The New York Times rhapsodized in 2002: "Something magical occurs when the pastry hits the hot oil. The creamy white vegetable shortening filling liquefies, impregnating the sponge cake with its luscious vanilla flavor. ... The cake itself softens and warms, nearly melting, contrasting with the crisp, deep-fried crust in a buttery and suave way."
The writer is, in fact, gushing over the deep-fried Twinkie.
Yolanda DeHonney howls after hearing that one of the staples of her recently opened ice-cream shop in Penn Hills is "suave."
"I'm speechless," she roars. "They are delicious but that's a little over the top."
Not according to one customer who tried the fried treat for the first time in the morning, then returned that afternoon for three more.
DeHonney opened LRJ Treatz last month and already her carnival-themed menu has caught on. In addition to the "suave" Twinkies, she offers deep-fried Oreos, gourmet funnel cakes (apple fritter, peach cobbler, strawberry shortcake, chocolate praline), cotton candy and soft-serve ice cream.
The take-out shop is named after her sons, Loran Jr., Roman and Jordan, who are also her menu consultants.
"They're Kennywood connoisseurs," laughs DeHonney. "They are responsible for choosing everything. This was all their idea."
After experimenting at home, the family created the basic funnel-cake batter, which is also used to coat the Oreos and (frozen) Twinkies before they get a hot-oil bath. Both are served on a stick. Some places serve deep-fried Twinkies with a chocolate or berry sauce. DeHonney serves them in their altogether, though she does provide strawberries or chocolate on request.
"I wanted to do something different than Bruster's, Rita's and Dairy Queen," says DeHonney. "They're all within two to three miles of us. In fact, I don't sell much ice cream."
LRJ's offerings unite a modern urban concoction with a rural tradition. The deep-fried Twinkie was reportedly invented at a Brooklyn fish-and-chip shop six years ago, and has since become the darling of fairground fare. As are funnel cakes, though the Pennsylvania Dutch have been frying these sweets since well before American Idol debuted.
As for the carnival theme, DeHonney painted her small building bright colors but put the brakes on striped awnings and "step right up" music.
She's too suave for that.
10608 Frankstown Road, Penn Hills