WLW: churros y chocolate

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Until recently, when I planned trips to Mexico my itinerary mainly included sandy beaches, resort pools and endless margaritas. Frankly, if I wasn’t on a towel near a body of water, I wasn’t interested. But on today’s trip I’m headed to landlocked Mexico City to swim in pools of melted chocolate and use a massive churro as my floating device.

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Hola El Moro!!

This place has been serving churros since 1935. And not those heat lamp ballpark churros filled with a chocolate version of cheese whiz. The real deal. Cabbage Patch hula hoop sized fried ropes of dough rolled in cinnamon sugar then snipped up and served alongside your choice of drinking chocolates and dipping chocolate/caramel/condensed milk (or made into ice cream sandwiches).

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I approve the reg order of four churros since a serving size of “one” has never been satisfactory no matter what you’re eating. And I approve of churros for breakfast. Or for lunch. Or at 3am. All of which are possible bc this place is open 24 hours a day.

Pro tip: mas churros is almost always a smarter choice than mas cervezas…..

*pics by @worldonyourpalate, @sarah_hipwell@taarikadougan, @tiaeatsgood, @cupofjo

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National Pi(e) Day 2018: DIY Frankenpie

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Frankenpie. For when you need a lot of pie, but you know, you also need to mix it up and not OD on a single flavor. Like the tapas of pie, if you will. A little of this, a little of that, and before you know it, you’ve created a delicious monster! And it’s not like you’re eating a TON of pie…..it’s only 1 pie – A pie. (or in this case, a meager rations 1/2 pie bc I only had so much time on my lunch break to go hunting for slices…..)

To celebrate this all-important national holiday, I hopped over to Avionics and Pekara in Champaign and cobbled together this little s’mores, brown butter butterscotch, salted honey, pecan concoction.

Frankly, this Frankenpie turned into a complementary colored and flavored masterPIEce. Isn’t it really just a delight to behold? Like a dessert version of a cozy wood-paneled den, right?? Which is not to say I wouldn’t be in full support of a pumpkin/key lime/Mississippi mud/cherry/matcha custard/lemon chess situation too. I would. 100%. The beauty of a DIY Frankenpie is all in letting your freak pie flag fly!

WLW: Salty Donut making me not salty about Florida

Donuts. I’ll say it: they are not dessert. They are breakfast. (albeit a socially acceptable way to eat cake for breakfast)

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But what happens when donuts are no longer coffee-dunkable? Have they then progressed past the bfast menu realm? When they come in fancy flavors and are dressed to the nines, they do rise above their historically coffee-dunked ancestors? Like, I don’t really ever dunk anything, but seriously thanksbutnothanks I’m not going to risk an entire strawberry or chunks of candied bacon falling into my coffee. (can you imagine the dregs at the bottom of that cup??? barf.) I might even need a fork and knife instead – not even thinking twice about summoning my inner George-Costanza-with-a-Snickers-bar.

unnamed-1And so, artisanal donuts have got me thinking outside the pastry box, and one shop in particular has done the unimaginable and got me thinking outside the sweaty Florida Disney/oranges/hurricanes box. The Salty Donut: this week’s Wish List travelfortreats destination. You heard me. I’m going to Florida to eat donuts.

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Located in Miami, The Salty Donut is a small-batch establishment making EVERYTHING in house, and trying their damnedest to change the donut/coffee landscape of South Florida. They’re basically like, “Everyone, get with the times. Eat this.” And I’m like, “Don’t mind if I do! And thanks for not just being another souvenir shop with shelf-aged “Key lime” pies!”

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I’m talking lemon meringue fritters. Guava and cheese stuffed brioche. Fresh strawberries and cream, passion fruit and coconut, baked sweet potato, and the universally loved white chocolate tres leches.

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Should you still feel the monstrous need to dunk (please just sip alongside), they also offer a fancy coffee program to complement these beauties. Think cold brew Palmers and Cinnamon Toast Crunch lattes. Mmmmmmmm……… Beats yard long boozy slushies from Fort LaudyDaudy any day, and since you’re in Florida you’re probs on vacation, making boxful of fried pastries a 100% acceptable way to start the day.

*pics by @allisonkimchi, @chewyorkcity, @jenntronic, @onehungryygirl, @foodieattraction and someday by me

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