Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Into the Boroughs: WHAT Is Alex Guarnaschelli Doing In All of These Places?!

Smetannik -- Bakery La Brioche Cafe, Brooklyn, NY
Bakery La Brioche Cafe

We're pretty sure that Alex Guarnaschelli has it out for us.
And If She Didn't Before, She Definitely Will Now
Granted, 90% of her Best Thing I Ever Ate choices were made before we even began writing this blog, but still -- the woman seems hellbent on sending us to the farthest ends of the earth in order to procure some culinary "delicacy" (we use the term loosely), and for what purpose?  
See? The Literal End of the Earth
Her picks are random at best (miso soup in Portland, ME, anyone?), terrible at worst (the caramel apple of Charleston, SC, which shan't be spoken of again), and just plain NOT WORTH THE EFFORT in so many cases (you know, Alex, they also serve stuffed grape leaves IN MANHATTAN).
Manhattan -- So Close, and Yet So Very, Very Far
In this vein, we are hauling ourselves all the way to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, in order to procure some smetannik (sour cream cake) from Bakery La Brioche Cafe, which Alex spoke of on the SLICED episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate (keep this SLICED theme in mind, please -- it comes back again later).  
Never Have We Ever Been to Brighton Beach -- Oh Wait
In theory, we came up with a very solid plan for this outing -- Vodka would meet Ginger in Brooklyn Heights in order to take a jaunt on Jane's Carousel (we have an odd obsession with carousels; it's pretty much our only way of pretending we live in Disney World), followed by venturing, together, lest we die, to the Q train in time for Di Fara pizza to open at noon.  
Honestly, the Things We Do In the Name of Blog Completion....
After we avoided Di Fara's monstrous lines and consumed Sunny Anderson's favorite pizza, we would hop back on the Q to Brighton Beach for Alex's silly cake.  Needless to say, this plan blew up in our faces.
Brooklyn Is, Generally Speaking, Not Our Friend
The trouble began when we reached Di Fara at 11:59am on the dot and found barely six people waiting in line outside.  Great news, right?  WRONG.  In a stroke of just-our-kind-of-luck, there is a cardboard sign plastered on the door stating that they are having "oven mechanical issues" and "might" be opening at 1:00pm.

Ain't nobody got time for this nonsense, Brooklyn.
PULL IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE!  We Have Couches to Go Home and Sit On!
Because we were born with the patience of toddlers, we immediately leave the premises and high-tail it for Brighton Beach.  And within minutes of our arrival, we nearly get mowed down by at least four cars.  Thanks for the warm welcome.
Just Try to Cross This Street Unscathed. We Dare You
By default, we don't quite fit in with the Brighton Beach community for a few reasons:

1. we're not in bathing suits,
2. we believe pedestrians have the right of way,
3. we're not speaking Russian.

Without being maimed by vehicular manslaughter, we manage to make our way to Bakery La Brioche Cafe, which looks... nothing like a bakery.  In fact, it takes us a second to even find the baked goods among the plethora of fruit, groceries, and other standard bodega items. 

Why, Alex Guarnaschelli -- WHY???
Is This a Bakery Or the Brighton Beach Branch of Fairway?
Yes, You'll Find the "Bakery" Section on the Shelf Above the Citrus
When we finally stumble upon the two shelves of pastries, we find the smetannik pre-packeged in aluminum sheets all the way to the side.
Um, What Now?
Yes, you read that correctly -- PRE-PACKAGED.  Call us finicky, but wasn't the whole point of this place being featured on the show the fact that the customer could choose how big of a SLICE of cake they wanted?  We call false advertising.
We Demand a Refund on Something We Haven't Even Purchased Yet
We buy one PACKAGE of smetannik, along with a giant meringue contraption (Ginger) and an overblown cheese danish (Vodka).  Our whopping total is -- wait for it -- $.7.74.  $7.74 for two huge pastries AND a cake.  Perhaps we should move to Brighton Beach.
Oh, Who Are We Kidding? We Prefer Throwing Money at Our Problems and Then Complaining About It
Among the growing list of faults concerning La Brioche's cake policy, they also do not have any forks with which we can use to, you know, eat said cake.  
Well, Much As We Enjoy Eating Like Cavewomen....
This results in Vodka clandestinely swiping two from a take-out joint further down the avenue, and then brandishing them in her hand like a weapon as we made our way toward the boardwalk.

"What's wrong with this park?" Ginger calls, pointing to the greenery across the street.

"We're going to look at the water.  I'm giving you the full Brighton Beach experience," Vodka replies.  
Brooklyn, You Are Indeed a Fascinating Place
Unfortunately for us, the "Brighton Beach experience" means settling on one of the only shaded benches in the entire town, while most of Brooklyn's homeless population catches a few Zs around us.  
Would Any of You Care for a Slice of Cake? Oh, Sorry -- It's NOT SLICED
We peel open the cake container and jab our forks into this creation which -- keep in mind -- Alex Guarnaschelli had ventured over an hour out of Manhattan to procure.
No Judgment, Alex, But We Prefer to Waste Our Time in the Company of Our TVs
We chew silently for a few moments, and as we have established, nothing good ever comes from us being quiet.

"It doesn't taste like... anything," Vodka finally pipes up. 

"I like the texture," Ginger tries to be positive.  "You know, relatively."  Dense layers of cake are piled on top of each other, cemented together by what is allegedly sour cream frosting, but which essentially tastes like flavorless glue.  Only because we are starving (thanks a lot, Di Fara) we manage to consume one-third of it, hoping with each stolen forkful that it would get better.

It doesn't.
Our Ability to Consume Food We Don't Even Enjoy Never Ceases to Amaze
Our own respective pastries, while they at least taste like SOMETHING (hazelnut in Ginger's case; cheese in Vodka's) are decidedly fine.  They're at least marginally better than this non-sliced cake, but worth a trip to the edge of Brooklyn, they are not.
They Like Things Large in Brighton Beach
This Doughnut Could Use Some Glaze
"What is that, Staten Island?" Ginger asks, pointing to a hunk of land in the middle of the ocean.

"I thought we were facing England," Vodka replies, and it takes us a second before we sputter into idiotic laughter, realizing how truly moronic our conversations are turning.
Of Note, We Rarely Know Where We Are
"So we're giving this 2 stars, right?" Vodka asks.

"I mean, I don't think it's inedible."

"That's why it's not 1 star.  But would you ever get this again?"

"No.  Never.  But doesn't that mean 3 stars?"

"I feel like they should get a demerit for not being sliced," Vodka explains.  And so it is settled: 2 stars for some vaguely edible cake that we had to travel over half of the eastern seaboard in order to fetch.  
A Sign We Shall Never See Again
We pack up the remainders of our bargain basement purchases and stare out at the ocean one last time, feasting our eyes on Staten Island and/or England.

And grateful, for once in our lives, that Alex Guarnaschelli hasn't sent us there.  At least not yet.

Bakery La Brioche Cafe's Smetannik: 2 stars

1 comment:

  1. Lol...thanks for the laughs and the memories! You see, my hubby and I do the same thing! We visit various food establishments that TV chefs suggest! You would have been equally disappointed with Di Far pizza! Sunny was soooo wrong about their pizza...or maybe they only make great pizza for famous people? I think the people on those long lines must be first timers or other people like us who are following the advice of the TV foodies! Great blog post!