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Entries in cakespy undercover (112)

Monday
Feb182013

Frozen Hot Chocolate from Holy Cacao, Austin TX

Holy Cacao

It started out innocently, really.

We were going to Gourdough's to get some big fat doughnuts. Yay for big fat doughnuts!

But on our way, we were sidetracked by something heaven-sent: Holy Cacao. If you're not familiar with the way the food truck scene is set up in Austin, Texas, let me tell you that it is epic. In my opinion, it's like Portland's food truck scene, but like, times ten. There are food truck "pods" or mini communities, set up in lots all over. Some even have communal seating areas. It makes for a really friendly atmosphere and really promotes trying products from multiple vendors.

And while exploring other vendors on our way to Gourdough's, this was the one that caught this Spy's eye. Specializing in chocolate and cake pops, it was right up my alley. Even more so when I noticed their tag line: Las cosas claras y el chocolate espeso." (Ideas should be clear and chocolate thick.) - Spanish proverb. I like that way of thinking.

You should probably get one of everything here. They offer cake balls in all sorts of flavors, shakes (including! A cake shake!), and drinking chocolate. And it's the drinking chocolate that is the base of their Frozen Hot Chocolate. 

Holy cacao

If you have never heard of frozen hot chocolate, let me educate you. It's an incredibly rich chocolate base that is then mashed with ice cream and ice and blended to smooth, creamy confection perfection. It's not quite a milkshake, but it's more than just chilled hot chocolate. When done poorly, it's like a grainy coolatta. When it's done well, it's magic. It's famous the world at a place called Serendipity 3 in New York City.

At Holy Cacao, they do it right. You start by choosing a hot chocolate flavor - Holy, Cacao, The Mexican, or Peppermint Patty, and then they will blend it with ice and Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate Ice Cream (because in Texas, you're in Blue Bell country), carefully adjusting their blender and mashing down uncrushed ice and blending again to ensure the correct consistency. What you get is, as they aptly declare on their website, "a rich, chilled chocolate experience."

My companion, who grew up in New York City with Serendipity 3 as the guiding light and standard of what a Frozen Hot Chocolate can and ought to be, not only approved, but (watch out) declared it superior. And I can agree that it is very, very, very good. 

It doesn't really get so cold in Austin, it more trends toward hot, and this beverage is the perfect way to cool down, deliciously.

And the perfect warm-up to a doughnut.

1311 So. 1st Street, Austin; online here.

Sunday
Feb172013

Sweet Times at Ms Goody Cupcake, Philadelphia

Ms goody Cupcake

We're going to talk about Ms. Goody Cupcake today, I promise. But first. When you walk into a bakery, do you consider every single little thing that had to come into play for this experience to happen? 

In your own life, zillions of little tiny things have happened, of course. But I'm talking now about the bakery itself. It may have started as a dream, but then it went through a strenuous time of buildout, health inspections, and refining recipes that work perfectly in a home kitchen to be suitable for commercial production and consumption. It boggles the mind. 

Ms goody Cupcake

Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Gigi, the owner of Ms. Goody Cupcake in Philadelphia, and had the pleasure of learning more of her story. And with that, here are a few things you may not have known about this sweet little spot nestled in the up and coming East Passyunk area: 

What's in a name? The name came to her in an unexpected way: at a big box store! Owner Gigi was debating cupcake shop names--she had already dismissed Gigi's as it was already taken, and had rejected several others that seemed to generic. Then, while in a Wal-Mart parking lot in New Jersey, she overheard a conversation in which one person called the other a "Ms. Goody Two-Shoes." She thought--that's it! Ms. Goody Cupcake was born.

Sweet Trivia: Gigi's husband owns a pizza shop a few blocks away. I found this impossibly romantic, the perfect marriage of the foods I always eat on my birthday! 

Overcoming obstacles: On the day that she opened, Gigi slipped on the store's newly mopped floor and had to close! When she re-opened again, she suffered another injury shortly thereafter and had to close yet again! Luckily, her supportive neighborhood was ready and waiting for her sweet treats. 

Playing favorites: Gigi doesn't like to play favorites, BUT. Her personal favorite cupcake from the menu is the Tiramisu cupcake, offered as a special on occasion, which features coffee and mascarpone. Yum. 

Happy Hour: Ms. Goody cupcake does offer several boozy cupcake options. They're not available all the time, but they're popular when they are around. Beer-pretzel cupcake? Sounds perfect for Father's Day. Talk about a sweet buzz.

Ms goody Cupcake

Now that I've given you some fun tidbits, let's talk about the cupcakes. There is a roster of about five flavors (basics, you know) that are always available, and then every day you'll see several other flavors that are specials. On the day I went, they included a "Banana Split" (banana cake, chocolate drizzle, cherry on top--pictured top), "Lunch Lady" (peanut butter and jelly), and "Holy Cannoli" (cannoli cream-esque frosting, bits of shell on the top - yum).

Ms goody Cupcake

I tried one of their regular cupcakes--the "Pretty In Pink", which is a champagne cupcake available in the prettiest cake color, and the aforementioned "Banana Split". I thoroughly enjoyed my cupcake experience on both counts. I wouldn't call the cupcakes here fancy--but don't think that is an insult in any way. They are homey types of cakes, and that is sometimes very satisfying. Ms goody Cupcake The frostings are assertively dense, and perfectly sweet. The cake itself falls somewhere in the middle--not poundcakey, but definitely not spongey or over-light. The champagne cupcake had a nice bite from the champagne which was rather nice with the sweetness of the frosting. The banana cupcake was satisfyingly moist, but not to be confused with banana bread, ever, with all the sweetness happening on the upper level.

Pretty in Pink cake truffle

I also tried a cake truffle--once again, the "Pretty In Pink". You could still taste that little bite of the champagne, which was especially nice against the white chocolate coating, which can be so-o-o-o sweet sometimes. Nice. 

Ms goody Cupcake

Thought I didn't try them on this visit, they also have cookies, a different type of cake every week (Jewish Apple cake on the day of my visit), and doggie treats. They also offer custom cakes by request. 

Ms goody Cupcake

In the East Passyunk area? Go check them out, yo. It's a fun neighborhood to walk around in, as well.

Ms. Goody Cupcake, 1838 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia PA; online here.

Saturday
Feb162013

CakeSpy Undercover: Sugar Mama's Bakeshop, Austin TX

Box o' goodness, sugar mama's

Here's a bakery that really excited me: Sugar Mama's Bakeshop in Austin, Texas.

Now, I should tell you that even before I tasted their sweets, I was hungry for them. A few years ago, I had 

Custom order for Sugar Mama's Bake Shop

Here's a detail, so you can see the subject matter, which focuses on cupcakes baking and getting tattoos. Since this is what they had requested, I hope you can see why I already kind of loved them.

Custom order for Sugar Mama's Bake Shop

So upon setting foot in Austin, I hot-footed it over to this sweet spot as my first stop. 

Sugar Mama'sSugar Mama's

Oh, what to get! Well, certainly not just one thing. So we settled on a couple of bourbon chocolate pecan bars, a chocolate chip scone, and a Pistachio chocolate chip cupcake (a special on Fridays; view their website for a daily cupcake menu).

Sugar Mama's, Austin

First, let's talk about that Pistachio chocolate chip cupcake. Buttery vanilla cake swirled with rich chocolate chips and topped with creamy pistachio buttercream frosting. A nice cake foundation, topped with an addictive as crack pistachio frosting. Like a good pistachio pudding, only buttery. Kind of like the cupcake version of these cookies. Big thumbs up.

Scone, Sugar Mama's

Next, the scone. I'm showing it to you realllll close up because that's about how close I got, to look it scone-cold in the eye, and ask it if it was feelin' lucky. When it didn't answer, I took it as a sign of disrespect and just cause to bite its face off. And I will tell you, its face was delicious. The chocolate chips were joined by chocolate swirled throughout the scone, and it was nice and moist, biscuitlike. A nice, sweet scone.

Bourbon pecan chocolate chip bar, sugar mama's

Finally, and my personal favorite, the bourbon chocolate chip pecan bars. Like, OMG. As they put it on their website, this is "Our delicious take on an old favorite. Pecans, chocolate chips, and a hint of bourbon on top of a pie crust." This description does not do this bar justice. May I humbly suggest that they change it to "this is the type of foodstuff that makes you want to eat it continuously until you're obese." Rich pecans in a buttery, gooey sauce. Punctuated by dark, deep, delicious chocolate. Made better with a shortbread crust. Given just enough "bite" from the bourbon to cut through the richness, giving it a lovely, lingering caramelly contrast. I want another right now.

Unicorn, Austin TX

And you know what? Right after leaving, I went to another shop where I found this unicorn statuette. Now, if that is not proof that Sugar Mama's is capable of sprinkling magic on your day, I don't know what further proof you need.

1905 S. 1st Street, Austin; online here.

Monday
Feb112013

Sweet Product: Whoopie Pies From Chococoa Baking Company

Whoopie Pie ride

Not so long ago, I received an email from a place called Chococoa Baking Company, asking if I'd sample their whoopie pies.

Turns out this retail bakery (with an online and wholesale division) has made quite a name for itself in the North Shore of the greater Boston area, where they've been churning out what they call "the Whoopie"--a mini (3 bite-ish) version of the popular treat that is "A smaller, richer, triple chocolate version of the childhood treat." 

Co-owners Alan and Julie have some eclectic inspiration. For Alan, this is the realization of a lifelong dream to develop a snack food. He thanks his two heroes: first his mother, and then...former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan. Of course. As he explains it, "My mother was a great baker and always trying new recipes." As for Mr. Greenspan? He said that you do not need to develop a new product but rather improve an existing one. Nice. 

Whoopie pies

Julie, Chococoa's co-owner, is a Maine native who grew up making whoopie pies with her grandmother and mother; she felt that the classic treat could benefit from a makeover, too. 

Sure, I said, and they sent me a sample. But I don't know if they were aware of what exactly awaited their sweet treats when I received them. Because, you see, I like to get to know baked goods before I sample them. So, I unwrapped them and had way more fun with them than I ought to have.

First, I showed one my hamburger phone. Whoopie Pie Burger Phone

HAMBURGER PHONE!

Whoopie Pie Burger Phone

I showed a few my book. They made appropriate cooing sounds of approval. Whoopie pie book

I gave some a healthy snack.

Whoopie Pies and apple

I safely wrapped a few and took them for a walk. Whoopie pie

I took them to an 18th Century Garden. Bet you're wondering how I knew it was an 18th Century Garden. Whoopie Pie at an 18th century garden

I showed them statues.

Whoopie pie at statue

I showed them historical landmarks. Independence Hall Whoopie Pie

Back home, I introduced one to a naked baby. Whoopie pie and baby

One enjoyed a conversation with a cupcake. Conversational Whoopie Pie

I shared with them some of my artwork. Whoopie Pie Bacon

I showed them my unicorn collection: Whoopie pies and unicorn

They were so happy.

Whoopie Pie Hello

and then I ate them.

Whoopie pie bite

Wow, you're thinking, when did this turn into a Whoopie Pie snuff film? No, people. They're just whoopie pies. They're meant to be consumed.

And for sure, these ones were rather tasty. In the parcel, as you've noticed in the pictures, there were several different flavors of filling. I tried ones filled with vanilla cream, salted caramel cream, raspberry cream, and chocolate ganache. 

What's clear is that these are a step above your typical ubiquitous whoopie pie, quality-wise--the fillings are on par with the frostings at a high end cupcake shop, and the cake is quite nicely made--very chocolatey, and not crumbly or devoid of flavor like so many whoopie pies can be, in my opinion. 

I vote that they are a highly satisfying treat. And proof that sometimes it's great to take some childlike joy in your food, and play with it!

Whoopie Pie book

Buy your own whoopie pies to mess with! If you're in Newburyport, visit 50 Water Street, where they have a retail location; or, order online. Here's their website.

Sunday
Feb102013

Finer Diner: 24 Diner, Austin TX

24 diner, Austin

I need to talk to you about a very special diner called, simply, 24, in Austin, Texas. The name refers to how many hours they are open per day. Get it?

24 Diner

Now, to say "diner" might be ever so misleading. As they say on their website,

"When you hear the word diner, you probably think greasy spoon. 24 Diner is anything but. Essentially, we took all the elements of the concept we liked — classic American cuisine, good service, fun atmosphere — and turned it up about 10 notches. We offer chef-inspired comfort food, local & organic fare, a full bar and a killer beer & wine list. A finer diner, if you will. And you can stop in anytime. We’re open 24 hours a day."

But don't worry--just because it's "turned up about 10 notches" doesn't mean it's inaccessable. True, it's undeniably hip, and the dishes will cost a bit more than a greasy spoon, but it's worth it, because they do very fine work here. 

And plenty of it is sweet stuff. Since I was there for breakfast, I am mainly going to focus on morning sweets, but they do have a daily dessert list and based on everything I tried, I am going to go ahead and say you should probably try something. For instance, while browsing their Facebook page, I found pictures of desserts such as the Kentucky Bourbon pie (pictured above) and the honey cheesecake with graham cracker crust and lemon honey sauce (below).

If you love breakfast carbohydrates, you must get one of their Belgian waffles. It's a waffle a little different than I have ever tried, a yeast-risen dough with butter, Madagascar vanilla, and raw sugar. The high quality ingredients are evident from first bite--that light vanilla scent that permeates the waffle is tantalizing to smell as you're served, and it will definitely make your mouth happy. Oh, and it's served with fancy Grade A light amber Vermont maple syrup. And the butter definitely has some flavoring. Honey? I don't know. It's good though.

Waffle and shake

And you must get a shake. Shakes start with vanilla ice cream and then you can expand by adding quality ingredients such as single-origin chocolate, local strawberries, Grade A Vermont maple syrup, housemade syrups, and Texas Coffee Traders espresso. I suggest that you run, don't walk, for the Roasted Banana and brown sugar milkshake. This thing makes me want to do a happy dance. Like bananas foster meets banana cream pudding meets milkshake. And with fresh whipped cream on top! It makes you wand to do some happy banana dance or something. But please don't, because the clientele is hipster cool here. You don't want to lose your hip standing.

24 Diner, 600 N. Lamar, Austin, TX; open 24 hours. Online here.
Saturday
Feb092013

CakeSpy Undercover: Brown Betty Desserts, Philadelphia

Brown Betty

Let's sit for a spell and chat about the magic that is Brown Betty Dessert Boutique in Philadelphia.

First, because I know you like to get the nasty bits out of the way straightaway, I need to tell you that the only flaw in this delectable beacon of sweetness is their hours. They have two locations: the main, have-a-seat-enjoy-a-treat spot in the Northern Liberties neighborhood. This one doesn't open til noon. The second location, a tiny spot at the Liberty Place mall in Center City, doesn't open til 10am. I know. Don't they know I need cake for breakfast?

But--and it is hard for me to say this, trust me--it's worth waiting til 10 or noon, depending on where you are. Because the desserts are really good.

Brown Betty

The bakery definitely veers toward southern sweets, and has a very cute story (per their website):

Brown Betty Dessert Boutique is named after our mother/grandmother, Elizabeth Ruth Hnton (friends and family call her either Betty or Liz). Every Sunday when we'd go to visit there'd be a few baked goods already baked: hard tacks (a country word for biscuits), apple pies (always two at a time) or those mile high poundcakes. Everyone loved them! Elizabeth's love and talent for baking and the stories she told of her youth while doing so are the inspiration for Brown Betty. While Elizabeth doesn't bake as much as she used to (she is still our most trusted and toughest critic) - we still remember how good it all used to taste.

The menu is heavy (pun intended) on pound cake, which is a specialty and the base for many of their cupcakes and layer cakes. But while cakes dominate the menu, they're not the only item available. There are also some very nice looking cookies available, and they also do rice pudding, peach cobbler (seasonally), and, of course, Apple Brown Betty.

Brown Betty

After doing the jerk thing I do and asking "what is the best thing here?" to the employee working at the time, I was advised to go for the "Only For Eliza"--sweet potato poundcake with spiced Vanilla buttercream. A lovely poundcake with a nicely rounded-out flavor, earthy and soothing, from the sweet potato; sweet as can be and far more enjoyable with frosting. "That's a good cupcake" I say. Only for Eliza...and ME!

I have also sampled their "Sing Little Alice"--Chocolate and Vanilla Cake Swirled and Vanilla or Chocolate Buttercream. And their "Company's Comin'"--Vanilla Poundcake and Coconut Cream Cheese Buttercream. I freaking love how they use poundcake as the base of many of their cakes and cupcakes. It makes them so enjoyable, and the cake is rich and nice and buttery, so it isn't a bummer if you ration out the frosting wrong in your eating and end up with a bite or two of just cake. The cookies are good, too. They are nice, big softies. Just the way I like it.

Of course, if you're not in Philadelphia, or even near Philadelphia, they have a cookbook: The Brown Betty Cookbook

They do weddings too, and--I love this--their guiding principle is, "We are obsessed with the concept that our wedding and special occasion cakes taste as good as they look (if not better)."

Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, two locations; main location, 722 N. 2nd Street, Northern Liberties neighborhood; petite location, Liberty Place mall in Center City, near the 17th Street entrance; more info on the website.

Saturday
Feb022013

CakeSpy Undercover: Cake and the Beanstalk, Philadelphia

Cake and the beanstalk - image, Cake and the Beanstalk

CakeSpy Note: Because I seem to have misplaced my photos of Cake and the Beanstalk, many are from their website, and the banana cake is from Penn Appetit. 

You are pretty much bound by honor to love any bakery that has the tagline "Fee fi fo YUM". 

Such a bakery can be found in Cake and the Beanstalk, a place where children can play and adults are invited to along with them. And there are sweets enough for everyone.

Cake and the beanstalk - image, Cake and the Beanstalk

When I say children can play, I mean that literally. They do all sorts of events and story time activities at Cake and the Beanstalk, in their sun-drenched cafe room. 

The bakery area is small, but has a respectable case. Blondies take up notably more space than brownies, which is just fine with me. You might find blondies that are studded with rolo candies or caramel or something else tasty on the day of your visit. The blondies are nice and dense and thick, chewy and depending on what candies or goodies are stuffed in it, possibly gooey too. Blondies definitely have more fun at this shop. 

Image c/o Cake and the beanstalk

Cookies and cakes are well executed here, and nicely enjoyed in the sunny "sitting room" adjoining the bakery. Oh, and they also do custom cakes. Here's one that caught my eye: 

Homer cake

Mmm, cake depicting donut.

When I asked what cake could not be missed in their case, proprietor Dan led me to an interesting choice: the banana cake with chocolate ganache. What gives? As he revealed in an interview

"The banana chocolate walnut cake. It’s studded with chocolate chips and walnuts and is finished with a silky chocolate glaze. It’s my specialty; the recipe has been in my family for years. I tweaked the original recipe, reducing the amount of sugar and adding more bananas to add natural sweetness; I also added the glaze component. It’s a must-try."

As Dan revealed to me in a conversation, the glaze is something he honed while working at fancy restaurants as a pastry chef, so really, this cake is an amalgamation of high end meets down home baking. A delicious combination. 

Cake and the Beanstalk is a sweet little spot to enjoy a bite or ten of something sweet and feel like life is simple and sweet if only for a few minutes.

Cake and the Beanstalk, 1112 Locust Street, Philadelphia; online here. CakeSpy Note: Because I seem to have misplaced my photos of Cake and the Beanstalk, many are from their website, and the banana cake is from Penn Appetit. 

Saturday
Jan122013

CakeSpy Undercover: Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

Not so very long ago, I visited a magical place called Taos, New Mexico. It's a place famous for a few things

It also has a bookstore called Moby Dickens and another store called Unicorn School Supply. And it is the home of Taos Cow. So naturally I liked it there.

I also heard it is the occasional home of Julia Roberts, but she's not always beloved there. But I digress.

Taos, NM

While there, I heard over and over that I simply had to visit a place called Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery. Well, if you tell me I should go to a bakery, chances are, I will--immediately. So over I walked.

Here's how it looks from the outside. It looks kind of enchanted, behind all of the desert plants, doesn't it? I'm sure it's even more so in the summertime. 

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

When I walked in with a friend, it was very quiet, and we thought maybe it was closed. It's more a restaurant in the front part. But as we walked back, we found the pastry case. Oh, hello.

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

They had a lot of good-lookin' stuff, and while we browsed the offerings, we were offered free dragonfly-shaped cookies. Very nice.

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

Of course, it soon was revealed why the cookies are complimentary--because everything else is so expensive! We got a slice of the chocolate cake with red wine-soaked cherries, and a chocoalte salted caramel tart. And a coffee. And the bill came to nearly $20. Yowch!

But gosh-darn were they good. If the picture doesn't give you the idea, let me tell you that this cake was a pure chocolate-filled bite of heaven. And since it has cherries on the top, it's probably OK to consider it health food.

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

But as for the salted caramel tart.

I'll tell the truth, I found the crust pleasant, but it was the filling, oh the filling, that made it memorable! The perfect marriage of dark, bittersweet chocolate with smooth, velvety caramel. Topped with salt to bring that beautiful flavor combination home, all in your mouth. This was one of those "oh can I please eat my weight in it" sorts of foods.

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

Oh, one more shot!

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

Based on the price, I would not call Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery an everyday type of bakery/dessert spot. Consider it more a fancy dessert place, or a place to get dinner and dessert in style. But most importantly, enjoy!

402 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM; online here.

Wednesday
Dec192012

CakeSpy Undercover: Icing on the Cake, Los Gatos CA

Icing on the Cake, Los Gatos

Here's the situation. You're driving from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, CA, and you've gotten stuck in traffic and are starting to get SERIOUSLY hungry along the way. Do you wait til Santa Cruz and risk binge-eating all the artisan ice cream and bakeries in town because you're so hungry?

No. You pause, pull your car over in Los Gatos ("the cats"!), and stop your sweet self at Icing on the Cake.

Icing on the Cake, Los Gatos

Not only is Icing on the Cake a fantastic name for a bakery, it's also a fantastic bakery. It had crossed my radar several years ago when the staff was smart and savvy enough to begin stocking my products for their small retail area. Obviously, this meant that they were smart and wonderful people. True appreciators of sweetness.

Icing on the Cake, Los Gatos

But I had never actually tasted the sweets in person until I found myself in the situation detailed above. 

When I got to the bakery, I introduced myself and had a short chat with Lynn, of whom I asked a big question: "what should I take with me?". 

This led to a brief consultation about what my sweets preferences were. Well, I said, I tend to like buttery, rich things--not so much fruit stuff--and I would probably veer more toward caramel, peanut butter, etc, rather than chocolate (I love chocolate, but I like it as a component, not as the whole story, in general). 

Icing on the cake, los gatos

"Oh," she said wisely, "you're one of those people who only eats beige things."

Now, I will confess, this took me aback for a moment. I love color! Rainbows! Unicorns! Pink frosting!

But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized she was right. I prefer blondies to brownies; I love shortbread, all the better if topped or sandwiched with caramel; one of my favorite-favorite foods, in the world, crumb cake, is really just several shades of beige.

So it's true: I'm a beige lover!

So I loaded up with a few beige-y treats: 

Icing on the Cake, Los Gatos

First, the softie Salted Caramel cookie ("Salted Caramel Moon"). If you like soft sugar cookies, this will be a real treat for you: a soft, rich, lightly crumbly cookie, but instead of the sugary-sweet frosting, this has a caramelly kick with a salty aftertaste. It works wonderfully with the cookie base; it's a little different, but not crazy--like, I could share this with my grandma, whereas she'd say "say WHAT?" to salted licorice flavored baked goods. 

Icing on the Cake, Los Gatos

Next up, the gingernsap. This one is crispy, which is usually not what I crave in a cookie (softie for life!) but this one was quite nice. It had quite a spicy zip--as Lynn advised, pair this one with tea and it will give you a little heat for a cold afternoon. Nice. 

Icing on the Cake, Los Gatos

Next up: the brown sugar shortbread cookies. Shortbread is one of those things that is so simple, but has the potential to be so exquisite, and at Icing on the Cake, it falls into the latter territory. The small additions of brown sugar and crunchy sugar around the sides of the cookies make a big difference, and take them from "good" to "great" shortbread territory. Very worth a try.

Icing on the Cake, Los Gatos

The most colorful treat--or at least the one with the most different tones--was their seven layer bar. This is probably one of my favorite treats in the world (well, aside from super-beige crumb cake) and theirs was a fine specimen. Crunchy and buttery on the bottom crust layer, soft and gooey in the midsection, so decadent and rich that you'd lose yourself in that sticky sea of delicious coconut if it weren't for the punctuations of crunchy nut and pockets of rich chocolate morsels. Please, promise me you'll get one when you visit. 

Of course, Icing on the Cake has a ton more: cupcakes, layer cakes, bars and quick breads and cookies of all sorts--the bakery case is very well appointed and tempting. 

Final word: GO TO THIS PLACE. I promise you won't regret it.

Icing on the Cake, 50 W. Main Street, Los Gatos, CA; online here.

Monday
Dec172012

CakeSpy Undercover: Taos Cow, Taos NM

Taos Cow Ice Cream

In Taos, New Mexico, when you drive up a steep road into a sort of hippie utopia called Arroyo Seco, there's a clearing which gives way to a place called Taos Cow.

It's off the beaten path of the town—far from the plaza, or town center. But it's worth a visit.

Taos Cow Ice Cream

One of their specialties is ice cream, which has a most unique texture. In fact, I am tempted to say it's more gelato-like—sort of smooth and with a different texture than say, Haagen daz. In asking the employee what made for that unique texture, she couldn't say—maybe the cows are just happier in New Mexico. 

Taos Cow Ice Cream

Dairy is, after all, one of the major industries in New Mexico, and all of the dairy used in their products is from the state. I tried three types of ice cream: Caramel Pinon (pine nut), which is smooth and mellow and rich, with a deep, sophisticated aftertaste. I wanted to commit to this flavor, but they only had the tiniest bit left so I settled for a taste and got a hearty scoop of another flavor: the strawberry chocolate.Taos Cow Ice Cream

Probably this was one of the nicest strawberry ice creams I've ever tasted, with a distinct strawberry taste and a wonderful accompaniment of bittersweet and white chocolate. The high sweetness of the white chocolate, the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate, and the natural sweetness of the strawberry, all coming together in creamy matrimony, sure made my mouth happy.

A friend got the chocolate pecan ice cream as a shake, and it contained about 6 heaping scoops of ice cream. It was absolutely delicious, and at the end of it, there were nutty bits coated in melty chocolate like a treat at the end of the milkshake road.

Taos Cow Ice Cream

But wait, there's more! Although Taos Cow is famous for their ice cream, it's not all they have to offer. They also have a pastry case full of cookies, pies, and pastries. Taos Cow Ice Cream

For instance, the apple pastry, which had a beautiful, flaky crust and a sweet, brown sugary apple filling. It was most impressive for breakfast the next morning.

Apple turnover, Taos Cow Ice Cream

Taos Cow is a hippie place with tourist prices, but it's certainly a sweet stop in New Mexico.

485 Hwy 150, Arroyo Seco, NM; online here.

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