I touched down in California on Friday afternoon amidst glorious sweltering heat (after transiting through a blizzard in Minneapolis-Saint Paul), and was picked up at the airport by the family friends I’m currently staying with. Our families became friends when I lived in Orange County as a kid, and we’ve stayed in touch throughout the twenty years since.
As soon as I hugged C and E hello at baggage claim (and near collapsed laughing when C handed over the caffeine-free coke she’d brought along for me [oops, sorry; don’t you hate inside jokes?]), I experienced a magical sense of instant camaraderie and comfort that made me feel I was home (and somehow closer to my own family, too).
It was this sense of comfort that enabled me to voice the secret desire that has been building in my heart ever since I studied at the University of Virginia in 2007-8:
I wanted to go to The Cheesecake Factory. I wanted to experience one of the most American of insane American desserts.
Standing before the cheesecake display case at The Cheesecake Factory, my heart started thrumming with excitement and I may or may not have squeaked out “it’s too much! I want it all! I can’t decide! It’s too much!” over and over.
Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake. Pina Colada Cake Cheesecake. Dutch Apple Caramel Cheesecake. Chocolate Tuxedo Cream Cheesecake. Craig’s Crazy Carrot Cake Cheesecake. Wild Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake.
I couldn’t decide.
On the left, we have the most epically epic candy-peanut-butter-chocolate cheesecake of all time. On the right, a straight-up New York baked cheesecake.
The Cheesecake Factory’s Original Cheesecake with its graham cracker crust was exactly the dense yet fluffy, tangy yet sweet, heavy yet light cheesecake I find myself craving on a semi-regular basis. I even liked the crust (which I normally have no interest in).
E ordered the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake, kindly having agreed not to get the exact same slice as me (below). Her peanut butter-y choice involved layers of chocolate fudge cake, caramel, and peanut butter cup-filled cheesecake, topped and garnished with more chocolate.
I just can’t even. I just can’t even.
Everything went quiet when I took my first bite. It was beyond. Rich, rich, sweet (yet not cloying due to the saltiness of the peanut butter), rich, heavenly, dense, chunks of crispy Butterfingers and smooth Reese’s, caramel sauce and chocolate drizzles abounding, a hefty dollop of peanut butter frosting that I thought I’d push away (I’m no buttercream fan) but ended up mainlining because it tasted almost like straight peanut butter… I just can’t even. ‘Murcah!
With one third remaining of the mammoth slice (it looks smaller here than it was), I walked over to the fridge to save the rest for the next day. Half an hour later, I gave in to the siren call and pulled it out again.
I mean, really, what’s the point of my having spent years training by eating half-jars of peanut butter in one sitting if I can’t finish a(n admittedly insanely rich) cheesecake behemoth in one night?
I am such a happy lady right now.