For this assignment, I went undercover--and underground--to visit Tiffany's Bakery.
This is an unexpected spot to find delicious treats--for one thing, it is in the basement level of an urban shopping mall. In the food court. It's flanked by places like McDonalds and Auntie Anne's--not exactly where you'd expect to find a scratch-baked, totally awesome bakery.
My trip was doubly delightful in that it was the spot suggested by my friend Margaret, a brilliant editor at Quirk Books. It's amazing, she promised. I didn't need to be told twice.
I was glad it had been suggested, because purely based on looks, the the bakery might not get you right away: the shelving and lighting are fairly generic and utilitarian.
But the crowd surrounding the sweet-smelling bakery is your first indication that you've reached an unexpected goldmine of deliciousness. And clearly they've got a loyal following: they've been baking up sweets for 33 years now!
And because we never do anything halfway, we got not one but about a half-dozen of their sweet treats, including a sticky bun, a cookie, a red velvet cupcake, a mini cherry cheese danish, and a "George Washington Slice", a sort of spicy brownie-gingerbread type bar.
And you know what? Everything was very, very good. Standouts for me were the cherry danish and sticky bun, which were lightly yeasty, not too sweet, but pleasingly decadent on both counts. Also very strong was the cookie, which was spicy and flavorful. I personally did not try the cupcake but was assured it was a good specimen. The chewy "George Washington Bar" was like a chewy spice cake meets brownie--interesting, a little different, and I think it would make a great companion to eggnog around the holidays.
I learned that Tiffany's is known and highly regarded for their generous slices of Strawberry Short Cake - making that my #1 pick for my next visit.
Another nice thing about Tiffany's is that they offer many of their items in two sizes, which I estimated to be "small-medium" and "very large". The smaller size is perfect for mixing and matching or if you're serving a crew at a brunch or event. Or, you know, if you want to try six pastries in one sitting and convince yourself it's ok because they're "mini".
The final word? Visiting Tiffany's is an adventure, you'll have plenty of good people watching, and the pastries are worth a visit.
Tiffany's Bakery, 9th and Market, Gallery Mall Food Court; online here.