as you make you way up the ramp to the cafe counter. Crush’s menu offers breakfast (served all day), lunch (soups, salads and hot/cold sandwiches) and especiales de la casa (house specialties). Even though I’d decided what I would order days in advance, I re-read the menu and kept changing my mind, only to go back to my original choice. LOCA! There are many tempting options for drinks, but because it was a warm day, the three of us all decided on the Moroccan mint iced tea (I will be back for you Mayan Mocha!). We all commented on how refreshing the tea was, which sounds kind of lame now that I see it typed out, but trust me, it’s delicious and the first sip will make you say, “mmm!” You place your order, grab your drinks and utensils then find yourself a table, your food will be brought to your table by the friendly staff.

Because I’m a sucker for a good breakfast sandwich, I went with the Hangover Helper. Hungover or not, this was an incredible sandwich, and I congratulate myself on an excellent choice. The Hangover Helper consists of fluffy eggs, melted cheddar, perfect slices of applewood bacon and tomato (I ordered mine without tomato, because no me gusta) on moist, chewy toasted sourdough bread, with a side of fruit. The egg, bacon and cheese combo is a classic combo, I knew it would be good. It was the bread that really made the sandwich – fresh, crunchy on the toasted outside and chewy and soft in the middle. The fruit was also fresh and ripe, no cheap filler fruit – just simple slices of banana, strawberries and some plump grapes. It sounds silly, but I really applaud a good side of fruit. It would be so easy to throw slices of honeydew on a plate and call it a side of fruit, but I’d much rather have a small side of choice fruits than slabs of “meh”.

Anna and Marie both went for the Cafe Skillet Potato & Eggs – two fried eggs with roasted potatoes, Anaheim chiles, red peppers, applewood smoked bacon, and melted cheddar and jack cheeses. It looked and smelled delicious, Anna who usually doesn’t eat eggs said they were good and ate until she hit her self-imposed egg maximum. It was a real comfort food kind of breakfast, a little bit of grease to soak up any pain leftover from a wild Saturday night, but nothing that will leave you feeling heavy or overly stuffed.

As you can see from this before and after comparison, we polished off all the food in the most ladylike manner. I refrained from licking my plate, not to preserve my dignity, but to leave room for dessert!

The breakfast at Crush Cafe was great, but you know I had one eye on the Crushcakes display the entire time. While Marie visited the powder room, Anna and I dove in and picked out a couple of cupcakes. Anna went with the Coconut Cloud, a coconut cake with coconut cream frosting and coconut flakes. I’m a recent coconut convert, having spend most of my thirty-something years wrinkling my nose at it. Holy crap, you guys, this was heavenly. I have a crazy red velvet obsession, so naturally I chose the Crush Cake – red velvet and Crushcake’s signature sour cream frosting. I will never again settle for cream cheese frosting. The sour cream frosting was so amazing, my mind is still blown. It was so fluffy, creamy and light! I kind of wanted to take my cupcake and run away so I wouldn’t have to share it.

Crushcakes has a rotating daily special cupcake, Sunday’s was Banana Fosters. Marie must have received my psychic signals to her, begging her to order it. I really liked the banana cupcake, anything banana flavored always takes me back to childhood, even that gross banana Laffy Taffy. I think the Crush Cake edged out the competition, and won the imaginary cupcake pageant I had playing in my head. Anna agrees, the star of the cupcakery is that sour cream frosting. Now we’re both staring off into space, dreaming of cupcakes and sour cream frosting. The menu I grabbed on my way out has some examples of their other daily specials, and I am looking at my calendar, trying to figure out how many trips to Crushcakes I can fit into my schedule.

The verdict? It’s no surprise, Ladies Who Brunch give major thumbs up to Crushcakes & Cafe! The location, food, staff, dog friendliness and parking (we found a spot right across the street) all get top marks and made for a fabulous brunching experience.