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Nick's Picks: Caramel Bakery and Bar

Comfort food meets creativity at Caramel Bakery and Bar, where owner and head chef Haley Shuman puts new spins on classic dishes.

Within its cozy, inviting space at 647 Park Avenue, Caramel boasts a long, shiny wooden bar that seats eight as well as a compact dining room. Shuman, along with her boyfriend Mark Mendola, who works the front end, decorated the space with a deep teal paint, wooden accents, splashes of gold, and lush plants. The relaxing interior sets the stage for homemade desserts; shareable, salty concoctions; coffee and hot chocolate; and, recently, with the addition of a liquor license, beer, wine, and cocktails.

On either side of Caramel’s sweet or savory seasonal menu, traditional dishes are not turned on their head but rather subtly upgraded, as is the case with the poutine, which, alongside the prerequisites of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds, uses cooked apples and kielbasa for a battle of sweet versus fatty. Shuman’s originality extends to dessert, as evidenced with the “Red Headed Step Child”a gingerbread swiss roll topped with maple buttercream and cranberry ice creamor the “Under my Nutella-ella-ella-eh”a chocolate-hazelnut mousse with raspberry jam, a Nutella crisp, and fresh raspberries.

Shuman and Mendola encourage pre-selected drink pairings with each dessert. For example, the suggested beer with the aforementioned chocolate-hazelnut mousse is the Kind IPA from Three Heads Brewing, the preferred wine is a cab blend from Portugal, and the most suitable cocktail is a paloma made with tequila, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, and soda water.

Whereas Caramel, a dine-in bakery with alcohol options, operates as a niche concept from Wednesday through Saturday, on Sundays, it wades into the heavily-saturated brunch world with creative items like red velvet waffles topped with cream cheese and seasonal fruit, and the “Dola’s Delight”crispy bacon, marbled egg, and cheddar cheese served on a hash brown waffle patty with Sriracha and pesto sauce.

Caramel Bakery and Bar is open from 6 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Follow Nick’s Picks on Twitter at @NickAbreu585.

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