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Cereal Milk, Crack Pie, and More at Momofuku Milk Bar
Aug 28th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

When you’ve finished licking the fat of a whole rotisserie duck off your fingers at Momofuku Ssam Bar and your friends claim they couldn’t possibly even look at the dessert menu, the only thing to do is to say goodbye to all of them, walk one block in whatever direction they happen to not be going in, and then to quickly double back to Momofuku Milk Bar, the bakery offshoot of David Chang’s restaurant mini-empire.

The idea of Milk Bar chef Christina Tosi “living in Brooklyn, NY, with her three dogs and eating an unconscionable amount of raw cookie dough every day” like the Milk Bar website says kind of makes me want to vomit all over her cereal milk–wait, excuse me, Cereal Milk™–but you gotta figure she’s doing something right if even my friend in the backwoods of South Carolina is singing the praises of the Milk Bar cookbook.

Here’s a sampling of the offerings:

Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie
Crack Pie

Just for the record, this tastes exactly like my aunt’s famous old-fashioned cream pie (or sugar pie, as it’s known elsewhere). Which is pretty much the reason any of us show up for family functions in Ohio. And as a regular weekend crack-cocaine abuser, I can tell you with great confidence that this is absolutely nothing like crack. But I can also tell you with great confidence that it takes something bigger than mere narcotics to draw a family together. It’s not as creamy and jiggly as my aunt’s, but I love how dense and lemon-bar-like the texture of this one is.

Momofuku Milk Bar Corn Cookie
corn cookie

Everything’s better with corn. I could actually use a lot more corn flavor in this–my cookies don’t have to be super-sweet–but this is just what I want to bite into when I buy a cookie. Not some shelf-stale crunchy thing but a giant, flimsy, almost-uncooked-in-the-center butter-slab that I have to hold with both hands lest the middle simply droop right out of it.

Momofuku Milk Bar Cereal Milk Ice Cream
Cereal Milk™ ice cream

All the flavor of caramelized cornflakes with none of the getting-stuck-in-your-teeth. Well, until you have them top it with more cornflakes. Then it’s your fault. But if you’re going to get one thing at Milk Bar, make it this.

Momofuku Milk Bar
251 East 13th Street
New York, NY 10003 (map)
(other locations)

The Dulce de Leche and Elvis Cupcakes at Crumbs
May 10th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

If you want to buy me a cupcake (hint), make it one from Crumbs Bake Shop. Yes, it’s a chain. No, it’s not as fresh-from-the-oven as Magnolia Bakery. Yes, each one contains half your daily recommended caloric intake. That’s sort of the point. When I eat a cupcake, I want it to be an event.

Or just, you know, a Saturday afternoon when I’ve already eaten half of a baguette slathered with cheese and honey, dumplings, pizza, and Cadbury Eggs. Don’t judge.

Crumbs Cupcakes NYC
the dulce de leche and Elvis cupcakes

Crumbs Cupcakes NYC

My boyfriend can’t resist caramel, so he chose the dulce de leche with chocolate cake filled with caramel cream cheese frosting, covered in caramel cream cheese frosting, and zigzagged with caramel and chocolate. It did not disappoint.

Crumbs Cupcakes NYC

I chose the Elvis for the peanut butter chips. I always get the Baba Booey for the peanut butter chips, even though I secretly prefer white cake to chocolate a million times over. So when I saw a cupcake with peanut butter chips AND white cake, it was

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

It’s soft banana cake injected with banana cream, frosted with peanut butter and banana buttercream, and rolled in peanut butter chips.

Crumbs Cupcakes NYC

Peanut. Butter. Chips.

Crumbs Bake Shop
420 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10170 (map)

Doughnut Plant and Its Impossible-to-Pronounce Treats
Apr 25th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

You know how I have a blog? That’s called donuts4dinner? Well, until a couple of weekends ago, I had never been to Doughnut Plant.

Dunkin Donuts, where the doughnuts come stale and in ultra-boring flavors and always seem way more delicious in my mind than they actually are? All the time.

Doughnut Plant, where the doughnuts are continuously made fresh while you watch and come in flavors you’ve never seen before and are actually more delicious than you expect? Never.

Doughnut Plant NYC

I won’t tell you all of the things my boyfriend and I had already consumed during our walk around Chinatown and the Lower East Side that day, but suffice it to say that we only needed one doughnut.

After much deliberation–coconut cream? cinnamon bun? tres leches?–

OH, CRAP. I just remembered the most amazing thing that happened while we were waiting in line. It was all quiet in the store, and behind us, I could hear this skinny blonde saying, “Should we get the tres leches?” to her companion. Only she was pronouncing it tray lesh. You guys, she thought it was French or something. Which is hilarious on its own, because what kind of hole are you living in that you’ve never heard of tres leches cake and can’t figure out that it has a Spanish pronunciation?

But MORE IMPORTANTLY, if leche is a word in French–and I’m not even sure it is–it sure doesn’t mean “milk” like it does in Spanish. So what did she think this doughnut tasted like?!

I swear I’m not trying to be elitist here. I’m just so interested in what was going through this girl’s mind and am dying to know if she was visiting from Ohio, because that’s the only place I can imagine tres leches cake still being unknown.

Doughnut Plant NYC Peanut Butter and Banana Square Doughnut

Anyway, we ultimately decided on the peanut butter and banana square doughnut, because

1) the squares are the biggest and most gluttonous,
2) jam filling is too healthy,
3) peanut butter is, like, my favourite thing in the world next to pizza.

It did not disappoint. This thing was fluffy, fresh, crunchy, sweet, nutty, banana-y, and huge. I have to be honest here and say that I don’t even really care about bananas, and I loved the banana cream. I’m not saying marshmallow cream wouldn’t have been better, but still. I also don’t like eating sweet things with nuts in them, because long after the sweet taste has vanished, I’m still finding savory nuts in my teeth, but these nuts were brittle and easily crunched, as if they were caramelized. And when I found them in my teeth later, it was a treat.

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002 (map)

220 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011 (map)

Sprinkles Cupcakes – Sweets – Upper East Side
Jan 19th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

I had my first taste of the famous/infamous Sprinkles cupcake last year in their homeland of California when my boyfriend’s sister brought an anniversary cupcake cake to his parents’ party. My cupcake was yellow cake with chocolate frosting and a pink block letter of questionable edibility that seemed to be made of sugar but refused to melt in my mouth.

Hardcore New Yorkers will stand loyally behind their Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, but I prefer the much more elaborate/gluttonous cupcakes from Crumbs Bake Shop and really only go to Magnolia for the banana pudding, so I was completely open to trying Sprinkles. And it was fine. Not life-changing. Not make-me-move-to-California-immediately-ing. But fine.

Well, my friend Kim got a coupon to try four free Sprinkles cupcakes at the first NYC location in the Upper East Side, because she is the princess of New York City, and she invited me to try them with her, knowing that I’d insist on buying a couple more. The employees are very nice, and the store is veeeeery cute, with the trademark Sprinkles dots decorating the outside, bright colors everywhere, and enough low tables with corresponding ottomans that we didn’t feel any pressure to move for the couple of hours we sat there.

The cupcakes were still fine.

Sprinkles Cupcakes
peanut butter chip

Sprinkles Cupcakes
salty caramel

Sprinkles Cupcakes
black and white

Sprinkles Cupcakes
cinnamon sugar

My only complaint about Crumbs is that I feel like they spend so much time working on the filling and toppings that they forget to care about the cake; it usually tastes a couple of days old. My complaint about Magnolia is that it’s too simple; I can and have made their cupcakes at home myself. Sprinkles hits a nice balance between quality cake and quality toppings. The cake was fresh and moist, and the frostings and accoutrements were all creative. In the end, though, I missed the way Crumbs fills the cake with a dollop of frosting, and I missed the sheer size of the Crumbs cupcake. Sprinkles is good for people who want to splurge without bursting their bellies, and that ain’t me.

There’s one reason I might choose Sprinkles over Crumbs in the future, though. The drinking chocolate:

Sprinkles Cupcakes

It’s bittersweet Belgian chocolate with a vanilla bean marshmallow, so rich and dense you feel like you’re wearing a mouthguard of hot chocolate when you’re finished with it. The marshmallow was so thick that it lasted almost to the end of the cup, making each sip creamy and flavorful.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

Sprinkles Cupcakes
780 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10065 map)

Skip the Sandwiches at Bouchon Bakery – Sweets – Midtown West
Nov 8th, 2011 by donuts4dinner

Bouchon Bakery is part of the Thomas Keller empire of restaurants you can’t afford. You think you can, because from the outside, it appears to be an innocuous bakery, twenty times more casual than Per Se and without the need to make reservations a month in advance. But as soon as you walk in the door of the Rockefeller Center location, you notice the display of peanut butter cups for $3 each. (And those are mini ones; the regular-sized cups are $5+.) The sandwiches are $9, the French macarons $3.25.

Bouchon Bakery

What my boyfriend and I ordered was a little hit or miss depending on which one of us you ask. I wish we’d been hungrier so we could’ve sampled more than a sandwich and a cookie apiece (which still set us back a healthy $31), but it gave me a good idea of what I’ll come back for.

Bouchon Bakery
ham and cheese

The sandwich selections were paltry on a Sunday night, so I went with a classic belly-warmer to see how Keller’s team could transform it. On paper, it sounds pretty incredible: this sandwich, inspired by the traditional French charcuterie, is prepared with Madrange ham, a slow-cooked, delicately flavored ham. The combination of sweet butter and Dijon mustard complements the subtle nutty flavors of Emmenthaler cheese.

In my mouth, it tasted like a pretty standard ham and white cheese. The one thing this sandwich has going for it is that the bread couldn’t be better-suited to it. It was crunchy on the outside but didn’t flake into a million crumbs with every bite. The buttered interior was chewy and light in contrast. I wish the filling had done it justice.

Bouchon Bakery
roast beef

This was quality beef, cooked tender and sliced thin, but there was unfortunately very little of it on the bread. My boyfriend liked the roasted tomato garnish, but I needed more of the acidity to be cooked out of the tomatoes before they could be sweet enough for me. This tasted like a more complete thought than the ham and cheese because of its bright vegetable filling, but I couldn’t help but think of the $7 sandwich we buy on weekends from Tudor Gourmet, piled high with spicy pastrami and crisp arugula and served with a friendly joke instead of a haughty scowl.

Bouchon Bakery
nutter butter

After the disappointing sandwiches, I was prepared to roll my eyes at this $7 peanut butter cookie sandwich, but I walked away from it feeling like a little whipped cream and bittersweet chocolate shavings would make it into a plated dessert I’d willingly pay $12 for. I was expecting–and desiring–a soft, gooey cookie, but what I got was this crispy thing that snapped and crumbled apart. And I loved it.

The pastry chefs must be using a stick of butter per cookie, god bless them, because this thing was greasy as a pig in a wrestling contest and twice as delicious. The peanut butter filling, leaden with sugar but then whipped into a fluffy frosting, spilled out the sides of the cookie with each bite. My last mouthful was nothing but the peanut butter left on my hands, and it was perfection.

Bouchon Bakery

Bouchon Bakery at Rockefeller Center
One Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020 (map)
(other locations here)

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