Friday, March 26, 2010

Made-to-Order Cream Puffs!

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)
With 9 different options of custard-filled cream puffs and numerous ice-cream-filled options, one visit isn’t enough. Look for a Beard Papa’s in your area and try them all. But be careful because each box contains highly addictive substances; John and Amber are already reporting a decrease in motivation in the workplace that stems from cream puff withdrawal.

* 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.

Monday, March 22, 2010

No Scoop Day

Ben and Jerry’s annual Free Scoop Day is tomorrow. For the first year ever, I found out about it ahead of time…but none of the Chicago shops are participating. Hopefully you fair better.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

1st Annual Pi Day Party

Last Sunday was Pi Day, which occurs every year at 3.14. It offers a universal celebration of math and science...but mostly eat pie. Though I have done no actual research on the matter, the origins of the holiday are mysterious. Some believe it was handed own by the Greek gods themselves, who also gave birth to the Greek alphabet. Others believe the holiday was founded by a scientist who was turned into a pie whilst performing experiments involving centrifugal force. Some believe it was a culinary genius trying to reach a new market of desperate high school geometry teachers. Regardless of the day's beginnings, the day is a gift we must share.

I invited the whole internet to my new apartment (Population: two couches, two chairs and whole lot of empty space) telling people to bring a pie, savory (chicken pot pie, pizza pie, shepherd's pie, quiche) or sweet (pecan, apple, ice cream). Sadly, my 1st Annual Pi Day Party had more stories than pies, the subject of those stories being how there was a pie, but it got eaten beforehand. Luckily, I had made my favorite chicken pot pie (a recipe handed down by Boren's mom) and my staple fudge pecan pie. Other contributions were Manno's homemade apple pie, a store-bought apple pie, a frozen pizza, a $40 fully loaded Uno's pizza and a store-bought pecan pie. For those who didn't mind filling up on more dessert than dinner--we call them rational--it was a splendid day.

But let's not get lost in the deliciousness of Pi Day. Let us also remember (and honor!) the number, the letter, the legend that is Pi. To do that, I present to you a quote by a great man. Actually, it is Boren's favorite quote of mine: "There are too many songs about love. There should be more songs about...math!"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Duck season! Rabbit season! Girl scout season!

The freezer in my new apartment has ten containers of ice cream in it. (Some people read more than one book at a time; I have my own variation.) Four of them are the different varieties of one of my favorite seasonal offerings: Edy’s Girl Scout Cookie ice cream.

Thin Mint – Easily the best of the three flavors, which is not surprising since Thin Mint is also the superior cookie and is best eaten when out of the freezer. There are other mint cookie ice creams, but none that make chocolate their primary concern over mint. The cookie mix-ins vary from small sandy pieces to large crunchables. Two “half-gallons”* now grace my freezer.

Samoa – My friend Amber observed that this flavor made with the famous coconut cookie was like a creamy macaroon. The most unique flavor of the bunch, but the cookie doesn’t become an ice cream flavor so much as the cookie is mixed in to vanilla ice cream.

Tagalong – Without chocolate, peanut butter does not seem like a dessert treat to me. The cookies are covered in chocolate, but the ice cream is in vanilla ice cream.

Girl Scout cookie season is short. I like to stock up on my Thin Mint ice cream. Make sure you grab some before it’s too late.

* In the past five years, ice cream companies have shrunk the size of their larger containers. The idea was to keep the pricing the same, rather than charging more for the half-gallon. Edy’s packaging is currently at 1.5 quarts. Somehow, “three-eighths gallon” doesn’t have the same ring to it. 

Note from 2012: Sadly, my beloved Thin Mint has fallen victim to the "Frozen Dairy Dessert" epidemic and is no longer palatable.