I found the best dessert I’ve ever had in Paris (and my life, but let’s keep this Paris-centric) and I have no problem admitting that it was not a macaron or an éclair or a little pastry or even a cake.
It was a cheesecake. And it was so good that my friend and I ate the last slice of cheesecake in this tea shop, asked who their supplier of cheesecake is, and then walked ten minutes down the street to go to that bakery and ordered another slice of cheesecake.
No shame. No regrets. No nutritional content.
It started, innocently enough, at a tiny bubble teashop called O Bubble that we wandered into walking down a winding street in the Monmartre neighborhood. I’ve only ever had bubble tea once, in Philly, and I wanted to sit down and have something little to tide me over before dinner, where I had made plans with a group of friends to eat later.
It was just supposed to be bubble tea. But then we saw a sign for a deal for bubble tea and a cupcake for five euro and thought, why not?
But when we went inside and saw that the cupcakes were tiny French-sized cupcakes that wouldn’t even fill up Thumbalina, we were kind of thrown a curve ball. This is the first sign that we are serious dessert eaters.
Of course, after the promise of a sweet treat was made to me, I couldn’t go in there and not eat something (Lily felt the same way and this is why we are friends). But the cupcakes were tiny and the cookies didn’t look that great, so the only other option was cheesecake.
Cheesecake is not one of my favorite desserts. It’s not even in my top three favorite desserts at the Cheesecake Factory. But like I said, I wanted a dessert, so I agreed to try the regular cheesecake instead of the lime cheesecake (Lily said it would be a crime to key lime pie and this was when I naïve and didn’t care that much about that cheesecake).
Our bubble tea came at the same time of the dessert, and for the first couple minutes we lavished all of our attention on the tea. You have to take a plastic wrapper off of it, how cute! Oooh, look at the balls, they’re so pretty! These straws are so weird!
To my eternal shame, I didn’t even remember the cheesecake until I was a couple sips in. That simple, unassuming cheesecake. It knew. It knew it would be worth the wait, the beautiful bastard.
One bite. That was all it took for me to know this had to be documented.
I took an unassuming bite. Just cheesecake, right? Wrong. The sound I made when I took my first bite, when coupled with the way I licked the spoon, made me forget all of the times I had scoffed or rolled my eyes at female characters who made sex noises while eating and inadvertently started making their male companion pay a lot of attention to her fork and her mouth.
Lily and I looked across the table. We weren’t on the fake date we had jokingly said we were on before. We were now in a threesome with a piece of cheesecake.
The cheesecake was the best of the bunch. Instead of the usual graham cracker-y crust, this cake had a cinnamon spice cake bottom that I originally thought was a carrot cake bottom. For me, this was the best part of the cake, though the cheesecake part was thick, not floppy, and very smooth. I ate those bites like I was eating frosting out of a can with a spoon.
Lily and I didn’t talk much other than “Oh my God” and “This is amazing” and to wonder whether the bottom part of the cake was cinnamon cake or carrot cake. And because we’re dessert experts, we went on to discuss how amazing it would be if there WAS a cheesecake with a carrot cake bottom, or a cheesecake with a red velvet cake—dessert stoner talk, if you will.
After I finished scraping the plate and Lily finished tearing apart the doily the cheesecake was served just to find more crumbs, talk turned to how if there was another slice we totally would have bought it, no shame. And Lily decided to ask if they made the cakes on-site or bought them from somewhere else, no shame.
The slightly awkward move was worth it in the end, because it turned out that they bought their cheesecakes from a bakery down the street called Berko. The helpful cashier wrote down the address on the back of a business card and handed it to Lily, who looked at me.
I said it, but I didn’t have to: “We’re fucking going.”
And we fucking did.
We were supposed to leave and meet up with friends to go shopping for clothes. That did not end up happening at all. We chose cheesecake over shopping.
It was worth it. It was a bad decision but it was the right decision for us. We were screwing over our friends for our drug of choice. We cackled the whole walk from one supplier to another. We rubbed our stomachs anxiously as we became one more step closer to getting our fix. And in case this metaphor wasn’t hitting home for you, we even compared that cake to drugs.
First it was “Can you imagine what this will taste like if we had the munchies?” And then we moved to harder and stronger drugs. This must be what crack is like. I’m getting cocaine jitters. When we finish this cake, it’ll be like we did heroin. And then we can pass out into an opium-esque food coma.
The girl behind the counter must have thought we were on drugs too. Hell, we were on drugs—the drug that is that cheesecake. She literally shook her head when we told her we had just come from O Bubble just to eat another piece of cheesecake.
SO many flavors. Gotta eat ’em all!
And then she laughed at how big our eyes got when she went over all of the cheesecake flavors: key lime, salted caramel, banana caramel, Oreo, natural, white chocolate raspberry, berries, a cheesecake completely dipped in chocolate, and something with brown swirls and a gingerbread-esque cookie on top.
It took a while to decide. Two other customers came and were served while we deliberated our choices. After all, we had a lot of thinking to do.
Natural was out, since we had already tasted that. Lime was out because, as Lily said earlier, it would be a crime against key lime pie. We agreed it was either the salted caramel or the white chocolate raspberry, with the former ultimately winning the competition.
We’ll get the white chocolate raspberry next time. And then we’ll each order a slice so we can share them, we agreed. Mind you, this was before we even ORDERED the cheesecake.
Since Lily bought the last cheesecake, it was only fair that I bought this one. I’ve got this date, I remember thinking.
It was the best date, real or fake, I’ve ever been on. Mostly because we only ate cheesecake and ended up laughing so hard we cried about two minutes into our date.
A couple minutes after we had lowered our voices and moans from our first couple of bites, two pretty, blonde, thin French girls (one blonde and one brunette, just like us!) wandered into the store. They ordered their own individual cheesecake slices—Oreo and that gingerbread-esque one—and sat down at the table behind us. Lily, who was facing them, gestured to them so I’d turn around, and when I looked back at her we nodded understandingly at each other.
So perfect. So, so, perfect.
They’re like us. They get it.
Except, except they weren’t like us and they didn’t get it. They left before us, even though they came after us. And even worse, THEY ONLY FINISHED HALF OF THEIR RESPECTIVE SLICES AND LEFT THE CHEESECAKE ON THE TABLE AND WALKED AWAY.
This was all willingly, too. No one was there with a handgun forcing them to leave their cheesecake behind.
I couldn’t help expressing my thoughts on that. Hey, I’d rather be spewing word vomit that regular vomit—which was still an option, unfortunately, at that moment.
“Those idiots,” I seethed, probably sounding like ole Richard Nixon when he found out that those Watergate burglars got caught.
Lily burst out laughing, which wasn’t surprising because we had been giggling pretty regularly for the past fifteen minutes. But the girl behind the counter—all the way on the other end of the room behind the counter—turned and looked at me and started giggling too.
“Idiot” is the same word, and pretty much the same pronunciation, in French, so she’d have to be an idiot not to have understood what I had just uttered.
Whatever, she thought I was crazy anyway. Love makes you do stupid things.
And at least I didn’t walk over and finish their cheesecakes.
This is not an exaggeration. Yesterday was the silliest, stupidest, and happiest I have been in a long time—and to think it was just two pieces of cheesecake!
I think the quotes say everything I need to say:
Me: “Are you crying right now? Seriously?”
Lily: “These are tears of laughter. And a little bit of joy.”
Me: “You have mascara all over your eyelids.”
Lily: “You know what? I don’t even care. Let me just have this and then I’ll worry about the makeup. Because I might cry later when this is finished.”
Me: “I want my wedding cake to be this.”
Lily: “I’ll marry myself just so I can have a whole cake of this at my wedding.”
Me: “Right now I have the shakes and the giggles. And I’ll probably get the shingles later, but it’s fine.”
Lily: “You’re not eating right now! Why?”
Me: “I feel so full. But ugh, fine. I’ll power through it.”
Lily: Starts laughing and shakes her head.
Me: “You make sacrifices for the ones you love.”
Lily: “I can’t eat anymore.”
Me: “I know, me too.”
Lily: Picks up a fork. “More room.”
Me: Stares. “Wow, you’re actually eating more. I thought you were kidding.”
Lily: “I feel better though!”
Lily: “Might as well just slapped [this cheesecake] on my thighs and taped it there, because the main ingredient in this is cellulite.”
Lily: “I think I’m going to throw up.”
Me: “If you throw up here we can’t come back …. Oh, wait, we can just go to the bubble tea place instead. Okay. Never mind.”
Lily: “I’m really glad I brought this long sweater so I can cover up my stomach.”
Alissa: Sputters her water across the table. Bursts out laughing.
Lily: “I didn’t even mean for that to be funny! I was just thinking out loud!”
Lily: “I almost just want to take my belly button ring right off.”
Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and our taste buds yielded more power than common sense. We were only able to eat half of this richer, thicker cheesecake. We hung our heads when we asked for a take away box, but the girl was understanding.
The absolute worst part that was even worse than asking for a doggy bag in France? That we were planning on going home for a bit before meeting three hours later at a bar. And we actually thought about who would get custody of the cake before we came up with the idea that we would bring the cake to the bar and then take a cake break (like a cigarette break that is probably equally unhealthy) to finish it.
As Lily said when she packed up our cake: “I’m just gonna leave our spoons in there. Mine is the one with half of a bite left on it that I couldn’t finish.
I had to keep telling myself, no shame. Absolutely no shame. But my stomach was definitely feeling my shame for me.
I would say that I was like a kid in a candy store … except I was just like a little bit older kid in a cheesecake store.
And, wouldn’t you know it, we never even ate the cake at the bar. I actually ended up throwing it out after I discovered on the subway ride home that the box and torn open and the inside of my purse was covered in cheesecake.
But to be as honest as I have been this entire blog post, I was actually more upset that my purse got to eat that hunk of cheesecake. Because I was totally planning on just going home and eating the rest of the dessert at two a.m.
Love you, Lily, but I think I might just love that cheesecake more…