Life imitates art, right? Inspired by performance art, a trifecta of Raleigh foodies has unveiled an art exhibit turned cupcake and coffee bar that entices frigid palates with take-away sweet treats and coffee. Shotbox (323 W. Martin St., www.shotboxraleigh.com) is nestled in the front of the Designbox gallery, giving the Warehouse District a sweet smidgen of what is to come. Shotbox is only slated to be around for the month of December, but it may manifest into Crumb and Coffee, a combination of bakers Carrie Gephart (formerly of Hayes Barton Cafe and Dessertery) and David Menestres, who represent Crumb (www.justcrumb.com), with the help of coffee gurus Ty Beddingfield (former partner in Third Place Coffeehouse) and Rich Futrell (of Durham's Counter Culture).
Right now, downtown revelers can enjoy "cups of cake" ("The stuff we're producing is way beyond cupcakes," says Beddingfield) in extraordinary flavors spiked with ingenuity. A recent post on justcrumb.com/blog unveiled the Little Lebowski Urban Achiever (chocolate cake filled with a vodka/ coffee ganache, topped with a buttercream made with vodka and coffee liquor, $6) and the Ubersuperduper (candied orange, white chocolate ganache, orange cake, chocolate ganache filling, $8), which the blog says is "large enough for two people who like each other enough to share." Set in just 100 square feet of space, Shotbox squeezes in a few other items, such as brownies and cookies, and the coffee bar features artfully prepared single-origin coffee drinks. There's also a hot drinking chocolate on the menu; Paul Mosca of Raleigh's Chocolate Seed (www.nahuallitrading.com) grinds cocoa beans for at least four hours in a granite grinder to achieve the perfect flavor and consistency.
Menestres touts Shotbox as "certainly a work of art." And it's been interpreted, like art, all sorts of ways. Beddingfield describes it as an experiment that people should come in and see for themselves. "Some might see it as fun, some as pretentious. Some see it as ridiculous, and some love it." Shotbox is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. now through Dec. 23, pending a possible new schedule.
If it's a box of chocolate you're after, visit Chocolaterie Stam (1820 Martin Luther King Blvd., Suite B-10, 967-9373, www.stamchocolate.com) in Chapel Hill for an authentic European chocolate tasting Wednesday, Dec. 16. The history of Chocolaterie Stam dates back to 1913, when the Stam family opened its first shop in Amsterdam, crafting fine bonbons and the like. Now the shop has franchises in the U.S., with Ton Stam, a third-generation chocolatier, opening his first store in 1997 in Iowa. Ton Stam will visit the Chapel Hill store Wednesday at 7 p.m. for a discussion and chocolate tasting. For more information, contact the store.
There's also a free coffee cupping this Friday, and every Friday, at Counter Culture Coffee in Durham (4911 S. Alston Ave., 361-5282, www.counterculturecoffee.com). The cupping, which is essentially a tasting, starts at 10 a.m. and includes a guided tour of the roastery and headquarters.
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Correction (Dec. 17, 2009): Ty Beddingfield was a former partner in Third Place Coffeehouse, but not the original owner.