Philly Mini Tournament: Lemon Bar Edition

>> Monday, February 08, 2010

One of the things that both me and my boyfriend enjoy is a good lemon square. And during my trip to NYC last week, I couldn't find a single one in the bakeries that I've visited which I find to be odd. Are the upscale bakery shunning the ordinary pastry that is a simple piece of lemon square? Or maybe it's just not the season for lemon? I thought lemons were produced all year round.

I kept on my search when I was back in Philly. I thought Starbucks carries lemon squares but then I couldn't find them in 3 stores that I passed by. Apparently in this tough economic times, bakeries can't afford to sell lemon "squares" anymore. They have to be downsized to rectangular "bars" instead. After much further searches, I located 4 lemon bars to brought back for comparison.

1. Metropolitan Bakery

Metropolitan Bakery offers very rustic, country-style baked goods. While a lot of people raves about the place, I find their breads are usually too tough for any kinds of consumption. Other items in the counter are too small for their price. The only item I enjoy that is uniquely from them is their chocolate cherry rolls or loaf, but it'll still take me a good 10 minutes to chew down. Maybe they have long improved since I last bought anything from them or maybe the quality of their product is better in other branches, but the unfriendly saleswoman at Reading Terminal Market make me want to try their product any more than I have to. I was desperate to find a lemon square.

So the sad piece of lemon bar up there was seating behind the counter waiting to be adopted like a sad puppy. I wasn't about to buy it, but again I was desperate. We weren't impressed much with the taste either. It's like an egg custard with a butter crust with only a hint of lemon. Easily forgettable.

2. Brew Ha Ha!

I'm sure for a coffee shop like Brew Ha Ha!, their pastries could certainly be outsourced, there's no telling who the actual bakers were. The benefit for outsourcing though, is that the quality of their pastries are pretty damn good. The lemon curd is sticky and decidedly less sweet. The lemon flavor is strong without being sharp and the thin crust is light while the crumbs on top are buttery. It's pretty decent.

3. Whole Foods

Equally as good is this piece of lemon curd bar with a linzer crust from Whole Foods. Lemon flavors are heavily concentrated in the curd and it was a bit sharp, but then it was balanced out with the heavy dusting of powdered sugar. The linzer cookies in the bottom is soft and buttery, the whole thing is pleasant for the ones who enjoy tartness.

4. Flying Monkey

Definitely best of the bunch. Flying Monkey is one of the champions of introducing a cupcake shop in Philly. I've enjoyed many of their cupcakes, the espresso chocolate one being my favorite and of course, they have pretty high standards with all their products. The lemon squares have a rich buttery shortbread crust that taste above the rest. The lemon curd and the egg custard meld together perfectly, the lemon flavor is a bit tart but balanced well with the lightly sweetened custard and the powdered sugar. It is satisfyingly good.

Maybe one of these days I'll experiment and make some on my own, but that better wait until I lose 10 pounds.

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