• Daniel (2)
• Eleven Madison Park
• Eleven Madison Park (2)
• Eleven Madison Park (3)
• Gabriel Kreuther
• Le Bernardin
• Per Se
• Per Se (2) (extended tasting)
• Per Se (3) (vegetarian tasting)
• Per Se (4)
• Senses (Warsaw, Poland)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While out trying to find a decent banh mi the other day, I happened to spot a food truck I’d never seen downtown: Cupcake Crew. Black with a giant pink cupcake on one side, I knew it was going to be my kind of truck.
The menu was small–six cupcake flavors–but that’s great for someone like me who can’t make decisions. I’m usually a vanilla cake/vanilla icing kind of girl, but the cream cheese icing on the red velvet was calling to me with its perfect dollopness and its tiny sugar sprinkles.
It was a really good cupcake. The cake was the right amount of moist, and although my first impression had been that there wasn’t a good icing to cake ratio just because a little of the cake was visible on top, it turned out that the extra-sweet cream cheese was rich enough to satisfy even a sugar freak like me.
I did admittedly miss the filling you see in other popular cupcakes about town, but I got the feeling this was supposed to be the kind of cupcake your mama used to make and bring to your first grade classroom on your birthday.
But the Graceland was the real treat. I wasn’t even supposed to have it, actually; when I mentioned it was my first time at the truck, the friendly Brooklynite manning the counter offered me one of their mini cupcakes (normally $1.25) in another flavor to sample. If I’d had time to think about it, I probably wouldn’t have even chosen the Graceland then, because banana isn’t one of my favourite flavors.
It turns out, though, that this is one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. The peanut butter frosting was INSANE in the way only peanut butter mixed with more sugar can be. The chewy chunk of bacon on top added so much depth of flavor with its smoky finish. And even the banana cake was something I’d be happy to eat on its own! (It helped that there were little chunks of bacon mixed in.) I’d be really hard-pressed to think of a cupcake I’d rather eat than this one.
I’m really excited now to try some of their other featured flavors.
(five stars for the Graceland, and three for the red velvet)
I went to Shake Shack twice on Sunday. And not, like, for lunch and dinner, which would be totally acceptable. No, I went for dinner and then for a midnight snack. Except that it wasn’t actually midnight yet; it was more like 10:30. Anyway.
The first time around, I had a cheeseburger with mayo and a vanilla custard with a Doughnut Plant doughnut mixed in. (My friend Sylvan added her fries to the photo to make me look at it later and think about how dumb I was not to have ordered some myself.)
For me, the burger was decidedly less-good than the ones from the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. It just didn’t seem as juicy nor as flavorful. And at first I was like, “Nah, that’s not possible,” but then I remembered that the Joe’s Shanghai in Midtown is universally declared worse than the Joe’s a couple of miles downtown in Chinatown. It’s still the burger I most want to eat in NYC, though.
And the Concrete with the doughnut mixed in was a treat. Sugary cake doughnut chunks of various sizes were swirled into their thick, sweet vanilla custard. Next time, I’d probably get hot fudge or another sauce added in just to make the doughnut more moist, but it wasn’t necessary by any means.
A couple of hours later, after our bowling match, I came back with Sylvan and our other team member, Chris, and got the Shackenstein, this month’s special Sunday custard flavor. I’d seen so many “what is Shackenstein?” and “I almost want to go into the city on a Sunday sometime just to find out what Shackenstein is” blog posts that I felt like I had to try it.
It’s vanilla custard colored green and mixed with chocolate cake bits and chocolate what-tasted-like-cookie-dough-to-me. And hey, the mix-ins were pretty awesome and all, but when I get green desserts, I expect them to taste like mint or pistachio, and I don’t like to be played for a fool.
I’m coming back for the concord grape or pumpkin pie custard days to make this right.
In honor of the opening of Pop-Tarts World–mass market pastry retail heaven for those of us who were under the impression that only four or five flavors of Pop-Tarts existed–in Times Square this month, my officemates and I decided to make the mythical Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich.
Thanks to Fresh Direct, we had the followed delivered to our office last Friday morning:
• Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts
• Frosted Strawberry with Sprinkles Pop-Tarts
• Edy’s Grand Vanilla Bean ice cream
• Edy’s Grand Chocolate ice cream
• Edy’s Cookies ‘N Cream ice cream
• Edy’s Grand Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream
• Edy’s Slow-Churned French Silk ice cream (possibly my favourite storeice cream in the world)
• Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra ice cream
And with those ingredients, we made these:
The impending glee was too much for Chantee to handle,
but our notoriously non-gluttonous German interns Sven and Christoph surprisingly dove right in:
And speaking of diving right in, if you accidentally drop Pop-Tart down your bra, expect this from me:
This is one of those instances where once you have it, you can’t not have it. Like mixing heavy cream into iced coffee, spooning jelly into the center of a zeppole, or deep-frying a Snickers bar, I will forever be disappointed when there’s not a Pop-Tart in my dish of ice cream. The synthetic sugariness of it appeals so much to the truly indulgent part of me, and the lack of utensils needed to eat it appeals to my raised-in-a-barn-ness.
I was in Ohio last weekend and spent much of it with my best friend, who–like me–finds lots of excuses to “cheat” on her low-carb diet. Meaning that whenever I’m in town, we go crazy and eat whatever we want, which is everything from Dairy Queen to Pizza Hut to McDonald’s with a couple of local joints thrown in as long as they’re all as unhealthy as possible. We’ve said 100 times in the past year that we’d love to try “being good” one time when I come home for a visit, but this time we actually meant it.
As luck would have it, the lovely Maria Emmerich posted a recipe for a low-carb version of the famed Hostess Little Debbie Chocolate Cupcake in her blog the very day I came home, and you know we went to town on those things. Here’s our take on her recipe:
1/2 cup of blanched almond flour
3 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon of iodized sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1/2 cup of Splenda
4 tablespoons of melted butter
Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Combine the yolks, sweetener, and butter and whisk until well-blended. Combine all of the dry ingredients and blend well. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the whipped whites, then slowly fold in the dry mixture and blend well. Fill the cupcake pan 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees F or until a toothpick comes out clean.
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Splenda
Whip the cream until light and fluffy and add in the sweetener. Place filling in sandwich baggie with one corner snipped off. Scoop a dime-sized hole out of the top of each cupcake, push the snipped corner of the baggie into the hole, and squeeze until the filling rises to the top of the cupcake. (Maria injected hers into side of the cupcakes, so feel free to try both ways and see which gets more filling in.)
50g low-carb chocolate (we used a Lindt 85% Cocoa Bar, but Maria’s, made with a ChocoPerfection bar, turned out much shinier, like the Hostess version)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Melt the chocolate bar in 10-second intervals in the microwave and add in whipping cream. Once the cupcake is cooled, dip the top of each one in melted chocolate.
Swirly White Topping:
Add a small amount of cream cheese to another baggie, cut another tiny piece of the corner off, and swirl it onto each cupcake.
297 calories, 6g carbs, 3.5g fiber, 2.5g net carbs
Makes 6 cakes
Tracey and I loved these. A lot of low-carb swaps for common sugary foods are sad approximations that leave you wishing for the real thing, but we didn’t feel a sense of loss while eating these at all. The only problem we had was convincing ourselves not to eat all six in one sitting, and we were rewarded for that the next day with a deliciously hardened chocolate top on the two we saved. If you can double the recipe, I recommend it.
I like ice cream more than any other dessert. I rarely order it in restaurants, because it’s usually not being made in-house, but I lovelovelove to visit ice cream parlors. I wanted to try Sundaes and Cones, I’ll admit, because I read a review that described their scoops as “too big“, and I thought that was idiotic.
I tried the corn and the chocolate-peanut butter flavor and would happily go back for both. I thought the corn could use some of the berry swirl you usually see at other gourmet parlors to sweeten it up a bit more, but someone who likes less-sweet desserts would love this one. And, well, the picture pretty much tells you how chocolatey that chocolate scoop is. Not an ice cream for those afraid of flavor. Not one for those afraid of gluttony, either.
I’ve already told you how much I like the ubiquitous New York black and white cookies. But look what we found at the grocery store!:
It’s a black and white cookie cake! I was a little worried that it wouldn’t be as delicious as the cookies, because it’s not like I eat cookies because I like dough; I want icing. And lots of it. So the icing-to-bread ratio had me skeptical.
But no! It’s moist, almost sticky with sugar, with a slight lemony flavor. The fact that the bread is so NOT dry made me feel like maybe I could even eat it (gasp!) without the icing at all. But I obviously wouldn’t, especially since the icing was about twice as thick as it is on a regular black and white cookie.
I bought mine at the Amish Market on 45th Street, but I’ll bet they’re available at the other locations, too, and maybe other places in the city? Let me know if you’ve seen ’em!
The first time I saw a black and white cookie, it was at my best friend Tracey’s “Seinfeld”-themed bridal shower. Everyone else gushed over the cookies, but I thought they were stupid. The bottom was soft and fluffy like a cake, and if I’m going to eat cake, I want an inch-thick layer of frosting on top; the stuff coating these things was icing, the kind you see on a slice of cinnamon-raisin bread, and I don’t go to bridal showers for bread.
The black and white cookie is native to New York, though, so eventually I had to give in and eat one. My boyfriend and I were at one of the weekly summer street fairs last summer and happened by La Delice Pastry Shop, an 80-year-old bakery in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, with black and white cookies in the window.
Something just . . . took hold of us . . . and we found ourselves being dragged inside to purchase two of the oversized treats. And they were delicious! Like, really, really delicious! It turns out that the cakey cookie part is an invariably moist shortbread and that the vanilla icing forms this sort of crunchy layer to juxtapose the sponge cake. (The chocolate icing doesn’t, for some reason, and I always eat the chocolate first to get rid of it, because the vanilla’s so much better.)
Since then, we’ve had about a zillion black and white cookies from all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I haven’t had one yet that I disliked. Court Pastry Shop in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, has the biggest in diameter (like, monstrously huge). Flavors in Battery Park, Manhattan, has the moistest. Crumbs, the mighty cupcake chain, has the thickest (although The Lunch Belle thinks it sucks).
I know everyone has strong opinions about black and whites, and I’d love to hear where you buy your favourites. I’d also like to know if you think the vanilla icing is so much better than the chocolate, because it is.
Right before I left for Christmas break, my boyfriend and I watched a Food Network show about a company known for its pre-decorated gingerbread houses, and all we could talk about was how badly we wanted to rip the roof off of one of those things and go to town on it with our teeth.
Well, while we were in an-unnamed-discount-store-that’s-taking-over-the-world in December, my best friend, Tracey, and I spotted shelves loaded with gingerbread house kits for only $10 and decided to go for it, not only to make my boyfriend jealous but as an added benefit.
We imagined how hard it’d be to attach the roof to the sides, to keep ourselves from crushing the soft gingerbread underneath the weight of our decorations. What we didn’t find out until we got back to Tracey’s house and took the thing out of the box was that it was preassembled and hard as a rock. But hey, we’re lazy.
Can you imagine how great it is having the job of putting this thing together? Whoever it is obviously doesn’t have to be concerned with neatness, and I fantasize daily about slopping icing onto giant cookies.
The house came packaged with icing mix, hard candy balls, and spearmint leaves. Tracey added the orange slices because we’re gluttons.
Here’s Tracey making a wreath on the front of the house with the bowl of icing beside her. Mixing the icing powder into water was literally the only thing we had to do before we started decorating. You’ll note the giant K on the side of the roof, which I put there, because I’m narcissistic and also uncreative.
The finished product, with Tracey’s Christmas tree in the background to prove that we actually did do this in December and not just last week. Unless Tracey kept her Christmas tree up until March just in case we ever found a gingerbread house kit on super-clearance, which is quite possible.
Beauty shot! You’ll note the fine reindeer-covered fleece blanket Tracey held up as a backdrop for me.
Tracey posed for this picture in which she was pretending to go at the house with a spoon before we figured out that it required a hammer to actually break through any of the gingerbread.
Hard as it was, though, that shit was 4 realz delicious.
I figured it was too late to post about my first bûche de Noël experience before I left NYC to spend the holidays with my family in Ohio, but since Blondie & Brownie revealed that Financier is still selling them, it looks like I’m good to go.
Being from the Midwest and being very much culturally sheltered, I had no idea what a bûche de Noël was until my office decided on a whim to order a couple of cakes from the downtown Financier Patisserie the week before Christmas. When I called at 3 p.m., the order-taker told me that they were down to a couple of roll cakes, one in white chocolate and one in Grand Marnier. I told her I’d take them, but she kept stressing that these were not normal cakes and kept asking if I was sure I wanted them. I was like, “Lady, cake is cake.”
But no! A traditional bûche de Noël is a French sponge cake rolled up with frosting to resemble a log, complete with buttercream bark, meringue mushrooms, and protruding branches (made of chocolate, in this case). The Grand Marnier version was entirely untraditional, but the mound of berry-flavored mousse was no less delicious.
I usually think Financier’s cakes are too light and fluffy to really count as a decadent dessert (because I’m a glutton), but the yule log was a total exception and one that I’ll look forward to next year. It seems like the woman at Financier shouldn’t have been warning me about the cake but should’ve been asking why I wasn’t buying all three.
Is this something normal, non-Midwestern people often eat for Christmas?