Monday, June 30, 2008

Mike's Pastry, Boston

There are some places that you just anticipate greatness from. They are the places that either you have heard stellar reviews about, or better still those that you have been dining at for years and have always provided a level of pure deliciousness that cant be compared to. For as long as I can remember, Mike's Pastry in Bostons North End has been the only place for my family to get Italian pastry in the Boston area. We haven't dared to touch another purveyor for fear of a complete waste, and that nagging thought- we should have gone to Mikes.
Over the past couple of years though, I have been hearing, more and more, that Modern Pastry, just down the street from Mike's, is the better pastry spot. It seemed like blasphemy, and with a daunting two hour line each time Ive passed it, Ive happily gone about my business loving Mike's and blissfully unaware.
This past weekend my family and I celebrated my mothers birthday, and as part of tradition, I headed over to Mike's early on Saturday morning to pick up a pre ordered rum cake, beautifully en scribed with "Happy Birthday Mom". Package in hand, I turned to leave the North End and had an idea- at 9:30 on a Saturday morning, the Modern didn't have anywhere close to a two hour line. I decided to pop in and pick up Sfogliatella, a favorite pastry of my moms that is good enough to enjoy with morning coffee. Sfogliatella, also known as a Lobster Tail, can be made two ways. Both have a light flakey crust formed in a shape that resembles a lobster tail, however it can either be stuffed with a sweet, white, fresh cream filling, or a yellow custard filling. From what I have seen, normally when one orders a Lobster Tail, they receive the sweet cream filling, and when you order a Sfogliatella, the custard filling is given.
So I headed to my moms with my cake from Mike's, and three Sfogliatella from the Modern, excited to taste compare, certain that the hype around the Modern was simply hype and couldn't possibly compare to the beloved Mike's. We opened the box, and split the first Sfogliatella- it was still warm from the oven- an experience we had never had at Mike's. It was positively delicious. The cream had a wonderful background flavor that we couldn't quite place between cinnamon, or almond, and it was all put together so nicely. I have to say, from Mikes, I have never been a fan of Sfogliatella, Ive always watched my mother enjoy them and wondered what the fuss was about. From the Modern, I loved it.
A bit jolted from our revelation that possibly the Modern might be better, fresher, than Mike's, a few hours later we cut into the rum cake to "taste test" it before serving it later that evening. It was a very good thing that we did. Anticipating that great rum soaked cake, separated by creamy custard, what I tasted was nothing like that. It was sour, and we wondered what had happened to it. Had they used Cointreau instead of rum? Did they use lemon extract? We called immediately to complain, and were told that we could bring it back. So back to the North End we drove, no easy feat for those of you not familiar with the area, and I popped back into Mikes to return the offensive cake, and hoping to find out what exactly was wrong with it, as I had eaten a bit of it trying to figure it out.
Mike's was a lot more crowded at 3:00 pm than it had been at 9:30 am, and so I stood in line. Finally, I reached the counter and asked to speak with the manager, as we had been instructed over the phone. He came over and I asked that he taste the cake so that it could be determined what was wrong with it, basically I wanted to know in case an ambulance needed to be called at some point- I wanted to be able to tell the EMT's what I had eaten. The manager flatly refused to taste it, and then, somewhat rudely asked if I wanted to know what had happened. Of course I did, so I learned that one of their refrigerators had died the night before, and they tried to move everything to working refrigerators, but somehow our cake had been missed. And so, we were sold a soured cake.
There are several facets to this that concern me. First, that their quality check is so poor that a pre ordered cake was missed in a refrigerator meltdown. Wouldn't you think that for a loyal customer, who has ordered in advance, that that cake would be rescued? Second, the attitude that I was greeted with when exchanging the cake. I may not be a menacing looking person, and I may have been trying to be polite in the face of huge lines and not wanting to give my beloved Mike's a bad name, but that does not give the workers the right to tell me that they really wont be able to do anything if I am sickened by the cake other than to give me a hug. Honestly- the last thing that I want is to be hugged by a stranger in the face of eating sour cake, and on that note, I found it to be an offensive statement. Had I eaten more of the cake, or had I served it to the rest of my family, and they had become sickened by it, a hug would not have solved the law suit that I would have served Mike's Pastry.
Apparently the manager sensed my discomfort, and so after wrapping up the new cake, which he warned was probably "too fresh" and we had to let sit for a while, he wrote out a gift certificate good for $25, or...you guessed it- a hug. $25 barely covered the cost of the cake.
So I left Mike's feeling de-valued as a loyal customer, and disrespected as a female. It disheartens me to say, that if anyone would like a $25 gift certificate please let me know- I wont be returning to Mikes.

8 comments:

Moda di Magno said...

Modern gets my vote any day of the week. Their ricotta pie is far superior (and the Medford Square location has been a lifesaver!)

catberta said...

If you like Italian pastry, I highly recommend Sugar on Centre St. in West Roxbury. Lobster Tails and cannollis are just as good as Modern and way better than Mikes! Worth the trip, and parking is easier. The cakes are also AMAZING.

Anonymous said...

Mike's has been over-rated for years..I blame it on Clinton's visit.
The Modern! You can't go wrong! Next time try either the ricotta pie or the ricotta pie with chocolate!
And Maria's on Cross St. is a great spot fot he Lobster tails!
Mike's? Thumbs down.

John.

Michaela said...

I can't believe that service. I will definately be rethinking where I go to get a cannoli the next time I'm in the North End. I've heard nothing but good things about Modern.

me said...

That's terrible customer service. J. and I tend to avoid Mike's as he once ordered a cannoli, and after asking if it had been in contact with any peanuts, proceeded to have an allergic reaction to peanuts that it had presumably been exposed to (shared knife, crumbs on the counter, etc...).

Angela said...

Elm Street Bakery in Everett has cannoli that is as good, if not better than Mike's.

Anonymous said...

I'm a limo driver and it's amazing how many people say to me "Can you take me to Mike's?, I've heard so much about it!". I quickly correct them by steering them to the Modern, or any one of the great bakeries in Revere. I like to drive them by Mike's and look at the line and say ,"look at those suckers". Also, let's not forget "It's Slush Time Again"on Bennington St in Eastie, right before Central Sq.. Best slush in the world and it's been there since I went to Catholic school in 1968!

Anonymous said...

Mike's is way overrated. I've lived in the North End for 6 years now and can count on one hand the number of times I've gone to Mike's. They are rude, could care less about the herd of people coming through, and all their stuff tastes the same - like sugar. Definitely head over to Maria's on Cross St. Its a bit "dated" but the quality can't be beat. They also have some make at home kits that you can buy from them if you want some warm lobstertails.

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