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Friday, February 16, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Restaurant Review

Coco la ti da | Whoo-hoo, Sue! We love those sweet things you do

Seattle Times restaurant critic

Sue, you dessert diva! I was thrilled for you, and certainly for Seattle, when word got out that after nearly two decades punching somebody else's clock, you were finally taking the do-it-yourself leap: moving from W Hotel pastry-chef extraordinaire to wholesale dessert darling, selling your sugar-spun whimsies under the name "Coco la ti da by Sue McCown." And better still, opening a sweet little nibble and nosh joint with a liquor license (smart move, sister!) on Capitol Hill.

Could you have found a cozier cottage for your "dessert lounge" than this snug setting in the historic Loveless Building? Approaching the storybook stone façade, I half expected to see the Seven Dwarfs hi-ho-ing off to work, stepping out of your sweets-shop-a-go-go with a cake box in one hand and a "liquid dessert" in the other.

Call me Dopey, but as someone who'd take the cheese plate over the chocolate any day, I was convinced I wouldn't warm to Coco la ti da — despite your promise of savory bites and the joyous knowledge that candy-coated creativity extends to far more than dessert.

Coco la ti da 3 stars


806 E. Roy St., Seattle

206-789-2626

Desserts/small plates/cocktails

$$$

www.cocolatida.com

Reservations: Parties of six or more only.

Prices: "Plated" desserts (served in-house) $5-$15, singular small-plate savories $4-$15, shareable multiples $9-$25.

Hours: 5:30-10 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 5:30- midnight Thursdays-Saturdays; early- evening happy hour 5:30-7 p.m.; late-night happy hour 11 p.m.-midnight Thursdays-Saturdays.

Drinks: Luscious "liquid desserts." Punny- valentine cocktails. Fine teas and coffee. Beer, wine and bubbly.

Parking: Good luck!

Sound: Electronica, Annie Lennox, girls gabbing, oh my!

Who should go: Sweet-tooths and their sweeties; party girls and metrosexuals.

Credit cards: MC, V.

Accessibility: Tight space, no restroom access.

Silly me! The place is adorable. It's the Queen Mary Tea Room for the mod squad, though prices are pretty darn steep for, say, anybody on a budget.

Which explains why a 20-something pal had two words for me: happy hour. Sure, your full menu isn't available during those early-evening hours (and late-night Thursdays through Saturdays). But several of your must-have "Sips" and "Bites" — like the mini-barbecue-on-a-bun you call "candy pork" — are sold then at discount ($2 each).

I'd have discounted the idea of carrot cake or lemon meringue pie as a "liquid dessert" had I not, in the name of science, tried both ($11/happy price $8). Whoo-wee, girl! The gorgeous little garnishes alone were worth the price of sipping those liquored-up lookers. Brava for the petite cloud of meringue floating in lemon-syrup-stoked limoncello.

And that carrot-cake cocktail was a sight for bored eyes, with its wee marzipan carrots hanging from the martini glass, caramelized sugar magically affixing them to the glass stem and colored sugar crystals adding candied crunch to its rim. Who knew that vanilla vodka, toffee liqueur, cinnamon schnapps and carrot juice would combine to approximate the flavors of a carrot cake?

Yeah, yeah. I know: You, Sue, that's who. The gal who brings us "Badda Bing" — a tart whose sensational short crust enfolds boozy dried Chukkar cherries. The one whose pun-happy desserts include "What a Pear" — an elegant take on warm Christmas pudding, with its candied fruit, crme anglaise and pear ice cream abuzz with a marzipan bee.

And such dear cakes! Your signature Coco la ti da, a thick wedge described as "triple chocolate shortbread, creamy coconut, devil's food cake and coconut ganache" ($10), has enough chocolate in it to put Mr. Hershey in a hearse. But I found it a marvel in miniature ($3.25) when I took the bite-size gold-leaf-garnished version home and enjoyed it with my morning coffee. La ti da, indeed! I know a tricked-out Mounds bar when I taste one.

My, my, Angel, your "Loveless" — that decadent devil's food cupcake — is a girly-girl's dream with its silky strawberry buttercream frosting pretty in pink. Those edible silver beads on top? Now there are some tongue-studs I can relate to. And don't think I didn't notice the other special touches. The Bodum teapots filled with Remedy Tea. Victrola's fine roast in French-press pots.

And lovey, I've got to hand it to you for coming up with the "Love Connection" ($15). I saw more than a few couples sitting thigh-to-thigh in the semi-private dining area dolled up like a pasha's love nest, lifting fondue forks and fingers (and Champagne!) and partaking of that party-on-a-plate: cookie straws, mini-doughnuts, chocolate "eggrolls," bite-size brownies, housemade marshmallows, tropical fruit and heart-shaped shortbread plus a trio of molten chocolate (dark, milk, white).

Back to those "Bites," though. The Crayola-colored dips that looked like finger paints? Double-delish, though I can't decide which I preferred: the beetroot tzatziki (which I borscht-belted off my spoon) or the guacamolelike rapini pesto (mama mia!). I found the skewered pomegranate-marinated chicken ($5 each) a bit lackluster, until I dipped that chick into the lemony lift of its fluffy mayo-dip. And the saffron lamb skewer was something special.

XOXOXO to you for nodding to cheese fiends like me, folks whose idea of a "lollipop" is the one you serve as a savory-on-a-stick: a blue-cheese-stuffed date, gift-wrapped in prosciutto. And bless yer heart for that cheese plate — an intelligent mix of America's finest, sticky with herbed honey and sided with fruit butter. As for the mascarpone-stuffed pasta pansotti, shaped like wrapped Frangos and showered with squash bits, pine nuts and cocoa nibs? Sweet!

Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or nleson@seattletimes.com. More reviews at www.seattletimes.com/restaurants

Sample menu

Savory dips $13/four

Candy Pork (barbecue pork on a bun) $12/three

Savory Lollipops (stuffed dates) $9/three

Coco la ti da $10/slice

The Loveless (cupcake) $8

Pink Feather Boa (lavender- infused vodka) $8

Carrot Cake (boozy "liquid dessert") $11

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