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23 Jan. 2009
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The Torte Reporte

Disclaimer

In this report I mention and take both to task and to tummy a commercial establishment, The Viking Bakery of Denville, New Jersey.  I have no pecuniary interest in this establishment (although they most emphatically do have one in me) and am not associated with them in any way except as a customer and occasional occupant of street parking in front of their place of purveyance.  Despite the pseudo-legal verbiage here, this has not transmogrified into a law blog.  Besides, any law dude or dudess knows how to spell "tort." 

The Start of the Quest

The first integrated home computer, the Commodore PET, was introduced in 1977.  I could create many a blogitem and still not fully tap the rich series of adventures I had with this product.  (And I probably shallyou know how it goes.)  But today the only part I propose to relate was across the street.  At the time of the PET's announcement, a small outfit on 76th St. and Madison Avenue in New York City was the only nearby company selling the product.  I took a walk...

Madison Avenue between 70th and 90th Streets is (or at least was) quite the culinary heaven.  It sports any number of fancy pastry and chocolate shops.  (If you doubt "fancy," take a galumph from one end to the other and check how often you see chocolatier, boulangerie, pâtisserie, or, bog help us, maître confiseur on the awnings.)  Returning from the PET shop after placing my order, I spied the Rigo Pastry Shop across the street.  It was not unduly fancy, and was replete with wares in the windows.  I requested a Linzer torte, sampled same, and realized I had found the reference.  Just as a 10,000 ohm, .01% resistor can be used to calibrate almost any ohmmeter, this splendid confection was my new standard of comparison for Linzer tortes, past and future.  I emitted a hearty "Yum," thanked the clerk, and noted for future reference Rigo's name and address.

We began something of a business involving the PET computer.  I don't believe it was in part to give me the opportunity to visit Rigo more often, but teasing out human motivations, especially in one's self, is notoriously tricky.  Besides, one does not live by chocolate alone.  Rigo eventually moved to a new venue farther uptown near First Avenue, which made the trips fewer but more eventful, because I had by now discovered their other delights, many involving marzipan.  I eventually moved to New Jersey, which again reduced the number of trips, but increased their yield, to the point that one year I purchased a lot of marzipan frogs for the whole company.  That engendered a festive but somewhat puzzled atmosphere; the frogs were quite cute and arrived without explanation.  Rigo couldn't and didn't last.  I noticed that the two woman who worked the counter were getting older and never had an understudy.  One day the shop was simply gone.  I just now checked the internet, and found my decade-old suspicions confirmed, not that confirmation was necessary.

So here I was living in New Jersey, and the source for the reference Linzer torte was no longer extant.  I began my long quest for a replacement.

Disappointment

Despite the Austrian origin of the classic Linzer torte, you might guess that the Rigo version was of the Hungarian persuasion.  Clues include the locations of Rigo in the Hungarian section of Manhattan, of which you are not necessarily expected to be aware, and the "everythingbudapest" part of the URL, which is something of a giveaway.  New Jersey is not, as I discovered, a hotbed of Hungarianism.  Meaning no disrespect to Italians (I even bristle when I am asked "How did your day go?") I find that this more plentiful species of Linzer torte is not to my taste.  Perhaps my dissatisfaction derives from the lack of butter used in their preparation.  Or a different type or thickness of jelly.  I don't really know, since, lacking the expertise, I've never tried to construct one myself, nor have I persuaded anyone else to attempt same.

Thus, for almost a decade, I and several cohorts scoured bakeries near and not quite so near for a credible Linzer torte.  The good news is that one was finally located in (semi-near) Denville, New Jersey.  The Viking Bakery shop seems to enjoy an unusually versatile association with butter.  Not only are their Linzer tortes (on occasion) good enough to rival those of Rigo, but their mocha mountains, petits fours, and mocha rectangles are frequently spectacular.  The 20-minute drive to their establishment, in a direction orthogonal, as improbable as it seems, to everywhere else, is inconvenient but not forbidding.  But Viking does have a serious flaw:  Inconsistency.  I shall air my complaint in due course, but I think it's time for the table and the picture.

Bakery Sugar Jelly Pastry Comments
Viking (Denville NJ) 10 Jan 09 ***** **** * Something went wrong!  The cake layers are nasty and pasty
Main Street (Princeton NJ) Feb 09 *** ** ** Heart shaped - cute but a bit stale, flat jelly.
Viking (Denville NJ) Feb 09 ***** **** ** Viking is having
Viking (Denville NJ) Mar 09 ***** * *** As you can see,
Viking (Denville NJ) Apr 09 ***** ***** **** Consistency problems.  This time they were good.
Viking (Devville NJ) May-Aug 09 ***** ***** **** Consistently good over the summer!
Viking (Devville NJ) Sept 09 ***** ***** **** Whoops - A bad batch.  Stale cake, nasty jelly.
Viking (Denville NJ) 2009-2010       Award for consistency.  Not a bad batch in the period
         
         
Bread Factory (NYC) Dec 2009 ** ** ** Stale and expensive
Food Emporium (NYC) Dec 2009 ***** **** **** Good and less expensive than expected
Zarro's (Grand Central Station) *** **** **** Very good (but uneven - stale the second time)
Plaza Bakery/Santa Fe NM Oct 10       Ask the ants
French Bakery/Santa Fe NM Oct 10 **** **** ***** Quite the surprise!  See separate review
Williams Bakery/Bay Shore NY Sep 09 ^^* ** ** Disappointing, stale, but at least not expensive
Rachel's Bakery/Fire Island NY Sep 09 *** ** ** Disappointing, stale, and outrageously priced.
Black Forest/Greenwich CT Aug 09 **** ** ** VERY disappointing.  2 or 3 times Viking price, just plain stale.
Monna Lisa/Little Ferry NJ ** ** ** Sigh.  So nearby yet so few stars. 
B&W/Hackensack NJ **** *** ***  
CRUMS - New Canaan CT **** **** *** Unusual jelly composition, but good.  Reasonably fresh.
New York Bagel And Deli
Sedona AZ April 2011
***** *** *** A bit stale - last of the litter.  Good jelly bit thinly spread.
Calandra's/Fairfield NJ ***** **** *** Another fine example, albeit less than fully fresh
Montauk Bakery/Montauk NY ***** **** **** Excellent, but too much traffic
Costco - Anaheim CA * ** *** Not exactly Linzer, but getting desperate

The table, as I populate its rows, will document my travails with Viking, and my continuing search for Linzervana.  I am not hopeful of finding it.  Neither am I currently in distress, as Viking, flaws and all, seems assured of adequate custom and is operated by a diverse selection of humans, many of whom promise to outlast my pastry-consuming days.  Even so, I feel the need to whine.

This Tastes Like Poison!  And the Portions are so Small!

Baking is not an exact science.  Here I am alluding to a statement by my housemate, who declared several years ago that "cheese making is not an exact science."  But Linzer tortes are not cheese, and baking should be an exact science, whether it is or isn't.  (Petulance comes naturally to me.)  I restock the pastry PLUCO roughly once a month, and given the various items I purchase from Viking, there is usually some problem with one or another.  Often it's as small as sticky wrapping paper, but occasionally it's as significant as the issue that caused me to initiate this Torte Reporte:  This month the Linzer torte pastry portion was defective.  So I have decided to document my perennial pastry purchases, and the table above is the result.  You will note that the Linzer tortes I purchased early this month have had their defect noted.  Subsequent reports will keep Viking on their toes and my reportage consistent.  Will this work?  Come back in a year or so and we'll see if they have mended their baking ways, or if I have found a new Rigo-substitute.  Recommendations welcome!

When Did "Reveal" Become a Noun?

The third-generation Prius has been announced.  It does not yet have plug-in features, although it has been enhanced in a number of ways.  Of course I was curious to discover what's new, and was keen on seeing pictures and specifications as they became available.  It seems that, in the jargon, the information becomes available at "The Reveal."  I did not attend this Prius event, but enough others did, calling it just that, to make me believe that this is a standard term in the automotive industry.  It sounds sufficiently pompous that I shall try to find other uses for it in the future.  Perhaps one day I shall define "The Dog on the Lanai" at "The Reveal."


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NP:  "Future 40s - String of Pearls" - Syd Straw

© 2009
Richard Factor

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