Rated: Bob Bob Ricard’s Rice Pudding Brûlée.

Rice Pudding Brulee

Fragrant Rice? Or flagrant lies…?

What? I don’t go to fancy joints often, Ogglers, but when I do I expect big things: concepts I can’t find in other places; flavours to blow my mind.

So when I saw ‘Rice Pudding Brûlée with Prunes and Armagnac’ on the menu of the lavish Bob Bob Ricard, I found myself rubbing my trotters with glee.

Here was something I’d never envisaged before, let alone put in my mouth – and the consequences of it could be great.

Just imagine what else might benefit from a cheeky little booster of Brûlée: Ice Cream; Yoghurt; a boring old piece of bread. All at once there was a whole new genre of desserts, just waiting to be discovered.

For the moment, however, the idea of it crowning a creamy bowl of Rice was far and away the most promising: I pictured a gooey, Vanilla pudding, sealed with a decadent Caramel crust, brought to life with a shimmer of booze and the odd rich pruney glob.

I could hardly wait to try it.

But, alas, reality refused to deliver.

What arrived was not a dish with a glowing top, or anything I could crack with the back of a spoon. In fact, the dessert that B.B.R. had created was not brûléed at all: instead it was a bowl of Rice with a lattice of hard Caramel resting lightly across the top.

Perhaps I should report them for mislabelling. As we all know, ‘brûlée’ – from the French for ‘burnt’ – is a process involving a blow torch and thick drifts of sugar. The resulting glaze is part of the pudding – not something which can be lifted and left to one side.

Such definitions are important. Otherwise, what’s to stop anyone wearing a Caramel lattice hat, then selling themselves as a ‘Brûlée’ too?

False labels and fakeness aside, the taste of the thing was also a letdown.

Essentially, it was flavourless: I could see Vanilla Pods but couldn’t taste them; my Prunes were not punchy or boozy. They barely registered. And although the Rice was pleasant and silky enough, the whole combination was sadly sub-par.

It’s not as if they don’t know how to make decent Brûlées at that place – The Man ordered a trio of them, all perfectly formed, which were worth a small round of applause.

But for flavourful Rice-based puddings, take my advice: go elsewhere, or make your own.

Where? Bob Bob Ricard is in Soho, London

How Much? £6.50 (plus a ‘discretionary’ 12.5% tip)

Rating?

4/10

Misnomer alert

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Rated: The Dalston Crunchie Cake.

Gird your loins, Ogglers: things are about to get RUDE

What? Quite possibly the most OBSCENE-looking treat I’ve ever laid eyes on. Sold as a Chocolate and Honeycomb Cake, it’s essentially what happens when a Crunchie Bar and Cake Mix get it on.

Namely: goo galore.

The Sponge alone was a dream come true: extra golden, extra moist, and extra tasty – not too dissimilar to Honeycomb, in fact.

It was the Icing, however, which took the whole thing to another dimension.

As far as I could tell, this comprised primarily of numerous Cadbury’s Crunchie Bars that had been melted down and mixed with some sumptuous soft Cream Cheese (occasionally lending the substance a slightly strange tang).

As if that wasn’t enough to excite me, there were even generous shards of Crunchie studded across the top.

The richness of it all was immense – and, cheese-tang aside, transported me to a state of more-or-less babbling incoherence.

By the end, I too was a sticky, wet mess.

Like I said: OBSCENE

Where? The Dalston Superstore, a trendy bar-cum-eatery on the central Hipster Highway (a.k.a. Kingsland High Street)

How Much? £3 for a takeaway slice

Rating?

9/10

I say again: OBSCENE

Rated: Beijing Yoghurt.

Beijing Yoghurt

What? The clue’s in the name, really: it’s a Yoghurt, traditionally made and sold in Beijing.

I had my first taste along with some Chilli Barbecued Pineapple (which sadly lacked both heat and smokiness), and can report it’s rather like the French Set variety: firm, light, a little bit watery, with ever so slight hints of citrus.

Those of you seeking new flavour sensations most probably won’t find it here: though pleasantly fresh, it’s pretty much just a plain Yoghurt.

Where? You’ll find Beijing Yoghurt at A. Wong in Victoria (London), where it is made in house from a traditional recipe

How Much? £6 (including Pineapple)

Rating?

6/10

Fine, but not fab

Rated, Y’all: Chocolate Meringue Pie from Mammy’s Cupboard.

Chocolate Meringue Pie

The old two-fork trick: one for each hand…

What? The tallest slice of Pie I’ve ever had – with Meringue coiffed higher than Elvis’s quiff at its bounciest.

Homemade at Mammy’s Cupboard – a Natchez roadside restaurant housed inside a black woman’s skirt (!) – it’s also the first slice of Chocolate Meringue I think I’ve ever seen (though they do sell the Lemon variety there as well).

I have to say, it made for a great introduction, with a flaky, slightly salty Pastry base, a pleasingly gooey layer of Chocolate Blancmange, and a soft egg-white mountain which topped it like sweet, fluffy clouds.

Only the addition of real Chocolate – in chunks or some kind of Ganache – could have made it more desirable.

As it was, if I hadn’t already been stuffed with Grilled Cheese and Sweet Tea, I might well have gone for seconds…

Where? You’ll find Mammy’s Cupboard south of Natchez – just look for the huge red skirt

How Much? $3 per slice, without tax

Rating?

8/10

Sometimes mammy does know best

Rated, Y’all: The Pecan Cobbler.

Pecan Cobbler

Read it and weep

What? A truly dreamy dessert of Pecans, thick Syrup and crunchy Crumble, crowned with a scoop of Praline Ice Cream, which gradually turned to a lovely nutty puddle as I went.

I knew I was on to a winner before I even started eating (that smell, Ogglers! MON DIEU!).

As for the texture, I swear it had it all – plus more Pecans than a Pud-Hog could wish for (and you know how much I love Pecans…)

Rich, sweet, soft and creamy, it made me so happy I swear I actually cried.

Pathetic? Possibly.

Such is the power of pud…

Where? From the excellent Carriage House restaurant in Natchez, MS

How Much? $6 before taxes

Rating?

10/10

Oh, my sweet Cobbler: where have you been all my life?!

Rated, Y’all: The IHOP Deep-Fried Cheesecake.

Deep-Fried Cheesecake

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

What? The most ludicrous thing I’ve conceived of – let alone seen on a menu.

For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you too can get yourself a square of Pastry, filled with Caramel and Banana ‘Cheesecake‘ (read ‘biscuitless mush’), which has been deep-fried and covered with Whipped Cream, Banana slices, and sticky Strawberry Sauce.

At 660 calories, 34g of fat, and 36g of sugar, it has to be one of the naughtiest things you can buy without breaking the law (and the most ridiculous breakfast I’ve ever had).

Surprisingly, despite being a deep-fried, Cheese-and-Sugar-filled Pastry, it didn’t taste that extreme.

Indeed, the chopped Banana and (admittedly syrup-soaked) Strawberry pieces kept things fairly fresh, providing some much-needed tempering.

It certainly had a good mixture of textures too.

But would I recommend it as anything other than a novelty item?

Well…

The Whipped Cream was not much more than froth, the filling tasted neither of Banana nor Caramel (only of something generically sweet), and, in general, it looked like a car crash.

The innards, in particular, resembled a cross between Gruel and congealed wallpaper paste.

By far the worst thing about it, however, was the lingering flavour of oil – something that lasted long after I put down my spoon (though not quite as long as the headache the whole thing triggered).

That said, as puddings go it wasn’t terrible – it just wasn’t terribly tasty

Where? Available at IHOP in the U.S. of A

How Much? $3.99, excluding tax

Rating? 4/10

Sugar and fat, fried in oil? Once in a lifetime could well be one time too many…

Rated, Y’all: T-Bone’s Turtle Cream Cheese Bar.

Time for T

Time for T

What? All the best things in one edible square: Pecans, Chocolate Drops, Chocolate Sauce, and – of course – Cream Cheese.

Fairly small as American portions go, it made for a moreish mouthful.

The crunch and chew of it were great – but extra goo would have been even better…

Where? T-Bone’s Cafe in Hattiesburg, MS

How Much? $1.79 excluding tax

Rating? 7/10

The ‘T’ is for tasty. Probably

Rated, Y’all: Sal & Mookie’s Pecan Bar.

EXCITING NEWS, OGGLERS: I am writing to you today from MISSISSIPPI, where the puds are huge and the hogging is sweet.

It. Is. Awesome.

As was the first Cake the state had to offer…

Pecan Perfection

Pure Pecan Perfection

What? A warm and buttery square of nutty goodness, freshly made and drizzled with syrup.

It’s got the crunch, it’s got the melt – and it’s got the perfect amount of chopped Pecans

Where? From Sal & Mookie’s in Jackson, MS

How Much? $2.50 (plus tax)

Rating? 10/10

Just couldn’t fault it – or get enough

Rated: The Mishkins Salt Caramel Blondie.

Blondie with Salt Caramel Pretzels

Rather Hit-and-Misskins

What? According to the menu, an exciting premise of ‘White Chocolate Blondie, Salted Caramel Pretzels’.

In reality, an extremely dry Blondie topped with a much-needed ball of Vanilla Ice Cream and surrounded by Pretzels with semi-burnt (and therefore bitter) Caramel and Dark Chocolate.

A couple of bites came together quite well, but mostly it just didn’t hit the right buttons.

Twas a real shame – there was so much unfulfilled potential. A bit more goo in the Blondie might have salvaged things – though the piece would still have been too small.

As for the Pretzels, they were clearly more coated with Chocolate than anything else. Normally, that’s not a problem – but it isn’t so great when you fancy a dose of Salt Caramel.

Harumph.

Where? At Mishkins, the ‘kind-of Jewish deli’ near Covent Garden

How Much? £6 (plus an optional 12.5% service)

Rating? 3/10

Overpriced and underwhelming

The Pud-Hog’s Pud of the Year: Top 10 (Purchased) Puddings.

This is it, Ogglers: the Big One; the post you’ve all been waiting for.

After much deliberation, I’ve finally picked my Top Ten Puddings of 2012.

While choosing the best was a reasonably easy feat, sorting the ranking has taken weeks of thought. My brain has been flooded with memories – while my mouth is in floods of saliva.

I think I’ve just about cracked it though…

Each entry on this list stands out for a host of reasons, including value, size, originality, texture, taste and even audibility (in other words, if I didn’t hear myself groan with delight, it didn’t make the cut).

What you see below are the cakes and desserts that stopped me in my tracks. They are among the best calories that have ever passed my lips and, with the tragic exception of No. 10, they’re all out there for you to try.

For more information, click on the links at each heading. Then add them to your To-Chew list and get gobbling while you can.

10. Niko B.’s Pumpkin Pancakes with Halloumi and Chocolate Sauce

Warning. Photo may cause mouth leaks.

This isn’t a match I would ever have thought of, but blimey it was a good’un.

Soft Pumpkin Pancakes, rich Chocolate Sauce, and thick slabs of fried Halloumi – if my last supper were scheduled for breakfast, I’m pretty sure this would be it.

Hailing from Niko B’s now defunct Chocolate Lab, alas, they may never be my Sunday treat again.

It’s a tragedy, folks. But I feel truly blessed to have tried them.

9. Pistachio Rose’s Chocolate Tarts

Indian Tartlets

What you see here are the crispest, cleanest Pastry Tarts, filled with the most Chocolatey spiced fillings that this Pud-Hog’s ever had.

Milk Chocolate Chai; Dark Chocolate with Salt and Chilli; White Chocolate and Sweet Fennel: every flavour is exciting, with a melt that makes me shiver every time.

8. The Bakery Cafe’s Chocolate, Fennel and Caraway Brownie

Fennel and Caraway Brownie

BEHOLD: a textural triumph of tremendous proportions!

This Brownie was moist, melty, crispy, chewy – and perhaps more excitingly still, absolutely ENORMOUS.

If its intriguing mix of spices doesn’t float your boat, then the slightly salty edge will surely get your oral rivers flowing.

Worth a train trip to Sherborne all on its own.

No other Brownie compares.

7. The Kooky Bakes’ Kooky Slice

Congratulations. You have reached the Holy Grail.

Here is the slice to end all slices.

With Condensed Milk, Pecans, Pretzels, Dulce de Leche AND Dark and White Chocolate, this cunchy gooey beast has all the trimmings.

As it happens, the Kooky Slice is the first cake of the year I almost married. Our love affair didn’t last long though: eating it was so much more fulfilling.

6. Outsider Tart’s Congo Bar

Congo Bar

This juicy slab is made up almost entirely of Cookie Dough, with a finishing flourish of Chocolate Peanuts. It also happens to be my favourite creation of Outsider Tart so far.

Even now I can’t help marvelling at its construction.

How do they make the outside so crisp, while the inside is perfectly gloopy?

Clearly, there’s some sort of miracle going on. Those bakers deserve a sainthood.

5. Bonda Cafe’s Bubur Pulut Hitam

Into THIS

The fact that this bowl of glutinous Black Rice looks so downright unappetising only proves the strength of my love for its flavour and texture.

Creamy, warm, soft, and suffused with Brown Sugar and Coconut Milk, it ticks all the boxes as my ideal comfort food.

Bonda Cafe: I salute you.

4. The Classic Cinnabon

Cinnabon

As much as I like to support local foodstuffs and plug the wares of independent retailers, on this occasion I’m forced to make an exception.

In a nutshell, CINNABON RULES.

Their Original Bun quite literally drips with Cinnamon Butter, while its caramelised Sugar corners are just the thing to make a Pud-Hog sing.

No doubt it’s loaded with chemicals (I know for a fact that each one is loaded with calories), but quite frankly all other Buns pale in comparison.

3. Honey & Co.’s Cold Cheese CakeCold Cheesecake

Cheesecakes don’t have to be heavy and rich, as this heavenly plateful proves.

Instead, they can be nests of Honey, Fruit, Almonds, fresh Mint, Pastry and creamy Curd-like Cheese.

Every mouthful of this is sheer delight, with just the right balance of crunch, bite and softness.

If the Pud-Hog made clouds they would taste like this – and the skies would be damp with drool.

2. The M’Hencha

M'Hencha

Light, luscious and practically bursting with syrup, here’s another Middle Eastern pud you really mustn’t miss.

A.K.A. the Mmm’hencha, life’s too short not to sample this stupendous Pastry swirl, with its filling of Ground Almonds, Lemon and Rosewater.

Indeed, according to the Guild of Fine Foods, it’s 2012’s best Cake in Britain.

Having sampled a great deal of cake myself, this Pud-Hog can proudly concur.

And finally… drum roll please…

1. La Grotta’s Pine Nut and Candied Orange Cedrat Choc Ice

The reason that God made Ice Cream

WOOO!

This is it, Ogglers: the champ of well over 200 Pud-Hog posts – and it’s a worthy winner indeed.

I looked at my notes for this Choc Ice the other day, and in big letters, filling up three lines, one phrase is scrawled in biro:

‘Oh!’

It’s quite difficult to describe just how special this Ice Cream was. I have never, never had anything like it.

A magnificent mash-up of fresh sea breezes, thick Milk Chocolate, Pine Nuts and Candied Orange, before I tried this, I mistakenly thought that I’d had all that Ice Cream could offer.

If you can, get your hands on one sharpish – and congratulate La Grotta on a pud well done.

Happy Hogging – and thanks for supporting the Pud-Hog’s first year!

Here’s to the next twelve months…

P-H x