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Proud to be a part of Tabletop Extravaganza 2011!

Sunday, July 24th, 2011. High for the day: 101. Too hot for wedding season. Too early for engagement season. What on Earth are the Triangle’s community of wedding professionals to do with their combined talent in the meantime, with inspiration for wedding season bubbling up around every summery, sun-drenched corner? Just head to the Raleigh headquarters of the talented florists and event professionals at Fresh Affairs for their Biannual Tabletop Extravaganza, a coming together of wedding planners, DJs, photographers, and of course, food professionals for any bride or wedding planner’s dream wedding planning session in a much more intimate and cozy space than most bridal shows!

The place settings by Fresh Affairs were simply stunning and I’d have to have a post solely dedicated to pictures to give you an accurate idea of the many different themes Lyn and his hard working team put together for the event. I was blown away by the atmosphere at the show. Candlelight everywhere and an absolute profusion of stunning table settings made for a pretty magical and transformative respite from the sweltering summer just outside the doors.  I felt somewhat like a set designer must feel like strolling through a production studio: over here, we have New York chic, sharing a table back with Jane Austen era romance, and across the room we have an English garden adjacent to Winter Wonderland. Here’s a few of my favorites, although you can (and should!) check out more on Fresh Affairs’ own blog and keep your eye out for stunning photography by Walters and Walters!

Take a look at just a few of the participating vendors at last week’s show and their fabulous contributions:

Paper Cafe showcased some of their beautiful custom designed invitations, menu cards, and the like at the event.

Premiere Catering lay out a fabulous spread of nibbles for brides and friends to keep their heads from spinning on empty stomachs from so many fabulous ideas for their weddings.

Sugarland brought the party with Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, Wimbledon, and Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel cake shooters. (My favorite cupcake has always been the Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel, but I’m pretty sure if I could plunk myself down at the English Garden table setting long enough to put away a bakery-sized mixing bowl’s worth of the Wimbledon mousse filling I’d be one happy woman.) And that was only at the door. In the back with the rest of the vendors Katie was hard at work scooping gelato and mixing up a gelato martini created specially for the event: The Blushing Bride, a riff on a classic Bellini with white peach gelato and raspberry puree. Yes, it’s exactly as good as it sounds and perfect on such a hot day!

A huge shout out to the other participating vendors last week: Walters and Walters Photography, Party ReflectionsHeart Stone FilmsTesh Parekh’s Wedding and Event PaintingsJoe Bunn DJ CompanySavvi Formalwear, and Total Production Services.

Kudos to Lyn and the entire staff at Fresh Affairs for a wonderful evening!!

Click the picture below to visit their web page and view more photos of their work:

A Sugarland Love Story

What’s more romantic than a box full of chocolates and a bouquet of roses? How about a Sugarland Red Velvet cupcake with a ring perched on top, right over the cute little heart garnish?

Jonathan Henkel and his fiancee seem to think so, anyway. Jonathan proposed to his then-girlfriend, Kat, about six months ago right here at the bakery with the help of the entire staff. Red velvet cake holds a special place in these misplaced Northerner’s hearts: Both were big fans of the red velvet cake at a particular bakery up north. When Kat moved to Chapel Hill to work on her thesis and thus began the long-distance portion of her and Jon’s relationship, Sugarland filled the red-velvet-cake portion of the Jon-shaped hole in her life down South. The bakery became the place for the couple to connect whenever Jon was visiting, and so held a special place in the couple’s heart even before Jon drove down from New Jersey especially to propose. Already swooning, ladies? Hold onto your cupcakes, it gets better: Jonathan actually made Kat’s engagement ring with the help of a New York artist who specializes in helping people do just that (http://www.newyorkweddingring.com/). After spending all day in the city making the ring and half the night trying to get home thanks to a train delay in the city, Jonathan immediately hopped in his car to make the trek down to Chapel Hill where Kat was currently defending her comprehensive exams. After some frantic texting back and forth with Kat’s best friend, Jon waited patiently in the back while Kat arrived at Sugarland with her friend and scanned the case for her favorite red velvet cupcakes, only to be told that the bakery was out of them but might have more in the back (thanks to the counter staff who had pulled the red velvet from the case moments before Kat’s arrival!) Kat’s cupcake arrived from the back clutched in Jon’s hands, whom she thought to be in New Jersey at the time. A very brief moment later, Jonathan proposed, Kat said yes, and the rest is history.

Here’s an excerpt from an email Jon sent us shortly after the proposal:

“I was not sure what to expect when I contacted your shop for a helping hand in planning my proposal. Every step of the way, you and your team showed compassion, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Proposing to my now fiancé in your bakery was such an amazing experience, and I will never forget it. I am sure there are hundreds of other people that you help in your job daily that would say the same. Even though it may seem small and insignificant at the time, those small gestures can have an everlasting impact on an individual throughout the course of a day and even a lifetime…I could not have envisioned it more perfectly than it actually occurred. When I came out from the kitchen with my ring on top of a red-velvet cupcake, I knew that my girlfriend was shocked and overjoyed. It was a memorable experience and your shop was a big part of that journey for me.”

The couple is now one short year away from their wedding day. We are thrilled that Kat and Jon chose Sugarland to be a part of their unique love story and honored that the bakery will always hold a special place in their hearts.

Read more about their unique love story and journey on their blog, http://katswedding.posterous.com/

How do you say “Frappucino” in Italian? Answer: Blended Affogato!

It’s that time of year again: when temperature soaring upwards of 100 degrees send even the born and bred Southerners dashing between the car or bus and their next air-conditioned destination, desperate to beat the heat. The only things I crave when the weather gets this hot are tall, cold drinks with lots of ice and ice cream. Enter the Starbucks Frappuccino, an undeniably delicious concoction which has inspired devoted fans and numerous copycats among the fast food industry.

As delicious and refreshing as this concoction is, have you ever stopped to consider what you’re actually putting in your body when you drink a “Frap,” as they’re affectionately called by many fans?

I often choose the “light” version at Starbucks, comforted by the thought of a delicious blended beverage with not many more calories than a skim latte (140 calories for a tall, no whip light Java Chip Frappuccino vs. 210 calories for the regular version: http://www.starbucks.com/menu/catalog/nutrition?drink=all#view_control=nutrition&drink=frappuccino-blended-beverages). The problem is that both versions are loaded with chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives. Check out the ingredient list in both the light and the regular versions:

Light Coffee Frappuccino Syrup (US version): Water, sugar, Erythritol (E968), Natural Flavors, Salt, Carageenan (E407), Xanthan Gum (E415), Maltodextrin, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Reb A, Color: Caramel (E150d, E150b)
Contains Milk & Gluten!

Coffee Frappuccino Syrup: Sugar, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Xanthan Gum (E415), Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Caramel Color (E150)
Used in the coffee frapp

Source: http://www.veggywood.com/2010/05/07/finally-starbucks-ingredients-list/

Preservatives, artificial coloring, carageenan (a common thickener derived from seaweed)… “Cocoa mass”?!? No thank you. Compare that paragraph with the ingredients in Sugarland’s gelato, made daily in-house using the freshest ingredients: Whole milk, real sugar, and all natural flavorings, which you can usually find in the name of the flavor! Our Mexican Chocolate gelato? Made with high-quality cocoa and spices. The intriguingly delicious Caramel Fleur de Sel? Caramelized sugar and sea salt. Our gelato is made with whole milk instead of the heavy cream found in American-style ice creams which means that a serving of gelato contains only 130-150 calories per 4 oz. serving (the “small” size blue cups in the store) and 5-8% fat. A note to our vegan friends that Starbucks’ light coffee syrups actually contain both milk and gluten! Keep in mind that our fruit flavors are all water based and vegan friendly, containing nothing but water, sugar, and its namesake fruit or flavoring.

Why not try a Blended Affogato instead, a completely delicious and decidedly European take on our American creation. Take a standard 4 oz. serving of one of our delicious gelato flavors and drown it in a few shots of fresh-pulled espresso for the Italian treat known as an affogato. You won’t soon run out of flavor combinations: We offer around 45 unique and high quality gelato flavors, versus Starbucks’ twenty different Frappuccino flavors (29 if you count the light versions separately).

As if that doesn’t already look delicious enough, next blend it with skim milk, pour, and enjoy a delicious, all-natural alternative to the additive-laden beverages of the coffee and fast food giants with only 160 calories per 12 oz. serving, shown below.

What’s better than that?

Try a blended affogato today for a sweet summertime treat you can feel good about drinking while supporting your local business.

Hope to see you soon and keep cool in the meantime!