Milk Bar has finally come to Washington!
For years, brilliant dessert maker Christina Tosi has been scattering her Cereal Milk-soft-serve-serving Milk Bars across North America. It started as a small, innovative dessert shop next to David Chang's Momofuku in New York City and has expanded to include more than eight New York locations with shops in Washington DC, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, too.
Seattle would get teased with the occasional pop-up, but that just made the longing grow stronger. Finally, Tosi has responded to our butterfat signals—today is the grand opening of Milk Bar's dessert counter in Nordstrom at the Bellevue Square Mall. Is it weird to walk through Nordstrom's dress department to get some top-notch soft-serve? Yup! You should do it anyway.
The menu includes three different kinds of cake available both whole ($62) and by the slice ($11), cake truffles ($8 for three), an array of cookies ($3.25)—confetti, corn, cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow, blueberry and cream, and Tosi's famous Compost Cookie—Milk Bar Pie ($7/$53), and the beloved trend-launching Cereal Milk soft-serve ice cream ($7) with sprinkles, cornflake crunch, or fudge sauce ($1.50 each).
This is where I get a little snobby. I've been a Milk Bar fan for years. I publicly declared my love on Slog way back in 2011, even, when it was still called Momofuku Milk Bar. Back then, everything was made fresh in-house—you could see cookies and cakes being pulled out of the oven—and the only way to get the goods was a trip to New York or baking them yourself using Tosi's admittedly intense cookbook.
As Milk Bar got popular—turns out people like putting potato chips in cookies—they started shipping their goods nationwide and individually packaging their cookies for longevity so they could be baked offsite and sold in cafes across the country. The overall quality took a hit. Still good! Just not as good.
So here's what you do: Make Milk Bar cookies and cakes at home. It's loads of work, I know! The usual cake recipe has four or five components and many of the original cookie recipes often require resting or freezing overnight, but the difference between a bought-at-the-store Milk Bar cookie and a fresh-from-the-oven Milk Bar cookie is palpable. There is nuance in flavors and textures that get lost in mass production.
Several of Tosi's recipes are available for free online, and all of her cookbooks are easy to follow. You'll learn how to properly use glucose, milk powder, and citric acid! She'll show you the importance of always (ALWAYS!!!) incorporating a salty element in your desserts!
What you can't make at home—at least not without expensive equipment—is their soft serve. Ooooh, that tongue-tickling Cereal Milk soft serve. Cereal milk is very common these days, but Tosi was the first and best to ever do it.
The Milk Bar Pie is also worth grabbing. I've attempted to bake this pie—think a more caramelized chess pie with an oat cookie crust—multiple times, but I've never gotten it right. For $8, you get a dense, chewy, salty, crunchy slice of buttery decadence and honestly, with the price of butter and eggs these days, that's a steal.
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