Another famous Ziggy at Maple Street Patisserie

When you think of the name “Ziggy”, a slew of famous characters come to mind; Ziggy Marley, Ziggy Stardust, Evander “Ziggy” Hood and even Ziggy, the well-known cartoon strip.  Thursday afternoon I was forced to add another personality to the “Ziggy” hall of fame, Ziggy Cichowski…Master Pastry Chef at Maple Street Patisserie (7638 Maple Street, (504) 247-7912).  This was my 37th cheat and I have lost  a total of 62 pounds. 

Ever since Lorin Gaudin mentioned the new patisserie on Maple Street a couple weeks ago, I have been searching for a way to try it out.  I mean, all of my cheats usually consist of an entire meal that includes an appetizer, entree and dessert.  Was I sure I wanted to sacrifice an entire precious cheat meal for a literal binge session that would only feature large quantities of pastry?  You can bet my ass I would!

Like indulgent children in a candy shop with too much pocket money, John and I visited Maple Street Patisserie with one thing on our minds, enjoying as much pastry as humanly possible before we made ourselves sick.  The enthusiastic gentleman behind the counter was ready and willing to help, suggesting we try one of everything (it was so difficult to choose!) and we almost did.

John just started pointing to delicacies in the case, picking out a raspberry bear claw, an apple danish and a chocolate cupcake.  Showing uncharacteristic restraint I selected only two items, a strawberry turnover and a banana cream tart.  The coffee we ordered came from a “serve-yourself” stand of Luzianne dispensers in the corner of the bakery.  Noticing our excited response to the treats before us, Chef Ziggy came out and offered yet another delight that was his grandmother’s recipe, a apple pastry shaped like a tart, but with a dense sweet crust that reminded me almost of a cookie.

Although we shared our sweet feast, John and I were still unable to completely finish all six pastries.  It was no surprise that the bear claw disappeared quickly, unlike most I’ve tried it was crunchy, flaky and light with large granules of sugar adorning the crust and a thin, tart layer of raspberry inside.  The other items, although fantastic, were simply too much richness to handle.  We were able to demolish most of the strawberry turnover, the filling surprised me mostly with the distinct flavor of fresh berries that weren’t overwhelmed by too much sugar.

We dipped into the decadent banana cream tart featuring thick slices of real banana, creamy custard and whipped cream resting in a chocolate cookie-like shell but were unable to finish it.  We also tried, in vain, to eat all of the apple danish and Chef Ziggy’s most generous gift but we simply couldn’t go on.  The chocolate cupcake wasn’t even touched, although you can be sure we gobbled the moist, heavenly cake later that day.

While catching our breath, Ziggy chatted with us, relating his baking schedules, the popularity of his creations and his upcoming catering gigs.  Animated by obvious enthusiasm and devotion to his craft, he joked with us good-naturedly and encouraged us to request anything we wished from his bakery, confident in his talent and skill.  He offered us a sample of some whole grain bread that was fresh from the oven, relishing our reactions and basking in our praises.  John mentioned my unnatural obsession with bread (it is easily my biggest dietary vice) and Ziggy encouraged it, recommending I visit the bakery in the morning when the smell of freshly baked bread permeates the shop…I wouldn’t be surprised if I could smell it several blocks away.

With a large box full of leftovers, John and I finally left the patisserie.  We were utterly full, sated by the sinfully delicious desserts we just ate and high from an inordinate amount of sugar.  Ziggy’s magical pastries had elevated our senses and further exaggerated why I must stick to my dietary regime.  It will be incredibly difficult to avoid the Maple Street Patisserie in the future.  Don’t be surprised if you see me lurking around the building, sniffing indiscreetly every time the doors open, stealing jealous glimpses of string-tied boxes filled with goodies unimaginable carried by patrons unaware of my stalking.

Only please if you see me, don’t offer me a bite!

Pure Yogurt Culture opens at long last

While I was looking the other way, the moment I had been so desperately awaiting finally arrived.  Right under my nose, Pure Yogurt Culture (8108 Hampson Street) opened at last!  The paper covering the windows came down and the newest dessert shop in my ‘hood already had some steady clientele. When I walked into the clean, well-designed establishment, which featured a white bubble, drop-ceiling and textured walls, I almost felt like I was inside a vat of frozen yogurt and I didn’t mind one bit.

Inset into the far wall were dispensers marked with flavors like Pure Tart (the simplest and most delicious in my opinion), Chocolate, Mango and Who Dat…a mystery mix of flavors that was a noticeable hit for incoming patrons. A group of young men from the nearby college couldn’t get enough of it and recommended it highly to anyone who would listen.  I guessed the flavor to be coconut, but the vivacious owner, Herbert Leyton, told me to guess again.

A longtime resident of New Orleans, Leyton explained how he and his wife are a bit fanatical and have made it a point to taste frozen yogurt from shops all over the world like New York, Singapore, Jakarta, Germany and Hong Kong.  After getting laid off from a major oil company a year ago, Leyton decided to live the dream and finally open a shop of his own.  With a focus on fresh ingredients from local farmers and a passion for high quality, non-fat yogurt, his dream has finally become a reality and the proof is in the pudding…or in this case, the yogurt.

Although the concept seemed to elude one (extremely rude) customer while I was there, Pure Yogurt Culture is a self-serve frozen yogurt shop that I found both novel and convenient.  Grab a cup from the stand, fill it with yogurt, as much or as little as you like (feel free to mix it up), select your toppings and weigh your final creation.  Each personalized yogurt only costs a mere 45 cents per ounce.

Speaking of toppings, Leyton offered a variety of choices from fresh fruits like bananas, strawberries and pineapple to crunchier options including granola, Capt N Crunch and Fruity Pebbles.  He also provides condiments that lean towards the sweet tooth; M&M’s, chocolate chips, Gummy Bears and Ghirardelli Syrups like chocolate, white chocolate and caramel.

With a sigh of relief and a huge smile, I devoured some delicious, Pure Tart frozen yogurt laden with fresh strawberries and watched the curious dessert-lovers file into the shop.  In the short time I was there, Pure Yogurt Culture enjoyed a steady stream of clients who seemed just as excited as I was to see this place open at last. I hope that my fears will be unfounded and Herbert Leyton will be a huge success despite the stiff competition from Cold Stone and Baskin Robbins that lie only steps away.  After all of his hard work, enduring passion and perseverance, he deserves to see his dreams made a reality. 

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true.”