Chef Chat Part 3: Vanessa O'Donnell of Ooh La La Dessert Boutique

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The last two days, we've been chatting with Vanessa O'Donnell, the pastry chef and owner of Ooh La La Dessert Boutique, about how she got started in the industry and how she successfully turned an operation with a 600-square-foot kitchen, into a profitable business with three locations within the span of four years. There's been a lot of hard work involved, certainly, but a lot of the success has to do with her product. Her desserts have that built-in addictive quality to them that has people craving more, me included.

For our tasting, O'Donnell let me choose whatever looked good to me, and on the particular afternoon I was there, I was craving cheesecake and chocolate.

I took one look at the spread of desserts behind the glass counter, and pointed at a large slab of cheesecake topped with a glistening glaze of plump round cherries.

Now, The Cheesecake Factory does a good job overall with their product, but I often find their cheesecakes to be on the lighter side, almost mousse-like in consistency. O'Donnell's cheesecake has that just-made New York Cheesecake taste, the cake itself smooth, creamy, and dense, so dense that it sticks to the tongue and the top of your mouth almost like a peanut butter would. The buttery graham cracker crust is also wonderful, crumbly yet almost caramel-y in flavor.

Moving on, I tried an impossibly huge slice of Italian Chocolate Cream Cake, which must have been at least eight inches in length and three inches in height. It was large enough for two or three to share, but I swear if it was the only dessert I tried, I probably would have finished the entire thing. The all-chocolate cake could not be described as anything less than delicious. Cocoa had been added to the cream cheese frosting to give it milk chocolate-y hue, while the cake itself was dense and moist, with a smattering of nuts.

I saved the best for last, my favorite red velvet cheesecake. This is the one that I get random cravings for, that in the past has forced me to drive all the way to Katy to get a fix. On this occasion, the cake lived up to the memory in spectacular fashion: dense, smooth, rich, deep, chocolate velvet flavors are unlike any other you will find in Houston.

There are so many other different cakes and cupcakes that it would be impossible to try them all in one visit. There were strawberry cupcakes and milk chocolate chip cookies, Boston Cream pie, and tres leches, among other things, giving me all the excuse I need to make a return visit sooner rather than later, and I don't mind a single bit.

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