Today marks the last day of Pancake Month at Clinton Street Baking Company in New York City's Lower East Side (LES). Today also marks the Leap Day, which comes every four years. (Happy official birthday to all the Leap Year babies!) To provide a bit of background I'm pretty sure Clinton Street has Pancake Month all month long in honor of the holiday in England called Shrove Tuesday that takes place the day before Lent. And on this day, pancakes are consumed! Well, the European version of the pancake which is what we Americans know as le crepe (equally tasty). I went to Hereford, England a few years ago to research a novel and happened to be there on Shrove Tuesday and got to partake in the holiday of consumption. Good times.
I'm a huge fan of Clinton Street Baking Co. They've been on my last two annual baking reviews and I did a mini-post alerting people as to the awesomeness of Pancake Month last February. And I ended up going to Clinton Street Baking Co. not one, not two, but three times this month. (No, this was not planned.)
I went on the first day of Pancake Month with my friend Anna and her boyfriend. We partook in the crunchy banana and cinnamon chocolate sauce pancake. When the pancakes arrived, literally a mound of pancakes with another mound of toppings (deep fried battered banana pieces with chocolate swirls), I was excited to delve in. But when I did, while fluffy and tasty and all, I noticed there was no banana in the pancake. Eating the fried banana pieces as a side was quite filling in itself and in all honesty I am not one who'd be able, as hard as I try, to finish a whole stack of pancakes from Clinton Street. I wouldn't even dare you to do it, they're so filling.
I slathered a bunch of maple butter on my pancakes, ate half, took the rest home, got some complimentary scones, and was satisfied but hoped that the next time I came I'd get to indulge in more flavor in the pancake.
Skip ahead to a week later when the pancake du jour was the almond frangipane with fresh raspberries, sliced almonds, and chocolate sauce. I am not a fan of almond flavoring too much, so I decided not to purchase the pancakes. Instead I went with the staple of buttermilk chicken and waffles. Amazing. I did cop a taste of my friends' though and was disappointed again that most of the flavor was in the toppings and not within the pancake itself. Though there seemed to be the hint of an almond flavor in the middle, but if so it was faint. My friends liked their pancakes well enough so there ya go.
The following week. My friend Bonnie really wanted to try the pumpkin pancakes this year and being that we are two peas in a pod when it comes to that how could I say no? I was excited because even though the pancakes may not have been what I expected the service is often very good at Clinton Street Baking Co.
Our waitress seemed somewhat frustrated that evening and perhaps it was because of the fact that the pancakes were sub par. Even the woman next to Bonnie and me did not seem satisfied with her pancakes, eating only a portion and choosing not to take the remains home. She said she was disappointed about the flavor having thought that there would be pumpkin inside the pancake. The waitress asked the cooks if there was pumpkin inside and returned to say that it was in a slight dose within the pancake. What that means I have no idea, but I should've taken that for what it was instead of ordering my own plate.
Again, there was no specific flavor inside the pancake. Cold pumpkin chunks were on top of the stack with some streusel accompanied by some splotches on the plate that tasted like peanut butter (we were told this was pumpkin seeds ground up into a paste.) This was a major concern as Bonnie is allergic to peanuts. So anything that even tasted like peanuts should've had a huge warning informing customers that it was in fact pumpkin seed. I was not a fan of the pancake and so sent it back in favor of their other staple the blueberry pancake that actually had blueberries incorporated into the pancake.
From that point on our waitress basically ignored us for the rest of the night. Bonnie had to flag her down for our bill. My tea had been forgotten, my utensils taken when I asked for a new order, and an attitude given when I asked for new utensils. Tsk tsk. I've been to Clinton Street Baking Co. on super busy days, slightly busy days, and light days and received friendly service each and every time. What gives? I've given steady patronage to this location since I found out about it almost two years ago. I've taken long lunches from Tribeca just to get the food and bought pancakes for a friend as a present! But that ill-fated pumpkin pancake day was just not good. I did complain on their Facebook page, no response of course.
So let me explain why I'm somewhat up-in-arms about this. The year prior Bonnie and I had had the pumpkin streusel pancake and there was pumpkin in that bad boy. The pancake was orange in color and the praline streusel was a great compliment and there were pumpkin seeds inside the pancake as well. Delish! But this year, that was no more. Clinton Street Baking Co. went on to post pics of their daily pancake offerings on their Facebook page and you can see that it's all topping heavy. There seems to be no specificity to the pancake itself. It looks like they use a core pancake recipe, perhaps adding light touches here and there but nothing more than that for flavoring of each pancake and again if it's in there it is subtle. I'm not saying it's not good per se, but it's not what I expected having had a much more pleasant and flavorful experience the year before during Pancake Month.
I do have qualms when something is advertised as banana and instead just has banana toppings. IHOP (International House of Pancakes) has also done this as well as many other eating establishments, I'm sure. Apple pancakes do not necessarily have apple inside but on top. To me that is not an apple pancake, that is a pancake with apple topping. Let's call a duck a duck shall we?
So my request to Clinton Street Baking Co. is that next year go back to new fillings and such for the pancake. If it's a chocolate chunk pancake make sure the chunks are melting within the fluffy, chewy pancake and melts in my mouth with a merge of flavors. Not me having to scoop the topping onto my pancake and make sure to get it all in one gulp. Or, if this may not be the way to go call Pancake Month, wait for it, Pancake Topping Month. I'm game and I'll know what I'm getting.
Again, I am a fan of Clinton Street. This is no way sways the fact that they do have very good food--particularly their scones, biscuits, and waffles--and often times friendly staff. Every place has a bad day, with off service, and perhaps less than spectacular food from what consumers may have experienced. But that doesn't change the fact that it is a staple in LES and a welcome one. I look forward to returning and delving into something else on the menu.