With Halloween just right around the corner, images of marshmallow-filled chocolate morsels, sugar-coated gummy candies and chewy caramel goodness should be haunting your dreams. This week, On the Menu found the sweetest treats in Santa Barbara to help you live out your cavity-inducing desires.

Make It a Double
1222 State St.
(805) 962-1838
Price: Under $10

A cool, relaxing ice cream parlor provides a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of State Street. Walking into Spoon is similar to entering a quaint country cottage with a modern twist – the walls are striped with shades of pink, white and brown, flowers adorn the countertops and a disco ball sparkles merrily in the corner. Spoon serves gelato – an Italian ice cream that is much more rich and decadent than traditional ice cream with only a fraction of the fat and calories. In fact, almost every small-sized flavor contains less than 200 calories.

Owner Erin Casey started the business from scratch just six months ago with her husband, James Rippel, and is as much a part of the atmosphere as the rich, sweet smell. She encourages every new customer to try as many samples as it takes to find the perfect flavor – and will jump in with suggestions without prompting.

“I would recommend the bignolata mixed with the stracciatella for a first time customer,” Casey said. Bignolata refers to an Italian name for a light hazelnut gelato with pastry dipped in dark chocolate, and stracciatella is a step up from the traditional chocolate chip flavor. Her other favorites include pistacchio and nicciola, a fancy foreign word for hazelnut.

If these flavors aren’t your style, Spoon offers over 70 flavors that are constantly rotated for a new taste every time you come in. Go for a classic taste: chocolate, which tastes uncannily like homemade fudge; crème de menthe, mint or the tiramisu-style zuppa inglese. This is a custard-based gelato with rum-soaked lady fingers and a dark chocolate swirl for a new spin on Halloween treats.

For an entirely new flavor, try something more off beat: arancia rosso, pompelo rosa or campone, which are blood orange, pink grapefruit and raspberry flavored, respectively. These flavors are almost indistinguishable from their fruit origins, complete with tart tastes and tiny seeds. Every sorbet is made solely of water, fruit and natural fruit sugars, and weigh in at only around 130 calories. All the ingredients are always fresh and all natural, and some are even organic.

Also, you can look forward to seasonal treats from the new establishment with the coming months, like pumpkin and cinnamon in fall and gingerbread and peppermint in winter.

Casey said that she sees mostly regular customers, but would like to get some new faces in as well.

“We get mostly repeat local business. I would love to see more students here – it’s perfect for them,” she said. ‘”It’s healthy, real, sweet and indulgent.”

Spoon caters to all kinds of customers, offering options for those who have specific food preferences, and Casey is currently working on a non-dairy pistachio flavor.

“All my sorbets are non-dairy,” Casey said. “We have the most decadent non-dairy chocolate.”

Celebrate Santa Barbara’s holidays in the sun this year with the fresh taste of Spoon’s gelato Monday through Saturday from noon to 10:30 p.m. or Sunday until 9 p.m.

Get Baked
The Andersen’s Danish Bakery & Restaurant
1106 State St.
(805) 962-5085
Bakery: Under $10
Restaurant: $10 to $20

An anecdote told by a customer best sums up the Andersen’s experience. It was something to this effect: I was just outside on the corner when I got the phone call that my favorite uncle had died. Somehow I wandered in here, must’ve looked like hell and Mrs. Andersen caught a glimpse of me.

“What do you need?” she asked. I responded that I needed a drink. “Go upstairs,” she said, and brought me a small glass of port and a pastry. And she’s been a great friend ever since.

A traditional bakery in many senses, Andersen’s is decorated with classic details and is surprisingly large inside. This is partly due to a second story balcony, which is reserved for private parties and can be booked in advance for events like birthday parties, showers or rehearsal dinners.

Andersen’s offers full breakfast, lunch and dinner menus while also boasting a wide variety of bakery goodies like éclairs, torts, marzipan – an almond and sugar mixture – layer cakes and other buttery, flakey treats. Their most popular delicacy is the Buter Ring, a layering of vanilla custard, marzipan and pastry. The Halloween tort is here for the season, consisting of blackberries, raspberry, papaya, custard and a chocolate-dipped shell. Birte Andersen, owner of the restaurant since building it from the ground up in 1976, said the food is so good because the ingredients used are top quality.

“We use organic cream in our desserts,” Andersen said. “We buy our produce every day.”

She also integrates organic eggs, makes sure that everything is as fresh as possible and features many gluten-free options.

The traditional Danish bakery attracts a good mixture of people, but its main customer base is comprised of European travelers and repeat customers.

Andersen’s keeps things interesting by constantly coming out with new menu items and featuring new specials every day. They also have fun deals like the wine and high chocolate fondue, which includes chocolate fondue, seasonal fruit, marzipan, butter cookies, homemade cheesecake and a glass of red wine. This option is served for two or more customers and is perfect for a classy night out with a special someone. Younger diners can also opt for the non-alcoholic version of the bargain.

Another special deal includes the high and low teas. The high tea comes with a scone, a slice of apple strudel, two small sandwiches, strawberries, a petite four and a small cream pastry along with your choice of tea, all served on festive tiers. If the low tea is your preference, Andersen’s will serve up a slice of strudel, a croissant, Danish ham and cheese and your choice of tea, all served on a plate. Whichever is your cup of tea, you’re in for a treat.

The restaurant is also branching off into catering, offering only dessert or dessert and hors d’oeuvres buffets for events like weddings. Some options for this include small wedding cakes, cheesecakes, fruit tortes, chocolate-dipped strawberries, petite fours and more.

Andersen’s sets the mood for its customers, playing host to a regular musician.

“We have a harpist Thursday, Friday and Saturday night,” Andersen said. “She is fabulous.”

Andersen recommends more traditional things for first-time customers.

“Some of our signature items of, course,” she said, discussing possible choices for new diners. “Apple strudel, the butter ring, Belgian waffles, sausage, reuben sandwiches, steaks, fish items.”

Andersen went on to explain that open-faced sandwiches at her restaurant are not just one-sided sandwiches, but complete, warm, layered meals in themselves.

Quality, gourmet food is made affordable here, as decadent meals like salmon with hollandaise, shrimp fettuccine and herrings fillets all go for reasonable prices. There are also more European options, like the mini smorgaasbord, which comes with a virtual buffet of food, and the Vol-Au-Vent, which is a delicious puff pastry filled with a choice of chicken and asparagus, shrimp and asparagus or crab salad.

The short wine list is due to the fact that Andersen subscribes heavily to the notion of quality over quantity.

“We try every wine before we put it on our wine list to make sure that it is within quality,” she said. It is clear that Andersen takes pride in her work, treating every customer warmly and respectfully, as if they are friends of hers, which many of them now are.

“Every day is different,” she said. “I meet wonderful people every day. You have to love people to run a restaurant. We try to make it as warm an experience as possible.”

Where the unofficial slogan is “love for food and people go hand in hand,” you’re sure to come away with not only a satisfied belly but a great all-around experience. Head in anytime Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Peace. Love. Cupcakes.
Crushcakes Cupcakery
1315 Anacapa St.
(805) 693-9353
Price: Under $10

Crushcakes makes it obvious what kind of experience you’re going to have from the moment you step in the store. The eves are decorated with peace signs and hearts, along with phrases like “Make cupcakes, not War.” According to owner Shannon Feld, she stays true to her ideals by buying organic eggs and only the highest quality produce.

“Everything is local and everything is made from scratch,” she said.

Nothing is artificial at this cupcakery, including the flavoring in treats like the strawberry and lemon cupcakes. This becomes immediately apparent upon the first taste – the mini-cakes here are incomparable to prepackaged cupcakes and are unlike the pre-made mix recipes as well.

Feld said she gets an eclectic mix of people in her store: mostly students and locals but also tourists and out-of-towners.

There is even more variety in the flavors of cupcakes available. Come in any day and try the chocolate chocolate – a dark chocolate cake covered in dark chocolate frosting. The buttermilk crumb cake – buttermilk batter with cinnamon brown sugar and caramel swirls – is also an excellent choice. The peace cake, which consists of vanilla bean cake smothered in tie-dye frosting and topped with a chocolate peace sign, is sure to bring peace of mind to the consumer.

For those with a more unique sweet tooth, try a specialized cake like fresh lime margarita – lime cake with a tangy lime margarita frosting, or smores – chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting and graham cracker crumbs, which rotate daily. Feld names her favorites as the strawberry blush and the chocolate bliss and suggests the red velvet for first timers.

“We call it the crushcake,” she added.

If you’re craving something a little more substantial, Crushcakes has recently expanded to include Crushcafe, a restaurant offering a whole breakfast and lunch menu and serving gourmet coffee, hot and iced teas and specialty bottled drinks.

Feld said she enjoys everything about the store, and her enthusiasm is contagious.

“I love being part of the community,” she said. “And Rachael Ray just named us [one of the] top five cupcake stores in the United States.”

According to Feld, Crushcakes gets busy around Valentine’s Day and holidays in general, so be sure to get in before the Halloween rush to beat the crowd. The bakery is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Rack up some brownie points with your roommates or costume buddy by sending the cakes using the new delivery option, available for shipments anywhere in the U.S.

Either way, be sure to get a taste because, as Rachael Ray would say, it is yum-o. And as everyone knows, you never forget your first crush.

With midterm season firmly underway and the lure of Halloween attracting hordes of visitors this weekend, these sweets treats will be sure to give you the sugar high you need to keep the trick-or-treat spirit alive.