Friday, July 3, 2009

Piece of Cake and Denise's Ice Cream, Columbus OH

As Barrio opts not to have dessert options at lunch, my family and I set off to find something sweet – my sister wanted ice cream, my aunt wanted cake, mom didn’t care, and I wanted both. Making our way down High Street after deciding to change things up and try Denise’s instead of Jeni’s (besides, I’d already had Jeni’s for breakfast) our first stop was to be a place I hadn’t been in about two years – Piece of Cake Bakery. Nestled right next to L’Antibes I’d actually been meaning to come back ever since my meal at L’Antibes back in April, I just hadn’t gotten around to it – walking in the door around 1:30pm the place was about 1/2 full of lunch patrons and a little picked over, but certainly not “all out of the good stuff.” Browsing the case we were greeted by the standard array of cakes, cookies, tortes, and muffins – alas no cupcakes – and after a few minutes we made our selections and had them packed up to go.

The first choice, my aunt’s, was a nice slice of carrot cake for $3.50. Having already tasted Piece of Cake’s Red Velvet (the previously mentioned visit 2 years ago) as a wonderfully impressive customized birthday cake for aunt, the carrot cake was next on my aunt’s favorite’s list and this one didn’t disappoint. Light in crumb despite being heavy in carrots, the mélange of raisins, cinnamon and cloves was well tempered by the light yet creamy icing – cream cheese based but decidedly not “overly sweet.” Not quite as good as the amazing carrot cake at Worthington Inn, but quite good none-the-less.

The second selection, shared (begrudgingly) between myself, my mother, and my sister was a container of chilled white chocolate banana bread pudding. While generally a fan of warmed bread puddings, bread pudding is my favorite dessert and I’ll take it however I can get it – and this one was most definitely worth getting. Dense, rich, moist banana bread with strong accents of ginger and cinnamon intermingled flawlessly with ribbons of creamy caramel and smooth white chocolate to create the ideal of bread pudding – heterogeneous texture with homogenous taste. Weighing nearly as much as a brick of similar size and only $3.75 the pudding proved to be the deal of the day and ranks as one of the top ten MUST TASTE items on my Columbus, Ohio dining list – next time I hope it can survive the car-ride home to my microwave.

An intelligent and friendly staff, designer tastes at bargain prices, convenient parking and location, classic cakes with subtle nuance, the best Red Velvet in the city and one of the ten best Bread Puddings I’ve ever tasted – a great number of restaurants in the local dining scene could stand to learn a thing or two from Piece of Cake.

Following Piece of Cake we made our way further down the street – what better to go with cake than ice cream? While Jeni’s is usually the only choice for frozen sweets in Cbus, the word of my friend earlier in the morning told me there was another – one called Denise’s that now sat where the disappointing Maggie Moo’s once stood. Walking up to the small entry way my sister noted that she felt like she was cheating on Jeni – but onward we pressed.

Entering the shop I was surprised at how roomy the store actually was – myriad seating options to match the myriad flavor choices on the board. From carrot cake to cucumber, chocolate to yuzu, and burnt sugar to black licorice – the menu was at least thrice the size of Jeni’s and the flavors equally compelling. Stepping into line each of us asked for a taste of something different and were instantly impressed by the variety of tastes and textures. Amongst items tasted by myself were burnt sugar (an interesting concoction that taste like a bitter yet salty caramel,) cucumber (really did taste like an icy cucumber,) and honey fig (wonderful, exactly like it sounds) while my family members opted for others. Unfortunately, unlike Jeni’s where samples come with smiles and suggestions, the samples at Denise’s came from a sourpuss who kept asking “do you know what you want to order yet?” as though we were likely to sample and skip out. Not one to normally feel uncomfortable I must note that her repetition was actually quite offensive and she was lucky we didn’t simply skip out. Making our selections we made our way to a table (note, there were only 2 other couples in the whole store.)

Selecting a 2-scoop option of White Russian and Buttered Sweet Corn my first taste was that of the Sweet Corn and I have to admit I was impressed – without a doubt better than the Jeni’s sweet corn with blackberries and possibly third only to Humphry Slocombe’s Secret Breakfast and Balsamic Caramel in San Francisco. Heavily textured with pieces of corn yet buttery, complex, and sweet – like creamed corn but better – amazing. Next up, the White Russian and yet another winner. Complex and creamy with heavy hints of Kahlua and vodka that were tempered well by the sugar and sweetness – a truly pleasant mouthfeel and a very hearty flavor.

Like myself, the rest of my family agreed that their flavors were as good (if not better) than those at Jeni’s and my sister particularly loved the Guiness while my aunt raved her sorbet. With that said, we all also agreed that the customer service was borderline offensive and that we’d be hard pressed to return when the people at Jeni’s are much more overworked yet much more pleasant. Ice cream is ice cream whether it is gourmet (Denise’s) or not (Graeter’s) and ice cream is meant to be fun. While I certainly won’t be shunning Denise’s quality for Graeter’s trans-fatty mess and loud indoor playland, at least the servers at Graeter’s are friendly.


Columbus Foodie said...

Sounds like we had the same sourpuss waiting on us as you did at Denise's (my horrid experience is near yours on the Yelp review). If it was an older woman, I've heard rumors that it's actually the owner and she's every bit of a sourpuss as she comes across to some. Her employees are supposedly more likable but I can't see giving my money to someone who treated my husband so poorly.

We haven't been back since. Although not a local independent option (but based in Ohio, FWIW), Handel's has excellent ice cream. If we're not near a Jeni's, it's our "go to" ice cream stop now. :)

uhockey said...

I've heard good things about Handel's, but not been. I'm resoundingly against trans-fat/overprocessing, hence why Jeni's has so much appeal (and even moreso places like Slocombe and Ciao Bella in SF.) I'll look into Handel's profile.

As for my server at Denise's - a young girl with a nosering and glasses. Her attitude matched the employees at Meijer moreso than the servers at Jeni's who are resoundingly nice.