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Entries in pastry road trip (14)

Tuesday
Sep272011

Sweet and Epic Pastry Road Trip to Chicago

Guess what? I recently took a long drive. A really, really long drive. All the way from Seattle to Chicago. From the Rainy City to the Windy City. Across much of America, that great, big country.

And I ate a lot of sweet stuff along the way. While the driving schedule was fairly tight (I had to make it to Chicago in time for the Renegade Craft Fair), and I wasn't able to stop at every bakery I wanted to based on the hours I was passing through various cities, I did manage to put away my fair share of sweet treats; here are some of the highlights. Let's go:

Washington

Mary Lou's Milk Bottle, Spokane WAThe first stop? Mary Lou's Milk Bottle in Spokane. What could be sweeter than stopping for a shake at an establishment shaped like a milk bottle? The huckleberry shake was delicious here, perhaps slightly thinner than I would have liked, but the flavor and pretty hue made up for it in my mind.

Last time I road-tripped, I also stopped at Rocket Bakery, which some say makes the best pink frosted cookie in the state.

Idaho

Sadly, La Vie en Rose was closed by the time I rolled into Coeur D'alene, but next time!

Observation at an Idaho rest area: This is where I started to notice that we were seriously entering Huckleberry Country. Even the rest area had an end cap display devoted to the berry, including sweets like Huckleberry gummi bears. This trend would continue through Montana and Wyoming.

Montana

Missoula: 

Bernice's Bakery, MissoulaTime for some morning sweets!

Le Petit Outre was the first stop, for coffee and sweets, including a cranberry bread (not cake, I know, but quite good!) and cookies. And caneles.

Poppyseed cake from Bernice's Bakery, MissoulaNext up was Bernice's Bakery, where croissants and a slice of poppyseed cake were obtained. Of note: Poppyseed Cakes are apparently big business in Montana, and I have even heard a rumor that this is where they were invented (who knows? Do you?). I asked a local, who had an interesting theory on their popularity. She she said that drug use is big in the state, and that the poppyseeds might be popular because of the purported high they offer. I'm not sure if I'm convinced about that, but I thought it was an interesting thought.

Recommended by a hotel concierge was Black Cat Bake Shop, renowned for their chocolate eclairs.

Bozeman:

On the Rise, Bozeman MTFor morning treats, you must hit up either Sweetpea Bakery or On the Rise. This trip it was On the Rise, for a weighty oat bar, a tart, and a rich quiche (not sweet!). The reverence for carbohydrates is clear here, with buttery crust and deliciousness abounding. But on to lunch...

Burger Bob's, BozemanShake o'clock! At Burger Bob's, largely thought of as the city's best burger joint, the chocolate shake was made with vanilla ice cream and rendered “chocolate” with syrup—perhaps not ideal for chocolate shake die-hards, but I thought it was pretty good.Burger Bob's, Bozeman

Billings:

Caramel Cookie Waffles, Billings, MTIf you have time to go nowhere else, you MUST hit up Caramel Cookie Waffles in Billings, Montana. Owned by a cute-as-pie couple, this place is THE supplier of caramel-filled dutch waffle cookies, and they do a good job. But wait, there's more!

Chocolate chip cheesecake from Caramel Cookie WafflesThey make a mean cheesecake (which they will top with chocolate sauce and chocolate sprinkles, thankyouverymuch), oatmeal cookies, huckleberry caramels, and—wait for it—they even had NANAIMO BARS!

Nanaimo Bar from Caramel Cookie Waffles, Billings MTThis made me feel right at home, and theirs have a delicious secret: instead of graham cracker crumbs for the base, they use the crumbs from their waffle cookies. Nom! Yum! Awesome!

...but that's not all that Montana had to offer.

Durango Restaurant rest area, MontanaAnother thing I love about Montana is that their huckleberry reverence is so clear in every eatery. Even a casino rest area had delicious huckleberry ice cream, though their shake maker was broken (what?!?). Last time I went on a pastry road trip, I had a fantastic Huckleberry bar at a rest area, too.

Wyoming

Sheridan, WY: Sadly I didn't get a chance to stop there, but I want to give a shout-out to Java Moon because it was so highly recommended by a reader. Next time!

In Sundance, WY, I spied this. I was sad to answer "no" at the moment the question was posed to me.

 

South Dakota

Krispie bar from South DakotaWhat would a stop to South Dakota be without a krispie bar or Special K Bar? I picked this one up at a gas station. Too delicious. But moving on to Wall, and Wall Drug...

Wall:

Wall Drug, South DakotaIf you have never been to Wall Drug, well then, consider it a must. Their doughnuts are pretty dreamy.

Wall Drug, South DakotaSo is the pie.Available for purchase at Wall Drug, SD

The ice cream was not as special as the baked goods to me, but still respectable. They also have fudge. Including a flavor called Tiger Butter. What's Tiger Butter? Oh:

Rapid City:

Guess what? I also got a speeding ticket in—wait for it—RAPID CITY, South Dakota. The police officer became my new best friend as we both have the same birthday, but he still gave me the ticket. Vive l'aventure, sweeties!

Mitchell:

A stop in Mitchell, South Dakota provided a sweet retreat: not only did I get a glimpse of the Corn Palace, but I also got to stop for some tasty vittles at what I was assured was the best breakfast in town, at the VFW Hall.

 The biscuits were simple but perfect morning fare, and the cookies and pie were down-home tasty.Buttered biscuit from Mitchell, SD

Down the street, highly-recommended Daylight Donuts had already sold out of treats, but I do hope I'll get to try them out one day: also disappointed were a husband-and-his-pregnant wife, the latter having a massive doughnut craving. Very cute, and clearly these are craveable doughnuts if the shop sells out so early!

Minnesota

Because I was booking it across the state to get to Chicago in time, I didn't have much time to stop and visit Cake Eater Bakery, and sadly the Minnesota State Fair was already over.

In Rochester, I had previously visited Daube's, and would have loved to have visited again.

Spied somewhere in MinnesotaI forget where in Minnesota, but I saw this display of fruit...puddings? They were called parfaits. It reminded me of retro cookbook pictures, but this was the real deal.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin: is there anything it can't do? It's got amazing dairy, delicious meat products, and plenty of sweet treats.

Carrot cake from Mauston Rest Area, WisconsinOne of the standouts, for me, was unexpected: the Mauston Rest area. This truck rest stop surprised me with a full-service bakery full of amazing (and huge!) treats. The carrot cake was seriously one of the highlights of my trip: moist and flavorful cake, with sweet-sweet-sweet cream cheese frosting with the perfect lightly-gritty sugar consistency to balance out the cake. It was divine. They also had all sorts of other goodies, including these enormous pig and cow cookies - the scale really isn't evident from this photo, but rest assured each one was as large as your head and half of someone else's head too.

Madison:

Obviously I needed to drive by Ella's Deli, but didn't stop this time. Sometimes when time is tight I like to hit up a local grocery store--sometimes they have baked goods from a bunch of local bakeries. And I had some good luck at the Willy Street Co-Op, where they had baked goods made on site, such as strawberry crumb bars:

Willy Street Co-Op, Madison WI...as well as sweets from local bakers Larsen Bakery, Batch Bakehouse (who made the monkey bread pastry pictured below), Greenbush Bakery, and East Side Ovens.Batch Bakehouse, Madison WI

Illinois

Reaching Illinois, a waffle was obtained at the Country Kitchen restaurant. Waffles don't hum to me frequently, but this one did, and I was rewarded by a pecan-filled and covered waffle. I was a little put off by the fact that the pecans on top, which were dry, but adding butter and syrup to the waffle made it into something really special.

In Chicago, once I made it to the Renegade Craft Fair, a mandatory stop was made at the Alliance Bakery, where I always enjoy a little something. Sadly no trip to the Angel Food bakery was in my cards what with the time restraints, but I can't wait to visit on my upcoming book tour! I wish I could have gone to every place on this list though.

Happily, Black Dog Gelato had a stand just up the street at the fair, so I finally got to sample some of their stuff. You will not be disappointed if you go.

Another sweet find was Puffs of Doom, a cream puff maker of epic proportions. The portions themselves are modest but the rewards are huge: filled with cream and creative fillings of both sweet and savory persuasions. 

Sweet and savory treats were obtained at Milk and Honey cafe, where pastries are made in-house and everything I have ever tried there is delicious.

A big highlight? Natalie of Bake & Destroy brought me one of her crack-filled Peanut butter pillow cookies, which kept me buzzing with happiness all day. Another huge highlight was a delivery of Vegan chocolate snickerdoodles by my pal Bunny Knuckles, who knows how to make me smile.

Vegan chocolate Snickerdoodles by Bunny Knuckles; heart cookie from Artemio BakeryI tried out some heart-shaped cookies from Artemio Bakery, which were sugary and crumbly and quite satisfactory.

My bff customer Margaret stopped by, and then the fair started and I sold so many copies of my book that I think I might be a bestselling author now.

I also had the extreme and exquisite pleasure of eating at a restaurant called Moto. This place made me want to say “golly” I was so delighted the whole time I was there. And for dessert, they had made a sweet surprise: cookies with a CUPPIE image transfer on top! I kind of freaked out, in a good way. They also let me tour the kitchen, which I thought was oh-so-kind of them. It reminded me of Scott of Seattle Food Geek, who would fit in gorgeously there.

Frozen Custard from Niko's GyrosAn unexpectedly wonderful treat was the custard at Niko's Gyros. I also had the extreme pleasure of visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oak Park; my curiosity having been piqued after reading Loving Frank: A Novel, I also visited the once-home of Mameh Cheney.

Nearby, Petersen's Ice cream was serving up ice cream pies, as well as pints, scoops, and shakes. I saw a lady lose her scoop from the top of the cone while I was there, and it really made my heart hurt.

Prelimary sketches were made at the home of Michelle of Bleeding Heart Bakery—I'm gonna finish that when I go back for my book tour. But can I just tell you a bit about her newest location? Brunch is King there, and they have a doughnut breakfast sandwich and all sorts of crazy-delicious treats. If you live in Chicago, why are you not there right now, friend?

For more of my pastry traveling adventures, click here.

Friday
Sep022011

Sweet States: North Dakota Destinations

Chocolate covered potato chips from Carol Widman'sYou know what's totally sweet? Getting great bakery suggestions. And with my upcoming road trip to Chicago, I'm seeking out the best places from much of sea to shining sea. Happily, Cake Gumshoe Erika, who resides in North Dakota, was kind enough to send me this wonderful list of bakery suggestions for her state! They are listed alphabetically:
The Donut Hole: My favorite place! My father and I used to go every Saturday morning when I was a child and I remember going as though it were yesterday. The store in Fargo closed quite a while ago, however I surprised my dad with a doughnut cake from The Donut Hole last year and I know that he, just like me is looking forward to another cake this year. If you go and you should, I highly recommend the Norwegian Sour Cream doughnut, French Swirl with chocolate and chocolate cookies with chocolate frosting. 1914 North 12th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501.
 
Photo: Nichole's Fine PastryNichole's Fine Pastry: The desserts are really great, especially the seven layer bar. nicholesfinepastry.com
Sweet Dreams Confections: Such great candy, treats and gelato. Also, the owners are the sweetest people ever. sweetdreamsconfections.com
 
Widman's Candy: Chocolate Covered Potato Chips: best combo ever. They are famous and Widman's has the best. carolwidmanscandy.com
Thanks, Erika! If anyone has any other North Dakota suggestions (or suggestions for any state, really), feel free to chime in!
Thursday
Sep012011

Road Trip to Chicago: What Bakeries Should CakeSpy Visit?

Guess what, sweeties? I'm coming to Chicago for the Renegade Craft fair, and staying a little extra time to do a totally sweet mural at one of the Bleeding Heart Bakery locations (I think the Oak Park one).

But here's the thing. I'm DRIVING to Chicago, and I need your help! What bakeries should I visit on the way?

I am listing my "best case scenario" including all the bakeries I'd like to visit, but of course I realize that based on a limited schedule, I might not make it to all of them. But let me know if there are any great bakeries (or regional specialties in a given area) that I should make sure to try!

Washington:

Yakima: 

Spokane

Idaho:

Coeur d'alene:

Montana:

Missoula:

Bozeman:

 Billings:

 Wyoming:

Sheridan:

South Dakota:

Chamberlain 

Rapid City:

Sioux Falls: 

Minnesota:

Rochester: 

Wisconsin:

Osseo, WI:

Madison:

Columbus: 

Illinois:

Chicago:

Oak Park:

Add destinations to the comments section or to the CakeSpy Facebook page!

Wednesday
Nov182009

Pastry Road Trip: Sweet Treats at Laura Little's Candies, Prairie Village, Kansas

Laura Little's, Prairie Village KS
It's hard to avoid a "you're not in Kansas anymore" pun here--but according to Cake Gumshoe MJ, Laura Little's, a chocolate and confection shop in Prairie Village, Kansas, will have you wishing you were in the state immortalized by The Wizard of Oz.

The shop, which is homey and sweet, offers a great variety of confections, including chocolates, fudge, brittles, pretzels, and toffees. But it's the fudge, says MJ, that is completely unbelievable. Just one look at their site reveals a tantalizing array of fudge, sold in thick slabs in flavors varying from vanilla and chocolate to more elaborate flavors like chocolate black walnut, chocolate cherry amaretto or penuche. And best of all, even if you're not in Kansas, you can order online and have it shipped anywhere.

Though the state's motto may be "to the stars through difficulties", obtaining and enjoying this fudge seems easy as pie (of course, the store has even more goodies, so if you're in Prairie Village, you know where to go!).

Laura Little's Candies, 2100 W. 75th St., Prairie Village, KS; online at lauralittlecandy.com.

Wednesday
Oct142009

Raising the Bar: The Chocolate Linzer Bar from Baker Boys, Ocean Grove NJ

Chocolate Linzer Bar from Baker Boys, NJ
Technically, the Linzer Torte is a rich nut pastry filled with fine raspberry preserves, criss-crossed with more nut pastry. But really, it's so much more--it's a flavor concept. One that translates beautifully to other types of baked goods: consider the Linzer Cookie, or my favorite, the Linzer Bar.

And now, Baker Boys in New Jersey has taken the concept one step further into delicious territory with their Chocolate Linzer Bar.

This decadent bar starts with a sturdy, shortbread-y crust which is so full of butter that it would be a fantastic cookie all by itself. Then it's made even better with a topping of a thick slab of chocolate mixed with a perfectly tart-sweet smear of raspberry preserves dotted with seeds. Seal it off with even more shortbread-y goodness, in the form of craggy, golden-topped crumbs dotting the surface of the bar, and what have you got? You've got yourself an expanse of deliciousness, that's what. 

What exit? 100. Get yourself to New Jersey!
The Chocolate Linzer Bar from Baker Boys, 69 Main Avenue, Ocean Grove, NJ (a second location is in Asbury Park); online at thebakerboys.us. Call ahead for availability.

 

Monday
Oct122009

Beat of a Different Crumb: Colossal Crumb Cake from Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe, NJ

Colossal Crumb Cake
When it comes to crumb cake, the ratio which generally reigns in my homeland of New Jersey tends to be something along the lines of 70/30, crumb to cake. Unfortunately, this has basically ruined all other crumb cake for me: no matter how delicious or well-made it may be, if it isn't crumb heavy, I'm probably not going to approve.

So you can imagine my awe, wonder and delight when I came across the colossal crumb cake (yes, that's the official name) at the Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe.

Seriously, this crumb cake is off the hook, with a ratio of roughly 90/10, crumb to cake. One Cake Gumshoe aptly dubbed it "crumb on a cracker"; I call it a modern miracle. This work of crumb cake art has a delicious crispiness on the outside which gives way to a (surprisingly not tooth numbingly sweet) chewy interior; the brown sugar is delightfully balanced with a touch of salt, and the sliver of cake beneath the crumb adds a nice, buttery contrast to the slightly gritty sweetness.

I'm pretty sure they have other things at this bakery; maybe one day I will try them. But for now, I only have one colossal crush.

Colossal crumb cake from the Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe, 55 Main Avenue, Ocean Grove, NJ; online at oceangrovebakeshoppe.com.

Thursday
Oct012009

Pastry Road Trip: Amazing Hungarian Pastries From the Back of a Volvo in Grand Rapids, MI

C/O Cake Gumshoe Matthew, Sour Cherry Pastry
Pop Quiz! You're in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Where do you get delicious Hungarian Pastries?

Answer: The back of a Volvo. Naturally. Or should I say, természetesen.
Grand Rapids Farmers Market C/O Matthew
Joking aside though, it's not junk in the trunk of Grand Rapids-based pastrymaker Julianna Mechtler's car: it's a bounty of delicious pastries like walnut, poppy seed and apricot-walnut pastry rolls, cheesy Danish, and various pies and breads. And for 20 years, she's been unloading this deliciousness from the back of her car to a table at the Fulton Street Farmers Market.
Grand Rapids Farmers Market

Clearly she's been doing something right for all these years: Cake Gumshoes Matthew and Wendy, who first directed me to this Hungarian phenomenon in Grand rapids, state that they "have dreams about" the sour cherry danish, pictured top. 

Of course, it would be remiss to neglect mentioning the fact that Gumshoe Matthew Reidsma (who supplied the photos!) is also a pretty spectacular cartoonist. Take a peek:

Foodie cartoons? Delicious pastries? It's all enough to make you feel pretty Hungary.

 

To buy Julianna Mechtler's pastries, visit the Fulton Street Farmers Market, 1145 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids, MI 49503, 616) 454-4118 (Hours of Operation: 8:00am - 4:00pm Tuesdays, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays May through) Christmas; for more information, visit fultonstreetmarket.org.


To keep up to date with the Grand Rapids Gumshoes, visit Matthew's site here and Wendy's here.

 

Thursday
Oct012009

Pastry Road Trip: The Sweet and Tart Cranberry Walnut Bar from Alliance Bakery, Chicago

Cranberry walnut bar, Alliance Bakery, Chicago
While I was recently selling artwork at the world famous Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, I was lucky enough to have a booth located very close to Alliance Bakery. True, I had heard mixed reviews about this place--but after one of my awesome boothmates got (and highly praised) their vaguely Napoleon-looking treat called the "Ellen" (made up of pistachio-cinnamon mousseline with pistachio praline and white chocolate mousse--like, whoa), I knew I had to make a stop. Walking up to the entrance, I wasn't sure quite what to expect: the exterior has old-school neon sign and flamboyantly decorated cakes on display in the front window.
Alliance Bakery, ChicagoAlliance Bakery, Chicago
But once you step inside, it's immediately evident that this is a very special place. They have huge, wraparound bakery cases full of all manner of cakes, pastries and cookies, which made the visit fun right away for me, because half the fun is ogling everything and choosing, right?
Alliance Bakery, ChicagoAlliance Bakery, Chicago
Alliance Bakery, ChicagoAlliance Bakery, Chicago
Ultimately I settled on an intriguing bar cookie: the cranberry walnut bar. I know the combination sounds unusual, but here's the deal. The bar cookie, which is made up of a sweet walnut-y, caramel-y mixture set atop a cookie crust, is very sweet. While bars like this are often  delicious, sometimes the sweetness can be so overwhelming that the flavor lacks depth. Here's where the cranberries come in. The little bursts of sweet, acidic tartness cut through the extreme sweetness, rounding out the flavor and adding excitement to every bite (yes! excitement!). It worked beautifully, and made what could have been a run-of-the mill bar cookie very memorable.

Not only was I pleased with the bar cookie, but I am so intrigued by the sweet-and-tart combination that I think I might just add a topping of cranberries the next time I make pecan pie.

Alliance Bakery, 1736 W Division Street (between Hermitage Ave & Wood St), Chicago, IL, (773) 278-0366; online at alliance-bakery.com.
Alliance Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Sep272009

Pastry Road Trip: A Bakery Twilight Zone Moment at Sweet Pea Bakery, Bozeman MT

Peanut butter and jelly bar, Sweet Pea Bakery
A week or so ago, somewhere in the Midwest, I think I entered a bakery twilight zone. Let me tell you my story.

On my recent pastry road trip to Chicago, I had a route which included stopping in Bozeman, Montana on my way out, and Butte on my way back home. However, as fate would have it, I got behind schedule and ended up driving through Bozeman after business hours. Oh well, I figured--I'll visit bakeries in Bozeman another time.

The week went by and I had many delicious pastries along the way to and from Chicago.

On the day that I would be passing back through Montana, though, something unusual happened. I had fallen asleep with the TV on in the hotel room, and when I awoke in the morning, what should be on but a Food Network feature on the Sweet Pea Bakery in Bozeman and their amazing key lime torte.

I figured this was as close as I would ever get to receiving a sign from the heavens that I must visit this bakery. Forget Butte--I was going to Bozeman.

And so I did. And when I arrived, the staff was super friendly...and they knew who I was (I think this is how you know you're a big deal). I was able to talk cake with owners Carrie and Seth (who I had just seen on--gasp--TV!), and all I can say is that they are basically my new heroes. It's easy to see why they have been voted Bozeman's best bakery, like, every year since the earth began--just look at what's in their bakery case:
Sweet Pea Bakery, Bozeman MT
A gorgeous and decadent-looking chocolate torte;
Sweet Pea Bakery, Bozeman MT
A pretty-as-a-picture cheesecake;
Sweet Pea Bakery, Bozeman MT
a fruit tart that would make Carmen Miranda jealous;
Sweet Pea Bakery, Bozeman MT
and, of course, their famous Key Lime Torte.

How do pastries get so pretty? Well, owner Carrie studied graphic design in college, and it definitely comes through in the aesthetic of the impeccably decorated sweets.

Since I felt that it would travel well, I took one of their peanut butter and jelly bars (pictured top) with me--and it was definitely a good decision. The buttery, cookielike crust was perfectly complemented by a sweet and slightly tart jam, and the crumb topping added a lovely crunch and density. And though I know it might be sacrilege to mention savories here, I did get to sample their spanokopita too--and it was delightfully flaky and flavorful, and a perfect treat for the road.

So what would I call this experience? Bakery kismet, at its most delicious.

Drive to Bozeman and visit Sweet Pea Bakery now--they can be found at 2622 W. Main Street, Bozeman (406)586-8200; online at sweetpeabakery.net. If you can't visit, well then, at least keep updated via Twitter!
Sweet Pea Bakery on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Sep272009

Pastry Road Trip: Peanut Butter Cookie from On The Rise, Bozeman MT

Peanut Butter Cookie from On The Rise, Bozeman
Sometimes you just need a cookie. And if you happen to be passing through Bozeman, Montana, On the Rise has got your back.

I knew from the moment I walked in to this place that it was a very special establishment indeed. Behind the small counter area there was a huge kitchen facility in which employees were creating breads and pastries--the whole placed smelled of flour, sugar, and butter. Wonderful.
On the Rise Bakery, Bozeman MT

But what to choose from their menu of generously sized, carb-heavy sweets? Perhaps the "totally oat" bar (a dense bar cookie with an oaty crumb topping)? Or the cardamom roll? Or the decadent cream cheese brownie?

In the end, simplicity reigned, and I selected the peanut butter cookie, which had a tempting cross-hatch pattern atop, and looked baked to perfection--not too toasty, but with a slightly crisp edge.

I loved this cookie. I felt like this was a breadmaker's approach to a peanut butter cookie-- leaned toward a more carb-y, floury sort of cookie, but it was nonetheless chewy without being too greasy or buttery, and the peanut butter taste was rich without being overpowering. Alone it might tend toward being a bit dry, but paired with a milky cafe au lait, it is perfection. This one is a true carb-lover's cookie.

On The Rise, 1007 W. Main St., Bozeman MT; online here.
On The Rise on Urbanspoon

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