Dear Dessert Oasis,

When it comes to the custom of serving cheese with pie…1) Where do you stand? 2) What would you recommend paired with a super brown sugary/cinnamonny apple pie? Cheddar thinks it can pull it off, but I’m also getting some pull from the soft cheese camp…


Pie-Curious in Chicago


Dear Pie-Curious,

Oh yes….. taking dairy-atop-pie one step further than the traditional ice cream or whipped cream “norms.” Would you believe that I, myself, as cheese-loving and open-desserted as I am did not venture into cheese/pie territory until a mere 12 years ago??!?! I remember it well….. one fateful day at the Big E, after eating a giant cream puff, a loaded Maine potato, chowda in a bread bowl, pickle from a barrel, mini donuts, huge turkey leg, and MAPLE COTTON CANDY, did I come face to face with cheddar on apple for the first time. And it was so good. And it was so New Englandy.

So, 1) I am pro. Not all of the time, mind you, but I will not cold-shoulder the appropriate cheese splayed on top of a consenting pie. It hits all the right salty/sweet buttons. Basically, the salty sharpness of the cheese allows you to go back for more sweet and therefore eat more pie without feeling too sick about it. WIN WIN WIN. Sharp cheddar on tart apple – YES. Maybe a crumbly blue sprinkled on a caramelized pear pie – oooohhh, or even a chocolate chess or french silk matched up with a goat cheese component – mmmmhmmmm……Cheese on top, cheese baked into the crust, cheese as a chaser on the side…..so many cheesy ways!

2) What to pair with a super sweetie spicy apple pie? Why not try a little tasting to get you better acquainted with your newfound piestyle? I’d suggest a slice of sharp white cheddar, maybe a chunk of stilton, a wedge of brie, and maybe some manchego to round it out.

Let me know which way your fork swings after your piescapade, and happy desserting!

Yours in all things pie,

Dessert Oasis

PS: cheese is not a dessert on its own. Cheese is its own course.

photo cred from the Big E by @when_i_dip bc we all know that while I’m open to cheese on pie, I’m not open to vanilla ice cream on anything.

Have a dessert question?  Email me at courtneysconza@gmail.com – from funnel cakes to fondue fountains, if it has sugar, I’ve probably eaten it.

Hit me with your best (marshmallow) shot

When microwave s’mores just don’t cut it and it’s too cold/illegal to start bonfires in your own backyard, how can you get a melty marshmallow fix?

Answer: Sweet Shot Cookies. In Logan Square (or online for shipping wherevs), the s’mores cookie – hot out of the oven – is injected with oozing, slightly chewy fluff and it tastes EXACTLY LIKE A S’MORES. At the store, they’ll do the injection for you, at home you inject it yourself and I assume you can just shoot it right into your mouth, if that’s more your vibe.

Other injections include: peanut butter / jelly, Nutella, funfetti buttercream, dark chocolate ganache, cookie butter, etc, etc, etc, yum, etc. Really great if you love gooey, not-quite-baked-all-the-way cookies (WHICH I DON’T), but also amazingly really great if you like properly baked cookies (WHICH I DO).

To freeze or not to freeze/how long to freeze? That is the question.

Dear Dessert Oasis,

This seems like a decent exploration for COVID times…which fresh favorites store well so you don’t have to go back out into the world? aka: Can I put Fannie May assorted chocolates in the freezer? Will they hold up ok?


Dearest Freezer Friend,

First let me ask you this: have you used your face mask as a secret snack pouch yet? Maybe a bit messy for chocolate and better for gummy bears, but still something to consider….

Now getting to your question, although the scientific answer is probably closer to 18 months, let’s keep it classy around here. Erring on the side of more delicious and less frosty, I’ll say you’re def safe for 6 months – if your chocolates even last that long! Also, be sure to seal your box tightly in a plastic freezer bag, not just plop them straight into ice cube bin. If you take them out and the chocolate is blooming and the cherry cordial has separated into syrupy strata, I don’t think you’d be poisoned or anything, just ask yourself how desperate are the times? If the year is still 2020, I say go for it.

Follow up question: chocolate hearts, chocolate bunnies, peanut butter chocolate pumpkins…. a frugal save in the freezer to be commended, or an obvious past-the-prime squirreling away that should only be eaten by yourself in shame at 3am with the freezer door ajar? (frozen thin mints excluded from judgement). Please discuss.

Have a dessert question?  Email me at courtneysconza@gmail.com – from funnel cakes to fondue fountains, if it has sugar, I’ve probably eaten it.

Smack Dab: National Donut Day 2020

I allllllmost let National Donut Day pass uncelebrated.

Given the past days, weeks, months, it seemed kinda trivial to focus on treats instead of EVERYTHING else. But I believe that a jolt of “normalcy” is good for the spirit and so I ventured out to Smack Dab – who is so focused on giving back to the community (while making delicious food) that their website is basically 1/2 mission statement 1/2 menu, and the last image of an actual donut on their IG feed was posted over a month ago to make way for resource links and donation matches.

To add my support, I bought the maximum amount of donuts reasonable for a single person – a baker’s dozen – picked curbside. Cinnamon sugar, raspberry sprinkle, cold brew glazed. A little box of love and strength and sugar.


Pi(e) Day: 2020

RISE & SHINE!!!!!!!!!

That’s the name of the pie. 50% Coffee Cream and 50% Apple Danish from Bang Bang. If ever there was a Pie Day breakfast of champions, THIS IS IT.

Ordered ahead of time, picked up on the most Friday the 13th of Friday the 13ths, and eaten in quarantine. (actually also saved from complete cobbler-destined destruction when my ever-growing “assistant” pulled the pie box down from the fairly high counter, placed it on the floor, stood on it, and “was poopin.” WTF)

Though I’m doubtful that pie lines today will be as long as they’ve been in Pie Days past, I’d say call ahead so you can get in and out quick while still supporting pie providers. Or maybe order a gift card for future pies and put your home baking skills to the test by making your own pie……lord knows all that flour from the empty grocery store shelves needs to get put to good use!


Hell yeah, Hellas!


I first became aware of Hellas Pastry Shop when I ate more than my fair share off the cookie table at a 1/2 Greek wedding this summer. I knew it was located in Lincoln Square, but as I traveled up and down Lincoln Ave. in my mind, I couldn’t place it. The reason, dear reader/eater, is because it’s on Lawrence NOT Lincoln.

Understatedly unassuming, Hellas is a Greek pastry shop on the corner of Lawrence and Talman. Everything is super fresh (like “wait just one minute I have to finish this dough and then I’ll be right out” fresh) and here’s what to get:

ANYTHING “macaron.” Oval and encrusted in almonds and sandwiching apricot jam, or round with an old lady red cherry in the middle, these are light and chewy and addicting.


And then there are the honey cookies. A substantial cookie with finely ground nuts soaked in honey, they are surprisingly melt-in-your-mouth but still best with a side of tea or coffee.


Then there are cookies that look like huge crescent shaped piles of snow. I was actually asked if I was planning on ordering any of these when I started my box so they could be placed on the bottom and not snow on everything else. Joke’s on planning though since I ordered so much that my couple-of-these-5-of-those all needed to be transported to a larger box. (snow banks were still properly maintained)


They also make baklava enrobed in chocolate. Also spinach pie and also eclairs, and they’ve been around since 1969 and I’m certain I’ve driven past approx 10000 times and probably blindly parked right out in front at least 5 times. And now if I get a parking spot within even a 1/2 mile radius, I’ll be stopping in Hellas.



Polka Dot Perfection

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Polka Dot Pie.

Like a cheesecake made into a pie. But with a hint of espresso. And a swirl of marzipan. And dots of dark chocolate. So basically a creamy, nutty, just-rich-enough slice that pairs perfectly with a huge cup of coffee. Like even if you don’t really want any pie (me, never), you take one liiiiitle bite of this pie and then, whoops, it’s gone because yes, you want this pie.

Reliably always on the menu at First Slice Pie Cafe. Praise be.



National Chocolate Day 2019


Sad day: when you are the one to inform the chocolate shop that it’s National Chocolate Day

Happy day: when you discover a new chocolate shop

Proud day: when your 19-month-old is almost more excited than you and shouts “CHOCOLATE!” “CANDY!” “GUMBALL!” “MORE CHOCOLATE!” “BIG ONE!!!” #mychild

Cora Lee Candies has been churning out toffee and chocolates and “Grumpies” and “Barque” in Glenview since 1963 – probably long before the first National Chocolate Day. The assorted creams and caramels are covered in thick smooth chocolate and they have a decent “retro” section with wax bottles, candy dots, flying saucers, Big League Chew, etc. Basically something for everyone. Including sponge candy covered in dark chocolate. That’s the something for me.



happening now: Firecakes



Crème brûlée donut: stop. With mascarpone: Stop. Chocolate mascarpone: STOP. Fig chocolate mascarpone: STAAAAHHPP.


And a lil PB&J back to school special featuring peanut butter mousse and raspberry blood orange jelly. A far cry from soggy lunchbox sandwiches of yore. A new cry of deliciousness.

Happening now at Firecakes. GO!!!

Stop at Whistle Stop!


As autumn falls upon us, you, dear reader, will most likely be heading to Michigan to pick some apples. It’s just what you do. And what pairs oh so nicely with freshly picked apples? How about some freshly baked peanut butter treats? (please see the ginormous peanut butter choc chunk cookie and BRILLIANT peanut butter/butterscotch/chocolate/rice krispies ROLL above. Also: why hasn’t anyone thought of rolling rice krispies treats before??!? It seems the only way to do it.)

Whistle Stop Grocery in Union Pier is right there on Red Arrow Highway, ready for your bakery (and general coffee, breakfast, lunch) needs. So close to so many orchards (including my fave Twin Maple), it’s the perfect stop off before and/or after apple picking. Plus they have a cutie little outdoor picnic table area so you can keep catching some autumn breezy sun while you eat.