In Praise of the Dive Bakery

Man oh man, do I love a good dive bakery.

 Yup, there's shortening in that buttercream.

Yup, there's shortening in that buttercream.

Wait. Pray tell: what is a dive bakery? 

"Dive bakery" is a term which to the best of my knowledge I've made up (haven't googled it so I am not sure if this is true or not; often when I have a great idea like this I purposefully avoid googling it so that my idea isn't changed or altered by what has come before). 

Basically, it's the dive bar equivalent of a bakery. 

Put it this way. If you go to a dive bar, you're not going to be ordering a Cosmopolitan. You're being served by a bartender, not a mixologist. There is going to be pretty much zero talk about house-made bitters or liqueurs, and please, for the love of god, don't utter the word "shrub" unless you're talking about plants that live outside. 

At a dive bar, you're most likely going to be ordering beer (and none of those fancy ones) and you're probably going to feel like you need a shower after using the bathroom. 

7112777265_f1c5da5800_z.jpg

A dive bakery is definitely a different experience overall, but it's similar in its no-fuss, no-frills simplicity. 

When you walk into a dive bakery, it's not because it's a hip new spot you saw on Instagram. A dive bakery has probably been in the same spot seemingly forever, whether that in fact is since 1981 or since 1934. It's got that "lived-in" sort of feel. Often, the employees seem ageless too. 

In a dive bakery, you're probably not going to see the words "locally sourced" listed in any product descriptions, even if they are. In fact, product descriptions have been made using a label maker, or even printed on little cards, possibly in comic sans. Dive bakeries might seem in some ways hipster-ironic, but they are not. 

F6901411-D49F-4C61-8383-885E08741403.jpeg

Price-wise, you're not going to spend $40 at a dive bakery unless you really try, or are buying a wedding cake or something. There are no $4.95 cookies or brownies at a dive bakery. You may --not even kidding--even see some goodies for under a dollar. 

15024418882_9597bd2749_z.jpg

At a dive bakery, the buttercreme is probably made with at least part shortening. But they're not apologizing for or hiding this fact. 

The coffee pretty reliably sucks at dive bakeries. And no, they do not have soy or almond milk. 

The lighting in a dive bakery always kind of feels like you're walking onto the set of a David Lynch movie. And where on earth did they get those retro bakery cases? 

16610184106_563791cb6e_z.jpg

Dive bakeries are generally a place where you can be free of talk about glycemic index and paleo diets and (shudder) Stevia. 

Dive bakeries can be good, or they can be not very good. But there is something satisfying and honest about them. 

8F24B05B-83F3-48C2-A83E-0E74F9470FC3.jpeg

Dive bakeries are nostalgic. After-school treats, innocence. The simple desire for a sweet treat without food being fraught with meaning. 

For me, a dive bakery is kind of my happy place. Even if the pastries and cookies and cakes aren't technically very good, there's something on a soul level that is so nourishing about the experience of them. 

2928638633_c0fd9ebc4c_b.jpg

One of my favorite dive bakeries in the world, Freedman's Bakery in Belmar, NJ, closed a few years ago. I cried when they closed. They hadn't actually been good for years, but I freaking loved this place. I had been going there since childhood, and even the diminishing quality of their sweets when ownership changed didn't make me turn away. There was something that I loved so deeply about the place. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm also all about those $4.95 locally sourced cupcakes and the single-origin chocolate and all that. But sometimes, a good dive bakery is all that you need in the world. 

Is there a dive bakery in your life that you can tell me about? 

8 Tasty Moments From My New England Road Trip with Mom

Want to come on a nerdy road trip with me and my mom?

22459229_10214416936594849_6211975844206975489_o.jpg

In case you're not familiar with my mom, guess what? She too is an illustrator. That's her work above. She's illustrated a number of children's books; check out her work on Amazon by searching for "Margie Moore"!

Like me, she's also a total nerd and loves history. So...last week, me and the moms got in my little car and drove up to New England with the purpose of seeing some Salem Witch Trial haunts. Along the way, we had plenty of great adventures and tasty food. Wanna see what we ate? Here are some highlights from our short but totally sweet trip.

003E78A4-7DDA-49AE-B281-6A192DE2DB76.jpeg

1. Pumpkin-style coffee, Rook Coffee, Various Locations, NJ.

Where do you stand on the great PSL debate? Some people love pumpkin spice coffee drinks, some despise it. Personally, as much as I gravitate toward sweet foods, I really don't like sweet drinks as a general rule. However, at Rook Coffee (one of my favorite mini-chains in New Jersey) they do it a little different. They have a pumpkin spice infused coffee which they serve as a pour-over, and you can opt to add sweetener or not. A non-sweetened pumpkin spice coffee, as it turns out, is EXACTLY what I have been wishing for! 

More info: Rook Coffee.

EDFA6EEB-FA2F-47A6-B1D1-678D962413A0.jpeg

2. Mystic Pizza, Mystic, CT.

I'm not saying this in a critical way, just factual for my own preferences: it's not necessarily the pizza that makes me stop at Mystic Pizza every time I am going through Connecticut. It's the back-story. The mystique behind this pizza place more than fills in the gap that makes visiting this place a great experience (because food is about more than just the flavor, let's face it). Mystic Pizza was the setting and subject of an eponymous 1988 movie which starred a bunch of people before they were famous: Julia Roberts, Lili Taylor, Vincent D'onofrio, etc. If you've never seen it, watch it RIGHT NOW PLEASE. And then visit Mystic Pizza next time you're passing through Connecticut. 

More info: Mystic Pizza

3217F01C-EC2F-481B-AFC6-1F16C6785A86.jpeg

3. Sift Bake Shop, Mystic, CT. 

After enjoying some slices at Mystic Pizza, I was craving something sweet, so the moms and I took a stroll down the main drag. The chocolate place was filled with tourists wanting a taste of fudge before buying so I quickly got bored of waiting in line. Luckily, by abandoning that project we accidentally ran across Sift Bakeshop. What a beautiful bakery! It smelled like HEAVEN. We ogled the French pastries, but ultimately just picked up a couple of pumpkin spice macarons, because first, well, tis the season, and second, just a small snack was in order post-pizza! 

More info: Sift Bake Shop

lizzieborden.jpg

As a diversion, we stopped in to see Lizzie Borden's home in Fall River, MA. Hopefully you won't mind my creative photoshopping here. 

0AA696BA-232B-46FD-A076-0738C0FFC065.jpeg

4. Pie in the Sky, Woods Hole, MA

We stayed at my aunt's house in Falmouth, MA and made sure to hit up Pie in the Sky in the morning. I have a long history with this bakery and it was great to visit again. We scored brekkie sandwiches (mom got hers on a popover, which kind of blew my mind) and some pastries. This is a really special place--a kind of eat local hippie place that's been at it since before it was a trend. You must visit if you're in the area! 

More info: Pie in the Sky

2F023B42-7BA2-4227-B07D-1FDBB8D1A622.jpeg

5. Maison Villatte, Falmouth, MA

Pricey but pretty and very good. That would be my mini-review of this authentic Frenchie spot, which had a gorgeous and bountiful display filled with choux, croissants, cookies, tartes, and so much more. We got a ton of stuff here: My faves were the Paris-Brest and the pistachio eclair (!!). 

More info: Maison Vallatte.

Oh, can I tell you something funny, too? My mom being from NJ (born and bred), she has never ever had to pump gas in her life (it's all full service there and you're not allowed to pump your own). I've never seen her as impressed with me as when I fearlessly fueled the car all by myself! Yup, she took photos. 

22339280_10214195334098762_7790911140394753414_o.jpg

Moving on...

0F1C8356-516F-4346-8434-44C7C554EF56.jpeg

6. Ye Olde Pepper Candy Co.

Hi from Salem, MA! We came to do some witch hunting, and found ourselves hungry for a sweet treat, so we hit up Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, which is billed as America's oldest candy company, was conveniently across the street from the House of the Seven Gables (of Nathaniel Hawthorne fame). I got a butter rum chocolate which tasted better due to sprinkles. A nice little old fashioned chocolate shop. 

More info: Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie

7. Lord Hobo Brewing 

I've been into craft beer lately, so on our way from Salem to Concord, we stopped to check out Lord Hobo Brewing, purely based on the name. They had some pretty interesting beers that they were making--I'm all about double IPAs, the more assertive the better, and they had a cool one called "Consolation Prize". Best of all, dogs were allowed inside, so the pugs got to come and enjoy (if not imbibe). A good stop if you're in the area and into beer. 

More info: Lord Hobo Brewing 

E2AE0CBB-D9C0-4732-8E34-BEC9924C4AA7.jpeg

We also stopped for a little more nerdiness in Concord, dropping by Louisa May Alcott's house and Walden Pond. Sorry I don't have a better picture for you! 

DEA1E17F-60E5-445B-B5A9-0538FB8E0689.jpeg

8. DeLuise Bakery, Cranston, RI

On our way back to New Jersey and Philadelphia respectively, me'n'mom stopped at DeLuise Bakery in Cranston, RI. This is exactly my favorite type of bakery: it's been there for ages and it has a certain degree of "saltiness" if you know what I mean. Mom got a marble cookie, which was perfect; I got this incredibleness featuring a brownie base, cookie dough layer, peanut butter icing, and reese's pieces on top. JEEBUS. Happiness town = ME.

More info: DeLuise Bakery

April 5: National Raisin and Spice Bar Day

Today is National Raisin and Spice Bar Day. While they have a different name, I'm gonna say that these interesting bars fit the bill as they do contain raisins and spices: the "1812 Cookie Bar" by Matthews 1812 House

webIMG_4458.jpg

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a mail-order cookie and cake company called Matthews 1812 House. They asked if I would like to try some of their goodies. Well, twist my arm why don't you. I requested the "1812 Cookie Bar", because it seemed like an interesting item, and one unlike anything else I had ever seen.

The description of the bars goes like so: "Tangy apricots, crunchy pecans and chocolate chips are mixed into a honey and brown sugar batter, then baked on a buttery shortbread crust. Finished with our own special browned butter icing, you'll find these bars truly amazing."

While not specifically mentioned in the description, raisins and spices are listed in the ingredients, which is why I find them appropriate for today's national food holiday.

Actually, more than appropriate. Because look at these things. They look crave-worthy, right? Especially on my new custom tray, by Bags of Love

They taste crave-worthy, too. I love a good bar cookie, and these are indeed a fine specimen. The cookie base is sturdy and flavorful, with just the right amount of salt, butter, and sweetness coming together. My darling one didn't care for the apricot, but I told him to shut up because I thought it was great, and I'm the one with a food blog, so I win, right? 

But really, for me, what brought these bars together was the browned butter frosting. I don't know if they sneak an elixir of addictiveness into it somehow, but I could eat this stuff with a spoon from a jar and be very happy. It gives the sweet frosting a depth of flavor that lasts on the tongue for several moments after you've taken a bite, in the best way possible. 

I won't lie, these bars are not cheap. A 6x9 tray (a bit smaller than a sheet of printer paper) is $32 plus shipping (I calculated to my home; the total cost would be $44 or so). But they are interesting, and very well made, and they were securely packaged and arrived fresh. So...if you feel like you want a unique, artisan treat, I would say they're worth it for a special occasion. 

Also, I thought the story of the company, which is based in Northwest Connecticut, was cute (right from their site), if not revealing about why the company has its unique name:

"Matthews 1812 House was started in 1979 in the family farmhouse by Blaine and Deanna Matthews. Named after the year the house was built, they started with two fruitcakes (and had two small children at the same time)! Soon there were baking racks in the hallways and people sorting apricots and pecans on the dining room table.

In 1991 the business moved to a dedicated facility just a mile from the farmhouse. With a carousel oven (yes, it rotates), and more room, they expanded from their line of specialty cakes into cookies, bars, and other mouth-watering baked goods."

Check out these bars and the full offerings of Matthews 1812 House here.

Yoberri, Santa Fe: Where I Ate Frozen Yogurt and Didn't Hate It

News flash: I ate frozen yogurt and I didn't hate it.

If you read this site, you know that I have strong feelings about frozen yogurt. It's not ice cream. It never will be. Keep it off my dessert plate, please. 

But as part of an ice cream and frozen treat expedition for an article I was writing for New Mexico magazine, I found myself duty-bound to sample the frozen yogurt at local Santa Fe mini-chain Yoberri. And I didn't hate it.

What is so special about this particular variety of fro-yo?

Yoberri, Santa Fe

Perhaps it's the fact that it's made in-house, with quality ingredients. Perhaps it's because they make it with care and precision, and it has a smooth, non-grainy texture.

Or maybe it's the toppings, which include homemade maple fudge sauce, chocolate chili sauce, and more. And fruit, if you're into that (I AM NOT). 

Yoberri, Santa Fe

 

Whatever it was, I found this frozen yogurt downright enjoyable. I got the "classic tart" vanilla, and topped it with aforementioned maple fudge sauce and (natch) rainbow sprinkles. And I ate every bite. 

Yoberri, Santa Fe

Don't get me wrong, my personal preference is still for ice cream; I'm of the "gimme the cream!" sort of mentality that I'm sure other ice cream aficionados will appreciate. But as frozen yogurt goes, this is some of the best I have tasted, and I would eat it again. 

There, I said it. I enjoyed eating frozen yogurt. 

Yoberri, two locations in Santa Fe; online here

CakeSpy Undercover: Cloud 9 Creamery, Sante Fe

I get excited about ice cream. And I know, especially in the safe place of this website, I am not alone.

So when I was hired to write an article about ice cream for New Mexico magazine, I was super excited about the part of the article where I would be writing about the ice cream establishments of the state. Being a very hands-on person, I took it upon myself to try as many in person as I could.

One establishment that impressed me in particular? Cloud 9 Creamery.

Talking to someone in yoga class about how I was going there after class (I really like to brag), another student chimed in and implied that I was in for a real treat. 

Dramatization:

So what makes Cloud 9 so special? Let me give you the 411. 

Cloud 9 Creamery shares retail space with another purveyor of tasty sweets, Cocopelli, in a large strip mall near the movie theatre.

When they first started, Cloud 9 Creamery was making ice cream in single servings using liquid nitrogen to make the ice cream. I don't know how it works exactly, but I know that when I tried the ice cream at Smitten in San Francisco, it amounted to pricey ice cream that took a long time to make. It was very, very smooth and creamy, yes. I was very glad I'd gone. But it took a long time to make, and I was hungry. I still remember that part.

Apparently, this was the reaction at Cloud 9, so they switched to more traditional methods of making ice cream--and gelato and sorbet, too. 

Well, I don't have the benefit of being able to compare the different methods side by side, but what I tasted at Cloud 9 Creamery seriously knocked my socks off.

Made in fairly small batches, owner Nicole uses local ingredients whenever possible, and will follow whimsy or special produce finds to make limited edition flavors (a great score on strawberries in the produce market? There's gonna be strawberry ice cream or sorbet today). This is to say that on the day you visit, there might be something special to try--do yourself a favor and try it, because it might not be there next time.

On the day of our visit, since I was focusing on the New Mexico aspect, we stuck to local flavors: for me, the honey-lavender, for my companion, the toasted almond and Sante Fe Pinon. We also tried the salted caramel (awesome), pistachio, and strawberry in little sample spoon sizes. 

How can I explain this ice cream to you?

Well, at the risk of sounding like I've lived in Santa Fe too long: this ice cream tasted happy

I'm a big believer that the maker can impart a flavor on their finished result--no, not by spitting in it or anything, but just by transferring their good vibes. And there were plenty of good vibes in this ice cream. It felt like a place that you could bring your kids, but as adults, you'd love it, too. This is totally in line with the owner's goal to create a family-friendly establishment--and to bring awesome ice cream to Santa Fe.

The flavors were well-balanced, interesting, and very creamy. Crave-worthy. 

We strolled along a sidewalk near the store that had spring blossoms in bloom, and we could almost ignore the commercial hardware store and general mall generic-ness in the sweet bliss of our ice cream moment. 

We both agreed: this ice cream was a keeper. I know I'll be back, and if it's accessible to you, I suggest you check out Cloud 9 Creamery. 

Cloud 9 Creamery, 3482 Zafarano Drive, Santa Fe. On Facebook

Where in the World is CakeSpy This Time?

Unicorn farm road

If you've been following me on social media lately, you've seen posts from a wide variety of locales, from Asheville, North Carolina to New York City to Litchfield County, Connecticut to...Amarillo, Texas? 

It all might make one start to wonder: where in the world is CakeSpy? Where the heck IS CakeSpy? 

Why don't we catch up so I can tell you where I've been and what I've been doing--and more importantly, eating. 

Before I departed Asheville, I made three very important stops that I feel I should tell you about. The first was to Unicorn Farm Road. I need to tell you: THIS IS A REAL PLACE. One of my yoga school classmates told me about it, and basically I got there as soon as my GPS said I could. 

Unicorn farm road

I wouldn't say that the road matches its name (unless the unicorns are living undercover), but seriously. UNICORN FARM ROAD! 

If that interested you, FYI, there is also a Unicorn Road in Newburyport, Massachusetts (also home of Eat Cake!). Just saying.

After Unicorn Farm Road (can you tell I love saying it?), we hit up Dough, a bakery that had been closed most of January for renovations. Well, it re-opened the day we left, and it had some truly glorious offerings, including their take on a Cronut...

Dough

and a cocoa nib doughnut...

Dough

And many things other than doughnuts, but we didn't try them.

Whit's

Yumz. We took a few bites but saved some room, because I'd never been to Whit's Frozen Custard before. Yes, it's a chain, but it was a new chain to me. And I'm glad I went there. We got their version of a concrete, which you seriously could have turned over and it wouldn't have dripped out of the cup, it was that thick. I got the cookie dough version, thankyouverymuch.

New Boots

Oh, and. It's a bonus fourth thing I did in Asheville, but I got new boots.

After I departed Asheville, North Carolina (read about what I ate in Asheveille!), me and my family packed up and drove to Richmond, VA to visit an old family friend. Time was at something of a premium there, but we did get a chance to enjoy a fantastic breakfast at Lulu's (red velvet waffle, anyone?), and to pick up some sweet treats at For the Love of Chocolate.

Photo via Lulu's Yelp page

We didn't have time to hit up Dixie Donuts this time, but I can tell you from my previous visits to Richmond, they're worth a visit. 

From Richmond, we backtracked westward, ultimately bound for Santa Fe, New Mexico. But as that drive is impossible to do in one go, we had some pleasant side trips along the way. 

Knoxville

First up was Knoxville, Tennessee. One of my yoga school classmates, Emily, lives there, so we stopped to visit! That's us together, above. We're cute, don't you think? We had lunch at an adorable place called Just Ripe, where they had pecan sorghum pie. We didn't get it, but I was intrigued. Note: Sorghum is big in this area. I was seeing it all over Asheville, too.

Knoxville

After lunch, we went to an adorable chocolate shop called Coffee and Chocolate.

Photo via Coffee and Chocolate's Yelp page

We also couldn't help a quick stop in this adorable gift store called Rala, which sort of reminded me of my old store! They have cute cards by Gemma Corell, pictured below. 

1483437_758379447524839_741367016_n.jpg

I also saw this, in another gift store. I forget the name of the store, but the unicorn left a lasting impression.

Unicorn, Knoxville
Fried pie

We stopped for a quick dinner in Nashville, and I will tell you, this is my first time having BBQ there! We went to a place charmingly called Peg Leg Porker to partake. They also had locally made fried pies, which we tried...I promise, they tasted better than my picture looks.

We also stopped for a coffee at Crema, then were on our way. 

Drive, drive, drive. We stopped in Arkansas so I could take a yoga class, but didn't stop too long otherwise. I didn't eat anything there, but I should let you guys know that I was able to knock Arkanasas off of my "50 states of yoga" list. Along with the trips detailed later, I am up to this point:

10606277_102yogalist05051000416135_7991975013673331166_n.jpg

More driving, then we had a brief stopover in Oklahoma City to visit Whiskey Cake. I love this restaurant. It's weird because it's oddly chain-y, or it looks like they want to become a national chain, but while it's still a small chain, it's very good. We had (surprise) the whiskey cake.

Photo via Whiskey CakeNo visit to Pinknitzel or Ingrid's Kitchen this time, because then we were on our way to...

Donut Stop
Donut Stop

Amarillo, Texas. If you've never been to Amarillo, I'm not going to give it a hard sell. But I am going to tell you that if you dig a little, there are some fun bakeries to be found. There's Donut Stop, which is very old school but has good, "like Dunkin' Donuts used to be" sort of donuts. Because it is amusing, I will pause to show you some photos of Porkchop exhibiting curiosity about their donuts for a moment.

As a note, I bought a t-shirt there, which smelled like donuts (really). I didn't want to wash it! But, in case you were worried, I finally did. 

There's also my favorite bakery in Amarillo, Belmar Bakery.

Texas cookies

Belmar Bakery is my favorite probably because it's the same name as the town I grew up in, in New Jersey. It also oddly reminds me of a bakery called Freedman's that was in Belmar forever until last year. But this is in Texas.

Turtle brownie, Belmar Bakery

They have a variety of not-fancy but sweet treats, ranging from kolaches (it's Texas, after all) to cupcakes to brownies. We picked up a nice variety of treats, including brownies, cookies, petits fours, and more. The brownies, in my opinion, were the standouts. 

We also stopped at Braum's, a regional chain which has its last outpost to the west in Amarillo. I love their birthday cake ice cream. 

Braum's

Back in Santa Fe, we were delighted to pick up our favorite cake from Whole Foods (here's my homemade hack of it!). As a note, this one says happy birthday because it is an old photo. My birthday was in August, but you're allowed to send me a present if you like.

Birthday cake

But after about 4 days back in Santa Fe, I was back on the road. I had a trip planned to New York City, Boston, and Connecticut, to try to make some publisher connections. 

So, I got on a midnight plane and the next morning, found myself in cold, cold, cold New York City.

Right after hopping on a red-eye flight, I went straight into Manhattan, to Black Seed Bagels. It was a re-schedule; Arcade Bakery, the initial venue, was closed for the winter break. 

Photo via Black Seed Bagels on Yelp

I walked by the new BAKED location on my way to the meeting, and I can tell you, Baked is good no matter if it's in Tribeca or Brooklyn. 

10923579_10153007470695993_5281177360550937734_n.jpg

Photo via BAKED Facebook page

I then got a rental car in New Jersey (it was a lot cheaper), stopped for a cookie with my parents...

Mom's super secret chocolate chip cookies

and drove up to Connecticut. There, I had another meeting but then stayed with some family. To be a good houseguest, I made sure to get them a little cake. I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but it was a tiny cake--about 5 inches. This highly adorable cake was purchased at Whole Foods, where they personalized it for me with a heart. Aww!

Little cake from Whole Foods, Danbury

I also had time to stop at Love Heart's Bakery in Litchfield, which I already loved just based on the name, but loved even more once I tasted their English Toffee. 

English Toffee from Love's Heart Bakery, CT

From there, I headed up to the Boston area, where I got to finally meet Andris of Baking Steel, with whom I am collaborating on a project. We talked pizza and steel, then I helped him with a pizza class. 

Photo via Baking Steel

The next morning, I knocked Massachusetts off of my yoga list by taking a class at Dancing Crow Yoga, and then went to a meeting at Redeye Coffee Roasters in Hingham.

Snowy boston

After that, I had a weather advisory so I basically headed back to New Jersey for a visit with my parents. First stop? Hoffman's ice cream. Even on the coldest week of the year, it's a necessary stop for me every time I go to NJ.

Hoffman's Ice cream, nj

My dad had an impressive pastry from Mueller's in Bay Head on the same night, which I thought I would show you. 

Chocolate claw

In NJ, I made sure to hit up some of my favorite places: Kane Brewing Company, Younique Yoga, and Rook Coffee.

Rook coffee and an apple

I also had a standout pastry experience at Simona's Bakery in Sea Girt, NJ. We had gone there because their chocolate blackout cupcake was named one of the best in NJ. Well, we got one of those, but also a Fluffernutter cupcake, which was a melange of peanut butter and marshmallow. Look at it!

Cupcakes from Simona's

And now, look at how it looks in the center.

Fluffernutter cucpake, Simona's

Now, I'm not one to even believe in the existence of "half a cupcake" (just eat the thing! is my opinion), but this cupcake was so large that it really was like two cupcakes, so I separated it into two portions. This means I got to enjoy it over two days. Score!

How to: stippling

It was snowy and cold in NJ, so I spent some time doing stippling. You can read about it in this post I did for Craftsy.

I of course also hit up Nature's Corner for one of my favorite Shazaam cookies.

Shazaam cookie

I headed back up to NYC, where I ate some pizza and recorded a podcast with Food Psych by Christy Harrison.

City Bakery

Oh, and I also got to go to City Bakery for some hot chocolate and an expensive marshmallow. Classic!

I stayed with my friend James, and he made gluten-free pancakes in the morning. I had never tried them before but these were actually quite nice--extra nice since they were made for me by a friend.

GF Pancakes

The next day, I went back to the city for a meeting and the editor had treats from Bouchon. Pinkies ouuuuut!

Ho-ho from Bouchon Bakery

I went back to NJ, feeling like a real live commuter, and spent the night. The next AM, me and my mom went back to the city. We enjoyed the most frigid walk I've ever had, but we had each other's company.

We had a tasty dinner at Benny's Burritos, and I picked up some sweets at Zaro's Bread Basket at Penn Station (which hasn't changed a whole lot since this roundup). 

Black and White Cupcakes

The next day was my last in the city, and this is a good point to ask an important question: is it really a visit to NYC without a cupcake from Amy's Bread? I think not. 

Cupcakes at Amy's Bread in Chelsea Market, NYC

Have you ever tried Dough Doughnuts? Based in Brooklyn, this is a store that cannot be missed. They also sell their doughnuts at Whole Foods locations in Manhattan.

Photo via DOUGH

We got some coffee at Ms Delilah's, an adorable place with biscuits from Balthazar that they will dress up in a number of different ways. 

Once at JFK, I was just happy to have survived the weather, and I was on my way back to Santa Fe. 

Whew! What a few months it has been. I'm ready for a nap!

Happy Sweet Winter, everyone!

20 Plus Delicious Discoveries in Asheville, North Carolina

Peanut butter pie, City Bakery

Dear friends,

I have had the amazing fortune of spending January in Asheville, North Carolina this year. Have you ever been to Asheville? If so, you know how awesome it is to have the chance to spend a month here. If you're not familiar, well, let me tell you about your new favorite city. 

Can I live here?

Asheville is located in western North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains. It has about 87,000 residents, and about 86,999 of them are quirky (there's got to be one normal person in here somewhere). This is in keeping with Asheville's official status of "America's Quirkiest City". 

I fit right in. Especially my inspired, unicorn-themed fashion. 

Yoga training

Here's what brought me to Asheville in the first place: I did a three week immersion yoga program at the Asheville Yoga Center, a well respected yoga studio and teacher training center in North Carolina. I chose this program for a few reasons: I wanted to go somewhere cool to do a yoga training; I had heard that Asheville was cool; and, I got a scholarship to the program. A few months later, I was Asheville-bound. I studied up, and I was ready.

Yoga School

 

These were my classmates.

The program at AYC was incredibly tough both mentally and physically, but it was beyond 100 percent worth it. I was part of a 24 student program, and let me tell you, spending every single day with this group made for very quick and thorough bonding. I can tell you about the finer points of each person's practice, as well as what type of shampoo they wear and what injuries they have and how many heartbreaks they've suffered. It was that kind of bonding. Here's me (on the right) and my classmate Emily showing our pretzel love:

Pretzel buddies

I miss my yoga center already. I have no idea if I want to teach, but now I offically CAN.

Asheville

Back to Asheville itself.

One thing that I had suspected, but hadn't been completely prepared for, was the food scene in Asheville. Like, whoa. It is incredibly sophisticated for a small city, and as quirky and cool as its residents. Here are just a few of my favorite sweet treats I've found so far. 

Made-to-order doughnuts at Hole Doughnuts

Hole Doughnuts, Asheville

I'm a sucker for foods prepared right in front of me, and the open format of fryer right out in the open at Hole made my heart sing.

Hole Doughnuts, Asheville

I thoroughly enjoyed their doughnuts, even if they are yeast (cake doughnuts 4-liiiiiiife). Hole had some pretty nifty flavor combos that they could gussy up your doughnut with, but we went traditional and got just plain glazed. Very, very good stuff.

Hole Doughnuts, Asheville


Greenlife's bakery selections

I spent a LOT of time at Greenlife, a grocery store now owned by Whole Foods. I can tell you what I enjoyed, including their "mini brownies" (actually quite generous in size) which were fudgy and perfect;

Brownie

Lemon cookies...

Lemon Cookie

the praline buttercream bars by wholesale bakery Upper Crust Crumbs, which had the three part construction, if not flavors, of a Nanaimo bar, and for which I found a great looking recipe online;

Praline butter bar

carmelita bars;

Carmelita

and this lemon blueberry bar. Happy town.

Greenlife

Website: Greenlife


The hugest eclairs ever at Well-Bred Bakery, Biltmore village 


Eclair
What can I say? I am impressed by largeness in sweets. And Well-Bred has some BIG sweets.

Now, I am not 100 percent sure that the scale is really conveyed, so let me show you the entire bakery shelf that has human-sized pastries on it, too.Eclairs, Biltmore village

Oh, and we got an almond bar, too.Well Bred Bakery, Asheville

Website: Well-Bred Bakery


Chocolates, cookies, and hot chocolate from French Broad Chocolates


French Broad

French Broad Chocolates is locally famous, and with good reason. They do chocolate very well. Their hot chocolate, which is not pictured, rivals my favorite at Kakawa in Santa Fe, and their truffles are really, really good.

I'm not vegan, but I thought the above chocolate display was adorable, and apropos for my yoga training.

Shortbread

And I truly enjoyed the shortbread dipped in dark chocolate and coated with delicious pistachio debris.

Website: French Broad Chocolates


Butter bars from Fresh Market

Butter bar, Fresh Market

Fresh Market kind of reminds me of a cross between Whole Foods and Wegmans grocery stores. It's sort of fancy and has interesting displays, but the ingredient labels are longer than at Whole Foods. 

But grocery store politics aside, what I cared most about were the butter bars. They looked uncannily similar to the butter bars I knew and loved at Flying Monkey Patisserie in Philadelphia, so I had to try one.

They weren't quite as good as Flying Monkey's, but they gave me enough flavor nostalgia to give me a big grin, so it was a sweet treat to enjoy indeed. 

Website: The Fresh Market


Cannoli from Harris Teeter


Harris Teeter 
At this point, I realize that you are totally judging me for frequenting grocery store bakeries. But what can I say, I love sweets of all sorts, from fancy French to Pop-Tarts. So I have to tell you. I got a chocolate covered cannoli (filled to order!) from grocery chain Harris Teeter (which, btw, I adorably mis-called "Harris Tweeter" for the first week I was here), and it was a highly delicious experience. I won't lie: I've been back for more. And I'll probably go again before I leave.

Harris teeter

Website: Harris Teeter


White chocolate covered snickerdoodle sandwich, Whole Foods


White chocolate snickerdoodle

The basic construction was this: two snickerdoodles, deliciously sandwiched with vanilla cream filling. But wait, there's more: the whole darned thing was half dipped in white chocolate. Come here, you delicous thing. 

White chocolate snickerdoodle

Website: Asheville Whole Foods


Banana split sugar

Banana split sugar

I don't know about you, but just the sight of this stuff made me smile. I didn't even know it existed, but after taking one smell of it, I knew my life would never be complete without it. This was a pricey but fun treasure I found at the Spice and Tea Exchange.

Website: Spice and Tea Exchange

Peanut butter pie, and more, from City Bakery

That crazy-looking pie at the top of this post? I got it from City Bakery. I also enjoyed their cake pops... City Bakery

and their awesome flaky cinnamon pastries, as well as their savory croissants.

Ham and cheese croissant, city bakery


The butter bar at Biscuit Head. 


Butter bar, biscuit head

Don't get me wrong, the biscuits were nothing to scoff at. But the true magic here was in the BUTTER BAR, which featured flavored butters of all sorts for your biscuits.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that you could sit in spots like this at Biscuit Head:

Egg and bacon chair

Website: Biscuit Head

Adorableness aplenty at Short Street Cakes

CAKE

Short Street Cakes is my kind of bakery: small, sweet, and full of cake. It's in the hipster enclave of West Asheville, and we picked up some tasty flourless chocolate cake. It was along the same lines as my favorite recipe, so good stuff. 

Yes.

Flourless chocolate cake

They also had some cute cupcakes, which came out weird-looking because of the lights in the case reacting with my cell phone camera.

Short street cakes

Website: Short Street Cakes


Marzipan thingies from Old Europe Pastries

Marzipan thingy

That is not their technical name, but it's the name I will assign to their marzipan topped and infused cakes, with chocolate sides.

We also got shortbread and a brownie here, which my sweetie named among the best brownies in Asheville.

Website: Old Europe Pastries


Danish doughnuts at Geraldine's

Geraldine's

Nope. That's not a cronut. It's a "Fritzster". The secret to the deliciousness is Danish dough here, which is fried and yields a hearty doughnut the likes of which I will not forget soon.

Website: Geraldine's


Cake by my classmates Virginia and Jonelle

Jonelle and Virginia

This was one of my sweetest moments in Asheville. At our Yoga School graduation, two of my classmates, Virgina and Jonelle, made a cake for all of us. It was made with mix, but the effort and the sentiment made it one of the best cakes EVER. 

Bonus: five savory finds

I'm not going to go into too much detail for these ones, but I want you to know that if you find yourself in Asheville, I have thoroughly enjoyed the savories at these spots!

  1. Luella's BBQ: I am not vegetarian, but I'm obsessed with their BBQ tempeh.
  2. King James Pub: Creative and innovative pub cuisine. Cozy, too!
  3. Green Sage Cafe: Healthy-ish fare with a casual atmosphere--a clever and tasty menu.
  4. Homegrown: Local and delicious. Everything here is well thought out. My fave? The "falentil"--falafel balls made with lentils.
  5. Doc Chey's Noodle House: I loved the atmosphere at this local favorite, and I loved the fat, flavorful noodles.

I'm on my last few days here, so I'm looking forward to trying a few other places, both sweet and savory, before I get on my rainbow unicorn and fly back to the next adventure.

I've enjoyed my time in Asheville, and I know I've become a better person because of it!

If you have a suggestion for the rest of my time here, leave a comment!

Postcards from the Road: January 2015

What in the world has CakeSpy been up to? Well, my friends, quite a bit. In the past few months, I have visited many places, seen many things, and tasted many, many desserts. Let's take a quick tour of the recent past, shall we?

November started very nicely with a trip to Nashville for the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Not only did I get to see some old friends and meet some new, but I got to reunite with my boyfriend, the Pillsbury Doughboy! Since I love the photo, I will just show it again, OK?

When I got back, I finished up an article I wrote for New Mexico Magazine, featuring some original dessert recipes. It was awesome to write for a glossy magazine and such a pleasure to work with Candace Walsh, a writer and editor who is also sort of a hero to me. I can't wait for you to see it in print in February. Here's a mysterious little sneak peek:

Photo via Doug Merriam

Doug Merriam, a totally awesome photographer with whom I worked on the story, turned out to be a Very Good Person to meet. We decided to do a swap: photo tips for me, social media tips for him. I've already seen an improvement in my photos, such as this one of microwave fudge...

and I hope you'll enjoy the new photos I take, with not only my new photo skills but also my new camera!! That's right, after 7 years of using a $40 point and shoot for all my photos, I've upgraded to a real camera. It was a big deal to me, as I had never spent more than $40 on a digital camera. I got this one used, and in total with accessories it came to nearly $200. I realize many bloggers may laugh at this, but for me it was a pretty big deal. 

I got involved with my etsy store in a big way, adding new prints. While alas, right now the shop is shut for the month, check it out in February for some awesome new prints and artwork, including this illustration which was comissioned by the James Beard Foundation.

I was hired by a longtime customer to do a new painting for the holidays. The first painting I ever did for her was of a cupcake, a banana, and a John Deere Tractor. Yes, for real.

Custom order

In this painting, the couple is reunited with their tractor...in Scotland. This was a very fun painting to do.

With the holidays drawing close, I started to get all sorts of sweet treats in the mail. I received some dried plums in the mail--apparently, they are not prunes anymore. Names aside, these made some awesome bar cookies when I used them instead of raisins to make the award-winning "H-Bars" recipe from the new book Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More.

This isn't necessarily cake related, but Porkchop the pug got the good news that he had lost five pounds. That little boy was getting sort of fat but he's in good shape now! Here is a picture of me and Porkchop in case you needed some cuteness.

I also got to see several recipes I created for Peanut Butter and Company go live--a delicious salty caramel pie...

and to-die-for peanut butter snowballs. Serious love for these addictive morsels!

I also did my first recipe for Colavita, which came out great: lemon pistachio olive oil tuiles. Pinkies out!

Tuiles

I quickly followed it up with a second recipe for chocolate babka made with olive oil, which also came out splendidly. 

Chocolate babka

I taught a class for kids in Santa Fe, on the important subject of holiday cookie baking. Here's a snapshot from those several hours of adorableness. 

Oh, and I painted my yoga mat. 

As Christmas grew closer, me and my sweetie packed up our bags and headed east. We drove from New Mexico to Connecticut, which meant that I could add a few more states to my map of states where I've done yoga. Here are the US states in which I've done yoga so far:

 

Oh, by the way. In Lawrence, where I stopped to do yoga, I also got to re-visit Sylas and Maddy's in Lawrence, Kansas, which I had previously visited in August on my massive road trip. This is a place worth visiting.

We got to go to the Uprise Bakery in Columbia, MO, and were delightfully surprised by their offerings. From rolls to a cappuccino brownie that looked like a Nanaimo bar to awesome coffee, this place was a wonderful spot.

I need to tell you, though, the big hit of the trip was Terre Haute, IN. We stopped there for the night, and in the morning, we knew we simply had to check out a place called Square Donuts we found online. I mean, how could you not?

Square Donuts

The donuts were a treat, and yes, they were square.

Square Donuts

But even bigger treat was a few blocks away, where we happened upon the Clabber Girl factory! Clabber Girl

I hadn't known they were based in Terre Haute so this was a real surprise. But as we went in, the surprise blossomed into pure delight. They have not only a factory but a full-fledged MUSEUM going on!

Clabber girl

We toured the museum, and then settled in for breakfast in their cafe. They had really awesome biscuits and sweet baked goods, such as the below almond chocolate croissant, which was PACKED with filling. This place was a real treasure and I highly suggest it.

Clabber girl

We powered on through to Connecticut, arriving Christmas eve. I didn't take a picture, but my sweetie's sister in law made a bûche de nöel. Since she is French, like, as in born and raised in France, it was amazing. As you might expect.

The next night we had a quiet dinner with some cakes from the Cheesecake Factory for dessert. Do you believe I've never had one of their desserts? I actually really enjoyed them, especially the key lime cheesecake, yummmmm.

After that, I took the train down to NYC for some time with friends. Me and my friend James watched "Christmas Icetastrophe" which was as terrible as it sounds, and then ate bagels, which were better than anywhere else because they were from NYC. I also got pizza, which is always necessary.

Bagel

I spent part of the next day with my friend Phil, and even picked up one of these at Whole Foods:

...before heading down the shore to my parents' house in NJ. In NJ, I snacked on Shazaam cookies from Nature's Corner...

Shazaam cookie

and took yoga classes at YouNique Yoga in Belmar. Then I got sick and all I could eat for a day was ice cream from Hoffman's (pictured top of post). Actually, can I get sick more often? That was kind of great.

We then packed up our bags again and headed toward Asheville, North Carolina, where I will be spending this month doing a yoga immersion at the Asheville Yoga Center. I'm staying in a cute little log cabin!

So far, Asheville is simply amazing. We had a great first meal at Homegrown, a great follow up breakfast at Green Sage Cafe, and then went back to Homegrown because it was that great.

We've also sampled the goods at French Broad Chocolates and City Bakery...more to come on those. But suffice it to say that this cake pop I stuck in my mouth was very tasty. 

We've hit up a few grocery stores, because for me, there isn't much finer than exploring a new grocery store (not kidding). I got a "brown cow" cheesecake at Fresh Market, and enjoyed it in a no-frills kind of way.

Cheesecake

We also got a bunch of other goodies at Fresh Market and Harris Tweeter, the local grocery chains. What can I say, I love grocery store bakeries. So yes, this happened:

Dessert time

...and this:

Cannoli

I can't wait to see what comes next in 2015!

Happy New Year!

More Postcards from the Road: Summer 2014

New Glarus Bakery - Linzer Cookie bar

I already told you about the first part of my epic summer trip, which started as a 3 week trip to Puerto Rico (read more about that via this post and this post) but then turned into an almost 2-month epic adventure to here, there, and just about everywhere. I ate pastries and did yoga (balance!) in more than 10 US states, worked on my memoir idea, and continued writing awesome posts for Craftsy.

But I haven't told you everything. So hold on to your pastry boxes, because there's still a bit of the journey left to go! 

When I last left off, I had arrived in New Glarus, Wisconsin, for a wedding. In case you've never heard of it, New Glarus is "America's Little Switzerland", and it lives up to its name in the ye olde-iest of styles.

On the eve of our arrival, the hosts had baked the jumbles from my second book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts. What a fantastic welcome! And the same evening (why not) me and my sweet one went to the New Glarus Inn, where we sampled a bunch of desserts, including German chocolate cake, a lemon and cream slice (that's the one to the far right) and a lemon custard. Nice, nice, nice.

New Glarus Inn

The next day was the wedding. Beforehand, I spent some time tooling around the town. I'm not a huge beer drinker, but can occasionally get excited about a hand-crafted variety. So I checked out the famous New Glarus Brewing Company, which houses unlikely yet delightful imported "faux ruins" on the grounds. It's weird but wonderful. There, I tried a sampler. Some of the beer was not to my liking, but I rather enjoyed a seasonal variety they had called "Moon Man"--a "grapefruit session ale". 

New Glarus Brewing Co

Later on, the wedding occurred, and it was lovely. You'll have to forgive me, because while typically I am the cake paparazzi at the wedding, I had forgotten my camera in the car and had no pockets in my cute dress. You'll have to trust me when I tell you it was a decidedly nice cake. 

I can, however, tell you that the next day, I did have my camera when I checked out the New Glarus Bakery. While there have been some changes in ownership and management over the years, this bakery has been running pretty much continuously since 1910.  

New Glarus Bakery

I simply loved this bakery! It definitely had euro leanings, but had plenty of American classics, too. I thought these Wisconsin-shaped cookies were just adorable: 

New Glarus Bakery

and was delighted by the presence of springerle, a dry cookie which is great with coffee or tea. New Glarus Bakery

butter cookies? Not here. Sandbissen, however? Yes, they've got those.New Glarus Bakery

Everything we got there was quite agreeable. My personal favorites were the "turtle cream filled", a kind of caramelly spice doughnut filled with "kreme" type filling (love the stuff, what can I say)...

New Glarus Bakery

the eclairs, on a light puff of pastry filled with a decadent chocolate piped ribbon and custard cream...New Glarus Bakery

and the linzer cookie bar. Just look at this thing. Broken but still so tasty. Also, while not pictured, their nut horns were quite well received.

New Glarus Bakery - Linzer Cookie bar

Not far from the bakery was a great coffee shop called Fat Cat Coffee Company, where they also made many of their sweets on site. That's where I purchased this coffee cake (note: NOT crumb cake) which was rich in spices, nuts, and thoughtfully and generously iced. To further make me love them, they offered to heat it up gently. Score!

Coffee cake from Fat Cat Coffee, New Glarus

Next up was a family trip to Wausau, Wisconsin...but on our way, we stopped at a place called "Cave of the Mounds". There, I learned finally, that the difference between stalactites and -mites can remembered thusly: "T" is for top, as in hanging from, and that's how you remember stalactites; stalagmites are simply the only direction left.

Oddly, Wausau kind of reminded me of the railroad towns along the Jersey shore...but in Wisconsin, people are just nicer. And the cheese is better.

In Wausau, I hit up a cute coffee shop called Allister Deacon, but none of the pastries "sang" to me. This must have been a sign, because as I walked around the neighborhood I happened upon this bakery: Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

And was delighted to have found an old school bakery fully stocked with just about everything, with an emphasis on doughnuts. I also noticed something in Wisconsin: they like crescent-shaped cruller doughnuts. I saw them at more than one establishment. See them on the bottom shelf here, looking vaguely banana-like? Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

They also had "donutzels".

Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

I picked up several doughnuts, including a crescent shaped one, which promptly broke in the bag but tasted just fine.

Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

I also got a Cowboy cookie for about 55 cents (yes!). I couldn't resist, given my deep history with cowboy cookies.

Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

It was an interesting cookie: cakier than I expected, but not in a bad way. The flavor was spot on. It was like eating oatmeal cake in cookie form, fortified with chocolate and nuts and stuff. 

Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

The rest of the day was busy with family stuff, so that was the only bakery I got to visit in Wausau, but don't worry, because there was more sweetness ahead for me. Plus, I saw these guys on my walk back to the hotel.

Wausau

On the day of my birthday, my sweetie's brother and his wife gave me a new friend. Two, actually. New Friend

I was also given a birthday card with a unicorn. It was almost perfect, but I made it totally perfect with a few easy edits. Birthday card

After breakfast, we headed to the Wisconsin Dells to meet up with my friend Briana for my birthday (my birthday!). I made her and my sweetie go on a roller coaster with me (they were scared and sat in the middle; I sat in the front with a 10-year old), and play mini golf. Ice cream

We also got some ice cream from the mini-golf snack stand, which was from The Chocolate Shoppe in Madison. Seriously--so good. Creamy.

I got the "Fat Elvis" which was a delicious melange of Elvis-y flavors (no bacon): peanut butter, banana, chocolate. I loved this cone til the moment it was gone. My friend got a strawberry cheesecake flavor with chocolate bits. Seriously! 

Birthday ice cream

After our visit, we started driving back to Santa Fe. I was treated to this sunset on my 33rd birthday.Birthday sunset

To tell you the truth, our stops were minimal, although I was surprised and delighted at a Walgreens to see that they now have a private label version of Gooey Butter Cake! Maybe now it will become a Thing nationwide (it should be).

I did stop to do yoga in Lincoln, NE, because it was a good place to add to my list of 50 states of yoga (I'm up to about 20 now). We learned about a phenomenon known as the sticky bun, but I'll be honest: the ones they had left looked past their prime so I will try them next time I'm in NE!

Now, what I am going to tell you at this moment might be controversial, but here goes. In Colorado, I went to a dispensary and checked out marijuana edibles! There are some creative flavors out there. I'm saying no more, but it was interesting to see this world that is now legal in CO.

Marijuana edibles, Colorado

I told you that was all I was saying!

A huge unexpected highlight awaited in Colorado Springs. We were passing through on our way to Santa Fe, and since I'd never stopped there I wanted to visit a bakery. But which one? A quick google search revealed very quickly that the real only option was the one with the best name: Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery. To tell you the absolute truth after looking at that nutty name I didn't even register other bakeries as real options. (kidding! actually, a lot of the other bakeries looked good). Here's the bakery:

Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

My choice of bakery stops was a delicious success. I was advised by an employee that choosing anything with bavarian cream was a good decision, so I started with a Napoleon. I probably don't have to tell you it was good, because even in retrospect that seems pretty clear from the photo. It was seriously so good, though. 

Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

We got a flourless chocolate cake, too. It was on the drier side than a decadence cake, but overall quite nice.

Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

Was there room for an almond filled cookie? Yes, of course. And it tasted like a marzipan pop-tart (aka, AWESOME). We also got a filled speculaas and an almond tart.

Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

We also got this thing. I'm not usually one for light as air desserts, but it seemed an exception could be made. 

Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

The bakery also had a Euro retail area featuring licorice both sweet and salty and several mixes and candy. Overall, a wonderful stop in Colorado Springs. I could not have been more charmed or sated. Go there.

Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

Returning to Santa Fe, my sweetie surprised me with a belated yet still welcome birthday cake. Believe it or not, it's one of our favorites: the chocolate decadence cake from the local Whole Foods bakery. They do a very good job, and this one tasted especially sweet. 

Birthday cake

Now, I'm back in Santa Fe for a while, and I'm happy to be settled in one place for a bit. What I'm not quite ready for yet is fall--while I love a nice pumpkin latte or pastry, I'm still ready for summer to go on a bit longer. Ice cream and warm days for liiiiiiiiife!

Oh! I just realized I forgot to tell you, I was reunited with my favorite bike (it's been in storage for close to 2 years!) 

I want to ride my bicycle

Hope it's been a magical summer for you.

Happy summer, happy belated birthday to me, and thank you for sharing my summer adventure, sweeties!

Love, CakeSpy

Postcards from Puerto Rico, Volume 2

Hi, sweeties! I thought it was about time to share a bit more about my Puerto Rican getaway with you. Ready?

Well. My mom arrived to hang out for a week in lovely, sunny, beachy Rincon. First thing we did? Went to get frappés, naturally.

In Rincon, you'll see signs for frappés everywhere. On the side of the road, at specific frappé shops, at ice cream vendors. So what's a frappé

Basically, it's like a frappuccino, but with any sort of flavoring, from soursop to cherry; from oreo to horchata; from queso to coconut. We went to Kahuna Frappé, which is in the Plaza Bonet. I chose the pistachio; mom got the pineapple. They topped them, I will guiltily admit, with cool-whip. They were just as amazing as they look: taste-wise, falling somewhere between a milkshake and a smoothie. Creamy and sweet and milky; mashed with ice, but not icy. A real delight. 

Frappes, Kahuna Frappe, Rincon

We also hit up a place called Cowboys, where they have horse rides (alas, not on the day of our visit as it was raining) and savory food. This also happened there, I thought I should tell you.

Puerto Rico

I did some sweet art on another rainy day. Love art

We went to an outdoor flea market and checked out some of the candy. It's very sweet and tends to be coconut-heavy.

Candy

I also realized I must be more famous than I thought, if they have murals of me at ice cream shops in Puerto Rico.

Flea market

On Sunday, we attended the farmer's market, where we got our fill of tasty foods. One vegan baker was selling sweets of all sorts; we picked up a vegan brownie and a ginger-lemonade. The brownie surprised me. It was more cakey, which I typically don't go for, but the lightness worked in this case: it was like eating brownie bread. Brownie bread, I have decided, is a superior type of bread to zucchini. Just in case you've ever wondered.

Vegan brownie

The baker in question was a very cool dudette who had actually gone to FIT; since I went to Pratt, we had a New York connection in common. There are actually a surprising amount of Northeasterners here, for various reasons. Some are surfers; some like the cheaper lifestyle; others come to live off the grid. It makes for great people watching and some interesting conversations. 

Vegan brownie, Puerto Rico

I also picked up a baggie of toasted coconut. I've been hitting this lady up every week--it's so simple but so good. 

Puerto Rico

We went to a fruit vendor and picked up what he called "guava pears" which he had grown on his property. A google search of guava pear resulted only in that guavas are related to pears, so maybe I just had a small guava? It looked different from guava I have seen before but apparently this is a regular kind.  Anyone have any info to offer on this? 

Guava

We went back to Dulcis Vita, which was a fantastic moment because I got more cheesecake. Yay!

Cheesecake

On this visit I also observed that they have amazing tables that can read minds. Whoa!

Cupcakes table

So. Much. Mango.

Mango

A few days into my mom's visit, I was able to "get" another yoga pose that has been eluding me. Seriously: look at this! Thanks to Centro La Paz for keeping me in yoga shape.

Foot behind head

We had a wonderful mofongo (a mashed plantain specialty here) feast at The Red Flamboyen, which has flamboyen trees all around.

Mofongo, Red Flamboyen

On a rainy day, I took a little while to practice drawing flamboyen flowers. They're so strange yet beautiful!

We went out for ice cream at Tip-Top Ice Cream in downtown Rincon, and I got the corn ice cream. If I had to describe it, I'd say it tasted like what creamed corn aspires to be in a dessert world. It was quite addictive, actually--if you ever see corn gelato or ice cream, GET IT.

Corn ice cream, Tip-Top, Rincon, Puerto Rico

I made biscuits. I'll share the recipe really soon.

Homemade biscuits

I got a new bracelet with my name on it.

Bracelet

I also learned how to make marshmallow fluff from marshmallows. I'll share that post on Craftsy in the next few weeks, so lucky you.

Fluff

I also met a new friend.

New friend

We didn't forget to treat ourselves; so yes, another tropical cocktail was maybe consumed.

And of course, I did some more sea glass paintings! Here's one in reverse.

Puerto Rico

Sadly I'm leaving Puerto Rico in a couple of days but I've had such a joyous time.

Happy summer! Love, CakeSpy 

Postcards from Puerto Rico, Volume 1

Seaglass paintings

Greetings from sunny Puerto Rico, my sweet readers! I don't know if I have ever told you this, but my parents have a house here, in the lovely beachside town of Rincón. I realize that this might make us seem wealthy or something, but it's really not like that. My dad, who has been a surfer since his teens, scrimped and saved and was able to make this house happen. Isn't that cool?

Casa rosa

While that is inspiring, that is not the point of this post--it's just to explain why I am here. It's a nice and quiet place to spend time, write, and do artwork. 

Puerto Rico

I have been doing a ton of work on my potential memoir (as referenced in this post), and have been really pleased with the result so far. 

But that's not all I've done, so I thought I would share a few snapshots of the tasty times I'm having. Consider it a virtual series of postcards, from me to you!

I mastered a yoga pose I've been trying to get for weeks, just in time for my dad to capture a beach shot. Woot! A huge thanks goes to my teacher Leia Hays for helping me master this one.

 

I did a series of "dessert confession" illustrations with all of my dessert-y quirks. Dessert Confessions Dessert Confessions

And even though per my "confessions" I am often underwhelmed by panaderia offerings, there is a treat in Puerto Rico that is always an exception...we get ours at La Rincoeña...Downtown Rincon, Puerto Rico

The treat I speak of is cupcake-sized macaroons known as "Besitos de coco". They are made by a local wholesaler and are available at many of the bakeries. They're rich as all get-out. I love them.

Macaroon

After my dad left, I decided to bake a cake, a sort of adaptation of basbousa, but made with olive oil for a mediterranean feel. It came out quite well, and I shared some with my neighbors.

Olive Oil Cake

On a rainy afternoon, I did a series of teeny tiny paintings on seaglass. 

Seaglass paintings - puerto rico Seaglass paintings - Puerto RicoSeaglass paintings - Puerto Rico Seaglass paintings - Puerto Rico

While going to the aforementioned panaderia, we had noticed a new bakery in town, called Dulcis Vita. They do more American-style cupcakes and cakes. I went back a few days later, and I got an Oreo cupcake and some chocolate cheesecake.

Cupcake, dulcis vita, puerto rico

Living up to my "dessert confession" I put salt on the cheesecake before devouring. Was it ever good. I was impressed by both the cheesecake and cupcake. Very good, better-than-mom-made type of stuff.

Dulcis vita, Puerto rico

I checked out the art walk downtown, which was very sweet. One of my favorite sights was a truck that pulled up to sell lanterns. It looked like a truck full of rainbows, and it made me smile.

Art walk, Rincon, Puerto Rico

I did a series of "sweets and yoga poses" illustrations, just for fun.

Yoga

And, OK, yes, there was maybe a tropical cocktail involved somewhere in all this.

So, you're getting the idea behind my tasty adventure in pretty Puerto Rico. If you'll excuse me, I need to go to the store to pick up some supplies to make my own besitos de coco...stay tuned for the recipe next week!

Happy summer!

Bali Diary: Seniman Coffee is Amazing

Seniman coffee, Bali

I really need to tell you about this experience I had in Bali. I mean, I've had a lot of experiences that have been great here, but one of my favorite things day to day has been the fact that they give you cookies with your lattes. It starts every day out right.

Of course, that was until now. Seniman Coffee has raised the bar, and I don't know if cookies will be enough anymore. Because they give you the thing pictured above with your coffee. Please, allow me to explain.

Seniman coffee, Bali

So, I go to Seniman Coffee, a popular spot with expats and a place that every person in Portland would probably faint from happiness if they saw it, and order a latte.

A few minutes later, a little tray is delivered to me with three separate segments. One contains a latte (duh). One contains a cup of water (nice touch). The third contains what looks like a cigar or thin, mini burrito. I'm intrigued.

Seniman coffee, Bali

What's this? I wonder.

Seniman coffee, Bali

I take a bite.

Seniman coffee, Bali

Holy crap! It's delicious! It's like a pancake, wrapped burrito style, and it contains a coconutty mixture. Oh my god! I love this thing. I actually had the willpower to put it back on its tray so that I could take a photo to show you all.

Seniman coffee, Bali

I grab the closest server. "What is this?" I ask.

As it turns out, it's a traditional sweet called jaje dadar, which is said to be frequently doled out with coffee (though this was the first I'd ever seen it).

It's simply a crepe-like pancake prettily wrapped around a mix of coconut and palm sugar. But it is so, so good. I want this experience to happen every time I order coffee. Also every time I visit an ATM. Actually, I would like someone to follow me around and dole these out at regular intervals.

Seniman coffee, Bali

It's a fantastic two-bite treat, and I am so delighted that I've had it. This is definitely the best coffee accessory sweet that has been delivered to me in Bali. 

Seniman coffee, Bali

Oh, and the latte was pretty good, too. The theme at Seniman is "Imagine you know what you are doing", and when I'm there, I don't imagine, I know--I'm eating something awesome.

Love from Bali,

CakeSpy

Mentioned: Seniman Coffee, Ubud. Online here.

 

Bali Diary: Chilly and Raw Desserts

Bali

Listen. Teaching kindergarten in Bali is tough work. It's very rewarding, but it's also exhausting--you have to be "on" the entire time, and you definitely have language barriers. But it is so special when you can break through, and I have found that the best way (for me) is through visual arts.


But don't worry about my work load too much, because my life is also punctuated by dessert after delicious dessert. I guess now would be a good time to tell you about a few of the desserts I’ve been eating in Bali. Today I’ll focus on a couple chilled, and a couple of raw desserts. No particular order: you’re just freewheeling, Bali-style, with me.

Bali

First up, we will talk about the “Cloud 9” from Alchemy (remember, I told you about them last week). That's the pretty bit pictured at the top of the post. This raw cake or, as I would call it, pie, was a most interesting specimen. Made from cashews, irish sea moss, and citrus, it had a lovely berry topping. The taste wasn’t what I expected, which was cheesecake-esque, but once my taste buds acclimated it was quite a subtle and lovely cake. 

Bali

We’ll take a break from raw and talk about a chilly dessert I had, from Funny Monkey (an outpost of Clear Cafe). Bali It was a kind of milkshake-y smoothie thing. I’d been passing this place every day for a week or so and was oddly fascinated by their vacuum-packed sweets (containing healthy and/or raw desserts of every type, packed as if they were salami in the refrigerated aisle) in their "to go" section.

But when push came to shove I settled for the free samples of the vacuum packed stuff and invested in the “Coconut Dream” which had coconut cream, frozen yogurt, and pineapple. I know—it really sounds like health food. But the coconut was creamy and rich enough that it passed for a really pleasant (if somewhat healthy) dessert. Plus, it was cooling on a very balmy bali evening. 

Bali

Back to raw. I need to tell you about this choco-citrus tart I had at SOMA. I had ended up here after an event called “Ecstatic Dance”, which is basically a yoga dance party at the nearby Yoga Barn, where I have been spending a fair amount of time in Bali. My friend got flatbread or something boring, and I got this splendid thing.

Bali

It made me reconsider my personal dislike of chocolate and citrus, because it was like a fancier, more refined version of lemon meringue pie in a chocolate crust. 

Bali

OK, now, back to chilly. Gelato Secrets was certainly part of my destiny—I knew it from the moment I saw the cute pink sign. When I went, they had a lovely selection of little chilled pastries, including mini baked alaskas and gelato sandwiched between gingerbread men cookies. Of course, they also gelato and sorbetto, including the prettiest of the batch, the rich purple dragonfruit. Did I go for the prettiest? No, I went for the creamiest. I got the panna cotta flavor, because I have fond memories of just such a flavor from Bottega Italiano in Seattle. This was just as good—so creamy. No gritty texture, no milky or low-fat flavor. This tasted like licking sweet caramelly cream. 

Bali

On a return trip to Gelato Secrets, I got their gelato cupcake, which was chocolate and vanilla gelato in an edible chocolate cup. I didn't realize the cup was chocolate until they gave it to me in a container. I loved life, and Bali, so much at that moment.

I don’t know if this one was raw, but I do know it was vegan. It was a sorbet from Atman, a cafe with a couple of gelato/sorbetto stands flanking the main restaurant, where they serve their lattes with tiny heart-shaped cookies.

Bali

The girl behind the counter saw me looking at her display and drew me in. I opted for the soursop, which I was told was made like so: mash the fruit, add a little sugar, and chill it. That’s it. It tasted way better than the hippie food it sounds like. It tasted like eating the sweet essence of fresh fruit. 

Bali


OK, that’s it for now. If it’s cold where you are, then maybe the desserts matched your weather; if it’s hot, I hope reading about them refreshed you.

Places mentioned:

Alchemy

SOMA

Gelato Secrets

Clear Cafe

Atman Kafe

Love from Bali,

CakeSpy

Bali Diary: The Lattes Come With Cookies Here

Kopi desa latte

I have a latte love for a nice cup of coffee. And in Bali, they really take the cake. Well, more like the cookie.

Because, friends, I have something so wonderful to tell you. And it's not that I made a traditional flower offering, although I did do that, too: Bali

The thing I have to tell you is this: In Bali, they give you a cookie with your coffee. Coffee and cookies

It’s seriously the cutest and best thing ever.

I’ve had a latte almost every day I have been here; I’m not typically a latte drinker, but these small ones are more like a cafe au lait in New Orleans, and they’re really nice. And not every location does it, but certainly enough times that I have taken note, the latte has come with a cookie. Some other types of coffee too, but once again, inconsistent. The latte seems to reliably come with a cookie as opposed to a Bali coffee or espresso. 

Here are some of my favorites so far. 

Atman Kafe, Bali

At Atman Kafe, they deliver your latte with a cute little heart shaped cookie.

Cookie with latte, atman

It’s a crumbly, shortbread-y cookie with a salty-sweet flavor that crumbles in your mouth and makes you want to eat many, many more. 

At Kué, the cookies are tiny anisette biscotti. 

Bali

They’ll give you two of them.

Bali

Their crispy nature makes them well-suited to dipping in the pretty tricolor coffee (which mixes slowly as you drink it; it's quite amazing), or I like to use them like a chip and treat the foam on the latte as dip. It pleases me to do so and I will continue, no matter what you say. 

Kue, bali

At Kopi Desa, they give you a miniature crispy chocolate chip cookie. You can also note how prettily they wrap the napkin around the spoon. This also happens a lot here. Kopi desa latte

Once again, it’s a dipper, and turns the perfect texture for putting in your mouth when gently dipped in your latte. 

I know this is just a few samples, but I just need to tell you, I love that this is a thing in Bali.

Listen, USA. If Bali can make cookies with lattes a thing, can’t we? I hope that every coffee shop owner in the nation (and perhaps world) will view this post and take note.  

F.r.e.a.k. coffee

Places mentioned:

Atman Kafe

Kué

Kopi Desa

Latte love from Bali,

CakeSpy 

Sweet Find: Alchemy, Penestanan, Bali

Photo via Alchemy Bali

I have a confession to make: in Bali, I've been eating...

health food.

You heard me right, but I want to assure you that everything is OK. I haven't abandoned you. Because as it turns out, even health food can be naughty every now and again.

I'm talking raw desserts. They have no leavening, so they're usually nice and dense, often luxuriant with coconut oil as a key ingredient.

And--I know, you wouldn't expect this from me--fresh fruit is amazing here. Stay with me.

The establishment which has inspired my healthy kick is none other than Alchemy, a raw and vegan cafe in Penestanan, a neighboring area to the more famous Ubud. Seriously, everything here is so good.

Alchemy, bali

We'll start with their breakfast parfait bar, OK? You start by picking a type of yogurt or milk, and then get to add on five toppings (you can get more for an up-charge). Alchemy, bali

Choosing is difficult with a rainbow of fruits fresher than I've ever tasted, nuts, muesli, dried fruits, and--my favorite--the raw coconut whipped cream. I don't know how they make that stuff, but I don't care if it's vegan or gluten free or raw: I could eat it by the bucket. 

Alchemy, bali

So here's what you might get after you choose.

Alchemy, bali

Afternoons, they have a full menu and juice bar. Everything is made to order, and incredibly fresh - like, you can taste the trees the fruit came from, and the sweet air of Bali. 

Alchemy, bali

But most importantly, they have a generous case of raw desserts. They are all delightfully dense. This makes me happy, especially when the dessert in question is a smoothly luxuriant chocolate mousse cake or a cacao truffle or even a spirulina slice which looks surprisingly like a Nanaimo bar. 

Here are just a few (photos from their website). All of these desserts are raw.

It's all good, too. The only problem is that they don't do espresso here and gosh that would be nice with these sweet treats. Guess we'll have to leave that to Kué up the street--more on that later. 

And--how cute is this--if you get something small to go, they will wrap it in a banana leaf. It's a good reminder: OMG! You're in Bali! Awesome!

Alchemy, bali

If you don't think you'll be making it to Bali anytime soon, they do have a number of recipes on their site!

Alchemy, Penestanan, Bali. Online here.

Sweet to Eat: Caramels by Liddabit Sweets

Caramels

Are you hungry? A lot, or just a Liddabit?

Well, either way, Liddabit Sweets is well worth a look. This Brooklyn-based confection operation has a splendid roster of sweets, and a convenient Chelsea Market retail location where you can go in NYC and buy them all. And a book, so you can try some of their finest recipes in the comfort of your own home. 

Listen, most of these photos are from their website because whoever took their photos is better than me. Thanks in advance youse guys!

They make fancy, expensive homemade candy bars (they're expensive for a reason--check out their "candy bar economics" here). And brittles. And turtles. And honeycomb candy. And fancy caramel corn. But seriously, at this moment, we are here to talk about the caramels. 

Tasting them very quickly shows that these people know what they are doing, are confident in their abilities, but aren't afraid to have a little fun. 

So what makes their caramels so great? They're fancy, but not too fancy. They're still accessible to all sorts of palates, bringing to mind the nostalgia of those cubes of caramel, but tasting even better than your idealized version of them.

So what's on the caramel roster?

Everyone, at this point, has been exposed to salty caramel as a flavor, so it's hardly new. But it's delicious anew when you have a particularly toothsome specimen in your mouth, and Liddabit Sweets' version does just that. They have them plain, and chocolate-covered. Try both to see which you like better.

They do have creative flavors, too, that you probably have NOT seen before, such as stout gingerbread (stout the beer, not stout like Santa Claus), apple cider (like a caramel apple spice), beer-n-pretzel (sweet and salty!), and black truffle caramels made with truffle oil (the kind the special pigs find, not the chocolate kind). It's a good mix of high and low on the menu. 

And then there's my favorite, the fig-ricotta caramel. Oh, hi. When I tasted it, I was surprised by the flavor. It tasted figgy...but somehow not mellow. Creamy, yes, but with a little...something.

Well, I looked it up on their site, and as the description notes, 

Loaded with sweet bits of dried fig and touched with balsamic vinegar, these caramels are one of our most sophisticated treats. A delightful addition to a cheese plate, they're also great with a sip of port - or just on their own.

Dude! That's it! Vinegar!

Caramels

The vinegar is quite a brilliant addition to these caramels. It performs, flavor-wise, a similar function to salt, in that it takes away the "sweet and nothing else" characteristic that lesser caramels all too often posess. It also, similarly to salt in caramels, makes them intriguing and makes you lustful for another bite right away. I wonder if they make a special jumbo half-pound size of these caramels? 

If you are a caramel lover like me, I don't believe you will be disappointed by these unique sweets.

Liddabit Sweets, shop and look online here, or go to the retail location in the historic Chelsea Market.

Oh My Tasty: Church of Cupcakes, Denver CO

Church of Cupcakes

I tell you, sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. And so here is a tale that involves not only delicious cupcakes, but my big burly dad, a tricycle, and maybe a little sweet gosel. Yep: here is the tale of how my big burly dad found himself fixing the cupcake trike at Church of Cupcakes in Denver.

I was in Denver, among other reasons, to visit the Craftsy HQ. I have written a number of scintillating articles on important subjects such as How to Make Nanaimo Bars and How to Make Crumb Cake and How to Make Butter at Home for these people, and I wanted to meet them. It was a great experience! Here I am with the editorial staff I usually work with. Cute, right?

My dad was with me in Denver, and since we were a little early for my appointment with Craftsy, we decided to get our cupcake on. Naturally, we headed over to Church of Cupcakes. Don't you already love them based on the name?

We knew we'd found the place when we saw this outside.

Church of Cupcakes

Well, technically I've already been here, but it had a different name the last time I went: Lovely Confections. That name was sweet, this one is cheeky. I love them regardless of the name. 

As we got there, we saw proprietress Porsche fiddling with the cupcake tricycle, their mobile cupcake delivery system.

Church of Cupcakes

Immediately, my manly-man dad stepped in to see what he could do.

Dad at Church of Cupcakes

My dad is a tinkerer. When we were little, he was a garbageman--wait, I think you're supposed to use the word sanitation worker now?--and he loved to collect...well, junk. But he'd turn the junk he collected into treasures, such as the coolest bikes ever, which he pieced together from a wheel found here, handlebars found there. Seriously, they were the coolest bikes on the block, as well as the next block over. 

While he tinkered, Porche met Porkchop the pug for the first time (she's long admired him on facebook), and I ogled the cupcakes. 

Cupcakes

Oh, what cupcakes. We picked up a box of four: vanilla-vanilla, pumpkin ("Oh my Gourd!"), chocolate-salted caramel, and honey. Not long after, me and daddio busted into the box. He had the salty caramel frosted chocolate; I had the lavender-infused cake with honey-lemon frosting. 

I should also pause to tell you how funny and cute everything is in Church of Cupcakes. Cute tees, glitter everywhere, funny puns. I am in love!

Church of Cupcakes

Tees Church of Cupcakes

Listen. I'll be straight up with you, and I would say the same to my dad: he's not what one might call a "mindful" taster. This puppy was gone in 2 bites.

But from his expression, and the fact that he said "that was very good" or something to that tone, it must have been great. The taste I was gifted was awesome: dark chocolate. Light, buttery sweetness. And yummy salt. Perfection.

Church of Cupcakes

And listen. The lavender-honey-lemon variety. Believe it or not, I had without thinking about it chosen the exact thing I had chosen last time. And it was still so, so good.

It had a soupcon of lavender, but it wasn't perfumey by any means. It was delicate. But gawd, was it buttery. The honey-lemon made it taste slightly fancy, but it still had the simple appeal of vanilla. It was a cupcake that made me smile. 

Church of cupcakes

The other two varieties were devoured by my sweetest guy (not Porkchop). He ate both in about 2 bites (so like my dad!) but proclaimed them beautifully done.

Here I am with the owner.

Church of Cupcakes

I think that if you are in Denver, you need to visit. It's sweet and cute there! Perfect.

Church of Cupcakes, 1489 Steele Street, Denver; online here.

Beignet, Done That: Cafe du Monde, New Orleans

I'd love to keep you in suspense about what I ordered at Café du Monde in New Orleans, but if you've ever been there (and perhaps even if you haven't), you will already know the answer: beignets.

Beignets

Not only are they the only foodstuff on the menu, but they're also the dish, accompanied by cafe au lait, for which the establishment is famous.

Qu'est-ce c'est, le beignet?

These heavenly bits of fried dough are related to doughnuts, but they’re far Frenchier. In their purest form, they are simply fried rectangles or triangles of sweet dough that puff and become pillowy when fried. They are served with copious amounts of confectioners’ sugar. More adventurous bakers will offer different flavors and even filled varieties in New Orleans, but it's pretty straight-up at Café du Monde.

More about Cafe du Monde.

Beignets, cafe du monde

Perhaps the most famous beignet maker in town is this Café du Monde, which has been beignet-ing it since--believe it--1862. It is open 24 hours a day in the historic French Quarter and specializes in beignets and coffee laced with chicory. Are they the best in town? Locals have varying opinions, but it’s a singular and necessary experience in New Orleans. To be sitting "courtside" in the covered outdoor seating area and watching buskers, local vendors, and passers-by, and just generally seeing the world go by, is as evocative a New Orleans image as eating a croissant in Paris, or having tea in the UK.

Listen. Not that you asked me, but the 'Monde has several locations that you shouldn't bother with if your time is limited. The true experience is at the original location, on Decatur street, in the French Market.

How it works

Cafe du monde

Café du Monde runs a tight machine. You arrive, and you sit. Your napkin holder is also your menu. Of course you want beignets, but what to drink? Cafe au lait (do it)? Or just plain chicory coffee? They do other, fancier drinks, too, but don't bother. 

The beignets will arrive, three on a plate, with an almost comical amount of confectioners' sugar forming mountaintop peaks on top. The sugar partially dissolves into the fried pastries as you eat, but it is pretty much guaranteed that you will leave the establishment looking like you have a serious cocaine problem. You know, from what I have seen on TV. 

You may think to yourself that you won't finish the beignets, but you will. Because even if you've heard that there are better beignets in town, it is hard to beat this experience and they are quite good. If there are two of you, you might just order more. Just let it happen--you're in New Orleans, after all. It's a good place to let it all hang out, and everyone deserves a treat. 

Beignet, done that

Cafe du Monde, 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans. Online here.

CakeSpy Undercover: Angelo Brocato, New Orleans

IMAG6104

It's probably about time that I tell you about my trip to Angelo Brocato in New Orleans. It's been there since 1905, so it's about time you made it over. 

Listen, I forget how I learned about this place. Probably on a website, or in a guide book. That is to say--it's not an unknown place. But I am here to tell you that when you read about it on a website or a guide book, you must listen to what the people say. You must go to Angelo Brocato in New Orleans.

It's a little out there. It's not on Bourbon Street, it's not in the Garden District. But it's worth a jaunt. 

When you get there, you'll see this sign outside. Don't you love it already?

Angelo Brocato

When you go inside, you'll be greeted by a big bakery case, and next to it, a big gelato case. And then, there are chilled desserts.

Brocato

Bakery case Gelato

What will you choose? I'll tell you what we chose. Maybe that will give you some ideas.

We'll start with the cassata.

Cassata

Let's make that two.

Two cassata

If you've never heard of the stuff, Cassata is a traditional Sicilian treat. It starts with sponge cake which is drenched in liqueur, then layered with a cannoli-esque cream then sealed in with marzipan and candied fruit. I don't know if that tells you how delicious it is, though. It's rich and surprisingly not over-sweet, delicate yet substantial. The one at Angelo Brocato is wonderful, and full of almond-y flavor which works beautifully with the cream. This marzipan was so good I wanted to marry it. 

But...as great as the cassata is, it's even better with gelato.

Cassata with gelato

On to the ricotta cheesecake.

Ricotta cheesecake

It's just gently sweet, crumbly and somewhat dry--not in a bad way, but you definitely want some coffee or tea with this guy.

Next up was a "Greek cap", basically a puff pastry stuffed with almond cream. It tasted like the best part of an almond croissant, all condensed into a little hockey puck shape.

Greek Cap

Are you still hungry? I'm still hungry. How about some chocolate and hazelnut gelato? Gelato

It's so smooth and creamy--I think this is my favorite gelato since Capogiro in Philadelphia.

So, basically, to summarize. Before:

All of it

AFTER:

Finished

And it was such a joy to do it. Please, let me urge you strongly to visit Angelo Brocato--as soon as humanly possible. It's old school, it's quality, it's a joy. I hope they do it for a hundred years more and longer.

Angelo Brocato, 214 N. Carrolton Street, New Orleans. Online here.