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An Ode to Whipped Cream at Café Borrone in Menlo Park, California

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If there is a heaven, it surely tastes like this.

The picture above is a frosted mocha from Café Borrone, a Bay Area landmark and the unofficial town square of Menlo Park, California. Over the course of my lifetime, I have probably handed more money to Borrone’s than to any other institution. (Well, excluding my university. But including my landlord.) Growing up just one town over, I spent many afternoons sipping frosted mochas by the fountain on Borrone’s sunny patio.

20090108borronesign.jpgBorrone’s impressively versatile kitchen is known for many things—huge fluffy scones, gooey pastrami melts, and crumbly chocolate chip cookies among them. But many of its best-selling items have one thing in common: the house-made whipped cream on top.

I am not, in general, a huge fan of whipped cream; as far as indulgences go, I’d rather splurge elsewhere. But sweet, silky, and addictive, Borrone’s whipped cream is unlike any other I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve never seen a frosted mocha ordered without it.

Any whipped cream from a can tends to be overly sweetened, and so light that it deflates quickly and practically disappears on the tongue. Most restaurant whipped cream, on the other hand, is heavy, hardly sweetened at all, and comes in a soft pile, lacking the precision and spray-nozzle pattern that makes whipped cream so fun.

But Borrone’s strikes the perfect balance of restaurant quality and dessert-ready whimsy. It’s sweet but not sugary, like a well-made ice cream. It’s not heavy to the taste, but so smooth and dense that you can almost feel the milkfat sliding over your tongue (in a very, very good way). Piped generously from huge cloth pastry bags, this is whipped cream thick enough to ice a cake with, but light enough to eat by the bowlful. And it does not wilt, melt, or deflate—ever. I’ve seen frosted mochas under the sun on hundred-degree summer days, and while the milkshake-like drink underneath might melt within minutes, the whipped cream stays as stable as ever. It doesn’t lose its shape until the spoon attacks.

Longtime barista Ismael wouldn’t give away the closely-guarded whipped cream formula. "The ladies in the kitchen do something magic," he laughed. "There’s sugar, there’s cream—but they won’t even tell me what goes in it. Kitchen secret." And he kept on piping.

While whipped cream isn’t usually my thing, Borrone’s version isn’t just a topping—it’s the main event. Are you a whipped cream person? What’s your whipped cream secret?

Café Borrone

1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park CA 94025 (map); 650-327-0830

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