Somewhere amongst the fixed gear bike riders, spirited dog walkers and gym rats that rule Hyde Park Village there is a place where sugar and fat and cream and chocolate are king. That place would be Sophie's French Bakery & Cafe. While the menu isn't all crystalline carbohydrates, there are some great soups and sandwiches that will meet the dietary needs of anyone be it vegan, vegetarian or carnivores, it is the sweets that call to you. A huge glass case right by the door that is illuminated by white lights and full of any dessert you can imagine will do that to you. I would venture to say the case, on any given day, features at least twenty different desserts to choose from including: eclairs, croissants, tarts, brownies, tortes, cookies, bread pudding, turnovers, pies, muffins, cakes, Creme Brulee and French Macaroons.
Our first trip to Sophie's happened on the way back from the beach. I had exhausted all the samples at Anthropologie and it was suggested that we visit the bakery at the other end of the village. Having never ventured to that side of the village, I had no idea a bakery existed but I shrugged and went along with it. We arrived right before closing but there was still a decent selection. I went with a Strawberry Shortcake Fruit Tart for myself and a Twice Baked Almond and Chocolate Croissant for J-Fur.
My Strawberry Shortcake Tart was pretty laid back. It wasn't hit you in the face sugary but it also wasn't super fruity either. I don't mind the sugar being toned down but I want my fruit to have some taste. Texture wise the dessert was great but it lacked any sort of taste that really caught my attention. The big winner on this visit was the croissant (which is amazing since I much prefer fruit desserts to chocolate).
The croissant was slathered in almonds and then baked around a chocolate interior. According to Sophie's website, they spend extra money to purchase European chocolate and butter (which is why their desserts are also a little pricier than other places). The fact that the chocolate was European was probably why I liked this dessert. The chocolate didn't try to compete or overwhelm the taster with chocolate (like I fear American chocolate would) but instead enhanced the dough of the croissant and, more importantly, the almonds.
A few weeks later, after a trip to the Village Farmer's Market, we decided to return to Sophie's for another go round. This experience was completely different as we arrived early and sat in the cafe rather then downing our desserts while driving. J-Fur looked over the entire case and decided on the Flourless Chocolate Cake. I went with a Raisin Covered Sticky Bun (even though the Pecan Pie Tarts called my name many different times).
Despite the look of the Sticky Bun (sugar bomb waiting to explode) I was quite surprised to find that, ready for a common theme, the Bun wasn't overwhelmingly sweet. The sweetest part was the raisins. Since raisins are overly sweet on their own, covering them with icing and layering on a sweet bun risks overkill. Realizing this, the baker's at Sophie's played to their ingredients and created a very enjoyable dessert. I had no regrets about my choice (sorry Pecan Pie).
J-Fur's Flourless Chocolate Cake was another success. Flourless Chocolate Cakes are really easy...to mess up. She's had some bad ones in the past. Even if they aren't bad, they are usually so dense and heavy that they can't be finished at one sitting. This is only problematic to people who put their leftovers in the refrigerator and forget about them until they don't taste good anymore (like J-Fur does). Sophie's version of the cake included a fresh raspberry on top. While the cake was heavy in comparison to other desserts it wasn't to the point where it was hard to finish. The raspberry offered just enough change of pace to keep the taster from being bogged down. J-Fur thoroughly enjoyed it (too much chocolate for me).
Sophie's is my type of bakery. Not overly sickening sweet, not creating desserts that taste unnatural or difficult to swallow. These creations are desserts in the sense of their ingredients but you wouldn't know it by their taste. Subtlety is an artform that Sophie's has down pat.
While we strolled through the Village towards Sophie's I had the hip hop sounds of Skizzy Mars (here and here) and E-Dubble (here and here and here) running through my mind. There are very few artists who consistently put out songs that I like. This means I have a very tempered feeling towards most. But when I see that Skizzy Mars and E-Dubble have put out a new track I get a little more excited because the majority of their songs are ones that I can listen to over and over.
At first glance Skizzy's track "Tara" has a major flaw. It is layered over No Doubt's "Don't Speak" a song that only soccer mom's enjoy these days. That being said Skizzy moves around "Don't Speak" with his signature rhymes and sampling skills making it almost (almost!) unrecognizable. While not for the faint of heart (read uptight) Skizzy Mars and his "astronuts" know how to lay great tracks with the best of them.
Tara by SkizTheRapper
E-Dubble's new track "My Last Dream" meshes an appearance by Komplex (second verse) with samples of "Weighty Ghost" by Wintersleep and his unique lyrics. The result is a much more temperate, though not less incredible, song that will have you bobbing your head and pointing your fingers while shouting out you car window "That's right. You hear that?"
e-dubble feat. Kom - My Last Dream by edubble
Nishwasher is a band that I don't know much about. I know they are from Florida, their new EP is three tracks long and it ended up in my inbox the other day. I also know that "25 Cent Liquor" is a helluva song. Its fast, messy and sprinkles your lawn even when the cops tell you there is a water advisory in effect and you need to cease. That takes some "astronuts." You can download the band's This Culture EP for free here.
Nishwasher-25 Cent Liquor