“Rewarded” might not be the right word, though I didn’t despise the drink. The soda’s overwhelmingly sugary smell just made me question why I enjoyed Peeps in the first place—and, for that matter, all sweets in general. I also questioned every decision I’d made that brought me to the moment where I thought going out of my way to retrieve a bottle of Peeps-flavored Pepsi was a good use of my time.
Anyway, back to the giardiniera paczki! The folks at J.P. Graziano snuck giardiniera spices into vanilla custard and chocolate custard paczki, and I do mean snuck. In my delirious excitement and curiosity, I forgot the memo about the chocolate paczki containing hints of giardiniera, which surprised me after a couple bites; the spices delivered a simmering heat that emerged after I initially acquainted myself with the thick, decadent chocolate custard.
The giardiniera showed much more prominently in the vanilla paczki. I could see green and red specks in the light yellow custard, which put my taste buds on high alert. The actual flavor left me wanting a little more spice, which only made itself known when the aftertaste set in; it appeared with all the intensity of a sparkler firecracker and disappeared just as quickly. I realize the low-heat flavor profile ensured the giardiniera paczki could still function as a dessert, which is, obviously, crucial. I realize few people are sickos like me, a person who demands his sweets taste like lab experiments.
As I made my way to J.P. Graziano, I considered what it means to write about a short-batch experimental sweet that’d sell out long before this newsletter reached you. I often use this space to write about something I’ve experienced the previous week, though I like to think it’s something that our newsletter subscribers can use to orient themselves in their daily lives. The anecdotes about the labor that went into a specific story, or what I think about using a website for rating music, or my experience watching a film I have mixed feelings about—all of these newsletter subjects are something that I hope makes you curious about this city and our world. I looked forward to documenting my paczki taste test—the existence of giardiniera paczki is a hyperlocal phenomenon that I think is conceptually funny enough to spend some time considering. But if you weren’t at J.P. Graziano the first hour after it opened Tuesday, you missed the experience.
Part of what I like about service journalism is that it provides the public with a constantly evolving guide to the city. Reviews—of films, restaurants, live theater, and music—function as a reality check in the face of hype and promotion. You might not always agree with the critic writing the review, but if they’re good at what they do, they’ll use their knowledge, insight, and personality to provide a distinctive perspective to help you form your own opinion and figure out if, say, a new gallery show you’d never heard of is worth a visit. The giardiniera paczki presents an interesting case: it’s noteworthy, but no longer available to the general public. Which means anyone who might be interested in trying one after reading this is out of luck—maybe till next year, if J.P. Graziano does it again.
Since this is a newsletter and not a review for print, I am comfortable writing about this food item—also because it’s steered me towards reflecting about the nature of my work.