Back in 2002 The New Yorker ran a story about the popularity Gino’s Italian restaurant in Yorkville held with major league ballplayers. The story mentioned that Wade Boggs used to dine there before games, always ordering the same chicken and plain cheesecake. Then one day he ate his cheesecake topped with strawberries, and went hitless that day. “Boggs never made this mistake again,” Tim Struby wrote.
Cheesecake is powerful stuff. Smooth, creamy and undeniably decadent, it sits atop the pyramid of desserts, easily beating out cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream and those little chocolaty pastry things with all the layers. Is it any wonder that the word “cheesecake” has become synonymous with photographs of leggy, scantily clad babes?
Cheesecake is big business. Throughout a hundred franchise operations, The Cheesecake Factory sold seven million cheesecakes last year.
Flavor options are limitless. Some want slices dense with nuts and/or chocolate chips. Some top theirs with fruit—strawberries, cherries, pineapple, practically anything with seeds. Stella Blues, undoubtedly among others, sell lilikoi cheesecake. The Kahului Ale House sells a good blueberry cheesecake. The old Plumeria Terrace in the doomed Kapalua Bay Hotel offered a wicked Creme Brulee cheesecake.
Then there’s the little Maui Bake Shop in Wailuku. For a scant $3.95, you can get a small but terribly good sliver of white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake.
Bada Bing in Kihei cuts their cream cheese with ricotta—the old New York way. Indeed, cheesecake is a decidedly New York invention—even Philadelphia brand cream cheese—the most popular cheesecake base—was started by two New York dairy farmers.
Supposedly, cheesecake is ancient. Mary Crownover’s Cheesecake Extraordinaire—the definitive cheesecake recipe guide—insists that the Greeks were eating cheesecake more than 3,000 years ago, and fed it to their Olympic athletes.
As for me, I have yet to find my ideal cheesecake. It’s simple, really—a thick slice of plain cheesecake topped with nothing more than a generous pour of Chambord. The liqueur provides the most elegant and satisfying raspberry flavor.
Stella Blues, 1279 S. Kihei Rd., 874-3779; Kahului Ale House, 355 E. Kamehameha Ave., Kahului, 877-9001; Maui Bake Shop, 2092 Vineyard, Wailuku, 242-0064; Bada Bing, 1945 S. Kihei Rd., 875-0188. (AP)