Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bye Philadelphia... you make good burgers (Ladder 15)

Ladder 15 flag

For some stupid reason, back when I was still in high school, Penn was my dream school. Hell if I can remember why. Sure everyone shits on Cornell and Brown for being the crappy Ivies, but at least people know they're part of the Ivy League. I mean... no one confuses any of them with Penn State ~sigh. Yes, I realize how much of a pretentious asshole I sound like right now, and yes, I have since learned that choosing schools based on prestige is dumb (you realize I'm Asian right?). The point is, I really wanted to come to Penn, and I really wanted to live in Philadelphia. In hindsight, 17 year old me was a dipshit, because, let's be honest... Philadelphia kind of sucks. Everything basically shuts down at 10 pm if you're not an alcoholic, everyone is a hipster, the subway system smells constantly like a blend of hand soap and urine, the homeless people here are meaner/scarier (than the ones in NYC), and you produced M. Night Shyamalan.* Damn son... Avatar was pure crap and everyone knows it. Way to suck.

Well I guess that's not fair. Philadelphia isn't entirely worthless. Home to some seriously dope-ass cheesesteaks (and sandwiches in general), Philadelphia is the place where they signed the declaration of independence, where the finest pitching rotation since the mid-90's Braves is assembled, where the mythical "gobbler" is available year round, and most importantly... where some of my favorite burgers can be found. Like the "Burger 15" at Ladder 15.

Just a heap of onions

I already wrote about this burger on AHT (it is my last post... gooooo read it), so I won't rehash the details... but here's the breakdown. The Burger 15 is $15 (how clever ಠ_ಠ) worth of brioche, a prime sirloin patty, caramelized onions, mushrooms, truffle sauce, shredded beef short rib, and... my oh my... fatty-ass bone marrow. It sounds expensive and it is expensive, but is it worth it? Yeah man. Just like I said on Serious Eats, "like eating the freshest cow available."


Look how overcooked that shit is. Not one fuck was given that day. As an aside, I'm pretty okay with not doing burger posts anymore. Not that it wasn't fun and all not having to pay for burgers, but cutting them in half was sapping a lot of the enjoyment out of my meals. But yeah, I'm usually pretty anal about medium-rare. I feel like cooking the meat properly should probably be of more importance than sourcing the finest produce available from domestic farmers (or crap like that in general). The Burger 15 apparently isn't like other girls on the block. I like it no matter how overdone it is. Despite the fact that it looks like it was prepared by a line cook at Chili's, the burger remains fantastically juicy (undoubtedly aided by a layer of marrow fat). Combined with the caramelized onions and the brioche, there exists an aftertaste of sweetness that makes this burger straddle the line between meal and dessert.

Hand-cut fries

Truffle fries... truffle aioli mayo. Absolute perfection. I'm not even going to add context to that statement, because apparently it's all the rage lately to make stupid ass statements without backing it up. If you don't agree with my opinion about these fries, well you're just wrong. That's what perfect means. All joking aside, these things are pretty much the tits when it comes to fries that I've had. Structurally they possess the combination of a crisp shell with a fluffy homogeneous center. Flavor-wise, they're properly salted and drizzled with a phenomenally even coating of truffle oil. The slight sweetness of the potato vs. the herbal goodness of seasoning makes for a terrific handful of fries. Oh and that mayo? Creamed myself in excitement.

Oh yeah, so back to the main point of this whole post. Goodbye Philadelphia. I'm pretty excited about leaving you (even though I've been here less than a year). For the most part I won't miss anything since the number of good friends I've made here I can probably count on one hand. I'll admit that I will miss your ability to construct magical sandwiches out of ground beef and bread. You might be pretty shitty at almost everything that doesn't involve beer, but my god are you good at making burgers.

*please don't take me seriously for hating on Philadelphia, it's just an opinion. As for M. Night Shyamalan movies sucking major ass? That part is fact.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

The corned beef special (Koch's Deli)

Koch's storefront

I don't really go to places because other people tell me to. Part of that is because I don't really trust random peoples' food suggestions... different people have different tastes. I can respect that. Another part of that is simply because I hate having to respond to them if I don't like the food. You have to understand how hard it is for me to look a friend in the eye and go "yo, bro... that #{insert_type_of_food} place you suggested sucked serious donkey dick... like huge." Anyway, *this kid I knew, born and raised in West Philadelphia, recommended I try out the sandwiches at a Jewish Deli out on 43rd. "Totally gutbusting and delicious" he says. He spends most of his days playing hoops out there... so I trust he knows the area pretty well. I completely forget about our exchange until one day I found out that he got in a fight and his parents got scared. Turns out, he was being sent to live with his Aunt and Uncle out West in California or something. Anyway, he was a good guy so I took him up on his advice and went to Koch's Deli.

So West Philadelphia is pretty shitty. People often joke around about how people get mugged and shot there? Totally true. Except there's a magical force field called "gentrification" that limits this to the area West of 45th Street. Lucky for us, this keeps Koch's Deli in the "safe to walk to" area. Regardless of safety, Koch's is your standard hole-in-the-wall type Jewish deli. They slice the fuck out everything fresh, and your sandwich will take 30 minutes to make (even if the store is completely empty). That's fine and all because the people inside are super nice. Sure you're standing there awkwardly for god knows how long, but the entire time... the staff is probably handing you slices of fresh turkey, cheese, pickles... the works. Half your meal will basically occur while they're still constructing your sandwich.

Koch's menu

So their menu is pretty standard I guess. They do offer some more "adventurous" combos which are really just combinations of their deli meats, and are willing to stuff pretty much whatever the fuck you want in between bread... so your choices aren't really all that limited. You'll also notice that most of the prices are $8 and up. That totally doesn't gel with my normal purchasing scheme (since I am still currently broke as shit), but hey... Will Smith wouldn't lie to me about quality. That guy punched an alien in the face, he knows what's up.

Corned beef special

For some reason or another, I really wanted corned beef. I don't know why since I normally have unpleasant memories of my mom's fake Irish "corned beef and cabbage." Now when I looked at the menu, I had a choice to make... regular or special. Not knowing what "special" entailed, I took a $1 gamble that it really meant awesome... like the onscreen chemistry when Will Smith meets Kevin Kline for the first time in Wild Wild West. Now the upside of this sandwich is that it weighs about a pound. That's a lot of heft for a sandwich, and by all means constitutes a pretty decent meal. After weighing the size against the cost (pun-tastic), I didn't feel so bad about handing over $10+ for a sandwich.

Then I unwrapped it. The feeling I had when I realized what "special" constituted was probably not unlike the feeling Will Smith had when he stepped on set for filming and realized what a mistake signing on for Bad Boys II was. The word "special" actually meant that you got about a half pound of corn beef (great!) and another half pound of cole slaw and Russian dressing (not so great!). The sandwich was fine. It tasted like, well... a lot of Russian dressing and cole slaw. The meat was decently tender, and while there was a lot of it, it mostly gets drowned out in the overall equation by the sweetness of shredded cabbage + sauce. To say it was moist (and messy) would be an understatement. Was it disappointing? Yeah, a little bit... especially after the high praise the place has earned, but by no means is it awful. I don't think I'll be going back, but that's mostly because it's not my style...

*Disclaimer: this person does not exist... unless you actually believe I am acquainted to the character played on television by the ever effervescent Will Smith


Monday, June 20, 2011

A tale of four pulled pork sandwiches (Big Apple BBQ)

Welcome sign

I've realized what's limiting my potential as a blogger (and the potential of this blog) - I just don't care enough to write about new things as they happen. When I had my interview for Google, they ran through all the standard questions... what superpower would you choose if you could have any one? Time-space control. What's your favorite color? #ff0033. What Disney character would you be? That dude who nails Mulan. What's your greatest weakness? Without any second thoughts I blurted out "I'm kind of lazy, and I don't really do things in a timely fashion." Apparently that wasn't a deal breaker since I got the job, but I really wasn't lying. In case you haven't noticed, I'm writing this post well more than a week after the event actually happened... probably because no one's forcing me to write blog posts, but mostly the lazy thing. Whatever, I just want to talk about some kick-ass pulled pork sandwiches without the pressure of "being relevant."


For those unaware of what the Big Apple BBQ is, it's basically a weekend festival where a bunch of decidedly non-Jewish people descend on Madison Square Park to pollute the air with the fantastic scent of pigs and smoke. Basically a bunch of pit masters from all across the US come to pimp their shit and try to spread obesity to the population of greater-NYC. Brilliance with a hint of mesquite yo.

So whatya doin'?

Just look at that guy. Not one fuck was given that day. All he wants to do is flame torch the shit out of his rack of ribs.

Seriously though, if that picture doesn't have you convinced that a festival revolving around consuming meats rubbed down with sauce is a brilliant thing (in theory as well as practice)... well, you're probably a vegetarian and don't care much for my opinion anyway. In any case, I'm going to start talking about pulling pork now.

Big Bob Gibson's pulled pork sandwich

Ahh, pulled pork from Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q. If you asked me for the most trustworthy sounding name for someone who knew how to make pulled pork... it'd probably be someone who's named Big Bob. No joke. The pulled pork shoulder that he was pushing out was tender, moist, and had just a hint of smokiness. In sandwich form it feels like kind of a waste (I'm pretty sure by including a bun, it's easier to skimp on the meat), but it was a good sandwich to say the least. Initially I had the complaint that the flavor was a tad mild, that it either needed more sauce or more seasoning. I felt retarded after someone suggested I eat a bit of burnt edge by itself. I would trample a mob of senior citizens for just one more bite of that shit.

Team Ed

I got really excited when I came upon a group of Twilight fans who were roasting whole hogs. As much as you feel bad for Jacob, team Edward is where it's at. He's got that whole sparkly thing going for him. Then I got moderately disappointed when I realized that "Team Ed" actually stood for "Team Ed... Mitchell."

Ed Mitchell's whole hog sandwich

My sadness quickly faded when I got a hold of his whole hog pulled pork sandwich. With a solid 30-minute wait, I feel like his sandwich was slightly over-hyped. Maybe it's because I'm not in love with the vinegary taste of North Carolina barbecue, but it just wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be from others' accounts. Big Bob Gibson's pulled pork was definitely something of a high-water benchmark I used throughout the day, and obviously it's impossible to compare apples to oranges, but that first sandwich was probably too tough an act to follow for "Team Edward."

I have to admit, the hot sauce they had on hand was pretty dope (I forget what it was called if someone wants to chime in?)

Ubon's pulled pork sandwich

Ubon's pulled pork was closer to what my mind thinks of in terms of "barbecue." It was similar in style to Big Bob's, but was coarser, less refined, and had a more distinct texture. While Bob's was moist and basically melted in your mouth (yes, apparently meats can melt in my head), Ubon's took a little bit more work to eat. In terms of flavor, it lacked the distinct charring and smokey aftertaste that Bob's had, but was heavily influenced by the sheer amount of sauce present. It was messy, but good in its own way.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que pulled pork

And then there was one. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is one that hits close to home for me. For years I used to steal the delivery from Dino BBQ that was sent to the adjacent lab to mine at Columbia. For years I would complain about how their wings "weren't as good" as advertised. To be honest I wasn't so ecstatic about paying $8 for a pulled pork sandwich that I could get at any given time (given its close proximity). In the end, I didn't feel like I wasted money. Their sandwich was a nice blend of subtle porcine flavor and just enough sauce to add a hint of tangy aftertaste. It wasn't mindblowingly incredible, but it also didn't fail me like their sorry excuses for wings have for years.

17th Street ribs

I also ate ribs... in case you were wondering. These were from 17th Street Bar and Grill, who came all the way out from Illinois. Their menu says their baby back ribs are "sprinkled with Magic Dust then slowly cooked in our pit with a combination of apple & cherry woods for 5 to 7 hours." I don't know what "Magic Dust" is, and I never want to find out. The mystery tastes delicious to me.

Anyway, I don't know where I'm going with all this... I really just wanted to talk about pork sandwiches. I think I've accomplished that so I'll stop now. Back to being lazy.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Ghost pepper steak sandwich (Jake's Sandwich Board)

The actual "board"

This is going to sound awful, but growing up my parents always told me I was kind of dumb. I guess every Asian parent does that to "motivate" their kids to work harder, but I think mine were actually serious. Admittedly, I am a kid who once ate five bowls of rice and proceeded to puke all over the table because I "didn't know I was full yet," so I guess I can't really blame 'em for calling me out on it. You'd think after 23 years of fulfilling life experiences, I'd have gotten even a little bit smarter, but then I go and do something dumb like eat four pounds of god-awful curry. Good news everyone! Nothing has changed, I am still eating like a dumbass champion! Basically I shove food in my mouth with zero regard for my own wellbeing. Case in point... Jake's Sandwich Board. A place that makes a ghost pepper laced steak sandwich.

The sign

Listen, you can't seriously put a "ghost pepper steak sandwich" on your menu and expect me not to be intrigued. That's basically the same thing as putting something on your menu called "are you a bitch?" I will not have my honor (which apparently to my demented self is the same thing as my mouth's threshold for pain) be insulted. Well Jake's... I called your bluff. Show me your worst. Make me cry with the swiftness of a coursing river and the force of a great typhoon... make my butt hole burn with the strength of a raging fire i.e. make a man out of me.

Ghost pepper steak sandwich

So what exactly goes into this magical sandwich with the capability of pulling a "Hiroshima" on my rectum? Well it starts innocent enough. Jake's does make a plain steak sandwich, called the "Jake," which just has steak, provolone, fried onions, and roasted peppers. If that's too tame for you, they have the "Fire Steak," an abomination that adds mushrooms and a house blend of "fire sauce" to the mix. Oh, and they fry the fuck out of the peppers. Then there's the "Ghost Pepper Steak." If you thought the "Fire Steak" sounds like child's play, then you should probably step up your game and go with this variant... which is the exact same thing, but with 20 drops of ghost chili extract added to the mix.

In my mind, 20 drops ain't shit. Even though they say that the ghost chili is 400 times hotter on the Scoville scale than a habanero, I quantified this as 8000 drops of hot sauce. In a moment that I am less than proud of... I once drank multiple bottles of hot sauce on a dare, so how bad could this be? My guess - not that bad. It's a good thing I'm not actually working as a chemical engineer, because apparently I learned nothing in college. Shit doesn't scale linearly. Ever. Scoville... what an asshole, getting me with his pseudo-science.


As I was shoved mouthful after mouthful of capsaicin doped steak in my mouth - with tears (very manly tears) streaming down my face - all I could think about was how dumb and painful this whole endeavor was. I just paid $9 for something that I wasn't even enjoying. To consider this from another point of view, I just paid an extra $2 to take something ridiculously delicious, a plain cheesesteak, and asked the guys behind the counter to turn it into a sandwich of pure pain. I felt like a dumbass. Want to know how it tasted? Basically you're chewing on fire flavored bread and beef. Now you're probably curious what fire tastes like? Like humiliation, that's what. When I shamefully walked to the counter to order a milkshake to quench my shame, the line cook asked me if I was crying. Not wanting to appear weak, I told him I was weeping because "it tasted too good." Deep down, he knew I was lying. I hate you sir, for exposing me in my moment of weakness.

As for the aftermath... know how rappers are always talking about their game and how they "spit fire?" Guess what? I'm not so impressed. I just did that with my asshole... and I wasn't even trying. Double the pain, double the pleasure I guess? I'm actually not sure which was worse, in or out. I should probably stop writing about exorcising my bowel demons now.

Candied bacon shake

Now for that shake... it was actually the candied bacon milkshake they were advertising right below the ghost pepper steak sign. To be honest, it wasn't the greatest thing in the world. It was pretty thin and tasted mostly like plain vanilla ice cream, but when my tongue was screaming bloody murder, I would've paid any amount of money for it. The bacon bits are there for sure, but they kind of just coalesce at the base of the cup. I thought it was delicious and well worth $4 (when purchased with a sandwich), but that's probably a decision I made in the "heat of the moment." Shut up... I like puns.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thoughts on burgers and free food (Burger Brawl)

Charbroiled sirloin burger

When I was about 4 years old, I was out with my mom in Taipei going to buy some 將肉燒餅 (jiang rou shao bing), which is basically Asian-style roast beef stuffed inside a baked sesame bun type thing. The guy making the things is super old, has more than a few missing teeth, and I'm not gonna lie - basically looks like a pedophile. My mom buys like five of these things, and the dude tells her that I can have one for free because he thinks I'm cute (if only things still worked that way). At first my mind is thinking, "man, this shit is awesome... I get food for free. That's the best kind of food!" But after some mental processing, I began to think "there must be some catch. No one just gives away product without profiting. What exactly does this man want? Is it my repeated patronage of his shop? Can't be... I don't make purchasing decisions. Is he trying to molest me because he looks like, no... is a pedophile? This seems quite plausible. If I accept it, does that automatically grant him permission to my naughty bits?" These are important questions that a 4 year old me needed answers to, but couldn't possibly understand.

My buddy Danny over at "Food in Mouth" wrote a post about going to press events and having stuff given to you based on your status in which he talks about how stupid it is to 1) cover events that no one else can attend and 2) write about an experience you didn't actually pay for. In all honesty, I agree with that entire post... even though I'm guilty on both counts. I write about burgers all the time without actually paying for it (although someone does). Does that change my perception on the food? Of course it does! The burgers at Minetta Tavern are absolutely bitchin', but at $26 dollars a pop, you will NEVER see me there. Alternatively, you will find me absolutely demolishing White Castle sliders because they're 56 cents each. It's just more cost effective, and that's how I roll on my budget.

Burger 15

Last Sunday I went to this thing called "Burger Brawl" for AHT. I had no intention of going originally, because tickets were $60 and going to a less than worthy cause imho, but when Serious Eats told me they'd get me in for free I figured I might as well. Instead of telling you how awesome it is to eat 18 different kinds of burgers without paying (it is) and being a hypocritical cunt in the process, I'm just going to discuss the few burgers that stood out, and that I'd probably be willing to pay for in the future. Starting with the "Burger 15" from Ladder 15.

At $18, the Burger 15 is really expensive to poor old me. It probably costs that much because they make their patty from ground short rib and then they add bone marrow to it. The rest of the sandwich is pretty normal... grilled red onions, mushrooms, all inside a brioche. Everyone on AHT bitches about how much the brioche is overplayed and boring. Well that's fine and all, but I like eating bread that tastes like candy, so everyone needs to calm the fuck down when I say a brioche tastes good. Anyway, it's not a really complex burger, but when you bite into it, all you taste is a heavy beefiness. Yes, there's a hint of sweetness from the onions, but the unadulterated beef scent is undeniable. While the price tag makes it somewhat unrealistic, it is a burger I would eat several times a week if I could. I would likely die of a heart attack, but it'd be worth it.

London burger

There was also the "London Burger" from London Grill. For all the buttplugs who hate brioches, here's a burger sandwiched inside an English muffin... because it's from London Grill and all. It doesn't really have a patty... it has a giant over-sized meatball core. It also doesn't really use traditional cheese, opting instead for boursin - a creamy spread that's more like cream cheese. Basically if you went to a burger purist/asshole... they'd tell you this isn't a burger. It's a meatball sandwich. Well fuck them, it tasted delicious. The one thing that you get with a massive patty cross-section is a ridiculous amount of liquid retention even after cooking. This thing sprayed juices everywhere like a dude in porn. It was quite the spectacle. A tasty spectacle indeed.

Paesano's burger

Scissor me timbers yo, Paesano's should really start making a burger. So I realize that it's kind of a dick move to be posting about a burger that doesn't actually exist on a menu, but I really hope someone who works there sees this and makes this a permanent fixture in their restaurant. It's not that they came up with anything brilliantly different - their burger is just topped with thick-cut bacon, grilled onions, and a tangy sauerkraut-like sauce mixture - but there was something I couldn't really pin my finger on that was fantastically different about their burger. The charring on the outside was something unmatched by any of the other competitors, and gave it a certain homemade charm that all the more "upscale" establishments lacked. It tasted like a better version of a backyard grilled burger. It was conventional and entirely without pretension. Impressing people with flavor rather than extravagant toppings. Like this nonsense:

Geo burger

Why in the world do you think I'd want to have duck and arugula in my burger? That's just dumb.

So back to the story in the beginning - I did indeed take the free sandwich, and no I was not physically abused, but to be honest... that just added to the confusion. Free food - is it okay to take? What are the ramifications associated with accepting it? Well... 19 years down the road and I'm still not sure. When I first started this blog, I looked at all the other food writers who got invited to shit and thought that getting free food was the epitome of baller-status. I was a college kid who didn't really make that much money - oh wait, that still hasn't changed - so the idea of getting things without paying was incredible to me, but for some reason... once people started giving me free food, I felt guilty about it. It was the very same guilt that 4 year old me couldn't understand. I felt like I owed something, I wanted to pay. Some of that comes from the fact that, deep down, I know I can't logically write about something without bias when I don't feel the pain of having to reach into my own wallet to pay for it... some of it comes from the fact that I realize decisions about food shouldn't be made in an economic vacuum in which prices are irrelevant... but most of it stems from the fact that I feel like there's some sort of inherent agreement being made where I owe a debt to the person giving me free shit. A debt that I have to repay with good press. I have to admit, it makes me feel a bit dirty.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Just another Italian sandwich (Di Bruno Bros)

Roast beef sandwich

So peep this, way back in 1939, two brothers - Joe and Danny Di Bruno - made the trip from the old country across the Atlantic to Philadelphia. Their story is not unlike that of another famous pair of Italian brothers who went by the names of Mario & Luigi. The latter two, are plumbers who risk their lives hopping from castle to castle on the basis of a giant lie that there'd be some super hot princess waiting for them, when really... it was just a demented midget toad. Similarly, the Di Bruno brothers "came to America where rumor had it that the streets were paved with gold"... only to discover that some fucker back in Italy was totally lying when he said that. Instead, they found cobblestones that were probably paved mostly with horse manure. Unlike the more famous tandem who brought Nintendo massive fame, these brothers chose not to walk the path of drugs and mushrooms, but instead chose to make something of themselves. They became... CHEESEMONGERS. Also they sell meats.

Naturally, because they are Italian, they set up shop in the heart of the Italian market. If you've never been, you really should. As soon as you open that door, it's like a bunch of cows started farting cheese straight into your face. So instead of shit particles hitting your olfactory nerve... it's pure dairy bliss. It's a scent that's a mix of virtually any kind of cheese you could ever think of... literally impossible to describe. But I'm not here to talk about cheese today. Everyone in Philly knows that Di Bruno Bros' makes dope ass cheese. That's like someone telling me I look Asian. Of course I do. No, what I'm going to talk about today is their deli. Little known fact - they also make dope ass sandwiches.


At their Rittenhouse location, they have an upstairs cafe that supposedly sells sweet-ass specialty sandwiches... things like muffulettas and crab cake brioche sandwiches. I wouldn't know. When I went they were doing "renovations" at the time. Whatever... I settled for the downstairs deli counter. For $8.99 they'll build pretty much whatever you want when it comes to meat, bread, cheese. Deciding not to screw with a good thing, I went with the classic combo of roast beef, provolone, and broccoli rabe on a French (to be ironic/because I'm a hipster) baguette.

Full frontal nudity

Shit son, those Italian dudes... they start by layering the bread with a cm solid of sliced cheese - good cheese - then stack on another cm layer of oily greens (the best kind of greens), and finally pile on layer after layer of roast beef. They legit packed more silky tender meat in this sandwich than I can quantify... but I will. It was at least a half-pound... easy. Aside from that, there's not much I can do to explain why it tastes good. It just does. I don't really have any complaints about a sandwich that weigh in close to a pound yo.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Pumpple cake (Flying Monkey Bakery)

Flying Monkey stall

Does anyone else remember that show "Pimp My Ride" in which the cultural hip-hop icon Alvin Nathaniel Joiner IV (better known as Xzibit) would take sorry-ass excuses for vehicles and pump them full of electronics worth well more than the sticker price of a brand new car? Yeah, that was some quality television. Perhaps the one good thing to come from that show was this awesome meme where Xzibit puts stuff inside of stuff so you can do stuff while you do other stuff. I wrote that and I'm not even sure if it makes sense. Why is this even relevant to food? Well... somewhere along the line, someone decided that Americans weren't fat enough. The solution to this grave injustice? Yo dawg, I heard you like to eat pie so we baked a pie in your ca... yeah I won't even bother... it's a pumpkin pie baked inside of a chocolate cake stacked with an apple pie baked inside of a vanilla cake frosted with vanilla buttercream that gets covered with rainbow sprinkles. Bitches love rainbow sprinkles. That's about as America as you can get.


what wonders lie inside this magical box?

Disappointingly, what I got was not pumpple cake. Apparently pumpkin puree is crazy expensive outside of Fall (screw you simple economics), so they make seasonal variants of their layered monstrosity. For Spring/Summer they substitute out the pumpkin pie for strawberry pie. So it's really a "strampple" cake? I don't know. I don't care. All that really matters is that the only thing standing between me and 1800 calories of cake-pie mashup is a flimsy cardboard box. I like those odds. Cardboard... ain't... shit.

Modified pumpple

A slice of pumpple/strampple... whatever you want to call it... will run you $9. Most people aren't as cheap as I am, and I realize how much prep work and time goes into making each one of these things, but goddamn. That's a lot to pay for a single slice of cake. That's the equivalent of 3 doughnuts from Doughnut Plant (or as a lot of my female friends call it... DP facepalm) or even crazier... something like 15 doughnuts from Donuts Plus! Do you know how much pleasure 15 French crullers can bring me? Unspeakable pleasure. Peep this, I'll quantify it for you. This cake is 1800 calories per slice. That is 200 calories per US dollar. If an average French Cruller has 250 calories, 15 doughnuts has 3750 calories, or 417 calories per US dollar. If there is a strong correlation between calories and deliciousness in baked goods (and I suspect there is), the cost efficiency of pumpple/strampple is less than half of that with doughnuts. In other words... this cake had to be tantalizingly delicious. With that kind of price tag, expectations... are basically impossible to meet. But I've been surprised before so...

Strawberry pie

For the first half of the equation, the strawberry pie/chocolate cake combo. I'm not the biggest fan of strawberry. Something about all those seeds sloshing around in my stomach just isn't kosher with me. Plus it just all seems so slutty. All the other fruits are perfectly okay with keeping their privates hidden inside, but nooooo... Ms. Strawberry has to go around giving up the goods prior to purchase. Strawberries... they are morally defective. Also they're kind of tart and not as sweet as other fruits so I don't find them as palatable in pies. Flying Monkey's was okay. The crust is nice and moist... slightly dense, but not unappetizing. The cake? Super heavy in chocolate flavor with a rich darkness that stayed around for a while after eating. Put together, this half was pleasantly mellow on flavor. Just a nice smooth mixture of sweet and tart.

Apple pie

The other half? It's a standard apple pie with vanilla cake. The pie itself is pretty generic. It uses the same crust (unsurprisingly) as the strawberry pie. The filling is pretty tame on the sugar, so you actually get a fairly distinct apple flavor rather than overly sweet cinnamon. The vanilla cake is much like its darker cousin. Rich, moist, and pretty subtle on flavor - it's really just there to act as a container for the pie. Nothing more, nothing less. When you slap the two halves together with freshly whipped vanilla buttercream, you get a fairly distinct dessert. Is it delicious? For sure. It's 1800 calories I definitely don't regret eating. Is it worth the price tag of $9? No... but keep in mind I'm a tight-fisted cheap-ass who hates spending more than $5 for lunch.