Existence Precedes Essence – Tisserie (Midtown, NYC)

Pumpkin Scone

Oh what glorious beginnings.  When one stumbles upon a pumpkin-infused scone, the wisest course of action is always immediate consumption.  Just as the fabled Great Pumpkin rises from its mythical lair each year – appearing and vanishing in an instant – so too does the glorious pumpkin flavor grace our pastries and lattes but for the briefest time.  And yet, to find a pumpkin pastry at such a late date!  It must be a sign!  Lest this euphoria go to waste, I order my dear pumpkin scone.  How it beckons to me as I wait to pay.

Of moderate size and emanating a warm orange glow broken only by the promising cinnamon cover, this scone presents a quandary.  The outer crunch would clearly not be an issue.  The ravines that spot the top appear formed by millennia of erosion rather than minutes in an oven.  This leaves a brittle outside with crunch that is aided by the cinnamon crust covering half the top like a crescent moon.  Yet, abnormal ridges on the side suggest perhaps it was baked in a muffin mold.  Will this be a glorified muffin or a true scone?  The odd ratio of height to width only adds to my concern.

Cinnamon compliments the first several bites, highlighted by the promised crunch, but something is missing: the flavor.  Purchased for its pumpkin identity, this scone appears to be amidst a crisis.  What is the flavor inside the scone?  A better question is how does one describe an attribute when that attribute is the very lack of any semblance, any essence of being?  It simply is.  It is not pumpkin.  It is not vanilla.  It is merely dough curated to take shape and provide sustenance but give no thought toward the pleasure of the eater.  My temporary delusion of tranquility crumbles like the long-dead fall foliage.

In utter confusion, I power through, attempting to ignore this injustice against pumpkin-kind.  What I’m left with is something between a scone and a muffin – perhaps a stout corn muffin that is devoid of the titular flavor.  It is dense and dry on the inside, a factor that may be attributed to the lack of any kind of fruit that often resides within a scone.  And that is it.  There is not much else to this “scone.”

While the outer crunch was a pleasure, the inside was a chore to complete.  I am left feeling betrayed.  The scone raised the expectation of pumpkin, only to fail to achieve a flavor of any kind.  It even fell short of clearly being a scone.  What a tragedy.  Despite all this, I am resolute.  I remain in wait for a more promising scone, tomorrow.

5/10

-DANG

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In Search of Lost Scones Pt. II – Alice’s Tea Cup (Upper West Side, NYC)

Cherry Chocolate Chip Scone

It was a dreary day some time ago.  Storms rumbled but utter catastrophe had yet to be realized.  I found myself searching for a scone for all the comforts only such a magical pastry can provide.  Returned to my homeland, this seemed a simple task.  I was on my own turf.

However, I was stripped of this illusion upon entering Alice’s Tea Cup, a highly rated scone establishment.  While my beloved pastry would never betray me, something sinister greeted me inside the shop.  There were tables in the back, but these were clearly not intended for me.  I would be consuming my fare out in the cold, once I had been granted the privilege of purchase.  At least, this is what the expression of the cashier suggested.  This man, who bore a striking resemblance to the Bastard of Bolton both in appearance and in attitude, demanded my order.

Forced into a quick decision, I reached for comfort: a modestly-sized cherry chocolate chip scone.  Trudging to sit outside the nearby Natural History Museum, my world was suddenly brightened by the sheer quality of this production.  Sugar encrusted the top, immediately rushing me into the experience and making me ravenous for each bite.  The cherry was exquisitely sweet and bold but not overwhelming.  This left the chocolate to compliment the mixture of sugar and berry.  While not as crunchy throughout as I generally desire, the corners provided satisfying resistance and the scattering of chocolate chips also made up for the otherwise lack of crunch.

My perception of the size of the scone increased as I consumed it.  Perhaps this was by virtue of the relative dryness of the inside, suggesting a denseness that enlarged the product in my mind.  Regardless, I found myself satisfied in many senses.

Simple pleasures are not easy to relish when surrounded by impending calamity.  But returning to the past markers of joy can provide stability and grant endurance.  They afford satisfaction that can balance out the otherwise ceaseless onslaught of negativity.  In other words, I liked this scone.

8/10

-DANG

It is a Scone. Sold by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing. – Roadhouse (Talkeetna, Alaska)

Blackberry Scone

Stuck on a glacier for several weeks, this scone concludes a month long period of abstinence from my beloved pastries.  Given such conditioning, one would presume that I am primed to enjoy whatever combination of fruit, dough, and sugar I can get my hands on.  Yet, I am sad to report that this assumption is incorrect.  Poor execution shines through despite all that was on this scone’s side.  I am like the man, wandering the desert, starving and thirsty, who turns his nose up at what poor creation he stumbles upon in the fever dream oasis of his mind.

At first, the smell of the scone is overwhelming. I can clearly see it is undercooked, but that does not lessen its appeal.  Of some concern is the mysterious orange item on its side.  Yet, this merely adds intrigue.  The sparse powdered sugar even suggests something out of the norm.

However, this hastily crafted refuse manages to disappoint on all fronts.  There is simply no crunch.  I cannot detect an ounce of sugar.  The fruit is fine, but nothing special.  The scone tastes as undercooked as its marble white dough would suggest.  Indeed, one wonders if it were baked at all.  I can taste the separate composite ingredients, and I do not mean that the fruit stands out.  Simply, it is as though several items were tossed into a bowl, mushed together, and served down my idiotic gullet.

While the scone is of fine size, this provides me with nothing but more of it to loathe.  I am drawn to the crisp seeds within the blackberries because they are the only element fully realized within this poor creation.  Of course, that is the doing of the blackberries, not the scone’s inept bakers.

In my animalistic rush to consume this monstrosity, I stain my hands with blackberry juice.  It runs down my hands like blood.  I wash and wash, but the stain will not go.  I’m cursed to forever walk this earth carrying memories sullied by this utter disappointment.

2/10

– DANG

MadiScone Blues – Lazy Jane’s Cafe (Madison, Wisconsin)

Blackberry Scone

I will travel far and wide for an exquisite scone.  Finding myself in a dairy capital, the lowly scone may seem an odd bedfellow for the more ubiquitous cheese curd.  Nonetheless, Lazy Jane’s Café purports to be a fine trader in the delicacy of scones.  Boasting a variety of fruit options, this seeming anomaly reveals its Sconnie roots upon closer examination: glistening layers of sugar flow down the sides of the scone forming white skirts around its base.   Not one to be intimidated by excess sugar, I approach this Blackberry feast with high hopes.  The quality of the fruit is apparent on sight and the size is completely adequate.  Yet, I leave disappointed.

This donut-like entity displays summits and trenches that seem to suggest crunch by virtue of surface area.  However, these features belie the softness of the material.  With the first bite, a rush of sugar combines with real berries to initially overwhelm the disappointment of the pliable border.  Further, the lack of glazed sugar inside the scone appears to create a nice contrast between the subtle, dry inside and the maniacally sugared outside.  Yet, this mixture is unsustainable.  As soon as the desert-like inners outpace the sugar and all fruit disappears, the essential qualities of the pastry are unmasked.  The scone is dry and dense, clotting in the eater’s mouth.  Moreover, the inside lacks flavor.  The creator clearly expects the flavor to derive from the fruit and glazed sugar, but these elements cannot penetrate the dry indifference that lies beneath the surface.

With so much promise, the ultimate lack of execution leads the eater to dark thoughts.  In our evanescent times, with so many mayfly pleasures, this scone offers a sugary cheap thrill, but lacks thoughtful presence.  To have grasped for the sublime, but to fall so very short, I am left dejected.  Maybe in another time, and another life.

5/10

– DANG

Pearls before Swine – Euphorium Bakery (The City, London)

Raisin Scone

If one smashes their head against a wall enough times, repeatedly cursing the wall, perhaps they should look inward rather than blame some helpless concrete.  Entering into these cafes with expectations is dangerous, and, yet, I found myself wandering into another eatery, hoping for a respite from my extended sojourn from proper scones.  What I encountered was – who could doubt it – another raisin scone.  If I were told that the economy of the United Kingdom operated wholly on the distribution and use of raisins in various products, I would not question it.

Nevertheless, a scone sat before me, glistening, plump, and looking slightly jaundiced in color.  But, to my astonishment, it was completely acceptable.  In order to fairly review this scone or, moreover, to hold any of these reviews as valid, I would need to delude myself in to thinking that my now over a year-long exile in this godforsaken land has not affected my ability to differentiate true scone mastery.  Yet, as pragmatic as I am, I am equal parts quixotic, and will stop at nothing to continue my scone reviewing mission until I find the ideal pastry.  And so I continue.

The scone had an impressive size and was accompanied with no doubt glorious jam (had I been able to apply it).  The golden color indicated that I was in for acceptable crunch.  The raisins looked bold and full-bodied.  The shape was pleasingly odd.  I could not help but think that this scone looked to have the face of a bird, with raisin eyes that pierced me to my very soul.  Before quickly massacring my new avian friend, I remained concerned that, if one removed the raisins, this item would easily be categorized as a biscuit in my homeland.  As such, I anticipated extreme dryness for the interior, but was pleasantly surprised to find perfectly tender, if extremely dense innards.  The raisins were a highlight of each bite and were present with appealing frequency.  Best of all, crunch was not isolated to corners, but along the sides as well.  For all these positive qualities, the scone remained bland and uninventive.  A raisin scone, through and through.

Overall, the scone proved perfectly acceptable, if not slightly above average.  In our jaded society, where every scone must either be the best or worst, it is comforting to know that mediocrity, in its best possible iteration, can be found just down the road.

6/10

-DANG

In Search of Lost Scones – GAIL’s Artisan Bakery (Bloomsbury, London)

Sour Cherry and Belgium Dark Chocolate Scone

As memory fades, I’m no longer certain I can recollect the feel of a scone in my hands; the crunchy first bite.  It’s all slowly vanishing.  This melancholia led me to trudge to a distant area of London, where I imagine that people of my ilk are not a common sight.  Desperate to acquire my next fix, I found myself ordering a blueberry and apricot concoction from GAIL’s ‘Artisan’ Bakery in Bloomsbury.  What I erroneously received was perplexing at first.  It burst with chocolate and a berry so bitter, I thought I was encountering yet another drab raisin-based creation.  How I was wrong.

Most often, I am skeptical of chocolate scones.  It is as though bakers see that a recipe calls for chocolate and they take this instruction to mean that they should dump every ounce of any cocoa-based product they can get their grubby hands on into the nearest blender.  Yet, this scone, which I later found out was actually ‘Sour Cherry and Belgium Dark Chocolate,’ managed the rare achievement of a high frequency of chocolate without overwhelming one’s senses.  While the outside of the scone was misshapen, leading to an unfortunate uneven distribution of the multitude of ingredients held within, the crunch was superb and consistent along the scone’s exterior.

The quality of the chocolate demanded my attention, even as the sour cherry attempted repeatedly to steal it.  This combination seemed to clash more than compliment, but the dark chocolate subdued the flavors enough to make it all work.  Still, this poor combination was a rather tragic misstep.  Given greater thought toward the balance of flavors, this scone could have better fulfilled its potential for greatness.  Finally, it’s worth noting that the dollop of sugar that topped the scone will please no person capable of discerning taste.

Overall, this scone was a worthy bandage on a pernicious wound.

7/10

-DANG

The Scone Also Rises – Fleet River Bakery (Holborn, London)

Jam and Cream Scone

I had to guess about the type of scone, because it was modestly listed as just ‘scone’ in the café.  However, any categorization for this scone other than simply ‘sugar’ is probably misleading.  Also, before I go further, I should note that the jam on this scone is allowed per my reviewing code of conduct (it was applied before purchase).

This scone offered an interesting predicament: how to eat it.  I prefer my hands as a means to shovel a scone into my mouth, beginning with the corners and moving inward.  The dimensions and precarious construction of this monstrosity precluded such an approach.  None too pleased, I was forced to resort to the use of a fork.  The loss of convenience pushes this scone clearly into the category of dessert, a conclusion any blind man with a half decent sense of smell, working taste buds, and at least partially functioning salivary glands could determine from a single bite.

The cream was tasty and likely handmade.  The jam was topnotch, creating an interesting mix with the thick cream that was somewhat similar to the flavor of strawberry shortcake.  From top to bottom, the scone presented decent crunch.  The use of quality ingredients was evident.  Powdered sugar at the top was a nice touch.  Unfortunately, the scone quickly devolved into a massacre, which offered no satisfactory plan of continued attack.  I fought vehemently, but it required real work to conquer.

While tasty enough, this scone is entirely unsustainable.  I am certain that this is the first and the last time I will have it.  Still, I enjoyed it while it lasted.  The one night stand of scones; thanks for the memories.

5/10

-DANG