An April, 2009 article in the Taos News reveals just how much cultural attitudes have changed in the county in which I grew up toward men in the kitchen. The article profiled a Taos High School culinary arts team–comprised of three boys and one young lady–which triumphed over 16 other New Mexico schools in a state-wide cooking competition to earn a berth on the national stage.
In the dark ages when I attended high school, any male student deigning to admit to enjoy cooking would have been dismissed as a (select your own pejorative) and might even have incurred physical harm. When I enrolled in Home Economics as a senior, I spared myself merciless taunting and possibly painful beatings by telling my friends it was solely so I could eat the food prepared by the female students (not surprisingly my pals thought it was a good idea, too). As if by malevolent design, the first semester of the class was dedicated to sewing, a torturous ordeal for which my profound lack of interest proved an early undoing. I quit well before semester’s end.
My next flirtation with participating in the culinary arts came when I enlisted in the Air Force. With vocational aptitude scores higher than the average bear (thank you Jim Millington for that line), I naturally believed the stereotype that the military makes mechanics out of accomplished chefs and cooks out of brainiacs like me (obviously I had no appreciation for just how much intellect it takes to be a good cook). It was not to be.
Some people are destined to showcase their talents in the kitchen. Some, like me, are obviously not. At the opposite spectrum of this “would be chef” are people upon whom the culinary gods smiled–beatific bakers like Amy Markham-Sandoval, proprietor of Just A Bite! Bakery Cafe on San Pedro. Before she launched her bakehouse business she worked at a police station where her peace officer pleasing pastries (and not just donuts) so enamored her work colleagues that they convinced her to open a bakery.
Talk about misnomer! “Just A Bite!” is, like the potato chips in the old Lays potato chips commercials, not something of which you can have just one bite. Nor are the decadent and delicious baked goods something you will want to wolf down voraciously. You’ll want to savor each morsel slowly and luxuriate in its sugary scrumptiousness. Even among the “bite-sized” confections, you’ll want to take your time and drive your taste buds crazy with delight.
Just A Bite! is located in a characterless shopping center on San Pedro just south of Paseo del Norte. It is situated just before the bend on the L-shaped complex, occupying one of the smaller retail spaces. It’s not the type of store which will catch your eye, but it is the type of store which will earn a reputation strictly by word of mouth. That’s how I found out about it. Barbara Trembath, a fellow gourmand, told me about Just A Bite in her own inimitable way, “These are the best damn cupcakes on the planet. Little, tiny, deceptive mouthfuls of sugary happiness. I might be persuaded to do just about anything for a dozen of their red velvet mini cupcakes.”
Just A Bite!’s cupcakes are indeed mouthfuls of sugary happiness with the “large” cupcakes (strictly by virtue of the increased number of bites provided) offering more happiness than the bite-size, irresistibly cute mini cupcakes. Perhaps nothing epitomizes “lovin’ from the oven” better than a great cupcake or ten. Whether your pleasure is the moist and marvelous triple chocolate cupcake (chocolate cake with a house-made fresh chocolate cream filling topped with chocolate frosting) or the intensely flavored cinnamon spice cupcake (made with cinnamon and cloves), Just A Bite!’s choices are sure to please.
Tiny though they might be, the mini cupcakes are often the inspiration for wedding cakes. Just A Bite! offers bridal consultation by appointment, showcasing wedding cakes that don’t look as if they are constructed of plaster of Paris and taste like an overdose of sugar. In fact, the inspiration for many of the wedding cakes are sometimes the cupcakes which can be turned into a wedding cake. These cupcakes really do take the cake.
All baked goods–fresh pies, cookies, cheesecakes, brownies and oh, so much more–are made on the premises and are made fresh to order. Not only will you be stuffed when you’ve sated your sweet tooth, the stuff which fills you up may also be stuffed. Cinnamon roll spirals stuffed with a cream cheese mixture then baked and smothered with a butter cream frosting are a popular favorite, but an even more exotic offering are stuffed strawberries, huge strawberries stuffed with cheesecake then dipped in imported Belgian chocolate.
Lest you think this is all about delicious decadence and scrumptious sweetness, Just A Bite!’s menu includes breakfast sandwiches served with fruit. Box lunches are also available. They include a sandwich, chips or pasta, salad, fruit and a cupcake. Sandwiches are made with your choice of croissant, whole grain white, wheat or sourdough. From an Italian inspired Italian sandwich (pepperoni, ham and cheese) to the rudimentary old-fashioned egg salad sandwich, the options are deliciously appealing. A Veggie and Cheese sandwich (no sprouts or cucumbers) is also available.
Alas, as was my experience the first time I visited Just A Bite hoping to try one of the more “inventive” sandwiches on the menu, the only remaining options (at 12:15) were ham or turkey (and not the Albuquerque Turkey listed on the Web site). It was a rather plain sandwich–turkey, Cheddar and lettuce along with a packet of mustard. Luckily my disappointment was quelled by three mini cupcakes (two mini chocolate and one lemon curd).
Even my neanderthal classmates would find much to love at Just A Bite!, a bakery brimming with delicious options lovingly crafted by someone fortunate and talented enough to excel in the culinary arts.
Just A Bite! Bakery Cafe
7900 San Pedro, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 9 May 2012
1st VISIT: 11 April 2009
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Cinnamon Spice Cupcake, Triple Chocolate Cupcake, Chocolate Chip & Oatmeal Gooey Bar, Eclair, Turkey Sandwich