Thursday, June 16, 2005

Just Desserts 10: Serendipity 3

RESTAURANT: Serendipity 3
LOCATION: 225 E. 60th St.
DATE: June 12, 2005
DESSERT: Frozen Hot Chocolate
PRICE: $9.00

Serendipity 3’s frozen hot chocolate is the barn.

The flocks of cavorting 13 year old girls, the tourist parents and their screaming children, the teenage couples – they don’t see the frozen hot chocolate. And they certainly don’t taste it. In Don DeLillo’s monumental novel White Noise, Murray and the main character J.A.K. Gladney visit “The Most Photographed Barn” in America. Why is it the most photographed? It’s the most photographed barn because the billboards surrounding the site say that it is. Hordes of individuals travel to the barn just to take a picture. But the barn has no intrinsic value of its own. The photographers don’t really see the barn. As Murray tells Jack, they are only seeing the barn’s “aura”.

Take this example of postmodern dementia and transpose it to the realm of food and you would have Serendipity 3’s frozen hot chocolate. The wait for a table can often reach upwards of two to three hours. And everyone wants the same thing. The famous “frozen hot chocolate”. Is this fame predicated on some merit of the drink? Absolutely not. Everyone goes to Serendipity to have the frozen hot chocolate because they’ve heard frozen hot chocolate is what everyone has at Serendipity. But the drink itself is horrendous. The putrid concoction is a case in point for the effect of cognitive dissonance. No one wants to be the lone person who states that this celebrated drink is something less than ordinary – or even worse. Well, I must speak up. After the pain inflicted on my tongue by this drink, I can hold my peace no longer.

Chalky is the first word that comes to mind. If you’ve ever attempted to make chocolate milk with Nestle’s Quik and not completely blended the powder, then you’re aware of what the frozen hot chocolate tastes like. The drink is nauseatingly sweet. The ice chunks are like grains of sand or regurgitated birdseed. In the way bad chefs overly salt their dishes to mask mistakes, Serendipity overly sugars this runny mud of a drink to compensate for a severe shortage of flavor. That disgustingly large portion of whipped cream floating on the chocolate’s surface? It’s the one aspect of the drink that’s unsweetened and one wonders how something that tastes of such a heavy thickness can float at all.

Perhaps the crowds are impressed by the massive portions. I was reminded of the joke Woody Allen prefaces Annie Hall with, “It was such bad food, and so little of it”. But in this case, Serependity gives such a humongous portion of the drink, perhaps they are counting on the sheer volume of sugar to dull and eventually destroy the consumer’s taste buds. Some must find satisfaction in thinking, “Look I’m eating a vat of chocolate”. But the chocolate flavor is indistinct and unrefined. Candy bars have better quality chocolate. On top of this, the drink is $7.50 before tax and tip, but a dollar would have been too much. I’ve been known to eat four or five desserts in an evening. After trying Serendipity’s “renowned” frozen hot chocolate, I had no desire to have a dessert of any kind for the near future.

It is the barn. It will continue to be photographed. But after this, I’m ready to throw my camera out. Let the masses wait. That was the worst dessert I’ve had in New York. As Danny so eloquently put – Paris Hilton is to pop culture, what Serendipity’s frozen hot chocolate is to desserts. Ugh. Never, never again.

RATING: 1.8/10
(the lowest rating The Taste Land has assigned)

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