I got the boring, talking part out of the way first, distributing copies of the newspaper (printing out the blog seemed impractical) and talking to the four-year-olds about the work that goes into reporting, editing, photography and printing. And then I broke out the pastries.
It’s hard to blame them for jumping up and down excitedly. That’s usually how I feel when faced with a Tiffany MacIsaac confection, and these were very good examples of what the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s pastry chef does best. In the bag were chocolate-dipped cardamom marshmallows and two kinds of pumpkin flavored pastries: plump pop tarts and whoopie pies. So as not to doom the poor teachers to an afternoon of sugar-fueled mayhem, I cut the pastries into small bites.
I asked the students to consider the appearance of the food before devouring it, and to help me describe how their plates looked. “This one looks like a cookie,” Allison told me. “A marshmallow cookie.” The pop tart, Rowan explained, was “orange with sprinkles.”
The room seemed pretty evenly divided in its devotion to the whoopie pie and the pop tart. I asked Sam which one he would eat first next time, and he chose the whoopie pie. “It tastes fudgy. Like blueberry muffins.”
Peter disagreed with the endorsement as the whoopie pie sat untouched on his plate. “I don’t like it because of the cream,” he said. From beside him, my son James made an incensed snorting sound. “No!” he huffed, “the cream is really really good!” I couldn’t tell if he actually liked the icing that he was busily licking from his whoopie pie halves, or if he was simply defending my gifts against criticism.
The pumpkin pop tart was less controversial. Its biggest proponent was Nicholas, who liked the inside, which he said “tastes like banana bread.” On his side was Rowan, for whom it was all about presentation: “I like this one because it is orange.”
If there was a split opinion on the first two, there was a consensus on the marshmallow: almost everyone loved it. When I ask if they can taste anything special about it, wondering how they will describe the cardamom flavor, Allison spoke up: “I think it’s like a kind of vanilla,” she said, and after a moment of careful reflection, “the brown part tastes good .” And then the lone voice of dissent: “I don’t like the banilla!” Across the table, a skinny arm lifts a white marshmallow disc, cleanly stripped of chocolate.
Before I pack up my steno pad and camera, I asked the students if they liked their snacks, and if they would recommend them to other people. The answer was a solid yes. Rowan had the final word: “That’s a good restaurant.”