On a recent excursion to The Cheesecake Factory, we ordered a whole plethora of delicious food to sample. Of course, we had to try the famous fried macaroni and cheese and cheesecake for dessert, because what trip to the cheesecake factory would be complete without cheesecake? In the dessert sense, of course. When TCF starts offering 50's pinup girls for sale along with desserts, or maybe even in conjunction, business will be booming.
My gastronomical gremlin ordered the orange chicken lunch special to start out with, and I ordered the fried macaroni and cheese appetizer as my lunch. I expected the portions to be massive, and I was right.
The orange chicken was covered in just the right amount of sauce- it wasn't too sticky so as to make the coating mushy and soft, but it wasn't bland, either. It was sweet and literally embodied the phrase "zesty" when one should think of food. In the sauce was a suspension of chile peppers, diced up, and small pieces of fresh orange rind, along with the orange sauce itself, covering the chicken. The chicken pieces themselves were huge and plentiful, and very tender, and with a large portion of sticky white rice with a little cilantro on top to mop up the extra sauce, this was a fantastic meal that carried great value and excellent flavor. It's rare to find good Chinese food at a Chinese restaurant, much less one that touts cheesecake as its specialty. My appetizer/meal was the macaroni and cheese, and it was absolutely decadent. I was a little scared at first, because one of the top things that I'd feared about the fried mac was that it would be dry and bland on the inside. Not this. First of all, these were some BIG balls.
Ahem. There were four of them, and they were huge. The crust was crispy on the outside and very easy to break through, but not crumbly. I could pick one of these up in my hand and throw it like a cheesy Napalm grenade. They were quite heavy. Each one was topped with Parmesan and a little parsley. On the inside, though, it was all power. The filling was extremely creamy and gooey, and when I broke each ball apart to suck out the filling, (heh heh) strands of cheese came along with the noodles. This dish was definitely more cheese than noodles, which wasn't bad. The noodles were entirely al dente, though, and really fell apart well in my mouth.
The cheeses were flavorful and salty, and with the crispiness of the crust, it creates a perfect sphere of wonderful tastes. They're also very filling. I loved the combination of cheeses, and was eating the leftovers well into the night. The sauce underneath the plump little ballings was a pink vodka sauce, I think, and that gave a nice sweetness to some of the bites that I'd never thought to consider with my mac and cheese, because I'd never really thought of eating it with sauce. Go figure, but it was very tasty.
When I dream, I dream of this.After that, we were pretty stuffed, and still packed a ton of leftovers, but we wanted cheesecake, and cheesecake we had. My culinary compatriot ordered the pineapple upside down cheesecake, and I had the banana cream cheesecake. The pineapple upside down cheesecake really did have a beautiful presentation. Actually, all of the dishes here did. It was two layers of pineapple upside down cake sandwiching a layer of cherry pineapple cheesecake, with whipped cream on top.
The combination of cheesecake and regular cake, which only a vengeful, obese mad scientist could have dreamed of, is utter genius. I mean, seriously? Both at once? Were we that bad in a past life to deserve them? But honestly. The cake is teetering on the edge of diabetes and baklava, laden down with enough syrup to down a full grown bear-moose hybrid. The layers are piled high with fruit, or what passes for TCF's genetically engineered fruit, but it's fucking delicious. Lots of coconut, but not as much pineapple as I'd expected, and the crumbly, gooey cake sort of overshadowed the cheesecake. It blended in with it more, making it less of a key player than more of a filling.
And I guess it was a filling. But if they'd had an even number of layers with the cheesecake and the pineapple upside down cake, the flavor ratio might have been even. I thought it was regular cheesecake at first, too, but then I saw that it was red from the cherries, and not the blood of the innocent, but I didn't taste either of those. It's a mystery! Overall, though, not a bad cake. Moist and pretty. TCF does make a very soft and wet cheesecake.As for my cheesecake, it was a massive slice with a layer of bavarian cream on top, whipped cream over that and on the sides, and two flanking rows of bananas. Dinner and a show. The banana flavor was very subtle, but with the graham cracker crust, I really liked the juxtaposition between crumbliness and banana flavor. I definitely think that TCF made the right decision in picking a sweet and milky, natural banana taste over an overpowering and artificial flavor. It balanced with the natural creaminess of the cheesecake and tasted wonderful when I ate it later that night. With the fresh bananas, it was delicious. However, it was just a little too plain. The bavarian cream was a little too bland as well, and I think that this would benefit from some salted caramel sauce or hot fudge sauce, or a layer of caramel swirl. Definitely something to color it up from all the neutral yellows and take away the lackadaisical flavor palate. I loved the banana, but wasn't wowed in the long run. Ever been to The Cheesecake Factory? What's your favorite flavor?