A week or two ago, I reviewed Jake’s Ice Cream at the Irwin Street Market. In short, I declared Jake’s Ice Cream, made by hand in very small batches, to be the best I’ve ever tried, period. I also mentioned how much I adore the Irwin Street Market space, with its cozy nooks (perfect for conversation with a few friends or for settling in with a good book or a laptop), eclectic mix of businesses, and hip urban vibe. It is completely unpretentious, comfortable, and wonderful.
I had only one problem … Jake’s had no hot fudge. For an ice cream shop, that just seemed, well, wrong. It’s like that one blemish that keeps it from perfection. I needn’t have worried.
The very next day, I received a message from Jake Rothschild himself, the Jake, Jake of Jake’s. Jake assured me that the rumors were true. Homemade hot fudge was on the way, and sooner rather than later. In fact, if I would be willing to come down and serve as the official taster, Jake would name the final hot fudge recipe after me.
What could I do? A blogger’s work is never done. Since I take my responsibilities very seriously, I agreed. Someone, after all, has to do it. The whole name thing, of course, has nothing to do with it.
Not to kill the suspense, but since I was the official taster with at least some influence over the final recipe, and the product is named for me, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that the review is (spoiler alert!) going to be a positive one. The simple truth is, the reality far exceeded my expectations. It is, quite simply, the best I’ve ever tasted.
When I arrived at the Irwin Street Market, Jake led me back to his secret laboratory (it looks suspiciously like a kitchen). There, he set me up on a stool, and went to work. First, he had me try his chocolate syrup. I wasn’t especially excited about that, to be honest, but much to my surprise, it was amazing. Seeing my surprise, Jake explained: “it’s not made with corn syrup. The stuff you’re used to … that’s all corn syrup.” After that, I expected Jake to use the chocolate syrup as a base for the hot fudge, but not so much.
Jake started from scratch, adding heavy cream, real vanilla, and two kinds of gourmet chocolate chips (semi-sweet and dark) to a great pot … along with a few other ingredients that I honestly couldn’t track. A few minutes later, the first batch was ready. I was prepared to offer my expert analysis and a few suggestions for improvement, but honestly … I had nothing to say. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. It was sweet, sure, but not so sweet that I couldn’t taste the waves of subtle flavor in the melted chocolate. This is, I think, key. Too sweet, and all you taste is, well, sweetness. It overpowers the flavor. Nor was it too bitter. That’s even worse. Häagen-Dazs, I’m looking at you.
Next, texture. Too thick, and the hot fudge thickens into a globby mess. Too thin, and it might as well be chocolate syrup. Once again, Jake nailed it, and on the first try. Sure, other variations were explored, but the first batch was the one. Of course, one more critical test remained. How would this concoction hold up over ice cream?
We tried it over Brown Sugah Vanilla (my favorite) and Ginger. The Ginger was surprising … it had the sharpness of real ginger with the creamy smoothness of homemade ice cream, an excellent combination. In both cases, the hot fudge passed with flying colors. It enhanced, without overwhelming, the subtle flavors of the ice cream. I could clearly taste the real vanilla and the ginger, as well as the wonderful, chocolatey complexity of the fudge.
Just to be sure, I tried it again when Jake wasn’t present. (Like I said, a blogger’s work is never done, and someone has to do it.) My wife and I took my folks after dinner on Mother’s Day, and once again, the hot fudge (this time, I tried it with the Sin Oh Man) did not disappoint. There truly is something to be said for foods that are handcrafted, in small batches, in a real kitchen. There is a complexity and, frankly, a freshness that factories just can’t match. Give it a try. I think you’ll be surprised.
Speaking of handmade, the Irwin Street Market also boasts a bakery called Capobianco’s, which bills itself as “the King of Cannolis.” That made seem audacious, but they’ve earned the coronation. The cannolis are simply fantastic. The pastry is light and wonderful, and the fillings of sweetened, whipped ricotta and chocolate chips are to die for.
Capobianco’s also offers a surprising (and constantly evolving) list of variations, including chocolate dipped (I suspect Jake may have something to do with that chocolate sauce, although that’s just speculation), chocolate mint, and even blueberry. The blueberry is amazing. When I was tasting Jake’s Hot Fudge, I overheard Franky Capobianco, the baker himself, ordering fresh mango. That’s a variety I can’t wait to try.
I think what I like best about Capobianco’s —seriously, maybe even more than the baked treats themselves—is the fact that it’s a family business using recipes that date back centuries. Franky himself is usually present, greeting all comers like old friends. His obvious pride and enthusiasm is contagious. To be honest, I’d never though of Cannoli as something I’d go out of my way for … it was always just that desert you got at Italian restaurants. Thanks to Franky and his handcrafted creations, I know better now. I’m glad I do.
I think I’ll head over to the Irwin Street Market today to get some writing done over a good mug of fresh coffee. And then I’ll face the hard decision … do I fuel the muse with cannoli or ice cream? May I always be faced with such dilemmas.
More blogs are coming soon … one or two new beers and a book or two. Stay tuned, and let me know what you think. Please share this site if you don’t mind.