Monday, May 5, 2014

Bakery Review: Carlo's Bakery, Las Vegas, NV

Carlo's Bakery - visited April 28, 2014

This is going to be another of those picture-heavy posts. Because any time I'm in a new bakery, I go into sensory overload. I don't even eat half the stuff like anything with fruit (unless it's apple) or lots of cream filling or has marshmallows or walnuts or is any variation of a cheesecake. But I just love how it all looks and is presented so I snap picture after picture, looking my fill. Which is way better than eating my fill....although I do that too.

After lunch at Buddy V's and a tour through the Grand Canal Shoppes and the Venetian, we stopped back at Carlo's Bakery on our way out. It was rather crowded, presumably with tourists but the crowd was served by calling numbers and everyone getting waited on when their turn came.

Since Buddy V's and Carlo's Bake Shop were both owned by Buddy Valastro, it was also known for cannolis. But I had my sights set on other items. All of the desserts were in individual sizes with the exceptions of 6", 8" and 9" cakes in the front display. I forgot to take a picture of them but they looked like ordinary bakery cakes. Except there was nothing ordinary about their price. An 8" inch, frosted but plain in decoration, was $50. Eeek.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Despite that early warning sign, I still experienced sticker shock to discover the individual chocolate mousse cake I had my eye on was $9.95. Now, I'm used to paying more at high end bakeries and I'm even (somewhat) used to paying higher Vegas tourist prices. But a little cake for $10 still made me blink. Not that it mattered since, blinking notwithstanding, I bought it anyway. But good thing I don't like cheesecake because those little ones went for $11. Pass.

I also bought a couple of the Cashew Cookies to try. The cookies are sold by the pound but I only asked for 2 (cookies, not 2 lbs). There was a good variety of cookies, enough to make me indecisive about what to try. I narrowed it down by ruthlessly discarding the ones that looked like something I could make myself (butter cookies) and the ones I don't like to eat (biscotti). I finally settled on the Cashew Cookies because I love cashews and wanted to know what these would taste like.
Cashew Cookies

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I also decided to try one of their brownies. Normally I don't buy brownies since, hello, I make them all the time and they're not that hard to make from scratch. Plus, snob that I am, there are very, very few brownies I like better than the ones I make. Actually, I can't think of any right now but let's pretend they exist. Still, I wanted to see what Carlo's version was like. They sell them with nuts and without. Of course I went with the plain ones since I don't like nuts in my brownies, especially not walnuts.
Frosted Brownies
When your number is called, the server behind the counter asks what you want, you point to stuff and they write it down on a slip of paper along with your name. Then they box up your order and it gets put in a line behind the other orders waiting to be rung up by the cashier. The process moved along but I wouldn't call it fast. Operationally, it works as efficiently as it can, given the number of customers packing the store, but it still took me over 5 minutes from the time I put in my order to when my box of baked goods made it to the cashier to be rung up.

Chocolate Mousse Cake - $9.95
Between the $10 mousse cake, the $6 brownie and the by-the-pound Cashew Cookies, I spent just under $20 at Carlo's. I didn't start my taste test bites of each one until we were back at my sister's later in the day. The mousse cake was literally a round of chocolate mousse covered in dark chocolate ganache. There was a very thin layer of cake as the base but it was mostly mousse. I had a few bites at room temp but because it was a mousse, it would probably have been better chilled. I have to say, while it was good, I don't think it was worth $10. And I don't say that just because I'm cheap. I've paid more than that for sweets and given it proper accolades if I thought it was worth it. This was good but I don't think it was $10 good. Maybe $5 or $6 good but not $10. That makes it more expensive than the hazelnut praline slice I had from Laduree and you know how I feel about that cake. So you have to add the Vegas tourist markup to this to explain the higher price.
Chocolate Mousse Cake
The brownie was dense and chewy, just how I like my brownies. I had a bite after I'd eaten 75 cents' worth of the mousse cake and I was a little chocolate-full so I may not have appreciated this as much as I would have if it had been my only dessert of the day. It was good but not something I would particularly remember or rhapsodize about after I left Vegas.
Frosted Brownie - $3.50
Cashew Cookies - $1.53 for 2
The Cashew Cookies are something I normally don't like in cookies - they were crunchy and dry. Not dry like it should've been moist and was dry but dry like it's supposed to be because that's the kind of cookie it's meant to be. It was almost like a biscotti but lighter in texture and crunchy. I liked the flavor and I didn't mind the texture since that's how it's supposed to be but I'm glad I only bought 2 and that they were small.
I enjoyed the experience of Carlo's Bakery and seeing all the eye candy on display. I'd recommend it for anyone who's never been there before. But be prepared for the prices and, if you're a baker, I don't know if you'll find anything you can't make for yourself just as well or better. Either that or I missed the item(s) that would've made me more rapturous about their offerings. It was a good new-bakery discovery experience but next time I go to Vegas, while I'd go back to Buddy V's Ristorante for lunch or dinner, I'd probably try a different bakery to sample.

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