Monday, January 10, 2011

Who has the best cheesecake in Kansas City?

Posted by on Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge A cheesecake classic since 1949
  • A cheesecake classic since 1949

One of my co-workers at The Pitch has been wary of cheesecake since childhood: "Someone offered me a piece of cheesecake when I was little and I thought, Why would anyone put cheese into a cake?"

I had the same reaction at probably the same age. But a friend of my father's owned the neighborhood delicatessen, and they both kept cajoling me to try the cheesecake. "It's made with cream cheese," my father said, "not cheddar or Swiss." I was finally persuaded to taste it when Mr. Hochman poured something even more alluring on top of the creamy white pastry -- red cherry sauce.

It was delicious!

Like many Midwesterners, our family ate Sara Lee cheesecake at home. It was inexpensive and, by my New York-born father's standards, perfectly acceptable. This cheesecake was the product that launched Chicago baker Charlie Lubin's dessert empire. It all started with a premium cheesecake that he named after his 8-year-old daughter, Sara Lee. The brownies and other pastries came later. Lubin, who died at age 84 in 1988, was quoted as saying, "There is no substitute for plenty of butter, eggs and milk in the recipe."

Here, here! Yesterday, I was eating brunch at a new restaurant in Leawood, and my friends were raving about the slices of light, creamy cheesecake on the buffet table. I asked our server if they made the cheesecake in the restaurant. He leaned over and whispered, "Well, we do make a very good cheesecake here, but this isn't it. We usually put out little miniature cheesecakes, but we were out. So someone went out and bought a Sara Lee cheesecake."

There are great house-made cheesecakes here in Kansas City, although the restaurant that first comes to mind -- the California-based Cheesecake Factory -- bakes its product at a company-owned commissary in Calabasas, California.

For local cheesecake, I know that Joe Accurso's mother still bakes the cheesecakes served at Accurso's Italian Restaurant, near the Country Club Plaza. I've never actually tasted a cheesecake created by local baker Terry Mille of the CowTown Cheesecake Company, although several chefs have told me that they're wonderful.

So, Fat City readers, who does offer the best house-made cheesecake in town?


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