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Cafe 36, The House Chef Shoppe Sugarplum, The Chocoholic

Dine & Dash

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Laughing Lab marinated flank steak

Café 36 at the FAC

30 W. Dale St., 477-4377,

Since the Pinery's merger with Garden of the Gods Gourmet last fall, executive chef Larissa Vendola (formerly Warner) is back in charge at the FAC kitchen, where she ruled post-Ben Hoffer, pre-Amuzé. Her menu (with additional items coming later this month) in part works to spotlight items such as Pinery pastry chef Sue Sanicky's excellent focaccia rolls.

Those highlight Vendola's twist on a Cuban sandwich, the Café Cubano ($12), which uses GOGG spicy pickles and subs breaded pork cutlets for the typical mojo-cured tenderloin. Side garlic-herb fries with Sriracha aioli are ah-mazing. A special of Laughing Lab marinated flank steak ($15) with sweet potato fries, Colombian-style Aji sauce (jalapeño relish) and guacamole (limier and looser) plus chili oil equally kicks artsy ass. Eat with the perfectly non-sweet agave mint iced tea and a superb Serranos Coffee ($2.50 each). — Matthew Schniper

A perfectly average deli sandwich branded as a muffaletta

The House Chef Shoppe

50 S. Sierra Madre St., 964-0234,

The House Chef Shoppe, a creation of in-home chef Robert Brunet that's located next to the deceased Giuseppe's Old Depot Restaurant, is very much built for the grab-and-go buyer. And with full wood paneling, office chairs and a desk, the place looks more like the union headquarters for Local No. 58 than a place to get Pappardelle's Pasta. But bags of it cover one table, with jars of Chef Brunet's Gumbo Roux on another.

Food-wise, after an annoying bit wherein we couldn't pay with a credit card because of some temporary problem, then needed exact change, we bought a perfectly average deli sandwich branded as a muffaletta ($6). There was ham, salami, Provolone, Swiss and a scattered nod to olive salad, but even beyond the lack of the traditional large, round loaf, it was nothing that would take you back to the Crescent City. That said, it didn't suck to eat, either. — Bryce Crawford

Brownies best the batch, with potent turtle (pecan-caramel) and grasshopper (synth-mint) varieties.

The Sugarplum Cake Shoppe & The Chocoholic

412 S. Eighth St.,,

Sugarplum and Chocoholic took over this space around a year ago, each operating its own alluring pastry case.

From Sugarplum, which specializes in wedding cakes, I grab cookies ($1 each), brownies ($2.50 each) and a pinwheel-shaped apricot turnover ($2.25). The turnover's puff pastry is on the lesser-baked side, enjoyed greatly by a co-worker; the cookies are a home-style step-up from grocery delis but not a standout; and the brownies best the batch, with potent turtle (pecan-caramel) and grasshopper (synth-mint) varieties.

Chocoholic's old-fashioned cream and peanut butter cups ($1.13 per ounce), both bearing imperfect, by-hand shapes, are semi-hard chocolates revealing soft, sweet innards. A rich cinnamon-bun truffle ($1.25) tastes kinda like its namesake if you think really hard about it while chewing. — Matthew Schniper

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