Our on-going Cheesecake Safari continued last week with trials of 4 more products. Two of them have "passing grades" and will move on in the safari finals. All cakes were tasted "side-by-side" at the same sitting
The cakes tasted here are all "plain cheesecake" with no added flavorings such as berries, chocolate, etc. Theory being that if they have a great basic cake, then various flavorants can be added later.
These cakes were tasted with a plain coffee chaser on several occasions. First on date of purchase and subsequently "leftover, half-eaten out of the box". Different tasting notes are labeled "a, b, c, etc."
Tasting results for Phase Three are as follows, in order of tasting, NOT RANKING:
MAGNOLIA BAKERY (401 Bleecker, near 11th st. or so). We asked for the plain cheesecake and they directed us to their "vanilla cheesecake". The vanilla is largely in the crust so it is "basic enough" for meaningful head-to-head comparison. They offer many other varieties. Note these are small round cakes with fairly thick but not obnoxious crust
GF's comments: a: "Rich, a bit salty... crust is good. Good with coffee... not quite as good as Ruthy's... might be better than Ruthy's with a strong coffee like espresso." b: "Rich, not too sweet... taste lingers"
CM's comments: a: "cheesecake only (no crust): thick, concentrated... delicately flavored... pleasant lingering taste. Sweeter w/ crust but not cloyingly sweet. Crust adds hint of vanilla. Not particularly improved with coffee chaser b: "very thick... pleasant rich taste... not quite as interesting as Ruthy's with coffee " A finalist.
RAFFAELA (381 Bleecker, about 9th St.). A "two-layer" cheesecake with a thin icing of a "philly-looking" cream icing veneer... the only such style we've seen to date.
GF's comments: a: "... almost like butter flavor... greasy... not worth a..." b: "greasy"
CM's comments: a: "a very 'philly-type' taste... not unpleasant... improved by coffee... thin crust is kind of 'powdery', not particularly pleasant crust..." b: "... globby, has those 'philly' backnotes..." Unrated.
CAFFE DANTE (79-81 McDougal btwn Bleecker/Houston) Note we tried their "new york" cheesecake, they also offer a ricotta-style "italian" cheesecake.
GF's comments: a: "...Good, a bit greasy..." b: "too sweet"
CM's comments: a: "... more of a 'moussy' texture than the others... not particularly bad taste but very sweet, even without the crust... tastes very pleasant with coffee, but moussy texture is still a bit of a drawback..." b: "...not unpleasant... somewhat 'lighter body' than the others... pleasant with coffee..."
RUTHY'S CHEESECAKE (Chelsea Market, 15th St. and 10th Ave... note they close by 6PM or so). Note this is the only cheesecake we've seen which is "entirely crustless".
GF's comments: a: "... The Best... more rich. With coffee hits the spot just right... lingering. Hard to stop eating this..." b: "...almost like Magnolia... a bit sweeter... difficult to prefer Magnolia or Ruthy's over the other... I choose Magnolia straight, Ruthy's with coffee..."
CM's comments: a: "... Crustless... nice thick pie slice... rich/thick texture, melts slowly... Very nice with coffee... Pleasant, delicate lingering flavor... more 'cheesy' than 'cloyingly sweet'...Ruthy's seems just richer texture and more vibrant taste than Magnolia (my other favorite) at this point... and somewhat better with coffee..." b: "...just more vibrant 'high notes' (and somewhat lemony) than Magnolia... great with coffee... lingering, luscious..."
So thats a wrap. Our clear favorites were Ruthy's and Magnolia and they'll move on in our tastings. Perhaps a slight nod to Ruthy's in this flight. Dante is pleasant for a quickie and coffee. Would be interesting to try their Ricotta Italian style cheesecake.