Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sugary Sweetness at the 2011 New England Dessert Festival!

By: Jessica Cickay

Bottom line, dessert makes everything better. Upon arriving at the 2011 New England Dessert Showcase at the Sheraton Hotel in the Back Bay, it had been “one of those” weeks. One of those weeks when waiting for the T meant waiting for an eternity. One of those weeks when you get on the elevator to go up six floors, and it immediately shoots down to the basement. One of those weeks that when you show up to said Dessert Showcase, you realize that your camera is deader than dead. But do you remember my bottom line from above? It really is true: dessert makes the T come at lightning speed, the elevator elevate you instantly and mobile technology (ah gotta love camera phones) all the more impressive – aka dessert makes everything better.

Dubbed the “premier dessert experience on the East Coast,” the 2011 New England Dessert Showcase tried its best to live up to this sweet title. From cookies to cakes to whoopie pies, and from the conventional to a 10-foot cannoli, I think the Showcase covered it all.
 OSugar! Cakery, a designer cupcake/cake/pure awesomeness bakery based in New Hampshire, really stole the show for this dessert sleuth. OSugar! had a huge variety of treats on tap to try, including their Snickers Cake (drool), their Bananas Foster Cake (swoon) and their Butter Pecan Cake Pops (can I get an Amen!), but their White Chocolate Raspberry Cake was easily the best thing I put in my mouth all day. The frosting was sweet and rich, but it didn’t just taste like butter – a major pet peeve and deal breaker for me. The tart raspberry filling atop pillowy layers of white cake was essentially a care package sent down to earth from the Dessert Gods
 Like any normal person, I wanted to wash my cake down with a nice swig of ice cream, and luckily for me, Batch, an organic ice cream company operating out of Jamaica Plain, was ready for me and my sweet tooth. “Batch. Rhymes with Scratch” is their slogan and pretty much sums up the story behind this ice cream created sans artificial colors, artificial flavors and stabilizers. The women in charge of the churning, Susie and Veronica, were super enthusiastic about their product, and once I tried the velvety smooth, sweet but oh-wait-what’s-that-kick Salted Caramel flavor, I could totally see why. I thought I knew what ice cream was before trying a batch of Batch’s creations, but apparently the frozen aisle in my food store needs to step it up a bit in the flavor and freshness department ala Batch.
To me, cake is where it’s at, and Konditor Meister, a Braintree-based wedding cake and European pastry maker, knew exactly where I wanted to head. A variety of cakes and tortes and pies and pastries surrounded an elegant-and-a-half snowflake wedding cake that made me want to get down on one knee and propose to the girl giving out samples. I abstained, and instead took a bite of Chocolate Decadence, which, as its name suggests, was a pretty darn decadent flourless chocolate cake. The rich, fudgy, soft, solid mass of deeply sweet dark chocolate was all I could think about for the next few moments, proving that Konditor Meister is so legit, they don’t even need flour in their cakes to make me weak in the knees.
 In the center of the show was Golden Cannoli Shells’ grand creation, an almost 10- foot long cannoli filled with rich ricotta cream and dotted with Hershey’s kisses for that extra-authentic look and feel, while, on a much smaller scale, were a variety of great bakeries offering a variety of unique treats. Kueh, a Singaporean bakery, made my belly happy with their Pulot Kaya, a glutinous rice cake flavored with tapioca and coconut, and Watertown-based Lilly’s made my taste buds tingle with their top-notch trees of cupcakes.
 Sugar, butter, flour, eggs and me – pretty much the most powerful and dominant forces you’ll ever encounter in the world of dessert. Local bakers came together to share their specialties and show how these simple ingredients can create everything from a dessert, to a memory, to a smile. The 2011 New England Dessert Festival single-handedly turned my frown upside down this week, because you know why? Dessert makes everything better.

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