Monday, December 31, 2012

Dixie Donuts

Top: Aztec, Samoa, German Chocolate, Bangkok Beauty, The Cutie
Middle: Dixie Spice, Peach Cobbler, Dulce de Leche, Strawberry Shortcake
Bottom: Chocolate Spice, Oreo, French Toast, Sweet Potato
“Floral” and “delicate” are not adjectives usually associated with doughnuts. But it also could be said that rosewater candy and curried mango salt aren’t typical ingredients on a holey fried delight. Contradictions like these are what, for me, define the new south. And Richmond, Virginia is a perfect example.

On historic Monument Avenue, lavish mansions occupied by old money sit next door to neglected buildings that house college students and starving artists. Grizzled I-don’t-give-a-care punks like Tim Barry emphasize local history/tradition while getting "Sic Semper Tyrannis" tattooed on their bodies. Once thriving industrial sections of town may look run-down, but they host local businesses and art galleries. And in Carytown, Dixie Donuts makes creations with names like Aztec, Maharaja and the Bangkok Beauty.

It didn’t take much effort to convince my brother Brian to join in trying this new establishment. And after we ordered, it may have taken us even less effort to polish off 8 doughnuts. Even with the reduced size of the doughnuts (perhaps three-quarters the average size one expects with a doughnut), it is rare to find cake doughnuts like these that don’t sit heavily after one or two. Though the doughnuts were indeed on the light side, Brian and I’s breakfast vanquishing also had something to do with the exotic flavors being offered.

I had never considered doughnuts as a culinary opportunity to explore other cultures but, based on the 16 varieties I’ve tried, this is what Dixie Donuts does best. (Contradictions: wearing cream-colored suits in the height of summer; a beauty queen with a gutter mouth.) It is also how the business distinguishes itself from other gourmet doughnut outlets.* The Bangkok Beauty is my favorite of the pack—lime-mango curried salt with penden cookies. Next was the Maharaja (vanilla-rosewater pistachio with garam masala). Their Dulce de Leche doughtnut had an appropriately gooey topping that made it stand out from the rest. The Aztec was a delicious double chocolate doughnut dusted with chipotle cinnamon and topped with candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds). And the German Chocolate Cake has a sizeable dollop of crystally coconut ooze that left me scraping the box with my finger.

DoughNOT miss Dixie Donuts. (How many times have I blogged about donuts, yet somehow never made that joke until now? Huzzah!)

* Gourmet donuts: (n) fanciful donuts characterized by unusual toppings or flavor combinations, often with a larger price tag. Antonym: traditional donuts.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Dangerously Delicious Pies

My brother and I sit at the counter while a twenty-something kid with skinny jeans, a lip ring and a frizzy black 80s mullet slinks around preparing our food. We listen to the Dickies’ infectious version of “Silent Night” while he delivers our order: the Date Night Special. It is May in Baltimore and this is Dangerously Delicious Pies.

Click this picture and drool.
For our dessert this visit, we smack our way through the Mobtown, gooey, melty fudge and caramel with pecans (pictured). We cut the full-bodied richness of that pie with the sweet tooth sugar high of the Baltimore Bomb, a buttermilk and vanilla pie with Berger cookies. It takes skill to turn the Baltimore “tradition” (or trick played on tourists) of Berger cookies—shortbread slathered with chocolate frosting—into a delectable treat. A slice of the Baltimore Bomb with the Mobtown was the perfect combination.

On our next visit, this time to the DC location, we finished things off with two different slices. I had a slice of Strawberry-Rhubarb and marveled at how distinct each fruit was. Thankfully, the rhubarb was not overpowered by the sweetness of the strawberry, as it is in most would-be strawberry-rhubarb desserts. Brian, less a fan of fruit pie, had the Mint Chocolate Cream, which was light with a refreshing lift of mint that flew over the chocolate bliss like a descant. The mint flavor left only a quick floating reverberation and not a clamorous lasting burn.

Having now dined at both the DC and Baltimore locations, Brian and I can easily say that everything we’ve consumed has been incredible. Both times, we received flawless recommendations from the colorful staff members and tipped them accordingly. I encourage you to try as much as possible. The most cost-efficient way of doing this is the Date Night Special, available Sunday through Thursday happy hour—2 savory pies, 2 sweet pies, 2 sodas, 22 bucks. For savory pies, the BBQ, the hot rod potato with bacon, the curry-licious butter chicken, the steak and cheese…you can’t lose. Hopefully their newest location in Detroit will beget a Chicago opening or, better yet, world domination. I will raise the pie-and-crossbones flag as a signal to friends and foes!

UPDATE from 2016: Having now been to four different locations and tried numerous flavors, their fruits pies always please, but I am more often drawn to the creativity of their non-fruit, non-cream pies. Another notable favorite to surface is the Chocolate Chip Pancake pie, a white chocolate custard pie with chocolate chips, which is right up there with my favorite, the Mobtown Brown.

Monday, December 24, 2012

July at Christmas – Paletas in the Off-Season

It is a hazy grey lazy day meant for staying indoors. Boren and I sit on couches, each with laptops in their rightful place. The Christmas tree his girlfriend bought for our apartment stands center in the bay windows, elegantly lit with white lights. Until Jamie has a free moment to adorn the tree with her much-prized vintage ornaments, it holds only my two contributions: (1) a stocking-capped penguin whose belly is a relative’s grade school portrait and (2) an ice cream cone. Quietly contributing to the scene’s iconic glow, Boren and I click around, alternating between work and distractions. At this particular moment, we both eat Mexican popsicles.

Record scratch. Perhaps I should explain.

Back in September, I hoarded a dozen or so paletas in hopes of clutching tightly to whatever I could of the all-too-short Chicago summer. Most paletas are just popsicles—water, fruit and syrup. Nothing special, really. But the crema paletas are a different breed entirely: not quite ice cream and not quite popsicle, creamy while retaining that icy popsicle texture. I almost always buy one of these frozen delights after a swim at Foster Beach. I persuade the water out of my ears, follow the sound of the pushcart’s bells, hand the mustachioed man my buck-twenty-five, and flip flop my way back home, goggles and all.

The bad news, Ponyboy, is that Robert Frost was right: nothing gold can stay, not even the summer sun. Paleta season is short and the off-season unforgiving. Twitter-savvy food trucks may be more urban chic and easy to track down, but some delicacy deliverers (like elotes carts or the tamale guy) can only be found with luck and some know-how. So when the temperature started dropping, I knew I needed to stock up so I headed over to the place paletas carts hibernate during the winter, Paleteria La Reina in Albany Park. Since then, the other ice cream in my freezer has enjoyed the company of bilingual dessert products.

Since I bought the paletas in bulk, I gave all the other crema flavors a try. With the exception of Coconut Crema (the ultimate) and Rice (the cinnamon-y horchata-esque silver medal winner), the rest of the flavors taste more-or-less like a milkshake that solidified after being put in the freezer. Nothing bad about that, but one should be aware of how they are distinct from ice cream.

I am not alone in saying that the first Coconut Crema paleta marks the true beginning of summer in Chicago. And sharing my dwindling supply in the off-season isn’t something I do lightly. But the way I figure it, Boren and I eating paletas in December seems the best bet for keeping the weather warm, at least until that damn groundhog seals our fate again.

Paleteria La Reina
3012 W Lawrence
Chicago, IL  60625

Monday, December 17, 2012

Donut Stop

“We’ve been open for 59 years,” the elderly proprietor of Donut Stop tells me.

My friend Ryan and I had mentioned we’d never been there before and without hesitation he stopped to tell us about the place. While his other staff members bustled around assisting the scads of customers waiting their turn in the crowded standing area, he was chatting us up. We liked him immediately.

“And how many of those years have you been here?” I asked.

“I’ve been working here since 1990. Then my son and I bought the place 11 years ago.” I wondered if he ever thought when he began 22 years ago that one day he’d own the place.

Frequently featured on Top Ten lists for doughnuts, St. Louis’ Donut Stop is a modest building, not unlike those you may pass telling yourself, “I’ll have to stop there one of these days.” Who’d guess that it was a local legend with national acclaim? When we tasted the doughnuts, we understood why.

At a classic place like this I expected that, of the doughnuts I tried, the best would be the staples of the doughnut canon. This was certainly true of my favorite, the blueberry cake. Though a flavor I usually find dry and forgettable, theirs was moist yet crisp on the outside—crisp like the dollar bills I contributed to their cash register—not hard or crumbly. Like all of their products, it tastes fresh because at the rate their product was moving, none of it had been sitting around very long! Another classic, their cinnamon roll, was also a stand-out. Through I’d been told it was another product that put them on the map—the cinnamon glob, which to me was a less-than-memorable fruitless fritter, an apple fritter minus the apples—I found the cinnamon roll more memorable. Sweet and chewy with the right balance of flavors, not the usual case either the cinnamon or the icing overpowering the dough. And then there was my usual go to doughnut, the French Cruller, which is best understood in the words of Ryan. 

“I’ll try it, but I’m not as experienced as you in crullers.” (takes his first bite) “Oh, that’s incredible!” He was more than impressed. It was if someone had just informed him that the St. Louis arch was actually a giant space doughnut embedded in the earth.

But it wasn’t just the classics that were good. Other standouts were the caramel long john, a dunkably long yeast doughnut with maple-roasted overtones and a sweet caramel aftertaste, and the cream cheese with cherries, a yeast doughnut with a dollop of light whipped goodness on top that tasted like a fried pie or fried danish.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mr. T Coloring Contest

Sighted in a recent visit to Seattle's Bluebird. I hope these decorations hang for many years.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Eating an Endangered Species

Before the scene of ravenous carnage.
The fried Twinkie. It is one of the seven wonders of carnival foods. It is the fulfillment of the great southern prophesy that anything would be good if it were deep fried. And now it is an endangered species.

It was announced today that Hostess is going out of business. I set my sights for Hamburger Mary's, a joint in my neighborhood whose dessert menu features fried Twinkies with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. I devoured the delicacy so fast that my waitress asked if I'd like to lick the plate. The exterior, crisp and textured like breadcrumbs, but sweet with chemically engineered ingredients.

After I'd eaten, I was still hungry for more. I wondered if there was anywhere I could buy a fried dodo drumstick to gnaw on.

After the slaying, I feared PETA would throw
whipped cream on my jacket in protest.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Special thanks to the Columbus, Ohio Modeling Agency.
After my first stop at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, OH, I knew I had tasted something special. Sure, I already knew of a couple tolls of tastiness on the drive from VA to Chicago. In fact, I already had a go-to place in Columbus! But when my roommate Boren showed me an article in Time highlighting Jeni’s Mango Lassi frozen yogurt—a flavor I had sadly neglected to try—I knew I had a reason to return.

Even without this added inspiration, going to Jeni’s again was inevitable. I’d been craving their Lime Cardamom frozen yogurt from the moment I finished my push-pop this summer. Each time I told people about the flavor, I’d salivate a little, wanting to taste it again—mmm, that aromatic spice layered with the tang of citrus. It was good enough that I went back for seconds on that first trip. The scoopers seemed honored by my choice to return, even taken aback, or perhaps they were just extra kind and smiley because they worried I might be chemically imbalanced. The standout flavor this round was Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries ice cream, which tasted like cornbread with jelly. Ever since trying it, I’d eye the jam with a new air respect.

The adorned menu from the second trip.
When my dad and I found ourselves on yet another trip between Virginia and Chicago, he was enthusiastic about helping me pay another visit to Jeni's, I'm sure for entirely unselfish reasons. When we arrived, it was immediately clear it would take a while for us to decide. I ordered a Mango Lassi push pop for us to snack on while we came up with our game plan. Four words: worth all the hype. After that, the lovely staff stuffed us silly by insisting on extensive sampling (a surefire way to get a nice tip from me). Eventually, we settled on Brambleberry Crisp, Lemon & Blueberry frozen yogurt and Queen City Cayenne.

Brambleberry Crisp turned the cobbler concept on its head; instead of melty ice cream on cobbler, it was runny fruit mixed with a full-flavored vanilla ice cream with cobbler pieces. While I didn’t taste any blueberry in the Lemon & Blueberry froyo, the lemon was acidic perfection rarely found in a dairy-based dessert. And the Queen City Cayenne coated my mouth with chocolate before burning my tongue and throat just the right amount. These were our educated choices after being forced to sample nearly every flavor they had available--resistance was futile, like a king resisting grovelers. After two visits, my top overall picks are Lime-Cardamom, Mango Lassi and Brambleberry Crisp.

With a wide palette of flavors and changing seasonal offerings, even two stops at Jeni’s isn’t enough to satisfy. “More!” my stomach screams. “Bring me more!” Fear not, stomach. Jeni’s wholesale is carried by many places in the Chicago area!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Call me Johnny Pumpkinseed.

The annual Pumpkin Challenge is more than just competitive eating. It is also creative cooking and a scavenger hunt. This season, I have spent more time in the kitchen than the rest of the year put together. I have justified absurd detours to track down treats both real and unreal. It is a path wrought with disappointment, the greatest of which was a place that offered pumpkin-chai chocolate truffles last year (Fantastic!) but did not this year (Sucktastic!). But is also a path of celebration and victory! Yes, victory! I doubted I would ever break 2010’s record of consuming 40 distinctly different pumpkin items in the 47 day span of September 15 and October 31. But, despite a 12 day trip to less pumpkin-centric parts of Europe, my obsessive traits helped make the implausible possible. My final number is enough to bring Baskin-Robbins to shame: 52! 

My trip to 2012's Highwood Pumpkin Fest where they carved
over 30,000 pumpkins. They may be more obsessed than me.

Pumpkin items consumed:
pumpkin cake doughnut,  pumpkin bagel, pumpkin cream cheese spread, Snap-O-Lantern ice cream by Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, chocolate whoopie pie with pumpkin filling, pumpkin seed granola from Milk & Honey, candied pepitas on a chocolate cinnamon-cayenne doughnut from Dixie Donuts, pumpkin crumble bar, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin seed pesto, pumpkin butter, pumpkin-cherry ice cream from Cherry Republic, pumpkin seed brötchen (roll), pumpkin seed bretzl twist, pumpkin macaroon, pumpkin pancake, pumpkin syrup, pumpkin-swirl brownies, pumpkin macaroni-and-cheese, pumpkin Greek yogurt, pumpkin & flax seed granola bar, pumpkin hummus, pumpkin chocolate mousse cake, pumpkin pasta w/ sausage and mushroom, rabbit sausage with pumpkin raita, pumpkin-parmesan biscuits, green chile-pumpkin seed mole, pumpkin spice waffles, gingerbread and pumpkin baby bundt cake, pumpkin chocolate chip cookie, pumpkin bread pudding, pumpkin gelato from Black Dog Gelato, pumpkin black bean chili, pumpkin harvest muffin, Trick or Treat Milkshake (pumpkin ice cream, M&M's, peanut butter cups & marshmallow), pumpkin pie ice cream, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin spice bark, Smashing Pumpkin Pie pizza from Dimo’s Pizza, pumpkin French toast, pumpkin shepherd's pie, pumpkin butterscotch white chocolate cookie, pumpkin chipotle salsa by Frontera (Rick Bayliss), pumpkin cupcake from Molly’s Cupcakes, chocolate pumpkin seed bark at Julius Meinl, pumpkin spice cake with craisins and caramel cream cheese frosting at Magnolia Bakery Chicago , pumpkin cream puff from Beard Papa's, harvest pumpkin soup, pumpkin seed brittle in a pink lady apple salad, seared scallops with pumpkin risotto and vanilla brown butter, pumpkin flan with orange caramel from Epic, pumpkin chocolate chip bread

Bolded items signify the best of the bunch

The Pumpkin Challenge was started seven years ago, back when finding anything pumpkin before October 1 was nearly impossible. That is no longer the case, which means the Pumpkin Challenge has achieved its short-term goal. Next year, we may need to bump it back, the long-term goal being year-round pumpkin consumption.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Five-Year Anniversary Blog (Post #200)

Welcome to the clip show.

Back in September, this blog hit a landmark. For five years now, I have documented my favorite desserts and sweets discovered in my travels and on the grocery store shelves. In celebration, I have revisited each blog post, cleaned up typos, added some photos (and will add even more!) and added follow-up notes of reflection.

My hope is that you will check this blog when you travel to see what I recommend in your destination city. And if I haven't written about that particular place, I hope you sample the best and report back, maybe even write a guest blog. Below are some of my favorites, but you can check out more by clicking the newly created “Top 20 to Visit” tag.  Please return soon because some of my “Top 20 to Visit” will be featured in blogs that will appear the next few weeks.

Favorite Ice Cream 
Brown Butter
Toscanini’s (Cambridge, MA)

Favorite Doughnut 
French Toast
Mighty-O (Seattle, WA)

Favorite Chocolate 
Toscano Blond, 63% Dark Chocolate with Peach and Apricot
Amadei (Tuscany, Italy; available in fine chocolate stores)

Favorite Fancy Dessert 
Mile-High Blackberry Ice Cream Pie
Skyland and Big Meadows Resort (Skyline Drive, VA)

Honorable Mention
Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream
Creole Creamery* (New Orleans, LA)

But this blog hasn’t simply been about food. Part of the goal has been making you laugh along the way. Here is a short list of my favorite posts that were purely humorous in content, followed by some of my favorite lines.

Favorite Humorous Blog Posts
Favorite Lines

* The title of this post, "Fleur-de-lis-cious," is easily my favorite from the past five years.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Seventh Annual Pumpkin Challenge

Each year I challenge myself (and futilely invite others to best me) at consuming as many varieties of pumpkin products as possible between September 15 and October 31. Hmm…looks like you have some questions…

What are the rules?
The only beverage allowed is the milkshake. Food items may not be doubled. Two slices of pumpkin cheesecake count as one item. The only way it could count for two different items is if the second item has a distinct enough difference of flavor that it warrants a different name AND the item comes from a different source than the first item. Pumpkin candles or pumpkin soap do not count unless you eat them.

What is the record? 
During 2010’s Pumpkin Challenge, I consumed 40 different varieties of pumpkin. I wonder if I myself will ever beat that record. A number that high cannot be found in stores alone; it requires a lot of cooking.

Why does it stop on Halloween? Isn’t pumpkin often a Thanksgiving staple?
Ideally, the meeting of mouths to pumpkin products would go on forever. But we most focus our efforts. The Pumpkin Challenge was created to encourage the same sort of crass commercialism extended to that Santa holiday. We want to encourage—through pestering and purchase—stores offering pumpkin foods at progressively earlier dates each year. To focus the Challenge to the height of pumpkin consumption season is both missing the mark and far too easy.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Twice-Baked Almond Croissants

My love affair is in the bottom right corner.
"Do you have any more of the twice-baked almond croissants in the back?"
"We have a dozen that will be ready in a few minutes."
"I'll take ten."

This was my dad's recent exchange at Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle. My parents sought out this establishment on their vacation because they knew that this pastry is one of my biggest cravings since leaving the Pacific Northwest. (The other major cravings are Mighty O's French Toast donut and Agua Verde's mango quesadilla with a cup of Mexican chai.) They were not disappointed...and neither was I when they brought some back to share with me.

Tweaking = Blurry pic.
Twice-baked almond croissant, how do I love thee? Let me drool the ways. A flaky, chewy croissant with a slightly crisp (not crunchy) exterior and a sweet-n-nutty almond filling that--gasp!--tastes like almonds and thankfully NOT like its sloptart cousin marzipan or its wino uncle amaretto. Crowned with a toppling layer of toasted sliced almonds and a just-right touch of powdered sugar to balance the buttery bread, it is a beautiful sight to behold. Furthermore, this pastry is not dainty--compared to my size 12 shoe, it appears to be about a size 8--but even though it's enough to fill my stomach, my fingers still scrape up the fallen almond slivers itching for more.

On vacation in Seattle? The twice-baked almond croissants at Bakery Nouveau are reason enough to visit West Seattle, but don't miss these other attractions. Eat the freshest of seafood at Seattle Fish Market. Take a walk on Alki Beach looking over at Magnolia or the Olympic Peninsula. Or drive over to the east side to get a panoramic view of downtown Seattle. Take in the work of funky local artists at Twilight Artist Collective. Shop at the appropriately legendary Easy Street Records, or get brunch if you have sworn off tangible music products. Just make sure you save room for French pastry!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ben & Jerry’s Summer Flavors for 2012

As they have in the past few years, Ben & Jerry’s has two flavors it is offering exclusively at Target stores that are meant to encourage volunteerism. As part of they Scoop It Forward program, if you sign up to volunteer you can receive a free pint of ice cream. Not a bad deal. Onto the flavors…

Volun-Tiramisu (Coffee Mascarpone Ice Cream with Cocoa Dusted Coffee Run Lady Finger Pieces) – I personally prefer my tiramisu to be heavy on the cream and chocolate and light on the espresso, so I tasted this flavor with caution. Happily, the coffee flavor wasn’t overpowering. I wouldn’t say anything about the flavor tasted like tiramisu, but it was a pleasant flavor. Pleasant, like the taste of shampoo…before it tastes like soap. The texture of the “lady fingers” was nice and chewy—chewy lady fingers?—similar to maple blondie bites.

Berry Voluntary (Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream with White Chocolate Chips & Raspberry Swirls) – Ben & Jerry’s usually does cheesecake ice cream really well because they play up the subtle aspects of cheesecake. Sadly, they missed the mark on this one. The white chocolate chips (which are not great quality) overpower the subtle cheesecake and even more subtle raspberry flavor. Perhaps if the white chocolate chips were balanced with a dark chocolate chip and swirl of raspberry sorbet or fro yo. Mmm, now we’re talkin’.

Sorry to say it, but I might be giving up on Ben & Jerry’s. The quality of their ice cream has really gone down. I know a lot of companies are looking for ways to cut costs, but when a food company sacrifices high quality ingredients for filler it seems misguided. I’ll give Ben & Jerry’s another shot in the spring when they release the next batch of flavors.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ep.6: The Vosges Knosges

After I dropped Boren off for his flight back, I had a feeling not unlike homesickness. What’s it called? Oh, yeah. Hunger. Luckily I had anticipated this feeling, knowing I would want a taste of Chicago once I arrived in Boston for this extended stay. Though packing a scoop of Black Dog Gelato was not possible, transporting a selection of Vosges Chocolate was.

A taste of home.
While made in Chicago, Vosges is an international presence. In my travels, they are often the American representative at fine chocolate shops. It is a fitting label; the packaging states that the company was founded on the concept, “Travel the world through chocolate.” (It can also be found at Whole Foods stores.) Truly Vosges absorbs the flavors of different cultures, both domestically and abroad, turning the melting pot concept from the figurative into something literal. Which prompts the question: who gets to lick the spoon?

I purchased one of the Vosges Chocolate Libraries, a selection of nine different .5 oz bars, along with a five bars not offered in the sampler. For those unfamiliar with Vosges, they like to mix their rich chocolate with savory ingredients like ancho chiles, wasabi and pink peppercorns. Salty flavors are commonplace, whether bacon, plantains or pink Himalayan salt. This may sound intimidating to some, but in all of these bold decisions Vosges suggests flavors without dominating the simple experience of indulging in fine chocolate. The textures created by the exotic ingredients are just like more run-of-the-mill ingredients in chocolate. Other times, the texture isn’t affected at all, which is jarring when there are nuts in the bar but you cannot feel their crunch or there are goji berries with very little chew. Perhaps I should explain.

Of those I tried, my favorites were the Gingerbread Toffee Bar (65% dark chocolate, seasonal flavor) and Mo’s Dark Chocolate Bacon Bar (62% dark chocolate). The two runners-up were the Woolloomooloo Bar (45% milk chocolate, macadamia, coconut, hempseeds) and the Black Pearl Bar (55% dark chocolate, ginger, wasabi, sesame seeds). In the latter two, the combination of flavors results in an aromatic difference in the overall chocolate, not a sledgehammer of spicy wasabi and ginger, nor a crunch of macadamia or hemp seed. In the Bacon Bar, the bacon adds a crispness similar to what one might find with the chocolate bar with crisped rice puffs or pretzel crumbs, but the flavor is smoky and sweet. And as for the Gingerbread Toffee Bar, the flakes of toffee in the chocolate have a robust sweetness—think molasses—that overpowers the salty undertones, a far more nuanced flavor than the chocolate covered slabs of toffee available at the grocery store. (If Gingerbread Toffee is out of season, Vosges has another bar, Bapchi’s Caramel Toffee, which is a suitable milk chocolate replacement.)

Savoring these chocolate bars over the next weeks made me feel connected with Chicago, even though it was now over a thousand miles away. Though the date of my return to Chicago was uncertain—what ended up being almost a year later—I could only look ahead at all of the trips to Toscanini’s that lay ahead of me in Boston. And they were many.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ep5: Boston Cannoli Rivalry

In Boston's North End, there are two rival cannoli places, Mike's Pastry (the famous one) and Modern Pastry (the other one). While this rivalry is not on the level of, say, the Red Sox/Yankees (or even the Eder’s/Sunset level) it is still notable. It is interesting how alike the two establishments are. In addition to the similarities in their names, take-out boxing techniques and long lines, they both are on Hanover Street, the major strip of Little Italy. But, suffice to say, my taste buds are both feline in nature and among the dearly departed.

Modern Pastry is small, crowded and colorful boutique with an enormous tourist-friendly sign. One or two people work the counter as customers order based on the look of the unlabeled items displayed behind the glass. The big seller is cannoli, which can be ordered with a choice of three fillings (ricotta), three shells (plain, chocolate-dipped and chocolate-covered) and two toppings (chocolate chips of almonds). When you order they select the shell you ordered from the case and take it in the back to fill it, preserving the shell's freshness for longer than if it were prefilled. The ricotta inside my single serving cannolo was subtly sweet, just like most authentic Italian pastry.

Further down the street is the enormous, double-wide, fluorescent-lit storefront of Mike's Pastry. Their wide counters often have four lines at a time, displaying overhead on oversized, laminated images the different varieties of cannoli that are on display for order. The pre-filled shells at Mike’s may be bigger than those at Modern, and they offer a wider variety of options, but the flavor is certainly not an improvement over that of Modern. Like its fast-paced "whaddaya want" service, there is nothing subtle about the cannoli at Mike's Pastry. Their ricotta filling had a sweet creaminess to it which was admittedly tasty, but that’s not the experience I'm seeking when eating cannoli. Their love of and reliance on confectionary sugar is obvious. Still the variety of fillings (amaretto, strawberry, chocolate mousse) do make a customer want to order a bunch to "share" and try them all.

Mike's and Modern are not the only pasticcerias in the North End. Also notable is Bova's, a 24-hour corner bakery that offers a wider selection of items than the other two (including pizza and breads). I received insider information that Bova's was the spot the locals went for shorter lines and superior pastry. I cannot speak for all of the items offered at Bova's, but the sfogliatelle was light years better than those offered at Mike's and Modern, which were both so crunchy I couldn't bring myself to finish them. Bova's was chewy with a doughy middle and crispy edges. Yum yum.

Verdict: If Clemenza tells you to leave the gun, but take the cannoli, grab the box that says Modern.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ep4: To Uncle Bob, Wherever You Are

Entering New England, I couldn't help by be reminded of a few memorable sweets I consumed during the summer of 2005, the same summer Marisa Tomei and I became soulmates at Williamstown Theatre Festival. One such establishment resided less than a half mile from the Connecticut border. The frozen treats were excellent, but the owner made it even more memorable...

“What’s in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave?” I asked.

Looking annoyed, Uncle Bob, the large and intimidating proprietor responded, “Did you read the sign?”

I hadn’t noticed the sign, which said 1600 Pennsylvania Ave was a hazelnut chocolate ice cream. (It was more nutty texture-wise and creamy flavor-wise than your typical gianduja.) The origin of the flavor's unlikely name made me curious, but I decided to skip it since I'd already annoyed the man. “Okay, I’ll take a scoop of that and a cup of Black Raspberry ice.”

“Did you read the sign?”

Another sign? Hmm...They were out of Black Raspberry. Popular place. Must be the service, I thought.

Despite this rough beginning, Uncle Bob and I grew to have a good rapport over my many visits to Uncle Bob’s 40 Heavenly Flavors in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The ice cream was good, but the ice was perfect. I’d usually order both…and then go back for seconds on ice. Out of 40 flavors, my favorites were the classics: orange and cherry. I would savor my treats under a shady tree on the benches in the back, enjoying the cool break from my AC-deficient Toyota van, facing a calming field of green. Yes, everything about the Uncle Bob's experience made the trip worth it, even the man, whose gruff impatience with oblivious customers somehow made him appealing. Perhaps it was because he looked and sounded like kin to Tony Soprano, but spent his days selling frozen treats that came in every color of the rainbow.

“Don’t get the blue,” Uncle Bob mentored.

Obediently, I consented, “Okay.”

“We have black raspberry, red raspberry and blue raspberry. All my flavors are good except for the blue. Don’t get the blue.”

My puzzled look prompted him to continue.

“Kids love blue. They don’t even know what flavor they’re ordering. Their parents say, ‘Whaddaya want?’ They say, ‘I want the blue.’”

When he started sharing nuggets of wisdom like this with each visit, I figured I was on Uncle Bob's good side and could ask him for a dinner recommendation nearby. Expecting a concise answer, I instead got detail upon detail. As he directed me across the border into Connecticut, Uncle Bob alternated between closing his eyes to concentrate and staring me straight in the face to make sure I was getting it all. I paid close attention. While he seemed eager to help, I really didn't want to have to ask him to repeat himself. He continued until he had told me some of the restaurant's history and the name of the waitress who worked there on weekends. He didn’t seem to mind (or notice) that his lengthy recommendation was holding up the line. (You know, for the business he ran.) That was Bob for ya.

Internet research leads me to believe Uncle Bob's 40 Heavenly Flavors is no longer in business. I found a few websites that mentioned it and they all list the same number that's no longer in service. Uncle Bob, wherever you are, know that I still think of your Italian ice, your oddly-named ice cream and your east coast hospitality seven years later.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ep3: Ice Cream Rivalry: Eder's vs. Sunset

During our two night stay at Crystal Lake Camps, it was a given that we would end up at Eder’s Ice Cream. As I’ve mentioned before, Eder’s is a place of legend at camp…which is why I was surprised to learn of a rival parlor, Sunset Ice Cream, in nearby Williamsport. In the “scoop and let scoop” world of ice cream, rivalries are not very common outside the grocery store freezer. (The most notable one I knew of was in Richmond when Ben & Jerry’s viciously opened a shop two doors down from Bev's, the much beloved local joint. Bev’s won, Hindu dairy gods be praised.) I couldn’t deny that I was intrigued. So the next morning when Boren and I got back on the road, we headed straight for Sunset.

Who doesn’t love a good rivalry? Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Eder’s vs. Sunset. Would it be the raucous brawl of cross-town interleague baseball? Just imagine your typical unwashed White Sox fan exiting Sunset only to have their cone smacked to the ground. As the assailants drive away, the blubbering Sox fan hears them chanting, “EEE-DER’S! EEE-DER’S!” Or would it be the all-fun-and-games-til-someone-gets-stabbed West Side Story dance battle? After a rousing chorus of “Keep it cool, boy,” the Eder’s employees get coned by the Sunset Sharks. I’ll let your imagination decide what “getting coned” means.

What I found was two local establishments, each fattening the masses with joy, each in their own way. Other than that, the two shops had very little in common. To help you understand, I created a helpful spreadsheet, thereby earning Charles Simonyi more money toward commercial space travel.

Verdict: Try both! They each serve up equally ENORMOUS servings of homemade ice cream. How could you lose? Still, if you can only try one, I recommend Eder's.

Ep2.5: Ohio Interlude & A Pennsylvania Pause

Akron is a managably-sized city with a walkable downtown that features two centerpieces: an amphitheater and a minor league baseball stadium. (Go Aeros!) While I searched for the subconscious inspiration for Bee Thousand, Guided By Voices' musical masterpiece, Boren located some Maple Bacon Doughnut FroYo at a local dessertery. We also stumbled upon an Irish pub that shares my last name, Brubaker's.

Next up was a stop at Penn State's Berkey Creamery, another favorite of "best ice cream" lists. The experience was certainly blog-worthy, but a man of my genius shouldn't have to repeat himself.

After Berkey Creamery, we drove to Hughesville, PA for a two-night stay at Crystal Lake Camps. As a camper, volunteer and visitor, this secluded spot has been a refuge for me during different times of my life. We were greeted by pitch black night and a welcoming invitation for tea and Bananagrams from my friends Jasmine and Tim, a married couple who staff the camp year-round.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ep2: Most Definitely Not Less Than

A blurry beacon of brumal bounty.
Since first hearing of Graeter's from one-time guest blogger Jill, I've noticed the company gets mentioned in almost every conversation I have with people about "favorite ice cream." But why trust my friends and acquaintances? Oprah, one of the company's celebrity fans, is rumored to have their Butter Pecan shipped directly to her mouth. Beyond this vote of confidence, Graeter's is frequently featured on best ice cream lists in travel and food magazines/websites. Needless to say, they had a lot to live up to as Boren and I, having driven for seven hours that day, barreled into Columbia a mere 14 minutes before they closed.

Graeter's has many shops, but we targeted this particular location because it offered free self-guided tours of the factory. Driving up, it was immediately clear that the parlor might actually be larger than the factory. Still, after a painstaking amount of consideration was put into sampling and ordering, the tour provided all the information I needed to better understand the happy dance happening in my mouth. Here, I'll let you copy my notes:

Their ice cream is made using the French Pot process, which is a small-batch method similar to home ice cream makers. The main benefit of this inefficient process is a denser, creamier ice cream with less air whipped into it. Tasting the product, I couldn't deny that the texture of Graeter's ice cream was different, smoother and more stuck to itself. But even better than the texture of the ice cream was that of the chocolate chips. I read that instead of using solid chunks of chocolate, Graeter's pours in liquid chocolate. By doing this, the chocolate chips in flavors like Black Raspberry Chip (my favorite) and Chocolate Chocolate Chip are soft, yielding and far more flavorful than the chalky snap of most chocolate chunks.

After my foray into speed learning, I treated myself to a second helping of ice cream, effectively making myself both the last and next-to-last customer before closing for the evening. As we made our exit, Boren and I pumped some Kanye and sped our way to Akron.


Not near Ohio? I am elated to report that Graeter's packaged pints have become more widely available this year. Since I took this road trip with Boren, I have found the pints at both Fresh Market and Kroger grocery stores. Use the Graeter's store finder to locate some near you. Of the flavors offered, nearly all the grocery store varieties feature their signature chocolate chips, including Black Raspberry Chip! It may be more expensive than other luxury ice creams, but remember it's denser! (According to the tour, a pint of Graeter's should actually weigh more than a pint of another brand.) Besides, you really should treat yourself now and again...and now. For best results, consume immediately upon arriving home from the grocery store, when it is less hard and closest to the quintessential French Pot texture.

Ep1.5: Illinois Interlude

After leaving Chicago, my co-pilot Boren and I foraged south. Originally we had planned to go west (young man) into St. Louis to enjoy both the zany funhouse/playground that is the City Museum and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, a frequent member of "Top 10 in the Country" lists. But a detour of, oh, 6 or so hours seemed an ill-advised beginning to a lengthy road trip. Instead our first stop was visiting my Uncle John and Aunt Lisa in Chatham, IL, where we fed horses and snacked on pastries from Apple Barn. From there we traveled to the University of Illinois, alma mater of Uncle John, my dad and their sister, Polly. In Champaign, we snuck into the football stadium and ate at Fat Sandwich Company where we gorged on a donut burger, among other things.

Just a burger with a sugary bun, but worth trying.
Our next destination: the Graeter's factory in Columbia, OH...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ep1: One Last Taste Before I (Chica)go

Sitting in a rental car before a 1,459 mile journey out of Chicago, my stomach had an important decision to make. What final food item should it consume before skipping town indefinitely? I hit the gas and headed to the Ukranian Village. I needed to have Black Dog Gelato's Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel, the best ice cream/gelato flavor in Chicago, one more time.

Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel
pictured at bottom.
This destination, the first of many, is out of the way,* nearly an hour's distance on straight shot pub tran direct from my neighborhood. Still, my pre-rental car self had been known to make the trip--and justify counter-intuitive detours--for their tasty and imaginative gelato flavors. Gelato traditionally is simple: milk and egg with whatever ingredient (chocolate, hazelnut, mixed berry) gives the flavor its name. And though many American gelaterias dodge this convention, it rarely gets more creative than mimicking popular ice cream flavors. Black Dog Gelato is a game changer, frequently offering more oddball gourmet flavors than the traditional gusti.

It is worthy of note that my favorite flavor certainly isn't the only all-star in their freezer. I enjoy most anything they have on their ever-evolving menu from the unique (Avocado Cinnamon, which awakened the dormant dessert quality of avocados) to the simple (Chocolate, which explodes with genuine chocolate flavor as a proper gelato should) to the seasonal (Apple Cider Sorbet, which despite its autumnal qualities is always a good thing). But on this particular day, I was a man on a mission. Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel or bust.

To describe eating this flavor in earthly vocabulary seems unbefitting of the transcendental experience. It would be better if instead I lead you in some guided meditation. Let's get started. Find an active and comfortable sitting posture--perhaps the lotus position--take some deep, cleansing breaths and close your eyes. In your own time, visualize yourself as a cashew living in a gelateria. You've had a long day and grow increasingly weary from the ceaseless slander you receive. ("Nut!" "Legume!" Can't they see I'm a seed?) You feel the heaviness of the day pulling you down, down, down. All you want is to rest on something softer and lighter than a cheesecake. You notice the goat cheese has your sleep number. You feel the billowy goat cheese mattress envelop you while you are pulled down, down, down. In one final motion, you pull a silky layer of caramel over you and drift into sleep, content to drown in comfort. Later, you wake up to a quick and painful death by mastication.

That about sums it up. But eventually, we all must come out of our gelato-induced state of heightened perception. I got back in the rental car, packed it high with an un-Buddhist tie to my material possessions and began my wonderful winding trip to Boston.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

So You Think You Can Richmond

Though it gives off the appearance of a once prosperous industrial town that is lying dormant, there is more to Richmond, VA than dusty history. There are lavish parks to be found amongst the brick, whether the Japanese and Italian Gardens at Maymont Park, the rustic tranquility of Belle Isle on the James River or the sanctuary that is Hollywood Cemetery. There are active communities of artists, musicians and theatrical performers breathing new life where it wasn’t before. There are local businesses keeping the city’s identity in tact, even while basketball coach Shaka Smart—may his name be praised— continues bringing national attention to the city and to my alma mater.

In my opinion, nothing captures Richmond better than the food. Once capital of the south, today it is the last stop for excellent pork barbecue and other southern delicacies. It is also home to authentic ethnic foods and fusion cuisine. There are numerous “Richmond favorites,” but I have limited myself to these sweet tooth stuffs.

Strawberry Pie at Bill’s Barbecue – This taste of summer has a buttery crust, juicy strawberry halves and a light whipped cream topping. It is not unusual for them to run out, but Bill’s is worth a visit regardless. For your meal, try their signature hot sauce on the North Carolina style minced barbecue sandwich—so hot it melts the bun!—and wash it down with their sparkling limeade, which is worth the stop all by itself. (Update for 2014: All Bill's locations have closed, sadly.)

Fudge Walnut Pie at Strawberry Street Café – Every menu item I’ve ever had at this local staple is rich. My favorite meal items are the Chicken Chesapeake and the Crab & Swiss Quiche. But the richest item on the menu is this gooey chocolate delight. Served warm, it demands to be savored. Though another dessert may sound the most enticing—the Ice Cream Sandwich: a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream between two slices of pound cake, topped with your choice of strawberries, hot fudge or both, if you ask nicely—having tried all the desserts at Strawberry Street, my recommendation is still the Fudge Walnut Pie. Or bring some friends and try both!

MexiCali Chocolate Ice Cream at Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream – Spicy chocolate ice creams are becoming more and more popular, but Bev’s creation is the best I’ve had. It is quite simple: cinnamon, cayenne pepper and a touch of mint. I’ve tried to recreate it, but have never gotten it at Bev’s quality. My friend Boren still raves about this flavor, though he hasn’t had it in the six years since we graduated college.

Peach Melba Cheese Pie at The Tobacco Company – This restaurant is not a cheap outing, but well worth it. If a glance at the prices makes you blush and walk out, make sure to stop in for dessert sometime. The cheese pie is a light and subtle slice of the south, the child of a dainty cheesecake and a mountainous slice of cream pie. Peaches decorate the plate like pillows on a guest bed.

Glazed Custard Doughnut at Country Style Doughnuts – Open 24 hours, six days a week, closed Mondays. To score the best flavors you need to get there in the morning. The Glazed Custard is a perfectly doughy delight FILLED with Boston Crème. Other favorites are the Toasted Coconut and the Glazed yeast doughnut. I usually find myself near the store at the late night hours, which has sometimes yielded doughnutless disappointment and other nights pure joy. One time my brother and I arrived at the 2AM Tuesday morning reopening and were greeted by racks and racks of Glazed yeast doughnuts.

Honorable Mention: For the Love of Chocolate – This chocolate shop features an enormous variety of chocolate from around the world. They carry many of my favorites: Baci (Italy), Kinder Bueno (Germany/Italy), Ritter Sport’s Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts (Germany), Gold Bars by Fran’s Chocolate (Seattle), Vosges (Chicago), Valrhona (France), Galler Chocolate’s Noix de Coco (Belgium). During college, I would come here to celebrate my birthday by treating myself to $20 worth of truffles and dark chocolate covered graham crackers. Nowadays something different from this store finds its way into my stocking each holiday season.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Screams from the Haters

Top: strawberry shortcake, black forest, French toast
Bottom: Ocean City Sand, Ms. Prunella, lemonade

"Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it / I guess every superhero need his theme music"-- Kanye West, "Power"

When in Maryland, gorge where the Marylanders gorge. One such destination of succulent sweet tooth stuffs is Fractured Prune, the place to get hot, fresh, customizable, made-to-order doughnuts. The regional chain made its start in Ocean City and has been spreading like a plague of deliciousness. I knew it was something I needed to seek and destroy with my mouth.

I could spend my little dance with your attention span telling you about my experience, or I could make fun of these "reviews" I found on Yelp. The business basically got all raves but you know how it is: some people be hatin' just to hate. Here are some the especially unjustified jeers and my responses. (I openly admit that some have been quoted out of context. Please treat this as entertainment, not news.)*

"Three stars. I got there at 2:23 PM. The Fractured Prune closed at 1:00 PM." - Kelly G., Washington, DC
Totally understandable. The reviewer's tardiness warrants a mediocre review.

"Hard to figure out what door to use" - danielle L. , Glen Burnie, MD
When you tried to exit your home and mistakenly chose the wrong door, how long did to take you to deduce you were standing in the hall closet?

"the shop wasn't much to see... i would have expected a glass case with tantalizing baked goods, but there was nothing of the sort." - Olivia D., Washington, DC
Made-to-order doughnuts cannot be put on display. Your best bet would be either making them at home or sticking your face in a deep fryer. With 15 glazes and each doughnut being allowed more than one of their 10 toppings, there are over a thousand different possibilities. A more rational option would be putting a human brain on display and having a sign pointing at it that said "imagination." If you had one, you would know brains get donated to science, not doughnut shops.

"cash only in 2011 is pretty unacceptable...That's a sign of shady business ownership." - Stephanie B., Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Assuming "cash only" is shady is a sign of someone who is untrusting and from New Jersey.

"What is it with Maryland's store names? First Baltimore's Ma Petite Shoe (shoe and chocolate store) and now a doughnut shop called Fractured Prune. What else do they sell? Secondhand fruit? Depends?" - me, non-Yelper
What kind of jerk thought this throwaway joke was funny, much less worth re-inserting?

"they taste greasy and overly sugary." - Justin L., New York, NY
Doughnuts are fried dough. Glaze is almost entirely composed of sugar. Perhaps you saw the hole in the middle and confused them with bagels.

"Nothing unique for a donut. The flavors are the only thing that really save it." - Jeff S., Washington, DC
Apparently flavor is an unimportant variable in determining whether food is unique.

"They were tasty which is why I am giving them two stars, but they don't come close to Donut Plant [sic] in NYC." - Jaimee A., Manhattan, NY
Their goal is providing a tasty product, not imitating Doughnut Plant. No reasonable comparison can be made between Doughnut Plant's mission (no trans fat, preservatives, artificial flavors or eggs) and Fractured Prune's mission. That's like someone from Maryland giving Doughnut Plant a poor rating because "they were tasty" but weren't hot and made-to-order like at Fractured Prune. Doughnut Plant is certainly delicious, but, since it isn't exactly commutable distance from Maryland, the point is irrelevent and you, Jamiee are trolling.

"its just fried dough with syrup and choco-chips on top in whatever combination you want." - Sarah B., Baltimore, MD
What more could anyone want?

* My apologies to any Yelpers who I may have offended. I assure you that of the few readers I have (my brother, one former co-worker and...who was the other one?) none of them will laugh at your expense. They mostly read my failed blog to check that I'm still alive.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ice Cream for the Baltimore Suburbanite

Two dogs enjoy Bonkey's Ice Cream.
Bonkey's Ice Cream and Snoballs in New Freedom, PA is the premier destination for residents of the tiny town and Baltimore suburbanites. There's something for all tastes--human and canine--with their solid mix of traditional flavors (vanilla that meets even my very particular cousin's approval), original flavors (pineapple upside down cake, white chocolate macadamia) and new takes on old favorites (most notably Cookie Monster, a monster-blue vanilla ice cream with crushed Oreos and cookie dough).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ice Cream for the Baltimore "Herbanite"

There's something nostalgic and wholesome about selling ice cream from an ice cream truck. There's something foul and unsavory about dealing marijuana that is stored in one's underwear. Unsurprisingly, these two business models have never been considered for overlap. Until now.

Most people would consider it despicable to try selling drugs to kids when they are buying ice cream. Yes, it may be an unreasonable upsell, but on the flipside it is undeniably innovative to sell ice cream to potheads with the munchies! Two birds, one stoned. Consider also the forethought: both products are mobile by nature. Transporting them in the same vehicle is efficient and cost-cutting.

It is easy to paint this man as a bad apple and, joking aside, his alleged actions were certainly justifiable for arrest. But wasn't he simply mimicking the same unethical opportunism that this country has rewarded in recent years? I wonder how a ghetto entrepreneur being brought to justice might differ if he were, say, a creditor (a) taking part in predatory lending, (b) making money betting against the home owner's capacity to repay their subprime loans, (c) foreclosing homes and/or (d) giving himself several million dollars in bonuses using government bailout money? Which would more likely get off scot-free? And which has caused the greater damage: a inner-city pot dealer or the corrupt perpetuant of the housing crisis/recession? Only one is in jail.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Future of Dessert for the 99%

May Day is coming, but the country's flaming cockpit has been radioing "May Day" since the collapse of the housing market. I could repeat the well-publicized news of economic inequality, plutocracy, corporate personhood or anything else that is fairly obvious to those with powers of observation uninhibited by Fox "News." (I don't mind joking about Fox News since it is treated with a grain of salt by my friends who identify themselves as having Republican and conservative views.) I will NOT be talking about these critical and timely issues for our nation. Instead, I will talk about dessert.

My brother recently sent me an article that details a natural resource whose supply is in danger. It is dark in color, highly viscous in liquid form and among the most important and needed substances in the world: chocolate. While demand for cacao increases each year, the finicky crop remains static. The crops have very specific needs to thrive but limited amounts of available land that can meet those needs. Deforestation, a controversial and unsustainable option, is the current practice while different ideas for plant cultivation are explored. But time is running out as each year brings higher demand. And future limited supply will result in chocolate going to highest bidder, namely those with the wealth.

Issues like this are easy to dismiss because it seems like a problem of the future. But that feeling only lasts until the problem hits where it hurts.

During my fourth visit to Boston this year, I made my typical rounds, which include a trip down Mass Ave. I passed the newly closed Daddy's Junky Music, a regional chain guitar shop I would go inside whenever I passed. I continued north to Newbury Street, Boston's funky shopping district for both local and chain stores for fashion, food and miscellany. My first stop, however, sent shock waves through me. Instead of a bustling ice cream escape house, I saw this:

On the closed entry doors of J.P. Licks was a message. It wasn't an advertisement for a new flavor to tempt me away from my old stand-by, a scoop of creamy Oreo Batter and a scoop of their chocolate-based Oreo. No, it was the disturbing message that the store was closed because the only store capable of affording the rising rent costs are big chain businesses. The Back Bay neighborhood Ben & Jerry's is still in business, the Emack & Bolio's charges on, but a successful local chain has been driven from its home. Here's the message in its entirety:

March 13, 2012

Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls,

It is with great sadness that I must announce the closing of this, our Newbury Street store. After almost 20 years our lease is expiring and our time has come to vacate the premises. Our last day open will be Sunday, March 11th. Our landlord plans to rent the entire building to a single tenant like the Converse, Patagonia, and Forever 21 buildings on this block of Newbury Street. We can neither afford nor utilize this entire 2 story building.

This was our third store when it opened and perhaps the most unique and wonderful looking store of any since. Our shattered tile, sculptural front counter was a genuflection to the great architect from Barcelona at the turn of the twentieth century, Antoni Gaudi. The counter was co-designed and built by Mitch Sidd. The magnificent, life-sized Holstein wall mural was painted by Kim Goldstein and Gail Henry. The overall design of the "Church of the Cow" was conceived by myself and built by CAFCO Construction.

As we continue to look for a new affordable home in the Back Bay, please be sure to visit our newest store at 150 Charles Street on Beacon Hill. The Charles Street shop is currently under construction and scheduled to open in April. You can also visit any of our 9 locations in and around Boston for your yogurt and ice cream needs.

Thank you so much for your patronage over the years. It's been a lot of fun serving you all.

Vince Petryk
Owner and Founder of J.P. Licks