Sunday, June 13, 2010


Cups is the first all organic cupcakery and full-scale teaching kitchen and party room - the whole package under one roof. We are, first and foremost, about making incredibly creative cupcakes to suit all audiences (young and old), palates (simple and sophisticated), and dietary needs (gluten free, vegan, dairy free, and low glycemic index).

Our Cups feature fresh seasonal items, so availability varies throughout the year. In summer we feature our Summer Berry Splash (featuring house-made lemon curd and raspberry syrup - made from raspberries from my garden), Lime-Chile-Mango, and Fig Leap (topped with goat cheese frosting featuring house-made goat cheese), and Raspberry Basil. Late summer we offer Caramel Apple (featuring fresh apple compote). In fall we offer Pumpkin Cardamom and in winter we have Arancia and Minty Wonderland. We just had the best year ever of chmomile in my garden so Chef Jesus came up with the amazing Cozy Cup.

Year-round we serve up a variety of fresh flavors such as Caramelicious (featuring fleur-de-sel caramel center and frosting), Curry Cup (chocolate curry cup topped with chocolate-coconut-curry frosting and curried coconut chips), Cocoa-Ginger (flavored with organic ginger root), Honey Lavender (featuring local organic honey and lavender), Tiramisu (featuring house-made mascarpone and coffee liqueur) among many, many others. Not a week goes by we aren’t creating something new! The most recent addition to our repertoire is the addition of whey (from our cheese-making) to our Cups to give them a little protein boost - who says cupcakes can't be healthy!

Our Gluten-Free Cups include Limone Ricotta (featuring house-made ricotta cheese), and an as-of-yet unnamed creation by Chef Jesus of coconut and cream cheese. Our Vegan Cups come in nearly as many flavors as our standard and would pass even the most skeptical palate. Our Low Glycemic Cups are sweetened with fresh fruits and organic agave syrup.
While we aspire to create a unique dining experience for the cupcake connoisseur, there is so much more to what we do.

Why Organic?
I think the question we are most often asked is “why organic?” We believe our Cups taste better because we use only the freshest, top-quality ingredients – organic and local. We also believe that in today's world, in order to make a difference, companies need to think differently, so we base our food-buying decisions not only on the superior taste and quality of the products we choose, but also on the health and welfare of people, animals and the earth. Eating foods grown or harvested organically isn’t just better for you, because it has no added pesticides and hormones, for example, but also better for all of us, in that less toxins are released in their making. Along the same line, we also pride ourselves on buying locally, so that more of our food dollars go to the ones who produce the foods we use. We do so in order to support our farmers, our community and the earth we all share.

Our Cups feature Giustos organic flours from San Francisco. Our sugars come from Wholesome Sweeteners, an organic and fair trade-certified producer where farmers are paid a premium for their crops. Our organic eggs and produce come from North County’s Chino Valley Farms. Our top quality organic chocolate comes from San Luis Obispo’s Sweet Earth’s Organic. Our butter comes from Organic Valley, a cooperative of family farmers.

Our special Cups Blend Organic Coffee, which will be served in our lounge by our baristas trained in the classical Italian art of espresso-making, is roasted in North Park by Caffe Calabria. We exclusively serve ice cold milk “on tap” from Straus Family Creamery, California’s first certified organic dairy. The only sodas we serve will be made in-house, using naturally filtered and carbonated water and organic fruit-juice blends made in-house and by the mixologists at Snake Oil in La Jolla. Our mochas and chocolate milk feature our own organic chocolate syrup. Our drinks will be sweetened by organic sugar, agave syrup and natural stevia – never by little colored packets.

How big is our footprint?
We worked to achieve a 3 Star Green Restaurant Certification - and we are the only restaurant in the San Diego are to have achieved this level certification, and the only bakery in all of California. We used recycled renewable materials in the design of our lounge. For example, our bar countertop consists of a product that is manufactured using 100% recycled glass, and our walls are covered with environmentally sustainable Richlite and Formica, both of which are made of recycled paper. Our flooring system consists of environmentally friendly stone composite materials. Additionally, we are using a recycled plastic material from a new product line by 3form as a feature design element – which is the first application of its kind in Southern California. We even use recycled glass milk bottles (courtesy of Strauss) for a feature display wall.

Our milk is served in reusable Straus milk bottles. Our to-go cold drink cups and cutlery are made from corn. Our hot drink to-go cups are all made of 100% compostable recycled materials.
Our cleaning products are all environmentally responsible: non-toxic, non-chlorine-based, carcinogen free and packaged in recycled containers.

Origin of Cups
Though I pursued another career path, my love of real food was always paramount - initially I would say a result of the way in which I grew up in Europe. We raised cows, pigs and chickens. We had a little garden patch on the outskirts of town where we grew our own vegetables (as was customary then). And what we didn't gproduce ourselves, we bought at the small, single-item purveyors: bread from the bakery, meat at the butcher, vegetables at the weekend stalls in the center of town. Both of my parents (with differnet ethnic backgrounds) cook - well! My uncle was a baker by trade. At some point I knew I needed to make the transition from home cook to professional one. For years I planned on opening a restaurant, and then (realizing the enormity of such a venture) I started to scale down . . . first, into a deli, featuring both sweets and savories, then even smaller like a coffee shop/patisserie, and then finally all the way down to a single item – the cupcake. This happened concurrently with the cupcake craze taking over the world; I certainly wasn’t at the start of the trend, but I knew I had something to add to the mix, rather than be just another add-on. There were a handful of tasty cupcakeries, but none featuring the local and organic ingredients that I am passionate about. I also wanted to create an environment where chefs could work and learn from one another in, cross-training sweet to savory, cooking and baking to teaching.

I spent this past spring in Sonoma, teaching cupcake classes at Relish Culinary and interning at Pugs Leap goat farm (after which our “Fig Leap” Cup is named) to learn the ins-and-outs of goat farming and cheese making - my final training for the premiere of Cups Lounge as a destination, instead of simply a cupcake catering operation as it had been. The experience also persuaded me to include a teaching kitchen in my space, so I could share my passion with others and feature similarly minded chefs as well.

Cups Founder

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More on Being Green

Today I learned that the the La Jolla town council may get sued for sponsoring fireworks on the 4th of July - as it has done for more years than I can remember - because they pollute the ocean. Fair enough. Never thought about fireworks as a pollutant, but from setting them off in my backyard (when I lived back East!) I know there is always some black residue on the grass and shards of paper. And of course what we set off ourselves never compares to what cities do across the country on the 4th of July. I don't know the answer to this, but do you think that the pollution emitted by fireworks display on this one day of the year is more or less than we put into our rivers and streams on a daily basis - all year long. I'm guessing it's less, a lot less. Shouldn't we spend more time focusing on the big problems - GULF COAST - and less time on the lesser ones. And remember, that unlike Katrina - a verifiable NATURAL disaster - BP's oil spill was the result of a long-standing corporate policy of shortcuts when it comes to the environment. The only thing green about BP was its ad campaign. But I digress.

I may be wrong, but I have to say I'm in favor of the fireworks. So many San Diegans have come to enjoy them on our national holiday celebrating the birth of this country. Is that too much to ask? Couldn't we conserve more elsewhere?

Here's a few ideas:

Meeting the nation's bottled water demand requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually? A fraction of what has been spilled in the gulf so far (20+ million, according to PBS' Gulf Leak Meter), but it's enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year! Though so many people ask for it, we avoid bottled water at Cups - unless it comes in one of our reusable sport water bottles made from recycled materials.

Each person in the US throws out about 4 lbs. of garbage every day - do your part by reusing, recycling, or composting. We have separate bins throughout Cups for staff and patrons to separate trash from recyclables, and we're adding a compost bin.

The amount of wood and paper we throw away is enough to heat 50 million homes for 20 years. For every ton of paper recycled, we save 7,000 gallons of water free from chemicals and 17 trees. We try to keep printing to a minimum, opting for digital information; otherwise we use recycled paper - twice!

It takes 500 years for plastic to breakdown. At cups we discourage the use of disposable food containers and tableware, but what we do use is made from corn, not plastic, and compostable.

If just 1 in 10 households in the US bought Energy Star-labeled heating and cooling equipment, the change would keep 18 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions out of the air (the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road).

If every household in the US turned the thermostat down 10 degrees at night during winter and the 7-8 hours each day while at work, it would prevent nearly 36 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions (roughly equal to the emissions of 10 million cars) with a utility bill savings of $150/year.

It seems to me that it's the little things like this that we do every day that really have an impact - and not the big ones every once in a while. Unless we're talking about BP....