Quick Recipes and Easy

Isabelle’s Take on Cheesecake

At age 7, Isabelle became a self-styled authority about cheesecake. Her grandmother had treated her to her first trip to New York City and to her first stage play followed by her first dinner in a New York City restaurant. From the dessert cart wheeled to the table, adventurous Isabelle chose a sweet she had never tasted – cheesecake – served with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. With the first bite, her huge, deep blue eyes enhanced by long, thick black eyelashes, widened.

“Grandmama!” she exclaimed. “This is yummy. Really, really yummy!”

“Isabelle, you are eating cheesecake, New York style cheesecake.”

“Oh, this is wonderful. May I have another piece?”

A few months later at a large honest, Isabelle tasted cheesecake again, served with frozen strawberries but no whipped cream. “This is okay but it’s certainly not New York cheesecake,” she intoned, now 8. A year later, at a restaurant chain, she ordered cheesecake that she said was “too thick” and not particularly flavorful, “certainly not a New York cheesecake,” she sniffed with all the certainty of a 9 year ancient.

Isabelle was 11 when her grandmother invited her to New York City again, to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then attend the ballet at Lincoln Center. “Will we be eating there? Because I want cheesecake – New York cheesecake!” They had lunch at the Met’s cafeteria where Isabelle ate her dessert first. “This is excellent but it’s not as tasty as the first one.” Then she ate the chicken entree.

Now 15 going on 27, Isabelle continues to search for a New York cheesecake that will equal the first one she ever tasted. “I’ve tried chocolate cheesecakes. I’ve tried cheesecakes with lemony sauce. With blueberries. I want a plain cheesecake that’s smooth, creamy, and a crust that’s not too sweet. I’d sell my brother for a perfect New York cheesecake.”

There’s excellent news and terrible news. There is not one definitive New York cheesecake, not when there are at least a hundred different recipes, each claiming to be authentic New York cheesecake. Some call for cottage cheese, some cream cheese, some ricotta. or a combination. Some use cinnamon. Some prefer pineapple. Baking temperatures range from 300 to 450. Some beat; some blend. Some reflect a New York Italian lineage, or Greek.

The perfect New York cheesecake Isabelle seeks may be hiding in Duluth or Mobile or Sacramento waiting to be learned.

In the meantime, Isabelle’s brother is living on borrowed time.

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