Sunday Sundae: national day history mystery edition

unnamed

As if the sweltering summer heat wasn’t a good enough excuse to drown yourself in ice cream, July is National Ice Cream Month. And if you didn’t already know that, what better day to learn than today, National Ice Cream Day!

As much as I’d like to take credit for making up this glorious holiday and basically extending it for 1/12 of the YEAR, the Nobel Prize goes to desserty prez Ronnie Reagan, who in 1984 took a break from pounding jelly beans and proclaimed July as National Ice Cream Month, further driving it home by establishing the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day. #justsayyes

Which brings us to today’s mystery: what did I just eat? Unable to decide, but definitely leaning chocolate for today’s observance, I had a turtle sundae with a nice foundation scoop of dark dark chocolate topped with a scoop of Agatha Christie from the newly opened Red Bicycle Ice Cream. The Agatha Christie is an ever-changing mysterious mélange of all the flavors, so you never know quite what you’ll taste. Thankfully, I did not come across arsenic or gun powder, but rather cookies and cream, rocky road, chocolate chip, and a hint of mint. (alas, no Poirot crème de cassis)

 

National Donut Day 2017: something to crow about

unnamed

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.

unnamed-2

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.

unnamed-1

(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.)

 

Pi(e) Day Preparedness

 

unnamed-1

Welcome to Pi(e) Day 2017 – when one side the country is 80 degrees and the other side is hosting an unwelcome snowy guest named Stella. Are you prepared? Do you know where your closest source of pie is located???!?

Before you rush out the door to fight traffic and/or blizzard trudging across town in search of your piece, relaxxxx. A perfect slice is prob just around the corner! Though I am 1110% in support of artisanal pie shops promoting today with mini pies, hand pies, 40 different flavors of pie, and slices for $3.14 (and of course I have traveled many a mile to procure all of the above), today let’s not overlook the humble neighborhood cafe.

Quietly holding down the fort for so many decades, always there to provide you with a late night patty melt, an early morning hot cup of coffee, or an anytimeofday slice of pie. I mean, really, pie is always on that menu. A corner cafe doesn’t overthink it, a corner cafe simply gives you something to put in your pie hole. And maybe I’m #blessed, bc my “corner cafe,” The Courier Cafe, makes excellent pies every day of the year.

unnamed-2unnamed-3

So as I sit here enjoying a slice of tropical coconut cream alongside a slice of cozy bumbleberry, gazing out the window at daffodils peeking up through snowdrifts, let me leave you with some Pi(e) Day tips:

  1. call ahead. cafe or pie shop, #1: is your destination open?, and #2: do they still have pie? I mean, how disappointing if they’re closed, and even worse if you get there and they’re sold out….
  2. can they put a slice on hold for you? or do they deliver/use a delivery service? just asking, just asking! just weighing the options!
  3. dress for success: whether you are leaving your house or not, today is a day to wear stretchy pants

Sunday Sundae: have it your way

img_5693

When it’s 65 degrees in FEBRUARY in ILLINOIS what do you do? You get a banana split. When a traditional banana split comes with the traditional chocolate/strawberry/vanilla combo and you hate vanilla ice cream what do you do? You swap in coconut. Everyone’s happy, traditionalists are none the wiser.

(like, I am all about empty calories, but what’s the point if it doesn’t taste good? no point. and why am I paying for it if I’m not going to eat it. I’m not. take that, Vanilla. don’t even look at me.)

The perfect substitute for such a tropical afternoon – the perfect substitute any time vanilla is forced your way. Even better when the coconut ice cream is made in-house using fresh coconut.

img_5694

Sugar by Sarah, Sugar for Courtney

img_1881

Unless you’re craving yogurt raisins, carob granola, or something made using applesauce as a sweetener (just stop reading this blog right now), natural/health food stores aren’t usually your best dessert bet. But tucked away unassumingly between vegan cupcakes and gluten-free cake wedges at Strawberry Fields is Sugar by Sarah – oh Urbana and your hidden gems!! Sarah specializes in custom decorated cakes and sugar cookies and the Frenchiest French macarons this side of the Loire.

img_3645img_5357

Sometimes, the macarons are so pretty you just want to dip them in shellac and wear them as a brooch. I kinda think that’s what she should start doing with any leftovers…..

img_5353

Though I doubt she has much brooch inventory hanging around with flavors like strawberry mint lemon, or carrot pecan, or maple almond vanilla, or sweet basil cream filled with lime curd, or the above fig mascarpone, or the below UNICORN:

img_5480

 

WUT.

What does a unicorn taste like? Like a citrus-scented children’s bday cake WITH GLITTER. How hard was it to eat this and not shellac it instead? VERY hard. (pretty sure i said “sorry, bye” before i took my first bite) But, as a friend wisely reflected, I’d be denying it its life purpose if I left it uneaten. #someonehastodoit

New grocery list: tofu, kale, ACV, chia, macarons

National Dessert Day 2016: Hopscotch to the rescue

img_4558

Realizing yesterday that today was National Dessert Day (these days tend to sneak up on me….. dessert bloggers – they’re just like us!), I had a brief flash of panic: AHHHH I’m in Champaign-Urbana for the weekend, where would I celebrate?!?!?! Where could I find desserts worthy of such an illustrious holiday?!?! But the answer came quickly bc it is the same answer I give to anyone who ever asks me where to find great desserts in C-U: Hopscotch. A beacon of sugary light in a land known for pork and corn. And so, this afternoon, armed with an empty stomach, I made my way to their pastry case.

img_3767

Hopscotch Cakes & Confections is housed in the newishly relocated Art Mart. (I’ve often contemplated housing myself there as well. Intelligentsia, Le Creuset, stickers, stuffed animals, wine, cheese…..how hard would it be to just camp out in a dressing room or slide under a table and have my mail forwarded? They sell fancy soap…I’d stay hygienic.) But back to the desserts.

fullsizerender

One of the reasons Hopscotch is so great is their slight seasonal twists on classics. Kaya Tate, Hopscotch master, pushes patrons juuuuust a little nudge out of their flavor comfort zone and in doing so keeps things exciting and interesting, and helps to expand palates away from the disgusting hole that is blue raspberry or cookie dough blizzard. I’m talking about grapefruit poppyseed shortbread, sea salt fennel caramels, blackberry lavender bars, maple bourbon marshmallows……yessssssss.

Today was no exception to the excellent flavor landscape: carrot ginger cupcakes, cheesecake mousse topped with dried flowers, apricot sage bar, pumpkin spice cheesecake.

img_4554

And now I’m napping off my dessert coma until dinnertime, where you might just find me at Watson’s Shack & Rail for some fried chicken, but more importantly (obvs) for their daily Hopscotch pie offering. On today’s menu: apple because October.

img_4563

 

tiramisu for me and for you

IMG_3578

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