Sweet Mandy B's

by Steven Behling


The time has come to close the Chicago chapter of NOSHology, at least for now.  And what better way to say goodbye than with a slice of something smothered in buttercream frosting...the kind that doesn't leave a Crisco-like film inside your mouth and cause your teeth to ache.  The kind of buttercream that fills the swimming pools of your dreams, into which you dive and burst forth in a shower of rainbow sprinkles.  The kind of buttercream frosting I've only ever had at Sweet Mandy B's.  

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I can honestly say that Sweet Mandy B's is responsible for at least 15 of the 30 pounds I gained during graduate school.  Situated just down the street from DePaul University's Lincoln Park campus, this one-of-a-kind bakery features ample seating and a little step upon which your ill-mannered children can climb and plant their faces and palms directly on the glass display, showcasing row after row of sweet treats.  Over the course of the five years I lived in Chicago, I can't count how many times I walked down Webster Avenue for a cupcake or two...or six.  I celebrated more than one birthday and drowned countless sorrows at Sweet Mandy B's, and would likely be celebrating/drowning many more if I still lived in the Windy City. 

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When it came time to plan my week-long celebration of graduating with a PhD in clinical child psychology during the summer of 2010, I called Sweet Mandy B's to order a simple-yet-glorious chocolate cake with...you guessed it...buttercream icing.  

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When the time came to commemorate my friend Rachel's completion of all the many cumbersome requirements for licensure in psychology, who do you think I called? Sweet Mandy B's.  

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When the time comes for me to order a wedding cake, who'm I gonna call? SWEET MANDY B's.  I'm also going to try to order a whoopie pie, even though they don't make them anymore.  

Sweet Mandy B's is located at 1208 W Webster Ave in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois.  It's also located in my dreams, but those are harder for you to access. 


Dahlia Bakery

by Steven Behling


In January 2012, my friend Julia introduced me to Dahlia Bakery's egg sandwiches, a little handful of sunshine and a welcome introduction to an otherwise dreary Seattle winter's day.  Dahlia Bakery was just down the street from where I was working at the time, and I would periodically stop in for one of their splendid to-go treats.  On my 33rd birthday, I discovered some rich, dense chocolate hazelnut tarts in the bakery case that were packed with candied crushed hazelnuts, which lent a surprise crunch amidst the smooth texture of the chocolate.  

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My chocolate hazelnut tart disappeared (into my mouth) later that evening while I was standing in line for a screening of "I Am Not a Hipster" at the Seattle International Film Festival (trailer below, and it's on Netflix, so you have no excuse not to watch it right this second).  Between the tart and the film, I'd count it as a very auspicious start to my 34th year of life.  Of note, I've been by Dahlia Bakery several times since then and nary a chocolate hazelnut tart was found again.  Whether that's due to my poor timing or some parallel universe where I happened to stumble upon this delightful dessert at just the right moment, only Tom Douglas knows.  

Regardless of whether or not you live in Seattle and have access to Dahlia Bakery, you can stream Destin Cretton's stunning debut feature film "I Am Not a Hipster" from anywhere in the world.  Do it.  You know you want to.

Dahlia Bakery is located at 2001 4th Ave, Seattle, Washington.


Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery

by Steven Behling


Perhaps you've been tempted by their superb sauces or bake-at-home molten chocolate cakes offered at your local boutique grocery store, but let's face it, if you haven't stood in line at their Ballard home base, waiting for them to bake you a tiny, rich, gooey circle of goodness served in a tiny Mason jar alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with one of their specialty caramel or hot fudge sauces, you haven't lived. Created by former Canlis pastry chef and head chocolatier at Theo Chocolate, Autumn Martin, Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery is most certainly worth the schlep to this neighborhood along Seattle's Salmon Bay. In addition to serving up a fine selection of cakes, cookies, and other baked goods, Hot Cakes offers culinary curiosities including chocolate chips that have been cold-smoked over alder wood and Bling Blings, a tasty upgrade of the Ding Dong. 

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Yesterday, after a long day which included me running my first half marathon, I limped my way into Hot Cakes accompanied by my childhood friend, Brett, for their special (i.e., not always available) Nutella molten chocolate cake. As with prior visits, my choice most certainly did not disappoint. For me, the vanilla ice cream was necessary in order to cut the richness of the hazelnut-infused chocolate, and unlike their caramel sauce, which I can eat by the spoonful (just look in my refrigerator, as there's usually at least one almost-empty jar in there somewhere), the hot fudge on the plate didn't do much for my experience. Fortunately, I had a taster of their seasonal nettle (yes, nettle...we're in the Pacific Northwest, beyotch) caramel to temper my desire.

 

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Hot Cakes is located at 5427 Ballard Ave NW in Seattle, Washington. Fortunately for you and your nighttime sweet cravings, they are open until 11pm Sunday through Thursday and until midnight Friday and Saturday. Save me a spot in line!