P is for Pie

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Pie sign

P is for Pie was just made for cold, rainy days. Nothing is better than warm, baked goods when the weather is dreary. Well, except maybe being near the ovens that baked them.

P is for Pie is the name of a small bakeshop in the Audubon Park neighborhood, and no, it does not offer any helpful guidance for other letters of the alphabet, you're on your own there.

C might be for Cake. Or Coffee. Or Cinnamon, especially if you combine it with an R for Roll. In other words -- or other letters, if you prefer -- PifP does a lot more than its syllabary namesake.

Sprinkles

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Sprinkles cupcakes and cookies

Sprinkles, a confectionary chain specializing in cupcakes, has opened at Disney Springs with a new shop that features one of its Cupcake ATMs. The ATM works similarly to one you’d find on a wall outside a bank, except that instead of cash a user can withdraw a fresh cupcake. As far as I know, deposits are not accepted.

One caveat: You may need to visit a bank ATM in order to satisfy your cupcake withdrawal.

As I’ve stated before, I don’t quite understand the cupcake craze, but I’ve learned to accept that others find them irresistible. I’ve also given up trying to understand the Justin Bieber phenomenon.

And I have great admiration, from a business standpoint, for people like Candace Nelson, the founder of Sprinkles, who have built successful brands by convincing people to pay nearly five bucks for what is essentially a simple cakelet.

The cupcakes are $4.95, to be exact. For one, not a dozen as you might expect.

And no, the sprinkles in the bakery’s name are not little diamond chips or even edible gold dust flakes.

It’s just a freakin’ cupcake.

The Ganachery at Disney Springs

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Ganachery exterior

The first time I came across the Ganachery, a chocolate shop at Disney Springs, I was on my way to another venue at the endlessly-under-construction former Downtown Disney. The shop had just opened to the public and there was a startlingly long line of people waiting to get in. They weren’t passing time until someone unlocked the doors, they were simply waiting their turn for a chance to go inside and buy candy.

Yes, candy.

Very, very good candies to be sure. We’re not talking about Goo Goo Clusters or jelly beans, we’re talking about a very limited and exquisitely styled type of candy: ganache squares.

Ganache is the result of blending chocolate with cream, and in the case of the pieces sold at the Ganachery, we’re talking high quality chocolate. Under the direction of Disney chocolatier Amanda E. Lauder, the pastry crew on site makes a limited selection of 16 variations ranging from the not-so-vanilla Vanilla (it’s dark chocolate with Madagascar vanilla beans in the blend) to one called Matcha Yuza that is infused with Japanese green tea.

Each one- or two-bite-sized morsel measures little more an an inch square, and each one costs $3. For $15 you may select 6 ganaches, which brings the per-piece price down to $2.50. So, bargain. No wonder so many people were lined up waiting for their chance to plunk down money.

Ferrytale Wishes: A Fireworks Dessert Cruise

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Ferrytale dock

Well bless Disney’s little revenue producing heart. You have to give them credit for finding new ways to extract monetary blood from the touristing turnips. The latest scheme is called Ferrytale Wishes: A Fireworks Dessert Cruise. It really is a brilliant idea: take one of the ferries that ferries guests from the transportation center across the lagoon to the Magic Kingdom, a boat that presumably is usually idle during the nightly fireworks presentation, and sell tickets to watch said display of colorful combustibles from a unique vantage point.

And to make it more palatable, they serve a buffet of desserts. And get this: alcoholic beverages, the sort of elixirs that the poor thirsty folks inside the theme park are forbidden to imbibe. It’s open bar in the open waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon, sort of the resorts version of the International Waters demarkation that those gambling cruises to nowhere set sail for.

In fact, I sort of felt like I was on a cruise to nowhere when I was invited to ride along on a media preview of the new feature. The elements are all there to make is sound like a winning proposal: a nice vantage point of the fireworks, with the accompanying music piped in; wine, beer, liquor or soft drinks to sip; and all the desserts you want.

Yet with the exception of the fireworks display itself, the cruise is, in a word, boring. Guests board the ferry more than an hour before showtime and then slowly circle the lagoon. Once you’ve made one loop, there isn’t much else to look at.

Cocoa Latte Chocolate Shop & Coffee Bar

Written by Scott Joseph on .

David_and_Nicole

Update: Cocoa Latte is now known as David Ramirez Chocolates, and the retail store is by-appointment only. See updated story at this link.

In a small, newish strip mall of varied businesses behind an auto parts store in south Orlando, down one of the side corridors -- no, not that one, this one over here -- is a very sweet find. David Ramirez, one of the area’s most celebrated pastry chefs, and his wife, Nicole, have opened Cocoa Latte Chocolate Shop & Coffee Bar.

Ramirez hasn’t quit his day job as the star pastry chef at Rosen Shingle Creek, and in fact has no intention of doing so. But he longed to do some things on his own, and so on most days after his shift at Shingle Creek, he heads to the new shop on Central Florida Parkway, just off Orange Blossom Trail, where he makes beautiful little confections and fills special orders, everything from a couple of boxed bonbons to massed produced miniature sculptures. When I stopped in to see the new shop, he was working on his current project: molding small chocolate cars for the New York Auto Show -- ten thousand of them.

Ramirez is more known for his one-of-a-kind creative sculptures that are often mistaken for pieces of art, which they pretty much are. He’s classically trained and has led the U.S. team in in the Word Pastry Competition, Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie, in Lyon, France. He’s really one of the area’s best culinary talents.

Blue Bird Bake Shop

Written by Scott Joseph on .

I was driving down Corrine Drive a couple of weeks ago and spotted Blue Bird Bake Shop. I’d heard a lot of buzz -- or tweet, as the case may be -- about this place, so I pulled on in to the parking lot and went in.

It happened that the tiny shop was celebrating its anniversary and all the cupcakes were on sale for $2 each, which prompted me to ask, “What the hell do these little things cost regularly?”

$2.75, I’m told. Or $30 for a dozen. And people pay it. So the Magnolia Bakery/”Sex and the City” mystique continues. I just don’t get it, although having just called it a mystique I suppose that’s redundant.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier Serving Fine Chocolates on Winter Park's Park Avenue

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Note: There's still time to enter to win a $50 gift certificate to Peterbrooke. Drawing is today, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010. Click here for details.

So, how do you feel about chocolate-covered bacon? If you’re like me you probably wrinkled your nose at the thought. But if you’re like me, you’ll try just about anything. So when I was offered a sample of chocolate-covered bacon during a visit to the kitchen at Peterbrooke Chocolatier on Park Avenue, I sent the section of sweetened rasher under my wrinkled nose and into my mouth. Loved it. I’m not saying I’m going to start setting my breakfast table with a bottle of Hershey’s syrup, but I found the salty taste of the bacon quite complimentary to the sweetness and richness of the chocolate.

Finding fun combinations is one of the things Jami Wray enjoys most about owning the Winter Park franchise of the Jacksonville based chocolatier.

Jami_Shoo
Good enough to eat: Jami Shoo is molded chocolate. Perfect for the chocoholic with a shoe fetish.
In fact, she thinks of herself as a big kid in a candy shop. She and her husband, Kevin, are often at the shop dipping things in chocolate or creating unusual molded objects of edible confection. Their latest sensation is a chocolate high heeled shoe that can be decorated to look like the real thing. Folks window shopping on the avenue do a double take as they’re passing by to make sure they’re looking at a chocolate shop and not a shoe store. (Wray calls it Jami Shoo, a play on Jimmy Choo.)

But despite the sweetened bacon (stop wrinkling your nose) and the palatable pumps, most people stop in for the chocolate covered popcorn and dipped pretzels, still the biggest sellers, says Wray. And, of course, you can also get just chocolate. You know, like a bite-able bar or some luscious truffles. Regardless of the form, you’ll surely appreciate the quality of the chocolate. That’s what sets Peterbrooke apart and keeps it from being a sweet little gimmick -- the high quality of its chocolate.

Peterbrooke was started in the San Marco neighborhood of Jacksonville in 1983 by Phyllis Geiger, who named the business after her children, Peter and Brooke. Most of the franchises are in Florida, with one each in Georgia and Alabama. The Winter Park location has one unique distinction: half-namesake Peter Geiger worked in the store while attending Rollins College.

By the way, some other creations the Wrays are working on involve using flavored salts and herbs in and on chocolate, and they’ve partnered, in a way, with the guys at Spice and Tea Exchange up the road. Both businesses tout the other’s products. I love seeing that sort of community endorsement and cross-promotion. Everybody wins.

Keep Peterbrooke in mind as the holidays approach (and beyond, for that matter). Chocolate is always a lovely gift. And it’s always nice to bring home the bacon.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier is at 300 Park Ave. S., Winter Park.. It’s open daily. The phone number is 407-644-3200

Menchie's

Written by Scott Joseph on .

I went to dinner with some friends in Winter Park recently, and while we were enjoying our entrees they started talking about Menchie’s, a yogurt shop in Winter Park Corners. They seemed stunned when I told them I had never been. Yogurt shops have been around for decades, I thought; what’s so special about this one?

They said I had to experience it for myself to truly understand. So instead of lingering over coffee and dessert at the restaurant, we all headed for Menchie’s.