When it comes to taste testing, Consumer Reports and Cook’s Illustrated do a fine job on the national front. Still, there’s a whole world of Columbus edibles and interests that fly under the radar of those fine publications. The time has come to bring a some local flavor to the food-versus-food scene: it’s time for a little Dish Deathmatch…
The Indefensible Position: Mega-Chain Panera is good for lots of things. Its bread is reliable. The salads are decent (other than the excess of red onions). The cinnamon rolls are straight-up loveable. Panera is everywhere in Columbus and it’s an easy place to meet up on the fly.
So, it seems fair to expect the Carrot Cake ($2.19) to be pretty good. After all, carrot cake is good, in and of itself. And the neighborhood stop seems to run out of its carrot cake on a regular basis.
Here is what is true: the fact that Panera’s carrot cake sells out is living proof that people will eat anything, as long as you cover it with two pounds of frosting.
It tastes like disappointment. Coarse, filled with sour gelatinous pastry cream and topped with some sort greasy, equally sour substance (frosting). The best thing about it are the three raisins inside.
All this sadness comes courtesy an affinity for bakery carrot cake. Consider the specimen from Mozart’s ($3.50). Carrot cake isn’t even Mozart’s claim to fame, it’s a European bakery that’s more famous for chocolate tortes and linzer cookies. That said, the Europeans whip up a mean carrot cake. It’s all light and springy. It tastes like carrots and not like spice-cake-mix. The frosting, made with cream cheese, is sweet. The little decorative carrot on top is sculpted out of marzipan. Geez, even the raisins are better.
Is it fair to pitch Panera’s muffin-shaped thing against a slice of bakery cake? That muffin-shaped thing is covered with an inch of frosting, and is labeled “Carrot Cake”: Nuff said.
First Dish DeathMatch: win Mozart’s.