Chocolate, Cheesecake, and Hanson: Tulsa Has It All

“You’re going where? For what?”

That’s the reaction that almost everyone had when I said I was going to Tulsa in May for Hanson Day. Because we’re in California, and vacationing in Oklahoma (which has tornadoes), when you’re already in a beautiful place (that doesn’t have tornadoes) seems silly. And Hanson? Are those guys still around?

Yes. Yes, they are.

First stop: 3CG, Hanson's independent music studio in the middle of Main Street.

First stop: 3CG, Hanson’s independent music studio in the middle of Main Street.

This was my first Hanson Day (an annual event held by Hanson in their home town) and my first time in Oklahoma. Other than imagining scenes from “The Grapes of Wrath” I didn’t know what to expect from Tulsa, and maybe that’s why I was so pleasantly surprised.

Tulsa is cute. It has some fun little neighborhoods, like the Blue Dome District. They were having a festival the same weekend as Hanson Day and so after the bowling tournament (because of course there’s a Hanson bowling tournament) a few of us walked around to explore.

The most delicious thing at the bowling alley? Zac Hanson. Obviously.

The most delicious thing at the bowling alley? Zac Hanson. Obviously.

We stopped into Dwelling Spaces, a shop/cafe that had the brilliant idea to make Hanson lattes and hot chocolates. It was warm and humid outside, but of course we all had to get one.

And that's how you make a Hanson hot chocolate.

And that’s how you make a Hanson hot chocolate.

In another part of town the store Ida Red was also in on the Hanson party and figured that the best way to sell candy bars would be to put pictures of the Hanson men on them.


It’s just a shame they used a picture of Zac from the photo shoot where he looks like Ally Sheedy. Don’t believe me? Here:

Don't you forget about Ally Sheedy.

Don’t you forget about Ally Sheedy.

Closer to Hanson territory are a few restaurants in the Brady Arts District. They had two fan club dinners there for us and excellent signage for both. Caz’s Chowhouse was a favorite and I went back there for lunch with a couple of friends. Everything was tasty, their ice cream floats really hit the spot on a hot day, and the little cheesecakes weren’t bad (although they weren’t the quality of Junior’s in New York, but that’s hard to top).

I'm a big fan of signage, and these table toppers were a lovely touch.

I’m a big fan of signage, and these table toppers were a lovely touch.

Right next to 3CG is a wood-paneled cozy place called the Tavern. A few of us shared the Bacon Popcorn appetizer at the recommendation of Zac Hanson, and it was good. Difficult to eat, but tasty. The Angry Mac & Cheese got good reviews from our group, and if you don’t like spicy then you can ask for it to just be Grumpy or Mildly Annoyed.


Just don’t bring any vegetarians with you.

In exploring slightly further away I was shocked – SHOCKED – to find the Philbrook Museum. It’s like someone scooped up a little piece of Italy and dropped it in Tulsa. The grounds are beautiful, the art collection is diverse, and it looked like they did a really nice Sunday brunch, although I was saving my appetite for the Hop Jam that afternoon.

This is Tulsa? Who knew!?

This is Tulsa? Who knew!?

What’s the Hop Jam? Oh, just a little beer and music festival that Hanson started in 2014. It’s free to the public (although you need to buy tickets to sample the beer – $2 each) and several bands played over the course of the afternoon, with Hanson as the headliner for a crowd of about 30,000 people.

There were also lots of food trucks offering Chinese Nachos and lots of other delicious things, including grilled cheese made with donuts.

I did not eat this, but I wanted you to know that it exists.

I did not eat this, but I wanted you to know that it exists.

I stuck with a pulled pork sandwich. Seemed less diabetes-inducing.

And if you hadn’t heard, the reason Hanson started a beer festival is because they also started a beer company. You can get your MMMHops right here.

Next I want them to make a soda called MMMPop.

Next I want them to make a soda called MMMPop.

Other delicious things at the Hop Fest included Isaac Hanson and his special Hop Jam guitar. This man is aging incredibly well.

Old Man Hanson is a refreshing site on a hot and muggy Tulsa day.

Old Man Hanson is a refreshing site on a hot and muggy Tulsa day.

And despite the gross hot weather, I had to peek into Glacier Confections, just around the corner from 3CG. They do beautiful truffles in some unique flavor combinations. (The Elvis is peanut butter, banana, and bacon. Not my favorite, but something you should try at least once.) They even had a Hop Jam truffle, which I’m sorry to say I didn’t try because the one thing I learned at the Hop Jam is that I really don’t like beer. I really tried to, but it’s just not happening.



The caramel truffles were fantastic though, as long as you ate them while inside the store, before they could turn into puddles outside. You can also order from them online.

And speaking of turning into puddles, even a hungover Taylor Hanson seemed to have that effect on some people. Seriously, whose hair looks that good all the time?

Out drinking until 1a.m. and then ready for work by 9a.m. That's called being a professional.

Out drinking until 1a.m. and then ready for work by 9a.m. That’s called being a professional.

My verdict on Tulsa is that it’s a fun place to spend a few days, and I didn’t even see everything I wanted to. Next year I need to go to the Guthrie Center and the Riverwalk, and maybe try that donut grilled cheese thing. Just for blogging purposes, of course.

And here’s one last photo of Zac from the Hop Jam, just because.


Rock on, your Royal Zacness. Rock on.

Where’s the love?

Categories: Cheesecake, Chocolate, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Office Birthday: Chocolate Cheesecake, Lego Style

My coworker, Bill, had another birthday this week. They do that every year or so in my office. Maybe in yours, too.

Last year I made Bill this Lego cake, which you can read more about at this Lego Cake post.

It's no Vogon destructor fleet, but it'll do.

It’s no Vogon destructor fleet, but it’ll do.

Cool, right? Well I don’t like to repeat myself with birthday themes, but Bill is still a Lego lover, and I still have the Lego molds I bought for that cake, and I wanted to get some more use out of them. I’ve also been wanting to make a chocolate cheesecake for a few weeks now. So here’s my Lego/cheesecake birthday mashup.

First, I melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips in my little double boiler and poured the beautiful results into the molds. I then held the mold by the edges and tapped it down firmly on the counter at least 20 times to get the air bubbles out. There were lots of them.


Then I stuck it all in the fridge to set. I didn’t temper this chocolate, so almost as soon as I got the men out of the mold, they started to soften wherever I touched them. So I touched them as little as possible, using a toothpick to poke off the ragged edges, and put them in a container in the fridge.

The filling for this cheesecake was simple enough. Just make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature when you start or you’ll get lumps. Throw the wet ingredients in and mix, then add the chocolate. At that point I was tempted to stop and just have it be a marble cheesecake, because it looked so pretty.


But what to do about the crust. Hmmm. I went to three stores and couldn’t find the plain chocolate wafer cookies the recipe called for. They all had a filling, like Oreos, or a chocolate coating. I had some chocolate graham crackers though, so I crushed those up, and then I saw the green box on my counter.

Well hello there, Girl Scout Thin Mints.


The Thin Mints do have a chocolate coating, and I wasn’t sure how that would change the texture of the crust, but I was willing to experiment. Into the little food processor!


I wish this blog had smell-o-vision or something, because whizzing up the Thin Mints seemed to release their magical aroma. I mixed up the crushed grahams, the Thin Mint crumbs and the melted butter, and once it was all pressed into the springform pan it looked like a real enough cheesecake crust. Just make sure you pack it down tight, so that you get a nice, crisp crust, and not just crumbs that fall apart.


I poured in the filling and it looked gorgeous and ready for baking.


Coming out of the oven it still looked gorgeous, and I wish I’d taken a photo of it right then. Because when I came back 15 minutes later to start loosening the pan from the edges, there was a crack. Arg!


Supposedly this happens if you don’t grease the pan (because then as it cools it can’t shrink in from the edges because it’s stuck, so it cracks) or because you haven’t used a water bath. I’ve only ever made one other type of cheesecake and I’ve never had a problem with cracking before, but every recipe is different. If I try this one again, I’ll grease *and* bathe the cheesecake, just to be safe.

But now I have a cracked cheesecake. If this was another Doctor Who theme party I’d be fine. Perfect in fact. I’d just say it’s the crack in time that we saw all through Matt Smith’s first season:


Since this was supposed to be a grown up Lego cheesecake though, I needed another option. I could cover the crack with chocolate bricks. I could serve it with whipped cream all over the top. Or I could put the chocolate Lego men *in* the crack, like they were being swallowed by a sinkhole. Or maybe like they were in the trenches of a cheesecake turf war. Bill went to West Point, so I figured he’d be happy with either scenario.

Into the crack! (I waited until I got to work the next day and was ready to serve it up before doing this step, to avoid any melting.)


And yes, he was happy.


It didn’t turn out to be the loveliest dessert I’ve ever made, but it was super tasty. The Thin Mint crust was mild, but delicious. And when I told people what it was they all seemed to think that made the cheesecake extra decadent. As long as it all disappears into smiling faces, I’m happy.
Chocolate Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate wafers/cookies
1/3 cup butter
4oz. semisweet chocolate chips
3 8oz. packages cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons flour
3 eggs

Make the crust by combining wafers and melted butter. Press into bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Melt chocolate over low heat. Once melted, take off of heat to cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat softened cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla with a mixer until smooth.

Add flour and mix well. Add the cooled chocolate. Swirl it in if you want a more marbled effect, otherwise mix it in fully. Add all three eggs at once and beat on low speed just until combined.

Pour filling over your crust. Put the pan onto a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet in case it leaks. (Mine always leaks at least a little butter.)

Bake at 375F for 45-50 minutes. It will be jiggly when you take it out but will firm as it cools.

Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge and slowly open and re move the sides of the pan. Cool for another 30 minutes then cover and chill for at least four hours.

Never give up, never surrender!

P.S: I can’t think of Bill without getting this stuck in my head. Maybe I’ll play it the next time I bake for him:

Categories: Bake From Scratch, Cheesecake, Chocolate, Office Birthdays | Tags: | 1 Comment

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