Charlotte · Restaurants

WP Kitchen in Charlotte

Our Girl Nosh May 2017 was supposed to be an super-hip restaurant Stoke.  Because it was on my birthday, we had a wonderful turnout…so much so that Stoke couldn’t accommodate all of us in their regular dining room.  We were going to have a private room and forced to order family style off of a very limited menu.  We decided that we wanted to try Stoke with a smaller crowd and started looking for a restaurant that could take us all.  Hello WP Kitchen!  You can thank Open Table for that realization, Wolfgang.

First, let me say they were so kind to us.  You can book a table for 12 online (nice!) but the group began to grow.  When I hesitantly said I needed a table for 20 they didn’t miss a beat.  They sat us outside in an air-conditioned patio that was private AND allows dogs.  It was raining that night, so the valet was a welcome service.

The decor is a mix between rustic and industrial.  I know that sounds conflicting, but it works.  They have the wooden accent wall that everyone loves so much right now, and then all of these industrial fixtures and utilitarian furnishings.  I dunno, I like it.

The cocktails were strong and they were delivered quickly 🙂  We all agreed that our food was amazing.  Even the simplest dish, like pizza margarita, was done with such care it was top notch.

Caesar Salad, my old favorite.  This one was tangy deliciousness!

What a special treat: soft shell crab!  This was crunchy on the outside, briny crabby on the inside…perfection!

Gosh, by the time desserts arrived I was so full I wasn’t too interested.  It was my birthday, though, so had to indulge 🙂  I chose the creme brulee, as per usual, and it was sweet, creamy and perfectly executed.

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Charlotte · Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Mert’s Heart and Soul

mertswall

Mert’s Heart & Soul is located in downtown Charlotte.  When you walk through the doors, however, you forget that fact.  You feel like you are in an out-of-the-way hole in the wall establishment.  I love it.  The walls are filled with personal pictures and other interesting memorabilia.

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Some of the criticisms we’ve heard of Mert’s is that the service is lacking. We found that not to be a concern at all. Our waiter, DJ, took care of our large party perfectly. He even posed for a picture with me!

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Sincerely, I should put these cornbread cakes down there in the desserts.  Especially when  you slather them with this amazing honey butter.  But, alas, they bring them before the appetizers, so I feel I must insert them here.  This is what everyone talks about.  These tender pones are just sweet enough to satisfy the Yankees, but still savory enough to tempt the Southerner.  (I don’t know about your family, but my people call yellow, sweet cornbread “Yankee” cornbread.)  Whatever you call it, it is glorious.
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Mert’s has a limited selection of appetizers.  Everything we tried was delicious, but my favorites were Mert’s Soul Rolls.  These egg rolls have a unique spin:  they are filled with seasoned rice, black-eyed peas, collard greens and chicken.  They are served with a spicy honey mustard sauce that has just enough punch to elevate this crunchy favorite.

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Every Southern/soul food place worth its salt has Fried Green Tomatoes on the menu and Mert’s is no different.  The tomatoes themselves were sliced perfectly (not too thick) and fried crisply.  The remoulade sauce that dressed them was tangy and a little spicy.  It was a good dish.  But honestly, it is one of those things, much like calamari, that is on every menu, and there isn’t enough variation in taste from one to the other to really justify getting it and forsaking the trying of a new dish.  But hey, I understand cravings.  If you are just jonesing for some FGT, then by all means, enjoy.  But branch out!

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For dinner I got the Fried Chicken Wings with Winston-Salem Sauce.  They were maybe the best pieces of fried chicken I’ve ever had.  Crispy, not greasy, and seasoned perfectly.  The sauce is merely hot sauce dowsing it, which was perfect.  The macaroni and cheese was perfection and the black-eyed peas were creamy and well seasoned.  I’d get that exact same plate if I went again.  So good.

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Laurie got the Fried Whiting on the recommendation of our waiter, DJ.  She said it was amazing!  The fish was crispy on the outside, tender and flaky on the inside.  The macaroni and cheese was the best any of us had ever eaten.  Cheesy and creamy with just enough crusty edges to add a little texture.  The collard greens were braised perfectly, and topped with fresh tomato and onion: mixed together to make a perfect bite!

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Erika got the Salmon Patties with macaroni and cheese and greens.  She said the patties were fine, but nothing special.  Next time she’d try something else.

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Anessa got the Fried Catfish and Fried Chicken Combo with Yams and Macaroni and Cheese.  The chicken and fish were fried and seasoned perfectly.  The yams were slow cooked in brown sugar and butter…how can that be bad?  And the macaroni.  Yeah, we’ve already talked about how life altering that is.

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The lemon pound cake was tangy and had a good flavor.  Anessa reported it was a little dry, so next time she might try another dessert.

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My peach cobbler came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  It was decent cobbler, but my mom’s is better.  Not overly sweet, but not overly flavorful either.  The best dessert of the night was this:

mertsbananapuddingcake

This is the banana pudding cake.  It was moist, cakey and full of banana flavor.  I never even thought I liked banana pudding all that much, but this cake…what a great twist on a classic.

Here’s the real deal:  No matter where we go, or what we eat, we always ALWAYS have a blast together!

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Mert's Heart and Soul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurants · Statesville

Twisted Oak Bar & Grill in Statesville, NC

Restaurant Week is probably my favorite two weeks of the year.  I mean, I love Christmas, but Restaurant Week allows me to have a fabulous meal that someone else cooks and cleans up after.  That’s love.

This year I had the most handsome date on the planet…my sweet son, Ty.  We went to Twisted Oak Bar & Grill in Statesville.  It is located in Statesville’s charming downtown area, and in a factory-esque building.  It is not facing the road, the front entrance is on the side.  When you come up the ramp you’ll see a nice outdoor area with a fireplace and several seats around.  Very cozy!  The interior is spacious and homey with exposed brick and minimalist decor.  I loved it.  Also, on this night, they had live music.

Twisted Oak serves breakfast Monday – Thursday and the pictures I saw looked amazing.  If I am ever near Statesville early in the morning, that will be my first stop.  Lunch and Dinner are served Monday through Saturday.

As you know, Restaurant Week has a limited menu…3 courses for $30 each.  What a deal!  We both skipped the wine they offered at the beginning of the meal and opted for tea and water.  The first course was a great start to a terrific meal.  I got a delicious garden salad with a tangy and creamy homemade Ranch dressing.  I love some salad.  Ty got Peirogies.  If you aren’t sure what that is, it’s a potato dumpling that is pan fried and tossed with caramelized onion and andouille sausage and topped with sour cream and cheddar cheese.  Ty hit the jackpot with these.  A HUGE plateful and they were the best peirogies I’ve ever tried.  The outside was crispy and chewy and the inside was soft and creamy.  I would order this and my salad for my meal next time!

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For his entree, Ty opted for the Pimento Burger.  It was a 1/2 pound Angus beef, cooked to medium atop a toasted bun slathered with melted pimento cheese, fried onion, bacon, lettuce and tomato (he opted out of that) and served with French fries.  He said the burger was very good and the fries were homemade and perfect.

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I got a special selection that was made just for Restaurant week: Beef Short Rib Lasagna.  Tender bits of slow roasted short ribs in between pasta sheets with cheese, mushrooms and topped with a tangy and robust tomato gravy, Bechamel sauce and mozzarella cheese.  So decadent, I had to take home half of it so I could enjoy dessert!

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Our dessert choice was the 5 Layer Chocolate Cake.  It was a huge slice of moist chocolate cake with plenty of rich, fudgy frosting.  Satisfying to any chocolate lover!

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We gave this comforting restaurant two thumbs up and will be dining there again very soon!

 

Click to add a blog post for Twisted Oak American Bar & Grill on Zomato

Charlotte · Restaurants

Tupelo Honey – Girl Nosh

So I find myself in a separated state after 20 years of wedded bliss.  I gave myself a couple of days to wallow in misery and then got a plan together.  New job, new gym membership, new church…check.  The last piece of my happiness puzzle was surrounding myself with great friends.  Thus “Girl Nosh” was born.  We are a group of girls who enjoy going out to eat together and laughing our heads off.  We meet once a month and the only requirement is that everyone has to take a picture of their food for my blog and let me taste a tiny bite of what they got 🙂

Tupelo honey inside

Our charter meeting was held at Tupelo Honey in Charlotte.  We had to call for reservations, since I had too many folks coming to use the online reservation scheduler.  No big deal, they were nice and efficient and had our reservation when we arrived.  Actually, we arrived early and they seated us very quickly.  Awesome!

OK, so I have one knock on the place.  It was smoking hot.  I mean, I never cooled down.  We were seated by the door and it kept opening with each new customer, totally screwing us out of cool air every time.  Every time.  If only they had a more “closed in” entryway, perhaps that could be avoided?  All I know is I was hot.  But, I did buy two drinks, so maybe there is a method to the madness?

The Bar

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Our table ordered white wine, Sangria (red) and a mixed drink called a Honeysuckle and Lavender Flip.  The Sangria was sweet and fruity and very refreshing.  The Flip…well…that was light and sweetly resplendent.  That’s right: resplendent.  It was made with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka and a house made lavender sweet and sour mixed with soda water and a squeeze of lemon.  Served over cracked ice and a sprinkling of lavender buds on top, and you’ll hear an angel sing upon first sip.

Appetizers and Small Plates

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First up is a hearty appetizer: Fried Green Tomatoes.  Any southern restaurant worth its salt must have this on the menu.  But TH has their fried green maters on a bed of creamy goat cheese grits and that is nestled over the top of some brightly flavored red pepper coulis.  What a perfect combination.  The crispy, salty and sour fried green tomatoes was a perfect counter balance to the decadent grits.  The coulis added just enough spice to tie it all together.  A perfect dish that we had to order 2 plates of to share.

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The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake was another hit.  It might have been the best crab cake I’ve ever tasted!  Crispy on the outside and full of sweet large hunks of crab.  Seasoned just perfectly!  It came propped against a small salad a mixed dark greens dressed with a jalapeno aioli and tossed with sweetly sour baby tomatoes.  That salad had a bite to it!  Perfect addition to the simple goodness of the crab cake.

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The table also thoroughly enjoyed Warm Pimento Cheese, like a Southern cheese dip, served with house-made tortilla chips.  I looked around to see so many tables enjoying this simple, but unbeatably delicious, sharable appetizer.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it didn’t even need salsa.  It was that good.

Tupelo Honey biscuitThe humble Biscuit.  Handmade, fluffy, salty and tender.  Served with honey (of course) and blueberry preserves.  A.mazing.

Brunch

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Erika had a brunch item for dinner: Fried Chicken and Biscuits!  She couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted, everything looked so good, but the description of the basil gravy eventually won her over.  Let me set this dish up for you:  Huge bowl is filled with split house made biscuits.  Next, they place a perfectly fried buttermilk chicken breast patty.  Add crispy NC country ham and some basil and top all of that with a fried egg.  Which when Erika sank her fork in burst and gave a new level of richness to that gravy.  It was decadent and wonderful, and she could barely finish a third of her meal!

Dinner

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Laurie ordered Roasted Duck Breast.  It was topped with a cherry port wine sauce and served with cardamom ginger roasted carrots and a shaved Brussels sprout salad dressed with a honey vinaigrette.  Laurie said that the duck was cooked well, but the skin wasn’t seared enough, leaving it chewy.  She cut all of the skin off and ate the duck breast meat.  It was tasty, but she was disappointed with the skin.  The salad was so tangy and creamy, much like a cole slaw.

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Vickie got the Jumbo Fried Shrimp.  These big, juicy prawns were buttermilk fried and topped with a sticky cherry pepper lemon aioli.  Vickie reported them amazing!  She got hers with a side of asparagus and a side salad.

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I got the Hickory Nut Gap Farm Beef and Bacon Meatloaf.  I’m going to be honest here: I picked something that would go with the macaroni and cheese.  Because that’s what I was wanting.  If you are going to cheat on your diet, you should really go all out.  So, I picked fried okra, too.  NO REGRETS!  The meatloaf was so tender, and a nice brown color, unlike my gray offerings.  The gravy on top was a tomato rosemary shallot gravy that was zesty and packed with flavor.  I was dragging the macaroni and cheese through it, too.  The macaroni and cheese was gooey and cheesy.  I mean, even a bad mac and cheese tastes pretty good, but this one is yummy, no fear.  The fried okra was plump yet crispy.  Not that frozen mess you get at other places.  I was so happy.  Joyous, really.

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Kathy, the healthy one in the group, opted for the  Venerated Veggie Bowl.  We’ll never truly know how wonderful this was because Kathy refuses to share her food!  LOL  I can say that it looked amazing and she couldn’t eat it all.  Let me set it up for you:  On the bottom of the bowl there is a layer of SC Stone Ground Goat cheese grits and that is topped with salsa verde black-eyed peas.  They then pile on sauteed greens, fried okra and salsa.  I love meat, but this bowl looked amazing.

Lunch

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Lunch isn’t all that much different from dinner, but they do have more sandwiches.  My favorite is probably the Shoo Mercy Cheesy Grill.  A gooey mixture of Havarti and pimento cheese tops carmelized onions, crispy maple smoked bacon, salty smoked ham, fried green tomatoes and fresh basil all on wheat sourdough bread.  Sounds like a lot going on, but the combination is perfect.  Squishy, salty, creamy and crispy: it hits all the notes.

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I got my sammie with a bowl of their tomato soup.  Eh.  A little tangy.

Tupelo Honey Chix BLT

The Southern Fried Chicken BLT is another staple at Tupelo Honey.  I had one at lunch on another visit.  The chicken is seasoned perfectly, crispy crunchy and the bacon is smoky.  Perfect in its simplicity

Side Dishes

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You could make a meal on the side dishes.  Seriously.  Because they have a veggie plate where you can choose 3 or 4 for your meal.  But, if you just want a couple with your meat (do it!) you’ll be happy too.  Laurie got the Edamame, Pine Nut, Golden Raisin and Carrot Salad.  I was very suspicious of those healthy looking green beans, but I was pleasantly surprised at the sweet and tangy dressing, and the bite from the pine nuts.  Healthy never tasted so good.

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Another favorite of our table was the Benne Coated Asparagus.  Asparagus can’t go wrong as long as it isn’t over cooked.  These were perfectly cooked, still had a bit of a snap, and the benne (sesame seeds, right?) added a nuttiness.  Yum!

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You may also choose a side salad as one of your “vegetables.”  This one comes with mixed greens, grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, pickled onions and pine nuts.  The  pickled onions and pine nuts are tangy and crunch elements that are different from your run-of-the-mill side salad.

If you are looking for a delicious country meal that is a little on the upscale side, you have to give Tupelo Honey a try.  Just bring a fan.

Click to add a blog post for Tupelo Honey Cafe on Zomato

Boone · Boone

Restaurant Review: GameKeeper in Boone, NC & Chetola Lodge

Boone and Blowing Rock are two of our treasures near the Piedmont.  Dustin and I took a little trip up to stay at Chetola Lodge for a long weekend at Valentine’s Day.  We were able to get out only the first night, when we visited the Gamekeeper Restaurant, but the next night we got snowed in.  It was beautiful, and cozy.  A really magical evening!

Chetola Resort

800-CHETOLA (243-8652) :: 828-295-5500

info@chetola.com 

185 Chetola Lake Drive :: Blowing Rock, NC 28605

http://www.chetola.com

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The grounds of this gorgeous resort are worth a visit, even if you park and walk around a bit.  Ponds, swans, walking trails…very natural and peaceful.

We stayed in the Bob Timberlake Inn and it was so personal.  They have cozy (if a tiny bit outdated in decor) rooms with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs and they have a wine and cheese tasting every evening.  We also enjoyed the indoor pool while it snowed outside.  Magical!

Gamekeeper Restaurant

3005 Shulls Mill Road
Boone, North Carolina 28607
828.963.7400

http://gamekeeper-nc.com

Gamekeeper Restaurant on Urbanspoon

First thing you should know is you need a reservation.  The winter hours are scarce and the tables were full when we were there.  Second thing you need to know is that if it is winter, you’ll need to call to make sure the restaurant is open.  The drive up is curvy and scary on a snowy road.  But…it certainly is charming in a snowy setting once you reach your destination.

As you might suspect, the restaurant has a glamorous hunting lodge feel.  There are fireplaces blazing inside and twigs along with eclectic artwork and low lighting.  It’s easy on the eyes and comfortable.  We were seated immediately and enjoyed wonderful service all night.

gamekeeper mixed game grill app

We started our meal with the Mixed Game Grill which had a variety of (chef’s choice) grilled game meats, sausages and dipping sauces.  On the night we visited, we got grilled ostrich and elk, yak and emu sausages, and mustard, horseradish and a peach-pear barbecue sauce for dipping.  All of these meats were topped with some hand-cut seasoned fries.  The grilled ostrich was crispy and hearty, not too gamey, as I was afraid.  The elk was absolutely the best thing I ate all night; it was grilled to perfection with a smoky crust.  I’d order a plateful of that.  The yak sausage was cooked crispy but it was dry and quite gamey tasting.  Not my favorite.  The emu sausage was better, with a creamier texture.  The fries were without question the best I’ve had.  They were planks of starchy deliciousness, seasoned properly.

A perfect accompaniment to this dish were the sauces that were served with it.  First there was a mustard sauce that was thick with whole mustard seeds; very bold!  There was also a horseradish sauce that was creamy and had just enough bite.  My favorite was the peach pear barbecue sauce.  It was sweet and matched perfectly with the char on the grilled meats.

gamekeeper pheasant pot pie

I had the Pheasant Pot Pie.  It was surprisingly good, but I’m not sure everyone would like it as much as I did.  The filling tasted a little “gluey” but it was so flavorful I overlooked the somewhat unpleasant texture.  The pheasant itself was cooked beautifully, and tasted like…wait for it…chicken.  But incredibly flavorful and tender chicken!  The pastry shell was flaky and perfect.  I also loved the accompanying vegetables with just a bit of char on them.  My only real criticism was that the whole dish lacked salt and it wasn’t provided on the table.  That is a bold move on a chef’s part, and in this case the move was the wrong one.  Chefs:  put salt and pepper on your tables.  We won’t think less of you for it.

gamekeeper bison hangar steak

 

Dustin had the Grilled Bison Hangar Steak, served with roasted potatoes and root vegetables.  Honestly, his was a little gamey tasting for me, but it was cooked well.  Again, we found the dish lacked seasoning.   Still, it was an experience.

 

 

 

 

Charlotte · Restaurants

The Cowfish

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Are you looking for an eclectic cuisine that fuses two well loved foods into one delicious dish? No? Nor was I. I just wanted to try food at a place called Cowfish. So glad we did!

We wanted both burgers and sushi, of course, so we opted to try the mini burgers of the week for our appetizers and each got a fancy sushi roll for lunch.

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The Burgers of the Week happened to be blue cheese burgers. Dustin was not a fan of blue cheese, but still managed to down two of them. They were cooked well, and very juicy. I loved them, but they were a little drippy (which all delicious burgers should be.) The Cowfish sauce was tangy sweet mayonnaise and the slaw was divine, even to someone like me who is usually pretty indifferent to slaw.

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My sushi roll, The “Prime Time” Filet and Lobster Roll,  was one of the best things I’d ever had.  And clocking in at $22 for one roll, well it should be.  But, I’m telling you, one is all you will need.  It is very huge and quite filling.  The inside was comprised of buttery lobster and crisp, fresh cucumber matchsticks.  Atop this were rare (yet in my case, I asked for medium) strips of filet mignon and strips of smoky slices of portabello mushrooms that were panfried in the juices from the steak, then tossed in truffle oil.  This tasted like bacon!  Bacon veggies!  Brilliant!

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Dustin chose the Blackened Tuna Roll.  Inside this is delicate lump crabmeat, gently mixed with cream cheese to make a delicious, light salad with a slight crunch from the tempura flakes. Topping this are strips of blackened tuna, a dollop of guacamole and a fresh sliver of jalapeno.  Talk about the perfect bite!  Everything was fresh and delicious.

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For dessert (yes, we did) we shared an order of Apple Pie Wontons.  Holy Moly.  Homemade apple pie filling encased by a wonton wrapper and flash fried.  As if that wasn’t enough, they serve it with a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream that is surprisingly light and airy and drizzled with a caramel sauce.  You can’t really go wrong with a fried wonton, but this one was so rich, with the crispy wrapper and the apple pie filling was sweet with just enough tart to balance.  It was plenty big enough to share.

The restaurant is much bigger than it appears from the outside.  We even sat on the patio and it had plenty of heaters out there to keep us warm.  Our service was amazing, we lacked nothing during our visit.  We will be back soon!

 

The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

New York City · Restaurants

Magnolia Bakery in NYC

Hubby had to go to Jersey for business a month ago and wandered into NYC for the night.  God love him, he didn’t bring us home Hard Rock Cafe Tshirts, nor mini figurines of the Statue of Libery…he brought us cupcakes. From two famous eateries in New York City that I’ve only dreamed of visiting. This one I’m reviewing is Magnolia Bakery.   Now that is a good man.

This store that had its humble beginnings as an old-fashioned coffee and bake shop in Greenwich Village has now expanded its number to eight.

My hubs brought back vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream and chocolate buttercream.  They were about $3 each, a steal.  This cake was moist yet dense and had just the right hint of vanilla bean.  The buttercream was purely sinful, made with real butter and just enough cocoa to make it chocolatey but not too much so.  I gave the vanilla on vanilla to my mom and sister and they declared it delectable as well.  Next time we visit NYC, I’m going to go out on a limb with some of their Specialty flavors!