Let me tell you my sugary secrets…

9:34 pm

http://www.dallascaramelcompany.com

Do you have a special hiding place in your home where you hide things you don’t want others to find? Maybe it’s a journal for your own private thoughts, love letters from a first love, or maybe it’s a hidden safe for family jewelry. Whatever the items, you have your own reasons behind it.  Well for the first time in my marriage, I, too am hiding something. These items are precious, valuable, and honestly, too delicious not to safeguard… I am talking about fresh, gooey, buttery caramel from Dallas Caramel Company.

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I was lucky enough to get to sample all of the flavors they had to offer. It’s hard to pick a favorite, because they are all so delicious in their own way. The pumpkin is full of creamy fall flavor that does not overpower the caramel, the orange is bright and citrusy, and the drunken nut tastes like the best part of a praline candy with a lovely addition of Whiskey.

But if you locked me in a room and deprived me of carbs, I would have to say the chai caramel is my favorite. Somehow, you are still able to taste the buttery caramel in all of its glory, but all of the spices in chai are discernible as well. From the cardamom, to the cloves, and the cinnamon, it is all there.  I am not alone in this vote either, the chai caramel has just won Top Luxury Caramel from the Best Chocolatiers and Confectioners in America Award.

I was chatting with a friend over the weekend who has also had the pleasure of indulging in these sinful treats, and we gabbed on about the endless desserts that you could incorporate Dallas Caramel Company’s caramel into. The possibilities are endless really. However, realistically, I am not sure they would make it into an actual dessert, because I am likely to eat them all before I even pre-heat my oven.

If your idea of good caramel is Brach’s caramel squares in the candy isle of your grocery store, do yourself a favor, and graduate to an adult caramel.  Caramel is all grown up now, and moving on to big and better things.

2:43 pm

http://www.getamazeballz.com

1881 N. Central Expwy #200
Plano, Tx 75075
214-223-8044

I have always loved the concept of cake balls. Most people see it as forced portion control; a nice little treat after doing good all day. A little something that you can’t feel too guilty about. I see it as an opportunity; an opportunity to satisfy my every craving. Sure, I can go into a cupcake shop and order a dozen different cupcakes. But let’s be honest, that would even upset MY stomach.  So, I can indulge (some say overindulge, whatever) in a dozen different delicious flavors of cake ball flavors, and still not hate myself in the morning (too much).

So, when I found out there was a new cake ball maker in town, I HAD to try them! I met up with Jaime at the Craft Kitchen in Plano where she bakes AND sells her delicious creations. We hit it off great, chatted about our love for sweets, and how to balance fitness. I could tell she loves what she does. There is no doubt about that.

I had Jaime pack up a dozen assorted flavors of whatever she had laying around. I even got to sample a couple of her Boozeballs (Yeah, they are EXACTLY what you think they are. Cake and liquor, two of the life’s best creations).

I took these cake balls with me on a trip to LA last weekend, so I could sample them throughout the weekend, and write down my thoughts. I had a couple in the airport, a few in the plane, even saved a few for the hotel room.  You don’t know satisfaction until you’re enjoying something as delicious as an orange creamsicle cake ball on an airplane, while everyone else is eating stale airplane snacks and giving you the eye.

I prefer my cake balls room temperature, so they taste almost gooey. I know some people prefer them cold. Either way you want to eat your Amazeballz, you can’t go wrong.

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(Top Left to Right: Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Pine Colada: Boozeball, Birthday Cake, Orange Creamsicle

Middle Left to Right: Carrot, Amaretto Cherry Bomb: Boozeball, Salted Caramel Brownie, Red Velvet,

Bottom left to Right: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Oreo, Key Lime, Rocky Road)

If you find yourself in Plano, head on over to the Craft Kitchen. There is always a well stocked variety of cake balls to choose from if you don’t want to place an order.  Also, if you find yourself at Taste of Dallas this weekend, Amazeballz will be there with a delicious assortment!

Amazeballz offers and endless variety of flavors, but they are also open to requests if you have something specific in mind and don’t see them. Each little cake ball is like a work of art.  They each reflect the personality of their flavor, and of their creator. I can’t help but smile when I bite into one.

 

4:01 pm

http://www.joymacarons.com

 

My love for this delicate Parisian pastry goes so deep that I have been know to tear up when I bite into the perfect macaron.  Just the right amount of crunch on the outside, but pillowy soft on the inside.  Furthermore, I require the perfect meringue to filling ratio, innovative flavors; and even more importantly, freshness. There are few things I hate more in life than sitting down to an expensive box of macarons only to find they have far exceeded their shelf life. This finicky pastry can excite and disappoint me all at the same time.

With that said, I have tasted some of the most amazing macarons that our world has to offer.  From Ladurée and Pierre Hermé abroad; to Bouchon and François Payard in the US.  Now, I have also had some utterly disappointing macarons in my time.  So I honestly never know what to expect when I am presented with a new box of silver dollar sized beauties.  I just close my eyes and hope for the best.

Liz, owner and baker stopped by my office one afternoon to drop off this resplendent box of treats. I was more intrigued than scared because of the flavors that I had ordered. While my box did include the typical Almond, Vanilla, Coconut, and recently popular salted caramel; I also had Lemon Fleur de Sel, Chocolate Chip, and Italian Cream.

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I hate to use the term “Game Changer.” But seriously though. The Chocolate Chip macaron is just that. Take a Classic American sweet and breed it with my favorite Pretentious Parisian treat. Who does not love cookie dough? The filling is just the right amount of butter and brown sugar, sprinkled with chocolate chips. Don’t worry about pesky Salmonella here.  Eat all you want, because there are no eggs in the filling.

The Lemon Fleur de Sel was a second favorite. Very tart and lemony with a surprise kick of salt.

They were all spot on in my opinion. The almond did not lack the strong almond punch I enjoy. The vanilla was smooth and subtle.

I know, you’re done listening to me rant on about how delicious they are. You would rather be reading about them WHILE eating them. I get that. As of right now, you can place an order through the website. You can also find Joy Macarons at the White Rock Local Market and the Little D Market at Trinity Groves.  If we are lucky, maybe there will be a permanent retail location in our near future.

7:18 pm

http://www.missnaughtybrownie.com/

 

I took and instant liking to Rana, baker and proprietor of Miss Naughty Brownie. We share the commonality of food memories. Growing up for me, my fondest memories are centered around food and baking.

Whether it was my grandmother baking her famous lemon chiffon cake, or my father with his top secret cheesecake recipe, there was always a sugary sweet aroma filling my childhood.

To say I was in heaven when the time came to sample the Very Naughty Brownie was an understatement. I should have given myself time to breath in between layers of crumbly chocolate chip cookie, perfectly blended in Oreos, and chewy, fudgy, insanely chocolatey brownies. However, I am never one to do things small. Go big or go home, right? (By big, I mean up another dress size)

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(Original Naughty Brownie)

I guess what you want to know is was it worth it? Yes, absolutely. I am now on a juice cleanse and every gulp of Kale I take, I think back to the luscious brownie that I warmed in the microwave, or the one I added a generous scoop of ice cream too, and remember the quality time we spent together.

As if this brownie is not enough, Rana takes it up to another level and offers a Naughty Brownie with peanut butter, Naughty Brownies exploding with my favorite salted caramel, or Naughty Brownies loaded with your favorite candy bars! If chocolate isn’t your thing, (then we can’t be friends) there is also a Naughty Version that is a blondie. So, while you still get to indulge in a little bit of chocolate from the Oreo and the chocolate chip cookie dough, It is more subtle than it’s original counterpart.

Whatever your brownie pleasure, pick one, or one of each (we know you want to.) Don’t worry, we won’t judge you (unless you don’t share.)

4:10 pm

http://www.icreamcafe.com

9250 Dallas Parkway
Frisco, TX
(214) 618-2343

A friend of mine and I have been talking about visiting the new ice cream shop in Frisco for months. However, having just returned from eating my way through San Francisco, I was not particularly thrilled with what more cream and sugar would do to my already pudgy thighs. However, I remembered, iCream is completely customizable down to the milk and sweetener used. I could be as healthy or as sinful as I felt necessary.

So basically, you pick ice cream, yogurt, shake, or hot pudding. You can select your flavors, your milk, and even your sweetener. Splenda instead of sugar? They even offer agave nectar if you want to lower the calories, but want to stay away from artificial sweetener. If regular dairy milk does not do it for you, how about almond milk, or soy even? Then you pick your toppings/mix in’s and then watch the liquid nitrogen magic happen.

I decided to go the healthy route and use non fat milk and Splenda. This made my medium sized ice cream roughly 100 calories. That I can live with. Basically, your calories are only coming from the milk. They use high quality natural extracts that blew my mind. You mean to tell me the only ingredients in my ice cream are milk, Splenda, and extract? I am sold. Why am I wasting calories adding milk to my coffee every morning, when I could be indulging in one of these?

I decided red velvet and cake flavors would be delicious! It was. Since I went with skim milk, it was of course more of an ice milk consistency. Feeling particularly proud of myself for only speeding 100 calories, I naturally justified it with ordering another.  This time I went with cinnamon and toasted marshmallow. My favorite of the two. I could have eaten a gallon.

Luckily, it was a Monday afternoon and not busy at all. I was able to spend a fair amount of time chatting with Heidi, the franchise owner. The original store is based out of Chicago. This is the first location in Texas.  Heidi convinced me that as delicious as the low calorie options were, I should give a fully calorie loaded option a try.

Thankfully, the tiny sample I indulged in did not fill me with guilt. It did, however, fill me with much happiness. I sampled one of their signature PBOMG. Full fat vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, chocolate, peanut butter cups, and cream cheese.  Now this is what ice cream should taste like.

I also sampled a sorbet, which you can believe I will be all over when it is 105 degrees outside and I want something cool, but the thought of a belly full of cream does not do it for me. I went with pineapple and orange. Bright and fruity, it was the perfect refreshing treat.

My friend ordered a couple of hot puddings. I could definitely see indulging in one of these in the winter months. While curry is not on my list of favorite food items, I was slightly put off by her choice in a curry hot pudding, but with the additional sweetness, it was surpassingly pleasant. She also ordered a toasted marshmallow pudding and added chocolate and graham crackers. Move over hot coco, hot pudding is what I am going to crave on a cold day.

One of my first experiences with liquid nitrogen ice cream was from Smitten ice cream in San Francisco several years ago. I adore the concept. You can’t get anything fresher than this. It gives the whole small batch ice cream and whole new meaning. From what I can tell, DFW is embracing the liquid nitrogen ice cream movement with iCream, and I only see if getting better from here.

1:04 am

http://www.kesslercookies.com

1129 North Beckley Ave
Dallas, TX 75203

Have you ever wanted something for so long that your expectations were so high because of all of the awesome things you’ve heard, and you were sort of scared to try said item because it would be awful if they did not live up to the expectations you’ve set for them? Well, that was the case with Kessler Cookie Company. For years, I have stalked their site, drooled over their tins on Artizone, and even tried to pay off a woman in Bolsa Mercado for just one of her cranberry walnut biscotti’s.

For one reason or another, these cookies have been just out of my reach. I know, I can order a tin on their website. But, in all honesty, I was scared. That is a huge commitment. A whole tin of one type of cookie. What if I didn’t like it? What if they were dry? What if I made the wrong decision and got Double Chocolate Espresso when I should have gone with Honey Roasted Peanut Butter? So many unanswered questions.

Well, now I feel like a fool. A fool who has wasted several years of her life without a Kessler Cookie. I have lived a life void of perfection known as a vanilla sugar cookie. Wandered aimlessly through life completely unaware that massive plump cranberries sprinkled throughout the perfect oatmeal walnut cookie are within my reach.

If you too have that fear, let it go. If you are not ready to make that step, there is some good news. Kessler Cookie Company opens the doors of their baking studio for select hours and days (Check Face Book) and sell Texas Sized cookies (and sometimes some other goodies) for people like me with a fear of commitment to one flavor of cookie. But if you think you will go in and just pick up one, you are sadly mistaken. Do yourself a favor, and get a few. I am only looking out for you. I know that as soon as you get into your car, buckle up and start digging into that cookie on your way back over the Margret Hunt Bridge, you will be mad because I did not warn you as you turn your car around to go back and get more.

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(Vanilla Sugar, Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut)

5:02 pm

http://www.smallcakescupcakery.com

2315 E. Southlake Ste 106
Southlake, TX 76092

5999 Custer Rd.
Frisco, TX 75035

I remember these cupcakes as if I had them yesterday. Flash back to the last weekend in January, I was sitting by a roaring fire in a beautiful Victorian Bed & Breakfast in Hot Springs, AR without a care in the world. (Other than keeping my husband away from my cupcakes).

Smallcakes has been open in Southlake since last fall.  Now we have one less than a mile from my home in Frisco, which is kind of a love hate thing. Several more spots in DFW are slated to open this year.

I usually stay away from chain establishments for blog reviews if it were up to me, but you guys really wanted to know how this place was. Fine! I don’t mind being your Guinea pig.

So, on my way out of town for a little R&R, I decided to pick up a few Smallcakes to sample once we arrived.

We picked out a Fruity Pebbles, Caramel Crunch, Wedding Cake, and a Chocolate with Vanilla.

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(Top Left to Right: Caramel Crunch, Wedding Cake

(Bottom Left to Right Fruity Pebbles, Chocolate with Vanilla)

My two favorite were the Fruity Pebbles, and the Caramel Crunch.

I was thinking the Fruity Pebbles would be geared more towards children with its bright orange frosting and sprinkling of Fruity Pebbles on top. I was wrong. The whole damn cake taste like a box of my favorite cereal fell into the mixing bowl.  It’s hard to explain. The cake was light and buttery, but flecked with pieces of cereal throughout. I am not sure how that got that much Fruity Pebble flavor into the cake. I usually find when you tend to blend it up in the food processor and mix it into the batter, you cake comes out dry. Theirs definitely did not.

The Caramel Crunch had so many layers of texture that definitely lacks in your average cupcake. A rich chocolate cake topped with a gooey-stick to your teeth caramel, sprinkled with crushed pretzels and a generous helping of sea salt. The “frosting”, and I use the term loosely is what made this cupcake. This caramel is thick and rich and not a frosting at all. I have no idea how they piped it on to the cupcake since it is so thick. But whatever Houdini like powers they used, I absolutely adore this cupcake.

The Chocolate with Vanilla was rather lackluster. Overly sweet pink vanilla buttercream on top of a  straightforward chocolate cupcake.  I am sure this one appeals to the kids, and people who prefer a cupcake more on the “plain” side. It was not bad, it just was not memorable at all. If you’re going to do regular flavors, they need to be the best they can be since there is nothing about them to stand out.

The Wedding Cake was sure to be a favorite of mine because it was loaded down with deliciously almond flavor, but just like the Chocolate with Vanilla, It just did not wow me. The cake on this one was more on the dry side than the others, which makes me think it is just a quality control issue since none of the other cupcakes were dry. But, other than that the frosting was just too sweet like the Chocolate with Vanilla.

Overall, I think Smallcakes is a good choice if you’re in the area and want a cupcake. They change their menu up pretty frequently. I am pretty excited to try some of the more unique flavors they offer. As fast as they are growing, they must be doing something right.

PS. If any of you have had their cupcakes, let me know you’re favorites. I am planning ahead for my next trip!

6:09 pm

http://foodwithatwist.com

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of sampling a very simple, yet mind blowing cookie from Val’s Food with a Twist (Soon to be Val’s Cheesecakes). Normally, I would have eaten said cookie, provided feedback, told a few people whom I thought would enjoy said cookie, and move on with my week.

But no, I have had impure thoughts of this cookie all week. I would spend Valentine’s Day with it if I could. This cookie knew just one date and you would be hooked. It knows it is only a matter of time before I start texting it at all hours of the night, asking to see it, just for one bite; or asking if there is someone else. I know there is someone else. I can’t be the only one. With its unpretentious look, yet utterly satisfying and craveable flavor, there has to be others. This folks, was a Oatmeal, Bacon, and Cranberry cookie. Simple yes. Bacon in cookies isn’t new. But when it is done right, it is mind blowing. This, people, is a cookie done right.

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(Oatmeal, Bacon, Cranberry Cookies)

Normally, I wouldn’t have even thought about featuring a blog post about one specific cookie, especially when the meat and potatoes behind the company itself is cheesecake. Yet, a week has gone by and these cookies haunt my dreams.

The plain and simple truth is, I feel I would be doing a disservice to sweet/savory lovers, bacon lovers, or just plain cookie lovers everywhere if I did not make my point about just how delicious this cookie was. My plan was to sample a few bites of a cookie, and put them away for a later time. The next thing I knew, I was spending a Saturday night alone with the Food Network, in my adult onesie, eating an entire box of cookies. Because in all honesty, these cookies are all the companionship one needs.

The cookie had a nice snap, but it was chewy in the places that it needed to be chewy. Nice thick chunks of bacon provided just the right amount of salt, and the tart cranberries were the perfect compliment to this oatmeal cookie. I could totally justify this as a breakfast cookie.

I know a few of you have asked me what I think about the cheesecakes after I posted the picture of the cookies. The sad truth is, I haven’t tried their cheesecakes yet. But judging by the flavors of Sweet Potato, Elvis (banana/peanut butter, duh), and the new Bourbon brownie cheesecake, I should probably invest in some new sweatpants, hire Richard Simmons for the month, or just sew my current size label into a bigger size. (No one will ever know that way)

In addition to the cookies, they also offer cheesecake balls (brilliant! Think cake ball), as well as pies and brownies. Chipotle pepper brownie anyone?

I promise to report back with a brand new blog post about the cheesecakes once I have had them. In the mean time, if you can’t wait for my feedback, the cheesecakes are available for order, or by stopping in Cedars Social, Oddfellows, or Union Bear for a slice. While you’re at it, make sure to stop by Opening Bell coffee for a Oatmeal, Bacon, Cranberry cookie. Unless you’re like me, then just go to foodwithatwist.com and order yourself a whole box.

 

2:09 pm

http://www.labella-cupcakes.com

2405 N. Main Street
Fort Worth, TX 76164

4800 South Hulen Street
Fort Worth, TX 76132

I hate it when a bakery is so spot on with some of their flavors, and yet others are completely vile and artificial tasting.

I have been sitting on this review for a while, because I just did not understand. I actually had to visit on a few occasions to make sure I wasn’t going insane with my thoughts.

La Bella

 

(Top Left to Right: Mint Chocolate Chip, Cherry Limeade

Bottom Right: Chocolate Cream Cheese)

La Bella2

(Top Left to Right: Strawberry Cheesecake, Key Lime, Cherry Marzipan,

Bottom Left to Right: Vanilla, Chocolate Cream Cheese, Almond Joy)

La Bella Cupcakes has some of the most amazing traditional flavors. What I mean by that, is their plain vanilla, chocolate with cream cheese, almond joy (chocolate/coconut), and even their mint chocolate were fantastic.  The first and only time I have craved a specific chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting from a particular place. It is seriously that good.

But anyone can do those flavors. Those aren’t the flavors I like to see. Think outside the cupcake, do something that will set you apart. Well, they are trying, but they fail.

The Cherry Limeade, Key Lime, and Cherry Marzipan cupcakes were some of the worst cupcakes I have ever had. I mean worst in terms of flavor. The texture and moistness of the cake were great, but the flavors were that of an Easy Bake Oven.

The vile part may be going too far. But I hate flavors that taste artificial. If you’re going to make a Cherry Limeade, let’s try to go for real lime and cherry juice. Hell, I would settle for the juice from the jar of maraschino cherries to be honest.

Sadly, the Cherry Marzipan was not any better. I love marzipan, but I got zero hint of almond in the entire cupcake. All I tasted was the same horrible artificial cherry that was in the Cherry Limeade.

The Key Lime wasn’t any better. All around artificial lime tasting. No tart Key Lime flavor we all know and love, just artificial. Wonder if they used those plastic decorative limes by mistake?

I am still baffled at how a bakery can have some of the best and some of the worst cupcakes I have ever had in my entire life.  La Bella Cupcakes is definitely the anomaly of the cupcake world.

3:21 pm

http://jraes.com
955 Foch St
Fort Worth, TX 76107
817-332-0090

I guess one would assume if you are going to have a dessert at a place with a specific dessert in the name of said store, that it would only stand to reason that would be their highlight, right?

Well, shame on me for not picking up a cheesecake when I was at J Rae’s Bakery (Formerly known as J Rae’s Cheesecakes) in Fort Worth. Or rather, shame on them for being sold out. Whoever you want to blame, I was left with only a few cookies and a couple of sad, sad cupcakes. Maybe that is why the name change; since they weren’t able to keep their name sake in stock?

J Rae's

(Top left to right, Snickerdoodle, peanut butter, and iced sugar cookie

Bottom Left to Right: Carrot Cake Cupcake and Coconut Cupcake)

The cupcakes were a disaster. That is in fact the only way I can describe them. I had a carrot cake cupcake and a coconut cupcake. The cake was dry on both. The carrot cake cupcake almost resembled a fruitcake with its density. Then, when sometimes the frosting can partially redeem a bad cupcake, it is loaded with the horrible edible glitter. Why do places feel the need to add edible glitter to their cupcakes? It changes the texture of the frosting and makes it seem grainy. Oh no, “it’s ok to eat.” I am always assured. That is what they said about paste in grade school. Just imagine what my digestive system is doing. Pretty sure that is a Mardi Gras float going down my digestive track complete with J Rae’s edible glitter. The coconut cupcake wasn’t any better. Take an already dry cake, add dried coconut flakes to the batter; you get my point.

The only redeeming thing about this visit was the iced sugar cookies. The cookies were chewy, yet firm and loaded with some delicious butter cream. It didn’t hurt that they were cut out in whimsical shapes like cupcakes. And no, not a stitch of edible glitter to be found. The Peanut Butter and Snickerdoodles were passible, but could definitely not hold a candle to the iced sugar cookies.

What lessons have we learned today?

1) Edible glitter should never be used… Unless you’re a stripper, or you’re Katy Perry and are actually wearing cupcakes.

2) You really can’t go wrong when you take a buttery sugar cookie and load it up with frosting (unless you add edible glitter to it.)

3)   If you go into Bob’s Big Buns and leave with anything else other than one of his Big  Buns, you will probably be disappointed.