When in France…

Bonjour foodies! Comment ça va? This past spring, I found myself in one of the most beautiful cities on earth: PARIS! I was absolutely overwhelmed by every inch of the city–the buildings, the monuments, the history. I found myself walking miles and miles all over the city trying to take it all in. But, you know what happens when you walk around a big city for hours? You become very hungry! Naturally, I was excited to sample Parisian cuisine–however, as you probably guessed, I was especially excited to try the sweets! Parisian sweet diversion? Yes, please! One day after walking up the Eiffel Tower (yes, I accidentally bought the ticket that excludes elevator use until half way up the tower!), I became famished. I was ready to eat the minute I left the Eiffel Tower, so I walked over to La Crêperie across the street and tried the most amazing crêpe I’ve ever had. It was bursting with strawberries and adorned with Nutella (FYI, Nutella is EVERYWHERE in Paris. So awesome!). The crêpe was warm–right off the grill, and eating with a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower made the entire experience remarkable.

Crêpe

 

Even better, I got to enjoy it with my fiancé, Omar, and our two amazing friends, Danny and Ezra. It was the most beautiful evening! I can’t wait to go back!

 

Eiffel Tower

Advertisements

What Are You Grateful For?

What do you think of when you hear the word “gratitude”? Do you think of raw, organic, or vegan cuisine? Yeah, me neither! But, what I recently found at Café Gratitude in Kansas City, Missouri was just that: cuisine with integrity! Now, you know me. The moment I walked through the door of this fabulous hipster café in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, there was only one thing on my mind: DESSERT! This girl needed a sweet diversion. However, when I asked for a dessert menu, my friendly server brought me a TRAY of desserts instead; that’s what I’m talkin about! After drooling over their decadent dessert selections, I finally decided on Devoted and Rapture. Wait a minute…what kind of desserts are called “devoted” and “rapture”?! Well, let me explain. At Café Gratitude, all of their menu items have names meant to inspire you and remind you of your beautiful significance. For instance, their homemade veggie burger is called “Magical”; their raw lasagna is “Fabulous”; and their corn tostadas are called “Yo soy feliz.” And when the servers bring you your food or drinks, they declare these things over you–so, for example, if you ordered the lasagna, your server would say, “You are fabulous!” when he or she places your food on the table. Way cool, right?! So, back to the desserts :). Let’s talk about Devoted, shall we?

I am devoted...to this coconut cream pie!

I am devoted…to this coconut cream pie!

Café Gratitude’s “Devoted” is coconut cream pie with an almond crust. But it’s WAY more than that because their pie is organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free, AND made from scratch daily! And the texture of this pie is so creamy, so smooth, so spectacular–it just about knocks you out of your chair. Absolutely perfect for pie lovers like me :). Ok, next up…RAPTURE!

This cake enraptured my taste buds...

This cake enraptured my taste buds…

Rapture is, as you can see, a layered cake. But, Café Gratitude takes their layered cakes to a WHOLE new level! This cake is jam packed with cacao, banana, and walnuts and, like Devoted, is organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free, and made from scratch daily. The flavors of this cake are so delicious, they’re almost indescribable. The rich flavor of the banana accompanied by the chocolate notes from the cacao powder and crunchy nibs and the nuttiness of the walnuts–it’s a flavor extravaganza for your taste buds. And last but not least, I washed these beautiful desserts down with a steaming hot cup of Calm–chamomile tea infused with lemongrass, lemon myrtle, and spearmint. So yummy!

Perhaps what I like most about Café Gratitude is their mission. They stand for the truly important things in life and, with their cuisine and friendly service, they try to remind us to stop taking life and our surroundings for granted. Check out their awesome mission statement…

Café Gratitude knows what's up!

Café Gratitude knows what’s up!

Well, I am overflowing with gratitude after visiting this place. Their desserts are incredible, their servers are friendly and encouraging, and their mission statement is extraordinary. I hope you get a chance to go to Café Gratitude soon. They have five locations in all: Kansas City, MO; Venice, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; Berkeley, CA; and Los Angeles, CA. Check out their website here: cafegratitude.com.

Sleepless in Seattle

Traveling–it’s one of my favorite pastimes, but it can also be exhausting! After a long trip, your blood sugar feels as if it’s depleted and your mental stamina is fading steadily. A few days ago, I found myself in this travel funk; venturing through Seattle on only a couple hours of sleep, I desperately needed something to lift me back onto my feet. I needed a SWEET DIVERSION! However, I was surrounded by seafood restaurants and, although crab cakes did sound good, I was looking for something sweet…gooey…enrapturing. So, I stopped into Ivar’s Acres of Clams on Pier 54 and headed straight for the dessert menu. I was ecstatic to find one of my favorite dishes: apple crisp! I was even more excited when I saw that this decadent apple crisp is blanketed underneath not just any ice cream, but Snoqualmie Gourmet Toasted Coconut Ice Cream! Ivar’s Acres of Clams only serves Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream because, well, it’s the best! This particular ice cream is made just outside Seattle and is handcrafted with all-natural, local ingredients. Yum!!

An apple crisp straight from heaven!

An apple crisp straight from heaven!

Every bite of this apple crisp sent shockwaves through my veins. The warm, gooey apples, perfectly sweet streusel topping, and ginormous scoop of coconut ice cream–it was more than enough to satisfy this traveler! And as you can tell by the picture below, I enjoyed every morsel of it :).

Good to the very last crumb!

Good to the very last crumb!

So…if you’re ever traveling through Seattle and you just can’t go any further without a sugar sensation, stop into Ivar’s Acres of Clams! You can sit back, enjoy the beautiful view of the water, and indulge in a sweet diversion beyond compare :).

Visit Ivar’s Acres of Clams website here: www.ivars.com/locations/acres-of-clams

Livin’ the Sweet Life…

I love college towns; they’re hip, down-to-earth, and buzzing with effulgent energy. Also, college towns are typically sprinkled with neat eateries brimming with character. I was recently in Eugene, Oregon—home of the University of Oregon—and, you guessed it, I was in need of a SWEET DIVERSION! Now if you’ve ever been to Eugene, you know that this city is, well, FANTASTIC! It’s the kind of place where tie-dye never dies and individualism is wholeheartedly celebrated. Naturally, vibrant eateries are an easy find; I knew a sweet diversion was awaiting my arrival. My eatery of choice? Sweet Life Patisserie. This little dessert café is overflowing with multidimensional flavor—and I don’t just mean their desserts! Furthermore, Sweet Life’s menu offers incredible variety: this café offers everything from cakes and gelato to apple pie and espresso specialty drinks! In addition, Sweet Life can make many of their desserts vegan and/or gluten-free in order to cater to those with specific dietary needs. Sweet Life also adheres to particular sustainability practices in order to ensure absolute integrity and consistency in every detail of their operation. And let me tell you, after eating only a single bite of one of Sweet Life’s scrumptious confections, you can taste the delicious difference!

Sweet Life Patisserie is the perfect place for a sweet diversion!

Sweet Life Patisserie is the perfect place for a sweet diversion!

First off, I tried Sweet Life’s signature carrot cake. This delectable slice of heaven more than satisfied a carrot cake lover like myself! Sweet Life’s carrot cake recipe is full of vibrant, radical flavor: the shredded carrots add crunch and sweetness, the raisins and walnuts add texture as well as a sweet and salty mix, and the bright nutmeg shines through each bite wonderfully. In addition, the cream cheese frosting is incredibly light due to the whipped cream folded into it. If all that wasn’t enough to make this carrot cake a winner, Sweet Life Patisserie can also make this cake vegan AND gluten-free so more people can enjoy this delicious treat! Now that’s SWEET!

A carrot cake masterpiece…

A carrot cake masterpiece…

Next, I tried Sweet Life’s organic berry custard tartlet. Wow, what can I say about this succulent sweet wonder (also Sweet Life’s “dessert of the month” for July)? Well, one of the first things I noticed was the tartlet’s decadent shortbread crust; it is very rich with a noticeable nutty flavor—so delicious! Perhaps the elevated flavor of the crust is due to the fact that Sweet Life “use[s] organic, non-hydrogenated, trans-fat-free palm oil and rBGH-free butter” in all of their crumbles and crusts (as stated on Sweet Life’s website). Also, the tartlet’s vanilla custard is incredibly light and fresh while the assorted organic and local berries atop the tartlet are absolutely bursting with flavorful luminosity and sweetness. And guess what?! Sweet Life can make this tartlet gluten-free! How awesome is that?! And, even for those of you who usually skip the fruity dessert for the rich chocolate cake, you’ll love this berry sensation! Trust me, I am a self-proclaimed, radical chocoholic, but this berry tartlet satisfied my sweet tooth just as much as a piece of fudge (and fudge is SERIOUS business!).

As good as chocolate? YES!

As good as chocolate? YES!

Moral of my blog? College towns are cool, desserts are sweet, and college town dessert cafés like Sweet Life Patisserie are simply AMAZING. If you’re ever in Eugene, visit Sweet Life Patisserie and indulge in desserts you will never forget! Until my next sweet diversion… 🙂

Visit Sweet Life Patisserie’s website here: http://www.sweetlifedesserts.com

Just Desserts? Just Right!

After flying across the country since I was very young, I have come to two conclusions: traveling makes me fatigued and ravenously HUNGRY! Unfortunately, airport food sometimes lacks the decadence and flavor one craves after being squished in an airplane for several hours. I was recently traveling to the Pacific Northwest and had a layover at SFO (San Francisco International Airport). I was more than hungry when I stepped off the plane in San Francisco: I was in desperate need of a SWEET DIVERSION! However, I was somewhat skeptical concerning whether or not airport desserts could truly satisfy my sweet tooth (sweet TEETH, in my case!). But, after walking only a short distance into the terminal, I ran into the dessert café, Just Desserts. I decided to be daring, silence my skepticism, and give this place a try. Well, let me just say…this place had the sweet diversion I craved!

Just Desserts?! Sounds perfect to me!

Just Desserts?! Sounds perfect to me!

First, I tried Just Desserts’ Triple Lemon Cake. Normally, I’m not much of a lemon dessert fan, but this particular cake looked very enticing. The first thing I noticed about this lemon treat was how incredibly moist and succulent it was. “Luxurious”—that’s definitely the adjective that comes to mind! Furthermore, the moment I put a bite of the cake into my mouth, the flavors exploded all over my taste buds. The multidimensional lemon flavor that Just Desserts infuses into this cake is absolutely fantastic! What makes the cake particularly flavorful is that Just Desserts fully utilizes the entire lemon—the juice, the zest, and the pulp (puréed)—in order to maximize the lemon flavor throughout the cake. Just Desserts also infuses lemon flavor into the cream cheese frosting and adorns the cake with white chocolate shavings that deliciously compliment the radiant lemon flavors. This cake is a winner for sure!

A lemon cake like no other…

A lemon cake like no other…

Next, I tried Just Desserts’ Turtle Cheesecake. WOW, what a cheesecake! Just Desserts’ recipe is very whimsical, yet has so much finesse! First of all, the crust is made from chocolate cookies which, when eaten in conjunction with the cheesecake, makes every bite a “cookies and milk” occasion. Next, the cheesecake batter contains sweetened condensed milk which makes the cheesecake wonderfully rich and creamy. Finally, the topping is TO DIE FOR: semisweet chocolate chips, almonds, pecans, and caramel! That’s a dynamic combo atop an already fabulous “cookies and milk” cheesecake. This is the kind of cheesecake that parties in your mouth…and tummy…and then you have to buy another slice to keep the party pumping!

Just wait till you taste THIS cheesecake!

Just wait till you taste THIS cheesecake!

I hope I’ve shown you that, even while traveling, you can find the sweet diversion you crave. And, if you’re ever in the San Francisco area, stop by Just Desserts. Just Desserts has locations all over the San Francisco Bay Area, so find one and treat your taste buds to a party.

Visit Just Desserts’ website here: http://www.justdesserts.com

Scandalous Desserts

Long summer day, daunting sun overhead, my energy is slowly fading. You know what I need? A SWEET DIVERSION! But where is my luscious remedy hiding? What’s that in the distance?! YES! It’s The Cheesecake Factory! I’m goin’ in!

Eating the desserts at The Cheesecake Factory is easy…choosing which one is the hard part!

Eating the desserts at The Cheesecake Factory is easy…choosing which one is the hard part!

So, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “The Cheesecake Factory”? Let me guess: CHEESECAKE! Well, The Cheesecake Factory does have absolutely legendary cheesecake, but today I ventured onto the daring flipside: I decided to try TWO non-cheesecake delights: the Tiramisu and the Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake. Describing the delicious factor of these two desserts is a nearly impossible task, but I’ll attempt to convey to you just how scrumptious, how tantalizing, how positively DIVINE these desserts truly are…
First up, the tiramisu! FYI, I’ve had many tiramisu desserts in my time and most of them have been rather traditional: some combination of lady finger cookies, espresso, Italian custard, etc. The Cheesecake Factory’s tiramisu recipe, however, is a bit different: instead of espresso, it has coffee liqueur and in addition to Italian custard (made with mascarpone), whipped cream, and ground chocolate, the recipe includes Marsala wine. I’ll be honest…I’m not usually a big fan of Marsala, so I was a little hesitant when I noticed this wine as one of the ingredients in the tiramisu. However, The Cheesecake Factory’s tiramisu is literally the BEST tiramisu I’ve ever had! The flavors in the dessert marry together marvelously—after only a couple bites of this sweet diversion, I found myself completely enraptured.

There’s tiramisu…then there’s TIRAMISU!

There’s tiramisu…then there’s TIRAMISU!

Now for the chocolate! I must confess (although you’ve probably already guessed), I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic: I have a serious chocolate addiction and I plan to do absolutely nothing about it. So, let me tell you about The Cheesecake Factory’s Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake! This cake is wonderfully multidimensional: rather than mere chocolate cake (which would still be amazing, I might add), this cake is layered with fudge cake, chocolate truffle cream, and chocolate mousse, as well as bedazzled with dark chocolate pieces. Because the cake is layered thusly, each bite is a new “moment” (I have “moments” with my desserts…). Indeed, each time I sank my fork into the decadent layers of chocolate indulgence, I experienced a sparkling burst of flavor. The fudge cake is rich and dense, the chocolate truffle cream and chocolate mousse are light and airy, and the dark chocolate pieces add intriguing texture. The combination of all these elements creates an intense chocolate extravaganza in your mouth and the euphoria induced by the riveting flavors increases with every bite.

The perfect chocoholic’s dessert!

The perfect chocoholic’s dessert!

I hope I’ve encouraged you to grab your keys and load the address of the nearest Cheesecake Factory into your GPS; I also hope I’ve enlightened you about the pure genius of The Cheesecake Factory’s desserts—cheesecake or not! If you’re in need of a sweet diversion as I often am, head over to The Cheesecake Factory! But, just an FYI: prepare for a dessert dance in your mouth because your taste buds will be a dance floor for sweet scandalous flavor!

Visit The Cheesecake Factory’s website (www.thecheesecakefactory.com) to find a restaurant near you!

Sweet Melodies of a Dessert Quartet

Think the best sweet diversions are found only at “dessert-themed” eateries? Think again! There are actually many world-class desserts hidden away on the dessert menus of restaurants better known for burgers, steak, or sushi. For example, while out on the town recently, I experienced a DRAMATIC sugar craving and needed to find a sweet diversion ASAP. However, I was stuck in savory junction, surrounded by restaurants better known for their filet mignon than their tiramisu. Rather than spend time looking for a bakery or gelato café, I decided to be daring and embrace the dessert menu of one of these savory hot spots. My eatery of choice? Yard House. I walked into this fine-dining establishment known for its American fusion cuisine with my expectations high and my blood sugar low, ready to dive into the dessert menu headfirst. In the mood for variety, I ordered the Mini Trio Sampler comprised of lemon soufflé, peach apple cobbler, and chocolate soufflé. I know what you’re thinking: “You said ‘dessert QUARTET’!” Well, here’s the thing…I noticed Yard House’s mini crème brûlée wasn’t included in the trio and I just didn’t have the heart to leave it out…so I ordered it with the trio to form a finely-tuned quartet ;). After only a few bites of each dessert, something AMAZING happened: A FLAVOR PARTY EXTRAVAGANZA! These are not mere one-note desserts, but rather symphonies of flavor.

yardhouse-dessert-quartet

Why have one dessert when you can have FOUR?!

I’ll describe two of the desserts for you in more detail. First, the lemon soufflé (made with fresh raspberries and Yard House’s signature whipped cream) is wonderfully light and fluffy and has just enough lemon notes to make your taste buds dance without overwhelming them with tartness. Add in the raspberry and whipped cream harmonies and what you have is a refined sonatina of FABULOUS. Next, the mini crème brûlée: this dessert especially wow-ed me because Yard House’s recipe is so different from any other crème brûlée I’ve ever had (and I’ve had many). What makes this crème brûlée particularly unique is that, in addition to the traditional vanilla bean custard, it has a CHOCOLATE base and is topped with caramelized bananas; the chocolate and bananas harmonize beautifully with the vanilla custard. Yard House’s crème brûlée is truly a sweet song from beginning to end.

yard-house-ls-and-cb

A delicious duet…

The moral of the story to my sweet tale? Don’t judge a book by its cover! Even if a restaurant is not an all-things dessert eatery, it could have the lip-smackin’ scrumptious sweet diversion you’re looking for! Yard House definitely had mine, and if you go there, I’m sure you’ll find yours too…
Visit Yard House’s website (www.yardhouse.com) to find a Yard House near you!