News from The Dessert Place
To date, I've posted interviews from family and friends who knew the "original" days of The Dessert Place restaurants. Today, I'm featuring a fan who has only known the new Dessert Place 2.0.
Sarah Barjum (Barj, as I call her) and I met at the very beginning of Freshman year of college when we played for the University of Michigan Women's Club Soccer team. Little did I know she'd still be such an integral part of my life over a decade later. Although we now live states apart (she in Michigan and I in Georgia), we stay in constant contact and travel together often.
While Barj was born and raised in a completely different country (the beautiful land of Honduras), we still like to think that we're long lost sisters. I often see a picture of her and think it's me. Relatives or not, Barj has been so supportive of my entrepreneurial adventures. When I quit my job and wanted to travel a bit before (re)launching The Dessert Place, Barj simply said: "Count me in...where are we going?" Colombia and Iceland became our destinations last summer. When she came to visit me in Atlanta a few months ago, she told me weeks ahead of time that she insisted on baking or helping me with The Dessert Place in some way. And, like any new person who tries our famous Cream Cheese Brownies, she can't get enough of our CCBs!
Here's a look through Barj's eyes at our friendship and her experience with The Dessert Place:
Q: Do you remember the first time that we met?
A: I won’t say exactly how many years ago that was, but it’s been a while (yikes we are getting old!). I must have met you the first day of soccer trials for the U-M Club team but there were so many people there that I can’t really remember. The first memory of us hanging out was during our soccer initiation night, I think that is the first time we really bonded. I am pretty sure we were both rushing to catch the very last bus to North Campus together - the first of many.
University of Michigan Women's Club Soccer Team
Q: As you remember it, how did we transition from teammates to friends?
A: Somewhere between being the only freshmen at the bars and our mutual love for Grey’s Anatomy, we became the closest friends. Every Thursday night, after soccer practice, we would run back to our separate dorms to get ready to go out. I would come and meet you at your room (you were never ready) right before 9:00 pm so we could watch Grey’s together and pre-game for the night. Your roommate must have hated us! Then we would try and catch the 10:05 pm bus that would drop us off right by our favorite bar. At the end of our night, we would both - yet again - be running like crazy ladies throughout campus trying to catch the last bus to our dorms. It became our tradition. To this day, we try and watch Grey’s together as much as we can. (Side note: The walk back to the dorms was at least 45 mins and very dark. So we would make sure our butts were on that bus).
Q: We used to cook a lot of meals together when we lived together in college (in the same house with 9 other girls). Did you ever think I'd be running a bakery business?
A: I think you are being very generous with the word “cook”. Hahaha I think we survived solely on the Special K Strawberry cereal and Amy’s frozen mini pizza pockets. How the house did not burn down that year is beyond me (I am looking at you, Robin, with that burnt bacon every morning)! But to answer your question: no, never in my life did I picture you as a baker. But I did see you running your own business one day.
Q: When did you first hear about The Dessert Place?
A: I remember you telling me your mom used to own a dessert shop, but I always thought it was something small. I had no idea it was such a big deal. Good thing I didn’t know about those brownies or I would have asked for many care packages from Sheryl!
Q: What were your thoughts when I told you I was quitting my corporate job to bring back The Dessert Place?
A: If I am being honest, I was a little worried, but also very excited for you. I was very happy to find out that you had found something you were very passionate about. I was also glad to see you back in Atlanta and was very relieved knowing that Sheryl and Stu would be there to help you start things. I was a little worried only because I know how hard/scary starting your own business can be (plus I had yet to try the brownies). But at the end of the day, I was very proud!
Q: When was the first time that you tried a Cream Cheese Brownie? What were your thoughts?
A: I think it was last year around Valentine’s day. I came to visit you in Atlanta and walked into batches and batches of brownies. I must have gained 10 pounds that weekend. I could not put them down! I knew I had to take some back to Alex (my husband) - BIG mistake.
Q: I hear you have to hide your Cream Cheese Brownies in your home...can you share why?
A: Alex is now more obsessed with CCBs than I am. Every time I come home with brownies or order some, he eats them and doesn’t leave me a piece! So I had started to hide them but I swear he is part hound dog- he can sniff them out.
Q: Original CCB or Peanut Butter CCB....which would you choose?
Q: What's your favorite way to eat a CCB?
A: I like them frozen. They become kind of like fudge, chewy.
Q: And just for fun, what's your favorite place that we've traveled together?
A: This is the toughest question (you are making me pick one out of the 13 countries that we have done together?)! I would say that my favorite was Iceland. I loved the hiking and taking millions of goofy pictures. I can always remember how hard we were all laughing after I tried to do a barrel roll and failed miserably. I just couldn’t stop smiling the entire trip!
One of 1,000,000 pictures taken of us in Iceland
Q: And a favorite specific memory from our travels?
A: One of my favorite memories is when we got lost in Vienna and ran out of money to pay our tab. We had spent all day at a pub watching the World Cup games (Honduras was playing for the first time ever!) and trying to complete the drinking around the world challenge. However, they did not accept credit cards and we did not have enough cash. Somehow you charmed our way out of it. I remember trying to find our hostel on the dripping wet map and trying to find something to eat with no more money in our pockets. I still have that shirt we “won” at the bar for completing the challenge. I will have to frame it one day. In case you all are wondering, the next morning was very rough…
Though we couldn't pay the bill, we befriended the owner of the bar in Vienna, Austria. He even gave us these T-Shirts to remember our time there.
Finding our way back home in the rain after many beers proved to be quite difficult.
Q: Anything else you'd like to share?
A: Hmm… Just to keep me in mind as a taste tester when a new product is coming out. I’ll make a special trip down to Atlanta if I absolutely have to.
And finally, a few more photos:
Our college days
We love going to Michigan football games together
Hanging by the London Bridge
Adventuring on the islands of Honduras - Barjum's homeland. Pretty sure I was meant to grow up in a tropical land as well.
Exploring the beautiful streets of Cartagena, Colombia
Standing on top of a crater in Iceland
Looking to send the perfect gift? Our brownies are great to send for birthday gifts, thank you gifts, thinking of you gifts, and everything in between. Click here to visit our online store.
Many of you have asked how we decided on Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Brownies as the next item on our menu. The inspiration began with my dad and my brother who are HUGE peanut butter fans. When Stu doesn't have time to for lunch, you can often find him snacking on some peanut butter straight from the jar. These guys wanted some peanut butter desserts. So PB CCBs it was!
Shea & Stu love peanut butter!
My mom and I had some ideas on how to work some peanut butter into the famous Cream Cheese Brownies and began testing. We tried two recipes with two of my younger cousins from NYC who had come to visit us in Atlanta for the weekend. They love to bake, they had some great ideas, and we had a ton of fun hanging in the kitchen together.
My cousin Talia mixing up our secret ingredients
My cousin Arielle measuring some flour
Having a little fun after the brownies were put into the oven...tasting the batter is the best part of baking, after all
I was optimistic that we'd get the PB CCB just right on the first try. While each recipe tasted great, we all agreed that they could be even better and needed even more peanut butter. I turned to the experts - my mom and godmother AKA the original creators of The Dessert Place - to get their professional opinions on what we could improve. We brainstormed for several days together...
My mom and godmother had some great ideas on how to perfect the new PB CCB!
Everyone is familiar with chocolate chips, but did you know that peanut butter chips existed? YUM!
The inclusion of this creamy peanut butter in addition to the chips ensures that you get peanut butter notes in every single bite
After several more renditions and comparing variations with our expert taste testers, we created the most perfect, peanut buttery, chocolatey Cream Cheese Brownie. To document this glorious creation, we had to photograph the beautiful brownies for the world to see.
Ever wonder how photographers get that pretty, white background?
So there you have it! We're pleased to officially introduce the Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Brownie. THE most perfect creation for all of the peanut butter lovers out there. Give 'em a try today! Or send them to your peanut butter loving friends anywhere in the country :)
The lighter chunks you see in the base of the brownie are NOT peanuts...they're our mouth watering, rich peanut butter chips!
Throughout my re-launch of The Dessert Place, my extended family has been so supportive (I guess that's what family is for, right?). While I will feature many more family members on the blog over time, I'm kicking things off with my Aunt Ann, one of my dad's older sisters from Charleston, SC...
The entrepreneurial journey is fun and rewarding, but also terrifying and filled with many ups and downs. On days when I'm wondering why I quit my steady "9-5" job, it's family members like Ann that keep me going with encouragement. Ann is often the first person to share any and all Dessert Place social media posts (her friends might think she actually runs The Dessert Place Facebook page at this point), and has genuinely been so excited about and supportive of this new career path that I've embarked on. She loves to order brownies for family occasions, and continues to tell me just how proud she is of the work I'm doing. Whether she knows it or not, it keeps me motivated.
After Ann and her husband, Max, spent many weeks on end in the car on a cross-country road trip this past summer, they made one last stop in Atlanta to visit before making their way back to SC. Rather than relaxing and unwinding when they arrived at the end of their long trip, Ann jumped right in to help me prep a huge batch of brownies so that they were ready for shipping (literally saving me hours of work). She wouldn't have had it any other way, and continued to ask what else she could do to help. As I learned while we were chatting and cutting brownies together, history sure does have a way of repeating itself...read on below to find out how Ann also helped my mom during her very first visit to The Dessert Place in the 80s!
Q: Do you remember the first time you met my mom?
While Christina officially became a Meddin in 2012 when she married my brother, Shea, she has felt like a part of our family for over a decade. Shea and Christina became best friends during their freshman year of high school at Paideia. While the two did not start dating until their Junior year of college, Chris and Shea could often be found spending time at one another's house in their teenage years. I was lucky to spend time with Christina as well through our time together on the Paideia basketball team, in which we spent countless hours together at practices, bus rides, team meals and just hanging out before or after games.
If you ask anyone who knew Shea & Chris in high school, they will tell you that Shea has been in love with Christina since he was (at least) fourteen years old...we're just so happy that he made it out of the best friend zone and into the "love of Christina's life" zone. And I'm thankful to have known Chris as a friend in our younger years, which has made the transition to sisters even more special.
Many of our family friends used to visit The Dessert Place back in the day before they knew any of us personally, and Christina was no exception. Chris and the rest of the Forte family used to go to The Dessert Place often, as the restaurant in Virginia Highland was on the way home from their elementary school. Little did Christina know at the time that the owner of the restaurant was her future mother-in-law, and that she probably stood next to her future husband on many occasions while waiting in line for her afternoon dessert.
In more recent news, our Cream Cheese Brownies just might have been the final factor that sent Christina into labor when she and Shea had their first child just over one month ago. Pregnant ladies: a CCB may be just the thing to eat if you're ready to have your baby [not guaranteed :)].
Read on below for more of Christina's memories from The Dessert Place, past and present:
Q: What is your earliest memory of The Dessert Place?
A: My brother Michael and I used to beg our parents to stop by TDP on our way home from elementary school, since we drove by it everyday. We went pretty often between 1993 and 1996! I also remember my parents sharing memories of going to TDP for date nights before we were born.
Q: Did you have any connection to our family when you used to go to The Dessert Place as a kid?
A: None at all! I'm sure we saw the Meddin family, but I have no recollection.
A: Always the cream cheese brownie with vanilla ice cream! I also loved the carrot cake, which was a close second.
A: We met in junior high at Paideia. No, we have not been dating for that long :)
Q: Do you remember when you found out that he was connected to TDP? What was your reaction?
A: I think I found out at some point in high school. I couldn't believe we had never met there before, and I (along with my parents) asked what we had to do to get some CCBs!
A: I ate way more than I would like to admit! The return of the dessert place plus pregnancy in the same year is a dangerous combination.
Q: Can you tell the fans what you were eating when you suddenly went into labor on New Years Eve? And anything else you'd like to share about this eventful evening....?
A: I don't discriminate, but I do love the vanilla ice cream cake with pieces of CCBs that we ate on your birthday last week!
Q: Anything else you'd like to share?
A: I'm hoping that marrying into the Meddin family gives me access to the CCB recipe at some point ;)
I accidentally made Chris cry while giving her a hug before she walked down the aisle with my brother:
Christina's whole family has become like family to me as well! We spend many holidays all together...the photo below was taken this past Mother's Day (which happened to double as Shea's 30th birthday):
The very first moment that I met my nephew, Hudson (Shea and Christina's first child)...obviously, there were tears of joy:
I'm teaching Hudson to love brownies very early in his life: