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BABYDOLL CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES: Originally adopted from rave culture, babydoll gear is often inspired by 'toon toddlers such as Strawberry Shortcake, Little Lulu, and My Little Pony, with frilly touches that used to be more closely associated with the good ship Lollipop than the Gaslamp. Plastic wristbands by Queen of Plastics are popular accessories, as are necklaces with baby pacifiers cast in gold or silver (as opposed to actual, functional pacifiers favored by ravers worried about gnashing their teeth on ecstasy).

CREAM CAFE

AND NEIGHBOURHOOD BOUTIQUE

4496 Park Boulevard

619-260-1917 (Cream) 619-296-2100 (Neighbourhood)

www.creamcoffeebar.com, www.neighbourhoodboutique.com

Taking up most of the 4400 block of Park Boulevard, Cream is fully loaded; coffee, tea, sandwiches, beer, wine, Internet, art, all waiting for those who need to be caffeinated, fed, imbibed, inspired, pulsed in, and wired up. There's the Mexican Mocha or the trademarked Mint Ginger Mojito (virgin), the addictive chocolate-chip coffee cake, or their turkey-cheese-avocado-on-sourdough. Gourmet chocolate from boutique chocolatier Eclipse is a popular item, and Cream now offers a selection of intense desserts, including one ominously dubbed the "Chocolate Bomb." Ambient music pumps from hidden corner speakers; under a glowing red LED light, wine sits in iron racks, glasses waiting above. There's even a chess set.

Over the seven months Cream has been open, owner Chris Coggan has updated his menu, which first featured a handful of sandwiches and pastries and has now expanded to the most recent addition, a blended tomato, cream, and artichoke soup known as "Tomatochoke." The creator of several custom smoothies, Coggan has expanded his dessert counter, which at one time offered the standard fare of Rice Krispie treats and chocolate chip cookies but now includes a selection of decadent desserts. There is the aforementioned Chocolate Bomb, popular with the Cream staff, a smooth, rich mousse covered with a dark chocolate shell and topped with an ornamental dollop of cream. The fruit tart, a hearty slab of crust, custard, and glazed strawberries, kiwi slices, and blueberries, is Coggan's personal treat of choice. He's also incorporated a selection of chocolate truffles, brownies, and bars made by local chocolatier Eclipse. Eclipse taps into the more serious side of chocolate. Some of the "infusions" are adventurous, like the peppered fig and goat cheese (and the poppy seed and anise) truffles. Some are definitely not for the faint of palate; one of the brownies includes, along with a milder hazelnut flavor, a startling hit of chili.

Coffee is still the main focus. There's Guatemalan, French, Hawaiian hazelnut, and a host of others, depending on the day. Coggan orders exclusively from Cafe Moto, a local company that roasts fair-trade coffee. At Cream, the ways it can be doctored span almost as many continents: there's the Vietnamese, espresso mixed with sweetened condensed milk; the Mexican Mocha, a blend of coffee, chocolate, cinnamon, and nutmeg; and Coffee Au Lait (coffee with steamed milk). It's no wonder that "Cream" is actually an acronym, from the illustrious statement "Coffee Rules Everything Around Me," a title Coggan stole (and adapted) from the Wu-Tang Clan song "Cash Rules Everything Around Me." This is not without irony; when Coggan first got the idea for his business, the coffee aspect wasn't even a consideration. His intention was only to lease a small space behind Cream for his clothing store, Neighbourhood, which he runs with business partner Christine McLaughlin. Around the corner from Cream, Neighbourhood is stocked half with vintage items, half with small-label, small-batch brands. Rhinestone-studded, ruby-red slip-on flats mingle with hand-screened hoodies; limited-edition jewelry and military-styled caps hang from carefully dressed mannequins. Neighbourhood was the intention all along; Cream was a happy accident gone wild. "I had to buy this business in order to ensure that my sublease would be recognized by whomever was going to buy the building," Coggan explains, "[and] because the owner had to sell, he could have sold to somebody who would have kicked my ass right out. So, I basically had to take out a big second on my house and buy a coffeehouse."

With his soul patch beard and stylishly bed-headed hairdo, Coggan looks more like your older brother's cool friend than a business owner. He's energetic and friendly and knows many of his regular customers by name. So does his staff, an eclectic bunch of young men and women who have all the hipness -- edgy haircuts, funky clothes, discriminating musical tastes -- associated with baristas but none of the pretense. The clientele has responded; while a few know Coggan and company from their pre-Cream days, many regulars have befriended them through the new shop.

Before starting his clothing-and-coffee business, Coggan was exclusively an artist and designer. He has a background in both graffiti art and more "traditional" logo branding, experience he used to create his own design firm, Coggan Creative. The tailoring of Cream evokes the spark of the street and the tempered sleekness of a creative, communal working space. Part of this is due to the building itself, which has a mid-'70s look, but Coggan is largely responsible for a complete renovation and redecoration. The result runs an interesting gamut between warehouse chic and neo-art deco, with ergonomic (and surprisingly comfortable), minimalist-inspired furniture, exposed-beam ceilings, and a sheer vastness. The back wall features an abstract, pastel-colored mural of overlapping, oval-ended lines -- painted by Coggan himself -- while the front of the store is dominated by plate-glass windows that overlook Park Boulevard. Coggan's graffiti influence isn't lost either; on the building's sides are two massive spray-paint pieces of voluptuous women amid a swirl of abstractions, both courtesy of Coggan's network of graffiti writers, known collectively as "MSK." The two murals were painted by crew members Mac and Retna, who worked by streetlight as a gathering crowd looked on.

For Coggan, it all comes back to art. "Just the process of building [Cream] is almost a performance art, you know what I mean?" he says, then laughs. "And it's an expensive performance, let me tell you. But it's an enjoyable one."

Recommended: H-Bomb Smoothie: tastes like a liquid muffin; Red Rooibos Tea: full of antioxidants, this stuff kept a bad cold at bay. Eclipse Orange Macadamia Nut Truffle: melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

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