“Chris, I’ve had a beastly morning, it’s hotter than Hades and I’m starving,” stated Stasha, after she dropped her car off for service Friday afternoon. “I’m in a mood, so for your sake, what’s nearby that’s fast and healthy?”
“How about Haute Cakes Caffe?” I suggested tentatively.
“Are they in Newport Beach?”
“Have been for 20 years,” I replied. “I’ve been there many times for breakfast, but never for lunch. I think you’ll like it, and they’re down the street from the mechanics.”
Five minutes later we stepped onto the Haute Cakes patio, which was packed with patrons. No surprise, since Haute Cakes has been a hidden oasis for locals who want a relaxing meal in a garden-like setting.
“How charming!” exclaimed Stasha. “I’m decompressing already.”
We perused the menu board inside the restaurant, which offered salads, sandwiches and a few grilled items. Our gaze shifted to the dessert case, which contained decadent-looking baked goods.
“Whatever I order for an entrée, I need one of those,” I said, pointing to the Sweet Potato Pie Bar.
“Or the Tequila Key Lime Bar.”
“What’s the most popular entrée on the menu,” I asked the salesgirl.
“The Fish Tacos.”
“Sold. And a Sweet Potato Pie Bar, as well.”
“The Grilled Salmon Salad with asparagus sounds perfect,” said Stasha.
We found a shady table by the neighboring florist shop. A minute later, I saw Stasha shivering.
“Yes. Do you mind if we move to a table in the sun? There’s a bit of a breeze here.”
We gathered our belongings and switched tables, but it wasn’t long before we both started to feel the effects of the sun.
“Now I’m sweating. I mean glistening. Supposedly, a woman never sweats. Yeah, right. Who ever said that, anyway?” She glanced at me, fanned herself, then bolted upright. “Look, that couple is leaving—“
Then she was gone, pouncing on the table before anyone else could. I picked up our things and moved…again.
“Are you sure your name isn’t Goldilocks?” I teased, as I set down our drinks.
“Maybe,” laughed Stasha. “The first table was too cold, the second one too hot, but this one is just right. And just in time, too—here’s our food. Oh, your Fish Tacos look great with avocado, black beans and feta on top. So does my Salmon–very colorful. Alors! Bon appetit, no more pleasantries—I’m starving.”
We dug into our lunch, listening to the sound of birds and conversation, mingling with ’70s pop music, as we ate.
“Try some of this, it’s terrific,” I said.
“No thanks, but try the salmon.” She thrust a forkful at me.
“Simple, tasty and healthy. I need more iced tea – be right back.”
A moment later, Stasha returned with her tea, my dessert (which I had forgotten about), and a side salad.
“They forgot your Sweet Potato Pie Bar and there was only one left, so I grabbed it for you. Now you’re forever in my debt,” she laughed. “Anyway, look at this Fig Salad I found in the deli case. If I’d seen this before I would have definitely ordered it.” She took a bite, then rolled her eyes. “Oh my, the flavors in this – the arugula, roasted hazelnuts and Humbolt Fog – it’s fantastic.”
“Try some of my dessert, it’s amazing.”
“The Fig Salad is my dessert. I’m not a pumpkin pie kind of girl, thanks.”
“It’s not pumpkin, it’s sweet potato,” I cajoled.
Stasha eyed the pie bar suspiciously, then relented. “Ok, I’ll try a small bite.”
I waited to see her reaction. “Well?”
“That is ridonculous,” she moaned.
“Ridiculous times 10,” she explained, as if I should know exactly what that meant. “Let’s get another dessert.”
“The Tequila Key Lime Bar?”
“And the giant Ding Dong,” she chirped, clapping her hands.
“I thought you weren’t a dessert girl.”
“I am today.”
I returned with the extra desserts and suggested I take a photo of her with them.
“Uh-uh,” she shook her head.
“Don’t worry, you look great,” I said, ready to snap a few shots. “If you didn’t, I’d tell you. Wait, what am I saying? No, I wouldn’t.”
Stasha laughed uproariously. “That’s the most honest thing you’ve ever said to me.” She continued to chuckle as she took a bite of the Ding Dong.
“Holy mackerel! There’s butter cream frosting between the devil’s food cake, chocolate fudge and chocolate ganache.”
I took a bite. “That’s decadent.”
“The Tequila Lime Bar is great too, with toasted coconut and graham cracker crust. I must say, Haute Cakes is charming, and the food is good, but the desserts are spectacular – worth the trip. Whoa, I think I’m buzzing.”
“Well, we did order three of them.”
Stasha put down her fork. “I’m saving the last of these to go with coffee at Kean.”
Just then the mechanic called—her car was ready. We walked to Kean, where she ordered a Turkish Latté with cardamom, while I had my seasonal favorite: a Pumpkin Spiced Latté.
“The cardamom gives this a really unique flavor. Yours, on the other hand, sounds–well you know how I feel about pumpkin,” she looked at me, sipping the hot beverage. “So, how’s your latté?”
I paused, then grinned. “Ridonculous.”