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Eli’s Cheesecake Company Online Store

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Store Rating: 4.0
Reviewed by 3 customers
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Cheesecake Company Online Store
Review
Summary
About the Author
Eli’s is a company that cares. Buy from them the next
time you need cheesecake!
Jul 01 ’03 (Updated Jul 10
’03)
 

Author’s Product Rating
Store Rating: 5.0
 

Ease
of Ordering:
Customer Service:
On-Time Delivery:
Selection:
Full
Review
UPDATE 7/10/03: Pictures of replacement cheesecake additional
discussion of “cheesecake experience.”
Additional
Resources:

If you would like to find out more about Eli’s Cheesecake
or Steakhouse after you are done reading my review of their on-line store, you
can do so here:

http://elischeesecake.com/

You can see pictures of
my replacement cheesecake
here:

http://homepage.mac.com/aric/epinions/PhotoAlbum72.html

Replacement
cheesecake? Read on!

Into Every Life a Little Cheesecake Must
Fall:

A friend of mine was having a birthday and he didn’t want a
birthday gift from me. I knew that several people including myself were fans of
cheesecake, so instead of a birthday cake (which no one I know really loves), I
told him that I would bring the dessert.

Gads! What to do? No one I know
owns a springform pan! ;-)

So I started looking around on the Internet
for gourmet cheesecakes.

Problem is, there are a few places offering
specialized cheesecake for sale on the Internet, but nowhere I’d ever heard of.
I really didn’t want to take such an expensive chance. Plus, I didn’t want to go
to any of my local bakeries, since most of them are Italian and only offer
Italian cheesecake.

For the benefit of any layperson that may have
stumbled across this review, there are two “main” styles of
cheesecake:

1) Italian: This kind tends to be somewhat sweeter and is
made with Italian cheese (typically ricotta). This makes Italian style
cheesecake generally fluffier and gives a unique non-uniform texture (I liken it
to sweetened cottage cheese with smaller particles). Fans of this type of
cheesecake a probably cursing me now (probably in Italian). :) As you can
perhaps tell, I am not a huge fan of this sort of cheesecake.

2) New
York: New York style cheesecake uses cream cheese and tends to be richer, denser
and somewhat less sweet. New York cheesecake should ideally hit the stomach like
a ton of delicious lead weights, no “light and fluffy” here. :) OK, so that’s
perhaps not the best description, but I think you get the idea.

Then
there is:

http://elischeesecake.com/

I’d heard of that great
Chicago landmark and I recalled seeing something about it on the TV Food
Network.

Eli’s has been a Chicago-area tradition for many, many years. As
a matter of fact, Eli’s cheesecake was part of Bill Clinton’s inaugural party
(an immense, red, white and blue cheesecake – pictures available on Eli’s
website):

http://elischeesecake.com/history/legend3.htm

Of the
two “main” styles of cheesecake, Eli’s “Chicago” cheesecake is closest in style
to New York cheesecake (i.e., it uses cream cheese). However, much as Chicago
“deep dish” pizza is very different from the traditional hand-tossed NY pizza,
so is Eli’s cheesecake different than your standard NY style
cheesecake.

Eli’s cheesecake tends to be a little creamier than your
standard NY style cheesecake (probably due, in part to the addition of sour
cream to the recipe (not merely used as a topping). Otherwise, it shares a lot
of the characteristics of the NY style… very rich and very filling.

As
luck would have it, Eli’s delivers their cheesecake made fresh right to your
door. You can call them or order right on their
website.

Custom-made Heaven:

I thought this would be a
nice touch for my friend’s birthday, something freshly made yet completely
decadent. The problem was, what kind of cheesecake should I order? Eli’s offers
many different flavors and even offers different samplers.

Then I ran
across the “create your own cheesecake”
area:

http://elischeesecake.com/indexccake.htm

(You will need the
Macromedia Flash plugin to order your custom cheesecake.)

Here, you can
actually have Eli’s design a special cheesecake customized to your
specifications. The cool thing about it is you can see exactly what your custom
cheesecake is going to look like on-screen before it ships.

The first
thing you do is pick one of two different “uncut” cheesecake flavors (original
or chocolate chip at the time of this review). I chose chocolate
chip.

Next you choose a topping (like dark chocolate, whipped cream (yes,
REAL whipped cream), chocolate mousse, caramel, etc.). I chose the dark
chocolate topping.

After that, you choose two different “garnish”
toppings (gummy bears, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Oreos, Heath Bar, etc.) I
chose Oreo cookies and Reese’s peanut butter cups. It is worth noting that Eli’s
REALLY DOES use the “real” candy topping, not just generic chocolate sandwich
cookies and no-name peanut butter cups.

The final touch is a special milk
chocolate disk that gets placed into the center of the cheesecake, on which can
be written your own CUSTOM greeting message or personalization (written by hand
in a special kind of icing, so the whole thing is edible.

Once you’ve
designed your masterpiece, you tell them what state you are going to ship the
cheesecake to and then complete your checkout process (or go shopping for more
cheesecake).

The whole process is very smooth and easy. I had no problems
during the ordering process.

So what will a custom designed cheesecake
cost you? It cost me $64 total with shipping costs ($14). This is not a
cheesecake for after Sunday dinner, this is a cheesecake for a special occasion,
forget dinner altogether. :)

If you order a custom cheesecake, it takes
5-7 business days for delivery to your door (regular cheesecakes can be shipped
more quickly). I ordered mine on Monday morning, and it was delivered to me via
2-day Fed Ex service on Friday of that week.

There are only two
suggestions I made to Eli’s about their website:

1) They should list the
average weight of the cheesecakes next to each kind they offer. I think knowing
this would just emphasize just how special these cheesecakes really
are.

2) They should also offer next day shipping as an option. If you are
in a rush you can get the cheesecake one day sooner that way. Right now,
everything goes out via Fed Ex 2-day service. I will say that their shipping
costs don’t seem to be inflated like some other
companies.

Receiving the Most Decadent Cheesecake in the
World:

Eli’s makes it very clear on their website that they take
every precaution to make sure your cheesecake arrives at your door in perfect
condition.

The cheesecake itself is placed on a cardboard tray with an
overly tall cardboard ring around the outside of the cheesecake (to protect any
of the toppings from getting damaged). This whole thing gets tightly
shrink-wrapped and then placed into a thick cardboard box that you can use to
store the product in your refrigerator or freezer.

This box gets placed
inside a large custom Styrofoam cooler that has dry ice in the bottom (the dry
ice is inside a special plastic bag to insulate it somewhat from the bottom of
the cheesecake box), while allowing the cold to keep the cheesecake frozen in
transit (the cheesecake is shipped frozen).

This Styrofoam cooler is
placed into a custom white Eli’s cheesecake shipping carton (festively festooned
with the Eli’s cheesecake logo on almost all sides).

With all of this
protection, what could possibly go wrong?

Initial Problems in
Paradise:

Murphy’s Law definitely applies itself to my life with
alarming regularity. :) Unfortunately, this was the case with my custom
cheesecake.

The package itself arrived fine and none the worse for wear,
so far as I could tell.

There were two problems, though:

The
custom chocolate disk on the top of my custom cheesecake was cracked into about
10 pieces or so. This didn’t appear to be an issue with shipping, because the
package was totally undamaged and the shrink-wrap was fine. Still, things
happen, but I was rather disappointed because I had to try to reassemble the
disk, but it still looked like what it was: broken. :(

However, there was
another problem. There was no dry ice in the bottom of the package by the time I
got it and the cheesecake had started to defrost, so I had to rush it into the
refrigerator.

Thankfully, we were planning on having the cheesecake the
next day, and it appears we got the cheesecake just in time and it had not
spoiled (it was still cold, but not frozen when I received it).

Over the
weekend, I used the “e-mail us” link on Eli’s website to inform them of the
issues I had with the delivery of the product. None of them were catastrophic,
but I thought they should know what happened… after all, I could have bought 3
cheesecakes from the local bakery for the price of this one custom cheesecake
from Eli’s.

Still, no real harm done.

So How Does It
Taste?

Other than noting the broken chocolate disk (which did, I must
add, make it easier to share), most people didn’t know about the nearly
defrosted cheesecake, and it certainly didn’t seem to affect the quality or
taste of the finished product.

In short, the cheesecake was a hit.
Everyone loved it.

I must say that I consider myself something of a
cheesecake connoisseur and I was quite impressed with Eli’s. It is easily among
the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. Don’t let the somewhat creamy, smooth texture
fool you, Eli’s cheecakes are DENSE and even a small piece will fill you up
completely.

By the way, Eli’s doesn’t mention it on their website, but
the cheesecake I received weighed somewhere between 6 and 10 lbs. (No, I didn’t
weigh it, but it was definitely over 5 lbs.)

So, was the cheesecake worth
$64? Yes, I think it was. I don’t think the shipping problems I experienced are
at all common (in fact, I think it’s extremely rare, but you’ll understand why I
think so shortly). Plus one of these cakes can feed at least 20-30
people.

What REALLY Sets Eli’s Apart

Mistakes happen.
We are all human. What sets truly GREAT company apart from a merely OK company
is how they handle things when mistakes do occur.

Bright and early Monday
morning I checked my e-mail to discover a message from Eli’s entitled “Apology
from Eli’s”.

This e-mail was actually personally written by Marc
Schulman, the president of Eli’s and the son of founder Eli Schulman. He
profusely apologized for the problems I experienced and told me they would
refund my money entirely AND ship me another cheesecake at any time I would so
choose.

Talk about wanting to “make it right”! I actually felt guilty.
After all, the cheesecake was fine and we were able to eat it. Refunding my
money and shipping me another cheesecake meant that the company was willing to
loose a lot of money on the sale to keep me as a happy customer. Plus, there
were no excuses nor did I have to jump through flaming hoops to get the refund
or reshipment. Further, this wasn’t from Eli’s customer service or a secretary
for Marc, it really was the president himself.

I wrote him back letting
him know that I was pleased that he was so willing to do everything possible to
make it right. I also told him that I felt a refund and reshipping the cake was
overkill, so I suggested that either he refund my shipping costs (since we were
able to eat the cake OK) OR ship another cheesecake, but not both. I also told
him that he need not reship a custom cheesecake, a flavor sampler would
do.

I immediately got an e-mail back from both Marc and customer service
telling me that they were going to refund my shipping costs AND reship me
another cheesecake to arrive on Thursday, July 3 (I figured July 4th is as good
a time as any to celebrate with cheesecake).

I wrote them all back and
thanked them for going above and beyond the call of duty to make me
happy.

When I got home that evening, I discovered something else… Marc
had personally called me that morning to apologize in person and followed that
up with the e-mail I received. Wow.

How many companies can YOU name where
the president personally calls you when there is a problem with your order?
:)

I can honestly say that I would have no issues ordering from Eli’s
again, and thanks to the way they’ve handled things, they’ve insured that I
will be ordering from them the next time I need a cheesecake for a
special occasion.

UPDATE: Additional Eli Experience:

As
promised, I did receive the replacement cheesecake on July 3, and this one
arrived in perfect form. I took a few pictures of it so you can appreciate how
really good it looks. :)

I received the flavor sampler I requested… The
Dream Team (65 oz. (just over 4-lbs.) — Eli’s has taken my suggestion and
listed the weights of the products, once again demonstrating how well they
listen to customer suggestions) which consists of three flavors:

Mud Pie:
(4 slices) Coffee and dark chocolate cheesecake (in layers) with something
chocolately and brownie-like in the center (their website doesn’t disclose what
this is), topped with dark chocolate fudge and real whipped cream with a
chocolate drizzle and pecan pieces. If you are a “mocha” fan, then is this the
cheesecake for you! The cheesecake has a very distinctive coffee flavor without
being overwhelming while the chocolate provides all the sinful pleasure of
chocolate without loosing that quintessential cheesecake flavor. The crust is
dark chocolate as well.

Triple Chocolate Truffle: (5 slices) If you love
chocolate, then this is the cheesecake to buy. Dark chocolate cheesecake
shot through with chocolate truffle pieces layered with chocolate mousse and a
chocolate (almost like a crumb) topping with a chocolate drizzle and a dark
chocolate crust. The only “issue” I had with this cheesecake was that the soft
chocolate mousse doesn’t provide enough support when you are attempting to push
your fork through the firm (but not hard) chocolate crumb layer on top, making
the mousse spill out the sides somewhat. However, this isn’t a big problem and
the mousse really adds a nice texture and flavor.

Perfectly Praline: (5
slices) This is probably my favorite of the three. Creamy caramel cheesecake is
topped by a wonderfully buttery and nutty pecan topping that is itself
generously drizzled with caramel. The nuts and the caramel provide a rich
counterpoint to the wonderfully creamy cheesecake. I really appreciate the fact
that the caramel isn’t overly sweet or chewy (it’s very smooth and
buttery).

I really am impressed with how these flavored cheesecakes still
managed to retain their inherent “cheecake-ness.” That is — they still managed
to taste like cheesecake and not be overwhelmed by the rich toppings. Most other
flavored cheesecakes that I have had from other companies end up not tasting
like cheesecake at all, so I consider this quite a feat. :)

Every slice
is separated by paper which makes it really easy to serve.

The
Final Word:

Clearly Eli’s is a company that cares. It might cost you
a little more to get their cheesecake shipped to you, but I can honestly say it
is worth it. Of course you can grab one the next time you’re in Chicago.
:)

Recommended
Yes

What product did you purchase or
try to purchase?
Custom-made Cheesecake