Review: Monumental Cupcakes (Boston Phoenix)
"Cupcakes are the opiate of the masses," writes "Ruth Bourdain," the Twitter-based amalgam of hypersensual food critic Ruth Reichl and offally crass chef Anthony Bourdain. At this point, there is probably a cupcake bakery for every resident of Boston. While bacon squeals its death throes in the hospital for played-out food trends, the cupcake cannot be killed. Why does it endure? Portability? Is it fashion? The trendhounds have moved on to meatballs. I once served macaroni-and-cheese cupcakes at a party, photos of which I now regard as artifactually as those from prom.
My fatigue is a lonely one, however. Cupcake choices in the area include black pepper in Brighton, candied bacon in Somerville, and salted caramel delivered to farmer's markets. Inside the Art Market in Jamaica Plain, Monumental Cupcakes' trick, cresting a wave of frosting, is a dirt-cheap, lightning-quick taco lunch. Two hard-shell corn tacos filled with smoky vegetarian chili, topped with shredded cheese and a basic jarred tomato salsa, cost $3.75. While this space showcases meals under $10, many of them cash in around $9. The last time you found lunch for under $5 was probably during the Nixon administration. The case I'd like to make here is not that you can't find a better taco - you can - but if your priorities are budget and time, Monumental Cupcakes will feed you an almost instantaneous square meal for under $5. Additional lunch offerings include a duo of hot dogs, of the beef, turkey, or vegetarian persuasions ($3.25); add a cup of soup for $1.50.
About those cupcakes. They fill the gallery with the heady aroma of baking chocolate, some showing off split bare tops, others plumed with dollops of frosting. Cupcakes can be a shelter for lazy baking - injected, like botoxed lips, with jam and cream to disguise dryness. These ($2.75 each) would be moist even without filling and taste homemade, in a conservative array of flavors: double chocolate, chocolate caramel, coconut. Vegan cakes sacrifice little, showcasing unencumbered cocoa. A gluten-free mocha cake was dense and a bit drier, but I'm willing to bet it rates above much celiac-friendly fare. Single-cup coffee is brewed fresh from a choice of beans, alongside teas and bottled Mexican Coke. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their cakes.
This review originally appeared in the Boston Phoenix, January 6, 2011.