Mid-Week Tangent: Cider Wednesdays

Lately, mid-week has become a time for Wine Wednesdays (see here, here, here and here), where I write about my experiences at local wineries.  Today, I’m shifting gears ever-so-slightly and focusing on cider. It doesn’t have quite the same alliterative ring to it, but I’m going to own it nonetheless.

I’ve found that people’s stance on cider varies wildly. Some love the overly sweet, mass-produced ciders we find at the local liquor store. Others hate cider precisely because of those mass-produced, overly sweetened ciders. In other words, our views on cider can be complicated. Also, for those of you who do love the sweet ciders, I’m sorry but this post is not going to be for you. I mean, you still might like the post, but you won’t like the ciders I discuss. For everyone else who loves ultra dry ciders, this post and the ciders described within it are for you. Here we go!

Region: north okanagan

Cidery:  BX Press Cidery & Orchard (Vernon, BC)

Varieties:  Prospector & Bandit

Price Point: $8-9 bucks per 500 mL bottle

Brief and non-technical Tasting Notes:  Let me start off by saying that I love every single cider I’ve ever tasted at BX, with the exception of one. So in choosing two to highlight, I am by no means saying that the others aren’t worth it. They have many seasonal offerings which are either done til next year (their winter seasonal offerings) or which are not yet ready (summer offerings); today’s two ciders are my two personal favourites among the mix of ciders currently available.

The Prospector: Being a fan of tart white wines and sour ales, this slightly tart and ultra dry cider has been a personal fave since the first time I tried it. It mixes apples and crab-apples and, while I can’t definitively say it’s the crab apples that gives the cider its tartness, I definitely assume that it’s part of the magic. This is super, crazy refreshing on a hot day and I consider it to be a worthy replacement for any beer.

The Bandit: Right at the onset I said that sweet cider lovers would find nothing here, and I was sort of wrong. The Bandit is apple cider blended with real cherry juice. While I wouldn’t characterize the cider as ‘sweet’, it’s certainly the sweetest of the ciders I’ve tried at BX. That said, it’s still refreshing and not at all cloying and it goes brilliantly well with potato chips for reasons I don’t quite understand. If you aren’t really into ciders, trust me when I say this will be your gateway cider.

Cidery Vibes:  Cidery vibes are super important yet underrated. This is the feeling that you get when you walk into a space, and is influenced by things such as: aesthetics, decor, set up, staff friendliness and knowledge, sampling protocol (free vs. fees, sampling variety, etc.), snobbiness vs. accessibility, etc.).

The BX doesn’t just have a tasting room, they have a full-on tasting experience. They do a whole presentation along with their tastings. While some people might just want the cider, I appreciate that this makes trying their ciders more of an outing than a five minute sampling. Plus, there are some really cool stories about the region and cidery’s history, including harrowing tales of a gold thief and prison escape. Bonus points: their visual aids are (professionally) drawn on cardboard. It feels homey and quaint and personal. It does not hurt that you get anywhere from 3-6 sizeable cider tastings to accompany the story.

You will sit at large communal tables, which means getting to know a bit about some other people. That’s not everyone’s thing, but there’s not a ton of time for small talk so I’ve never found it to be awkward (and I am not one for small talk with strangers). You may have to wait for the tasting because it comes with a story, but it’s never more than 15 minutes and there’s orchards to be viewed and a little shop with quaint decor that will keep you distracted.

Tastings are by donation, which is a lovely thing these days. Apparently they tried to implement a tasting fee earlier this year, but it felt wrong to them. I like that they are honouring who they are, and I imagine people are actually more generous when they aren’t forced to pay. Or at least I am.

This is a brilliant place to stop and visit when the hankering for cider strikes, or a fantastic place to go if you’re not sure you even like cider yet. No matter what, go check it out. It’s fun, it’s informative and, most importantly, it’s delicious. Cider on, my friends.

*It probably goes without saying, but I have received no compensation for writing this. BX has no idea who I am, nor do I have a followership on this blog that would inspire anyway to pay me for writing nice things about them.

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Mid-Week Tangent: my love for ice cream DOES have limits

When we told people we were going to Portland a couple weeks ago, almost everyone told us that we absolutely had to go to Salt and Straw. As a passionate lover of ice cream, I gladly accepted a recommendation. I’ve heard of Salt and Straw before and figured it couldn’t hurt to try it.

After 2.5 days of wandering, eating and drinking our way through PDX, it was time to give Salt & Straw a try. And so, on our last day in town, which wasn’t even a full day in that would had to leave for the airport mid-afternoon, I dragged my poor better all the way to Nob Hill (i.e. up a giant hill from our downtown hotel…in 30+ degree heat) for the sole purpose of checking out Salt & Straw.

We got there around 12:30 and headed straight inside where there appeared to be a small line (I couldn’t actually tell if the people hovering were in line and just not paying attention to the fact that the line had moved up, or just  milling about).  I figured we should strike while the ice cream iron was hot (i.e. while the line was short), but my partner reminded me that we hadn’t eaten lunch yet and should probably do that first. Personally, I don’t subscribe to only eating dessert after a proper meal, but I’d also eaten no actual, healthy food in three days so I conceded for once.

That was where I made my mistake. Had I gone for my usual footloose and fancy free “eat dessert whenever the hell you feel like it” approach, I would be writing about their ice cream, rather than rambling on about the limits to my love for ice cream. Instead, we ate a sensible lunch (salad, no less!) and returned almost two hours later to find that the line for ice cream had extended to outside the shop, snaking itself around the corner and doubling over itself into two rows.

I still stand by my initial thought which was ‘Good God, all this for ice cream?!?! It cannot be that good.’ I was eyeing up the ice cream of those sitting outside, those who hadn’t foolishly arrived at 2:30pm on a hot, sunny Sunday, which also happened to be Mother’s Day. It looked, dare I say, like any other ice cream. People were oohing and ahhhing over it, but wouldn’t you do the same if you’d just waited in line for the better part of an hour? I know I would, if only just to prove it hadn’t been a total waste of my time.

Alas, we got in line anyway, and I was doing the mental math on how long it would take to serve the scores of people ahead of us, most of whom I imagined greedily sampling every flavour under the sun before hemming and hawing over their final choice as if an ice cream choice ever has any real consequence (and I say this as an ice cream obsessive). My mental math, and the fact that we hadn’t advanced at all in five minutes, was telling me that this was easily an hour-long line up.

It was at this point that I was faced with a dilemma: do I suck it up and waste my last hours in Portland waiting in line for ice cream that, quite likely, is overhyped and merely good, or do I walk away never knowing if this was the one ice cream shop whose ice cream isn’t highly overrated?  You can tell the title of this post that my choice was to walk away. Because even though I love ice cream probably more than any other confection, and even though a good ice cream is such a magically wondrous delight, and even though I live to write posts about any ice cream experience good or bad, apparently there is a limit to my love for ice cream.

That limit is a one hour line.

Mid-Week Tangent: Wine Wednesdays

One of the reasons we moved to our new place was proximity to BC’s wine country. I mean, technically we’re in BC wine country, but the Northern Okanagan is mostly white wines and, while I’m game to drink a white wine every now and again on a blistering hot day, I’m mostly team red and red wines are rarer this far North.  That said, instead of being a 5ish hour drive to our favourite wineries farther South, we’re now 1.5-3 hours. That’s a game changer. Thus, I proclaim this the summer of all the wines.

I have dabbled in this space with attempting to find the perfect cake and the perfect gelato, all to no avail I might add. Now I’m setting my targets on wines. Rest assured, I’m not seeking perfection here. Tastes in wine are far too personal for me to label anything as perfect.  However, as we explore more and more wineries in the area, I thought it would be fun to share fun surprises and finds as we spend increasingly more time stocking our wine cellar (sidenote: our “wine cellar” is just the storage room in our basement aka the coolest room in our house…although one day we dream of a legit wine cellar. Sigh.). So whenever we visit wineries, I’ll try to pick a personal fave from the day and share with you some of the highlights of the wine and the whole vineyard experience.

An important caveat:  I’m not a wine expert by any means. I have no wine jargon and lingo to offer you. I’ve watched all the sommelier documentaries on Netflix and can safely say that I will never describe a wine as tasting like freshly cut rubber hose, nor do I think anyone other than a master sommelier could ever appreciate what that means (and really, what does that mean???).  I am lucky if I can discern an obvious flavour note like cherry or cassis.  Mostly, my wine strategy is as follows:

1. taste wine
2. see if it makes me think “yum!”
3. buy wine and enjoy in large quantities whenever the mood strikes

See? Really high criteria I’ve got, isn’t it? So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at one of my favourite finds from our most recent wine weekend.

Region: Naramata

Winery: Deep Roots 

Varietal: Gamay Noir

Price Point: $24 (including tax). It’s not cheap, but nothing in the Okanagan is really cheap anymore, but it’s also far more reasonable than other wineries where prices are often creeping into the mid-$30s.

Brief and non-technical Tasting Notes:  A gamay is essentially a beaujolais, which means it’s light and fruity and perfect for sipping on its own or with food. I love me a good gamay, but if lighter style wines aren’t your jam, this wine won’t blow your mind. To be truthful, it didn’t blow my mind either, but it was very tasty and even refreshing, which isn’t often a word I use to describe a red wine. I imagine this wine alongside a wide array of cheeses, while sitting in the sunshine on my new patio, staring at the orchards across the valley.  When I imagine this, it seems to be a rather perfect moment and, therefore, I recommend this wine.

Winery Vibes:  Winery vibes are super important yet underrated. This is the feeling that you get when you walk into a space, and is influenced by things such as: aesthetics, decor, set up, staff friendliness and knowledge, sampling protocol (free vs. fees, sampling variety, etc.), snobbiness vs. accessibility, etc.

Deep Roots gets an A+ for me on winery vibes. From the second I walked in this door (actually, from the second I saw their logo), I knew I would like this winery. There is no pretentiousness here. You will be welcomed by two winery dogs (who are also completely friendly, in case dogs are not your jam), and by the winemaker’s father. He is clearly proud of his son and it shows in how he speaks about the history of the winery, and the wines they produce. It is a refreshing contrast to some of the wineries in our region where you sometimes encounter staff who appear to know nothing more about the wine than what’s written on the paper in front of them.

You will sample up to 6 wines, which is fairly generous, and there is no talk of tasting fees. I appreciate this as I’ve found the BC wineries to be getting more and more in your face about tasting fees. I am not opposed to paying for tasting. I simply don’t want to be hammered over the head with talk of fees before I even get wine in my face.  There was a community feel to the tasting as we crowded around the small tasting bar with perfect strangers.  Although I usually despise talking to strangers, it is somehow okay and even enjoyable when wine is involved. Bottom line: this is a friendly and generous wine tasting environment and worth visiting if you’re passing through Naramata.*

 

*It probably goes without saying, but I have received no compensation for writing this. Deep Roots has no idea who I am, nor do I have a followership on this blog that would inspire anyway to pay me for writing nice things about them.

 

 

 

 

Mid-Week Tangent: in which we visit the roadside fudgery

North American highways are a treasure trove of the random and wonderful.  Washington State, for instance, is the land of the roadside, drive-thru coffee stand. Maybe this is something all of America has latched on to, but I can safely say it’s not something that Canadians have adopted and, therefore, it feels wonderfully odd to me.

But the oddities don’t stop at coffee kiosks, not even the one that’s a mini replica of a windmill.  On our most recent trip to Leavenworth we also encountered the reptile zoo, which boasts not only an albino alligator but a two-headed turtle (!!!) and “the most extensive collection of reptiles in the pacific northwest.” I’d like to say we checked it out,  but I scoffed at the entrance fee so I cannot confirm if it is, in fact, a gold mine of reptilian life forms.

Then there was the knife sharpening shop mid-way between Monroe, Washington and Leavenworth, tucked cozily into a brief break in the rock faces lining Highway 2.  I wonder who its patrons are, who might desperately need to sharpen a knife as they are barreling down the highway towards or away from a Bavarian mountain village. There is no other civilization around this shop and it occurs to me the proprietor may have just thought “I sharpen knives and I suppose this is as good a place  as any to do it.”

But clearly the biggest treasure we found on our highway journey, the reason for this very post, was the roadside fudgery.  Similar to the knife sharpener, this little fudgery’s location defies the norms of society, which would imply that one is not likely to go for a drive down the highway nor to pull off the highway just for fudge.  It is tucked into a highway pullout far enough outside of Leavenworth that its faint Bavarian stylings don’t quite make sense unless you’re familiar with the area. Its exterior and locale, however, are not the only perplexing elements of this roadside stop.

Inside, one discovers that fudge is just one of this shop’s offerings. There is a surprisingly robust assortment of hot sauces, horseradishes and mustards, many of which you can sample, because who doesn’t want to try before they buy when it comes to condiments?  Never mind that the mix of products is overwhelming and illogical. Hot sauce and mustard, chocolate, taffy, dressings, sauces, salsas, and, yes, even my beloved fudge. This is the joy of the roadside fudge stand. It doesn’t have to make sense. You pull over expecting fudge and you get so much more.

And let’s talk fudge, because that is obviously the reason for my pulling over.  I have no time for hot sauces and horseradish, although my boyfriend and my friend’s husband were excited enough to purchase some. I wanted the good stuff. I was promised fudge and there would be fudge. I was impressed with the selection of fudges, the number of which rivaled those  found in my number one favourite fudgery in Banff.  With so many to choose from, naturally it took me a solid five minutes to make my choices (butterfinger and vanilla praline chew*, if you must know).

And here is where my love for this little roadside fudgery grows even stronger. Because in making my selections and attempting to order, I encountered classic roadside point of interest service: a carefully crafted mix of indifference, mild disdain or perhaps merely an utter disinterest in those stopping by. The two clerks carried on their own conversation for a full two minutes before pausing to serve me fudge, the kind of conversation that has deep undertones of annoyance and bitterness about whomever they were discussing. Clearly someone had done them wrong.

Regardless of their backstory, I stood there unsupported and desperately wanting my fudge. It occurred to me that this is what the roadside fudgery, or any roadside attraction for that matter, is all about. These clerks know that we are a solid 15 minutes of driving from any other form of fudge. They have us. They also know that someone who stops on the highway for fudge is probably so deeply passionate about fudge that she is the type of person who cannot wait another 15 minutes even if it means putting up with shitty service (and, in my case, they are right).

They are successful because there will always be travelers lured in by the lone roadside attraction that is both strangely out of place yet perfectly positioned all at the same time. They know that within a certain percentage of the population there are some who desperately crave those places that defy all logic, that fulfill our need to find a hidden gem, that satisfy our desire to experience a little bit of the bizarre as we cruise down the highway. Thank you The Alps Candy, for filling that void on a lonely stretch of Highway 2.

 

*For those actually curious about the fudge itself, is was pretty good.  The vanilla praline chew was the clear winner of the two I tried, but both were fairly tasty, though not quite up to par with my Banff fudgery. I also purchased a small bag of assorted taffy which I wouldn’t recommend unless you are looking to extract some of your molars.

 

 

 

Mid-Week Tangent: ode to a Bavarian-themed town

Last weekend, we made our third annual trek to the town of Leavenworth. It would be more impressive if I could tell you it’s the only town where you can be served schnitzel by someone dressed in lederhosen while being serenaded by the sweet sounds of an accordion, but there are actually a surprising number of these towns scattered across North America.  Regardless, today I share my ode to Leavenworth, a town that holds a special place in my heart.

What makes it so special? Leavenworth may be the only Bavarian-themed town where you can buy a supposedly authentic stein in one shop, then walk next door to buy your toddler a trendy scarf printed with hot pink unicorns. Leavenworth may be the only Bavarian-themed town with a surprising number of pizza and Mexican restaurants which, I can only presume, is because someone falsely assumed that you can only eat so much schnitzel.  Leavenworth may also be the only Bavarian-themed village in which you can do something called “Hot Laps” which sounds dirty but is apparently some form of whitewater rafting. Leavenworth, as you can see, has a lot going for it.

What I love about Leavenworth is its unabashed kitsch and how it’s just a little worn around the edges.  Everything, including the big corporate machines like Starbucks, Subway and McDonald’s, has just a touch of Bavarian flair to make it fit into the townsite. There are twinkling icicles hanging from eavesdrops year-round.  There are more nutcracker and stein shops than you can count on two hands, even though every shop carries basically the same things.  There are two outdoor sausage haus’s directly across the street from each other, each vying for your attention with grilled meats, chilled beers and more saurkraut than you could possibly consume in an entire lifetime. Oh, and the pretzels, don’t forget the heavenly salted, oily pretzels. There are at least half a dozen places featuring schnitzel and spaetzle although, if you ask me, Andreas Keller is the only way to go (sadly they were closed this year, and I cannot express my deep dissatisfaction with our second-string choice without getting emotional).  Some even play live accordion music.  There is a gazebo in the centre of town through which peppy polka music is blasted at all hours, lending itself to craft-beer induced, spontaneous, moonlit dance breaks.

It sounds magical doesn’t it? But if you look a little more closely, you can see that all is not so magical.  The jolly Bavarian window shutters on the hotels could use a paint refresh, a sure signal that the interior is even more tired from resting on its Bavarian-kitsch laurels for decades.  The checkered tablecloths in the schnitzel haus’s are somewhat faded. The main street shops are letting the odd green mermaid into their offerings, which I assume does not fit the standard of traditional Bavarian decor (though I could be wrong as I’ve never researched Bavarian folklore). The hipsters have even landed with their sparsely-filled stores standing in stark contrast to the overstuffed traditional shops, and their brick-walled craft brewery/pizzeria that pays no homage whatsoever to Bavarian tradition within its walls, not even with a clever Bavarian pun to name one of its beers.  Most telling, perhaps, is that the tourists idling slowly down its streets do so without a twinkle in their eyes, as though they too can see the veneer of Bavarian magic is wearing thin.

It occurred to me this weekend that my love for Leavenworth is due in part to this undertone of sadness, of a town that was once lively and proudly Bavarian-themed but now gives off the impression of a couple who’s grown a little too comfortable in their relationship. No one’s trying all that hard anymore to keep things new and interesting. That probably sounds depressing, but this is the makings of nostalgia, of knowing that you can go back year after year and all your favourite haunts will still be there waiting for you. You know you can have a great grilled sausage and pretzel at the Sausage Haus and that, even though you’re not really hungry for dinner, you’ll make room for schnitzel at Andreas Keller. You’ll be sure to fit in a dinner at Los Camperos for the best prawn enchilada you’ve ever had. You’ll cram into the tiny tasting room at Dog Haus brewery and the same brewmaster will be there to greet you and dole out overly salted peanuts to fuel your drinking.  You’ll even run into the couple that you met last year on your trip to Leavenworth, the couple who also travels down year after year to partake in the same traditions, and you will warmly say hello like you are old friends, because you understand each other and your love for this Bavarian-themed town.

Training Tuesdays: almost forgotten joys of winter hiking

I have not hiked a single trail this winter. Contrast this with the last few years when I had an almost weekly track record, if not more frequently. Last year, for instance, when I was temporarily (and by choice) out of work, I was winter hiking at least a couple days a week. I couldn’t get enough of it, and I thought for sure that the same would be true this year.

Instead, I’ve found myself in this reality:  I’ve been working in a role that leaves me feeling exhausted and unmotivated. While winter hiking could very well have been my reprieve,  I found myself unwilling to spend my precious weekends driving to trails, dealing with crowds at our local ski/winter sport hills, and putting up with the heavy, wet, clumpy west coast snow.   As a result, and despite invitations to join others on the snowy trails, I’ve not ventured out even once.

Until this weekend.

We were blessed with the warmest of rocky mountain weather this weekend (i.e. temperatures just slightly below 0). When you are near the rockies and are greeted with semi-clear skies coupled with temperatures that warm, there is only one thing to do: hit the trails. And so we did.  And from the second we stepped into closed forest, surrounded by nothing but lightly falling snow, snow-capped trees, and the gentle crunch of snow beneath our feet, my love for the winter hike came flooding back.

There is something about winter hiking that is even more magical than summer hiking. There air is crisp and fresh. There is a deep silence that only snow can bring. Snow evens out the trail surface, making snow hiking far more leisurely and less technical than summer hiking.  In the rockies at least, there tends to be fewer people on trails than here in Vancouver, giving the experience an air of solitude.  It’s also amazing what a blanket of pristine snow can do for normally dull terrain. Even forest-enclosed trails become portrait worthy. I had somehow forgotten all of this and it took only two hours on trail to remind me.

If there’s snow and trails to be found where you are, I strongly encourage you to bundle up and head to the mountains, find a suitable trail (i.e. a trail that’s meant to be hiked or snowshoed in the winter), put one foot in front of the other, breathe deep and find the peace and solitude you didn’t even know you were missing. I just might do the same again very soon in my neck of the woods (despite the heavy, wet snow, neverending cloud cover and hordes of hikers).

Mid Week Tangent: NYC Walking Sugarfest

Last week, I was in New York for a conference and, as sugar addicts do, I devoted all my spare time to seeking out sugary treats I’ve read about on other’s blogs. My sweet spot (pun intended) was any place in Manhattan that featured cookies, cakes or cupcakes, and that did take out. I do not have the self-confidence to dessert in a cafe or bakery alone. No one needs to see me eat that much sugar at one time, and I don’t need the self-induced shame associated with it.

Moving on.

Given that I only had time on lunch breaks and after 4:30 pm, I believe I crammed a lot of treats into a 3.5 day stay. I still had a million places I would have visited if I’d had more time or the will to travel outside the boundaries of Manhattan proper, but really I think you’ll see that I consumed quite enough as it is.

I could simply present you with a list of the bakeries I visited and the treats I consumed, but since I completed this entire mission on foot alone (i.e. no cabs, Ubers, Subways or any other form of motorized transport), I felt compelled to work walking distance into an overly complex rating system that no one but me will understand. I’ve taken into account not just taste and appearance and quality and value for price, but also the distance I had to walk to acquire the treat. Sure, that should have no bearing whatsoever on how good the treat was, but let me tell you that walking 8 km for a cookie will make a big difference to how good it tastes. I’ve also included photos wherever possible, but I warn you that they are poor because a) I am not  a food photographer…nor any kind of photographer and b) I took them while squirrelled away in my hotel room hiding from the shame of my sugar consumption.  Here goes nothing.

1. Magnolia Bakery Chocolate Cake (4.8/5): First place goes to the closest bakery to my hotel, which conveniently also had the best chocolate cake base of any I tried. Moist, not too crumbly, and richly chocolately, this cake was a winner. The frosting, however, was way too soft. I’m team firm frosting all the way. It was also underwhelming. I took off a bunch of points for the frosting factor (frosting is life), but it got bonus points for total ease of access (800 m from my hotel). Scores could also be higher than usual because I ate this cake after watching a live taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers. I suspect anything tastes better after that.

[I am ashamed that I somehow didn’t take a picture of this cake. Who knew it would end up top of the list?]

2.  Magnolia Bakery Carrot Cake (4.6/5): I gotta tell you, Magnolia Bakery knows what they’re doing with cakes. I’m normally not one to even care about the cake itself. I view it as merely a vehicle for frosting. But this carrot cake base was delicious without being overly moist like some carrot cakes can be. The cream cheese frosting was the biggest let down. I’m sure 99% of the world would love it because it’s not very sweet, but I want my frosting sweet as can be. In fact, I was initially drawn to this cake because of its intensely thick layers of frosting that promised a supremely deep sugar coma.  It was good, but could’ve been so much better. Full disclosure: this may be ranked higher than it should be because I spent SEVEN HOURS at the Toronto airport waiting for my flight and any piece of cake would’ve tasted like heaven after that level of hell.

3. Levain Bakery Famed Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie (4.4/5): I don’t know about paying $4.25 US for a cookie. It was good, but I’m not sure any cookie is worth that kind of price tag. Still, I walked 42 minutes in each direction to get my hands on this bad boy and I didn’t regret it. Points were deducted because they serve the cookies with oozy, warm chocolate. I suspect I’m in the minority here, but I’m not a fan of warm cookies. I like my chocolate chips once they’ve returned to their solid state. The 2/3 of the cookie that I saved until it cooled off was fantastic.

4. Eataly Amarena Gelato (4.3/5): That cookie barely edged out this gelato, and I had to walk a lot farther for this. In other words, had this gelato been closer than the cookie, it would have beat it out. As you may know, I spent the summer on a quest for gelato perfection, one that was mostly disappointing with only a couple promising finds. I wanted to see if celebrity chef Mario Batali had anything to offer in the way of gelato. Hello, he’s Italian. Plus I am hugely skeptical of all these celebrity chef empires. I am pleased to say that the Amarena Gelato was the second best I’ve had outside of Italy. Texturally, it was spot on and many, many bonus points were awarded for the abundance of sour cherries. The only real downsides were the price ($6 US for a tiny cup) and that the vanilla base was overly sweet. Okay, Mario Batali, you might be the real deal.

5. Buttercup Bakery Chocolate Cake (4/5): Buttercup Bakery was started by the woman who originally opened Magnolia Bakery, so I had high hopes for this slice of cake. Its frosting to cake ratio was high, and the frosting had all the most promising characteristics: it looked firmer and more intensely chocolatey than Magnolia Bakery’s. Once again, life proved that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  The frosting was a disappointment. Sigh. I can’t put my finger on it, but it lacked the buttery factor I associate with buttercream and had a bit of a bitterness to it. The cake itself was quite good, but just ever-so-slightly less intense than Magnolia Bakery’s cake. I mean, I ate this whole piece, of course,  but I didn’t swoon with each bite.

6. Molly’s Cupcakes (3.5/5): Here is where we start to take a downward slide. I walked all the way to Greenwich Village for these cupcakes, and yes I bought two: Cookies n’ Creme and Salted Caramel. Both were filled cupcakes, for which I have a special place reserved in my heart. I will cut to the chase here and say that I was disappointed and that my massive disappointment comes down to one thing: swiss meringue buttercream. This will demonstrate my utter lack of class, but I find swiss meringue buttercream to be an abomination. For me, its mouth feel borders on repulsive and it lacks the sweetness I crave in frosting. So, while Molly’s Cupcakes cake base was actually quite good and its fillings delightful, they lost epic points for the frosting. Also, the picture below was taken after I walked fifty five city blocks back to my hotel. As you’ll see, they didn’t fare particularly well on the journey.

7. Citycakes Stuffed Red Velvet Cookie (2.5/5): Ugh, this one hurts. I was so, so, so looking forward to this one and my massive disappointment is the result of a total and complete reading failure on my part. I walked like fifty blocks expecting this beast of a cookie with ridiculously thick frosting sandwiched in the middle, because that is the picture I had seen on a blog. Well, as it turns out if I’d read the accompanying text I would have seen that picture on that blog was the cookie ice cream sandwich not the stuffed cookie. The frosting layer in the stuffed cookie was negligible to the point that I think a small piece of my heart broke the second I saw it. To add insult to injury, the outer edges of the cookie were crispy (death to crunchy cookies) and had the distinct and overwhelming taste of food colouring, which is often my complaint with red velvet in general. Let’s just say that I’m glad I bought this cookie on the day that I also bought a giant slice of chocolate cake because 50% of the cookie ended up in the garbage and I was able to drown my sorrows in the chocolate cake.

If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a medal. Also, I assume that it means your sugar addiction is right up there with mine. I hope this post saves you the heartache of the disappointing stuffed red velvet cookie and gives you enough information to find your own perfect chocolate cake should you find yourself in NYC. And lastly, a warning: if ever you plan to replicate this level of sugar consumption, I strongly recommend walking to any and all destinations. This level of sugar consumption necessitates the epic walking…and then some.

Happy desserting (yup, just made that word up)!