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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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

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

The Crab Cake of Scones – Z&H MarketCafe (Hyde Park, Chicago)

Cranberry Orange Scone

If I first need to ask if a scone is a scone, something is likely amiss.  The outside is soft to the touch with minimal hardness, preparing me for the inevitable lack of crunch that I am to experience with the first bite.  The innards are quite dense, but the distribution of cranberries is consistent.  No outwardly visible sugar, but you can taste it in the scone.  Still, the sweetness is off, almost as if it’s too sugary.  

Nonetheless, it’s certainly passable, if unspectacular.

5/10

– DANG