Downtown Middletown is the place where pastry chef Anna Madden and her husband Dave Madden have been steadily growing their business baby—the aptly named Something Sweet cafe—for 11 years. In Dave’s words “It’s like an American bistro feel with an Italian influence on the menu.”
But what really sets this cafe apart are the desserts. The cozy cafe is a beehive of activity where you can sit down with a good cup of Americano coffee and savor Anna’s creations. The dessert cabinet is brimming with a great variety of seasonally flavored classics like cheesecake, fruit tarts, cream puffs, and melt-in-your-mouth buttery cookies and slices.
Anna, a trained pastry chef, is understandably excited by all things pastry. “I love the way it feels, working with the dough, and when it comes together the way that it’s supposed to,” she said, adding that she’s always looking at doing something new.
A Little Different
This is not always easy. Before the locals got to know the cafe’s style of desserts, people would come in requesting typical Italian fare. But she is adamant in her quest for something different. The standards are there but with marked differences in everything from texture to taste.
“I don’t want to do what any of the other Italian bakeries are doing. They do the canolis, they do the Italian pastries, and they do them well. I don’t want to compete with that,” said Anna.
Her cream puffs are very different from the usual bakery ones. They are filled with pastry cream instead of whipped cream.
Salted caramel is having a moment right now and Anna’s variation on the theme is a salted caramel and ganache tart sprinkled with green edible fairy dust. It is possibly one of the richest desserts in the place, only to be rivaled by the peanut butter mousse tart.
“But I don’t like following the trends, I don’t like being too trendy. I’d rather invest my time in things that are different and that I would like eating, and I test them out on my staff,” she said.
Anna’s own preference is for simplicity, but this does not extend to her depriving her customers of the heavier desserts such as the popular salted caramel chocolate tart, of which she said, “It’s too rich for me. I would be happy with a piece of sponge cake with some fruit on it.”
Being so busy, her ideas always exceed the amount of time she has to be able to implement most of them.
Dave explains that over the past three years, “Things have really taken off.” The cafe’s offerings have broadened from primarily desserts, focused wedding cakes, birthday cakes, and baptism cakes to no-special-occasion cakes, to a developing variety of savory dishes on the lunch and dinner menus.
Over the past two years they’ve gone from a staff of 9 to a current staff of 16 people that may soon increase yet again.
Run 4 Downtown
Another thing that sets the cafe apart is its community involvement. This comes from Anna’s connection to Middletown, where she was born and raised, and Dave’s love of running.
For the last 10 years they have hosted the Run 4 Downtown events that include a 4-mile run and the Taste of the Town food event.
“That was one thing that I always knew that I wanted to do, [a way] to give back to the community I landed in, was to bring a running event,” said Dave.
Orange Regional Medical Center has partnered with Something Sweet, and this year the event is expected to have close to 1,000 people participating on Aug. 15.
After the 4-mile run, people can sample the food fare. Twenty different restaurants will set up booths on North Street alongside other purveyors. There will also be a beer and wine garden accompanied by live music.
The event is a boon for Middletown businesses who may have suffered during the recession and are sure to continue to grow the downtown area.
And all this started with something very simple.
Dave recounts how one day, after vising Anna’s parents for dinner in 2002, he and Anna went for walk downtown. They saw the building and the potential in it, and two years later, Something Sweet was born.
Something Sweet is at 17 North Street, Middletown, NY 10940, Tel: 845-401-9108