America is cheesecake countryIF I was an American, I’d fit right in with all the fatties. I wouldn’t be dumb enough to blame McDonald’s for supersizing me. But The Cheesecake Factory would have to take the rap.
It’s no wonder there are so many advertisements declaring “Obesity is a big problem”. Lower the window in your taxi, and the smell of fresh baking filters through in an ever-changing stream. First you breathe in popcorn, then pizza, muffins and stir-fries, curries and hot dogs. And you get that aromatic rainbow even before you hit the first intersection.
Cheesecake doesn’t smell, but it certainly entices. So on a dull afternoon in Silicon Valley’s San Jose, we commandeered a cab and set off past low-rise strips of used-car showrooms, launderettes and fast-food joints to that icon of Americana, the shopping mall.
There wasn’t much else to do really. There was a quilt museum, which sounded just a fraction too home-spun parochial. And a Museum of Art, except I wasn’t feeling arty.
We tried the Technology Museum, which was full of hordes of sugar-fuelled, touchy-feely kids. Thankfully there was an Imax theatre, and we took our seats to be awed by a wrap-around documentary about ancient Greece.
As we left, we were assailed by another kind of grease, in the smells emanating from a nearby hot-dog stall. One colleague succumbed, liberally adding stripes of mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup onto a mess of relish, onion slices and jalapeño chillies. All of this is essential for fear of actually tasting the fat-oozing sausage in stodgy white bread. Italian sausage, he said, though I suspect the Italians would vigorously disown it.
But back to the cheesecake.
The Cheesecake Factory was housed in a marble-pillared edifice that Montecasino would be jealous of. Its display counters groaned with a selection of more than 30 different varieties. Everyone was eating enormous portions of chips and burgers and still managing to save space for the show-stopping desserts.
There were several glamorous and skinny people flitting around, but they were the waiters, who probably don’t eat the stuff that they serve.
What to have? We grabbed two seats at the bar and the gorgeous barman James flashed us a perfect, all-American, pearly-white grin. A Key Lime Cheesecake for me, something involving chocolate, fudge and vanilla for my partner. This was lunchtime, and I’d already started the day with a rather vast and entirely decadent chocolate muffin. But what the hell, the Americans do make perfectly delicious desserts.
Our slices came surrounded by twin towers of foam spray cream. Sweetened, of course, because real cream just isn’t sweet enough in this emporium of gluttony.
I would love to report that the cheesecake was as delicious as it looked and sounded. But unfortunately, the lime flavour just didn’t add enough oomph.
I ate it all, of course, because something that smooth and silky just kind of slips down without a protest.
My colleague, who is a skinny chap even by anorexic standards, managed to eat about half of his chocolate version before laying down his fork in defeat.
I could feel staring eyes giving him looks of disbelief. I wasn’t sure whether they were concerned that he was ill, or astonished that he was leaving food. Either way, he was clearly a misfit in the land of the supersized.
So, the Key Lime Cheesecake proved to be a little bit of a disappointment.
But I bet that the Kahlua and caramel version is a real treat.