Wednesday, May 9, 2007

After School Treat Sources

The poppies in my garden are starting to bloom. I love, love, love poppies, particularly deep scarlet ones. Peonies are up next in my garden, but I haven't staked them, yet... hopefully I'll get to it before they bloom, it rains and they all collapse into the mud. Which is what usually happens.

I went to the Volunteer Park Cafe & Marketplace (, and quite a mouthful as a name and a not particularly intuitive web address) again today. I went there this winter, when my daughter had a birthday party on Capitol Hill. It was a miserable day, I was tired and cranky, and I, well, I don't really like children's birthday parties. It's a confession that has, on more than one occassion, earned me a shocked look, followed by a "How can you not? I love children's parties!" Seriously, I may as well have said something nice about Hitler, judging from the expression I get. I like kids. I like parties. I just don't really like the two at the same time. And this, actually, was a well-planned, cool, low-key little party. With grown-ups and children that I liked. But I was, as I said, both tired and cranky and since it was socially acceptable to drop off, chat for a few minutes and flee, I did. And coffee and a pastry seemed like just the ticket.

On a winter day, the place was lovely- the soft (read:dim, at 11am) light spilling in through their tall windows, blablabla. Very nice. It was also nice today, a sunny spring day. It looks like it will be close to unbearably hot on summer afternoons- but at least their windows face south and east rather than south and west. Their retro-look is mostly pleasing, if sometimes a little self-conscious for my taste. And, as I knew from this winter, their chocolate bundt cake is very, very good. I went with my mom, and it was lunchtime, so we shared a sandwich. I picked the mozzarella-prosciutto sandwich, with fig marmalade. The fig marmalade sucked. I like membrillo, I like (sometimes, and in low doses) a sweet contrast, sometimes, in a salty-savory mix. But this was jarring. The mozzarella isn't strongly enough flavored to provide an interesting contrast, the minerally taste of the spinach was weird with it, and the prosciutto isn't strongly enough flavored to provide a foil where the other stuff won't. Maybe with arugula and a sheep's milk cheese the fig crud would have worked, but... it didn't. My mom simply took the be-figged half off and ate it as an open face sandwich. I munched on it for a while, mostly because I was trying to figure out why what seemed like an interesting idea... wasn't. The bread was great.

Since the bundt cake (which my husband ate most of, last time) was fantastic, I also bought a bunch of baked goods. I spend much more than I should on after-school treats, partly because I love to spoil my kids (even as I have terrible feelings of anxiety about giving them such unhealthy treats which could lead to obesity, diabetes, poor nutrition choices later in life, cavities... and you, know, things that mothers worry they may be saddling their kids with, all because they bought them a freaking chocolate chip cookie to share after school) and party because I love trying out bakeries and cafes. My kids may frequently be vegetable-averse, but they have been thoroughly brainwashed into loving almost all things carbohydrate-related. Good bread makes my son happy. So, I bought a blueberry muffin for my daughter. My son prefers, on the whole, for fruit not to become involved with his dessert, unless it is pie or strawberry shortcake. Now and then he'll make a blueberry muffin exception, but mostly... fruit should be kept away from dessert. I bought a coffee-cake muffin (okay, that's for me. I love coffee cake). I bought my husband another slice of the bundt cake and I bought a chocolate chip cookie. The cookies are gigantor. My son is having a friend over after school- this is a three kid cookie. The white thing it's pictured on (way above) is a regular square napkin. The muffin, coffee cake and bundt cake are in this picture on the left. Yes, left. I checked. I'm not so hot on right and left, so I am often found making little "L"s with my hands, like a kindergartner, in order to determine which way I really mean. My kids think it's hilarious that they're better at right and left than they are. Ha. Ha. Ha. Anyway, it's now seeming, in retrospect, rather extravagant to have bought so many sweets to try out. Except, even worse, my mom was treating, so I was just taking advantage of my mom. Right before mother's day. Oops (sorry, Mom!).

I do love the after-school treat planning, though. They don't get a treat every day, but I love thinking about it, and they love getting them, so it seems like it works out, except for the fact that I probably spend more than I should. This weekend I bought them macaroons at Le Panier (their other, newer, favorite source for macaroons is Bakery Nouveau- I think they need to lighten up on the sugar, but kids seem to like sweet). It was a little embarrassing, though. I had walked ahead of the line, a bit, to see what was left of the macaroons, since it was a spring afternoon at Pike Place... and I thought that maybe only pistachio and orange would be left. Nuts have recently become... persona's obviously the wrong word, but they're things non grata in our house, so pistachio wasn't going to fly. As it happened, there was one chocolate (my son's choice), one raspberry (my daughter's choice) and one vanilla left. Kids aren't big on coffee macaroons, I've already explained my son's aversion to fruit mixing with dessert (removing orange as a candidate) and again, things involving nuts no longer come home. Except for my secret nutella stash, but that's (hopefully) a secret. Hi, honey. Um. It's almost gone. A secret from the kids, anyway. The woman behind me started to order when the counterperson asked who was next. I would actually have let her gone- it was a nice day, I wasn't in a big hurry... but the first word out of her mouth was "macaroons." I said, as politely as possible, that I thought I was next, and ordered the macaroons that she had been hoping to snag, thus rather rudely leaving her with the orange/coffee/pistachio options. Um... it was for the keeeeds? And I really was next? Yeah, I know. It was lousy. I also bought some mini-palmiers, because in a bakery, I am queen of the impulse purchase and I love Le Panier's... well, everything. Except maybe for the pate sandwich, because I don't like pate. And I bought eclairs. I love eclairs from Le Panier. We actually went through an elaborate eclair testing last summer - and recently, we've also tested eclairs from Porcella Urban Market (what's with tagging "market" on as part of a name?)and Bakery Nouveau - but the results from that are for another post.
I need to go for a run, now.
Oh, the pickles were good. Even with the jarred (okay, it was Tom Douglas - I'm terrible with impulse purchases in grocery stores as well as bakeries) teriyaki sauce. They made a nice contrast, although I went lighter on the sugar than suggested in the recipe, as I've long since learned that although Jerry Traunfeld and I may both like sweet as a counterpoint in savory or sour dishes, he likes more of it than I do. Clearly, I'm not a sweet girl. Or maybe, just as my boy prefers to keep his fruit and his dessert separate, I don't like to much mixing of sweet and savory. Anyway, the run.

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