I’m taking my post-luncheon peramble to the Fulton Street Farmers Market Wednesday when I stumble on a gloriously sweet find. The Crepes By the Lakes mini kitchen was hopping with customers despite the small crowds.
I had already had my lunch for the day, so it was a total indulgence to get in line for a warm, made-to-order crepe. There was so many choices, despite the petite dimensions of the mobile kitchen.
Owners and entrepreneurs, Stephanie Lenhart and Courtney Verhage, were dicing tomatoes and spinning crepes while chatting with customers. It was a busy scene, but they willingly stopped for a photo when the powdered sugar dust settled.
Because of customers, there was only time for a few quick questions–besides the one the cook shot me: “Would you like strawberries with that?”*
The dynamic duo were somewhat challenged by windy attempts to blow their sign off the cart and plates and napkins flapping like signal flags at the start of a race. But they had happy smiles as they described their products.
Courtney pointed to the Cubano–the first item on the menu–letting me know that this would be their entry in the annual Grand Rapids “Grandwich” competition. Voting begins July 5th and you just have to check the Crepes by the Lakes Facebook page to find a location where you can hunt down this origami-folded entrant:
Sadly, I did not get a picture of a cubano, however, there is video available on the Facebook page that’s downright sizzling:
My personal choice looks pretty sedate by comparison, but don’t let looks fool you!
After a healthy toss of powdered sugar**, I ducked into a nearby farmers market stall to taste test my prize. The warm, buttery slip had been folded into a fan shape. You couldn’t see the precious berries until you sank your teeth into a crispy edge and they popped up with an ooze of butter and cinnamon/sugar liquid.*** It was sweet and yet savory. Each mouthful served up a rich texture of the best a thin pancake can offer, down to the very last, sinful mouthful.
If you go…make sure you are willing to leave, fingers dripping in butter, with a guilty trace of indulgence on your lips.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Strawberry-Bedecked Answer: Yes. Yes I would.
**Warning, powdered sugar will blow up in your face if you let it. It’s the sugary shrapnel of pastry-artillery fire.
There is something about the call of battle that is so invigorating. At least, that’s what every science fiction novel has lead me to believe. Now I am more informed. War isn’t pretty. Not even a war covered in chocolate. I attended the Hobart Dessert Wars held at the Amway Grand Plaza Friday night. I was late to the event and my poor planning landed me in the fudge sauce right away. I had no idea how well attended the event would be. Too well attended. The line to get into the Ambassador Ballroom took at least twenty minutes—snaking in and around the foyer, through a back hall, around a bathroom (presumably to give you an opportunity before continuing the trek) and back around to the foyer again. By the time I got inside it was wall to wall with chocolate crazed donut lovers.
It was a sweet smelling madhouse. People wedged their way through the crowd, some holding up coveted box tops garnered at a dessert table to keep their trophies in. I was to learn to my sincere regret how necessary these shields of battle were. Because of the size of the room, they placed the tables all around the outside of the space with tiny, standing hors d’oeuvre tables draped with white tablecloths in the center. They were calm oases where one could set down their treasures and feast. But no one was doing that. It was a sadly long wait to get to each of the thirteen stations. (I was feeling quite cross, I can tell you.) After the first table, I knew I wasn’t going to make it unless I got ruthless.
At the first table I went to, The Melting Pot, which is a restaurant I have never been to because of the idea of drowning things in scalding chocolate has never appealed to me, I sidled my way to the edge, because the movement at the center was negligible, only to discover that they were only serving at the front. I managed to throw down a ticket and snag a dessert myself—the harried servers barely blinked at my chocolate ballsy theft. I turned away cackling in triumph only to have my victory dashed away by the plate of cubed brownies and pound cake with fudge sauce and strawberry slices flying out of my hands and splatting on the floor. (We won’t discuss the five second rule and the possible application thereof. I had waited a long time to get to that dessert.) That said, the brownie was definitely the best part of that arrangement.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sample everything, so every once in a while, I’d stop someone to get a picture of their food or their impressions of the event. The consensus was that the venue was too crowded to make the experience pleasurable. I met Cathy with her grandson, Adam, in line. Cathy told me people were leaving because of it. She was harried by the stress of the battle for bite-sized vittles, but she was one of the people I saw at the close of the event. What a grandmother won’t do for her grandkids!
I learned a few lessons from the veterans in attendance. People who had been to past Dessert Wars came prepared. Some had baking cupcake tins to pop their samples into, others came as teams, with one person hitting a few stations, collecting five or more samples and then they would converge somewhere else to divide the spoils.
Opinions on the quality of the entries differed. Some people had nothing but good things to say. I spoke with 7-year-old Tessa who, when asked agreed that she was definitely an ‘expert in desserts’. In her opinion, she liked the chocolate truffle the best…until she tasted the chocolate red velvet ice cream cookie. That immediately became her favorite. “It was better than the truffle.” She said.
Others held more reserved judgment of the event. Ruthanne – who is not pictured except for her hands—felt that what the Melting Pot served wasn’t really appropriate to a “Dessert Wars” theme. “They didn’t make it from scratch.” She went on to say that they simply cut up brownies and cake. “I could do that!” No, she felt that the winner should be someone like the Love’s Ice Cream because they constructed a dessert on the site. The official judges must have agreed. The ice cream/cream puff swans took second place. As it was one of the desserts I got to try, I had to agree. It was worth the hassle and fuss of fighting my way to the front. Despite the chaos and disappointment of not getting to try many of the sponsored delights, there was a heady thrill of getting the last puffed pastry (or piece of carrot cake, in my case) and walking away a champion in the sweets arena. To the victor the just desserts.
I was entirely impressed with the bakeries and restaurants that participated. They kept their cool in the face of crises. When swans took too long to prepare, the basic cream puffs were handed out so that people could at least try them. The Melting Pot was the last table standing…scraping the pot for fudge sauce even after the competition was officially over. At tables where I was too late to sample the wares, the assistants proudly showed off cell phone pictures and rattled off the many entries offered. It definitely was incentive to go out and try these establishments at a later date. There were many winners that evening. Winners for people’s choice: 3rd place was a tie: Twisted Rooster and the Melting Pot 2nd place was “Sprinkles” 1st place was Robinette’s Judge’s decision 3rd place Robinette’s 2nd place Love’s Ice Cream 1st place Town to Town The real winners were the area food pantry “Kids’ Food Basket” which benefitted in part from the proceeds of the event. It is good to know, we all went to bed slightly sick with over-indulgence for a good cause.
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Bonus: How to Make a Cream Puff Swan
There were too many choices and competitors to all list here. There are many great sites where each competitor’s entries may be found. Here’s a list of the entrants and a link to their entries:
(FRUSHI – fruit roll-up sushi with sweet rice and fresh fruit.)
Frushi—Fruit Sushi is a hybrid fusion dessert taking the concept of ‘sushi’ in a new direction. I managed to get a lovely picture of the promoted items, but again, I was too late to sample the elaborate constructions. The basic ingredients were fruit roll ups, sweet sticky rice with vanilla, fresh fruit and dehydrated pineapple and they were served with a sauce which I was assured could go on anything! It looked convincingly enough like soy sauce to fool me. I was told it was vanilla, honey and balsamic vinegar though with a plop of “Wasabi” in the form of ground pistachio paste.
Cookie bars that were called Tiramisu. Complicated ingredients made it hard to identify all of their choices. I tried three of the cookie bars and the fruit option was the best. They were not as elegantly served, but they were generous portion sizes.
(Won First Place in People’s Choice awards and Third Place in Judge’s Choice. Came bearing cartloads of their signature donuts: apple cider, cinnamon & sugar, chocolate covered chocolate, chocolate with sprinkles, red velvet, black forest, s’mores, lemon, chocolate almond (or coconut almond…I couldn’t read my handwriting on account of the drool.)
Sara’s Sweets was out of cupcakes by the time I got to the table. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, I am bound to fall in love with their menu. They brought a mother load worth of cupcakes. And from the screen shot on one baker’s broken iPhone, I could see I missed out. Almond, mint chocolate, strawberry shortcake, peanut butter, raspberry filled white cake, snickers, buckeyes and frosted cookies were among their treasures.
I may have to look this place up, or I’ll feel bereft.
Apparently served a prickle pear mojito dessert, but alas, I was too late. I did however get a scrumptious serving of peanut butter, snickers cupcake that was incredible. The burst of peanut butter when you bit into the fluffy frosting was astonishingly good. And, since I am not a fan of peanut butter, that’s saying something.
Let me just tell you that cupcakes were the most popular items at the Dessert Wars competition. I know, because every time I got to a table, they were already gone. Sprinkles apparently served chocolate ganache, toffee and peanut butter creme cupcakes, Devil Dogs and Sprinkle Puffs. I saw these go by. I could cry, I tell you. Took Second Place in People’s Choice Award.
By the time I made my way through they only had the puff pastry curl with Holland crème. I have always had a fondness for cream horns—also called cream curls— when I was a girl. I used to call them unicorn horns. These were perfect examples. Light airy, cylindrical pastry filled with a yummy cream filling. I won’t argue with the judges who gave them First Place.
Another shot glass entry came from Twister Rooster. This was describe to me as a ‘Tiramisu’ style dessert made of peanut butter mousse, with strawberry and raspberry jelly using a ladyfinger cookie as a ‘spoon’. Sounded intriguing–snapped up before I could even sniff it. It was popular enough to share Third Place in the People’s Choice award.
Asterisk Bedazzle Footnote:
*The title of this piece is the battle cry coined by me and a fellow patron when I nearly upset my dessert tray a second time.