Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Off the Map: When Italians Lost Ownership of the Tiramisu

Tiramisu a la Mexicana -- Lolita, Philadelphia, PA

For two fools who claim to eat everything, we sure do use the disclosure "We don't normally like this dish/component/texture" quite often.  And Vodka is about to employ it again:

I do not normally like tiramisu.

For lack of a more logical reason, I tend to find the dish slobbery and dripping in burnt coffee flavor.  I would go so far to say that I have never encountered a tiramisu I have enjoyed.

Until I tried the one at Lolita in Philadelphia.
The Outlier in a Long Line of Tiramisu Failures
Dragging my accommodating Philadelphia-residing friends along to another Philly Best Thing I Ever Ate location, we arrive at the BYOB Lolita clutching a bottle of wine.  Still suffering from our Thanksgiving gorge-fest the day before, plus the half of the Sarcone's Deli sandwich we have managed to wolf down, we are not in the mood for heavy entrees, and we are especially not in the mood for dessert.  All of this ambivalence only makes our later lapping up of the tiramisu all the more astounding.
A Scene Out of the Biggest Loser Reject Pile
But first, we have to make our way through dinner. 

First up is the guacamole, which is served with a healthy portion of corn chips, plantain chips, and sweet potato chips, along with homemade salsa.
"Homemade Salsa" is an Assumption. That Could Be Out of a Tostitos Jar
Vodka, who cannot stomach sweet potatoes in any form (as opposed to our opening line cop-out, they are truly one of five foods she despises), sticks to the corn chips, which she finds salty and perfectly crunchy.
Also, Plantains Just Seem Like Sad Bananas, No?
The guacamole, too, though less chunky than other restaurant varieties, is also quite good, if a bit heavy on the avocado itself.  (And yes, Vodka recognizes the fact that, as Ginger pointed out, this is a ridiculous statement, being that guacamole is, in essence, avocado).
But This One Is Particularly Grinch Green, Right?
For our "entrees," Vodka orders the romaine and asparagus salad, and her friends share the shrimp enchiladas.
And Now, for the "Thrifty Eating" Portion of the Blog
The salad is ten times heavier on the romaine portion than the asparagus (the hunks of lettuce on the plate are so large that James should keep them in mind for any potential Giant Peach sequels), and it is also spicier than one would expect a salad to be.
Salad from the Garden of the Jolly Green Giant
The part of the enchiladas that my friend manages to not dump all over the table in an effort of "sharing" are awash in cheesy goodness, and best of all, our waitress does not seem perturbed by the fact that we are eating like certifiable cheapskates.
Clearly, Lolita is Fond of Their Green Foods
And then we come to dessert.

The tiramisu a la mexicana is Robert Irvine's choice from the IN A BOWL episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, and based on his liking of, say, over-pureed mashed potatoes, I am skeptical of the variety of baby food that is about to appear before us.  Instead, the waitress brings a small serving bowl with a mountain of cake, chocolate, nuts, and oodles of whipped cream piled in the center.
Well, Hello There, Friend, May I Call You "Tira" for Short?
Scooping up the first bite, I expect a coffee-laden dessert a la the worst barista Starbucks ever hired.

And instead I find heaven.
Vodka's Personal Image of the Pearly Gates
First of all, there is the whipped cream.  There is just so much whipped cream.  Having been known to squirt Reddi-Wip directly into my mouth during college, I am a certifiable sucker for whipped cream, especially the homemade kind, which Lolita's appears to be.
But Much Like Their "Homemade Salsa," This Could Also Have Come from a Can
Sprinkled on top of the whipped cream is a smattering of toasted hazelnuts, which balance the mushy texture of the rest of the components and bring a comforting snap to the spoonfuls.
Snap, Crackle, Pop, Then Moan "THIS IS FIVE STARS"
Praline mascarpone cream mixes in with the whipped cream, and the lady fingers, which have been soaked in kahlua and espresso, have become so moist that they are downright layer cake-like.

This tiramisu is a wonder.
At the Rate We Were Going, I'm Surprised We Didn't Eat the Garnish
Despite the fact that the tiramisu is very rich, we reach the bottom of the bowl sooner than anticipated, assured in the knowledge that even though the Italians may have invented junk yard special hoagies and rectangular tiramisu, the Mexicans have improved the latter dish by leaps and bounds.

Perhaps now they can take on those pesky sesame seed-covered, jaw-breaking Italian rolls.... 

Lolita's Tiramisu a la Mexicana: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate

1 comment:

  1. Tiramisu is my absolute favorite dessert. Looks like a trip to Philly is in order now.