Marketing in Magnolia

September 18, 2016

I’ve lived in Seattle for a decade and somehow I’ve never been to Magnolia – not even Discovery Park. I decided to rectify this situation while also checking a couple bakeries off my list, including Cereal Box Bakery. Cereal Box doesn’t have a storefront, but operates a delivery service (baked goods and fresh baked bread delivered to your doorstep!) and has a booth at the Magnolia Farmers Market. That’s where I found them, and selected a peach muffin top and a jam-filled scone.

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Both were notable in their lower-than-usual sugar levels, which I actually appreciated. It was more like breakfast and less like dessert, which was fine… because my next stop was Petit Pierre Bakery. No shortage of sugar here!

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I started with a homemade pop tart, which was nothing like the grocery store variety. Flakey, with a lovely jam filling and homemade icing – you don’t need to be a kid to appreciate these. For later, I got a raspberry chocolate brownie type thing, which was less impressive but still enjoyable:

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It was a little on the dry side. I would stick to the pastries and more traditional French desserts – their lemon tarts and macarons looked pretty good. The cafe itself was cute and popular, with excellent espresso and friendly service.

Market Treats Round II

September 7, 2016

The South Lake Union Saturday Market has a wealth of dessert options (including macaron ice cream sandwiches, as mentioned below). One spot that’s gotten a lot of hype is Susu, an on-trend rolled ice cream stand.  If you’re wondering what rolled ice cream is, it’s like a cooler, more modern version of Dippin Dots. The flavored cream is poured onto a freezing surface and spread out like a square crepe. Cookie crumbles or other toppings are added for texture.

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Then, sections are rolled up with the spatula, just like you’d roll up a yoga mat. Susu’s flavor/topping choices range from S’mores to Tiramisu. I got the earl grey tea with sesame seeds.

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The joy of Susu is partly in the flavors, partly in the texture, and largely in watching the process. It’s ice cream art and it’s worth savoring (and Instagramming).

Market Treats… Again!

August 3, 2016

It’s market season in Seattle and once again, my goal is to visit each and every one. It’s a great way to explore small, artisan bakers and dessert makers, and on my recent trip to the West Seattle market I found tiny Shambala Bakery, specializing in vegan and gluten-free desserts. Now, I’m not a huge fan of either category, but I have friends who are so I bought a few items for them:

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That’s a banana muffin and a lemon sugar cookie – both vegan and gluten-free. I missed the wheat more than the dairy – both seemed on the gritty side to me. But my vegan and gluten-free friends said both were really good.  Next up was the South Lake Union Saturday Market, where I found Macadons – Macarons by Donna. The fun part of this macaron stand was that they sell ice cream sandwiches (macaron style, naturally). I got the lychee:

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Mild and sweet, it was an interesting twist on the typical macaron – but I got some of those too:

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Let me take a minute to talk about the durian flavor – the yellow cookie on the left. As most folks know, the durian is a foul-smelling tropical fruit – not your typical macaron flavor (they are packaged separately to avoid contaminating the flavors of the other macarons). Honestly, I took a bite and threw the rest out – I was happy to try it but it wasn’t for me. Much friendlier to the palate was the tutti fruity (red) flavor, the nutella (brown) flavor, and the oreo (grey) flavor. But all (minus the durian) were excellent and recommended.

Pellegrini Italian Market

July 26, 2016

If you’ve lived in the Atlantic Northeast, it’s hard to eat Italian in the Pacific Northwest. Sure, places like Spinasse will impress, but when it comes to the neighborhood deli/market, pickings are slim. That’s why I was excited to try Pellegrini Italian Market in West Seattle – it brought me home for a minute and I could enjoy the very Seattle experience of the West Seattle Farmers Market while eating a Sicilian slice. The desserts were varied, colorful, and almost overwhelmingly abundant. It took some time to choose so I started with a nutella cookie and espresso while I thought things over.

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The cookie was nutty and fresh with a healthy dollup of nutella (and went well with the espresso) but I needed something a bit more iconic. Enter the rainbow cookie!

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These Italian confections are found all over the Northeast but are hard to get right, the main problem being that they get stale quickly (and this cookie was indeed on the dry side). They can also be too almondy or too sweet (this one had the right balance of both). But the real showstopper was the  peach sandwich cookie:

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Loved the crunchy sugar “crust” and loved the jam-like filling. With “pretty” desserts like this, I worry that the instagram value outweighs the flavor, but in this case, both were unbeatable. Verdict: Pellegrini tastes like home SWEET home. (Sorry for that one.)

Shug’s Soda Fountain

July 16, 2016

If you’re tired of the retro decor/food scene, Shug’s probably isn’t for you. But if you are looking for a spot you can take your kids, hipster friend, date, or silent reading group, Shug’s will work for you! (Yes, there was a silent reading group there when I visited, and no, I didn’t ask how to join even though I really, really wanted to.) The space is light, friendly, and hip without being pretentious or gimmicky, and the location makes it a perfect post-Pike Place Market cool-down.

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There are novelty items (which would actually be standard items in New York) like an egg cream and lime rickey, beer floats, shakes, sundaes, and house-made sodas. The Sundaes were the most intriguing part of the menu – the Brown Derby involves a Mighty-O donut – and I selected the Crested Lourie:

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Coconut ice cream, pineapple, Grenadine, and cashew-coconut brittle. I gave the sundae a thumbs up overall, although the pineapple could have been fresher and the brittle would have been easier to deal with if it were broken up. My date got the Kitty Canutt:

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Cinnamon ice cream, apple compote, and graham cracker crumble. I’d like to return and try their egg cream, malts, and sodas… and maybe that Brown Derby sundae. Because donut.

Choukette

July 9, 2016

I don’t spend a ton of time in Pike Place Market or downtown Seattle, but for various reasons I’ve found myself there several times in the last few weeks. I’ve been surprised to discover the many hidden gems to be found below the market, on Western, including the newly opened Choukette – a bakery specializing solely in eclairs. Apparently, however, it’s not secret enough, because the shop was almost sold out by noon thanks to some unexpected publicity from Seattle Met and an eclair-loving populace.

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There were, luckily, a few eclairs remaining and I was able to try the lemon curd and the salted caramel flavors.

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To be sure, these works of art are meant to be appreciated by aficionados – while they are neither large nor cheap, neither are they bland, stale, or overly sweet. The pastry dough was light and pillowy and was the perfect accompaniment to the cream. The best part, however, were the toppings. The lemon curd was bright and tart, and the salted caramel was the right notes of sweet-salty. Hopefully this little shop can keep up with demand so that I can come back and try other flavors!

Meet the Moon

May 21, 2016

After a few rainy weekends, it was time for some carbs and coziness at Leschi’s trendy-but-classic Meet the Moon.  The wide-plank floors and farmhouse feel complement the generously-sized cinnamon rolls and friendly service. Customers can get coffee and pastries to go at the counter or settle in at the bar or tables. Whichever you choose, do it early – cinnamon rolls were gone by the time I left (which was around noon).

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I had dessert for breakfast and lunch – that is, I got French toast as well as a cinnamon roll. The Challah French toast was thick and caramelized on the top and bottom, with a berry compote on top. Fancy and addictive, if a little less custardy than I usually prefer.

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The cinnamon roll was not only enormous, it was gooey, fresh, and simple with plenty of frosting. I wouldn’t have minded a heavier hand with the cinnamon but overall I think this place is a winner… and I still need to try the cocktails!

 

Fudge Yourself

May 14, 2016

At the Fremont Sunday Market a couple weekends ago, I stumbled across a stand of homemade confections (mostly fudge) that even I’d never heard of. Fudge Yourself Confections had an array of fun fudge flavors as well as various brittles and the lady running the stand made them herself in a home kitchen. She has no online presence that I could find (if you can’t Google it, does it exist?) but the free samples said everything Yelp could not.

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I was very much impressed by everything I sampled, and ended up getting the peanut brittle and the cookies and cream fudge.  Both tasted how old-fashioned candy should: no false flavors, plenty of sugar but not blandly sweet, and freshly made with care.

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This lady is worth seeking out on Sundays, and adults and kids alike will love the fudge flavors. One bite will take you right back to summer vacation…

My Sweet Lil Cakes

May 6, 2016

Who would have thought a waffle on a stick could be served up in so many delicious and creative ways? My Sweet Lil Cakes food truck does waffles, and they do them well. Not only are their recipes innovative and creative, they genuinely work. Everything, not just the waffles themselves, is nicely crafted and thoughtfully presented (especially considering it’s a food truck!).  What’s more, service is friendly and full of smiles.

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I was pretty excited to find this truck at Fremont’s Food Truck Rodeo, and ordered myself a healthy helping of Chocolate Waffle stuffed with Dark Cherries and topped with frosting, berries, and powdered sugar.

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The photo doesn’t do justice to the excellence of this dessert, since you can’t see the “dark cherries.” I don’t generally prefer cherries in any form except raw, but these were different (and indeed, dark). Not too sweet, soft but not mushy, and nothing like the candied cherries I was fearing. I’ll need to hunt this truck down again to sample the other dessert options, and the savory ones too (chicken and waffle on a stick? Yes please!).

Amandine

May 2, 2016

I probably didn’t need another French bakery in walking distance, but after tasting the macarons at Amandine Bakeshop in Chophouse Row (Cap Hill) I decided it didn’t hurt to have options. And Amandine is an excellent option. Macarons are definitely the reason to come here, although the pastries are also good (I enjoyed my fresh, perfectly crackly danish). Let me say, first of all, that I don’t especially LIKE macarons because I don’t especially LIKE almond flavored desserts.  But I got a black currant macaron to be nice, along with my Danish and madeline.

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All were enjoyable, but the macaron was MUCH more enjoyable than what I was expecting. There was no taste of almond paste, and the texture was not air, and the flavor was not sugar. There was more of a cookie element than I was expecting. And I love cookies. So naturally I had to return to the counter and get a few more to-go:

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On the left is lime mimosa, on the right is grapefruit sage (most of their flavors are equally creative). Both were phenomenal and again, intensely flavored and not too delicately textured. If you need more reason to go to Amandine, they serve Empire Espresso and have free wifi… and they’re near an ice cream shop. What more does one need?