Portillo’s Lemon Cake: a modern love story

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Oh the power of the internet…… Forget about match.com, eharmony or even Tinder, because thanks to a plea on Reddit, Ben and his true love, Portillo’s Lemon Cake, are back together again after a loooong 10 years of separation. And we can all share in his joy because, well, we can all share in some lemon cake.

Basically Ben was just sitting around missing Lemon Cake one day (no judging, we’ve all been there), so he took to the interwebs to see what could be done. He promised to pay $300 to anyone who could obtain the recipe. And Portillo’s heard his desperate cry.

From today (June 13) until July 31 (and for much less than $300), all Portillo’s across the land are bringing back their long lost dessert. Available by the slice or by the whole cake (call ahead a few hrs if you want a whole cake), the legendary Lemon Cake tastes like if a kid in your 3rd grade class brought lemon cupcakes to school for his bday. Maybe the kid’s name was Ben?

*side note: as I took my first bite of cake “What a Wonderful World” came on over the loud speaker. Well said, Louis. Well done, Ben. #faithinhumanityrestored

 

Mr. Holmes: get baked, get messy, get it

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A new Mr. Holmes just opened in Larchmont. Really. This is real life. Two Holmes’ in LA! Considered yourself #blessed. You now live in a reality where you can eat your weight in sprouted probiotic brown rice topped with adzuki beans and sea vegetables, and a mere 5 min walk later find yourself covered in pastry cream and laminated flakes. #whatatimetobealive

Whether you’re in Larchmont, Highland Park, San Fran, the OC, or Seoul, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse should definitely be a stopping point to pick up a box of all things pastry. The hype is to be believed. Croissants, donuts, danishes, cookies, and the all-famous cruffin.

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Some flavors are always (like the Churro Croissant filled with dulce de leche and dusted with cinn sug, or the California Croissant filled with smoked salmon, wasabi, ginger, sesame and served with a packet of soy sauce – decidedly not desserty but GET IT). Some flavors change daily (upcoming June standouts include: root beer float cruffins, horchata cruffins, grilled nectarine and rosemary jam donuts, caraway/coffee/fig donuts). On the day I visited, Arnold Palmer cruffins and strawberry rose donuts were obv menu choices.

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There is no denying that Mr. Holmes is IG heaven. Beautiful pastries, neon signs, lettered tiling, rows upon rows of freshly baked goods…..

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…..but let’s be real. As in: real life is more than a highlight reel of perfect snaps. I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that this is what Mr. Holmes actually looks like once the feasting has begun:

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And this is the work of a well-seasoned professional! So let me throw a few crumbs of Holmesy wisdom your way to help get you up to speed: 1) let the staff cut your treats in half for you – they know what’s up. 2) gather lots of napkins. 3) go in with clean hands – you don’t want to be licking who knows what along with cascading cream. 4) own it – channel your inner Mrs. Teevee palming that whipped creamy mushroom in Wonka’s candy room.

 

 

National Donut Day 2017: something to crow about

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I am not a morning person. If I’m going on a vacation, I might be excited to wake up early to catch my flight. If it’s Christmas and I’m 7 years old, I might be excited to wake up early and reap the rewards of being nice vs. naughty. All other mornings, you will catch me snoozing and dreaming of an afternoon nap.

On the rare occasion that I am up and about in the morning (like on National Donut Day), I recognize my place as an outsider as I marvel at the calm other-worldliness of it all. Who are these early risers? These dog walkers, these stroller pushers, these I’ll-have-my-ususal coffee drinkers…..do they all know each other? Do they have a secret nod? Can they tell that I’m not really one of them? I bet they can. Just the way I can tell that 90% of the people standing in donut lines today are not really donut eaters.

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Much like the night before Thanksgiving when a bunch of non-cooks are bumbling around clogging up grocery store aisles, National Donut Day has become a national cheat day with early bird weight watchers coming out of the woodwork to get their yearly serving of frosted fried dough. You’d think donut shops would be the natural habitat of the single digit o’clock crew, but they aren’t quite.

If you joke that honey lavender is a candle scent and not a donut flavor, this day is not for you. If you are normally slurping protein smoothies or plain oatmeal or gnawing on carrot sticks and giving me dirty looks while I order a half dozen with a fork, I will see you later. If you change your single donut order 3 times at the cash register, please move to the back of the line. Or better yet, there should be two lines similar to the TSA: one for frequent donut eaters and another for those who are wearing lace up boots and toting full-size bottles of shampoo. Because NEWSFLASH: donut amateurs are causing donut shops to sell out by 9:15AM. The gall. Where have they been for the other 364 days? And now it’s NINE FIFTEEN IN THE GD MORNING AND THE DONUTS ARE GONE.

Since this is the reality that we now live in, let me give you a few tips:

1) Get there early – there will be lines, even at Dunkin’. Come on.

2) Support local. Even better if it’s locals supporting locals, as in Pandamonium Doughnuts’ newest flavor Honey Lavender using honey from Campbell Apiaries.

3) When in doubt, let your fingers do the walking. I’ll be seeing you on a non-holiday, Daylight Donuts, and I will obvs be getting a “Something To Crow About” shirt since donuts are one of my top crowing topics.

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(featured above: free donut with any bev at DD. maple bacon apple fritter, strawberry basil, honey lavender, saigon cinnamon sugar from Pandamonium. all purchased before 8:30 in the morning and now I’m going back to bed.)

 

travel around the world for $30 a day!*

*price excludes airfare to Los Angeles

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If you live in LA, you know it’s only an hour to the beach/an hour to the mountains/an hour to the desert….. Get ready, because now, in much less than an hour, you can travel to destination: ANYWHERE (time reference: you can now travel the globe more quickly than it takes to cross under the 405 at 5pm). All you need to do is get yourself to Wanderlust Creamery.

Once there, if you know where you’re going, coolcool, pick a cone and a scoop and get on with it. But if instead you’re feeling a little lost or undecided, a little adventurous, a little filled with…. shall we say….WANDERLUST, that cashier’s counter turns into a travel agent’s desk and for a mere $30 you can book a Flight Around The World!

Some decisions will still need to be made. Wanderlust offers around 20 different flavors inspired by places the owners have been/want to go. Since the flight is made up of ONLY fourteen gold ball-sized scoops, you’ll have to say bon voyage to a few. On this latest tour I skipped Earl Grey (bc I can make that myself), Pineapple Li Hing Sorbet (bc I’m allergic to pineapple and not looking to die before the world tour even begins), Wanderlust Vanilla (bc you all know how I feel about vanilla – I don’t. I don’t feel about vanilla.), and Kinder Bueno (bc it of course is bueno, but I can also just go buy a Kinder Bueno).

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So where did I go on my flight?

I started in Thailand with a Thai Iced Tea
then I headed over to Italy for Balsamic Macerated Strawberry Sorbet
to the Philipines for Ube Malted Crunch
next to Spain for a quick Catalonian afterschool snack of Pa Amb Xocolata (baguette spread with dark chocolate and drizzled with olive oil and sea salt)
Mexico for Cuatro Leches (why stop at tres??)
South America for a Tonka Bean Latte
Provence for some Honey Lavender (and a quick roll in the lavender fields)
met Björk at her house in Iceland for Pretzel & Rugbraud (rye bread)
then back to Thailand for Sticky Rice Mango
back to the Mediterranean for Fig Leaf & Pistachio (didn’t need to stop in 1000 churches or visit any headless sculptures!)
back to Mexico for Abuelita Malted Crunch
over to Japan for a Sakura Latte (since I missed cherry blossom season while I was hanging out in Iceland and Mexico and Italy), as well as Japanese Neapolitan (made with matcha, hojicha, and black sesame layers)
reentering the USA via the Pacific Northwest‘s Smoky Road – home sweet smoky marshmallow home…..

Luckily, my tour group was filled with enthusiastic explorers each preferring different cultural flavors, so the threat of an ice cream war was thwarted. #icecreamforworldpeace #icecreamforpresident

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Escape to Bia: part 1*

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Ever wonder what a fairy queen eats and drinks (aside from berries and fiddlehead ferns and dewdrops, of course)? Well wonder no more, because I’m about to reveal the secrets of the fairy kingdom…..and who would’ve guessed they’d have an outpost in LA’s Koreatown? Welcome to Bia.

(Side note: ever wonder what fairy monsters drink? THIS. #nothankyouverymuch)

Bia’s menu centers around two main ingredients: rose and lavender. Makes sense considering the cafe’s founder used to be a florist. Wanting to avoid synthetically sweet syrups, she makes her floral syrups in-house letting each jar infuse for two to three days. The limited quantities of syrup are then used in a limited number of creations; most triumphantly, lattes and cakes. (she also makes a vanilla syrup, and also makes italian sodas, muffins, meringues, croissants and scones, but we’re not here for that)

Easily blending in at the fairy cafe, due to my extremely large fairy tramp stamp, I was able to see magic in action. And by that I mean the jars of flower syrup are on display at the front counter:

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Listen, this is not like wandering into a Bath and Body Works and posting up for a soapy snack at the display table. This is more like roaming through a magical blooming forest only to be invited into a hollowed tree stump for a whimsical afternoon feast.

The carefully sought out coffee perfectly balances with the floral scents. The shop’s founder is the only one currently concocting the drinks, and you can tell she takes pride in the exacting details. The rose latte is topped with a fresh rose petal and ground rose powder. (the lavender latte is topped with a fresh lavender sprig and açaí powder) Like, this mug smells so good I want to just hang it from my rearview mirror.

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And now the cake. It is truly a special experience for all the senses. It’s beautiful, it’s delicious, and it smells SO GOOD that it’s basically singing to you. The double layered infused chiffon cake is doused with thick cream and again dusted with dried and fresh petals. (it can be ordered for dine-in only, though they will give you a box to go if you don’t finish. #qualitycontrol)

At first glance, you might think you’ve accidentally signed up for a Strawberry Shortcake pinky sweet extravaganza, but one bite and you’ll remember that no, no, you’re still dining on fairy food. How can something be sweet and floral without being too sweet and too floral? Tis the magic of the fairy kitchen.

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*part 2 re: everything lavender, will publish at some indeterminate future date

Sunday Sundae: Flesor’s Candy Kitchen

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Flesor’s Candy Kitchen. Let me repeat: CANDY. KITCHEN. Why oh why did it take me so long to visit?!?!

Established by Gus Flesor in 1901, temporarily closed in the late 1970s, and reopened by Gus’s granddaughters in 2004, I can only hope it lasts for at least 100 more years. Built around an old timey soda fountain, featuring homemade ice cream using original recipes in over 15 flavors, cases of hand-dipped chocolates, a wall of free books to peruse/take home, (a patty melt that comes with American AND Swiss cheese as the norm!), what more can you ask for??!?

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My sundae featured a scoop of chocolate, a scoop of coffee, and a scoop of black walnut ice creams, topped with hot caramel and hot fudge, whole toasted pecans, whipped cream and a cherry. I’ll be coming back for a s’mores sundae. I may also be coming back to make my own concoction loaded with seasonal chocolate chip peanut butter ice cream complete with a peanut butter pudding bonbon as a topper.

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What is a peanut butter pudding bonbon?? Made with a recipe purchased from some mystery man, I’d say their website sums it up pretty well: “If you like creamy peanut butter and chocolate – milk or dark – buy these squares in mass quantities. (Psst. They’re better than Reese’s, and Reese’s are pretty good.)” 100% AGREE.

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Other standouts include dipped fruits, honey salted caramels, molasses chips, butter creams in interesting flavors like lemon poppy seed or cinnamon vanilla, and Paul’s Pecan Favorites (basically turtles). The chocolate is smooth and creamy, the caramel is fresh, the nuts are perfectly toasted.

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Flesor’s is located in Tuscola, IL, about 5 min from the outlet mall, so I will leave you with this pro insight: mirrors at the mall are more forgiving pre-sundae.

WLW: Amsterdam Apple Pie

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When last I was in Amsterdam, I was not on the hunt for desserts. (I was on the hunt for Van Gogh paintings which just so happened to be on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago – of allllll places.) When next I am in Amsterdam, desserts will be high on the priority list. (namely, a very specific apple pie, and no, “high on the list” pun not intended)

The Dutch are ABOUT their apple pies. You will find some version of appeltaart on every bakery and cafe menu. They are served in large portions, and are of the deep dish variety, so how do you avoid getting stuffed on subpar slices while seeking out the best? I’m here to point you in the right (and only) direction you’ll need. #imthenewricksteves

In the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam you will find Winkel 43, a cafe with a reputation for having the best apple tart. You guys, this is not a “world’s best coffee” situation where claims are thrown about willy-nilly. Literally EVERY review on EVERY place anyone could ever leave a review backs this up. The crust is sweet, crumbly, crunchy, thick but soft, pressed instead of rolled into a springform pan, and then filled with spiced apples (firmer than those in American apple pie). The result is something you dream about even if you’ve never actually eaten it. I can taste it now…….

Further support that this is the truly the best when I’ve yet to even taste it: How many other singular desserts – I’m talking one specific dessert from one specific restaurant – have had their own IG account created??

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*photos by: @gijskeadrienne and @juliezwing