Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hong Kong - Jenny Bakery

Jenny Bakery - visited August 28, 2017
Rainy Hong Kong view from my hotel room
As I arrive at the 8-year anniversary of my blog (8 years, wowsa, first blog post was on September 13, 2009), I reflect back on how much it’s evolved. When I first started it, I was simply publishing online what I did whenever I tried a new recipe: I would copy the recipe, note where I got it from, attach a picture of the finished product, and write myself a note on whether I made any changes, how the recipe turned out, and what I thought of it. I had separate Word documents, some of which I printed out and bound into my own collection of recipes for a “recipe book”. 
Then I ventured into the world of blogging, started to get more verbose than my earlier, terse recipe notes and began taking more (and more and more) pictures of what I made. I’d throw in the odd recipe or two for savory food, known as “real food” in my sweet tooth nomenclature. Then began the period where I took pictures of just about everything I ate. Thank you, Steve Jobs and Apple, for the iphone which meant I had a built-in camera whenever I sat down to a restaurant meal. Bakery reviews and restaurant reviews were launched, partially as my effort to promote small foodie businesses that I experienced and raise awareness about patronizing small businesses in general.
It got even more fun (for me) when I traveled and blogged about my (mostly foodie) experiences and my blog expanded to include my nomadic adventures. It was partly to capture the experiences, partly to serve as references in case I wanted to recommend places to others and partly as a reminder of what I’d done and eaten and eaten some more in my past.

This post marks the beginning of my latest trip to Hong Kong. Prepare for some serious culinary consumption. I hadn’t been back to Hong Kong in over 19 years, prior to the British handover back to China. I wasn’t as much of a foodie back then so most of my memories were of Hong Kong as a fascinating mixture of Chinese and British culture as well as being a mecca for shoppers. I was more of a shopper than a foodie back then and Hong Kong defeated even my shopping inclinations because everywhere you turned, there were shops.
For this trip, I replaced those shopping memories with food ones. You know by now that before I travel anywhere, I look up must-visit bakeries as recommended by the internet, yelp where available, trip advisor when not. I look up local foodie lists of “must-try” foods, bakeries and restaurants. I map different recommendations from my hotel and see what’s within walking distance. I’m not a fan of taxis during my travels unless I’m coming from or going to the airport. Whenever possible, I take easy-to-follow public transportation (in Hong Kong, that would be the MTR or the HK version of London’s Underground) or I simply walk. It’s the best way to see a new city as long as you have a good sense of direction or data roaming-enabled GPS.
Jenny Bakery was my first bakery stop on this trip. It not only came up on a google search as “famous” but a coworker recommended them and said they had “crack cookies”. I rarely need much more encouragement than that to seek out a bakery in a new city. I was in Hong Kong for business but I came in a day earlier than I had to in order to give myself time to recover from jet lag. I love to travel but I’m a horrible traveler since I can rarely sleep on planes and need time to adjust to the local time zone.
What the tin looked like for Chinese New Year 2017
My coworker Sandra and I were both early for our meeting so we used part of our adjust-to-Hong-Kong-time period to make the 4-kilometer walk from our hotel to Jenny Bakery. 4 km is completely walkable and like me, Sandra prefers walking in order to be able to see more of the city. Unfortunately, we were walking in the aftermath of Hong Kong’s most recent typhoon so it rained pretty much the whole day, including during our walk. When I say it rained, if you’ve ever been in Asia during typhoon season, you know I’m not talking gentle pitter patter of raindrops. It means we both got Nature’s shower and became soaked to the skin. Fortunately, it wasn’t cold rain nor was it windy and the temperature was warm enough that I really didn’t mind the rain that much. Okay, my shoes got soaked and I had to change completely into another outfit by the time we got back to the hotel but hey, that’s part of the adventure.
It took us awhile to find Jenny Bakery. Neither one of us activated the data roaming on our phones (I hadn’t bought international roaming and didn’t want the exorbitant, mortgage-a-kidney charges) so we went off screen shots I’d downloaded of the directions I mapped earlier. I’ll spare you the description of how we didn’t quite end up following the path Google said to follow. By luck of the baking gods, I spotted the street name Jenny Bakery was located on by the merest chance. It wasn’t so much a “street” as an “alley”. No matter, we made it.
I wasn’t quite sure what I had expected of Jenny Bakery other than it was a bakery that sold cookies. After arriving, I had to revise my assessment to “a storefront that sells cookies in tins”. Because that’s literally what it was. You walk in, there are posters of the choices of various tins you could buy with differing combinations of flavors and sizes of tins, you go to the counter, tell (or point to) which ones you want, the ladies behind the counter select your choices, you pay (they only accept cash) and they hand them over. If you want a bag for your cookie tins, it’s 1 HKD. The small tin is 320 grams and costs 70 HKD. The large tin is 640 grams and 130 HKD. 
The most common tin is the one with 4 flavors: original butter, coffee, shortbread and oatmeal raisin. I got the 4-flavor tins for gifts and a 2-flavor mix of butter and coffee cookies for more personal taste testing. The cookie tins are vacuum sealed so I felt confident in buying them so early in the trip since they would last until I got them back home. Freshness is always a concern when buying foodie gifts to take back.
The bottom layer of the 640 g tin of 4-flavor cookie tin
But that meant neither Sandra or I could try the cookies on the spot since neither of us was willing to break open one of our tins for an onsite taste test. Jenny Bakery doesn’t offer samples either, which is too bad. I guess they felt successful enough and confident enough in word-of-mouth and internet fame not to need that kind of pull-marketing. And it worked. Based on their reputation for “crack cookies”, I bought them untasted in enough quantities (I also went back at a later date to pick up a couple more tins that I forgot I needed for gifts). There weren’t any lines while we were there but they did a pretty steady business.
Coffee Cookie on the left, Butter Cookie on the right
Flash forward a week later; I was back stateside and had opened my taste test tin to share with my family and finally got to try the cookies. First, let me say, they smelled heavenly. As in, you know these were made with butter, lotsa butter. Then probably more butter for good measure. Second, they were good cookies. But I’ll go out on a limb and brave the internet and Trip Advisor commentators’ wrath when I say I’m not sure I would really consider them out of this world. Don’t get me wrong; they were good. But I’ve had lots of good butter cookies and I don’t know that these stood out in any particular way. They were good butter cookies. Would I go back again next time I’m in Hong Kong? Probably not. Mostly because I’d already tried them, know what they taste like and would rather try something new or different. But they were not a standout like Laduree’s Sucre Plaisir or Levain Bakery’s cookies or Dominique Ansel’s DKA; all of which I would return to over and over again given the choice. These were just good butter cookies.

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