Friday, February 17, 2017

Thai Thai Cafe does it again... PHO SHO!

Hello everyone, long time no post! Hope you have all been living and eating well... I know I have! Today I want to share my recent experience with the pho at Thai Thai Cafe here in Mooresville. I know, I've already written about their food, but I FINALLY tried their pho last Friday (after much encouragement from my co-workers), and was completely blown away. Look at this pic below and TELL me it doesn't look yummy:

It totally does, right? And trust me, it tasted as amazing as it looks. I've posted about pho from various places before but this one seriously took the cake. And it all starts with the broth...

There is something so cozy about real homemade beef broth - it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside (especially on a cold night, like it was last week). I got my pho to-go (ha - that is a great name for a take-out pho place!) and they separated everything (like any decent restaurant will) - the broth was in its own container, so you could see its clarity right off the bat. But don't let that fool you - just because it's clear doesn't mean it's not chock full of flavor, because this one was both incredibly rich and tasty. We added a little hoisin and Sriracha (just to spice it up and increase the umami aspect), but it honestly would have been just as delicious by itself. 

The next best part were the noodles. As you can see, these are wide rice noodles, as opposed to the thinner ones that typically come in pho, which is another reason I liked this version so much - those wide noodles are EVERYTHING! (We hadn't had them until recently, and ever since, we have been obsessed with eating anything that contains them.) They have such an interesting texture, and they really soak up all the flavors of the broth and spices. Also in the box with the noodles were the protein (I got beef, Chris got chicken), mung beans, cilantro, onions, and a lime (all of which I loaded in my bowl, as you can tell by how full it is!). The steak was incredibly tender - theoretically I shouldn't even have to mention this, but some places use different cuts of meat and they don't always turn out to be as tender, so that made this version that much better.

The last thing I want to mention is that they gave us a TON of everything - what I have pictured is only what could fit in my bowl, and I couldn't even eat all of that in one sitting! Next time we might just get one order and share it... but then again, we wouldn't have all of the leftovers (and yes, they were indeed as amazing as the first night, if not better). If you're in Mooresville and are in the mood for some tasty, authentic, reasonably priced Asian food, I highly recommend Thai Thai. Everything I've tried thus far has been incredibly delicious - Chris and I order from them almost every week (it's our Friday tradition) and we have yet to be disappointed. Keep on keepin' on, guys! :)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thai Thai Cafe - A must-visit in Mooresville!

Hello everyone and Happy Holidays!

I can't apologize enough for how long it's been since I last posted (honestly, until I looked at my blog last week, I didn't realize exactly how long it had been!) - I was recently given about 50 new positions at work (OK, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration, but it definitely feels that way), and, since my last post, Chris also started working with me, so between work and, well, life, I just haven't had a lot of time to try new restaurants lately, much less write about them! However, there is one place here in Mooresville that we have recently discovered and come to LOVE called Thai Thai Cafe

When we moved from Wilmington, we were both bummed that we would be leaving behind so many great restaurants, especially Indochine, the Thai/Vietnamese restaurant that I previously posted about. We had enough trouble finding a decent take-out Chinese restaurant - we didn't possibly think we would find a local Thai joint as well, especially not one we would love as much! Luckily, the goddesses were smiling down on us, because we did. Thai Thai is extremely convenient, quick, delicious and reasonably priced - what more could you ask for? I'm going to share with you our recent lunch order, and I guarantee that, by the time you finish reading, you will be ready for some Thai food as well!

The first thing I love about Thai Thai is that they have a drive-through window located on the right side of their building, that's only for pick-up; you have to call in advance (all walk-ins must go inside), and the food is usually ready in about 15 minutes. This is perfect for me because they are located about 10 minutes from my office, so, after I call, I finish what I'm currently working on, and by the time I get there, my food is always ready. Convenience on my lunch hour is a HUGE bonus (but it's also why we've ordered food from them twice a week for the last two months!).

Today I decided to get one of my usual appetizers, and also something different.

The shrimp blankets were the first appetizer I tried, and now I always order them. Every. Single. Time. They are so simple but so, SO good. The shrimp are marinated and then stuffed in a crispy fried wrapper with vermicelli (thin rice noodles), cabbage and carrots, and the "blankets" are served with a sweet and sour sauce with peanuts. The shrimp are always perfectly cooked (not too chewy, yet not overdone, either), and the wonton skins (I presume that's what they use for the wrapper) are also fried to just the right level of crispiness. The sweet and sour sauce is definitely one of the best I've ever had - I have to assume that they make it themselves. It has the perfect tang while also remaining sweet enough, yet it doesn't make your whole mouth pucker. Definitely a great way to start the meal!

Since I typically order the same entrees, I wanted to try something different, appetizer-wise, so I chose the fried dumplings. These delicious little morsels might not be pretty, but the flavor was amazing. The filling consisted of ground chicken, carrots, onions, and water chestnuts, and it was the perfect mixture! I really enjoyed the crunch of the chestnuts and the sweetness of the carrots - the overall flavor of the dumplings themselves was a little bland, but the sweet soy dipping sauce that was served with them helped bring out all the subtle flavors of the chicken and veggies. Additionally, these little bundles were lightly fried, just enough so that the skin was crispy, but the filling was still moist and tender. Very enjoyable - will be ordering these again for sure!

Entree-wise, everything that I've tried has been wonderful. One of the noodle dishes I've come to love is the pad see ew with beef, which consists of (fresh) large rice noodles with eggs, broccoli and onions, stir-fried in a sweet soy sauce. (For all the noodle and rice dishes, you can choose your own protein, but I prefer beef in this particular dish - I feel that the sauce complements the beef the most.) These rice noodles are incredible - after years of only eating the vermicelli noodles, Chris and I have recently fallen in love with these wide rice noodles (the first time we tried them was in a package of ramen-type soup from one of the Asian markets in Charlotte). The texture is similar to the Italian papardelle noodles, but these are slightly thinner and therefore more tender. They soak up the sauce perfectly (I have to assume it's because they are so porous) and somehow the chefs at Thai Thai always cook them so they're not overdone. One other awesome thing about the lunch specials here is that they come with a spring roll (not pictured because I always eat them in the first 30 seconds of digging in) and nuac cham, which is a sweet and sour sauce). The spring rolls are also always perfectly cooked, crispy and flavorful, and enhance the experience that much more.

The one entree I always choose is the pineapple fried rice with chicken (again, you can choose whatever protein you like). This is hands down the BEST fried rice I've ever had. The ingredients are the usual that you'd see in a fried rice dish - eggs, peas, carrots and onions, but with the addition of the pineapple and cashews, it brings this dish to a whole new level. The sweetness of the pineapple meshes with the umami flavor of the rice, and the crunch of the cashew nuts makes it more fun to eat, in a way. Speaking of umami, I don't know what spices or sauces they use in their fried rice, but it is seriously unlike any other I've ever had - there is something about it that makes me crave it all the time (again why we've ordered from them at least 10 times in the past month and a half!). Also, in case you can't tell, the amount of rice they give you is just unreal. Between the two entrees and appetizers, Chris and I can both eat off of one order at least twice, which is awesome. 

Overall Thai Thai is the perfect place to go when you're craving some authentic, delicious, and quick Thai food. The staff is friendly, the food is amazing, and that drive-through window makes picking up your food so much easier, especially as it's getting colder out. I advise all of you to try it!

On another note, as 2016 is coming to a close, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone out there who has visited my blog or my Google plus page this year. It's been one hell of a year, probably the best I've had in a long, long time, and although I didn't have as much time to write as I would have liked, I appreciate every one of you for taking the time to check out my pages! Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and see y'all in 2017!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Fig Tree in Charlotte - Southern Decadence at its Finest

Happy Monday! Hope everyone is doing well today! I wanted to share my recent experience at The Fig Tree restaurant in Charlotte, where Chris and I had a lovely "date night" this past Saturday. One of the main reasons we were excited to move to the Queen City was for the food - Wilmington has its share of great restaurants, but, over the years, some of the more upscale establishments have closed (especially after the economy crashed), and we have been on the hunt for a new favorite "fine dining" restaurant as of late. I was looking on Google last week and found a list of the 50 Best Restaurants in Charlotte (courtesy of Charlotte Magazine) and The Fig Tree was listed in the number 2 slot, so I figured it had to be good, right? 

To say that it was "good" is like saying Megan Fox is "pretty."

Everything was phenomenal - the atmosphere, the food, and the service. 

We got there around 9, just as it was getting dark, and the front was all lit up. The restaurant is in an old house, The Lucas House (from what the sign said), and it has been renovated beautifully. We were seated shortly after arriving, and our server (I think his name was Chase - he didn't introduce himself to us but I overheard him tell another table) came over to greet us and fill our water glasses, for which we were extremely grateful - we had walked around the nearby park while waiting, and it was still very humid out. He asked if we had visited The Fig Tree before and when we told him we had not, he welcomed us warmly and told us to take the meal at our own pace, and he was there to answer any questions we might have.

The menu was one of the most amazing I've seen in awhile. The dinner menus were copper plated on the front (giving them a nice heft) and beautifully laid out. The wine/cocktail menu was also very extensive, and, although we don't imbibe often, it was a date, so after much consideration, I chose the Sparkling Pear Martini and Chris ordered a Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout. While we were enjoying those, we ordered the Foie Gras appetizer (pictured below).

I know a lot of people don't eat foie gras because they think it's cruel, but let me tell you, it is delicious. The menu described this particular version as "Pan Seared Foie Gras over Cornbread Bread Pudding with Bacon Praline and Blackberry Gastrique" - c'mon, tell me that doesn't sound amazing! The sear on the top was superb - it added just a little crunch to the texture but the inside was still rare enough so that it melted in your mouth. I think I ate every bite with my eyes closed. The sweetness of the cornbread served as the perfect foil to the tartness of the gastrique and the saltiness of the bacon. I have only had foie gras a handful of other times, but this one is definitely at the top of my list! I literally could have eaten that as my meal and been 100% satisfied. The martini I had chosen was crisp and refreshing, and the Absolut Pear brightened up the flavors in the appetizer even more. Definitely a promising start...

As I've mentioned previously, my go-to entree is always duck, no matter how it's served. This was described as a "Harmony Ridge Farmed Duck Breast over Almond and Date Risotto with Apricot Herb Pan Jus." I ordered mine medium (warmed in the middle with a hot pink center) and it was prepared to perfection, with a nice sear on the skin. The apricot in the jus was both sweet and tangy, and provided a nice contrast to the gaminess of the duck. The real star of this dish was the risotto. I never would have thought to put almonds and dates in risotto (and Chris, my expert chef, said the same thing), although they are both Italian staples, and worked incredibly well. Speaking from experience, risotto is tricky to cook. This one was perfectly al dente, and whatever sauce they used was full of creamy, savory goodness. I think Chris liked it even more than I did, which was fair, because I liked his side dish more than he did...

Sea scallops are some of my favorite things in the world if they're prepared correctly.The key is to cook them enough so they're warm all the way throughout, but so that the inside is still on the rare side (meaning that, like the foie gras, they should melt in your mouth). These were like butter. According to the menu, they were "Sautéed Sea Scallops over Prosciutto, Leek, Shishito Pepper and Golden Raisin Couscous with Lemon-Oregano Beurre Blanc." I'll start with the couscous. I'm not a HUGE fan of it (my fiancé likes it more than I do), but this version had lager grains, and I preferred these much more than the smaller ones. I think it's because they actually had some texture - it was more like eating tiny pasta pearls. The leeks, peppers and raisins actually worked wonderfully together, and the beurre blanc, while needing just a touch of salt, was exactly the right complement to the scallops. (I will say that we took our leftovers home and, when we re-heated the scallops the next day, the flavors had mixed together overnight and I no longer felt that the sauce was missing anything at all.)

I want to take a moment to mention the outstanding service we received. Both Chris and I are restaurant veterans; between the two of us, we have close to 20 years of experience working in every aspect of the restaurant industry (kitchen, bar, host stand, catering, serving - you name it, we've done it), so we definitely appreciate quality service. The first thing we noticed is how well everyone worked together as a team - we always had someone (whether it was Chase or one of his co-workers) to fill our water glasses, remove our plates and flatware, or bring us our salads or entrees. Working in the restaurant industry for so long has taught us both the importance of being a team player, and, nowadays, not many people are like that, so it definitely stood out to us. Also, even though we stayed well past closing (about 30 minutes or so), we didn't feel rushed at all. From the moment Chase came to greet us, he expressed that we could take it as fast or slow as we wanted, and yet we still felt like he valued and attended to us as much as he did his other customers.  

There are just a few other things on which I wish to comment, even though I won't go into great detail. Before the appetizer came out, the servers brought some slices of homemade Focaccia (still warm), which was served with roasted, pureed garlic. Neither Chris nor I had ever seen that done at a restaurant before, so needless to say, we were impressed! Roasted garlic has a sweetness and richness you don't get from raw garlic, and it paired extremely well with the density and chewiness of the Focaccia. 

Each entree comes with a house salad with vinaigrette dressing, which is pretty standard. I will say that these house salads were anything BUT standard - they came with cherry tomatoes, sliced radishes, cucumbers, a carrot "wave" (for lack of a better term), and some amazing house-made croutons. The vinaigrette was light and sweet, and the croutons were crunchy and well-seasoned. Also, we were offered both freshly ground pepper and grated Parmesan cheese, both of which were welcomed additions. 

Lastly, we ordered dessert (to go - we were way too full to eat it there). Everything on the dessert menu looked equally appetizing, but we went with a variation on a theme - the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, "topped with Passion Fruit Gelée, Plum Preserves, Chili Flake Pickled Ginger, and Dark Chocolate-roasted Macadamia Nut Bark." (Everything else had some sort of ice cream with it, and I worried it would melt by the time we got home.) I wish I had taken a picture of the presentation, because, even though we did take it home, they had separated nearly every component - the Gelée, the preserves, and the ginger were all in their own separate containers. When combined, the end result was surprisingly delectable. The passion fruit and plum flavors were tangy and bright, and the pickled ginger was not as overpowering as I'd feared. While I didn't get as much of the actual cheesecake flavor as I'd liked, the overall flavors were outstanding.

I want to thank everyone at The Fig Tree for making our "date night" spectacular in so many ways. We thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the meal and will definitely be back! 

The quote I'll leave y'all with today is from Virginia Woolf - "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

Have a great week!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Homemade Chicken Fried Rice

Chicken Fried Rice

Everybody likes at least one item of Chinese food, be it egg rolls, sesame chicken, or lo mein, Personally, I can't get enough of it - I grew up eating Chinese food pretty regularly, and particularly on special occasions. Being adopted, my family used to always celebrate the day that I flew over from South Korea to JFK Airport in New York, and we called it my "Airplane Day". I'd get all dressed up and we would go to this Chinese restaurant in Wilmington called Szechuan 132. That's just one of the many reasons I have fond memories and associations when it comes to Chinese food, so when my wonderful fiancé started making homemade fried rice, not only did it make me extremely nostalgic and happy, but it made me love him that much more, especially since he knows how important those memories are to me. I'm going to share with you our easy-peasy recipe for Chicken Fried Rice. 

First thing's first - the key is using old rice. I know, the impulse is to make fresh rice, but it just won't work. The rice needs to be at least a day old (freshly cooked rice is too wet), but I recommend using rice that's been around for at least 2-3 days. As I've mentioned, we love Jasmine rice, so we saved some from a few nights ago to use. Next, pick your protein - obviously, you can choose any kind of meat, but we had some extra chicken breasts laying around, so Chris cut them into cubes. He put some sesame and vegetable oil in the wok and turned the heat to medium, adding the chicken and cooking thoroughly. He then drained the extra oil and set the chicken aside,

Next, we chose and sliced our vegetables. We used red onions, mushrooms and red and green bell peppers, (Peas and carrots are also typically included.) Once those were cut to his liking, Chris added more oil in the wok and sauteéd them all together, You don't want to overcook them, just enough so they're palatable but still have some crunch to them (especially the peppers). 

The next thing to go into the wok is the rice, then we added water chestnuts, and... pineapple! I'm sure you're wondering, "Why pineapple?" Trust me, once cooked, the pineapple bits are like little chunks of sweetness that brighten up the whole dish. Additionally, the juice that comes out while cooking flavors the sauce even more and rounds out the dish (in my opinion, anyway). After those are ready, we added the chicken, then the sauce. We like our rice to be on the moist side - personally, fried rice tends to be too dry, and more sauce equals more flavor, as well. Chris used a mixture of soy sauce and hoisin, and also added salt, pepper, garlic, and honey. He cooked over medium heat, stirring continuously, until the rice browned (keep stirring so the rice doesn't stick), and served. It's that easy!

I hope this provided a little insight to all of you who love ordering take-out but want to learn to make it at home - it's really not as complicated as you might think. Fee free to ask any questions, I'm here to help! Instead of a quote, here's a relevant image for you:

Can't disagree there. Happy eating!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Screamin' Sicilian Stromboli = Love, Italian Style

Hope everybody is doing well this (hot) Thursday! After finishing my last post I realized that I need to expand my horizons, that I'm limiting myself by only posting about full meals, either homemade or purchased, and that I should include any and all foods that I enjoy. That being said, I wanted to share my experience from last night with the Screamin' Sicilian "Mambo Italiano" Stromboli.

Screamin' Sicilian "Mambo Italiano" Stromboli

Let me first say that, next to Asian, Italian food is probably my favorite. First of all, they put cheese on EVERYTHING (as I've mentioned before, I love, LOVE cheese). Secondly, my fiancé is partly Italian, and he can make some incredible Italian dishes, so that definitely helps. Finally, after binge-watching "The Sopranos" on Amazon over the last few weeks, we have both been extra-obsessed with all things Paisan (little inside joke if you are a fan of the show - and while I'm mentioning it, RIP James Gandolfini).  Chris and I especially love strombolis, those little heavenly pillows of Italian bread stuffed with meat and cheese. We used to get this one brand from Harris Teeter but I haven't been able to find them anywhere here in Mooresville, so when we found the Screamin' Sicilian kind, we were extremely excited (possibly a little too much so). We had already tried several of their pizzas and loved them all, so I had high hopes for their strombolis - and with good reason!

We had picked out the Mambo Italiano version, which is filled with Italian meatballs and pepperoni and Mozzarella, Parmesan, ricotta and Romano cheese. The come two to a box, and each one is fairly hefty, which was perfect because there was no way I was sharing (not even with Chris)! The directions say to preheat the oven to 400 and bake for 12-15 minutes. As soon as we opened the package, we got a whiff of wonderful Italian herbs and spices (as you can see from the second photo, they were sprinkled with oregano and parsley and other herbaceous goodness), and, as the stromboli baked, the aroma only got more intense. It took a little longer (probably closer to 20 minutes, but then again, we only set our oven to 350 - we prefer the "low and slow" approach), but the wait was definitely worth it. A little bit of the cheese had oozed out of the middle and was bubbling when we set it on the plate, making my mouth immediately turn into Niagara Falls.  

I prefer to use a knife and fork with these due to the dripping globs of cheese, and also to better pace myself - otherwise I would eat the entire thing in about two minutes flat! As soon as I sliced into the stromboli I could see the steam coming out the top and smelled the most amazing combination of meat and cheese. The first bite was absolute heaven. The bread on the outside was chewy and dense, the meatballs were tender and flavorful, and the four cheeses had melted perfectly. The end result was a delicious savory turnover that bested all others that I've tried.  I closed my eyes and chewed, wanting to savor every mouthful. When I finally dared to open them again, I looked over at Chris and was delighted to see that he had the exact same expression on his face. We chewed in silence for the next few minutes (Netflix had the new season of "Orange is the New Black," but our main focus was definitely what was on our plates over what was on TV), and the only other sound was that of our forks and knives eagerly scraping the plates while we shoveled bites into our mouths as if we hadn't eaten for weeks. Something about the flavor was addicting, like I just couldn't get enough. Despite trying to take my time, I finished the entire thing in about 5 minutes, and Chris followed suit shortly after.

I have to say that we tend to be skeptical of frozen dinners - don't get me wrong, there are definitely some quality frozen foods out there, but we are fairly picky about the ones we purchase. Screamin' Sicilian has hit another home run with these strombolis. Had I not previously known that they were frozen, I probably would't have guessed. There was none of that typical cardboard flavor or texture that is indigenous to frozen sandwiches and pizzas, and the ingredients tasted fresh, not preserved. There was something comforting and familiar about these, and while I can't put my finger on exactly what it was, we were both thoroughly impressed and will DEFINITELY be making another trip to the store while they are still on sale (Harris Teeter has the two-packs for $5.99 - best six bucks I've ever spent!).

Today I'll leave you with a quote from Wolfgang Puck: "Italian food is all about ingredients and it's not fussy and it's not fancy."

Couldn't agree more - as long as it tastes good, it doesn't have to be [fussy and fancy].

Have a great day! =)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Nabisco Oreo Strawberry Shortcake Sandwich Cookies

Happy Friday!

Thought I'd do something a little different this morning and share a piece I wrote for the website Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency. I submitted it for their "Reviews of New Food" column this morning. I've enjoyed creative writing since I was in second grade and started hand-writing humorous stories about my days at school, but haven't submitted anything for publication since my high school literary magazine. I hope this gets published (and will definitely let you know if it does!).

DISCLAIMER: The following contains some profanity and high levels of sarcasm. I wrote in the satirical style that McSweeney's is famous for so please do not read if you feel you will be offended by it! It is meant to be a playful, whimsical tale of my first time trying these Oreos, so please take as such. For those who dare to continue, I hope you enjoy!

I have been an avid Oreo lover since I was old enough to eat solid food. I have fond memories of deconstructing these sinful sandwiches with my dad and stacking them back together with peanut butter, whipped cream, and other sweets to make towering, saccharine-filled monstrosities that would make any dentist cringe. (My dad actually is a dentist, making this even more ironic.) Needless to say, when my fiancé and I saw the Strawberry Shortcake variety at our local Wal-Mart one innocuous Friday afternoon, I nearly trampled some kids in the aisle on the way to grab a bag. (Side note: Wal-Mart is the only, and I mean ONLY, place we have been able to find these fucking things - meaning that whenever I get a craving for them, I must first endure horrific parking lots, masses of stupidity, and blinding florescent lights before I can finally tear into the famous blue bag. But that's an entirely different story.)

Over the years, whenever Oreo has released a new flavor, I have always been first in line to try them: lemon, gingerbread, mint, even the various flavors in the super-chocolatey "Fudge Creme" line. My favorite has always been the white chocolate-covered Oreos that show up around the holidays - until now. These have the golden Oreo cookie with a strawberry cream filling, and are a total game-changer. As soon as we got home we each poured a tall glass of whole milk (fuck that 2% bullshit - if I'm going to indulge, I'm committing 100%) and brought the bag into our room, where we closed the curtains, turned on Netflix, and ripped them open.

The first thing we noticed was the aroma: In my 33 years on this Earth, I have tried many a "strawberry-shortcake-flavored" treat, only to be severely disappointed (and, truthfully, pissed) by the end result. Not with these. Nabisco did it right, my friend. These little sons of bitches tasted like the best strawberry shortcake dessert I could ever imagine. I like to twist, eat one cookie first, lick the cream off the second, and then dip the naked cookie into milk and eat it, while my fiancé dunks the whole cookie at once and eats it lke that. I recommend eating these fuckers any way you can - there is no wrong way. The golden Oreos served as a perfect foil to the strawberry cream - the shortcake part of the dessert, if you will. Suffice it to say that we devoured that entire goddamn bag in one sitting, and were only left wanting more. We made three more unnecessary, horrendous, migraine-inducing trips to Wal-Mart that weekend alone, each trip resulting the same way - shame-eating the entire package by ourselves in the dark.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Cyntuccis Bakery - Authentic Italian sweets, here in the South!

Happy Monday everyone!

Today I thought I'd do something a little different and write about this amazing bakery my wonderful fiancé discovered in downtown Mooresville called Cyntuccis. We first realized our love for Italian pastries and sweets on our vacation to the Jersey Shore last July, when we found Del Ponte's Bakery in Bradley Beach. We visited that little spot every night of our trip and always came back to the hotel with multiple boxes of goodies, yet still didn't even come CLOSE to trying everything! Needless to say, we were both extremely excited upon finding Cyntucci's, which is the most authentic Italian bakery we've come across down south. In the past few months we've made every effort to stop in and try new things, and I'm going to tell you about some of our favorites (see collage below).

Clockwise from top left: Strawberry banana cake pop; pasta ciotti; Napoleon; assortment of goodies including chocolate torte) 

Starting at the top left, those strawberry banana cake pops were definitely the best cake pops I've EVER had. My fiancé the chef told me that the secret to those is to pre-make the cake, crumble it up, and then form it into balls. One bite into these cake pops and it's obvious that Cyntuccis does it the right way. These are extremely dense and moist (the benefits of making them this way, rather than baking the cakes into the round molds from the get-go). The icing on top is sweet but not cloying, and the flavor of the cake itself had the perfect balance of both strawberry and banana - ideal for summer! I noticed they had several other flavors of cake pops and will definitely be trying them sometime soon.

Next is my new favorite dessert ever - pasta ciotti. I had never tried them before but upon hearing the description I knew they had to be delicious, and believe me, they were! Pasta ciotti are essentially custard-filled dessert tarts, a sort of cupcake/cookie hybrid with sweet pastry cream in the middle. (What part of that doesn't sound good?!) Every time we visit the bakery we try to get 3 or 4 of these little gems. The best part of Cyntuccis' desserts is that they are not overpoweringly sweet, and they also keep their cabinets chilled, so the custard in the middle of these is always cool and creamy. 

The photo in the middle is of a Napoleon. I had never had a "real" Napoleon before going to Cyntuccis but feel like theirs is definitely a prime example. The puff pastry layers are light and flaky. The cream in the middle is, again, not too sweet, and melts in your mouth. Even the decorative flowers on top aren't too sugary. We try to get one of these every time we visit the bakery, and have never been disappointed. If you have ever been a fan of Napoleons you simply MUST try one from here!

The last photo is from just a few weeks ago and, as you can see, we got all of our favorites, as well as a chocolate torte. If you are big on chocolate this is perfect for you: chocolate cake with chocolate mousse inside and chocolate ganache on the outside. Now, let me say that neither Chris nor I are huge chocolate people, and would typically NEVER order something with this much chocolate. Upon his first visit, Chris asked the girl working the counter what her favorite item was and this was what she told him, so he figured it was worth a shot. Let me tell you, for not being big chocolate fans, we get one almost every time we go - it's THAT good. The cake is always moist, the mousse is creamy, and the ganache is rich and buttery. But it's not too overwhelming - and absolutely delicious with a glass of cold milk!

That being said, I am extremely glad we took a chance on this little mom-and-pop bakery. The place is small but inviting, the staff is friendly and helpful, and we have thoroughly enjoyed everything we've tried. I definitely recommend Cyntuccis to anybody who loves Italian pastries!