Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cake Boss

Carlo's Bakery is a very special place.  If you have ever watched Cake Boss on TLC you know the bakery I am talking about.  It is located in Hoboken, NJ, a little over an hour away from where we live.  

While we were there, Greg and I were amazed at the power of media.  I am sure media has always been influential in pop culture but the extent to which it drives the mass market is truly astonishing.  I first became aware of this when Oprah had her book club.  To get Oprah’s stamp of approval was the holy grail.  It guaranteed you instant best seller status.  I admit, I read most of her picks.  Some I loved,  others not so much. Regardless, I allocated a portion of my disposable income based on the recommendation of a celebrity. Hmmm.  How many of our life choices are driven by blatant commercialism?  
When we arrived in Hoboken we were not prepared to spend an hour waiting in a two block line outside the bakery!  Thank goodness it was a mild day.  I would not have been able to do it had the temperatures been soaring into the nineties.  The girls had books to keep them busy but there was no place to sit.   I offered to stay in line and Greg took the girls around the neighborhood to look at the sites.  We texted every time the line moved.  This was a wonderful way to pass time.  I wish I had a book since I can stand and read anywhere!

An hour later, we made our way to the entrance of the bakery.  Each family was given a ticket, our golden ticket, ensuring that orders were placed fairly.  However, if you are a Hoboken resident you can show your ID and skip the line.  A customer is a customer and I thought this policy was a bit unfair.   Most of the people in line were tourists, who gave up a day (or half a day) to venture over from Manhattan.  Many had subway maps and were mapping out the rest of their day after their treat-time.  

After waiting patiently, our family was called in.  We were number 05 and when we entered they were on 97.  It was a deli-like experience with the red digital number clearly visible on the wall.  Given the volume of customers, this is the only way to manage the crowd, even if it makes for an impersonal experience.  I wish that after waiting that long, there were fewer people in the bakery.  It was wall to wall people.  Looking in the display cases was challenging for me, and I am 5’8”.  Lilah's initial glee faded as she looked at me in despair and told me she was feeling overwhelmed.  Greg and I cleared a path to look at the cupcakes since she had her cake picked out the moment we walked in.  After about 15 minutes it was our turn to order.

The young girl who helped us could not have been nicer.  She wished Lilah a happy birthday and patiently waited while we sorted through all our items.  We ordered:
  • one birthday cake 
  • eclairs 
  • lobster tails (which I had never heard of but the girls saw them in a show and said we must try them!)
  • cannolis
  • a cupcake and a mouse cake
  • and of course Lilah needed to get a souvenir tee shirt.

Thankfully the wait was worth it!  The pasties are very good.  The cupcake was the best I ever had.  Not too sweet, light and fluffy with delicious frosting.  The cake was sweeter, almost too sweet, but the chocolate ganash filling was scrumptious.  Our favorite were the lobster tails.  Hands down. Think croissant, filled with the most amazing vanilla custard imaginable.  So good that I had one for breakfast with my coffee Sunday morning and did not have one ounce of guilt.  I would wait in line again for those lobster tails.  Yup.  Definitely.

While Greg and I pondered how long this 15 minutes of fame will last, it was reassuring to know that the quality of the product backed up the frenzy to get it.  This week I saw Cake Boss cookbooks and prepackaged cakes on sale in BJs.  Greg instagramed a picture of Cake Boss Cafe now open in Manhattan.  I understand the need or desire for a business to expand, but I question the logic in taking a quality product that is sold at premium prices and mass merchandising it through a bulk warehouse retailer.  It diminishes the brand.  I am curious to see where Buddy, the Cake Boss takes the direction of his company and how he adapts to meet an obvious demand.

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