balmy January, Southern France

It’s 56 degrees in January. Am I in Savannah? Am I in Nice?? Nope. I’m at Southern France in good ol’ globally warmed Chicago!

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I’d say Southern France is known just as well for their warmness and hospitality as they are for their flaky croissants and bonbon boxes. Case in point: when I ordered two croissants, a Paris-Brest and a cannelé “for here,” they did not blink twice as they pulled out their pretty china (#manners). Instead, they simply asked if I would like a coffee or tea to go along with my treats. Tea, please.

Before settling in with my full plate, I’d assumed that Southern France was going to be some kind of Provençal cafe. Non, non, non. It’s Southern as in “y’all” and French as in gateaux tous les jours. Possibly the best croissants in all of Chicago: plain, chocolate, pecan, pecan chocolate (pain au chocolat sliced in half and slathered with a pecan spread and then topped with roasted pecans “because we’re cruel like that”).

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Paris-Brest every day. Macarons. Religieuese. Mille Feuille. Madeleines. Monkey bread. Pound cake. Almond brittle. Basically anything involving butter is welcome here – just as it is in the South or in France. And I’d say I’m about 70% butter at this point, so I felt very welcome indeed.

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Chocolates were sold out at my visit, so I’ll have to return. If the owner made the rounds at the French Pastry School in Chicago, the Chocolate Academy at Barry Callebaut and did research and development at Vosges, well, I’m sold out too.

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Who wants to eat a log?

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Dear Dessert Oasis,

What’s the deal with Xmas log cakes? Why would anyone want to eat a log?? That’s gotta have more fiber than an econo size jar of Metamucil.

Thanks,
Not a Woodsman

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Dear Not a Woodsman,

How fortunate of you to write me today, the Winter Solstice! The Xmas log cake – or rather bûche de Noël or Yule log – dates waaaaay back to the Celtic tradition of celebrating the Winter Solstice. A HUGE log – usually from a beech, elm, oak or fruit tree – was burned for the ENTIRE night to bring good luck for the following year’s harvest. And they said predictions could be made from poking the log and reading the embers…..magical!

As hearths got smaller and homes became more refined, smaller logs were used. Eventually, the log left skipped the fireplace altogether and became more of a centerpiece with some little sweets surrounding it on the holiday table ( gotta make due without a 1-800-FLORIST to deliver year round bouquets). In the Victorian Era, the actual wood log was replaced with a cake that resembled a log, because there was no way that a centerpiece tiny log could burn for the whole night and people needed a way to stretch out the celebration. Works for me!

So what is it?? Not playground mulch or a fallen limb stowed away for a rainy day…. Traditionally, a thin Genoese cake is used as the base and rolled up with chocolate, coffee or chestnut buttercream, and then topped with chocolate ganache scored to look like bark. Some meringue or marzipan mushrooms or leaves make the perfect woodsy garnish.

Bakeries in France and Quebec often sell bûches around Christmastime, or you can get cray and try making one yourself!

Season’s eatings!
-Dessert Oasis

 

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*photo creds to @hopscotchcakes, @areturntosimplicity, @little_flower_cafe

 

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.

WLW: all pie all the time

You guys. I’ve been sitting around eating lots of nuts and chocolate and appley ginger-based stuff lately, bc it’s freezing fall out and like a smart person I’m trying to prepare for hibernation. But you know what I really wish I was eating? No, no, not a cherpumple (tho I obvs wouldn’t dare turn it down….GIVE ME). While I sit here in my très chic hoodie/sweater/fat socks/blanket combo, I’m really wishing for some Strawberry Short Pie from Lauretta Jean’s. And I KNOW it’s seasonal and tisn’t the season now……that’s why it’s Wednesday and I’m wishing.

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How Stephanie Tanner rude that I tempt you with this unattainable pie, right? Looking more closely (NOT licking my screen, PROMISE!), it’s kinda like the springtimey little sister of the cherpumple. This truly looks like the dessert of dreams. Bake it and I will eat.

Anyhoo, not to leave you in tears of unsatisfiable dessert cravings, the good news is that it is at least pie season in the nation, and if you live in Portland you can still skedaddle over to Lauretta Jean’s for a more in-the-now seasonal offering. Might I suggest Chocolate Pecan or S’mores?

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Both clear winners and in keeping with my hibernation diet. Both also considered A+ choices to pair with coffee for a breakfast of champions. But you know what works really well at the end of the day after a heavy hearty meat and potatoes-rich fallwinter meal? Something with a bright little zip to cut right through the food coma. Something like Key Lime or Lemon Meringue:

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Mmmmmm pie. Never not in season.

*pics by @laurettajeans and @pdxfoodlove

National Dessert Day 2017 recap: don’t worry, I celebrated

I awoke this past Saturday (better known as National Dessert Day), to the sound of thunder shaking the walls. Stormy days do not always motivate desserty travel adventures, but the bakery magnetism forcefield is strong in my family, and so along with torrential rain, I also awoke to a platter full of kolacky from the Oak Park Bakery. Perfect start to this all-important national holiday. #thanksdad

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Luckily, the destination planned for the day’s celebration is as well-known for their hot drinking chocolate as they are for their expansive collection of artisinal chocolate bars from around the world: Cocoa + Co, located in Chicago’s Old Town.

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Cocoa + Co has six different versions of drinking chocolate, and on this day I chose Abuela’s Elixir – a rich chocolate spiked with citrus, spices and molasses and then topped with homemade whipped cream and cocoa powder. But, alas, I don’t really believe that a beverage counts as a dessert. I mean, it’s a drink and frankly you need fluids to stay alive, so therefore it’s more of a necessity than a sweet luxury. Plus, during a rainstorm, it is a requirement for hygge maintenance.

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And so, for dessert(s), I ordered: a dark chocolate s’mores bite (fluffy marshmallow, crisp graham, chocolate ganache center),

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a milk chocolate peanut butter bomb (thick gourmet peanut butter cup with the perf amount of crunch and salt),

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and a slice of their signature inside-out German chocolate cake (BEST GERMAN CHOCOLATE EVER – bittersweet buttercream frosting – like a truffle was hugging this cake, non-cloying filling packed with fresh coconut and pecans, layers of moist dark chocolate cake).

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Because that’s what you do on National Dessert Day ( / any other day of the year).

Cocoa + Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WLW: Dessert Charcuterie FTW

Obviously dessert is my fave course. But running a *close so close it’s almost nearly a tie” second, is a cheese/charcuterie board. So when I heard about such a thing as a DESSERT CHARCUTERIE BOARD, wellllll I just had to take a Wish List Wednesday trip on over to Montclair, NJ to see for myself. (just a quickie trip up from Newark!)

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I’ve been gazing at Vanillamore Dessert Kitchen‘s IG pics of chocolate salami for awhile now. Like A.WHILE. Little did I realize that this sweet (non-meat) salami was the main attraction on their bountiful dessert charcuterie boards. The salami (dark: almonds, cranberries, apricots, orange zest; milk: hazelnuts, cherries, shortbread cookies; or white: white chocolate, almonds, apricots) is sliced up and paired with just a delightful, delectable assortment featuring ginger molasses cookies, espresso caramel, honey poached pears, vanilla cream filled brioche doughnuts, red wine cherries, coffee hazelnut mousse, candied lemons, candied orange, banana bread, thyme marinated strawberries, olive oil cake…….the list just goes on and on and on.

Like Willy Wonka took a step up from fizzy lifting drink and had a proper soirée.

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Vanillamore is now serving lunch and dinner in addition to dessert, and while everything looks pos scrummy, I am still most pumped about the salami…..

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….aaaaand the s’mores bars. I mean, I’m not blind. COME. ON.

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ps: the s’mores bars hang out next to seasonal dessert kebabs, milk and cookies, and house-made gelato, on the section of the menu called “Dessert Tapas,” which is just above the “Dessert Flights” section. Perfect for when you want a little taste of everything, which I always do.

This place. They really get me.

*all pics by @vanillamore

 

WLW: Gnome Cones (guest post)

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Hello, hello and happy Wish List Wednesday!

This is Finn, Dessert Oasis’s longtime trusty road trip companion, with you today on assignment at the Dessert Oasis travel desk (because I’m literally stationed on top of desk).

We’ve crisscrossed the country together more than a few times, and oh the sweet memories we’ve shared….. stopping for custard at Ted Drewe’s in St. Louis, eating apple pie in Julian, CA, picking peaches in Bethlehem, CT, lamenting over waffles in Payson, AZ after a car breakdown #kialater…… but if my feet could reach the pedals (no, gnomes don’t have access to magic carpets like genies), or if I was ever asked my destination preference, ahem, where would I go??? Well, I would drive us straight to Argyle, TX, home of Gnome Cones!

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Just thinking about Gnome Cones I’m transported back to my homeland (somewhere in the Austrian Alps), where floral meadows blossom after winter snowfall, pastries are abundant, and I can still procure the occasional exotic fruit. Ahhhh…. Not quite what you picture when you imagine Dallas-Fort Worth, but it’s hard to overcome the mental obstacle of that nightmare airport – I feel you. That’s why we’re driving.

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These snow cones are all natural – no dyes or preservatives – only juice, tea, coffee, coconut cream and SNOW! Snow in Texas!! The world is magic!!! I can only imagine how refreshing and delightful they must be – a far cry from the sickly sweet rainbow “flavored” cones that state fair carnivals try to pass off as “sno” (if it’s not spelled right, you know it’s not right – I’ve picked up a few tips during my time on the desk). Plus – and this is a BIG plus – they look just like me! What’s not to love??

Signing off now – yours in happy travels and sweetie pie dreams,

Finn

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*photos by @jjordanllane, @food_curator_510, @thebestofdfw_, @gnomecones

 

Pie Cone: the future of à la mode

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For when you can’t quite decide between ice cream or pie (and for whatever excuse aren’t just solving this common dilemma by getting both): PIE CONE.

Spinning J‘s flaky, buttery, sugared pie dough rolled and baked into a cone shape, topped with your choice of Black Dog Gelato flavors including blackberry passion fruit and strawberry rhubarb sorbet (pictured above), vanilla bean, Mexican chocolate, Oreo mint, cherry chocolate chip, or chocolate sorbet.

Ingenious.

Super Spinning J, once again helping to avert dessert crises for the sweet-toothed citizens of Chicago.

(although you are still free/encouraged to order a slice or three of pie too)

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(pictured: cherry apricot, hibiscus key lime with blueberry compote, chocolate hazelnut cream. not pictured: excavator required to remove me from the booth.)