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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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

 

PSA: eat this now

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CHICAGO. Stop what you’re doing and go get this honey walnut caramel shortbread bar immediately. At Revival Food Hall from Mindy Segal (of Hot Chocolate fame). It’s like an instant, cosy holiday party in your mouth – even if you’re not quite ready for the holidays yet. It is nutty, buttery, fall-apart-melt-in-your-mouth-keep-coming-back-for-more perfect. Also, it’s about 7 inches long so you can even share it and stay greedy at the same time. #winwin #yourewelcome

tiramisu for me and for you

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I love it when I discover a house specialty. Although the majority of their pastries are delivered from Pekara, the unassuming Caffe Paradiso in lovely Urbana, IL makes their tiramisu fresh in-house daily.

Why is this so great? #1: it means that they’ve perfected their recipe. #2: it’s a one-off coffee shop creating its own random around-the-world menu (you’ll find macarons, danishes and bingsoo here too – how eclectic!), not an Italian restaurant that thinks tiramisu is a mandatory dessert option and therefore must be on the menu even if all the Nonnas are collectively rolling over in their graves – for shame! #3: it means that it isn’t sitting around getting stale and soppy and tasting like a cooler case.

In fact, some times it’s so fresh that it hasn’t even made it out and into the cooler case yet! So if you see an empty case and are about to leave muttering, “thanks for nothing, Paradiso,” do yourself a favor and ask if they have any in back. Because chances are they probably do.

The portions are HUGE. Each individual ingredient layer can be seen and tasted: from the generous dusting of cocoa powder on top, to the Intelligentsia espresso not overly-soaked lady fingers. It is on the dryer side – a rare occurrence in a world that sometimes mistakes tiramisu as some kind of Italian boozy pudding cousin – so it pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee.

Caffe Paradiso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

egg free and ageless

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Dear Dessert Oasis,

What is an egg free dessert I can bring to a dinner party that will please both kiddos and discerning adults alike?

Sincerely, Suburban sweet lover

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Dear Suburban Sweetie,

I’ve got a few suggestions for you dependent on level of acceptable mess:

  1. Bake or buy a fruit pie. Done and done. (*not a custard/key lime/pudding type pie – bc duh, eggs)
  2. Rice Krispie Treats – age doesn’t discriminate here. EVERYONE ALWAYS loves Rice Krispie Treats. They’re easy to make (only 3 ingredients – none of them eggs! one bowl! one pan!), you can keep them classic or add a little something for the kids (mix in sprinkles!) or adults (spread a layer of melted dark chocolate on top!)
  3. If it’s chilly outside, and you don’t mind a *touch* of a mess inside, chocolate fondue is a sure winner. Milk chocolate (maybe even swirled with white chocolate?) for the kiddies, and dark/semi-sweet (maybe swirled with milk chocolate?) for the adults. Slice and dip any fruit, pretzels, shortbreads (no eggs), marshmallows, etc. It’s a fun way to keep kids occupied/happily playing with their food, and a relaxed way for adults to linger at the table with cocktails over the fondue pot…. but keep in mind, this dessert will for sure take centerstage. If you don’t want that much limelight/potential mess in someone else’s dining room, simply dip and cool everything on a tray/arrange on a platter beforehand to bring the treats sans melting accessories.
  4. With warmer months coming and dinner parties potentially turning into backyard BBQs, DIY (or store bought) popsicles are great and kids can be hosed down on the lawn afterwards. Blend some juice/fruit/yogurt together and pour into popsicle molds – maybe add a few extra pieces of fruit to each mold too to make ’em pretty. You can keep it simple for kids: strawberry/banana, orange/vanilla yogurt, and maybe toss in something more interesting for the grown-ups: add fresh ginger to blackberry pops or chopped basil to watermelon pops!

You don’t have to crack any eggs to make this omelet,
Dessert Oasis

 

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.

 

to bake or to buy?

Dessert Oasis,

Is it more/less/equally acceptable to purchase a really great bakery item when you are asked to bring a dessert to a party, or should it really be homemade?

Sisters, sincerely yours,
Susie Not-So-Homemaker and Store-Bought Sally

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Dear Sus and Sal,

Some people just do not have the strength of baking (or moussing or ice creaming or candying or etc). That is that. If you can’t make your way off the dessert list and onto the hummus list instead, there is no argument that a great item from a great bakery always = great.

Now, do not confuse “great bakery” with the grocery store down the street. And do not confuse “great item” with a plastic tray packing overly dyed cupcakes that taste like the aforementioned tray. Though you may not be able to bake a cake yourself, I believe that you do have the sense to know that no one appreciates having to feign excitement over an old buttercream sheet cake layered with soggy strawberries.

Plus, bringing a great bakery item gives you the opportunity to share/introduce a special treat/new find with friends who may not be in the know. You might even be renamed a dessert connoisseur! (though maybe you should drop some hints re: “I can’t bake don’t ask me to bring dessert again” while guests are enjoying your bakery goodies so that you sidestep an unwanted dessert connoisseur future….)

Basically, if you really love it, bring it. If you’re just planning on throwing a box of Chips Ahoy! on the table, you’d be better off bringing the hummus instead and pretending you missed the dessert memo.

Good things come in pink boxes,
Dessert Oasis

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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.

the ube flan cupcake

When you first think about Pasadena, visions of the little old lady from or the Rose Bowl flea market may come to mind. When you first think about ube or flan, visions of old purple potatoes or lackluster custard are certain to appear. Well prepare to be blown away, because Pasadena is now a premier destination for one of the greatest dessert mergers of all time: the ube flan cupcake.

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This cupcake is only served on Wednesdays or Saturdays, so don’t try and roll it into your Sunday flea market plans. It is special, so you’ll need to make an equally special trip to get it. And it will be worth it. I promise. Tucked away down a little alley separate from the tourist hustle and the can-i-ask-you-a-quick-question harassers on Colorado Blvd lays the unassuming Cafe 86.

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When I first walked in, I almost instantly turned around to walk right back out in bewildered tears because the pastry case was EMPTY. WTF. I DROVE ALL THIS WAY. But never fear, a new tray was being delivered through the back window just in time, (CLOSE call – don’t do that to me, Cafe 86) and the smiling cafe guy asked the only question that could bring my blood pressure down: “How many do you want?” No limits. Yesssss.

My reply of, “Just one, please,” was met with several “Are you sure?”s. He gets me. He really gets me and we only just met! But unusual as my order was, I had things to do, so just one it stayed. *tear*

So basically, here is what is happening: a deep purple, moist (I said it) cupcake with a flavor similar to mild coconut. Then, instead of some nonsense buttercream frosting ruining the whole operation, it is topped with a firm eggy/caramel-y flan that stays put and doesn’t slide off and leak all over the place…..as flans are wont to do. The result is a perfectly balanced, not overly sweet (but still makes your fingers sticky, so fork is recommended) combination that (as full as you may be from possibly eating donuts and chocolate bars for bfast) leaves you wanting more. Like at least 6 more seems like a reasonable amount.

And next time I’m aroundish Pasadena, I will be coming back for (a mulitple of) 6 more. And a matcha brownie too.

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Cafe 86 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato