Can't make it to Canlis' Aug. 12 Milk Bar pop-up? Just really like cereal-flavored things? Here's where to get your cereal fix once Christina Tosi hits the road.
When Milk Bar chef Christina Tosi made her first cereal-milk dessert, Momofuku founder David Chang knew it would be big. On Tosi’s episode of Chef’s Table, Chang recalled thinking: “We need to put it in everything possible,” (along with a slew of delighted expletives) upon his first taste of the pastry chef’s improvised cereal milk panna cotta.
But neither Tosi nor Chang could have truly predicted the nostalgic flavor’s rise to ubiquity. Seeming (like many unique culinary creations) to evade copyright, it’s spread like wildfire. And its reach goes far beyond traditional desserts, too: Urban Family Brewing has a Death to Cereal Breakfast Stout, 7-11 has a Cap’n Crunch Crunch Berries Slurpee — I even found cereal milk in vape-juice form (please, write me if you try that).
But while some cereal-milk creations seem to be straight up copycats, others are inspired by Tosi or, simply, driven by the cereal trend she inadvertently started. It almost feels like the carrying capacity for cereal-inspired desserts doesn’t exist, and Seattle is no exception. (Even beyond the Milk Bar pop-up at Canlis this weekend, noon to 4 p.m., Sunday.)
This isn’t an exhaustive list — some of Seattle’s most-loved cereal-inspired treats are elusive, like the Breakfast Cereal Killer Stout at Big Time Brewery (not currently on tap), Belle Epicurean‘s Cap’n Crunch macaroon (call for availability) and the countless cereal-topped doughnuts served on rotating menus citywide.
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But cereal is a convenience food, after all. So here are some places you can get your cereal fix right now:
Mr. West Cafe Bar
Part of the glory of cereal milk is its indulgent sweetness. Like cookie dough before the addition of dry ingredients, it’s an accidental creation so obscenely sugary that you think twice before trying it (or, at least, tell yourself that you should think twice, before definitely having some anyway).
This is not that cereal milk. Mitigated by a significant serving of espresso (it’s telling that it’s served as a cappuccino, a relatively high-espresso drink, rather than a sweet milky latte), the Cereal Milk Cappuccino ($4.50), available only during weekend brunch at Mr. West Cafe Bar, tastes like cereal milk grew up and got a 9-to-5. You won’t get that mischievous satisfaction that comes with realizing you’ve found a socially acceptable way to pound cereal milk in public; but you will get a very good, cinnamony drink with just enough toastiness and creaminess to remind you of your childhood (and just enough caffeine to help you make it through being an adult).
720 Olive Way, Seattle; 206-900-9378, mrwestcafebar.com
Despite being the only cereal-inspired item I tried (and tried again) that contained alcohol, the Cereal Killer ($10) was the most shockingly reminiscent of my childhood memories of cereal milk: syrupy-sweet, creamy and — I think it was the lighting of the dimly lit bar — it even had that coconut-oil cereal sheen. Irony? The magic of Unicorn, Capitol Hill’s fun-house-slash-mega-bar?
In addition to whatever sorcery is doubtlessly involved, Fruit-Loop Vodka combines with RumChata cream-liqueur, soda, Sprite, Grenadine and a maraschino cherry (because why not?) for an ungodly but surprisingly drinkable mix. It isn’t for the faint of heart, and it takes more than a casual sweet tooth to truly enjoy. But I’ll stop preaching to the choir.
1118 E. Pike St., Seattle; 206-325-6492, unicornseattle.com
Though Tosi’s original cereal milk is made with cornflakes and sugar, surprisingly few spots take up that particular combination. But cornflakes — found pretty commonly in Japanese desserts — are the star of Fuji Bakery’s Crunchy Cream sweet bread ($2.50). Caramely, sugar-dusted flakes cling to a soft, bready yeast doughnut, and the custard cream is more milky than sweet; it almost feels like you’re getting that “complete breakfast” that cereal commercials are always going on about. It’s an especially good bet for people who want in on this sweet, sweet cereal trend, but whose taste buds have matured to the point that eating a Froot-Loop dupe isn’t all that appealing. (Mine, obviously, have not.)
Various locations; 206-623-4050 (Chinatown International District location), fujibakeryinc.com
Now is a good time for a disclaimer: Something can be inspired by cereal without successfully imitating it. In my eyes, Sugarfina made a few grave mistakes with their attempt at breakfast-inspired goodies. First of all, each color of their Fruity Loop candies ($7.50), crispy chunks of cereal surrounded by chocolate and an M&M-like candy coating, is a different fruit flavor. A big part of the appeal of fruity breakfast cereals is their impossible-to-identify fruity mishmash flavor. So biting into these candies and tasting distinct fruits — lime and lemon, for example — killed any chance at nostalgia.
And both their Fruity Loops and their Cinnamon Crunchies ($7.50) which vaguely resemble spherical, candy-coated Cinnamon Toast Crunch, include a layer of milk chocolate, doubly contradicting whatever resemblance they have to their chocolate-free cereal counterparts. To be fair, the rest of their Candy for Breakfast line was sold out at the Seattle location, so maybe it’s already common knowledge to forego their (admittedly adorable! And certainly edible!) crunchy candies in favor of their big, cereal-covered chocolate bars.
500 Pine St., Seattle (206-628-2111) and 233 Bellevue Square, Bellevue (425-658-0103); sugarfina.com
Full Tilt Ice Cream
Midwesterners, take a break. Everyone else, this is for you: Did you know that our supposedly friendly Midwestern counterparts have been hiding their fruity-creamy-mysterious Blue Moon ice cream from us, allegedly since the early 1930s? Thankfully, Seattle’s Full Tilt Ice Cream is here to spread the word: This cotton-candy-blue frozen treat, the actual origins and proper flavor makeup of which nobody seems to have quite pinned down, tastes just like fruity cereal milk. (Apparently there is some controversy over whether it tastes like Fruity Pebble milk or Froot-Loop milk. I am firmly in the Fruity Pebble camp and will not be swayed.)
Full Tilt’s version is satisfyingly sugary without getting too deep into the bubble-gum realm, and it steers completely clear of the Tums-like flavor that sometimes results from creamy-fruity tastes (ahem, Sugarfina). I could stand a brighter, more prominent fruit flavor (but then it would taste more like the cereal and less like its milk). Ultimately, it’s good enough to make me want revenge on secret-keeping Midwesterners; I’ll have to settle for the fact that Seattle’s litany of hyperlocal flavors is hard not to keep to ourselves.
Various locations; 206-767-4811 (White Center location), fulltilticecream.com
This Georgetown soft serve and doughnut shop had its soft opening on July 1 of this year, so you’d be forgiven for not knowing about it yet. But now that you do, you can’t be forgiven for not rushing over there immediately. All I could think when I took my first bite was THIS IS IT: Not sure what my prophecy was, but it’s good.
Seattle Freeze doesn’t advertise a cereal-milk flavor; they’ve got a long list of mix-ins and toppings ranging from honey lavender sauce to dried mangoes. Ask for the vanilla base and take your pick of breakfast treat (when I went, the mix-in bar included Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch), then watch a big metal cone squish the ingredients into well-incorporated submission. Top with malted milk for a creamy, toasty finish. Or, don’t: This dessert refuses to be kept in a box.6014 12th Ave. S., Seattle.; 206-402-4208, 206freeze.com