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Entries in travel (5)

Tuesday
Jan272015

20 Plus Delicious Discoveries in Asheville, North Carolina

Peanut butter pie, City Bakery

Dear friends,

I have had the amazing fortune of spending January in Asheville, North Carolina this year. Have you ever been to Asheville? If so, you know how awesome it is to have the chance to spend a month here. If you're not familiar, well, let me tell you about your new favorite city. 

Can I live here?

Asheville is located in western North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains. It has about 87,000 residents, and about 86,999 of them are quirky (there's got to be one normal person in here somewhere). This is in keeping with Asheville's official status of "America's Quirkiest City". 

I fit right in. Especially my inspired, unicorn-themed fashion. 

Yoga training

Here's what brought me to Asheville in the first place: I did a three week immersion yoga program at the Asheville Yoga Center, a well respected yoga studio and teacher training center in North Carolina. I chose this program for a few reasons: I wanted to go somewhere cool to do a yoga training; I had heard that Asheville was cool; and, I got a scholarship to the program. A few months later, I was Asheville-bound. I studied up, and I was ready.

Yoga School

 

These were my classmates.

The program at AYC was incredibly tough both mentally and physically, but it was beyond 100 percent worth it. I was part of a 24 student program, and let me tell you, spending every single day with this group made for very quick and thorough bonding. I can tell you about the finer points of each person's practice, as well as what type of shampoo they wear and what injuries they have and how many heartbreaks they've suffered. It was that kind of bonding. Here's me (on the right) and my classmate Emily showing our pretzel love:

Pretzel buddies

I miss my yoga center already. I have no idea if I want to teach, but now I offically CAN.

Asheville

Back to Asheville itself.

One thing that I had suspected, but hadn't been completely prepared for, was the food scene in Asheville. Like, whoa. It is incredibly sophisticated for a small city, and as quirky and cool as its residents. Here are just a few of my favorite sweet treats I've found so far. 

Made-to-order doughnuts at Hole Doughnuts

Hole Doughnuts, Asheville

I'm a sucker for foods prepared right in front of me, and the open format of fryer right out in the open at Hole made my heart sing.

Hole Doughnuts, Asheville

I thoroughly enjoyed their doughnuts, even if they are yeast (cake doughnuts 4-liiiiiiife). Hole had some pretty nifty flavor combos that they could gussy up your doughnut with, but we went traditional and got just plain glazed. Very, very good stuff.

Hole Doughnuts, Asheville


Greenlife's bakery selections

I spent a LOT of time at Greenlife, a grocery store now owned by Whole Foods. I can tell you what I enjoyed, including their "mini brownies" (actually quite generous in size) which were fudgy and perfect;

Brownie

Lemon cookies...

Lemon Cookie

the praline buttercream bars by wholesale bakery Upper Crust Crumbs, which had the three part construction, if not flavors, of a Nanaimo bar, and for which I found a great looking recipe online;

Praline butter bar

carmelita bars;

Carmelita

and this lemon blueberry bar. Happy town.

Greenlife

Website: Greenlife


The hugest eclairs ever at Well-Bred Bakery, Biltmore village 


Eclair
What can I say? I am impressed by largeness in sweets. And Well-Bred has some BIG sweets.

Now, I am not 100 percent sure that the scale is really conveyed, so let me show you the entire bakery shelf that has human-sized pastries on it, too.Eclairs, Biltmore village

Oh, and we got an almond bar, too.Well Bred Bakery, Asheville

Website: Well-Bred Bakery


Chocolates, cookies, and hot chocolate from French Broad Chocolates


French Broad

French Broad Chocolates is locally famous, and with good reason. They do chocolate very well. Their hot chocolate, which is not pictured, rivals my favorite at Kakawa in Santa Fe, and their truffles are really, really good.

I'm not vegan, but I thought the above chocolate display was adorable, and apropos for my yoga training.

Shortbread

And I truly enjoyed the shortbread dipped in dark chocolate and coated with delicious pistachio debris.

Website: French Broad Chocolates


Butter bars from Fresh Market

Butter bar, Fresh Market

Fresh Market kind of reminds me of a cross between Whole Foods and Wegmans grocery stores. It's sort of fancy and has interesting displays, but the ingredient labels are longer than at Whole Foods. 

But grocery store politics aside, what I cared most about were the butter bars. They looked uncannily similar to the butter bars I knew and loved at Flying Monkey Patisserie in Philadelphia, so I had to try one.

They weren't quite as good as Flying Monkey's, but they gave me enough flavor nostalgia to give me a big grin, so it was a sweet treat to enjoy indeed. 

Website: The Fresh Market


Cannoli from Harris Teeter


Harris Teeter 
At this point, I realize that you are totally judging me for frequenting grocery store bakeries. But what can I say, I love sweets of all sorts, from fancy French to Pop-Tarts. So I have to tell you. I got a chocolate covered cannoli (filled to order!) from grocery chain Harris Teeter (which, btw, I adorably mis-called "Harris Tweeter" for the first week I was here), and it was a highly delicious experience. I won't lie: I've been back for more. And I'll probably go again before I leave.

Harris teeter

Website: Harris Teeter


White chocolate covered snickerdoodle sandwich, Whole Foods


White chocolate snickerdoodle

The basic construction was this: two snickerdoodles, deliciously sandwiched with vanilla cream filling. But wait, there's more: the whole darned thing was half dipped in white chocolate. Come here, you delicous thing. 

White chocolate snickerdoodle

Website: Asheville Whole Foods


Banana split sugar

Banana split sugar

I don't know about you, but just the sight of this stuff made me smile. I didn't even know it existed, but after taking one smell of it, I knew my life would never be complete without it. This was a pricey but fun treasure I found at the Spice and Tea Exchange.

Website: Spice and Tea Exchange

Peanut butter pie, and more, from City Bakery

That crazy-looking pie at the top of this post? I got it from City Bakery. I also enjoyed their cake pops... City Bakery

and their awesome flaky cinnamon pastries, as well as their savory croissants.

Ham and cheese croissant, city bakery


The butter bar at Biscuit Head. 


Butter bar, biscuit head

Don't get me wrong, the biscuits were nothing to scoff at. But the true magic here was in the BUTTER BAR, which featured flavored butters of all sorts for your biscuits.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that you could sit in spots like this at Biscuit Head:

Egg and bacon chair

Website: Biscuit Head

Adorableness aplenty at Short Street Cakes

CAKE

Short Street Cakes is my kind of bakery: small, sweet, and full of cake. It's in the hipster enclave of West Asheville, and we picked up some tasty flourless chocolate cake. It was along the same lines as my favorite recipe, so good stuff. 

Yes.

Flourless chocolate cake

They also had some cute cupcakes, which came out weird-looking because of the lights in the case reacting with my cell phone camera.

Short street cakes

Website: Short Street Cakes


Marzipan thingies from Old Europe Pastries

Marzipan thingy

That is not their technical name, but it's the name I will assign to their marzipan topped and infused cakes, with chocolate sides.

We also got shortbread and a brownie here, which my sweetie named among the best brownies in Asheville.

Website: Old Europe Pastries


Danish doughnuts at Geraldine's

Geraldine's

Nope. That's not a cronut. It's a "Fritzster". The secret to the deliciousness is Danish dough here, which is fried and yields a hearty doughnut the likes of which I will not forget soon.

Website: Geraldine's


Cake by my classmates Virginia and Jonelle

Jonelle and Virginia

This was one of my sweetest moments in Asheville. At our Yoga School graduation, two of my classmates, Virgina and Jonelle, made a cake for all of us. It was made with mix, but the effort and the sentiment made it one of the best cakes EVER. 

Bonus: five savory finds

I'm not going to go into too much detail for these ones, but I want you to know that if you find yourself in Asheville, I have thoroughly enjoyed the savories at these spots!

  1. Luella's BBQ: I am not vegetarian, but I'm obsessed with their BBQ tempeh.
  2. King James Pub: Creative and innovative pub cuisine. Cozy, too!
  3. Green Sage Cafe: Healthy-ish fare with a casual atmosphere--a clever and tasty menu.
  4. Homegrown: Local and delicious. Everything here is well thought out. My fave? The "falentil"--falafel balls made with lentils.
  5. Doc Chey's Noodle House: I loved the atmosphere at this local favorite, and I loved the fat, flavorful noodles.

I'm on my last few days here, so I'm looking forward to trying a few other places, both sweet and savory, before I get on my rainbow unicorn and fly back to the next adventure.

I've enjoyed my time in Asheville, and I know I've become a better person because of it!

If you have a suggestion for the rest of my time here, leave a comment!

Monday
Jan052015

Postcards from the Road: January 2015

What in the world has CakeSpy been up to? Well, my friends, quite a bit. In the past few months, I have visited many places, seen many things, and tasted many, many desserts. Let's take a quick tour of the recent past, shall we?

November started very nicely with a trip to Nashville for the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Not only did I get to see some old friends and meet some new, but I got to reunite with my boyfriend, the Pillsbury Doughboy! Since I love the photo, I will just show it again, OK?

When I got back, I finished up an article I wrote for New Mexico Magazine, featuring some original dessert recipes. It was awesome to write for a glossy magazine and such a pleasure to work with Candace Walsh, a writer and editor who is also sort of a hero to me. I can't wait for you to see it in print in February. Here's a mysterious little sneak peek:

Photo via Doug Merriam

Doug Merriam, a totally awesome photographer with whom I worked on the story, turned out to be a Very Good Person to meet. We decided to do a swap: photo tips for me, social media tips for him. I've already seen an improvement in my photos, such as this one of microwave fudge...

and I hope you'll enjoy the new photos I take, with not only my new photo skills but also my new camera!! That's right, after 7 years of using a $40 point and shoot for all my photos, I've upgraded to a real camera. It was a big deal to me, as I had never spent more than $40 on a digital camera. I got this one used, and in total with accessories it came to nearly $200. I realize many bloggers may laugh at this, but for me it was a pretty big deal. 

I got involved with my etsy store in a big way, adding new prints. While alas, right now the shop is shut for the month, check it out in February for some awesome new prints and artwork, including this illustration which was comissioned by the James Beard Foundation.

I was hired by a longtime customer to do a new painting for the holidays. The first painting I ever did for her was of a cupcake, a banana, and a John Deere Tractor. Yes, for real.

Custom order

In this painting, the couple is reunited with their tractor...in Scotland. This was a very fun painting to do.

With the holidays drawing close, I started to get all sorts of sweet treats in the mail. I received some dried plums in the mail--apparently, they are not prunes anymore. Names aside, these made some awesome bar cookies when I used them instead of raisins to make the award-winning "H-Bars" recipe from the new book Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More.

This isn't necessarily cake related, but Porkchop the pug got the good news that he had lost five pounds. That little boy was getting sort of fat but he's in good shape now! Here is a picture of me and Porkchop in case you needed some cuteness.

I also got to see several recipes I created for Peanut Butter and Company go live--a delicious salty caramel pie...

and to-die-for peanut butter snowballs. Serious love for these addictive morsels!

I also did my first recipe for Colavita, which came out great: lemon pistachio olive oil tuiles. Pinkies out!

Tuiles

I quickly followed it up with a second recipe for chocolate babka made with olive oil, which also came out splendidly. 

Chocolate babka

I taught a class for kids in Santa Fe, on the important subject of holiday cookie baking. Here's a snapshot from those several hours of adorableness. 

Oh, and I painted my yoga mat. 

As Christmas grew closer, me and my sweetie packed up our bags and headed east. We drove from New Mexico to Connecticut, which meant that I could add a few more states to my map of states where I've done yoga. Here are the US states in which I've done yoga so far:

 

Oh, by the way. In Lawrence, where I stopped to do yoga, I also got to re-visit Sylas and Maddy's in Lawrence, Kansas, which I had previously visited in August on my massive road trip. This is a place worth visiting.

We got to go to the Uprise Bakery in Columbia, MO, and were delightfully surprised by their offerings. From rolls to a cappuccino brownie that looked like a Nanaimo bar to awesome coffee, this place was a wonderful spot.

I need to tell you, though, the big hit of the trip was Terre Haute, IN. We stopped there for the night, and in the morning, we knew we simply had to check out a place called Square Donuts we found online. I mean, how could you not?

Square Donuts

The donuts were a treat, and yes, they were square.

Square Donuts

But even bigger treat was a few blocks away, where we happened upon the Clabber Girl factory! Clabber Girl

I hadn't known they were based in Terre Haute so this was a real surprise. But as we went in, the surprise blossomed into pure delight. They have not only a factory but a full-fledged MUSEUM going on!

Clabber girl

We toured the museum, and then settled in for breakfast in their cafe. They had really awesome biscuits and sweet baked goods, such as the below almond chocolate croissant, which was PACKED with filling. This place was a real treasure and I highly suggest it.

Clabber girl

We powered on through to Connecticut, arriving Christmas eve. I didn't take a picture, but my sweetie's sister in law made a bûche de nöel. Since she is French, like, as in born and raised in France, it was amazing. As you might expect.

The next night we had a quiet dinner with some cakes from the Cheesecake Factory for dessert. Do you believe I've never had one of their desserts? I actually really enjoyed them, especially the key lime cheesecake, yummmmm.

After that, I took the train down to NYC for some time with friends. Me and my friend James watched "Christmas Icetastrophe" which was as terrible as it sounds, and then ate bagels, which were better than anywhere else because they were from NYC. I also got pizza, which is always necessary.

Bagel

I spent part of the next day with my friend Phil, and even picked up one of these at Whole Foods:

...before heading down the shore to my parents' house in NJ. In NJ, I snacked on Shazaam cookies from Nature's Corner...

Shazaam cookie

and took yoga classes at YouNique Yoga in Belmar. Then I got sick and all I could eat for a day was ice cream from Hoffman's (pictured top of post). Actually, can I get sick more often? That was kind of great.

We then packed up our bags again and headed toward Asheville, North Carolina, where I will be spending this month doing a yoga immersion at the Asheville Yoga Center. I'm staying in a cute little log cabin!

So far, Asheville is simply amazing. We had a great first meal at Homegrown, a great follow up breakfast at Green Sage Cafe, and then went back to Homegrown because it was that great.

We've also sampled the goods at French Broad Chocolates and City Bakery...more to come on those. But suffice it to say that this cake pop I stuck in my mouth was very tasty. 

We've hit up a few grocery stores, because for me, there isn't much finer than exploring a new grocery store (not kidding). I got a "brown cow" cheesecake at Fresh Market, and enjoyed it in a no-frills kind of way.

Cheesecake

We also got a bunch of other goodies at Fresh Market and Harris Tweeter, the local grocery chains. What can I say, I love grocery store bakeries. So yes, this happened:

Dessert time

...and this:

Cannoli

I can't wait to see what comes next in 2015!

Happy New Year!

Monday
Sep082014

More Postcards from the Road: Summer 2014

New Glarus Bakery - Linzer Cookie bar

I already told you about the first part of my epic summer trip, which started as a 3 week trip to Puerto Rico (read more about that via this post and this post) but then turned into an almost 2-month epic adventure to here, there, and just about everywhere. I ate pastries and did yoga (balance!) in more than 10 US states, worked on my memoir idea, and continued writing awesome posts for Craftsy.

But I haven't told you everything. So hold on to your pastry boxes, because there's still a bit of the journey left to go! 

When I last left off, I had arrived in New Glarus, Wisconsin, for a wedding. In case you've never heard of it, New Glarus is "America's Little Switzerland", and it lives up to its name in the ye olde-iest of styles.

On the eve of our arrival, the hosts had baked the jumbles from my second book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts. What a fantastic welcome! And the same evening (why not) me and my sweet one went to the New Glarus Inn, where we sampled a bunch of desserts, including German chocolate cake, a lemon and cream slice (that's the one to the far right) and a lemon custard. Nice, nice, nice.

New Glarus Inn

The next day was the wedding. Beforehand, I spent some time tooling around the town. I'm not a huge beer drinker, but can occasionally get excited about a hand-crafted variety. So I checked out the famous New Glarus Brewing Company, which houses unlikely yet delightful imported "faux ruins" on the grounds. It's weird but wonderful. There, I tried a sampler. Some of the beer was not to my liking, but I rather enjoyed a seasonal variety they had called "Moon Man"--a "grapefruit session ale". 

New Glarus Brewing Co

Later on, the wedding occurred, and it was lovely. You'll have to forgive me, because while typically I am the cake paparazzi at the wedding, I had forgotten my camera in the car and had no pockets in my cute dress. You'll have to trust me when I tell you it was a decidedly nice cake. 

I can, however, tell you that the next day, I did have my camera when I checked out the New Glarus Bakery. While there have been some changes in ownership and management over the years, this bakery has been running pretty much continuously since 1910.  

New Glarus Bakery

I simply loved this bakery! It definitely had euro leanings, but had plenty of American classics, too. I thought these Wisconsin-shaped cookies were just adorable: 

New Glarus Bakery

and was delighted by the presence of springerle, a dry cookie which is great with coffee or tea. New Glarus Bakery

butter cookies? Not here. Sandbissen, however? Yes, they've got those.New Glarus Bakery

Everything we got there was quite agreeable. My personal favorites were the "turtle cream filled", a kind of caramelly spice doughnut filled with "kreme" type filling (love the stuff, what can I say)...

New Glarus Bakery

the eclairs, on a light puff of pastry filled with a decadent chocolate piped ribbon and custard cream...New Glarus Bakery

and the linzer cookie bar. Just look at this thing. Broken but still so tasty. Also, while not pictured, their nut horns were quite well received.

New Glarus Bakery - Linzer Cookie bar

Not far from the bakery was a great coffee shop called Fat Cat Coffee Company, where they also made many of their sweets on site. That's where I purchased this coffee cake (note: NOT crumb cake) which was rich in spices, nuts, and thoughtfully and generously iced. To further make me love them, they offered to heat it up gently. Score!

Coffee cake from Fat Cat Coffee, New Glarus

Next up was a family trip to Wausau, Wisconsin...but on our way, we stopped at a place called "Cave of the Mounds". There, I learned finally, that the difference between stalactites and -mites can remembered thusly: "T" is for top, as in hanging from, and that's how you remember stalactites; stalagmites are simply the only direction left.

Oddly, Wausau kind of reminded me of the railroad towns along the Jersey shore...but in Wisconsin, people are just nicer. And the cheese is better.

In Wausau, I hit up a cute coffee shop called Allister Deacon, but none of the pastries "sang" to me. This must have been a sign, because as I walked around the neighborhood I happened upon this bakery: Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

And was delighted to have found an old school bakery fully stocked with just about everything, with an emphasis on doughnuts. I also noticed something in Wisconsin: they like crescent-shaped cruller doughnuts. I saw them at more than one establishment. See them on the bottom shelf here, looking vaguely banana-like? Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

They also had "donutzels".

Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

I picked up several doughnuts, including a crescent shaped one, which promptly broke in the bag but tasted just fine.

Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

I also got a Cowboy cookie for about 55 cents (yes!). I couldn't resist, given my deep history with cowboy cookies.

Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

It was an interesting cookie: cakier than I expected, but not in a bad way. The flavor was spot on. It was like eating oatmeal cake in cookie form, fortified with chocolate and nuts and stuff. 

Kreger's Bakery, Wausau, WI

The rest of the day was busy with family stuff, so that was the only bakery I got to visit in Wausau, but don't worry, because there was more sweetness ahead for me. Plus, I saw these guys on my walk back to the hotel.

Wausau

On the day of my birthday, my sweetie's brother and his wife gave me a new friend. Two, actually. New Friend

I was also given a birthday card with a unicorn. It was almost perfect, but I made it totally perfect with a few easy edits. Birthday card

After breakfast, we headed to the Wisconsin Dells to meet up with my friend Briana for my birthday (my birthday!). I made her and my sweetie go on a roller coaster with me (they were scared and sat in the middle; I sat in the front with a 10-year old), and play mini golf. Ice cream

We also got some ice cream from the mini-golf snack stand, which was from The Chocolate Shoppe in Madison. Seriously--so good. Creamy.

I got the "Fat Elvis" which was a delicious melange of Elvis-y flavors (no bacon): peanut butter, banana, chocolate. I loved this cone til the moment it was gone. My friend got a strawberry cheesecake flavor with chocolate bits. Seriously! 

Birthday ice cream

After our visit, we started driving back to Santa Fe. I was treated to this sunset on my 33rd birthday.Birthday sunset

To tell you the truth, our stops were minimal, although I was surprised and delighted at a Walgreens to see that they now have a private label version of Gooey Butter Cake! Maybe now it will become a Thing nationwide (it should be).

I did stop to do yoga in Lincoln, NE, because it was a good place to add to my list of 50 states of yoga (I'm up to about 20 now). We learned about a phenomenon known as the sticky bun, but I'll be honest: the ones they had left looked past their prime so I will try them next time I'm in NE!

Now, what I am going to tell you at this moment might be controversial, but here goes. In Colorado, I went to a dispensary and checked out marijuana edibles! There are some creative flavors out there. I'm saying no more, but it was interesting to see this world that is now legal in CO.

Marijuana edibles, Colorado

I told you that was all I was saying!

A huge unexpected highlight awaited in Colorado Springs. We were passing through on our way to Santa Fe, and since I'd never stopped there I wanted to visit a bakery. But which one? A quick google search revealed very quickly that the real only option was the one with the best name: Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery. To tell you the absolute truth after looking at that nutty name I didn't even register other bakeries as real options. (kidding! actually, a lot of the other bakeries looked good). Here's the bakery:

Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

My choice of bakery stops was a delicious success. I was advised by an employee that choosing anything with bavarian cream was a good decision, so I started with a Napoleon. I probably don't have to tell you it was good, because even in retrospect that seems pretty clear from the photo. It was seriously so good, though. 

Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

We got a flourless chocolate cake, too. It was on the drier side than a decadence cake, but overall quite nice.

Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

Was there room for an almond filled cookie? Yes, of course. And it tasted like a marzipan pop-tart (aka, AWESOME). We also got a filled speculaas and an almond tart.

Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

We also got this thing. I'm not usually one for light as air desserts, but it seemed an exception could be made. 

Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

The bakery also had a Euro retail area featuring licorice both sweet and salty and several mixes and candy. Overall, a wonderful stop in Colorado Springs. I could not have been more charmed or sated. Go there.

Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery, Colorado Springs

Returning to Santa Fe, my sweetie surprised me with a belated yet still welcome birthday cake. Believe it or not, it's one of our favorites: the chocolate decadence cake from the local Whole Foods bakery. They do a very good job, and this one tasted especially sweet. 

Birthday cake

Now, I'm back in Santa Fe for a while, and I'm happy to be settled in one place for a bit. What I'm not quite ready for yet is fall--while I love a nice pumpkin latte or pastry, I'm still ready for summer to go on a bit longer. Ice cream and warm days for liiiiiiiiife!

Oh! I just realized I forgot to tell you, I was reunited with my favorite bike (it's been in storage for close to 2 years!) 

I want to ride my bicycle

Hope it's been a magical summer for you.

Happy summer, happy belated birthday to me, and thank you for sharing my summer adventure, sweeties!

Love, CakeSpy

Monday
Aug252014

Postcards from the Road: August 2014

Madison--Metcalfe's Market

Where in the world has CakeSpy been?

Well, let me tell you. In the past two weeks I have been in all of these places:

  • Rincon, Puerto Rico
  • Belmar, NJ
  • Lancaster, OH
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Dubuque, IA
  • Brodhead, WI
  • New Glarus, WI
  • Madison, WI

I know. It's a record, even for ME. So what the heck have I been doing in all these places? Well, let me tell you a bit more. 

As you know, I was in Puerto Rico for a while with my lovely parents. You can read more about my adventures there, via this post and this post. <3

I departed Puerto Rico and spent a few days with my family in Belmar, NJ. There, I baked this cake, which was a definite highlight...of life.

Birthday cake with brown sugar

I also visited Kane Brewing Company with my parents. It is so neat to see my home area develop into such an artistic and cool place. Here's me and my mom.

Next, I hit the road en auto and stopped in Lancaster, OH to visit my friends Ben and Misty. Ben, apparently, has been "really into breakfast" lately. I benefitted from this newfound passion (really, I've never been not into breakfast) by receiving this plate of awesome in the morning. Those pancake-y things? Corn-cakes made using Jiffy cornbread mix (here's a recipe for cookies made with apple Jiffy mix!). Brilliant!

Breakfast in Lancaster OH

I headed back on the road to visit my friend Lisa in St. Louis. She has this adorable tea shop called Smalls. It's only a limited lease, so check it out now, if you live in the area. Cutest ever, right? 

St. Louis, MO

I wasn't in St. Louis for long, but I did find enough time to take a yoga class at Southtown Yoga (such a stylish and cool studio) and enjoy a slice of gooey butter cake at the Mud House. This was a rather nice specimen of one of my favorite cookie bar/cake hybrids. Also: just an observation, gooey butter cake is a short phrase in which no single word is wrong, yet together they are even more right. Don't you think?

St. Louis, MO St. Louis, MO

OK. Literally, OK. That was the next stop: Oklahoma City, where I did a little yoga pit stop and then continued on my journey. I stayed in Amarillo, TX overnight, which is also home of Belmar Bakery, which I love because in addition to carrying sweet treats, it also bears the name of my hometown in New Jersey.

I kept on going and ended up in Santa Fe the next day, where I spent the next 18 hours and was reuinited with this guy:

 

Hooray! Twinsies, right?

Then, not too long after, we got back on the road to go to a wedding in Wisconsin. Back through New Mexico, enjoying this sort of beauty:

New Mexico

Back through Oklahoma I went. I stopped for a photo op in front of a store bearing my name (no relation)... Oklahoma!

and this time was treated to this beautiful sunset.

Oklahoma

There was a stop at one of the Casey's General Stores on the highway for doughnuts--surprisingly good.

Donut, Casey's General store

Next up was Lawrence, Kansas, where we stopped for some sweetness at Sylas and Maddy's Ice Cream. Sylas and Maddys, Lawrence, KS

I was so impressed by this place. They had fantastic flavors like "ladybug crunch" (strawberry ice cream with oreos) and a chocolate and rainbow sprinkle-laden birthday cake flavor. But what I got, and what I considered a masterpiece of ice creamery, was the item in the forefront: BANANA PUDDING ICE CREAM. Can we all say "best thing ever" in unison, please? 

Sylas and Maddys, Lawrence, KS

Continuing on the road, there was a stop in Des Moines for, well, more yoga (I have a goal to do yoga in all 50 states, so this trip provided me a great chance to add more spots to my list), and then jetted off to Dubuque where more doughnuts were consumed. I'll tell you the truth, they were from Hy-Vee groceries, but they were actually pretty good!

Hy-vee, Dubuque

Next up was Brodhead, Wisconsin. I got myself a unicorn there.

Brodhead WI

After that, we jetted to New Glarus, which is where the wedding will be held. We had a lovely picnic dinner, and the hosts had actually made a recipe from my second book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts , for dessert--jumbles!

Um, I should probably tell you that this happened, too, at the New Glarus Hotel. We only ordered the three that are not on the tray. But yes, there were three desserts. The first cake (going clockwise from the top) was a blueberry cake with cream filling; the second was a German chocolate; the third was a lemon custard. The desserts were all satisfying, with my favorite being the custard--like lemon curd in custard form, even better with sweet Wisconsin dairy whipped cream! The filling from the German chocolate cake was something I wouldn't mind eating my weight in, either.

New Glarus Inn

In the A.M., I went to Madison for (you guessed it) another yoga class, at Inner Fire Yoga. I then stopped at Metcalfe's and picked up more doughnuts at Metcalfe's Market

Madison, Metcalfe's

(It's OK to laugh at this cruller. I did).

Whew! It's been a whirlwind so far. And I still have the wedding to go! Now, I think I'll explore New Glarus more, including the bakery everyone keeps telling me is great. I'll keep you updated on my sweet adventures, my sweetest ones.

Happy Summer! Love, CakeSpy

Tuesday
Oct262010

Sweet Inspiration: Dessert Travels in Turkey with Cake Gumshoe Nicholas

So, I have a totally sweet customer named Nicholas. He's basically the ideal customer: he comes in and buys stuff, and then tells me all about the delicious sweets he eats when he travels the world. Just looking at his pictures is bound to evoke some seriously sweet wanderlust. Here's what he's eaten recently

The Baklava plate from Karaköy güllüoğlu, Istanbul (not Constantinople), Turkey!

The baklava is from one of the better known baklava places, and one that is well known on TripAdvisor. Had it not been for them, I would have never found it. I have thee name under the picture in my picasa and it's located on the north side of the golden horn (if you find Ayasofia and then cross the nearest bridge you're right by it).

The plate, plus turkish tea, was about $5-6 and the baklava was amazing. Extremely fresh and varying tastes, including the chocolate baklava which tasted like a dark chocolate brownie at it's best with honey. The one right beside it in the picture was a walnut baklava and I wish I had grabbed one extra to get a better shot, but for some reason I was on a pistachio trip (which is a nut I have traditionally not liked). The other three are various levels of pistachio, from some (the triangle) to entirely (the green roll at the end).

Visit the Karaköy güllüoğlu website here.

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