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Extraordinary Desserts (San Diego)

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Not to get too off topic, but what is wrong with Extraordinary Desserts? I've had a few complaints in the past, and I'm curious what you think. Also, which location?

Edit: This thread was created from a reply I made in another thread... so that's why it doesn't make sense.

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  1. I've been to ED numerous times and never encountered any attitude. Of course, they do employ young people and sometimes young people are bad at service.

    I see a lot of hating on ED and it always baffles me. It seems a little non-Chowish (IMO) to let service interfere with deliciousness. Isn't the food quality ultimately what we're after? I don't care how rude the counter-person is if the food is great.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      Service *IS* part of the whole dining experience. I used to think food was the most important component and would forgive or overlook service that was deficient. Not any more. The memory of the food and how it tasted seems to fade over time, but the memory of how I was treated never does.

      1. re: DiningDiva

        Different strokes for different folks, I guess. Good service doesn't make bad food better, and the converse is also true.

        The best meals I've had are indelibly burned into my memory. Service is totally forgotten, and to me completely irrelevant.

        1. re: DiningDiva

          I completely agree with you on this one. I find that the Downtown ED is much better than the Hillcrest one, although I've had good and bad experiences at both.

          At the Hillcrest one, I don't think you can really have a "bad" customer service experience, since you only see the employees for five seconds between crowds of people waiting in line.

          At the Downtown one, sometimes the service is really great and sometimes bad. I usually go with my girlfriend to lunch there, and don't even get dessert half the time. I don't mind the expense, the food is good. The change towards bad service has definitely happened more recently.

      2. Perhaps some people are suspicious of the fancy presentation of desserts, with gold foil and all, or are put off by the high prices, or the crowds of tourists and the service. The sweets are good, if price is no object and those problems don't bother you. Weekday nights earlier in the evening or late before closing may be better experiences.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Joseph

          The times I have gone late before closing everything is picked over and all the good stuff was gone. One time I ended up just walking out. Also they do have a tendency to act like they are doing you a favor by selling to you.

          1. re: Joseph

            I agree it's expensive, and that some of the presentation is a little over the top, but that doesn't change the superior flavors or ingredients used. Who else uses Valrhona chocolate in their cakes?

            I've been a fan of ED since their opening, and have only had one or two mediocre experiences there.

          2. I've taken several trips to SD, and the last time, a good friend took me to ED in downtown. I LOVED it. We ordered three huge slices, plus ice cream and tea. It's expensive, but worth every penny IMHO. Rich, luscious, sweet, and artfully decorated; cakes and ice cream filled with some non-ordinary ingredients. Service was fine, as I recall.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chica

              Some of my favorite things there are the ice creams. Mascarpone cheese, sour cream, and brown sugar are some of the best flavors I've tried.

            2. I've only been to the Hillcrest location but never recall any obnoxious attitude or service over the years. It does get crowded on weekends but we just expect so and plan accordingly.

              1. I have found that ED has lost its edge. The staff lacks training in common manors, and who can enjoy a meal if the staff is making you angry. I feel that Karen Krasne no longer puts her heart and soul into her products like she used to. PAst couple of times the cakes have been rather dry and and crumbly. We now order our custom cakes from the folks at Twiggs in Hillcrest.

                1 Reply
                1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                  The cakes at Twiggs are very good. Also try the cakes from Just Fabulous in Kensington on Adams.

                2. To keep things exciting and different some of the mixture combinations in some of the desserts and pastries have gotten a bit far out. When I first started going there I wanted to say give me one of that...and that...and that...and that - going down the line. Sometimes now I only order a cookie and a cup of coffee because the combinations are too strange (example cinnamon roll should be cinnamon, nuts and or raisins, carmelized - not filled with citrine, dried fruits and peel). I think Just Fabulous in Kensington does a better job overall. As to service, I have never had bad service at ED or a problem with the staff.

                  1. The problem I've had with ED (5th Ave) is the defining flavor of its cakes is granular sugar. Very pretty though.

                    1. I agree about the ice creams - very good. They also have good coffee and cookies and I love the fresh fruit tarts and the savory snacks at the India Street location. Sometimes their cakes are just too much though. It annoys me that they are engineered to be long lasting rather than for taste - sometimes they are too dense and moist, and they are always incredibly sweet.

                      I also disagree with the comment that service is not important. Sometimes they are downright neglectful, and that is a problem when it interferes with the quality of the food. I don't expect the employees to enslave themselves to me, but I want my coffee hot and I don't want to be treated like I am imposing on them by placing an order.

                      I once threw a birthday party at the India Street location for my husband with about 20 people. We pre-ordered two cakes and several bottles of prosecco, and they refused to take a reservation. They said they could not set aside space for our party until we arrived - luckily some of our friends got there early to reserve the space since it was a surprise. I was surprised they were so unaccommodating. Only one server was assigned to our group, and we would have ordered more beverages had we been able to get her attention. At the end of the evening, I had to go find her in order to ask for the bill. I really got the feeling they didn't want to deal with us - maybe they didn't.

                      I have also ordered several cakes from them, and they are not very accommodating. I asked them to write something on a plaque for a cake once, and they said they needed at least five days notice. They had three days - really, shouldn't that be enough - considering that the cake probably hadn't even been baked yet?

                      In rebellion, I have tried Twiggs cakes with disappointing results, and I was put off when Just Fabulous said I would have to go to their bakery on Alvarado Road to pick up a cake even if I ordered it at the restaurant. They would not deliver it to the Kensington location. (We used to live in Kensington and we gave Just Fabulous several chances but finally gave up because of the slow service.)

                      Even with all its flaws, of the dessert cafes in town (including Heaven Sent) I am afraid ED is still the best. I also like Cafe Chloe for dessert (they have a great cheese plate)and Gelato Vero.

                      http://www.aliceqfoodie.blogspot.com

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Alice Q

                        I've ordered stuff from them custom and never had a problem. On the other hand I also made sure to call well in advance so I'd have it on time.

                        Also, I'm not really surprised they wouldn't hold a reservation for 20 people in their dining area. They move people through there quickly. A large party hanging out directly impacts how many people they can serve that night. You've seen the line I'm sure - if it were your business would you want people leaving because they can't find a place to sit?

                        Other restaurants, like Linkery for example, don't take reservations either. I like that policy. At first I was taken aback by it, but it's nice to know that when I go somewhere, I'm not going to have no shot at eating because of it being completely booked up.

                        Of course, it may just be that my expectations for ED are low. There isn't a wait staff, so I wouldn't presume to ask any of the runners to get me anything. I'm content to order my stuff, sit and wait.

                        For me, the dessert quality is worth the odd spot of mediocre service. Yeah, I can get prompt service at Coco's - doesn't mean their dessert is worth eating.

                        1. re: Josh

                          I can get prompt service,and did recently, at The Prado and Oceanaire, and their desserts *are* worth eating ;-). I don't want to get into a who's right and who's wrong battle about service, but it is an important component to the entire dining experience. When a place like ED gets repeated comments over time about poor service/attitude shouldn't someone pay attention to it. I don't care how good the cakes and desserts are or aren't, if the service staff continually treats customers no better than the potted plants, why bother?

                          4 years ago IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals)held their annual meeting here in San Diego. ED was on the (long) list of places to try and many people from all over the world did try it. Their experiences pretty much mirror the ones reported here, with the majority saying "great desserts, but service sucked". It's kinda like that old song from "A Chorus Line", Dance 10, Looks 3, just altered a bit to be Desserts 10, Service 3..............

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            I understand what you're saying Diva - but to continue to flog this dead horse just a little more, I'm a little unclear where poor service would manifest itself at ED. You wait in line, and order at a counter, where they give you a card to put on your table so that a runner can deliver what you ordered.

                            From my perspective, the only place in that sequence of events where service would come into play is when placing one's order.

                            Maybe I'm confused here. Is there an expectation out there that the runners are also waiters? Are people expecting table-side service and not getting it?

                            I guess I keep harping on this because I've been there so many times, over the many years since they've opened, and never had a problem with the service. I feel like I must be missing something for so many people to be complaining. It's like I want someone to let me in on a joke that I'm not getting.

                            But I suppose maybe I never will get it, because I don't expect any real quality of service from a place that delivers food to your table that you've ordered at a counter. I do notice bad service in restaurants, and always tip accordingly. I don't ever tip at ED, since there're no waiters, so I guess I'm just happy that they bring the food to the table.

                            1. re: Josh

                              Josh - you are referring to the Hillcrest location while DiningDiva is referring to the Little Italy location. On India street, there are hosts/hostesses who seat you and there are indeed servers to take your order at your table and deliver food to your table. I've never had truly awful service there, but I've never had great service either.

                              1. re: Josh

                                Ah OK. That makes sense. I've never been to the Little Italy location.

                                1. re: Josh

                                  I agree with DiningDiva. ED is set up like a cafeteria where you wait in line, select your desert and find a table. It's not set up like an ordinary restaurant and those complaining about that should find another place, not try to redesign a business model that works for them.

                            2. re: Alice Q

                              have you tried ordering from Michele Coulon in La Jolla? I've never ordered any cakes but have eaten her desserts. Her style is much lighter, flavorful and not as sweet as Karen Krasne's.

                              1. re: daantaat

                                I actually went to the bakery and picked up a few things to try and I wasn't blown away - but they didn't have much on the day I went. Their custom cake menu does sound good and I think her style is a bit more refined. I'm looking forward to trying her desserts at Modus!

                                Josh - the Little Italy location is a lot bigger than Hillcrest and has table service, which accounts for my grumpiness. If you have not been you should check it out. They serve beer and wine and savory snacks as well as a larger ice cream menu and the usual desserts.

                                http://www.aliceqfoodie.blogspot.com

                                1. re: Alice Q

                                  Not sure I want to check it out after reading all the negative comments about the service!

                            3. This seems like a good time put in a plug for the European Cake Gallery in Point Loma on Voltaire St. The Swiss Black Forest cake is excellent and very popular for weddings and the like. Personally, I have had it too many times. However, bring on the Truffle Cake or Bavarian Cake. They are both SO GOOD. Neither is too sweet. Be advised, the ECG is a bakery, not a sit-down place. I think its a gem and the place is dearly loved by Point Lomans. Maybe we are biased, you tell me.

                              1. Ooh, I've been trying to restrain myself, but here goes.

                                ED... out of town guests still love it.

                                I do have to say, however, that we were considering ED for our wedding cake, but Karen was actually really rude to my fiance and was trying to disuade us from working with her... I just thought that that was a little rude and egotistical. I don't remember now since it was awhile back, but her implication was either "you can't afford to have me as your vendor" or "i'm too busy for you." Either way, I thought that she could have been a little nicer, but I guess politeness isn't a requirement for them.

                                European Cake Gallery - I've actually grown up on their cakes and really do love their Swiss Black Forest cakes that is something like 7 layers high. However, do note that when you purchase whole cakes from them, they come frozen, and will advise you to defrost the cake before serving. I'm not sure how long they keep them in the freezer for, but do still taste wonderful if you follow their instructions. But the fact that they're frozen might put some people off.

                                Just Fab - I was just there this past Monday and had the flourless chocolate cake. It was dense, super rich, and very good, but a bit too sugary-sweet for me. Other desserts that we had there were really good, including a great toffee caramel chocolate cake, and a coconut macadamia nut tart. The cheesecake was just so so. Service there was really slow, but it is a tiny place and they do have a little sign that gives a disclaimer about them being a tiny place that also asks customers to be patient with waiting to be seated. Dessert there was good, but for 4 desserts, 1 coffee, and 1 tea, the bill came out to $55 or so before tip, which is a little expensive, IMO.

                                Michele Coulon is one of my new favorites. I've only had a few things there, but everything has been fantastic so far. The only thing about her dessertier is that they're kinda slow with the service. I think it's a European thing? But she's almost always there, people are friendly, and if only we could afford her cakes for our wedding, I'd be all over it. Cakes are $8 a slice.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: tiffany

                                  It is interesting to read, but I heard also from other friends that Karen is sometimes pretty rude when somebody wants to order wedding cakes. I really like the Hillcrest location and had never any bad service there and think it is the best place in SD for dessert. I went twice to the Little Italy location, didn't have a bad experience with the service but absolutely didn't like the building (too noisy, too open).
                                  I also went to Michele Coulon twice and think that her cakes are pretty good but are not on the same level as ED and their coffee is very disappointing (no good crema on the espresso and no good microfoam on cappuccino).

                                  1. re: tiffany

                                    A couple of years ago a couple of articles came out about Karen and ED. They interviewed her about her approach to desserts, how she came up with her recipes, etc. She did mention that wedding cakes was not her favorite cakes because delivering them was such a problem. I think it was that article in which she stated that the only 2 people to trust with wedding cakes were the baker (Karen) and the bride. Too many problems came in delivering and setting up and brides were too busy getting ready for the ceremony. She had reached the point of not doing them very frequently.

                                  2. Josh - It's not THAT bad - but it's probably best to go when they're not too busy.

                                    I have heard from a couple of other people that Karen is just plain rude, period. I used to see her in the Hillcrest shop when it was fairly new (I lived in the neighborhood) and I never saw her greet a single customer. It doesn't surprise me that she was negative on the idea of doing a wedding cake. Their prices on wedding cakes have always been extremely high - and they charge a fee just for a consultation. Pulleaze.

                                    We had our reception catered by the French Gourmet and they included the cake "free" - I think they just did that to keep us off their backs about it. We specified a smooth finish and no space between the layers, and it was decorated on site with miniature apples I bought at Ralphs. It was fine (we had 2 flavors, lemon with raspberry filling and chocolate mousse) and they are relatively affordable.

                                    I also met a girl a couple of weeks ago who started her own cake business here in SD. She used to be a pastry chef at Sona in LA, and she just moved her because her husband was relocated. She made the cake for the bridal shower where we met and it was excellent. I would be happy to give you her contact info!

                                    http://www.aliceqfoodie.blogspot.com

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Alice Q

                                      Not sure where this POV comes from that Karen is somehow obligated to do wedding cakes. If she doesn't like doing them, and makes it prohibitive to do them, isn't that her right as a business owner?

                                      1. re: Josh

                                        Josh I'm glad you floated this comment. Additionally, I have absolutely no problem with someone charging for a consultation. Their time has value as does mine. I'm paying for productive work time in their day - and - for their professional expertise. We pay lawyers, doctors, CPAs, design specialists, and even building contractors for the time they consult with us, so why not a baker? Sure some people do it for free, that's their choice. Others put a $$$ on their time and that's their choice too. We as the consumer also have a choice, to pay or go somewhere else.

                                        And as for caterers, you're paying for every bit of the time they spend with you, it's built into the cost of the food, labor and other administrative charges. Just remember the phrase TANSTAAFL - There ain't no such thing as a free lunch ;-). Where food is involved *everyone's* got their hands in your pockets.

                                    2. This is so funny to read...I worked @ ED for 6 months many years ago and was totally taken aback at the lack of customer service. I had come from other notable companies that thrived on their excellent customer service rep. I want to own my own patisserie and i kept ticking off in my head what NOT to do when running you won business. I loved the coffee and yes, the owner is the worst to work for. Very immature. But it's fun to go and indulge once in awhile with my friends.

                                      1. So did ekomega ever go to ED, and if so what did you think? We've been to the Little Italy ED many times. I wouldn't say the service is bad, it's just slow and not great. There may be attitudes in Hillcrest, I don't know, but none in Little Italy that should get in the way of enjoying yourselves. Of course, there's just two of us, and we're content to be left alone enjoying our desserts and drinks; big parties and catering are a different situation entirely. We're usually there after 10 on a weekday; if we show up and it's too crowded, we just leave, but we're like that any place.

                                        Couple of notes: Try the white hot chocolate, the chocolate sorbet, the salted caramel ice cream, the chocolate shortbread, the chocolate bread (croissant) pudding. In other words, the fancier or more complicated the dessert, the more you should lower your expectations. The Cobb salad is big enough for 2, and for 15$ is one of the best deals in SD. They serve Caesar sald the traditional way--individual Romaine leaves you eat with your fingers. I find their iced teas disappointing.

                                        As for a comparison to Just Fabulous, they're both good, but different. Nice thing about JF is that you can just stop in for a little cookie or something if you're not looking for a big dessert investment. Their macaroons are great. Breakfast is good at JF, especially the chicken sausage.

                                        Both places offer bar seating if the table wait is too long.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kimxchris

                                          I just wanted to clarify that I've been to both ED's a bunch of times, but was originally curious what negative things people had to say. I was trying to see if other people felt the same way I did (they do).

                                          Since the initial post, I have gone back to the Little Italy ED two times. Once during the day, and once at 10 PM. I still can't stand the Hillcrest one, as the line is long, and I find it too crowded to sit and enjoy some cake. Plus, I don't always want to just get dessert.

                                          The daytime experience at ED was worse than the 10 PM. I didn't have a bad experience either time, but both had their faults. The food was good, as always.

                                          It's things like not getting a refill of water the entire time I'm there, or not being offered another beer (or wine) when my glass is empty. I know I can just ask for it, but with ED's pretentious "atmosphere" you'd think they'd hire people who could do these things, and actually provide "service".

                                          When we went at 10 PM, we went to just get dessert. There was a line of people waiting to be seated, staring at cakes, but the 5 waitresses I saw chatting behind the bar didn't come over to seat anyone for some time. Also, when our cake was delivered, the waiter had this "look how great I am, I just brought you this delicious cake, now you owe me" attitude.

                                          I'd recommend ED to anyone who wants to get good dessert. I like their coffee cake (one of the only things cakelike that is not too sweet) a lot, and nothing is bad. Their food is good, too. Just don't expect good service from this place, despite the whole attitude of the place and how you'd expect their service to be good for an $8 piece of cake.

                                          I just wish there was a place with as good food, but also with good service.

                                        2. Writing the above made us want to go back to Just Fabulous that night because we hadn't been there in a while. The dessert we had was good, and everything in the case looked good, but we were a little disappointed that they no longer offered the list on their dessert menu (which they still had, so I guess it's a recent change). For instance, you can no longer get the plate of 4 chocolate desserts. Still recommended though.

                                          1. I love the Extraordinary Desserts places. I do agree, you can get a handful of bad experiences there. Especially when the staff is really young, and its a busy night. The cakes are wonderful, I am very fond of the Truffe Framboise. It's worth it, and the glaces are to die for. This isn't your run of the mill dessert house with rice crispie treats and hard lemon bars. Unless the staff is acting completely inappropriate, then I let it go. But I can understand your plight. Waiting in line to order, then fighting for a table, then trying to enjoy your dessert amongst the constant buzz of people, can be a bit annoying, just do what I do go during the week and steer clear from fridays and saturdays. It's a little more laid back.