Friday, 1 October 2010

(International) Dessert Crawl - Paris/Philly/New York

This dessert crawl is going places! It started off as a humble cupcake crawl, an idea I nicked from Two Wedding Belles. Then I decided to extend the invitation to all cake. And then … due to popular demand (from me), it was extended to all dessert; cupcakes, cheesecakes, layer cakes, ice creams- whatever note-worthy desserts I came across on my travels! THEN ... in Paris on our way to Philly, Doyin and I decided to have a Laduree macaroon (the must famous Parisian macaroons) and Dessert Crawl; International Edition was born. It's more of a Dessert Tour now!

So here, in two parts, are reviews of all the dessert places I tried while I was in Philly and New York - all in my quest to be a better baker - ahem, that is my story and I'm sticking to it! I hope you guys appreciate how many hours I'm going to have to spend in the gym and how many egg white omelettes I'll have to consume to make up for this – it’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it. *Sigh* just call me Miss Committed.

1st stop - Laduree, Charles de Gaulle Airport
Bonjour! Ummm, that's about the extent of my French. I'd heard about Laduree Macaroons and wasn't too fussed to try them because while I do like macaroons, I can pretty much take them or leave them y'know? But Doyin kept talking about them and when we saw the shop at the airport, it seemed like fate and totally rude not to. However, at €1.50 per tiny macaroon and a severe lack of Euros on our person, we could only afford two macaroons between us; one pistachio and one salted caramel. Making a decision of two from about fifteen flavours – from coconut and liquorish to vanilla and Madagascan chocolate - was excruciating! Doyin; judge number 1, had nothing more to contribute to this review other than "Divine. I want more".

As for my review, first of all, I have to say, the difference between these and other macaroons I have had (mainly from Paul) was very clear - these were sooooo fresh. You could tell that they'd been made just hours ago. They were soft, melt-in-your-mouth and yet still crisp. The pistachio flavour was exquisite, and the salted caramel whilst also great, was more … interesting. It had a lovely burnt sugar taste but if I was to go to Laduree again, I'd literally empty my purse on the table and ask for “as many pistachio macaroons as this will buy me!”
 2nd Stop - Naked Chocolate Cafe, 1317 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
The lovely ladies from whom I borrowed this idea were kind enough to recommend places to try in the Philly area and this was one of them. It's nice and bright inside and they have more chocolate than they do cake and other deserts. They had about 6 cupcake flavours; nothing too wild or crazy - chocolate, vanilla, chocolate with peanut butter frosting; you get the gist. They also had some amazing looking desserts like an Oreo mousse but as I was by myself on this leg of the tour, I only tried one thing; the vanilla cupcake with strawberry frosting. I decided on this one after I asked for, and refused the personal recommendation of the lady behind the counter (choc/peanut butter if you’re interested). I decided to go with the most popular choice. The cake was pretty average, quite dense and didn't taste particularly fresh. The frosting made up for it though; it was obviously made with real strawberries and wasn't too sweet. To be honest, I'm not the biggest strawberry fan in the world so this stop left me a bit disappointed!
3rd Stop - Brown Betty Boutique, 1030 North 2nd Street
I had back-up on this part of the crawl, which meant we could try more stuff ... yay!! The idea was that Lara and I would have one cupcake/cookie/dessert at each place and then share but we turned out to be total light weights! After Brown Betty; which was our first stop, Lara was more or less out, muttering something about big breakfast, can't stomach more cake **shaking my head**. But I must admit, I couldn't completely enjoy the rest of the desserts that day as I just felt caked-out! I know, I know, I didn’t think caked-out was a non-word that would ever have to be a part of my vocabulary either!

Back to Brown Betty – I loved it! First of all, their cupcakes were huge and while they were very pretty, theirs weren't the dainty, perfectly decorated cupcakes that some bakeries specialise in. They also had some interesting flavours like sweet potato. And sour cream. And all their cakes are pound cakes! For those of you who don't know what pound cakes are (which was me till my friend explained it to me), pound cakes are denser than sponge cake so wedding cakes are pound cakes so that they can hold the icing and all the numerous tiers! If you know me, you know that dense cake is not something I am a fan of, but these were amazing!

First things first. Lara chose the chocolate cupcake with coconut frosting and I had the fruit-filled sour cream and lemon cupcake. The cake in both was dense and yet still moist, soft and fresh! The chocolate cupcake was great but the sour cream and lemon was amazing! The cake was lovely, the filling (like a very light lemon curd) not too sweet and not overpowering and the icing ... oh the icing, It was like a vanilla buttercream but fluffier, creamier and not as sweet - it was lurrrvely! If anyone has their recipe for that frosting, I'll love you forever ;p

The Boutique, which is where I went, is where they baked the cupcakes and cakes for all three of their stores and that in itself was inspiring because it was a pretty small kitchen area with a much smaller oven than I'd expect. If they can run three successful shops from such a small base, it's something to aim for :D

Darn my nerves at the wedding that made me turn down the Brown Betty wedding cake at my friend's wedding! I had a tiny bite of the red velvet which was lovely but there was also almond cake and another cake which I didn't get to try ... I'm still harbouring regrets.
 That's all for now folks! Part two coming up soon!


Adura said...

You're sharing all these pictures (& info) because you're going to make your version of all of them... right?

Ms Afropolitan said...

I hope so too! A taster event maybe even?

Great post, sounds like it was a delicious holiday!

Vickii said...

@ Adura Ummm of course :D Actually, I do want to give macaroons a go and I aim to have explored every flavour of cupcake by the time I'm done so ... watch this space :D

@Ms Afropolitan A taster event is a great idea and something I do intend to do at some point, I hope you'll both attend! It was a delicious holiday thank you :D

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Looks like you get to go to some great places too! I like the look of those laduree macarons.

Chic Therapy said...

hope you have gotten over not trying the almond cake!!lol

Nicole Peterson said...

Yes BB's is my absolute fave out of the cupcake selections in Philly. Reminds me of the cake I grew up on when we would have bake sales or someone's auntie or grandma would bake. I have been hoping that they will add another southern favorite to their menu : 7-up cake. But until then will have to keep stuffing my face with their sour cream pound and red velvet.

Nicole Peterson said...

As far as the 7-up cake it has that lemon-lime flavor of the soda. I don't have a family recipe but instead have a couple of variations I got off the web through Google :)

It is on my to do list to perfect.

1511th said...

Hahahahahaahhaha love this post. Yummy, I want to these trips!