Bad Taste

July 14, 2006 psipsina

When I called L. to tell her that the Red-Haired Boy and I were engaged, she gave me two pieces of excellent wedding advice:

1.  Everything is optional.
2.  Get your cake from a small local bakery so it tastes like butter and chocolate instead of Crisco. (L. used to be a chef.  Her wedding cake was one of the finest things I’ve ever put in my mouth.)

Our catering package with the hotel includes a “fine wedding cake” from a bakery that will go unnamed.  (In the interest of consumer protection, it’s Montilio’s.  You really had to worm that out of me.)  Taking L’s advice, I had the hotel put a clause in the contract that I could bring in a cake from another vendor at no additional charge.  (Caterers are notorious for charging a cake-cutting fee for outside cakes.  This is one of the Biggest Wedding Ripoffs, and I’m glad I avoided it)  The caterer even graciously offered me a small rebate if I brought in an outside cake.

I had warned RHB that I was going to be picky about the cake.  I’m particular about the quality of my food, and it’s disappointing to eat a lackluster cake when I know I can do better.  (I have not been completely talked out of making my own wedding cake, although I know it would be madness.)

So, off to Montilio’s we went.  I had tried their cake at two tastings at different caterers, and I was not impressed.  The cake was fine, but the icing was grainy and greasy.  However, I vowed to keep an open mind.  Perhaps if I asked, perhaps if I paid extra, they had a real buttercream recipe that they’d pull out just for me.  And after all, taking the Montilio’s cake was the easiest thing for me – I didn’t have to go interview a bunch of bakeries.

Well, it was worse than I feared.

The old
Boston broad (OBB) who was running the shop placed four slices of cake and a book of photos in front of us.  As I leafed through the book, my heart sank.  The cake decorators at Montilio’s have mastered buttercream roses, I’ll give them that.  But that’s all they’ve mastered.  They have no sense of style, design — or restraint.  All the cakes looked alike – globs and globs of buttercream roses in washed out colors.  (“Are these photos perhaps a little old and faded?” I asked politely.)  I have committed some terrible color-mixing faux pas in my oil painting days, but I have never seen colors that managed to be both muddy and chalked out at the same time.  It was quite an achievement.

“Do you see anything you like?” said OBB rather impatiently.

When I was younger, I was not known for my tact, but you’ve gotta give me credit here.  “Well,” I said, “I don’t see anything here that catches my eye.”

“Well,” she said, more impatiently, “we can do anything.  What do you want?”

I nearly pulled out the copy of Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Cake Bible that I’d brought with me, but I realized that the Buttercream Rose Persons (BuRPs) couldn’t achieve the beauty of Berenbaum’s cakes if Rose were standing over their shoulders, guiding their sticky greasy hands.  Instead, I stammered something about red roses and red ribbons, and then changed the subject to the Question, the qualifying Question, the single Question that would determine whether Montilio’s would be permitted to make my wedding cake.

“How do you make your buttercream?” I asked. 

“Oh, I don’t know,” she sighed.  “You’d have to call the bakery.”

Um, just what kind of cake appointment is this, when the people selling the cake know nothing about the product??  And I was under the impression that I was visiting the bakery.

I took a bite of each of the four slices of cake.  The cakes themselves were quite nice, but as I’d feared, the icings were dreadful, that horrible grainy “buttercream” that is made with Crisco and powdered sugar.  Who invented that crap, anyway?  It’s stable in warm temperatures and it’s quick to make, but those are its only virtues.  It feels like sand in the mouth, and it leaves a greasy, metallic aftertaste that no amount of
Champagne can wash away.  The only thing you can do after you’ve eaten a mouthful of Crisco and Domino 10X is wait it out.  After 24 hours and a few tooth-brushings, your mouth will stop tasting like you chewed on a copper wire.

There will be NO CRISCO used in my wedding cake, and most certainly not in the frosting.  Butter, and only butter, will do.

I made a mental note, Call the bakery, find out if they will make a real buttercream, with hot sugar syrup and eggs and real butter, if I pay them a little extra.

RHB and I turned back to the horrible washed out cakes with “buttercream” roses the color of delicately tinted mud, and attempting to contain my mounting dismay, I discussed with him which one of the McCakes we wanted.  OBB got more impatient with each passing minute, and began firing questions at us, which completely destroyed our ability to speak with each other.  The questions weren’t really helpful, either, all of them thinly disguised variants of “Have you people picked something yet?!”  Finally, realizing we were ignoring her, she shut up.

Instead, she sat there tapping her pen on the desk.  Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  Tap.

When I said, more firmly this time, that I’d like red roses and a red ribbon, she scribbled it down.  Then I started to describe the red I wanted, but OBB interrupted.  “Red is red,” she said.

There just isn’t any quicker way to offend a couple of artistic types than to make an asinine comment like that.  I mean, has this woman never owned a lipstick?  Or a box of Crayola’s, for that matter.

So here I am at my Wedding Cake Appointment, and there’s no one who can tell me anything about the ingredients in the cake, and there’s no one who can offer any kind of design advice, either.  Because the only one in the room besides me and RHB is OBB, and she’s clearly demonstrated her ignorance of both Cake-as-Food and Cake-as-Design.  It’s “pick one of these nearly identical horrifying ugly cakes and stop bothering me.”  What the hell is the point of this venture?  Is it to sell cakes?  Because she was certainly doing a poor job of it.

This Montilio’s location shares space with several other Bridal Businesses, including a bridal shop I won’t name (OK, it’s called Yolanda’s).  The architect for this wretched building deserves a spanking.  There was a spiral staircase in the middle of the building that I swear was made from plastic marble.  While RHB and I tried to ignore the Tap-Tap-Tapping coming from OBB’s desk, another OBB in a rather overdone yellow dress and an obviously fake leathery tan came sweeping down the staircase.

OBB1 looked up.  “Yolanda — did those people buy anything?”

“Oh, yes,” OBB2, aka Yolanda, said.  “About 7,000 dollars worth.  Lovely girl.”

“She certainly was,” said OBB1.  “Lovely.”  I wonder if the bride would’ve been less lovely if she hadn’t bought anything.

So now I get it.  We are wasting OBB’s time because we are not making a huge purchase.  Our caterer is making the purchase, and we are just picking out the details.  (And damn little choice on the details, apparently.)  As far as she was concerned, the sale was made, and it probably wasn’t very much.

Little did OBB know that the sale was not made.  There’s that escape clause in my contract with the caterer.

I tore up the mental note to call the bakery.  I would not do business with Montilio’s even if it turned out they made the world’s finest buttercream and would give me a 75% discount on it.

There’s a nasty term for businesses like these, ones that churn out inferior products and foist them, often at exorbitant prices, on young brides who don’t know any better:  Wedding Factory.  Well, as Cartman says, Screw you guys, I’m going home.  I’m not in my twenties any more.  I know quality (and its lack) when I see it, I know rudeness when it slaps me in the face, and I know when someone doesn’t want my business.  Screw you, Montilio’s, I’m going home.

 I wasn’t sure what RHB was thinking, and with OBB hovering, there was no way I could ask.  What could I say?  “Well, dear, I think it’s time we checked out another bakery, what do you think?”  Now I wish I had said that.  Instead, we finally picked the cake with the smallest globs of “buttercream” roses, and I agreed to whatever he suggested for cake and filling flavors just to be out of there.

It looked something like this:

Ugly Wedding Cake

On the way home, I said, “Do you mind if I contact another bakery?”  I’ll have to call the caterer and probably Montilio’s as well to tell them it’s a no go.  I have not paid Montilio’s anything or signed anything; my contract is with the caterer and allows me to flip Montilio’s the big bird.  That will be very satisfying, even more satisfying than real buttercream.

Moral:  Do not mess with me.  You will not win.

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