What does it take to win the "Kansas City Sweetheart Award"? Not charm. Not good looks. Not even congeniality.
Actually, sugar is just one component of The Pitch
Sugar Rush, where many of Kansas City's finest restaurants, bakeries and candy makers compete for top honors. The third annual sweets-and-dessert expo is held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, February 20, at the Promise Wedding & Event Space (1814 Oak).
The other ingredient is you. As in: You go, you sample goods from the vendors, and then you vote for your favorite. (Tickets to the event cost $12; see getasugarrush.com
Last year's Sweetheart Award winner, Anthony Accurso of Accurso's Italian Restaurant (4980 Main), served samples of his grandmother's cheesecake. This year, he's coming back - and introducing a new cheesecake.
"I'm doing a traditional cheesecake on a red-velvet-cake crust," Accurso says. "We'll also be serving a chocolate ganache and at least one other pastry."
Also among the 15 or so vendors at Sugar Rush are the owners of the new Ariana Restaurant (1130 West 103rd Street), with their shir berenj, the creamy, cardamom-flavored Afghan rice pudding; and organic chocolatier Zachary Manos, who plans to offer several samples from his namesake chocolate line. Manos is particularly proud of his Helio Cups, a spin on the peanut butter cup, made with sunflower seeds and mesquite powder. "It's more mellow than a peanut butter cup," Manos says of his handmade treat, "but the taste is pretty close."
Another local candy maker, Heather Garza of Garza's Goodies (322 West 85th Street), says she'll have chocolate samples from the family-run confectionary in Waldo.
New to the event is the five-month-old Nothing Bundt Cakes (13420 Metcalf, Overland Park), offering "bundt bites": sample-size cakes in at least three of the shop's 10 flavors.
"We'll definitely be bringing chocolate chocolate chip, red velvet, and white-chocolate raspberry," manager Alex Edwards says.
Phil Bourne, owner of Waldo Pizza (7433 Broadway), makes his first foray into the competition, serving his rich "gooey butter cake" and "gooey butter" cookies.
"We make them in-house," he says, "and there are at least four sticks of butter in each cake. I'm from St. Louis, and we're resurrecting a famous St. Louis pastry at the restaurant."
Another first-time Sugar Rush contender: Our Sassy Pantry, owned by Marisa Roberts and Kay Findlay, local chefs who make and package unusual and exotic jams. Findlay's daughter Grace tells The Pitch that at Sugar Rush, they plan to serve chocolate tarts with bacon jam, strawberry-margarita-jam cupcakes, and blueberry-jam cocktail shooters.
Celeste Gant, of Kansas City Cupcake Co., says she's serving mini-cupcake versions of her hottest item, the Oh My Gosh Ganache.
"It's chocolate cake with a vanilla-cream center and a chocolate-ganache frosting," Gant says. "Yes, it's fattening, but I'm your baker, not your doctor."
Other vendors: the Funnel Cake Truck, Grace's Best Petite Cookies (in supermarkets), the Melting Pot (450 Ward Parkway), Addictions Cupcakery (8512 Northwest Prairie View Road), Carma (11526 Ash, Leawood), and Parkville Coffee (103 Main, Parkville).
The winner of the "Kansas City Sweetheart" receives an attractive - but inedible - plaque.