Recently, in a period lasting just over 48 hours, I consumed 7 cream puffs. It all started when my friend Amber, visiting from Virginia, read about a new place in Time Out Chicago. Figuring the place would be a tourist trap of overpriced, mediocre pastry, I indulged Amber and her husband John. Boy, was I wrong.
Beard Papa’s specializes in made-to-order cream puffs. With the success of Cold Stone, made-to-order desserts are increasing in popularity. Each variety comes in the same eggy pastry shell but offers different options for toppings (powdered sugar, chocolate and cookie crumb) and fillings (regular custard, chocolate custard, strawberries and cream custard or an assortment of Häagen-Dazs ice cream*). Since treating friends to dessert has become my calling card, I bought 6 for us to share, which were ravenously consumed. And then, the next day, I bought 6 more for my 4 person department. After one bite, my boss declared she would go there for lunch. And when she returned to the office, she came bearing more cream puffs. And the next night, John and Amber shared what remained of the half-dozen they had bought that day.
When all was said and done, I had tried each of the toppings and custard fillings. My Virginia friends and I agreed on the following:
- The chocolate topping, a classic éclair, was the superior topping. The cookie crumb topping, however, was disappointing, tasting sugary, but burnt.
- Each of the fillings were fantastic. The strawberries and cream did not taste a bit artificial and had pieces of strawberry in it. The chocolate was rich and made from two types of Belgian chocolate. The classic yellow custard tasted fresh and full.
- The most unique option was an eclair with strawberries and cream filling with chocolate on top.(Top 20 to Visit)
* I do not recommend the ice cream filling. My opinion is that the cream puffs filled with Häagen-Dazs ice cream would be the optimum choice of presentation at an ice cream shop—a fresh alternative to the waffle cone. At a cream puff shop, however, the ice cream overpowers the puff. It’s worth trying, but go to Beard Papa’s for the custard.
UPDATE (Nov. 2012): The Chicago location has closed. Consult the store locator linked above for the nearest Beard Papa's.