Ohhhhhhhhhh man. I love this day, absolutely LOVE it. When was the last time you had an old-fashioned ice cream soda? The famous and delicious marriage of soda and ice cream has been around quite a while, and was created in Philadelphia in 1874, when soda jerker Robert M. Green ran out of cream for his flavored sodas and started scooping vanilla ice cream into them instead. That bit of convenience was a stroke of genius, and now, over 100 years after this invention, we enjoy ice cream sodas all over the world, from Australia and New Zealand to Guatemala, Brazil, and right here in New York City!
My favorite ice cream soda is a root beer float, personally: the tangy bitterness of the root beer fits so well with the creamy, sweet vanilla ice cream, and as it melts into the soda it creates this awesome mix of flavors that you never get when you try to recreate it in another form (like a full-on root beer float-flavored ice cream, or root beer float candy. Nuh-uh! Not the same.) Ice cream sodas come in a variety of flavor combinations, from “chocolate cows” (root beer and chocolate ice cream) to the Brazilian “vaca dourada” (vanilla ice cream and Guarana soda) and even the Harry Potter favorite, Butterbeer (which, if you order one at the Three Broomsticks in Universal Studio’s Potter World, is root beer and butterscotch ice cream). There’s also a variation involving ginger ale and vanilla ice cream…but since the name of that combination is the “Boston Cooler,” here in New York we don’t talk about it at all. :-P
But there is one thing that connects all ice cream soda variations together: they make you feel like it’s the “good ol’ days” again. The bygone eras of malt shops and classic-style burger joints, with soda jerkers in paper hats serving kids ice cream sodas straight from the fountain. Places like that just don’t seem to exist anymore, least of all in fast-paced cities like New York.
…that is, unless you live in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. ;-) Sitting in this neighborhood of trendy new restaurants and old-school row houses is the Brooklyn Farmacy, an old-fashioned soda fountain restaurant, housed in a century-old building that used to be a pharmacy (hence the name). Here, they serve up all the old classics, like ice cream sodas, and the quintessential New York beverage, the egg cream, all with Brooklyn-based P&H Soda Co. syrups. The ice cream’s also all-local, sourced from a family creamery in the Adirondacks, and coupled with the soda, you’ve got yourself a classic ice cream soda that’s all New York.
"Nostalgia reigns in this frozen-in-time makeover of what was a pharmacy for nearly 100 years, now serving egg creams, ice cream sodas, shakes and sundaes. Lots of old stuff, like medicine bottles, is on display, and there is penny candy along with an array of artisanal Brooklyn products."—The New York Times
"Their exceedingly kid-friendly soda fountain lets moms and dads (and grandmas and grandpas) share with their progeny the Proustian thrill of their childhood desserts. Sodas are all made with Brooklyn-based P&H Soda Co. syrups; ice cream comes from a small, all-natural producer in the Adirondacks; and the cupcakes, pies, and even red-velvet Twinkies hail from local bakeries. Stop by on Saturday mornings to hear Karen K and the Jitterbugs strum twenties classics or on Tuesday evenings for the regular fiddle jam."—New York Magazine
"This is a complete fave of mine! I mean, how charming can a little ice cream/soda/ proper old school pharmacy be?! And what’s so cool about this space is that they lovingly restored and used what was already there—-an old fashioned pharmacy. I really feel like I am stepping back into a more genteel and easy-going time when I walk through the doors."—Joolz M.
"Loved this place for desert! Stopped in here one night after dinner looking for a delicious sweet treat. My sister and I shared a piece of the pecan pie topped with the pumpkin ice cream. What an incredible combination of delicious fall flavors! My mom ordered a chocolate ice cream soda, which was equally as delicious and surprisingly lite. They also have lots of different ice cream flavors, sodas, pies, cupcakes. The place is an old pharmacy and has the original molding and an authentic pharmacy look to it."—Natalie F.
What a strange little national food holiday this is! There’s scant information on National Almond Buttercrunch Day around the Internet, and even the articles I found on the day are also equally puzzled as to what almond buttercrunch actually is. As far as I can tell, the closest thing to almond buttercrunch—is it almond butter? is it crunchy because of the almonds??—is Almond Roca, one of the fave luxury candies of dentists everywhere. We used to have these candies in my house when I was a kid: caramel and toffee covered with chocolate and crumbled almonds, Almond Roca is a decadent, nutty confection on par with hazelnut Rochers. But unlike the Rochers, which, apart from the whole hazelnut inside, are pretty creamy and easy to eat, Almond Rocas are tougher than steel. I often felt like I would crack a molar when I bit into one of these. Because of my parent’s failing gums, we only had these bites in the house one or two holiday seasons, but I still remember them fondly.
And I can relive that Almond Roca taste with the almond buttercrunch bonbons at 5th Avenue Chocolaterie, which, surprisingly, isn’t on 5th Avenue. It sits on 3rd and 44th Street, but in a world where the 2nd Avenue Deli is on East 33rd Street, I guess anything goes ;-) While you’re there, take in the huge amount of truffles, bonbons, and other chocolate confections you can indulge in, for want of a real definition of almond buttercrunch. Because even if we don’t really know what almond buttercrunch is, when you go visit a Mecca of chocolate like this one, with so many crunchy, buttery, almond-y goodies to choose from, do you really even care? :-P
"I was already sold. Already drooling to try the different types of bonbons, I dared snatch some pictures, although I didn’t recall having brought my camera along with me. Then I proceeded to hand pick and select the following bonbons: white orange, dark kirsch and hazelnut milk, then I picked milk dark pecan caramels and a sugar free almond buttercrunch."—Atif I.
Arggggh! Of course, I used up the perfectplace in New York to celebrate National Tapioca Day already. That’s just my luck! I have to look at the future national food holiday calendar more often, haha.
But let me not get ahead of myself here. Did you know that tapiocais actually a plant? It’s a starch that’s extracted from the cassava plant, native to Latin and South America, but now found all over the world. A gluten-free starch that’s almost all protein-free, tapioca is used in a ton of culinary cultures, from the West Indies to the Philippines, India, Brazil, and Ghana. In many cultures it’s used as a thickening agent in pepper pots, chilis, and curries; it’s also a readily available porridge (and is commonly called “Poor Man’s” food in more than one civilization) and even sliced and deep fried into cassava chips. (They used to sell these at my local grocery store; they were delicious, a mild flavor very much like potato chips, and I miss them!)
But here in the United States we know tapioca best as those translucsent pearls you find in tapioca pudding, giving pudding a thicker, texured consistency. Tapioca pudding isn’t really a dessert delicacy that’s taking the nation by storm; even in its heyday, the food was mostly used as a home-cooking phenomenon, relegated to dinner parties and the My-T-Fine baking shelf in the supermarket. I never liked tapioca pudding, after one instance as a kid when I ordered it, not knowing there’d be little balls of starch in my pudding, and swore off it forever. Don’t make my mistake! Tapioca pudding can be delicious, enjoyable, and, even in this day and age, surprising. Go to the Loving Hut in Chelsea to be utterly surprised. The vegan cafe specializes in foods you expect to have a ton of meat and dairy in them, but are surprisingly free of animal products. (Buffalo mac and cheese, without egg macaroni, cheese, OR buffalo? You have to see it to believe it!) Take their vegan tapioca pudding for example: this creamy, smooth dessert offers a non-dairy version of a dish that’s usually all milk and eggs. Top it off with fresh fruit each time and you’ve got the perfect new ending to a tried-and-true recipe.
"I also am kind of addicted to their tapioca pudding, I can’t leave without ordering it, there’s always different fruit inside each time, super yummy."—Ariela R.
"My first time there, I bought the Avocado Salad. It was beautiful and colorful and delicious. Gorgeous fresh greens, avocado sliced 1/4 of an inch thin, red and yellow peppers, walnuts drizzled over with balsamic dressing. Mmmm! Since then, I’ve also tried and loved: their Tofu Salad, Crispy Vegan burger, Happy Dumplings, Spinach Quesadilla, Energy Sandwhich, and Tapioca Pudding with Fruit. Lunchtime is madness, but your food is always worth the wait."—Irina T.
In more recent years, “tapioca” in New York has become synonymous with “sago” or “boba”—otherwise known as bubble tea. Those fancy “bubble” pearls you see in cold Asian flavored sweet teas? Yep, that’s tapioca! And the popular Taiwanese drink has gotten huge over here in New York, particularly in the many Chinatowns of Manhattan and the boroughs. I have to hit myself over the head for this one, because one of the best places to go for bubble tea in the city has already been recommended by me for another holiday :( Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng, which can be found in Flushing, Borough Park, and in the heart of Chinatown, is a great place for authentic bubble tea that has real tapioca pearls and real tea in the mix. You can read all about it in my post for June 10th’s national food holiday, National Iced Tea Day. Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t go get some for National Tapioca Day, too! Or you can try out another great bubble tea chain a little north of Chinatown, in the East Village. Saint’s Alp Teahouse is a hugely popular place for all your bubble tea needs. Founded in Hong Kong, this New York branch serves its bubble tea as “frothy tea,” complete with the tea-infused dark brown tapioca pearls lounging at the bottom of your cup. The tapioca is flavorful and chewy, unlike smaller pearls that don’t achieve the same texture. And Saint’s Alp serves it the Hong Kong way, which means a creamier, sweeter tea base than Ten Ren’s Taiwanese variety. Coming from a girl who LOVES her milk tea sweet, Saint’s Alp is the place to go!
"The bubble tea fad is far from over at the New York outpost of this Hong Kong-based chain founded in 1994. Outfitted with a handful of lacquered-wood tables and square stools, St. Alps is a popular stop for chattering NYU students and high schoolers, who slurp a broad array of brightly colored hot and cold tea drinks out of tall, milkshake-style glasses while pop music blares in the background. Nibble-size, $5.50 portions of vermicelli, udon, or green tea noodles, and "crispy savouries"—chunks of bland, deep-fried radish, shrimp, or cuttlefish—are also on offer, but the real draw here is "frothy tea," which comes with a spoon for scooping up the irresistibly chewy tapioca balls nestled at the bottom of the glass."—New York Magazine
"I ordered the Black Milk Tea with tapioca pearls. My friend ordered the Peach drink with tapioca pearls, while my other friend ordered a sweetened green tea without tapioca pearls. My tea was perfectly sweetened, creamy, while the tapioca pearls were all perfectly springy and chewy."—Melanie T.
"I’m a big fan of this bubble tea place! Hands down the best bubble tea place in NYC. I stopped by here only for the bubble tea after endulging myself in some comfort food and desserts. This place hit the spot just right and left an impression on me. Their tapioca balls are perfect in every way and nicely flavored. The drinks are sweet just the way I like them so come here if you like great tapioca balls and sweet tea!"—Frank S.
For what it’s worth, though, tapioca pudding and even tapioca bubble tea have become pretty commonplace in the New York culinary pantheon—I mean, can you even throw a lychee nut in Chinatown without hitting yet another bubble tea parlor? If new, exciting dishes are your thing, then celebrate National Tapioca Day at Spice Market. Not an actual spice market, this Asian fusion restaurant meets Western style and innovative new ways to have traditional pan-Asian meals. And they prove that you can have tapioca in New York without going the sweet route! As I said before, tapioca is used in many Asian countries as a starch, porridge, and even an element in savory foods. To showcase this, Spice Market offers an appetizer featuring shaved Ahi tuna, Asian pears, and chili-infused tapioca pearls. Spicy tapioca? Who would’ve ever thunk it?? Apparently the people at Spice Market! The offering is a huge hit, the mix of the textures—chewy tapioca, butter-smooth tuna, and crisp pears—really makes a great start to a dinner here. And it’s all served with a chilled coconut broth, which adds some needed sweetness to the spicy tapioca. I’ve definitely had coconut in my bubble tea before, but with chili-infused tapioca pearls is a totally new flavor combination! The rest of the menu here—which includes lobster summer rolls, red curried duck, and seafood laksa—looks equally as interesting and yummy, but I’d go here for the shaved tuna and chili tapioca, for the curiosity on such a dish alone!
Ah, the delicate orange blossom. When you think about orange trees, you usually only think about their fruit: bright orange rinds, the juicy citrusy flesh inside, the many foods and flavors associated with oranges. But those fruits, as all fruits do, have to come from flowers first! And the orange blossom is celebrated in its own right. The official state flower of Florida, the orange blossom is widely used in floral bouquets and as an essence in perfumerie. Culinarily speaking, the orange blossoms are steeped, much like tea, to make orange blossom water, useful for just a slight taste of orange, but lighter, and fainter than using the orange fruit. In Middle East cuisines, orange blossom water is used much like rosewater, to flavor desserts and baked goods, and gives it not only that familiar citrusy taste, but also the flowery flavor that many associate with rose-infused waters and teas. It’s that perfect blend of bright, vibrant orange flavor and the sweet, light floral accents of a flower.
For real, authentic orange blossom flavor in the city, you have to try out the Hampton Chutney Co. A tiny Indian restaurant specializing in—what else—curries and chutneys, the deep spices of their entrees can leave a body looking for something to drink, and fast. They offer a tart, refreshing lemonade that’s infused with orange blossom water, and it’s easily one of the favorites on the beverage list, if not the whole menu! Unlike many other restaurants, Hampton Chutney Co. leaves out most of the sugar in their lemonade (and the high fructose corn syrup at that) and lets the natural sweetness of the orange blossoms do their work. It makes for a truly refreshing drink—and trust me, when your mouth is on fire from a particularly spicy dosa platter and you want to drink a gallon of anythingwithin your reach, the less sugar, the better! Swing by SoHo for a glass (you can get it to go!) today, and then come back in the fall for their seasonal menu selections, like roasted butternut squash dosa and pumpkin chutney. The best mix of Eastern culinary traditions with Western ingredients I’ve seen yet :-)
"Drinks are notably delicious, too, especially the lemonade with orange blossom, the fresh chai, and the eye-opening cardamom-laced coffee."—New York Magazine
"The orange blossom lemonade ($3.50) could not have been a more perfect between-bite refresher. The frsh lemonade has just enough orange blossom to give it a delightfully exotic twist, without going so far as to start tasting like grandma’s linen closet. Each sip of this lemonade was total perfection."—Serious Eats
"All different combos, one is sure to fit the present craving (though they are quite pricey). The dosas are super long and crispy. Curry chutney rocks. What rocks even harder is their orange blosson lemonade. At first sip it’s just a regular ol’ lemonade then when you swallow there’s a KICK and say hello to orange blossom. Very nice."—Yui K.
"I always tell myself that when I am in Soho I will try a new restaurant. however, without a doubt I always end up at the Hampton Chutney Co. Their food is just so yummy that I just can’t resist. Also their orange blossom lemonade is something I crave on a near-daily basis."—Lauren F.
Looking for that fragrant orange blossom flavor in your drink, but desire something a little stronger than lemonade? The Gramercy Tavern’s got you covered. They offer a cocktail that’s even named the Orange Blossom, and includes sparkling wine, elderflower liqueur, and orange bitters. The hints of apple in the sparkling wine mix perfectly with the citrusy accent of the orange bitters and the floral taste of elderflowers in the liqueur. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, as the flavors of the flowers inherent in the drink make up for actual sugars and sweetness in the drink. It’s a perfect cocktail for the beginning of the night, almost a floral palette cleanser for the great meal that almost always awaits you at the Tavern. Think a mimosa without all the calories of orange juice, and…more alcohol content. Always a good compromise!
"A sparkling aperitif cocktail is a smart pairing with Chef Michael Anthony’s bright, balanced cooking. Orange pairs well with carrots; the herbal bite of the celery will be lifted by the elderflower liqueur, and the bright apple notes in the wine should marry nicely with the pickled apples in the terrine."—Edible Manhattan
"Ordered an orange blossom, which was a light mixed drink that was sweet and totally delightful and beautiful to look at."—Elizabeth L.
"The second time we came here for lunch. I started out with the orange blossom cocktail, champagne poured over a sugar cube with a big slice of orange rind (delicious, I had 2!) We shared the mussels (again) and the sweetbreads which were to die for! The husband had the meatball for a second time and I had the kielbasa with speatzle, both were excellent."—Gabrielle J.
Another interesting way to experience orange blossoms in food is through honey. Yes, you heard me, honey! When honeybees exclusively take their pollen from orange blossoms, the resulting honey retains the citrusy taste, making for a unique honey flavor. Orange blossom honey is well sought-after and expensive, especially in this day and age where honey in itself can be up to $8 per pound. But there’s one place in the city that not only serves orange blossom honey, they spoon it out right on top of a stack of perfectly cooked French toast. Cornerstone Cafe sits on an unassuming street in Alphabet City, but one of its great draws are their brunch and breakfast items, like Texas-style French toast, served with fresh fruit, homemade whipped cream, and a syrup made from orange blossom honey. It’s a different turn from having maple syrup on top of a breakfast platter, and way better than the sugar syrup full of chemicals that many try to pass off as “maple syrup.” The orange taste in the honey helps complement the fresh fruit on the toast, and leaves each patron getting brunch with a pleasant and unexpected meal. Treat yourself to a new breakfast experience with a big dollop of orange blossom honey on your French toast today!
"I had the Texas French toast. I’m not sure what about it makes it Texan, but the toast was delicious without being too thick (as some toast is wont to be), and the fruit (a good helping of strawberries, blueberries, and bananas) and whipped cream added depth to the flavor as well. You can’t go without mentioning the orange blossom syrup, though, which rocks my socks - definitely one of the best syrups I’ve had in a restaurant."—Asuka N.
"Breakfast options hover in the $10 range and mix traditional with inventive spins. All the ingredients are organic and farm-fresh, and you can taste it. Benedict, crepes, baked eggs, Belgian Waffles… For my inaugural visit we both had to order the Texas French Toast topped with fresh fruit, cinnamon, their homemade whipped cream, orange blossom honey. This crispy, delectable treat made us both swoon."—Jane K.
A little while ago I wrote a guest blog post for the Gray Line New York’s blog, and today they’ve posted it! I wanted to share with visitors of the city some of my favorite places to eat in New York, most of which I’ve found through creating this blog, and explain why finding “the best” food is more difficult than you may think!
I’d love it if everyone clicks through the link and reads this post, it would mean so much to me!
Man, am I glad that we live in the United States, where the term “pudding” means a sweet, custard-consistency dessert instead of a savory dish made out of the by-products of beef. (No, really, what are the English thinking??) And chocolate pudding is the best of them: smooth and creamy, rich and chocolatey. I love to make chocolate pudding at home, with a big box of My-T-Fine, either instant or the new-old-fashioned way of heating it over a stove and letting it cool. Jell-O instant puddings are easy and great in a pinch, but they don’t compare to My-T-Fine. (All of which are currently stocked to the brim in my house, because I still have bandages on my gums from dental surgery last week, and pudding is one of the best—and only—things I can effortlessly eat!)
Being the most popular pudding flavor (as well as the most popular ice cream flavor, and most popular anything, essentially), chocolate pudding is sold in a lot of places in New York City, and in new and inventive dishes. You don’t have to restrict yourself to just Puddin’, though I love it there, too! But you can try something a little more decadent, a little more sophisticatedin the East Village. Even thoug the name of the bakery is cute and kitschy, Chikalicious Dessert Club is super serious about their products. I should know—for the past month I’ve come back to them time and time again for some of the best sweets on national food holidays! And Chocolate Pudding Day is no different. Here, you can find an “adult” chocolate pudding that’ll make you want to burn all your Jell-O packets. Technically, Chikalicious’s chocolate pudding is a ganache, made with super-swanky Vahlrona chocolate and mixed with cookie-crumbly chocolate streusel. But it’s soft and creamy, and almost fluffy, like a mousse. The deep, almost bitter chocolate makes this less of a sweet treat and more of a refined taste—perfect for the “adult” palette. Now Chikalicious needs to truly make this an “adult” chocolate and spice it up with a bit of rum, maybe? ;-)
"If you make it to the menu, try their “puddin” flavors. The brioche bread pudding mixes sweet hints of vanilla in a brandy custard. Or, for a truly grown-up choice, there’s the adult Valrhona ganache chocolate pudding served with crunchy chocolate streusel bits that’s totally sublime. No matter what you choose, the Dessert Club menu won’t let you down."—The Examiner
"It was very dark and chocolaty tasting and not sweet at all. More like a dark chocolate mousse but even smoother like a, well like a pudding, actually. At the bottom of the foil tray, below the scoop of pudding was a layer of “crunch” either made from crushed Oreos or stolen from the insides of a dozen Carvel ice cream cakes."—Dessert Buzz
"I got the Adult Chocolate pudding, which I feel people normally would not get amongst other spectacular desserts that the menu highlights. BUT, this pudding… my gosh, it is something to die for. So airy and mousse-like, that’s just the way I like my pudding! I mean who wants to eat pudding that makes them feel heavy and crappy afterwards? My thoughts exactly. Absolutely no one!"—Candy C.
"Chocolate is my drug of choice. It numbs any negative feelings I have, gives me an euphoric sensation, and never leaves me w/any withdrawal symptoms. Well, maybe I beg to differ on the withdrawal part..I usually get another fix before I let it get to that point. On this particular day, I walked up to my choco-dealer and got an "Adult chocolate pudding". My heart slowed and maybe even came to a stop for a few minutes as indulged and savored this treat. The crunchy choco-streusal bits were perfect w/the Valrhona ganache pudding. Overall, the pudding had a thick creamy and smooth blend to it with a subtle hint of bitterness."—B G.
If you want a chocolate pudding that isn’t so “adult” and makes you feel like a kid again, head over to DessertTruck Works on Clinton Street. No longer a food truck, the DessertTruck Works still makes all those super-sweet, super-delicious treats the Dessert Truck was famous for—and has the accolades to prove it. The store recently won Zagat’s Best New Baked Goods award in the New York City food lovers’ guide, and was featured on an episode of Food Network’s “Throwdown.” Here, Flay challenged the DessertTruck Works to see who could make the best chocolate bread pudding—and DessertTruck Works kicked his ass! Definitely stop in just to taste the chocolate bread pudding that took the celebrity chef down. The pudding in this bread pudding is soft and warm, like a molten lava cake, and it’s complemented by a bacon vanilla custard. I’m so enjoying this recent influx of bacon-related desserts!
"The Dessert Truck’s Throwdown w/ Bobby Flay finally aired last night on the Food Network, and in what shouldn’t have been a shock to anyone, the Dessert Truck’s chocolate bread pudding with bacon creme anglaise was the winner!"—Midtown Lunch
"And this is why people get diabetes. I love their warm chocolate bread pudding with bacon custard sauce. FYI this was featured on Bobby Flay’s Throw Down so you know its good. The chocolate is warm & soft, almost like a molten chocolate cake but smooth like mousse. If a molten chocolate cake was to marry chocolate mousse, this would be its baby. Get it and you won’t regret it."—Steph C.
"Wow- I hardly ever find a 5 star. But that is what their chocolate bread pudding is! I never thought I would like the taste of bacon sauce over chocolate bread pudding…But it was divine. The chocolate tasting like the inside of a lava cake…All of it blended so well and I can’t wait to visit again to try more…"—Alexandra C.
A totally different use of chocolate pudding isn’t soft, or custard-y, and you sure can’t put it into a cup! Perfect for those who like a little texture or substance to their desserts. The Two Little Red Hens bakeshop on the Upper East Side may be best known for their amazing red velvet cake, but they also offer a signature cake they’ve dubbed the Brooklyn Blackout. Instead of using all buttercream frosting to ice their chocolate cake layers, they fill the cake with chocolate pudding instead, making for a sweet, creamy surprise in the middle of an unassuming chocolate cake! And while Two Little Red Hens is a perfectly capable and excellent bakery, the Brooklyn Blackout would just be a plain chocolate cake if not for the pudding, which elevates it to something special and new. You can get the Brooklyn Blackout both as a whole cake (or order it by the slice) or as a cupcake, so it’s perfect to take on the go—maybe on your way to one of the other scrumptious chocolate pudding purveryors today!
"This dark and luscious number never fails to leave me intoxicated in a sugar coma, post-consumption. Regardless, I return to it over and over again. And no, there are never regrets. Tiers of chocolate cake layered with chocolate pudding, finished off with frosting and a smattering of cake crumbs. Too sweet? Of course! But in just the right ways that you would expect and want."—Midtown Lunch
"So first off the Brooklyn blackout cake, he asked if I wanted anything written on it and I told him what I wanted which he did effortlessly AND added a little extra touch! The cake itself tasted amazing! Its a dark chocolate cake with chocolate pudding between the layers! You can taste the ingredients, its not overly sweet and lets just say the WHOLE cake vanished in less then 4 minutes…seriously…and ppl were coming back around hoping someone had left a crumb…or two…."—Dena A.
" Once inside, I’d heard a lot about their signature Brooklyn Blackout Cupcake so I made a mad dash to the cupcake display. The Brooklyn Blackout is a dangerous chocolaty cupcake that comes with chocolate frosting and a creamy chocolate filling that ought to be outlawed. It’s just absolutely delicious! Moist with a topping and filling that’s like the lightest chocolate pudding you’ve ever had."—Ray W.
Summer feels like the absolute perfect time to eat catfish. I don’t know why, because you usually prepare catfish deep fried and thus it comes to your plate hot, but there’s just something about the distinct flavor of catfish, breaded and fried, coupled with some hot sauce and a corn on the cob, that makes me feel like summer’s arrived. In reality, catfish are eaten all throughout the year, and all throughout the world: different species of catfish can be found in waters near every continent but Antarctica, and have been caught and farmed for food for hundreds of years. It’s become such a staple in Southern American cuisine that in 1987, President Reagan proclaimed today, June 25, as National Catfish Day to commemorate how important the fish is to both American culture and economy. So, unlike many other national food holidays, where no one really knows how, when, or why those holidays came about, we know the exact history of this holiday, and that it really isa national food holiday!
Catfish has a distinct, strong taste and smell, and it can turn some people off to the fish. It’s why you rarely see an unadulterated filet of catfish on a restaurant menu—it’s no red snapper, I’ll tell you that! But the nutritious benefits of catfish—high in protein, low in cholesterol, high in Vitamin D—definitely begs for a second look at the underappreciated fish. And it’s why so many cultures spice things up a bit with catfish: Indonesians grill it with chili sambal; Malaysians eat it with curry and eggs; Hungarians cook it in—what else—Hungarian paprika sauce. And Americans, particularly Southern American cuisine, like to crust it in cornmeal and deep fry it—catfish fritters! While we’re nowhere near the South here, you better believe that New York has some fierce fried catfish. And what better place to get a good catfish fry than at the Catfish Cafe? The cafe may be all the way out in Jamaica but no one is complaining, because they know how to cook catfish right. They cook everything fresh and to order here, and serve it with a ton of other good Southern comfort food: collard greens, candied yams, and macaroni and cheese. Definitely the way to have a catfish meal in New York, or anywhere in the country!
"5 star all the way! I felt a little apprehensive coming to this place because it only had 2 reviews on yelp, but I’ve been craving soul food for a few days now so figured i’de give it a shot. Wow! I was pleasantly surprised. The place is small but very clean. I ordered the chicken and waffles and my friend got the fried catfish with a side of mac and cheese and candied yams. The catfish was devine. The breading was rich and crunchy and the fish was very moist and tender."—Coleen J.
"Best southern food I have ever had in New York City. Had the fried catfish, collard greens, and mac & cheese. Fried catfish was extremely moist and flavorful, in a cornmeal batter that was perfectly seasoned. Collard greens were excellent, with something added that gave them a strong sweetness. Mac & cheese was a little too wet, but who cares? The cornbread was also fantastic."—Bret H.
Want to try something a little more exotic than fried fish and mac and cheese? Can’t get out all the way to Jamaica just for a meal (as delicious as it may be)? Manhattan still has some excellent catfish dishes to enjoy, especially those from international cuisines. The famed Cambodian sandwich shop Num Pang, which also makes a mean Five-Spiced Pork Belly Sandwich, takes the Cambodian version of a bahn-mi to completely new heights. They serve a peppercorn catfish sandwich that mixes the heat of the peppercorns with the flavor of the catfish and the cool, refreshing taste of shredded carrots and cucumber. Num Pang’s catfish is always super-fresh and mild, and they champion the taste of this fish by grilling it to accentuate its flavor, not frying it to mask it. Their homemade chili mayonnaise gives an extra kick to complement the peppercorns—this is a sandwich that packs a punch! While a lot of places may serve catfish, it’s usually tucked away in the recesses of the seafood section of a menu, in favor of more popular and tastier fishes. But Num Pang puts their catfish sandwich right out there, proud of its flavors and happy to show New Yorkers everywhere that an inexpensive fish doesn’t mean you have to be cheap on the dish!
"Firm, perfectly grilled peppercorn catfish ($7.25) comes with a house-made sweet soy sauce that completes the sandwich. Are Ratha Chau’s sandwiches pricier than most of the banh mi joints around town? Absolutely, but for the most part they’re made with first-rate ingredients and great care, and I for one am willing to pay for that. Ten bucks for a sandwich and either a piece of grilled corn or a blood-orange lemonade still seems like a square and fair deal to me."—Serious Eats
"The catfish was nicely grilled with some charring on the fillet. While the peppercorns weren’t readily apparent, the taste was unmistakeably peppery. The catfish wasn’t too fishy, which catfish can be sometimes. This was a nice, flaky catfish fillet. The fixings on all sandwiches at Num Pang are shredded carrot, cilantro, cucumber and chili mayo. They went very well with the peppery catfish, providing a bit of cooling from the peppery catfish. The chili mayo can sometimes be pretty hot, but it didn’t add to the heat level in this case."—New York Street Food
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, and YESSSSSSS. This place is AWESOME. I actually came here with a friend for the first time months ago. I was on a meat fast at the time so I got the peppercorn catfish sandwich, and I fell in LOVE. I thought maybe it was a one-time thing, but I kept going back and each time it was AMAZING. I’m not meat fasting anymore, but I still have the same peppercorn catfish because it’s THAT good."—R Y. J.
"I’ve heard lots of great things about the food at this place, so I decided to try it for myself. Everything they told me turned out to be true. I had the peppercorn catfish sandwich. The bread was really good, the catfish was cooked perfectly, and the flavors and textures of the cilantro, cucumber, pickled carrots, and chili mayo worked beautifully together."—Stevie S.
I told you yesterday that pecan-lovers are going to be ecstatic this weekend, because both national food holidays celebrate pecans :) Yesterday was Pecan Sandy Day, dedicated to those crumbly, crunchy, shortbread-y cookies with crushed pecans inside them; and today is National Pralines Day, which some confectioners in the United States use as a term for candied pecans used in desserts. Actually, the term praline has a few definitions: it could be the confections or cookies involving pecans, or any nut; or it could be the Belgian praline, which are definied as soft or liquid fillings surrounded by a hard chocolate shell—much like the French bonbon. They don’t even have to have pecans in them! There are many different varieties of praline—for both definitions—so for this National Praline Day, let yourself loose and try something new!
When I started doing research for this food holiday and saw that Belgian chocolates are called “pralines” in their nation of origin, I just had to include it, even though we as Americans aren’t used to calling them by that name. Come on, people, they’re Belgian pralines! Delicious! It reminds me of my trip to Brussels when I studied in Europe back in college. Two of my friends and I went with the full intention of catching a few tourist attractions and eating our weights in waffles and chocolate. (This one waffle stand near Grand Place served us Belgian waffles DIPPED in chocolate, and that was basically better than sex.) And since we had to share all these wonderful chocolates we were enjoying with our families back home, we went to the only shop in Brussels that would actually mail chocolates overseas. Yeah, crazy! But Leonidas does just that. An international chain of Belgian chocolates, Leonidas has made a name for themselves all over the world. There’s even a shop right here in New York City (because New York has everything, naturally) where you can taste the Belgian pralineswe fell in love with back in Brussels. Try out all of their varieties, from the dark chocolate covered ganache to orange peels dipped in chocolate—hell, even get a praline praline if you’re so inclined ;-) I’m just so glad that I don’t have to order chocolate from Europe to get the real Belgian praline experience again!
"Leonidas ranks in my top three chocolatiers in the city, with a creamy praline and smooth chocolate that makes my heart happy. This location is a bit on the small side, but all that glitters is gold - and is edible too! The sales clerks are nice, the selection is good, and the quality is good."—Suanne L.
"Pralines, orange peels and dark chocolate, oh my! All the pralines here are good, I stick to dark chocolate cause thats what I like and I will do anything for their dark choco orange peels (slivers, not slices). Gianduja is divine and I really like the kirsch liqueur choco as well."—Marina G.
But when you’re in America, and you hear the word “pralines,” you’re not looking for chocolate bonbons—as delicious as they may be. You want some damn pecans! I especially like them when they’re candied and distributed throughout sweet, cool ice cream—Pralines and Cream! Or how about frozen yogurt? You can’t get Pralines and Cream at Pinkberry, but there’s something way better than the ubiquitous fro-yo chain. Up in Harlem, Chill Berry is a family-owned oasis of self-serve frozen yogurt in a neighborhood the Pinkberries and Red Mangoes have seemed to overlook. Their fro-yo is tart and cool, but unlike the chain stores downtown, you can find inventive and delicious flavors here, like New York Cheesecake, Red Velvet Cake, and—you guessed it—Pecan Praline. Toppings include perennial favorites like sprinkles and cookie crumbs to fresh mango slices, cookie dough balls, and even mochi! For all its Asian-ness, you can’t get mochi on your fro-yo at Pinkberry. Plus it’s great to buy from local, hard-working businesses like Chill Berry, in a neighborhood that’s often overlooked by the “trendy” new franchises. Head up to Harlem and try a bite!
"With 10 rich low fat flavors like Cake Batter, Pecan Praline, and Pistachio, and numerous fresh fruit and classic toppings from sprinkles to the exotic moochi, the sky is the limit in terms of fantastic combinations to enjoy. Chill Berry is cozy and inviting with an uber friendly staff eager to walk you through the process of self service and offers countless samples. The space has a lounge like feel with banquette seating, wooden stools and tables, as well as 4 flat screen televisions featuring music videos and soothing R&B playing overhead to set an escapist mood."—Stay Uptown
"I ended up choosing a little bit of 3 flavors - vanilla, pecan praline, and cookies and cream. All are delicious! I think my favorite was the praline - so so good! I topped it with some fresh strawberries and mango and cookie dough bites - so many toppings to choose from that include some healthy options. It is really nice that it is self-serve because you can get exactly what you want."—Julen H.
"With flavors like red Velvet, Cake Batter and Pecan Pralines, and toppings like cheesecake bites, Captn Crunch and lots of fresh fruit, this is definitely something I am looking forward to taking advantage of this summer. I can’t say that I am a frozen yogurt connoisseur, but my initial impression is that this is definitely a welcome addition to the neighborhood!"—Sarah C.
Is there ever a day that isn’t worth celebrating a cookie? My answer is vehemently “no.” (Unless you’re supposed to celebrate lobster that day, then I would probably defer…) And there is just nothing like a Pecan Sandy. Called “sandy” not because they have sand in them, of course, but for their crumbly, almost shortbread-like texture. I happen to love the heck out of shortbread, and you don’t have to twist my arm to indulge in one of my favorite nuts, the pecan. (More on pecans tomorrow, if you can’t get enough of them!)
The pecan sandy is traditionally a home baker kind of cookie, with tons of recipes and variations floating around cookbooks and Internet databases these days, so you don’t see a whole lot of bakeries specialize in the sandy—and definitely don’t highlight it as the gem of their cookie arsenal. But you can get a pretty good store-baked pecan sandy at Bakeway, a local bakery favorite in Astoria. Their specialty is the pecan pie, but it makes them experts in all things pecan, so the sandies are particularly excellent here. And for all those foodies who live in Queens, this is a special treat: you don’t even have to get into the city to celebrate this national food holiday :-)
"I had a little time to kill, so I decided to stop in. YUM. I got the spanakopita on a whim, and it was delicious. Super flaky, with a flavorful, dense spinach filling. The other time I stopped in, I got a pecan sandy, which was definitely tasty. Prices are very reasonable on their baked goods, and there is free wifi as well. Looks like a great neighborhood hang out with a clean, modern atmosphere."—Christina K.
Wow!! June 22nd is a pretty awesome day for national food holidays. First you get your sweet fix with National Chocolate Eclair Day, and then it’s a salty, savory, deep-fried love fest with National Onion Ring Day. Everyone who’s eaten fast food knows about the onion ring : onions, sliced into their natural rings, are breaded and deep-fried to form a crunchy, tasty crust, served at fast food locations worldwide. Although I have a deep affection towards French Fries, I have to say that onion rings are a great substitute when you’re down at Nathan’s or Roll N Roaster in my neck of the woods and you’re looking for a hefty side to stand up to a super-sized hamburger. And even though the onion frequently slips out of its breading when you first take a bite, I find them a welcome treat when I’m looking for something tasty, greasy, and inexpensive to enjoy. Plus, onions are a (kind of) vegetable! So it’s marginally healthy! Right? ;-)
Any old fry joint can whip you up a batch of decent onion rings in the city (and chain onion rings are not acceptable—they don’t even use real onion strips!), but if you want to try something new and interesting, head to the neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn. This enclave of old dock buildings and residences is quickly becoming a food oasis in an area almost untouched by mass transportation. (If you don’t count the free Ikea shuttles.) Here, you’ll find the bar and restaurant The Good Fork, and boy, is it good. Tasty, tried-and-true comfort foods are all the rage here, from roasted brussels sprouts and dumplings to pecan pie and, yes, onion rings. They make their onion rings differently here, forgoing the regular buttermilk batter and bread crumbs and using tempura batter instead, making these onion rings bigger, fluffier, and tastier too. You can buy them as a side dish for a whole table to share, or order them along with the Good Fork’s hamburger—my favorite combination!
"Brooklyn’s best onion rings (unless someone tells me otherwise) are the tempura-battered beauties found in Red Hook at the Good Fork. These babies come with the Good Fork’s excellent hamburger, but they make a perfect side dish for just about anything else on the menu here."—Serious Eats
"Their menu changes seasonally, and there are usually specials. A constant is my favorite entree, the Korean steak and eggs, where the skirt steak has an incredible marinade and is immensely tender and flavorful. Other highlights include the steamed mussels, burger, shrimp-scallion pancakes, potato-parsnip mash, dumplings, and onion rings. The latter are the best I’ve ever had, big onion rings married to a tempura batter shell that’s crisp, light, and adheres to the rings."—Valery C.
"The side of onion rings was made with tempura flour, which made it a lot softer and milder than how it is usually made in most other restaurants. It was an interesting way of making onion rings which I had never tried before, and they were also very tasty."—Radford T.
I always loved when my parents had friends over as a kid. Because inevitably, either my parents or their friends would buy that coveted box of miniature pastries to eat over coffee and conversation. Tiny Italian and French specialties lay within that box, tied together with white and red string, delicious confections with sweet pastry crust, chocolate ganache, and creme filling—oh, the creme filling. I didn’t care at all for the grown-ups or their conversation, but I felt like a grown-up when I was invited to the table for my glass of milk and some of the pastries. My first choice was always a cannoli: the firm, tasty creme inside a pastry shell always appealed to me, and I liked, even as a kid, the green pistachio flakes instead of the more popular chocolate chips. But if those weren’t available to me, I picked the French’s next best thing: the chocolate eclair.
The French chocolate eclair is an extremely popular pastry that originated in the 19th century. Using fluffy choux pastry, the eclair is first baked until hollow, allowed to cool, and then filled with chiboust cream and topped with icing. They’re the lighter French version of a creme-filled doughnut, without the deep-frying and all of the flavor. The best eclairs, in my opinion, are the ones with just the right amount of filling—enough so you don’t feel you’re eating dry pastry, and not too much that it all squirts out of the other side of the eclair! And that creme filling’s got to be dense and rich, thickened with egg, with just the right amount of sweetness so as not to overwhelm the light pastry crust. The eclair shouldn’t just be a vessel to bring that creme to your mouth; it’s a whole pastry experience.
And hands-down, one of the best chocolate eclairs in the city belongs to Chikalicious Dessert Club in the East Village. (They’re quickly becoming my go-to pastry shop of the summer!) They make their eclairs with a few choices: vanilla pastry cream with powdered sugar, or chocolate ganache with chocolate fondant icing—a double chocolate eclair whammy! The big Chikalicious secret is adding a layer of cookie dough to the choux pastry, making their pastry shells light and crispy, not soft and chewy like some French pastries can be. Every eclair is made to order, so you know that they’re super fresh and tasty just for you—and that the crispness of the pastry shell isn’t from being stale!
If that cookie-eclair isn’t enough for you, then you’ll be delighted to know that the good people of Chikalicious are no strangers to crazy delicious decadence. They will slice your choux pastry in half before it’s filled, and then fill it—with vanilla ice cream. It’s an ice cream chocolate eclair sandwich! Talk about crazy, damn, I want to have one right now. And much like the ice cream sandwich creations at Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, you can’t possibly try to eat this like a flying saucer—the eclair and ice cream are then drenched in hot fudge, leaving a delicious, gooey mess you’re very likely to get all over yourself (and not care one bit!) It’s certainly not a “classic” chocolate eclair—I bet the pastry chefs in Paris would swoon and fall over if they heard about this one—but it’s all innovative and all New York.
"They call them cookie eclairs ($3.25 each) because of that little extra crunch in the shell, akin to the double-layered shell method of Beard Papa’s. The eclairs are piped to order, and chocolate is the superior of the two, filled with a lush, thick pudding—so rich, so lovely in the mouth. The top half is drenched in dark chocolate, so eat quick, lest the crisp exterior grow soft."—Serious Eats
"It’s true, there’s not a lot of competition. Éclairs aren’t cupcakes. But after tasting one of Chika Tillman’s, you begin to wonder why. Light and airy and addictive as any drug, they come in two flavors: a fragrant vanilla-pastry-cream-filled version dusted with powdered sugar, or a fiendish chocolate-cream-and-chocolate-ganache concoction, with chocolate-fondant icing. And unlike the soggy-shelled variety you may be accustomed to, these éclairs possess a delicate, almost Kit-Kat-like crunch that takes you by surprise. The secret to this mysterious crackle, admits Tillman, is a layer of cookie dough baked onto the top of the choux-pastry shell—a vast structural and textural improvement on classic pastry design."—New York Magazine
"That’s right, the decadent folks at Chikalicious take one of their éclairs, cut it in half, put a generous layer of soft serve inside, then drench the top with chocolate sauce. It is absolutely fantastic. The éclair is almost like a shortbread (hence the “cookie” in the name) and one tester picked up a slight hint of feta cheese."—Scoop On Cones
"The chocolate and vanilla éclairs that ChikaLicious turns out aren’t just any éclairs, but cookie éclairs—so named because of that little extra crunch over the shell surface, like the double-layered shell method of Beard Papa’s. With the ice cream sandwich, that same choux pastry shell is sliced open horizontally, filled with vanilla bean soft serve , and then topped off with hot fudge. Fork and knife required. Messy, but wonderful, with the soft-serve and dark, smooth fudge melting into hollows of the choux pastry."—Serious Eats
"I never tried eclairs for a reason. They did not inspire me, so I found it hard to believe this smell was coming from that. But he swore that it was. He recommended a few things because I was a hard sell on the eclair. Like the cookies and the banana pudding, however I ended up going with his recommendation of how ethereal this eclair was at my mother’s encouragement and that dynamic smell that was KILLING me inside. And I tried it while walking out the door…..and nearly ran back. If I wasn’t smiling so hard and so amazed at what I tasted, I would have run to the man, jumped over the counter and bit him for good luck.. BOY THAT ECLAIR WAS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!! People were looking at me on the street like what is she raving about?"—Kenda T.
"The first dessert we ordered was the chocolate eclair ice cream sandwich. A little crispy on the outside, chewy eclair halved and filled with vanilla bean ice cream and then drenched in chocolate sauce - I think it was hot fudge. By the end, we were fighting for the last bites. We debated between this and the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich which also looked to die for."—S. R.
It’s more than just a pretty color combination to paint on your livingroom walls—and it’s more than just a dirty euphemism, too. Peaches and cream is a delicious, easy dessert, much like Strawberries and Cream, that just involves fruit and a bit of cool cream to make a lovely, elegant dish. And the summer is the best time to enjoy this kind of dessert, with fruits in abundance at the Greenmarket and my favorite form of cream—ice cream—is the perfect way to cool off on a summer afternoon. If you’re looking for the genuine article, definitely make this treat yourself, with a few peaches purchased in Union Square and a pint of your favorite vanilla ice cream, mix them up, let the ice cream melt a little to meld with the yummy peach juice, and enjoy :)
There’s also a great shop that will do all the peaches n cream mixing for you—and serve it all on a yummy waffle cone :) I highlighted the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory back on National Pecan Day for their butter pecan ice cream, but the deliciousness of their peaches and cream flavor just can’t be overlooked. The homemade ice cream shop, known for its spectacular views of the East River, makes a very small range of ice cream flavors, to focus on clean, fresh-tasting ice cream and the goodness of the old standards. (You won’t be finding any Ben & Jerry-inspired flavors here!) They use real farm fresh peaches for their peaches and cream ice cream, and only uses natural, raw sugars in each of their flavors. It’s definitely worth a stop-over at Water Street to pick up a cone today, and catch the cool breezes coming off of the river—if it gets as hot as it’s supposed to be today, you may need both!
"Like an ice cream sommelier, he describes a great vanilla as ‘natural, clean and silky,’ and sings the praises of his favorite vanilla extract producer, Nielsen Massey, in a 15-minute lecture on the art and science of the vanilla bean. He laments the evils of bleached sugar and preaches the righteousness of fresh peaches over canned."—The New York Times
"I got the peaches and cream ice cream, and it was straight up vanilla ice cream mixed with pieces of peach. I liked it and it certainly hit the spot on a warm, humid afternoon. That is, until I dropped the cone walking around the park. Big fail."—Andrew N.
"The ice cream is terrifically creamy, and if it’s a nice day, you can simply walk out onto the pier to do your licking. I tried the peach milkshake, and I managed to avoid a brain freeze as I gazed at that wonderful Manhattan skyline. Rachael Ray praised it in one of her "$40 a Day" shows on the Food Network, so I expect business has picked up since then. It’s just a nice treat to have after taking the windswept walk on the bridge."—Ed U.
Who doesn’t love a milkshake? Made of ice cream, milk, and other flavorings, milkshakes have become one of the best food inventions to come out of the United States, ever. (Screw soda and Baked Alaska and all our other food inventions!) Super sweet yet cool and refreshing, milkshakes have been around since the turn of the century, served at malt shops (where the malted milkshake was born) and soda fountains. The three classic flavors have always been the Big Three ice cream flavors as well: chocolate, strawberry, and today’s national food holiday, vanilla. Nowadays, the malt shops are a thing of the past, and milkshakes are most often found in nostalgic diners and ice cream shops. You can always tell the quality of a diner or ice cream parlor by the quality of their milkshakes ;-)
I’m a huge fan of vanilla milkshakes, because it’s the one flavor you can’t really mess around with. When it comes to strawberry milkshakes, people are tempted to “make their mark” by adding other berries or flavors to the shake to make it a “signature” drink. The same goes with chocolate, where any number of sweet flavors can be in the mix. But when you order a vanilla milkshake, you know exactly what you’re getting: vanilla ice cream, a bit of vanilla flavoring, and fresh, clean-tasting milk. I don’t find any milkshake more refreshing and satisfying than plain ol’ vanilla.
Not many restaurants in New York City have taken on the challenge of reinventing the milkshake—perhaps that’ll be the next wave of faddish confections. Move over, macaron ;-) But you can get some inventive milkshake dishes around the city, starting with a milkshake that’s paired with a very interesting—and very indulgent—dessert. Lavo on 58th Street makes classic Italian dishes with high-end ingredients and modern twists, like Kobe beef meatballs and lobster fra diavolo bisque. But what they’re getting a lot of buzz for is one of their desserts: a deep-fried Oreo cookie accompanied by a vanilla milkshake. The nostalgic American flavors are all there, and the creaminess of the milkshake goes well with the crispy fried batter around the Oreo cookie. They call it an Oreo “zeppole”, but I just call it delicious. It’s so interesting to see deep-fried snacks like Oreos taken out of the state fair and into high-end restaurant territory. And the addition of the milkshake really puts it over the top for me: it makes this dessert much less of a novelty and much more a fully realized, delicious dish.
"We split the Oreo zeppole for dessert. I had originally protested in disgust at the idea thereof, but let me tell you, that is one seriously good treat. Especially when dipped in the little vanilla milkshake that accompanies it. Do I lose my foodie status for admitting that I loved this?"—Steven H.
"Last but for foodies’ sake not least, the fried oreos w/ vanilla milkshake on the side……………….truly deserving of a moment in silence to revisit the paradise that was my dessert that very night. So basically, your a fool if you don’t order this to give closure to your already delish meal!!!!!"—Natalie C.
Recently, however, there has been a trend in New York gastropubs and higher-end burger joints to include milkshakes on their menus…but they’re not the malted shakes you knew growing up. Boozy milkshakes have become a popular drink in American fare restaurants, especially those looking to capitalize on the nostalgic feel of a burger, fries, and a milkshake, but update that meal for the adult crowd. One of the pioneers of the adult milkshake is BLT Burger, created by the French chef Laurent Tourondel, who looked to buck tradition by serving ultra-American cuisine with an upscale twist. For BLT Burger, he teamed with his expert sommelier to create the restaurant’s signature spiked milkshakes, mixing the best liquors with the creamiest of ice creams and milk. They offer quite a few vanilla milkshakes on the menu, including “Grandma’s Treat,” a mix of vanilla ice cream, caramel, and Maker’s Mark—definitely not something mygrandmother ever let me sip as a kid! There’s also a selection of adult ice cream floats—the one involving bourbon and root beer intrigues me—and regular milkshakes, for those who are looking for their vanilla milkshake to be just “vanilla” tonight.
"Another thing to love about milkshakes? Some restaurants add alcohol to them. Laurent Tourendel’s BLT Burger doesn’t stop at Kobe hot dogs and onion rings the size of 45s. His menu extras include vanilla milkshakes spiked with caramel and Makers Mark, or a coffee milkshake enhanced with a jig of Kahlua and espresso."—CBS New York
"That shake is a favorite of Fred Dexheimer, a certified master sommelier who helped Mr. Tourondel hatch the original shake menu. (“I got teased a little bit by my colleagues,” he said. “ ‘MS means Master Shake-maker,’ things like that.”) The fact is, Mr. Dexheimer noted, alcohol and ice cream play very well together. All those syrupy liqueurs, anathema to the classic cocktail crowd, come into their own when used judiciously in shakes. And the harder stuff reveals depths of sweetness. “The inherent flavors of bourbon are vanilla and caramelization from the barrel,” he said."—The New York Times
"BLT beverage czar Fred Dexheimer roams the booth-lined, wood-wainscoted premises, and his boozy touch is evident in the list of spiked milkshakes and fruity house cocktails."—New York Magazine
"The menu is something I’d design if I were on death row, preparing for my final feast before the big dirt nap. They have a broad, quality beer selection that samples from some of the best local and national craft breweries (SixPoint, BluePoint, Ommegang), and that’s matched only by the creative quality of the boozed up milkshakes. Being a bourbon man, I ordered Grandma’s Treat, made with Maker’s Mark, Caramel, and Vanilla Ice Cream. The Caramel offset the bourbon quite well, and I look forward to going back and sampling the rest of their spiked shakes."—Robert P.
"For what it’s worth, the burger here is good and served on a rather delicious toasted bun…and the milkshakes are inventive and pretty damn good. I had a Twinkie boy milkshake, which is pretty much what it sounds like - vanilla ice cream, caramel syrup, and honest-to-god Twinkies. The waffle fries (NTD: waffle fries are amazing!!) were crispy and had an excellent curly-fries seasoning."—Audrey J.
Real martini connoisseurs hate James Bond. His famous line for ordering a martini has been repeated by bar amateurs for decades all over the world, and all it leads to is a weak martini and disapproving looks from experts. I learned a lot about the martini when researching for this national food holiday, particularly that stirred is the preferred method of mixing your cocktail. A martini is made up of very few ingredients: gin, a tiny splash of vermouth, and garnished with an olive or lemon peel. That doesn’t leave much room for error in making one! When the cocktail is mixed together on ice, it’s then poured out of the shaker and served chilled, but straight (no ice). That means if you shake the mixer, like Mr. Bond orders, your ice gets crushed up in your martini, and the resulting water and ice debris dilutes your cocktail. And no one wants a weak martini!
And no one wants a wetmartini, either. The “wetness” or “dryness” of a martini is based on how much vermouth is used in the formula: the less vermouth, the drier the drink, and the “better” the quality of the cocktail. (And just for reference, a “dirty” martini is when the bartender adds some of the olive juice to the cocktail. Ew.) Hardcore martini-ites say that even no vermouth, or just a splash, works best—to which I say, then aren’t you no longer drinking a “martini” and just having gin? :P I’m all about the other ‘tinis, like the chocolate martini, the apple-tini…all of which have the “tini” suffix because of the glass they’re served in, and have absolutely nothing to do with the clean gin and vermouth cocktail with a more distinguished pedigree.
With few ingredients and little preparation, it’s clear that the key to a successful dry martini is the quality of the ingredients you put into one. And no one makes a better classic martini in the city than the Flatiron Lounge, located just in the shadow of the famous building it’s named for. Here, the bartenders are deadly serious about the martinis they serve, making sure they’re made with the best gin brands in the business, and using as little vermouth as possible to still call it a “martini.” They also serve the fruity, impostor ‘tinis, and make martinis with additional ingredients like Lychee juice and peach vodka. But to really get the feel of this national food holiday, you’ve got to have it straight: gin, a tiny bit of vermouth, and an olive garnishing the top. An old-school cocktail for an old-school bar. And you better believe they serve it stirred—not shaken. ;-)
"The martini here was my control — a simple, classic martini. I asked the barman, who clearly considered this job a career (and not a conduit for auditioning) to make me his idea of a classic martini. What I got was a martini made with Plymouth gin and a half-jigger of dry vermouth. The ice was cracked the traditional way — ice in hand, cracked with a metal spoon, and then stirred so expertly his hands were a-blur. It was truly the classic gin martini — perfectly cold, juicy, junipery in the mouth, and hazardously easy."—The Huffington Post
"For a sensational palate teaser enjoy the martini flight. Brought to you by cocktail stylist Julie Reiner. Sip on three mini martinis with a common theme, such as "The Flight to Hawaii", which highlights drinks with tropical fruits."—Haute Living
"These days, you can get martinis made with care in two different kinds of New York bars: the old-school spaces, where it feels like having anything but a martini (or maybe a Manhattan) is just wrong; and at the new generation of cocktail bars, where the entrance is often hidden, the mixers are fresh-squeezed, bitters are back and every drink is made with almost appalling care by bartenders who would rather shake up drinks than chat up customers. There, a martini is a good test of the staff."—The New York Times
"Come in and respect the place, respect the drinks and now that your drinks were made as drinkable art, but then again…your liver is asking for the same respect. Listen to your liver…head over and have a proper drink. Your martini glass will be empty and your liver will be happy."—Trevor M.
"This place is so consistent in it’s relaxed atmosphere, upscale service, and killer cocktails that it deserves the holy 5-star designation. Yes, I’ve only come here a handful of times but it certainly fills a necessary niche. And sweet jebus those friggin’ drinks are to-die-for! I’m still imbibing my way through the concoctions on the menu but I have enjoyed the namesake Flatiron Martini, and the yummy peach one whose name escapes me (clearly this drink comes after the Flatiron). Perfect place to bring someone you like a lot and want to impress … or at least to get them drunk."—Jane K.
Now for the food holiday that I was really looking forward to today! It may be Cherry Tart Day in the United States, but all over the world it is International Sushi Day! Sushi has become popular in the U.S. in the past years—so much so that it’s difficult not to stumble upon a sushi bar on every street, especially in New York City. (On Sheepshead Bay Road in my little neighborhood of Brooklyn there are five sushi restaurants. It’s gotten so bad that the American bar, Wheeler’s, has a big sign in the window that says “NO SUSHI.”) But the concept of eating foods with prepared vinegar rice—typically raw fish—has been around in Japan since at least the 14th century! And as you’d probably expect, sushi is much more than just a Philadelphia roll there: there are so many different types of sushi, categorized by the way it’s prepared and the region of Japan it originates from, it can make your head spin. We get only a tiny sliver of the whole sushi pie here in the States, but even from that, the possibilities are endless. And, much like a lot of the other ethnic cuisines we’ve appropriated in the Western world, we’ve made sushi our own, with variations of rolls that won’t be found anywhere in the motherland. (Hint: they don’t use cream cheese in Japan. I mean, come on, people.)
The thing that makes sushi “sushi” isn’t the fish, or the seaweed: it’s the rice. Nearly every piece of sushi incorporates specially prepared rice called shari, which is traditionally prepared with only wooden utensils. Then the neta is the meat of the sushi, which is usually raw fish, but can also be cooked seafood, radish, cucumber, egg, avocado, tofu, and yes, even cream cheese. The ingredients may be bound to the rice with nori, or black Japanese seaweed. The resulting flavors of sushi are wide and varied depending on the ingredients, but you typically get a crisp, clean tasting bite, really tasting the freshness of the ingredients, with a tiny bit of umami from the vinegared rice. Man, just thinkingabout writing this blog post makes me hungry for some sushi!
It is not even funnyhow many sushi bars and restaurants there are in New York City. I couldn’t even attempt counting them on Yelp, much less sort through the thousands of reviews to find out which is the best. (And forget about going to each one to test it out for myself!) If you’re looking to enjoy International Sushi Day, the best place to get that sushi is your tried-and-true local sushi restaurant, the one you always go to and never find any complaints, even if the place is rated low by others, you can’t find one thing you don’t love about it. That’s the best way to get a great sushi experience :) But if you’re really looking for a recommendation, and have the time, money, and/or intestinal fortitude to try something new, here are a few suggestions for the “best” sushi around the city ;-)
Personally? I’d love to go to Morimoto for just about anything. I’m enamored by the Iron Chef personality and I think he’s a truly interesting and inventive chef on the scene today. The restaurant Morimoto is a lot like the chef: touting inventive new dishes with the traditional backbone of old-school Japanese preparation. (I always remember him cooking with Coca-Cola in front of a Yakuza-style traditionalist culinary school! Iron Chef Japan rocked.) And while all of his nouveau-Japanese cuisine is on the menu here, when you look at his sushi bar, you’ll find a lot of traditional, old styles at work. Chef Morimoto, who originally trained as a sushi chef, has his fish flown in from the Tokyo markets four times a week, so it’s not only super fresh, it’s the original fish and flavorings you’d get from traditional Japanese recipes. His tuna tartare has become a thing of legend, so if you plan to come here for your sushi fix, it’s definitely one to try. You may end up dropping a few bills if you come here for dinner, or even lunch, to celebrate International Sushi Day, but you can be guaranteed fresh, delicious sushi, just the way it’s been for hundreds of years.
"Perhaps Morimoto isn’t classically known for sushi, instead being lauded for its creativity when it comes to the cooked side of Japanese cuisine, but make no mistake: sitting at the sushi bar in Morimoto will please even the most finicky sushi connoisseur. Start off with the amazing tuna tartare (pictured), which comes artfully arranged for you to play with the textures and tastes of each bite. Order a la carte from the extensive menu, or order Morimoto sashimi, which includes seared toro, salmon, eel, tuna, and hamachi, each with their own dipping sauce."—CBS New York
"Morimoto is an Iron Chef for good reason. He trained originally as a sushi chef and is a master of the sophisticated Japanese dining genre called kaiseki. These varied talents are all on display at Morimoto, which seems to have been conceived as several restaurants in one. There is the obligatory subterranean lounge area mobbed with meatpacking-district regulars swilling sugary, aggressively priced cocktails. There is the varied sushi menu (the fish is flown in four times weekly from the Tsukiji market in Tokyo), which even my most effete sushi-snob friends conceded was irreproachable."—New York Magazine
"A vast selection of very fine sushi and sashimi roots the restaurant in Japan, which also asserts itself in preparations of Kobe-style beef, in tofu and noodle dishes, and in the recurrence of shiso, miso, wasabi and sudachi."—The New York Times
"The sushi was perfect. With sublime confidence, the waiter encouraged us to order anything we’ve had anywhere, assuring us that theirs will be better. And he was right. The fish was fresh and plentiful, rolled expertly with the ideal amount of rice. The wasabi melted away into the soy sauce, but both were completely unnecessary because the fish is perfect on its own."—Peter D.
"The sushi/sashimi was beautiful (one roll looked like a checkerboard design!) and incredibly fresh and delicious as always. There was this one piece of itty bitty shrimp that tasted like lavender, it was so good! As always, the yellowtail and scallion roll blows my taste buds away, as did every fish there, to be honest, but I can’t for the life of me remember all the types - it was so much!"—Zoe P.
Not interested in what the Iron Chef has to offer? Not planning to wash your sushi down with a $200 bill at the end of the night? You can also find some amazing quality sushi outside of Manhattan—just head to Sushi Yasu. The famed sushi bar in Forest Hills used to be a fish market, but they’ve since closed down the retail aspects of the place, moved to a much bigger location, and made the focus of Sushi Yasu all about serving some of the freshest sushi around. Chef Yasu is still the one overseeing all of the sushi preparation at this restaurant, making sure everything is just right—and, more often than not, making the rolls himself. And one of the best thing about Sushi Yasu is the price—a full two dollar signs lower than Morimoto, you won’t feel like you have to sell plasma to get a full, hearty sushi meal here. And since moving to their new location in the past year, they’ve also started serving alcohol—the perfect balance to a sushi dinner ;-)
Sushi Yasu 70-11 Austin St, Forest Hills
"While some of the rolls bear mention – such as the Marilyn Monroe Roll, an avocado and crab roll topped with divine raw scallops and the delicious Chef’s sauce – to get the most out of your experience, order the omakase. Omakase translates to “in your hands” and starts at just $30 for about 10 pieces of sushi, prepared for you by Chef Yasu personally. Sit at the bar and watch the master at work, as he deftly creates each piece to place in front of you, explaining which pieces may want a little dip in soy sauce, and which you should eat plain. Unique fish will be paraded in front of you – he keeps some separate just for those who order omakase – and you won’t regret your choice."—CBS Local
"Ever since attending a sushi panel last year, I’ve been on the look out for a quality neighborhood restaurant, with reasonable prices, authentic cuisine, and a friendly chef. Except I wasn’t looking in my neighborhood, because I did not believe fine sushi could be found in the part of Queens. I was wrong. Sushi Yasu’s quality rivals many of the big name destinations in Manhattan for traditional, nigiri sushi. It’s time for me to work on becoming a regular."—Eat Big Apple
"Everything is just extremely fresh and tasty. I don’t know what other better way to describe it. It’s not the same taste you would get from other sushi restaurants. Sushi Yasu remains my #1 favorite of sushi place, and I’ll surely make the effort to come again and again."—Christine Y.
"This by far is the best sushi place I’ve been within Metro NYC. The price is reasonable (probably because it’s in Queens and rent is not as ridiculous). The food was fresh. Their Special Scallop Roll (Marilyn Monroe) is to die for. It melts in your mouth. No wasabi or soy sauce needed. They use the authentic fresh minced wasabi. Go for the omakasi and the Dassai Junmai Ginjo. You won’t regret it."—Linda N.
MEANWHILE, while all of you are shelling out big bucks at Morimoto or dining on exquisitely prepared omakaseat Sushi Yasu, I have decided that for International Sushi Day, I’m going for quantity, not quality. ;-) We’ve all seen the all-you-can-eat sushi places and looked at them with a skeptical eye. All You Can Eat is traditionally left for cheap foods that a restaurant can produce a lot of, and still make a profit even if patrons completely gorge themselves. So, how do you do sushi—a product that requires both high-quality ingredients and expertise—all-you-can-eat? It’s why some people shy away from the phenomenon altogether. But this weekend, I convinced my boyfriend to try it: the catch is, a restaurant will typically charge you for any sushi you leave over on your plate, which will make up for the inexpensive price of the rest of the food. It’s not always the best quality sushi for obvious reasons, but you can still get a great AYCE sushi dinner—even in Manhattan. Yuka Restaurant on the Upper East Side is well-known among the cheap sushi lovers of the city for making affordable, yet plentiful, rolls and sashimi. Yuka makes its profit on keeping a time limit on ACYE patrons: two hours to eat as many pieces of sushi and fixins as you can order. It may seem like a race against time (and your expanding waistline), but for $20 it’s still one of the best deals in all of New York. Just be sure to clean your plate—and wear some stretchy pants!
"It seems too good to be true: all the sushi you can eat for $20. That’s exactly what’s on tap at this tiny, dark Upper East Side staple that’s low on ambience but big on bargains. The drill is rigorous: Using the checklist provided, you select as many maki rolls, handrolls and nigiri sushi as you like. You’ve got two hours in which to order and consume every last bite of spicy tuna and flying fish roe you can shovel onto your chopsticks. Luckily, the main attraction is the excellent sushi, which keeps arriving, elegantly fanned out on plate after plate, until the kimonoed servers say when."—New York Magazine
"The AYCE menu consists of a choice between hand rolls and cut rolls as well as a bunch of different choices for sushi. They have special rolls, but they cost extra. We typically order the same things every time we go: tuna, yellowtail, salmon, mackerel, salmon tataki, spicy tuna hand rolls, and crab salad hand rolls. All in all we eat somewhere between 40 and 60 pieces of sushi. Although the quality of the sushi can be variable (between good and amazing), the salmon tataki is always delicious. However, on certain nights a magical salmon tataki wizard must come to the restaurant because on those nights the salmon tataki is phenomenal. Absolutely insanely good tasting. This stuff melts in your face. I don’t quite understand how it works. You put it in your mouth and you’re sent on some kind of flavor voyage where you discover things about the universe. Tonight I definitely had some flying hallucinations. Just unbelievably tender, melty, goodness flavor awesomeness. Simply the best salmon I have ever tasted ever ever ever. Ever."—Richard W.
"I always get the all-you-can-eat sushi here and I’ve never been disappointed. They give you the real deal and they know how to pace you with your large orders. I will kill for the salmon tataki. It’s so smooth. It’s so sweet. It’s so delicious. For some reason, I always order way too much. The last few pieces are horrendously difficult to stuff into my stomach. It requires some techniques of adjusting belts and shifting positions."—Clemens W.
I’m not going to lie to you: I’m not all that interested in National Cherry Tart Day. Since the past two weeks have been all about strawberries in Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie and Strawberry Shortcake—not to mention the delectable Apple Strudel Day just yesterday—I’m just about full up of summer fruit pastry national food holidays right about now. (What I am excited about isn’t the national food holiday of today, but the internationalfood holiday—which is coming up right after this!) I’ve had enough of sweets and pastries for this week!
So, instead of looking around the city for a decent cherry tart (when I didn’t even feel like eating one today!), I got a drink instead. Always a good substitute! :P And it just so happens that the high-class lounge and wine bar, The Dove, makes a cocktail that’s so aptly named for today’s national food holiday. Their Cherry Tart cocktail is composed of vanilla vodka and cherry juice, and has a squirt of lime for garnish. It’s still sweet from the juice and tastes lovely and fragrant from the vanilla vodka. I’ve recently gotten into drinking diluted cherry juice, and I’ve always been a fan of vanilla vodka, so this drink is absolutely perfect for me. It’s a cute take on the classic Vodka and Cranberry, but sweeter—perfect for someone like me who only wants a drink or two for the entire night. Their specialty cocktails, which also include a take on milk and honey, are $9 each, but come during happy hours to knock off $3 a pop—making these drinks just as cheap as a real high-end cherry tart, and certainly fewer calories.
"Patrons are encouraged to prop their feet up on the tables, sprawl out on the fancy chaises longues, and chill by the open French windows. Unique and creative drinks are their specialty: The Cherry Tart (vanilla vodka, natural cherry and lime juices; $9) tastes like cake frosting; the Honey Dove (honey, cognac, and vanilla organic soy milk; $9) is quasi-healthy, smooth, and tasty."—The Village Voice
"I also tried a sip of my friend’s Cherry Tart (vanilla vodka, cherry juice, and lime) and it was delicious if cherry is your thang. Honestly, I haven’t heard one bad thing about any of their drinks."—Brett W.
"I definitely suggest the house cocktails, which are both innovative and delicious. I had the Cherry Tart (vanilla vodka, cherry juice, and lime), which tasted like cherry candy with a pleasing, slight aftertaste of vanilla; the Rum Tea (white rum, honey, citrus), which seemed like exactly the sort of thing I will have to get when In inevitably contract the flu in two months; and the Silk Road Margarita (cinnamon-infused tequila, orange liquer, and lemon juice), which was an interesting spin on one of my favorite cocktails. It’s a testament to the deliciousness of the Dove’s house cocktails that I enjoyed each one despite being an avid hater of both vanilla and cinnamon. And at $6 a pop, I definitely didn’t feel any remorse at trying so many of them out."—Sylwia W.
Forget about those frozen, fake fruit-filled pastries you’ll find with a doughboy on the box. That’s not real apple strudel, not by a mile! The tradition of Apple Strudel has been around in Central Europe since the 18th century, originating in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Filled with cooked apples, sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes raisins, the pastry is made of unleavened dough that’s kneaded beforehand by pounding the dough onto the table. The pastry’s composition was influenced by all of the regions and cultures that made up the Empire at the time, which may be why the strudel is named after the German word for “whirlpool”: it’s the European melting pot pastry!
Try an apple strudel today in your own melting pot—New York City. There are tons of Central European restaurants around the city that offer an authentic apple strudel, just like they make it back in Germany (or Austria, or Hungary…) And though it may not be easy to get to, fringe neighborhoods like Glendale offer the best of the best: little restaurants and diners tucked away from the Zagats and Frommers of the world to give you authentic, home-cooked food from nearly every country you can think of. Zum Stammitsch is one of those restaurants: the German eatery is one of Queens’s best kept secrets. Their savory dishes like sauerbraten and knockwurst are rich and flavorful, and the atmosphere of the restaurant—not to mention their large selection of German beers—transports you right to Bavaria. But everyone here’s talking about their desserts, particularly the apple strudel, which is made with apples, chopped walnuts, and spices, and served warm with a scoop of ice cream. The strudel is crispy on the outside but warm and gooey on the inside, with the rich taste of cooked apples all throughout the pastry. If you’re looking for the no-nonsense genuine Bavarian apple strudel, the trip might be a bit of a hike, but Zum Stammitsch will satisfy that craving like no one else.
"Warm apple strudel. I took a bite. I dropped my fork. It was so damn good I dropped my fork. I love apples so this was perfect. I will be back here. Veggies and fiber be damned. I need some meat in my mouth now. (that’s what she said.)"—Eugene L.
"Decorated like an authentic Bavarian Inn, with rich, dark wood, stained glass windows, an enormous moose head and classic beer steins on display, The chefs are three wonderful women who prepare hearty, traditional food like the house specialty, Goulash Soup (YUMMY)- a rich braise of beef and spices. The Sauerbraten is prepared in a sweet and sour beef sauce with two very light baseball size potato dumplings. Desserts, brought in from a German bakery, include apple strudel which is crisp, hot and filled with apples, ground walnuts and spice. Top it off with vanilla ice cream and you’re yodeling."—Mike B.
For some people, however, nothing tastes better than when it’s served to you in the poshest borough of them all—Manhattan. And for the museum-goer in the know (and the discerning strudel aficionado), there’s no better museum cafe than Cafe Sabarsky. (It sure as hell beats the Met museum’s subterranean cafeteria.) Elegant and tasteful, Cafe Sabarsky gets such high marks as an eatery in its own right that the New York Times wagered that visitors to its home museum, the Neue Galerie, may zip through the gallery rooms just to get to their delicious brunches. I highlighted the cafe way back in January on Chocolate Cake Day, and while I don’t like to use restaurants more than once, I can’t leave National Apple Strudel Day without mentioning theirs. Although the Cafe, much like the Galerie itself, specializes in German and Austrian fare, the pastry chef here is French, and his training makes for a lighter, fluffier strudel than you’ll find in traditional German bakeries. Served with a topping of homemade whipped cream, it’s an elegant dessert that fits perfectly in with a Sunday full of gallery-hopping and classy Upper East Side shopping. Cafe Sabarsky is as high-brow as an apple strudel will ever get.
"The final pastry in the drop-dead category is the cafe’s apple strudel, which, when it is good, somehow manages to rise above the rest, not easy for an apple strudel to do. My three samplings have convinced me that when Mr. Decrauzat uses very tart apples, the dessert reaches sublime heights. He achieves an ideal balance of tartness and sweetness, with just the right proportion of raisins and walnuts. Blander, sweeter apples bring the strudel down a notch. On all three tries, the pastry was perfect, flaky and crackling outside, just slightly gooey inside."—The New York Times
"Normally when you have such delicious desserts as Sabarsky’s Sacher torte or its chocolate marzipan cake, you wouldn’t bother with the strudel. But this apple strudel is perfect - the flaky, nutty crust and the tangy apple filling blend beautifully. Sabarsky’s pastry chef is French, after all, which may explain why this strudel is light, elegant and superior to the leaden specimens in most places. (There is also a sugar-free apple strudel for diabetics.)"—The NY Daily News
"What we had: Apple Strudel, Marzipan Ring Cake, Green Tea and Hot Chocolate. I’m a Marzipan-aholic, so the ring cake was all my idea. My bro had spent a semester in Vienna a couple of years ago and hadn’t had the chance to get Apple Strudel since, so that was a must order. The strudel was delicious! The apples were perfectly tart and the pastry was yummy and crispy."—Corinne M.
"Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)! Oh boy, oh boy! It’s dusted with powdered sugar, served with whipped cream on the side, and guaranteed to make you drool."—Stephanie S.
Like I said on National Nutty Fudge Day, we normally equate fudge with rich, gooey, warm chocolate, but that isn’t the case! The real definition of fudge is a mix of sugar, butter, and milk that’s slowly heated to a specific temperature. It’s only the American version that’s predominantly chocolate—and why we can have so many different flavors and it can still be “fudge”. :)
But, for my money, fudge has got to have just a little chocolate in it! And there are few local chocolate shops in New York who know fudge better than Li-Lac Chocolates. In operation in the West Village since 1923, Li-Lac Chocolates has been making fine bonbons, confections, and just plain yummy sweets for almost a century. They specialize in fudge, which they make, of course, in the popular chocolate variety, but also include maple walnut and peanut butter. And the chocolate fudge comes in bar form, so you don’t even need to pretend when you buy the bonbon sizes and sayyou’ll only eat one…but eat four instead. This time no one believes you’ll resist eating the whole bar!
"For 84 years, Li-lac Chocolates has been hand-making fine chocolates. Li-lac’s legendary fudge recipe goes back to 1923 and comes in decadent varieties like maple walnut, coconut and peanut butter ($22 for a one-pound box). The French chocolate ($21 for a half-pound box) is a mix of dark and milk chocolates filled with selections including praline, rum, truffle, marzipan and raspberry."—The New York Post
"The good people at Li-lac create handmade chocolates with recipes passed down since 1923. Their sweet selection ranges from old-fashioned molded chocolates to truffles, fudge and almond bark. Plus, there’s an enormous selection of chocolate molds so you can order your sweetie anything from a milk chocolate Empire State Building to a dark chocolate floppy disk."—Edible Manhattan
"I love both the peanut and coconut cluster, milk or dark…it’s really doesn’t matter. The caramel nut bars are perfect before sex, during sex, after sex or just in the place of sex. The walnut fudge will make me slap YOUR mama. Worth every penny…so by all means go broke."—Jeremy R.
"I recently lost 30 pounds eating Li-Lac chocolates. Seriously, I did. My regimen goes something like an hour of cardio five or six times a week and some of Li-Lac’s peanut butter fudge, dark chocolate covered marshmallows, and assorted other treats as a reward for my hard work."—T.B.
But if you’re looking for a more inventive, more adventurous fudge experience, you’ll have to head uptown. (Did you ever think you’d look for “adventurous fudge”?) Marcus Samuelsson, celebrity chef and pioneer of the new Harlem Renaissance, has taken chocolate fudge to a new level at his restauarant, Red Rooster. Think less butterscotch and peanuts and more…whiskey and bourbon. Yep, that’s right, Samuelsson has made a boozy fudge! You knew it would happen eventually ;-) He boldly says on his website that he’s tried to mix the childhood sweet with a very adult flavor for his diners, so the whiskey is coupled with a drop of bourbon, some sea salt, and macadamia nuts to make a fudge like you’ve never tasted before. His new spin on soul and comfort food is worthy enough to take a trip up to Lenox Avenue for Red Rooster’s cuisine, but even if you just come for the fudge, it’s totally worth it.
"Here at the Rooster, one of our signature and favorite dessert items has to be the homemade Whiskey Fudge. Bite-size, decadent and infused with whiskey, these chocolate poppers are sure to satisfy the sweet tooth of raging chocoholics everywhere. Made with minimal ingredients, the fudge is simple in theory but complex in flavor. We add a fewÂ drops of Southern whiskey, bourbon, a few touches of sea salt and toasted Macadamia nuts and suddenly, that fudge you loved so much as a kid is given a grown up taste."—MarcusSamuelsson.com
"We then proceeded to dessert, where we feasted on the Warm Apple Pie with its flaky crust made from sharp cheddar cheese. The apple filling was tender, yet firm, unlike the gooey gelatinous mess often found within. The apples gave off a powerful aroma, as if they were freshly peeled. A homemade vanilla whipped cream was a creative winter alternative to ice cream. The Whiskey Fudge dessert might have come as a smaller portion, but the dense chocolate and chunky macadamia nuts made it an even more decadent treat."—Alison C.
"We ended the night with Whisky Fudge, which I thought was the most inspiring dish of all but again, you can’t go wrong with Whisky and Fudge!"—Neline S.
Ohhhhhhhhh my goooooooooood. Is there anything in this world better than the king of proteins, the lobster? (Okay, maybe chocolate. And those are two things that definitely do not mix.) When I was a kid I hated shellfish of all kinds, but when I grew to be about ten, my tastes changed and I started embracin’ the crustacean. Now I love lobster in bisque, sandwiches, salads, and of course, the big behemoth, a whole lobster just to myself. I haven’t had one of those in a while! (Actually, I have dental surgery tomorrow morning, which means I’ll be eating oatmeal and pudding for the foreseeable future. I may have the boyfriend take me out to a lobster dinner for one last solid foods hurrah!)
Interestingly enough, the lobster wasn’t a high-class food product until the 19th century! The crustacean had been nearly unheard of in regions outside of New England, where the American Lobster lives, and even there, lobster was considered a “plebian” food, served only to servants and lower members of society. (Those lucky servants!) It wasn’t until the late 19th/early 20th centuries, and the technological advances of lobster fishing and food transport and refrigeration, that lobster became known as the luxury product it is today. Even as last as the 1920s, lobsters only sold for 10-14 cents per pound. Now, premium lobsters will easily set you back 10-14 dollarsper pound!
There are a million and one ways to cook and serve lobster, from the po’boy to the Newburg, so I tried to narrow it down to my favorite kinds of lobster dishes (and one lobster dish that surprisingly has no lobster!) On very, very special occasions as a child my family bought fresh live lobsters from Jordan’s Lobster Dock in Sheepshead Bay, with a gigantic Gorton’s Fisherman outside the foul-smelling fish market. They’d sit, snapping claws and all, in the kitchen sink until we were ready to boil them in a big lobster pot. Add some butter and a celery cole slaw on the side and you are in business! Jordan’s isn’t the fish market it used to be, but there is a great place in Brooklyn you can still get super-fresh lobster, right off the truck from good ol’ Maine. Lots of people are discovering the culinary gold to be found in Red Hook, including the Red Hook Lobster Pound, an unassuming storefront that only sells one thing: lobster. Ralph Gorham and Susan Povich get shipments of live Maine lobsters right off the docks and driven directly to their store, so they’re as fresh as you’re ever going to get them in New York City. You can get freshly made lobster rolls here, with just the lightest dressing of mayo and/or clarified butter, or order your lobster whole by the pound. They’ll even steam the lobster for you. You can also eat a whole lobster dinner right outside of the Pound, served with cole slaw and corn on the cob, for only $25, but you’ll have to fight for the meager seating available. My advice? Buy the whole lobster pre-steamed, take it home, find your messiest t-shirt and nutcracker, and go to town. You don’t get a better or fresher lobster than from the Red Hook Lobster Pound, unless you drive to Maine yourself!
"Mr. Gorham (above), who also makes tables from recycled wood, drives round-trip to Kittery, Me., on Thursdays to buy up to 1,000 pounds of fresh lobsters off the boats. He does not buy lobsters from pounds, where they may have been lolling in the water for days or weeks, shedding flavor and texture. His lobsters go on sale Friday at noon; by Sunday evening, when he and his wife close, they are usually all gone."—The New York Times
"The lobster dinner is fairly standard. Steamed lobster, coleslaw, and steamed corn on cob. As your food was alive mere minutes ago, and steamed rapidly for your consumption, it’s as fresh as it gets. My lobster had a awfully hard shell, which made it a challenge, but the struggle and slight splatter was all worth it."—Eat Big Apple
"yeah yeah, they have lobster rolls and lobster mac-and-cheese — you know this already. but what people seem to overlook is the lobster *dinner*: for $25 you get a whole 1.5 lb lobster, plucked from the tanks moments after you’ve ordered, plus corn-on-the-cob, cole slaw, and some of the tastiest potato salad i’ve ever had. and sure, they don’t serve booze, but they don’t mind if you BYOB, so just bring some from home or go to the liquor store on the corner while they prepare your meal. then grab one of the picnic tables (indoors, no need to fret about the cold weather), and about 10 minutes later, they’ll bring your lobster feast to you."—Lily T.
"We were finally able to get the lobster dinner and the lobster was DE-FREAKIN-LICIOUS ;D. it was fresh and sweet and just great. the corn was yummy as were the claw and potato salad but really the lobster was the WINNER!!! TOTALLY worth $25!!"—Red. J.
But while the Red Hook Lobster Pound sells some of the freshest, best whole lobsters in the city, they’re arguably not the best place in town to get a simple lobster roll. People get angrywith you when you try to tell them where the best lobster roll in the city may be: Luke’s Lobster, Pearl Oyster Bar…the list goes on. They all make delectable lobster rolls, each with their own signature balance of mayonnaise, celery, lemon juice, and of course, the succulent lobster. But one of the most critically acclaimed lobster rolls comes from Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village. Food And Wine Magazine highlighted it as one of the best in the city, and even the Food Network scion, Bobby Flay, showcased the Fish Camp on an episode of Boy Meets Grill. Owner Mary Redding does indeed grill the lobster roll: the Pepperidge Farm bun is greased and sauteed on each side to give it an extra crunch, as well as add to the buttery flavor of the lobster. And Mary’s is slightly more upscale than Luke’s or the Lobster Pound, so you can order other seafood delights like a wild striped sea bass filet, Ahi tuna melt, or a fresh sardine banh-mi. This is the best place for a date you want to impress with the atmosphere of a restaurant and not only the great lobster.
"The recipe is simple—just some titanic hunks of supremely fresh lobster given the Hellmann’s treatment, with a fine dice of celery and a finger-twitch of chopped scallion, all shoved into a Pepperidge Farm top-loading bun. But the result is astonishing: The cool, sweet meat contrasts wondrously with the warm, buttery roll."—New York Magazine
"Mary Redding, the chef/owner of Mary’s Fish Camp, keeps things super-minimal, using mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper. “It should be all about the lobster,” says Redding. “Also, keep the pieces large versus mincing them into tuna fish.” Bun of choice: Pepperidge Farm’s top-loading buns. Redding sautés each side, caramelizing it like you would to make grilled cheese."—Food & Wine Magazine
"Ok, so I’m all for hyped restaurants. But this place lives up to it in spades. The lobster roll is amazing. Amazing doesn’t even really cover it, and I know from lobster rolls, having spent most of the summers of my youth on Cape Cod. This is the real deal. Creamy, perfectly seasoned chunks of lobster in a crispy, butter soaked bun. It’s just…indescribable. You just have to have it. Luckily I came here for lunch so I didn’t have to be subjected to the dreaded waits - which I’m sure are excessive - the place is tiny, but charming and cozy, and a happy West Village dining destination."—Sam P.
"Might as well start off with the main draw - the lobster roll. It lived up to the hype. A little more mayo than Pearl’s (from what I recall) but the mayo was nicely flavored and excellently complemented the lobster meat and buttery hot dog roll. The lobster was plentiful and rewarded each bite with a nice meaty chunk. While you’ll be tempted to wolf it down, resist the temptation and pace yourself."—Scott R.
Full disclosure, though? While whole lobsters and lobster rolls were obviously on the docket for National Lobster Day, the first dish I thought of doesn’t contain any lobster at all. Most everyone who’s had Chinese-American food (not Chinese food, mind you, but the stuff you’ll only find here in the States!) knows the delicate flavors of Shrimp in Lobster Sauce, a popular dish made from meat stock instead of soy sauce (your ubiquitous “brown sauce” in Chinese cuisine). The translucent sauce (that sometimes has egg, peas, ginger, and even pieces of roast pork) has nothing to do with lobster, but some think that it comes from the family of sauces that are traditionally poured over stir-fried lobster. It was the first dish I thought of, however, and the moment the food popped into my head, I just had to have it.
And for an old-school Chinese American dish like Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, you have to get O.G. with your Chinese. You would think that Chinatown would have your fix, but the real king of Chinese-American kitsch is King Yum, out on the Utopia Turnpike in Queens. This place has been in the same family since 1953, and is the oldest operating Chinese restaurant in Queens. The owner/operator/manager/chef, Jimmy Eng, only died a few years ago, but this place has still kept its 1950s charm. A Polynesian Tiki motif makes you feel like you stepped right into the Chinese restaurant in A Christmas Story: delightfully kitschy and tacky. Back when King Yum opened, the neighborhood was overwhelmingly Jewish, and the style of easily accessibly Chinese-American cuisine still reflects that. I may have the lobster tonight, but for tomorrow, when my bandages prevent me from biting into a lobster roll and the cracks of a lobster claw give me sympathy pains? It’s shrimp with lobster sauce over lo mein noodles for me, most definitely!
"This charmingly old-school Cantonese establishment dishes out classic Americanized Chinese food like your grandparents remember it—large, family-style portions of orange beef, egg rolls, spareribs, egg foo young, shrimp with lobster sauce and chow mein, served with Polynesian-themed drink specials in a dining room filled with tiki decor. And that’s not just retro styling: one of the first Chinese restaurants in Queens, King Yum opened in 1953 and has remained remarkably unchanged since."—NYC GO
"If you’re looking for trendy, authentic, or cutting edge Chinese food—this ain’t the place. If, however, you get a jones for the old-time Cantonese Americanized Chinese food you grew up with, you’ll find it here. Spare ribs. Shrimp & lobster sauce. Mu Shus. Egg Foo Young. Wonton soup. All the usual suspects are here and they’re all good. Portions are generous, the food is tasty, the prices are fair and the owners/family members running it are friendly and accommodating."—Steve E.
"The waiters are very nice and very patient. Service is solid. The food is good. Nothing we had was bad and nothing was the best ever, but it was all enjoyable. This is jewish-american chinese food (shrimp w/lobster sauce, chicken w/broccoli, spare ribs) at reasonable prices. If you want something more authentic, Flushing is only minutes away."—Ann S.
Sometimes I’m very excited to do some research on a particular national food holiday for this blog, and National Strawberry Shortcake Day is definitely one of those times! My uncle loves strawberry shortcake and we regularly have it for his birthday cake. But what I learned through research for this day was that the “strawberry shortcake” we have isn’t a shortcake at all! A true shortcake is a flaky biscuit-type pastry, much like shortbread, but thicker, and slightly fluffier. To make it into a strawberry shortcake, you slice the shortcake in layers, and fill the layers with sugared strawberries and whipped cream. That’s definitely not what we usually have as a strawberry shortcake! The “easy” modern variety of this dish is just a yellow or white sponge cake layered with strawberries and cream, and has none of the fkaly, cookie-like texture of a real shortcake. What a rude awakening!
After having so many “fake” strawberry shortcakes in my life, I just have to try one made with real shortcake instead of just sponge cake. Thankfully, just like any other national food holiday in the calendar (with some very few exceptions—seriously, what the hell is heavenly hash), you can find an authentic strawberry shortcake for today in many places around New York City. Although it may be currently dismissed by New Yorkers as a tourist trap, I still love going to the old Veinero’s bakery on 1st Avenue and 11th Street in the East Village. The atmosphere and decor still feel like you’re walking into an old-school Italian pastry shop, and you can still get your brittle and rainbow cookies and cannoli by the pound at the take-out corner. But you can also order in their dining room from a huge menu of delightful desserts, some original Italian, some all New York. (Warning: their cheesecakes here are made in the Italian style, with ricotta and mascarpone cheese instead of New York cream cheese! It can be veryjarring for those too accustomed to Junior’s!) But their strawberry shortcake is the real deal: you can get either the spongy cake version or the original pastry version. Everything is made fresh, in-house, and from recipes that are as old as old Veniero’s itself—which has been around since 1894. Going there super late always helps me avoid the crowds of tourists, and who doesn’t love lounging around an ancient pastry shop at midnight snacking on strawberry shortcake with friends? Throw in an Italian Coffee (with Amaretto) and I’m good to go :)
"Without a doubt, the strawberry shortcake is the lightest of cakes, with a touch of sweet from fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream. There is no shame in eating a slice as big as your head, for surely eating a dessert as fluffy as clounds means that those heavy calories fall right off the fork? This is my birthday cake of choice, every year, and I’m considering it for a wedding cake as well!"—Suanne L.
"HOLY WOW—-is all i can say, i went there in search of strawberry shortcake and left with a strawberry shortcake (individual size), strawberry millefoligie and a napoleon. all of these pastries were so tasty and as i sampled each of them i kept giggling because i couldn’t believe how delicous they all were—which i didn’t expect so it was a wonderful surprise! if you want an awesome pastry go to Veniero’s you won’t be disappointed."—Jasmine L.
The strawberry shortcake that I’ve grown accustomed to—the one with easy sponge cake instead of shortcake—is actually the Japanese version of the universally famous dessert. So, where I may technically say a sponge cake shortcake is wrong and non-traditional, it’s actually the preferred version in Japan, and it’s often the cake of choice for Christmas and birthday celebrations! So if you’re going to get a sponge cake-based strawberry shortcake, get it at a Japanese bakery to get the full effect. Even better, get it at Panya, right on Stuyvesant Street, catering to the growing Japanese population in the East Village. They make their shortcake with the perfect ratio of whipped cream, strawberries, and sponge cake, making sure it’s not too sweet ortoo dry. It’s also another great place to go for a late-night pastry run, but for different reasons: after 9 PM, all of the freshly-made foods from the day are half price! So if you’re looking for some sushi with your shortcake (um…okay?), they offer both at a discount to ensure that all of their dishes will be made fresh the next morning as well. I don’t care what version of strawberry shortcake it is; if it’s on sale, I’m buying!
Panya 8 Stuyvesant St (between 11th St & 12th St)
"The 50:50 cake-to-cream ratio was just perfect, with a fair helping of thinly sliced strawberries evenly laid across between generous swaths of cream. The exterior side of the cake, sweet just enough, is lightly dusted in toasted cake crumbs, and the whole cake is tender and light with a moist body."—Serious Eats
"Their baked goods, absolutely divine. It costs a little more, but it was worth it. Their strawberry cream cake filled with ton of strawberries and their cake so soft and moist. Not too sweet, but sweet enough cream.. yum. Sweet bean paste bread and cookie crusted bread.. all so delicious."—R. Y.
"craved for strawberry shortcake, so went to panya! strawberry shortcake is $3.75, and all their breads, pastries, and cakes are around $2-6, so what a great price to satisfy your tummy. the strawberry shortcake had a good proportion, between the cream and the cake, strawberries in the middle, and a big one to top it off."—Elle L.
Shortcake, sponge cake…this is all a “serious” debate for National Strawberry Shortcake Day. I mean, if the flavors are all there, who cares if the cake uses the traditional recipe or something different and new? How about a shop that doesn’t use anycake? ;-) Leave it to the good bakers at Chikalicious Dessert Club to come up with an ice cream sundae that tastes just like a strawberry shortcake. A light-tasting sponge cake is paired with fluffy whipped cream and fresh strawberries, totally normal…and then BOOM, you get soft serve ice cream and more heaps of strawberries piled on top of the cake. Completely decadent and ruins the impression that a light shortcake may be a low-guilt dessert, but hey, who comes to Chikalicious to feel good about a diet? :P They offer the original article, too, which ranks quite high on the scale of best strawberry shortcakes in the city, but with so many options all in the East Village, why not try something new?
"sundae was refreshing - soft serve ice cream rather than hard, but it made it very easy to eat. there were soft shortcake chunks in there as well as fresh strawberries and whipped cream. the texture of the sundae was soft but not soupy. very easy for my kid to scoop it up himself. portion size was not too big which is good because trust me you will eat the whole thing."—P. V.
"As a second dessert, we got the strawberry shortcake sundae. This was also awesome. The shortcake added a lot to a strawberry sundae and it was nice that it did not get soggy. The strawberries were fresh and abundant (no frozen strawberry sauce here!) If you like strawberry shortcake, you’ll love this."—S. R.
Yummmm, papaya! June is National Papaya Month…which is strange for the United States to have, considering that papaya trees need such a tropical environment to grow that they’re not native within the U.S.! They’ve been found naturally in Mexico, Latin America and South America, and their fruits have become big staples in indigenous cultures’ diets, medicines, and everyday lives. As a food source, papayas are eaten raw or cooked, ripe or unripe, in a variety of cuisines and dishes. It’s also been used as a treatment for malaria, a meat tenderizer, to remedy digestive problems, and as a folk contraceptive. That’s a lot of hats for this one little fruit!
One of the most popular papaya dishes, whether in Mexico, Argentina, or even across the ocean in Thailand, is green papaya salad. Green papaya is unripened papaya fruit and has a much milder scent and taste than the orange, ripened papaya. It’s then shredded, seasoned, and served cold—the exotic version of a cucumber salad! And hands down, the most popular green papaya salad in New York is served by Land Thai Kitchen on the Upper West Side. Here, they mix the authenticity of Thai flavors with the sensibilities of their very American clientele, erring on the sweet side for hot dishes and on the spicy side for cold appetizers. The cold papaya salad is definitely spicy, which is dressed with a hot chili pepper and lime dressing and served with cherry tomatoes. You can even find whole chiles and chunks of lime right in the salad! There are a ton of bright, fresh flavors in this dish, and in a surprising turn, almost no one—not professional reviews, not Yelpers—have anything bad to say about this salad. I haven’t even seen that kind of support behind a dish with chocolate ice cream sandwiches and hot dogs wrapped in bacon! If you’ve got an adventurous spirit and a tongue that can handle some heat, definitely head to the Land Thai Kitchen and see for yourself if the green papaya salad is as good as everyone says.
"Festive red and gold walls, dark wood tables and teak lanterns provide the atmosphere behind one of the Upper West Side’s most competent Thai menus. We liked the green papaya salad, which gets a few kicks from fresh hot peppers, cherry tomatoes and lime wedges. Our vegetarian friends enjoyed the meat-free dumplings, stuffed with a nutty mixture of tofu, spinach, corn, shiitake mushrooms and crushed peanuts."—Time Out New York
"As with most Thai restaurants geared toward American tastes, his dishes tend to the overly sweet. But green papaya salad and pad Thai are closer to savory and the green curry also demonstrates a balance of sweet, spicy, and salty."—New York Magazine
"The narrow dining room, packed with tables, is warmly lighted by wispy chandeliers and a line of sconces along one wall, their light diffused by the taut swatch of mesh fabric covering them. Starters can be rewarding if you choose well; the spring rolls, classic satay and green papaya salad are good bets."—The New York Times
"The papaya salad is amazing. Be warned, if you ask for spicy, you will get crying-and-sniffling-but-in-a-good-way spicy. Delicious. For my entree, I’ve had the green curry and the wok beef dish, and both were very good. $9 for an awesome app and entree — you can’t go wrong."—Amanda L.
"Started with the green papaya salad, which was deliciously spicy and had all kinds of fun, unexpected ingredients like cashews, tomatoes, and chunks of lime!"—Gabriella K.
But if we’re gonna be a little serious here, as a New Yorker, you don’t automatically think “Thai salad” when you hear that it’s National Papaya Month. Instead, you head to your nearest hot dog stand. ;-) That’s because any self-respecting Manhattanite knows about the Gray’s Papaya chain, an iconic set of fast food restaurants all over the island since 1973. Originally, Gray’s Papaya was a competing offshoot of Papaya King, the other papaya-named hot dog chain in New York City, which has been in operation since 1932. There are any number of imitators of these two hot dog behemoths in the city, but make no mistake: they don’t make hot dogs and papaya drinks like thesetwo. While most tourists think that the Papaya hot dog locations are only known for the “recession special,” savvy New Yorkers have long been in the know about the sweet papaya juice drink that gives Papaya King and Gray’s Papaya their names. Not too pulpy and not too sweet, the papaya juice is an exotic kick that you wouldn’t expect to be sold alongside sauerkrauted hot dogs, but they inexplicably work perfect together. My favorite location is the one on 72nd and Broadway, right across the street from the 2 and 3 train station, because you can easily buy your hot dogs and papaya juice—which, all together, will cost less than Land Thai’s green papaya salad—and head either east into Central Park or west towards the Hudson River, for equally idyllic spots to enjoy a delicious weekday lunch :-)
Gray’s Papaya 2090 Broadway (between 72nd St & 73rd St)
"2 hot dogs and a papaya shake for 3.50?!?! do you know how fucking expensive new york is and then this ray of light just shines through????? don’t ask me why the papaya shake goes well with those hot dogs. it all just works together. i’ll be back, damnit."—Angela I.
"I remember when I 1st moved to NYC eating in Grays. Its one of those things that you’ll just have to do. Eat a hotdog for a quick fix but, really, the memorable part is the papaya shake. I just cant explain to you how good it is. Granted, the taste doesn’t resemble what papayas really taste like (but I’m sure they’ve added it in there somehow, blind faith is at play) it really is a great pairing for the hotdog. RARE TO FIND places that can satisfy you for less than 4 bills are a welcome site."—John T.
The peanut butter cookie, unsurprisingly, was invented by that king of the peanut, George Washington Carver. His first “recipe” for the cookie was published in 1916 and used crushed peanuts; it wasn’t until 1920 that he changed the ingredient to peanut butter. It’s obvious that Carver was a scientist and not a baker, but where would we be today in home cooking without the peanut butter cookie? Crunchy but also chewy, sweet but not overly sugary, peanut butter cookies are one of the easiest cookies to make for the home cook, but can also be spruced up with fixins (nuts, chocolate chips, even coconut shavings!) so every baker can have their own recipe.
Brooklynites like me know about The Cookie House in Kings Plaza. Ohhhh, the Cookie House. Us old-timers will remember when it was a kiosk in the middle of the mall, but now it’s got premium real estate on the corner of one of the square-shaped legs of the Plaza, churning out delicious batches of cookies, pretzels, and making the whole place smell amazing. When I was a kid I always got the best cookie possible, which of course meant it included every ingredient known to taste yummy inside a cookie: peanut-butter-chocolate-chip. Nowadays my tastes have refined and I have (somewhat) learned to resist the wafting scents of baking cookies at The Cookie House, and searched for greener, and tastier, peanut butter cookie pastures.
It may not be the nostalgic Cookie House of my youth, but you can bet that Insomnia Cookies makes a better—and more convenient!—peanut butter cookie. The Greenwich Village bakery caters heavily to college kids with the drunk munchies—an obvious choice, seeing its prime NYU location and its hours sometimes running until 3AM. But if you’re expecting mediocre baked goods because Insomnia doesn’t have to try too hard to profit, you’ll be absolutely wrong. They take pride in the products they bake, specializing in cookies that are the stuff of stoned dreams. Not only do they make a regular sized peanut butter chip cookie (at $1.25 each), but they make a monstrously-sized cookie that incorporates hunks of Reese’s peanut butter cups baked directly into the peanut butter cookie batter. Talk about peanut butter cookie overload! One of the big cookies is more than enough to satisfy a cookie craving, so for only $2.50 each, it may be the cheapest and most rewarding drunken late-night purchase you’ll make all year.
"Peanut Butter Chip Cookie: Peanut butter lovers rejoice! With creamy peanut butter chips melded into a soft peanut butter flavored cookie you’ll think you’ve gone to peanut-buttery heaven."—Insomnia Cookies
"Peanut Butter Chocolate Jumbo Deluxe Cookie: These colossal treats are more than double the size and twice the taste of our regularly sized cookies and with hunks of Reese’s peanut butter cups baked into a peanut butter cookie, they’re also a ticket to peanut butter paradise."—Insomnia Cookies
"This Greenwich Village bakery is aptly named considering they deliver to N.Y.U. dorms and area residents until 2:30 a.m. (they are open for walk-in customers until 3:00 a.m.). Seven types of warm and chewy cookies only cost $1.00, but for $2.00 we suggest trying one of their two deluxe cookies: chocolate peanut butter cup and triple chocolate chunk. Whether you’re cramming for finals or just hanging out with your friends, there’s no better late night snack for your sweet tooth. Just remember to brush before you go to bed!"—About.com
"Peanut Butter cup: only thing to describe this is "mmmmmmmmm" rich in peanut butter and chocolate. filled with peanut butter cups. I’m not talking small tiny cups either. They are a decent size. I could pick out the cups if i wanted to. But i refrained from this as i wanted to taste the entire thing together. Took me 3 days to finish this one. again I wanted to savor the flavors."—Terita S.
" Perhaps a slightly heartier variation at Insomnia Cookies’ arsenal is the Peanut Butter Cup Cookie. Contrary to the Chocolate Chip, the bold and rich flavors derived from the combination of Peanut Butter and Chocolate engulfs the cookie. Consuming this variation can best be described as complex and savory. Each bite reveals an abundance of peanut butter that’s followed by a compliment of light sweetness that’s derived from the chocolate. Although the cookie dough itself helps with providing a much needed textural contrast, the peanut butter flavors are boasting throughout this application."—Chun I.
German chocolate cake may be my favorite way to eat chocolate cake—and that’s really saying something! What makes a German chocolate cake so special is the frosting: a regular chocolate layer cake is traditionally topped with a coconut-pecan frosting. The coconut adds another layer of sweetness to the cake, plus a different flavor and texture that you wouldn’t get with a normal frosting. But the most interesting fact about German chocolate cake is it isn’t German at all! It was created by an American baker, Sam German, who developed a brand of dark baking chocolate used for the cake. I wonder if many people go to Germany and get really disappointed to find they have no coconut on top of their chocolate cake!
One of the best ways to find some great food in New York City is to hit the remote. The Food Network’s studios are located in Chelsea, and many of their celebrity chefs own and operate outstanding restaurants all over the city. So whenever their programming is set to highlight restaurants or good eats somewhere, you can bet at least one of those stops will be somewhere in the city. And for Bobby Flay’s show Throwdown—where Flay challenges home and restaurant cooks at the foods they cook best—he always finds some great cook in New York to challenge. For his German chocolate cake challenge, he went all the way up to Harlem to Make My Cake, a bakery with a demanding title but a super sweet product. Their German chocolate cake is light on the coconut and heavy on the chocolate, adding chocolate chips to the frosting for an extra bit of chocolatey flavor. And although Make My Cake ultimately lost to Flay in the throwdown, it’s still an honor to be highlighted as one of the best German chocolate cakes in the city—even the entire country. And that’s definitely a great distinction!
"Moist, decadent and just plain amazing. They add their own twist to the traditional German Chocolate cake by dropping the coconut in the frosting and adding chocolate chips to the frosted layer filing. Brilliant! You also get a pretty generous slice of cake. By all means, if you are a fan of German Chocolate cake, I can think of no other place you should go to get your fix. It was worth every calorie and extra time at the gym."—Natasha L.
"Featured on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, this bakery in Harlem serves up some incredible German chocolate cake. Really, it is the best I have ever had. For $11, I was able to walk out with two very generous slices of cake to take home. The chocolate cake was really moist, and the icing was just incredible. I never cared for this cake much as a kid, because it would be laden with strings of coconut, giving it a most displeasing texture. They avoid that route all together here. If there is coconut in the icing, it is incidental. The icing wasn’t overdone either, and it really had a nice balance of flavor. I loved the surprise use of chocolate chips too which added texture and of course sweetness."—Jim U.
June 10 - Head to the Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival!
Oy vey! While everyone else in the city may be uptown today for the Puerto Rican Day Parade (or staying home to avoid all the traffic from the parade!), you can check out a unique food festival happening in the Lower East Side. The Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival is an annual block party, celebrating the historical Jewish and Chinese communities who lived in the Lower East Side. Of course, now the majority of LES’s residents are hipsters and artists, but the vigor of the old immigrant communities is still alive in this celebration. There will be music performances, art and handicraft demonstrations, and language lessons, as well as a ton of food! You can bet you’ll get the best of the two eponymous treats at the festival—both of which have very little to no egg in them!
I didn’t know about this festival until a few days ago, and I really want to attend. It seems absolutely tailor-made for me: a half-Jewish, half-Chinese girl growing up in New York who’s in love with the history of the city and in love with food. :-) It’d be silly not to show up! I even have a few distant relatives who still live on Orchard Street in the area, south of Delancey, who, for them, the world of the New York City tenement is still a reality. Even if you aren’t Jewish nor Chinese, it looks like it’s shaping up to be a great festival full of music, fun, and delicious food. Skip the crowds uptown and head to a different kind of heritage festival today!
Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge St, (between Canal and Division Sts)
Isn’t it a little weird that there’s a National Iced Tea Day, but no national hot tea day? You’ve got to put a little ice in your tea to celebrate a national holiday! Not that I’m complaining on this day, however—the middle of June is the perfect weather to sit outside, on your balcony or at a sidewalk cafe, and sip a cool, tall glass of freshly brewed iced tea. Iced tea is an American staple in the summer, in whatever region of the country you’re from. My best friend from Virginia loves a big glass of sweet tea (which, when I have it down by her, is way too sweet for my taste!), while my boyfriend can drink unsweetened iced tea by the gallon. It can be brewed just like hot tea, then chilled to maintain the flavor, or cold-brewed and left to brew in the sun (aptly called “sun tea”). You can even makethe tea into ice cubes and use those instead of water cubes, which will dilute the tea. You can have it sweetened or not, with milk or not, in whatever tea variations and flavors your mind can think of. You can even have an iced tea with liquor in it, or an “iced tea” with no tea in it at all. There are just so many ways to enjoy National Iced Tea Day!
I had a hard time choosing the restaurants and teahouses to highlight for National Iced Tea Day, considering there are just so many places in New York that serve great tea. Considering that so many cultures around the world drink and revere tea, from the American South to England, India, and the Far East, it wasn’t an easy decision! And usually it’s not about the restaurant itself, but where they get their tea, how they serve it, and how they treat the process. (Needless to say you won’t be finding the sweet tea at McDonald’s on this list.) You’ll find a great respect for the humble tea leaf at Radiance Tea House, a restaurant and tea house originally from China that has locations in both Midtown and Flushing. Whatever variety of tea you’re looking for, Radiance Tea House probably has it: they have over 100 house brews from all over the world. They offer group tastings where you can learn how to brew a proper cup of tea at home, or go all-out with an hour-long traditional Chinese tea ceremony—which, at only $35 a pop, is a great way to learn about a unique facet of Chinese culture. They offer any of their teas as iced, as well as mixes of tea and espresso dessert drinks, like the Earl ‘n Jo—Earl Grey tea mixed with Italian espresso, milk, and sugar. I want to try their signature house blend on ice: if a place takes tea as seriously as this restaurant does, the tea they’ve blended specifically for their patrons must be the cream of the crop.
"The tea menu is mindboggling, in the sheer number of options available on a daily basis and the quality of those options. I indulge in the more serious teas on afternoon and weekend visits when tea, and not lunch, is my focus. But during lunch, it’s the causal, lighthearted drinks I head for. Those include Iced Tea Lattes ($5.50) in options like Taro, Matcha, and Earl Grey, or sweet drinks that combine tea and espresso, such as the Mint Rendezvous ($7), a blend of Moroccan mint tea with espresso, milk, and sugar."—Serious Eats
"Radiance also offers an iced-drinks menu with classics such as a house blend of Indian and Chinese black teas, as well as more exotic tea-espresso dessert drinks—Earl ’n Jo (Earl Grey tea and Italian espresso with milk and sugar) and Sweet ’n Smoky (Lapsang Souchong tea and Italian hot cocoa with milk and sugar). The Chinese have a long history of drinking beverages with bark, berries, flowers, licorice, ginseng roots, and herbs combined with tea. They believe such wellness and herbal teas strengthen the body and calm the mind. Ask your friendly server about these choices, too."—Tea Time Magazine
"I can safely say that there are over 60 different types of tea on their menu. As for ice teas, many of the hot teas are available in ice, and there are other latte drinks available. I’ve had the Purple Yam ice latte and Mango Sunrise ice tea which were both very good. The wellness/herbal tea menu has a variety of teas that mention a variety of benefits, such as an immune system boost and help you cope with a variety of sicknesses."—Nobel B.
"Wonderful tea selection and flavors! Biggest iced tea menu I have seen. I had the rosebud tea last time and there were real rose buds in my tea pot, which was clear glass so I could see them while I drank the tea out of my little cup. (I think it’s so much more enjoyable to drink tea out of small cups.)"—Stephanie R.
Like a little more kitsch with your cuppa? Instead of going the traditional Eastern tea route, try something a bit more modern….like tea inside cooled tapioca bubbles ;-) You must have seen bubble tea houses all over the city by now, most concentrated in the boroughs’ Chinatowns, populated by Asian schoolgirls commiserating over pastel-colored drinks and large, wide straws. Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and became a big hit here, the sweet mix of black tea with sugar, condensed milk, flavorings, and tapioca pearls which give the tea its “bubble” moniker. You can scoop up the pearls with a spoon, or drink them through super-wide straws. In my opinion, they’re sweet, delicious, and super fun to drink :-) And what better place to get a bubble tea than Ten Ren Tea, a bubble tea chain originating right in Taiwan, that has over 130 stores around the world. Head to Flushing, the center of Queens’ Asian population, for bubble tea that uses real tea—unlike a lot of other lesser chains, who use powdered tea mixes along with their flavorings. If you can get it when it’s in stock, try the super popular Plum Tea flavor, or just get a freshly brewed, strong green tea to mix in with your fun bubbles :-)
"At Ten Ren, 135-18 Roosevelt Ave., part of a Taiwan-based chain with more than 130 stores around the world, you can try trendy bubble tea, hot or cold, with bouncing pearls of tapioca. "It’s chewable, like a Gummi bear," said company vice president Ellen Lii. "Young people love it.""—USA Today
"Ten Ren serves the best bubble tea anywhere, hands down! I never had a complaint about their tapioca balls, which are the right amount of soft and chewy and actually sweet, as opposed to most other places where they taste like rubber. Their drinks are also not overly sweet and you can still taste and smell the tea you’re drinking. My favorite flavors are black tea with milk, lychee green tea, and passion fruit green tea. My friends also love the honey dew and taro flavors."—Siu N.
"Ten Ren, is by far my favorite bubble tea place in flushing! Their bubble tea is consistently amazing every time. You really get that tea flavor in your drink, which I love. Other bubble tea places use some artificial garbage that loses the tea flavor in the drink. Also, their tapioca is incredibly chewy. nom nom nom. (: I’ve tried a lot of flavors and they were awesome. my go to drink has to be taro milk tea or kumquat, which is really refreshing. Get your bubble tea here and you won’t be disappointed."—Julianne M.
While bubble tea was the fun tea drink of my high school years, recently it’s taken a big backseat to another East Asian tea phenomenon—Thai iced tea. Thai iced tea isn’t all that different from other iced teas: made from super-strong brewed black tea, it’s then sweetened with sugar and condensed milk to balance out the bitterness of the tea. It’s become hugely popular with the rise of Thai cuisine, and you’d be hard-pressed not to find this beverage being served at every Thai restaurant in town. But you’ll find a most interesting version of Thai iced tea at Pinto in the West Village. Here, when you order the popular drink, you get a whole platter: the ingredients are offered to you separately, decomposed, so you can mix the milk, tea, and sugar to your own liking. They even have made their tea into actual ice cubes, so the ice you use in your iced tea won’t water down the beverage. Now thatis what I call forward thinking! The food here, by all accounts, is delicious, but as far as patron response goes, everyone leaves Pinto talking about their tea.
"I love their pad thai AND the fact that if you come in before 6, you get an appetizer, entree, and drink for $15. Pretty hard to find in the West Village. Also - their Pinto Iced Tea is the best thai iced tea I’ve ever had. It comes out on a tray and is all served separately - the tea, milk, and liquid sugar. The ice cubes are actually frozen tea, so it doesn’t get watered down as it melts (and the spoon is a straw…which is just kind of cool)."—Malia M.
"Ordered some Thai Iced tea just for the heck of it, and now I’m hooked. It was presented as separate pieces which you could combine. That in and of itself would’ve been a gimmick, but with the lighting, the quality of the drink and watching the milk and tea blend added to the total experience of drinking the tea. No need for the extra sweetener but it’s nice that it was available. Almost wished I didn’t order the iced tea here b/c now I can’t bring myself to order it anywhere else out of fear of disappointment."—Joe G.
But let’s stop with all the cutesy stuff here. We’re all adults (well, at least I think we are!) and the additive to iced tea that we care about isn’t milk or tapioca pearls. If you’re looking for a tea that’s got some kick to it—and we don’t mean ginseng—the best place to go is Fort Defiance in Red Hook. This old-fashioned bar in the unassuming Brooklyn neighborhood serves lots of stiff drinks and classic cocktails. Their signature drink is the King Bee, a completely different spin on the Arnold Palmer craze. Using honey-distilled vodka, the bar infuses the drink with the taste of darjeeling tea and lemon, before adding a bit of prosecco. It makes for a wonderful combination of flavors: bitter from the lemon, sweet from the honey vodka, and rich and robust from the darjeeling tea. Add in the prosecco’s fizziness and you’ve got the perfect boozy drink to celebrate National Iced Tea Day, and you didn’t even have to head for the sweet tea vodka to do it.
"In Brooklyn, Fort Defiance focuses on old-fashioned drinks and a welcoming atmosphere. This spring, Fort Defiance’s bar will debut the King Bee, a vodka based drink that involves a little lemon juice, Benedictine, bitters, and prosecco. With the base spirit, Comb vodka, getting its flowery aroma from Darjeeling-tea, the King Bee is just right for warmer spring days."—Marcus Samuelsson
"My favorite of the fruit-centric concoctions was The King Bee from Red Hook’s own Fort Defiance (above). The cocktail is built around Comb, a honey distilled vodka, that had been infused with darjeeling tea and lemon. It is then finished with just a dash of bitters and a splash of prosecco. The result was a tart, fizzy cocktail with honeycombs on the nose and a subtle earthy finish."—Edible Manhattan
"Proprietor St. John Frizell calls this brisk tea-and-lemon tipple a "boozy Arnold Palmer." He steeps In Pursuit of Tea Darjeeling in viscous, honey-distilled Comb vodka. The resulting tannic tincture is mixed with lemon juice, herbal Bndictine and Angostura bitters, and topped with a splash of prosecco."—Time Out New York
"oh my god, the king bee cocktail. second best cocktail i’ve ever had (first was at library bar at the roosevelt hotel in LA)— combines my favorite liquor and my favorite sparkling wine, and isn’t too sweet. the darjeeling tea really undercuts the sweetness of the honeycomb. perfect."—Julie M.
"My party was in the mood for burgers and beer however the menu was limited. Not knowing what to order they all settled for some broccoli side dish and King Bee cocktails. I had a simple but delicious fish stew and a hearty oatmeal beer. Some how all my party’s grumblings about filling their stomachs with comfort food disappeared with one sip of their cocktails and one bite of the broccoli."—Carter K.
And finally, I feel like it would be a sin to talk about National Iced Tea Day and not bring up that alcoholic iced tea from our New Yorker neighbors to the east of Queens. Although the Long Island Iced Tea doesn’t have any actual tea in it, it’s what most people think about when you first hear “boozy iced tea drinks,” for good reason. What Long Islands lack in actual iced tea, they make up for in liquor, liquor, liquor. The traditional L.I.I.T. is made from vodka, tequila, white rum, and gin, and then lemon juice, triple sec, and soda are added. All those drinks mixed together somehow make the cocktail taste surprisingly like sweetened iced tea, and so the Long Island got its name. (The history of the drink is murky at best, and while some have tried to link its origins to Long Island, it’s most probable that it didn’t come from New York. Alas.) You don’t have to go all the way to Long Island to get a good Iced Tea today if you’re looking: just head to the nearest dive bar. Or, the Dive Bar, the chain of successful taverns in the city that thrive upon cheap drinks and delightfully cheap atmosphere. Go to the Upper West Side’s Dive 75 for the best Long Island Iced Teas from the pack. You may not be having real tea when you drink one, but hey, after a few of them, you probably won’t care whatthe hell is in them anymore! :-P
"Bartender was friendly, and somewhat patient as I didnt know what I wanted right away…but after 5 minutes of deliberation, I chose an old favorite, a L.I. Iced-tea. And it was probably one of the best ones I have ever had! I think it was like $12 for that, and my boyfriend got a redbull and ciroc which was $10. So…not too bad, but hey its Manhattan."—Shana J.
"This is a fantastic find. There is plenty of space, friendly service, good beer selection, and they make a mean Long Island iced tea. The atmosphere is light and welcoming. The fish tank is great."—Brad P.
June 9 - It's the 10th Annual Big Apple BBQ Party!
Come one, come all, carnivores! The Big Apple BBQ Party is this weekend! For those that don’t know, for the past decade the Big Apple BBQ Party has been a big to-do right in the middle of Madison Square Park. Pitmasters from all over the country descend upon the city and offer up samples of their best barbecue fare, from ribs and brisket to pulled pork and delectable chicken wings. Admission to the party is free, but each sampler plate from the contributors is $8.00, which may seem steep for a little paper dish of ‘cue, but once you get that smoky, tender flavor in your system, you know you’ve well gotten your money’s worth!
I went to the BBQ Party two years ago, completely stumbling upon it in the park while visiting with my friend Jessica. Thank goodness her vegetarian boyfriend wasn’t there, because we gorged ourselves on perfectly seasoned and cooked meat all day long! The park is packed with revelers and lovers of some good barbecue, so get there early or you’ll be waiting in winding lines for quite a while. The sampler plates you get are small—some meat and a bit of the pitmaster’s select side, which can range from beans to cornbread and homemade pickles—but the flavor is all there, and the small portions help you sample more ‘cue than you would on a full stomach. We ate our full of Texas, North Carolina, and good ol’ New York barbecue in the shadow of the New York Life Building, amazed that even during a national barbecue party, people were still waiting in line at Shake Shack!
There’s also live music, lots of swag from sponsors (when I went, Haagen-Dazs and Snapple were giving away free food and drinks), and great events to watch, like meat smoking presentations, ‘cue carving, and more! And with the gorgeous weather we’re gonna have today, it’s a great time to be in the city and enjoying some real authentic barbecue from all over the country! :-D
We may have had straight-up Rhubarb Pie Day back in January, but this national food holiday—National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day—is much more flavorful. Strawberries are in peak season right this second in the Northeast, and their super sweet flavor (especially if you pick them wild!) mixes well with rhubarb’s tartness. It mellows out the pie into a gooey, pink/red, delicious mess :) On Memorial Day my friends and I picked strawberries in a farm near my house (still a little amazed to say the words “a farm near my house” when I lived in Brooklyn for 25 years) and I went a little overboard, picking up over FOUR POUNDSof delicious, sun-ripened strawberries! That’s too much, even for me! So I sugared them and froze them for use at a later time….and that time is now! I’m a little scared to work with the thick stalk vegetable known as rhubarb, so this may be a straight strawberry pie this time around, but I have the spirit of the holiday at heart!
There are some bakeries in New York City that really get the balance of sweet and tart perfect in a strawberry rhubarb pie, and have that flaky, warm crust that reminds you of grandmothers baking all day somewhere in the Midwest (at least, that’s what I think of when I eat a homamde pie!) But you really have to stop by the Blue Stove, a fantastic bakery in Williamsburg that’s become the darling of many country-home pastry fiends. I once mentioned their pecan molasses pie as a stretch on the uniquely Southern Molasses Bar Day, but for today, there’s no stretching the holiday about it. This place makes one of the best classic strawberry rhubarb pies in the city. They cook the pie delicately, so you can still get the pieces of strawberries and rhubarb in the filling, and it makes for subtle yet distinct flavors—nothing about this filling came out of a can. Order it with a huge dollop of freshly made whipped cream—lighter than vanilla ice cream and won’t turn your pie into a soggy soup!—and you’ll have it made.
Blue Stove 415 Graham Ave (between Withers St & Jackson St), Williamsburg
"At $5 dollars, it’s not exactly priced like apple pies you get at McDonald’s. You do however, get value. The nuance of the flavor was impressive because it wasn’t like it was just one red, sweet mess. You could see the chunks of rhubarb and the strawberries and they worked together in harmony."—Food In Mouth
"AWESOME PIE! And awesome cake, muffins, etc. This is wonderful little place with very cool staff and I always go by when I’m in the area. The strawberry rhubarb pie is the most amazing pie I’ve ever eaten."—Justin S.
"One of my favorite bakeries in NYC….definitely top 3. The actual place is so adorable you feel as if you’ve walked into grandma’s kitchen and she’s baked all of your favorite goodies just for you. Their strawberry rhubarb pie is a-mazing, especially with a huge dollop of homemade whipped cream….that and the sour cherry pie (heavenly!!! So perfectly sweet and tart!!) are my favorites."—Anna B.
If you want to try something a little different than your everyday bakeshop—even as good as Blue Stove may be—there are definite strawberry rhubarb alternatives in the city. Make a strawberry rhubarb crumble the perfect end to an exotic, new taste for dinner at Cafe Mogador in the East Village. This Moroccan restaurant serves authentic North African cuisine for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even for dessert. Tagines reign supreme during the evening, delicious clay pots full of slow-stewing meats, vegetables, and savory sauces that soak deliciously into your cous-cous. End this journey of flavor on a sweet note with their delicious, if not authentic, strawberry rhubarb crumble. There’s also a branch of this restaurant in Williamsburg, so you can even get both Cafe Mogador’s crumble and Blue Stove’s pie and do a quick strawberry-rhubarb taste test!
"After having cleaned every morsel off of our table like little piggies, we indulged ourselves further by sharing three desserts - a warm chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream, a vanilla creme brulee, and strawberry rhubarb cobbler-type concotion with ice cream. We made quick work of dessert, gushing about perfect everything tasted and how the calories would go straight to our hips."—Jason O.
"As with the starters, we had the waiter suggest something good from the dessert menu and he came up with stellar suggestions. The strawberry rhubarb, the baclava, and the chocolate cake were all DELICIOUS."—Alvin S.
How can anyone resist a good jelly doughnut? Doughnuts are an amazing little sweet treat to begin with: you can’t really go wrong with deep-fried sweet dough that’s powdered, sugared, or even filled with jelly or cream? Usually, a doughnut is just too sweet for me to have more than one (unless it’s a little chocolate Entenmann’s doughnut, and then all bets are off). But a jelly-filled doughnut is the perfect little snack or quick breakfast pick-me-up, especially in a no-nonsense, always-moving city like New York.
Jelly doughnuts can be found in different varieties all over the culinary map, from Israeli sufganiyot to the Japanese anpan. But to me, almost nothing beats a good ol’ American jelly doughnut, the dough chewy yet light, just slightly warm from the frying process, powdered to perfection, and the ooziest, tastiest jelly that explodes in your mouth when you bite into it. Everyone’s got their favorite local doughnut joint (and if you utter the word “Dunkin’” you’re officially banished), but New Yorkers from all over the city love the Lower East Side’s Doughnut Plant. Arguably the best new doughnut on the market today, Doughnut Plant isn’t content with creating the same jelly doughnut that’s been out for years: squishy dough, powdered sugar, jelly of indeterminate fruit origin in the middle. They’ve gone gourmet with their selections, offering a doughnut with vanilla bean glaze and filled with blackberry jam. The tartness of the blackberry jam is a welcome change from the super-sweet pink-red jellies of doughnuts past, and makes a great complement to the sweet vanilla glaze. Even more interesting is the Doughnut Plant makes their jelly doughnuts with a hole in the middle, making the dough itself harder and less like a pillow of fried dough and jelly, and more like a proper doughnut with a special jelly surprise inside. You can also have their famed peanut butter and jelly doughnut today, as I wrote about it way back on National Peanut Butter And Jelly Day. Either call is a safe (and delicious!) one ;-)
""Best filling I’ve ever had," noted Alex on his scoring sheet. "Tartness of blackberries balances well with vanilla bean glaze," wrote Doug, "a nice foil to the fried-ness." I sounded the only note of reservation in the glowing reviews, saying that the filling was "a little too sweet." Completing the package was the fact that, unlike every other bakery in America, Doughnut Plant makes their jelly doughnuts with a hole in the middle. Where does the jelly go? Instead of an ill-distributed glop in the center, this doughnut had jam distributed evenly throughout the interior of its entire circumference, ensuring perfectly-calibrated quantities of doughnut and jam in every bite."—Note To Self
"So I ordered the vanilla bean and blackberry jam doughnut. Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm. They truly are like no other doughnut I have ever seen (this one was square, with a hole in the middle, but there was still jam in every bite), and taste (so soft, perfectly made, and the flavors were perfect)."—Denise D.
"I had the blackberry vanilla jam filled doughnut and it was as good as it looked. It didn’t have unappealing factor of being overly sweet as most doughnut shops make. I could taste the jam, I could tell it was blackberry instead of sugar goop made to look like blackberries. I could even taste the hint of vanilla, nice touch. The glaze was flaky and light. It didn’t over power the bread or filling. Now the bread part was well done. Bravo to them. Slightly chewy, light, and bready. The perfect trio."—Julie K.
And as I said before, jelly doughnuts aren’t just an American phenomenon: everybody all over the world loves deep frying dough and filling it with jelly. I don’t know, apparently it’s just a thing :-P But in Italy the dessert is called a bombolone, believed to be named for the “calorie bomb” the dense dessert tends to be. These deep-fried jelly bombs are cooked far longer than their American doughnut counterparts, until they’re crispy and a deep caramel color. This way, they stay warm and crispy longer than regular doughnuts, and pack quite a sweet wallop when you cover them in confectioners’ sugar. One of the best places to pick up some bomboloni is Sullivan Street Bakery. Here, they fill the little brioche balls with either vanilla creme or seasonal jam, and fry them to perfection. They’re the perfect sweet end to an authentic New York City pizza slice (though don’t get me started on “the best!”) that you can also order at the counter and take home with you—or, like a real New York pizza slice, eat it right on the street on your way to the subway.
"Over at Sullivan Street Bakery in Hell’s Kitchen, the bomboloni, are filled with either vanilla pastry cream or raspberry jam, but are of an entirely different breed. They are just as adept at satisfying a hunger for sweet fried dough but exhibit a greater body and substance with dough more akin to bread than a light pastry. Deep-fried to a crisp dark brown before getting generous shakes of confectioners’ sugar, they stay perfectly crisp at room temperature."—Serious Eats
"Thumbs up for the mushroom and potato slices, too, and I can also recommend the raspberry bombolini and whatever bread you feel moved to take home. They all smell great and will make your stinky closet-kitchen smell great, too. Giant loaves of bakery fresh bread just make life better, even at home in Manhattan."—Steven S.
"Their pastries are also to die for, especially some of their savory options which showcase cheesy goodness and smoked hamaliciousness instead of sugar. But if sugar is your thing, they won’t let you down. The bomboloni elevates the donut to a whole new playing field."—Alexandra P.
I’ll gladly play around with Rocky Road and Salted Caramel and all of those fancy ice cream flavors for this national food holidays blog. But can we be a little serious here? Is there anything better than a high quality, rich, creamy cup of pure chocolate ice cream? Just as a chef’s expertise should be judged based on how well she executes a classic dish, an ice cream shop is only as good as its most basic flavors, regardless of any of the bells and whistles of their “signature” flavors. If you can’t make chocolate ice cream taste fresh, creamy, and amazing, then why are you in the ice cream business at all??
There are quite a few ice cream shoppes (yes, I added the extra “pe,” I feel that an ice cream shop is worthy of the olde tyme spelling!) in New York City that fit the bill of a delicious, perfectly executed chocolate ice cream, and some that even take it to the next level, adding such complementary ingredients as white chocolate (which is technically not chocolate at all!), ancho chiles, and—yeah, you know it—bacon.
Okay, so an ice cream shop should be judged on its clean, perfectly-balanced simple flavors, but once you get past that, there’s never any harm in going a little on the wacky side ;-)
The aptly named “Cones” in the West Village takes a 180-degree spin on chocolate ice cream and gets rid of the very thing that makes it so identifiable: the milky, creamy, brown chocolate. Their white chocolate ice cream is just as creamy and rich as its darker companion, but with the smooth, subtle taste of cocoa you can only get from white chocolate. (Did you know that white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate at all? Because it uses no cocoa powder—only cocoa butter, if you’re lucky—it’s not considered a “chocolate” by chocolatier standards. Ha!) White chocolate chips also add to the texture without adding in conflicting flavors that many ice cream add-ons often do. And best of all, it’s that clear, crisp taste of one distinct ice cream flavor that I often look for on a hot day, when all I want from my cool cone of ice cream is to cool me down—not overload me with sweetness. And for those who like an even icier treat, they also offer a chocolate sorbet flavor—so Cones has you covered for whatever chocolate ice dessert you plan to enjoy on Chocolate Ice Cream Day :-)
Cones 272 Bleecker St (between Morton St & Jones St)
"The White Chocolate ice cream is sweet, creamy and rich but not too rich. There are shavings of white chocolate folded in that add just the right amount of crunch and also up the white chocolate flavor. The flavor is incredibly pure and definitely satisfying."—Steve B.
"Expensive, expensive, expensive……but delicious, delicious, delicious. The white chocolate ice cream is truly something out of a dream. Creamy and sweet, but not too sweet (which white chocolate tends to be), this ice cream is enough to keep me coming back (occasionally, as the prices often keep me FROM coming back)."—Ryan K.
However, I bet some of you are asking me why I keep beating around the bush here, talking about white chocolate ice cream when one of the premier chocolatiers in New York City makes their own in-house ice cream that’s a cut above everyone else on the planet. (Okay, that may be a bit of hyperbole, but it’s damn good, you’ve got to admit.) And yes, it’s true: Jacques Torres, one of the most celebrated chocolate shops in the city, makes their own chocolate ice cream. More than one variation, actually, and you can try them all on weekends at Jacques Torres Ice Cream, right next to their Water Street location. You’ve got every kind of chocolate ice cream you can dream of right at your fingertips here, but if I’m shelling out Jacques Torres money for a simple scoop, my money’s going to Wicked Chocolate. A flavor that comes in all variations—solid chocolate, hot chocolate, and ice cream—Wicked Chocolate is a spicy surprise when it comes in a cool cone. You can really taste the ancho chile that’s included in the chocolate mix. If you’re in DUMBO and looking for a simple, clean-cut chocolate ice cream, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is always open to you; but if you like a little kick in your ice cream, then head a few blocks down to Jacques Torres and you won’t be disappointed.
"I tried the Wicked Chocolate Ice Cream in a fresh made waffle cone. I usually detest chocolate ice cream. It’s usually a vapid, faint excuse for real chocolate flavor. This ice cream however was chocolately with a nice hint of heat at the end. It looks like all the ice creams are made in small batches and in house since the tubs were pretty small."—Kelly I.
"I moved to DUMBO just to be near Mr. Chocolate! It’s the death of me. By far some of the best chocolates in the city. period. Go for the Wicked. Chocolate with Ancho chilies. The smoothness of the chocolate with the heat is fantastic."—Alex W.
So, ancho chiles in your chocolate ice cream isn’t wild and daring enough for you? You need something crazy to try on National Chocolate Ice Cream Day? Well, I couldn’t let this day go by without mentioning one of the most coveted ice cream sandwiches in the city. How about you try some baconwith your ice cream? ;-) You’d think it’s an impossible combination, but the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop has perfected the mix of everybody’s two favorite flavors in the Choinkwich. An ice cream sandwich to write home to your mother about (or perhaps you’d rather not let her know about this dessert debauchery!), the Choinkwich is homemade chocolate ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate cookies, with a layer of rich, savory bacon marmalade in there for good measure. The Choinkwich used to be offered by the shop’s food truck, Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, with real slices of maple bacon in between the cookies, but the sandwich became so popular that it was impossible to keep it well-stocked, and sandwiches sold out long before the day was over. As a delicious bacony substitute, BGICS created the bacon marmalade to give the Choinkwich its signature savory taste without the problem of daily bacon shortages. Even with the change the Choinkwich is in high demand, and you’ve got to get here early if you want to snag one, especially on National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. And there’s no National Bacon Day to catch this delicious treat on instead!
"If you don’t know what a Choinkwich…well..it’s an ice cream sandwich with chocolate cookies, chocolate soft serve and a layer of caramelized bacon. Doug and Bryan occasionally would have it at the truck but with their limited space it was difficult to make. Fast forward to now and with the brand spanking new Big Gay Ice Cream Shop opened on 7th St in the East Village, the Choinkwich has finally made it to the permanent menu. But with a new shop came a new Choinkwich. The Treats Truck still provides the cookies but it’s bigger than before and instead of caramelized bacon, they are using a made-just-for-Big-Gay-Ice-Cream version of Bacon Marmalade. The new version is pretty damn awesome. It’s salty, bacony, chocolatey, sweet and……..messy. Make sure to grab extra napkins."—Eat To Blog
"Needless to say, I got the Choinkwich, and it was pretty awesome. Delicious, crunchy chocolate cookies, and gloriously salty bacon marmalade with chocolate ice cream in the middle. The bacon is chewy enough to provide a nice contrast to the crunchy cookie (and to force you to slow down and chew, which can be helpful for those of us who tend to inhale ice cream instead of eating it), and packs that great savory/salty combination to counter the sweet ice cream."—Jordan J.
"Worthy of climax, the Choinkwich ($5) is an ample serving of chocolate ice cream, topped with a thin layer of bacon marmalade, then placed between two chocolate cookies. The experience made me understand why there’s a unicorn painted on the wall. The Choinkwich is a living fantasy. A party in your mouth."—Steven K.
You’d think that applesauce cake is a strange thing to eat, much less have a national food holiday for, but it’s far more common than you think. The habit of using applesauce as a binder in cake mixes is thought to have started during World War II, when such food items as eggs, oil, and milk were being rationed for the war, but fruits like apples were plentiful. Applesauce acts as a replacement for these wet mix ingredients and also adds extra natural sugar to the mix. Some bakers claim that applesauce keeps the cake moist better than the other binding ingredients, and others like it because it contains much less fat and more fiber than oil or butter. It’s been a baker’s best-kept secret for decades, but more recently, cakes made with applesauce have become more popular, thanks to the rise in popularity of vegan cooking. What better way to substitute animal products like eggs and butter—and leave out the artificial products that are more than just ethically taboo—than safe, sweet, delicious, vegan applesauce?
While the Little Pie Company isn’t a vegan bakery, and their own version of an applesauce cake uses butter and eggs (and all those lovely animal products I’ve personally grown fond of), their applesauce cake transforms the applesauce from a simple replacement ingredient to the star of the show. With a dense shredded carrot base, the carrot-applesauce cake is super moist, thanks to the applesauce, and the natural sweetness is complemented by a slightly sour cream cheese frosting. While they may be best known for their single-serving pies, the cakes at the Little Pie Company—especially the carrot applesauce cake—are not to be overlooked.
"The sour cream apple pie has a butter-cinnamon crust that would be please even without the filling; non-pie treats such as dense applesauce-carrot cake and tart lemon-poppy bread rival a fantasy Grandma’s best efforts. All the bakery’s goods are prepared without preservatives or canned, pre-mixed or otherwise adulterated ingredients; berries and cherries are flash-frozen to appear in winter months, long before their season."—New York Magazine
"Their carrot applesauce cake. AHA! Finally a bakery knows how much moister a cake can be with applesauce mixed in! They don’t skimp with their cream cheese frosting either. All in all, one of the best carrot cakes in the city."—Masha M.
"CARROT APPLESAUCE (mini) CAKE: one of the best carrot cakes I’ve ever eaten…and c cake is my favorite cake so believe me when I say I try it as often as I can in as many places as I can."—Victoria G.
I’ve never been a huge fan of ginger. My parents love it and put it in a lot of the dishes they make at home, and so growing up I learned I had to pick it out of my chicken stir-fry or get a rude, spicy awakening when I chomped down on what I thought was a slice of garlic. Not fun. :-\ I’ve come around slightly to the idea of ginger in my savory foods, and now mostly keep it around so I can grow plants in my balcony garden from kitchen scraps. (But that’s a whole other blog post!) Ginger in sweet things, however, has never fazed me. Candied ginger slices and gingerbread, both soft and brittle, have been favorite treats of mine since I was a kid. I remember going to my friend’s house in the wintertime, because her birthday was three days after Christmas, and making a gingerbread house out of homemade kits: the hard, sturdy pieces of gingerbread for the walls and roof, royal icing acting like caulk to cement it together, gumdrops and M&Ms sprinkled on top as the roof shingles. And who didn’t bake gingerbread men as a child, filling the kitchen with the heady scents of spices and warmth, waiting impatiently for them to cool on the cookie sheet so you can give them icing faces and little candy “buttons” on their clothes? Gingerbread always brings fond memories of childhood to me as well as a lot of others, warm thoughts of the holidays and homemade baking.
So why is National Gingerbread Day in the middle of June instead of sometime in December?? (Because no one really gave a thought to when 90% of these national food holidays are celebrated? :P) Even historically, gingerbread has been a food for the winter holidays. Although gingerbread was probably created before the 10th century in the Middle East and brought to Europe by monks, it’s been popularized as a Christmas treat in Germany since the 13th century. Hard gingerbread cookies formed into shapes have been sold in German Christmas markets for centuries, and were traditionally dunked in port wine to soften them before eating. There are many other ginger-spiced breads made throughout the world—including the British and Middle-Eastern soft gingerbread cakes—but the hard German variety is the one that’s flourished in the United States.
But even in New York City, where you can presumably get anything you want to eat, anytime you want it, finding gingerbread for sale in the middle of June isn’t an easy task. If you’re desperate for that warm, spicy flavor, but don’t want to fire up your own oven for some homemade cookies, the trusty Wafels and Dinges truck has got you covered. I don’t think there’s a foodie soul in New York who hasn’t yet discovered the wonder of Wafels and Dinges’ light, fluffy Belgian style waffles, but what really wins people over are the truck’s dinges (translated as “thingys”), or toppings. You get your first dinge free with purchase of a waffle, and then you can add on as many as you want for an additional price. The truck’s most popular topping—they love it so much they label it as their “favorite” on their menu—is Spekuloos Spread, a buttery version of the Belgian speculoos cookie. These spicy Christmas cookies are very similar to German gingerbread, which is evident in the taste of the Spekuloos Spread. Many patrons glob this Dinge on their Wafels for that warm, spicy taste, a perfect substitute for authentic gingerbread in the middle of summer. And speaking of summer, Wafels & Dinges has started, since last year, to offer this amazing Spekuloos in ice cream form! It tastes just like the spread, but inside a creamy, cool vanilla ice cream base. You can also get this as a Dinge on your Wafel, but it’s considered a “premium” topping, so it’ll cost you an extra $2. But you’re still entitled to that one free dinge, so if you’re really feeling the gingerbread taste, get a waffle with Spekuloos Spread andSpekuloos ice cream! Gingerbread overload!
"As mentioned above, spreadable Speculoos (we’re talking delicious, next-level stuff, here) can be found at the Wafels & Dinges truck. They actually label it on their menu as “our favorite.” And believe it or not, you can get it for free —well, technically that is— because when buying a waffle, your first ‘dinges’ (topping) is on the house, or the truck rather. The Wafels & Dinges version is in the peanut butter and Nutella school of the spreadable world. It has hints of caramel and cinnamon, is thinner and lighter than peanut butter and more gooey than Nutella. But it’s less sweet and a tad saltier. Unlike a heavy hot fudge sauce that can hide the waffle’s flavor, Spekuloos complements it perfectly."—Always Hungry NY
"It goes perfectly on a sweet, chewy liege waffle. The warm flavors of the sauce and the hot, comforting textures of the waffle feel like Christmas, which I’m perfectly happy to celebrate even in the middle of August. Another amazing discovery, and something you can bet will make my Top 100 this year, is that these guys are now also serving Spekuloos Ice Cream, which is ridiculously good."—Eat This NY
"For the uninitiated, speculoos are traditional Belgian spice cookies. At Wafels & Dinges they serve it as a spread, basically crushed cookies whirled together into the consistency of nutella or peanut butter. The guys manning the truck offered me a free sample when I arrived. The ice cream was rich and had the same sweet, buttery, spiced caramel-esque flavor of the speculoos spread. It tasted so much like their speculoos spread I figured it had to have been custom made. Turns out it is in fact made with W&D’s spekuloos spread by the Chief Wafelmeister’s friend, Benoit Gerin, former Jean Georges pastry chef and owner of Mont Blanc ice cream."—Midtown Lunch
" I had the ice cream sandwich with gingerbread ice cream and it was delicious! The waffle was thin and crunchy and the sandwich itself was enormous! There was no way you’d be able to pick it up and eat it like a real ice cream sandwich, but with spoon in hand, I definitely tried. The gingerbread ice cream made the sandwich. It was probably some of the best ice cream ever and I would go back just for the ice cream alone. It was way too big to finish by myself, which was a huge disappointment as I can eat a three course meal and the plates as well. The ice cream sandwich was to die for and the next time I go back, I’m trying a waffle again!"—Michelle W.
"The first bite hit me with this amazing flavor and texture. The wafel itself was soft and chewy with a surprise of caramelized chewy chunks created by the pearl sugar pieces. The spekuloos spread lent itself very well with its gingerbread cinnamon cookie flavor. Another way to describe spekuloos is that it tastes like the Teddy Grahams snack but in a peanut butter consistency."—Richard Y.
Can’t get to the Wafels & Dinges truck’s yummy food route today? Then head to Kitchenette, a popular brunch hangout in TriBeCa that won’t be moving to a different location all day ;-) They don’t have Spekuloos Spread or gingerbread ice cream there, but they do offer a spicy-sweet short stack of gingerbread pancakes that has everyone talking. The pancakes have all the gingerbread spices baked in, but are soft and fluffy like pancakes should be—the best of both gingerbread worlds. They’re served with a special pumpkin butter that just makes everything feel as warm as a late autumn morning. Come here with an empty stomach for brunch and order them as a part of the “lumberjack” special: two eggs and sausage are added to your gingerbread pancakes for a truly filling experience!
"My friend got the lumberjack: two gingerbread pancakes with pumpkin butter, an omelet, and bacon strips. All of this was phenomenal and I would come back JUST for those pancakes. It was like fall wrapped up in a perfect pancake. Yumm!!"—Pauline M.
"The bar area has a 1950’s soda shop style going on - and the menu has (omg) about 50 flavors of milkshakes. For brunch, I splurged on the "lumberjack" — got my egg white fix AND two out-of-this-world gingerbread pancakes with pumpkin butter. So good! Kitchenette fills its counters with homemade desserts - pies, cookies, you name eat - all of which looked good enough to, well, eat."—Taylor B.
Fuck FroYo, man! Especially when June 4 is also National Cognac Day. (I have never seen such clashing foods have the same national food holiday before. Definitely not two things you can mix together.) Cognac is a type of brandy, but has a ton of rules for fermenting and developing than its parent liqueur: it must be made from the specific grapes of the Cognac region of France (much like true “champagne” must be from the Champagne region or else it must be called “sparkling wine”). Then, it must be distilled in copper pots—twice—and then aged in French oak barrels for at least two years. The quality ratings for cognac are based on how long they are aged, so most cognacs on the market far surpass the two-year mark. Some can even be aged for forty to fifty years! That’s insane! All for a little sip of Hennessy!
It takes a lot of knowledge to become a cognac connoisseur—as well as a very high alcohol tolerance—but you can pretend to be one and schmooze with those in the know at the aptly titled Brasserie Cognac. Living up to their name, they have an impressive list of cognacs at their bar, and the bartenders are friendly and happy to help you select the one that best fits you. The cognac-based cocktails are far more refined than the Incredible Hulk (Hennessy and Hypnotiq, an intriguing holdover from my college years), and include such indulgences as the “Do Re-My” (Remy Martin with apple juice and champagne) and the “Rouge A Levres” (Hennessy, cherry puree, and—get this—blackberry jam!). They are primarily a full-scale French restaurant, but if you’re only in it for the cognac (and trying to keep your appetite for frozen yogurt later), they offer a selection of yummy bar bites, from staples like French fries and charcuterie to cod fritters, foie gras tartine, and a sashimi plate. Perfect to tide you over while you sip and taste your way through this very refined liquor.
"Seduction is the name of the game on the cocktail menu at Brasserie Cognac. The “Rouge a Levre” (Lipstick) marries Hennessy Cognac, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, blackberry jam, cherry puree, and champagne."—CBS New York
"I stopped by the bar to taste some cognac. The bartender (Ben) recognized that I didn’t know cognac all that well and was very patient and helpful. He is highly knowledgeable about cognacs and help select some very tasty cognac served in a French tulip glass. Was very low key and relaxing ambiance."—Dave C.
"The bartender was friendly, the food was great, and the drink was the proper size. (Which should go without saying, but see below.) He brought me fresh-baked bread and butter while I waited, which was delicious. Then after dinner, he helped me pick out a nice cognac to try and taught me a bit about it. Overall, a great dinner. So great in fact, that I soon returned eager for more."—Katie S.
If you can’t hold your hard liquor like some people (ahem, ME), there are quite a number of restaurants in New York that make dishes featuring cognac as a prominent ingredient. Just head to a cafe. And by that, I mean A Cafe New York, a French-Caribbean restaurant all the way up by Columbia University, catering both to the native tastes of the Caribbean neighborhood and the eccentric college set. They offer a beautiful fusion of Caribbean ingredients like gulf shrimp, coconut curry, and jerk duck leg, with fantastic French culinary techniques and execution. One of their appetizers is an elegant pheasant paté, prepared in a sauce of truffle oil and cognac, and served with a brie crust. Everything about this dish sounds rich and amazing, the flavors of the paté and truffle oil definitely holding up to the deep punch of cognac. I’d say this appetizer is anything but light; but after one of these, you’ll definitely have enough in your belly to stomach a few cognac cocktails for the night.
"Baked Scottish Pheasant pate ($12) - introduced by our waiter as the most popular appetizer on the menu, we were quick to order it, and given the preparation with truffle oil, cognac and a creamy brie crust, we had absolutely no regrets. It was amazingly rich and delicious and perfect on the accompanying French bread."—Ida C.
"My dining companion had the pate as his appetizer (fennel, truffle oil, cognac, brie crust) and the Lamb Merguez sausages for his entree ( harissa, figs, dates, coconut crème fraîche). The pate is the sh*t ( plain and simple that’s the only way to describe it!….a nice herby, earthy flavor topped off with bubbling brie)."—Ash H.
But come now, it wouldn’t be a liquor-related blog post without mention of a delicious, boozy dessert, now would it? :P I didn’t know if cognac was used to make any desserts, except as the brandy flambé in a possible Bananas Foster or something, but then La Lanterna di Vittorio made my perception of the liquor do a 180. Along with their homey Italian supper menu (I love that they actually call it a “supper menu”), they offer a large selection of French, German, Italian, and American pastries to make your mouth water (and make you consider ordering dessert first). One of their specialties is a pumpkin cognac cheesecake, which just sounds so ridiculously awesome it’s amazing I’m not running down to the Village right now. I got hooked onto pumpkin cheesecake in college, when my faculty master made it regularly during the autumn months, and now I have to order a slice whenever I see it on a dessert menu. Pair that with the rich flavor of the cognac and it’ll give the mild pumpkin and creamy cheesecake an added depth that just sounds irresistible. Pair it with a glass of their iced wine—or even a shot of the good stuff—and you’ll be in dessert heaven.
"My stuffed friends and I decided to split two desserts: the tiramisu and the pumpkin cognac cheesecake. One word: YUM!!! Maybe it was due to the two bottles of wine we shared over the course of our meal (or the fact that the desserts were delicious) but after we ate dessert, we were left with mouthgasms."—Christina P.
"The atmosphere is fabulous - inside by the fireplace, or outside in the garden under the beautiful lanterns. A glass of wine while enjoying pumpkin cognac cheesecake? Life changing. I’ve raved about that crazy pumpkin cognac cheesecake for the last 5 years since I’ve been there, and wouldn’t you know… 5 years later it’s still the absolute best cheesecake I’ve ever had."—Jodie B.
FroYo, Frogurt, Yogart…whatever you call it, frozen yogurt is here to stay. I mean, it’s been around for a while—frozen yogurt was invented back in the 1970s as a healthy alternative to ice cream—but it seems to have only gained popularity in the last few years. Frozen yogurt boutique stores have popped up all over the city, nevermind the entire country, offering sweet, slightly tangy, low-calorie and low-guilt treats to the trendy and hungry. There are two different types of frozen yogurt: the original recipe, which retains yogurt’s distinctive tangy flavor thanks to the low sugar content and active yogurt cultures; and the sweeter, creamier version, which is designed to mimic ice cream. It’s the former that’s getting a surge in popularity, which can be seen in any busy neighborhood of New York these days, with the multitudes of Pinkberrys and Red Mangos and every other fro-yo stand in between.
(Personally I still love the super-sweet latter frozen yogurt variety. Give me TCBY or give me death!)
It’s easy to stop into a Pinkberry today and pick up their ubiquitous green tea frozen yogurt with fixins, but if that’s your regular summer fro-yo routine, today is definitely the day to try something different! Go to the world-famous Bloomingdale’s and check out their world-famous frozen yogurt cafe, Forty Carrots. This is the Holy Grail of frozen yogurt in New York City: Forty Carrots has been a mainstay in Bloomie’s since 1975, long before the current surge, and even the first rise, in frogurt popularity. Their bet that people would love the slightly tart frozen yogurt certainly paid off, and the restaurant has done so well they’ve recently renovated it, doubling the table space and offering light, healthy fare along with their healthy ice cream alternative. Like many other authentic frozen yogurt stands, you can get the plain flavor (that tastes a little lemony thanks to the active cultures), or try it in chocolate, peanut butter, strawberry, or—New York’s most popular flavor—coffee. And considering a small, with choice of toppings, is 10 whole ounces and runs about $4.50, it’s a bargain compared to the prices at Red Mango and the lot. (And may just be the best buy you ever find at Bloomie’s!) It’s the best place to go when power-shopping (or just window shopping!) through Bloomingdale’s, and I may take a trip even without stopping by the shoe department.
"Bloomingdale’s opened Forty Carrots in 1975 to appeal to its fashion-conscious customers with low-calorie, healthy entrees served in an upbeat casual environment. To go along with its featured salads, sandwiches, homemade carrot and bran muffins, Bloomingdale’s unveiled a new dessert it had discovered in New England, "frozen" yogurt. It was an instant hit, becoming the restaurant’s #1 selling item, and remains so today 32 years later. The store estimates over 3.2 million servings have been enjoyed by legions of frozen yogurt connoisseurs, some of whom visit the restaurant four or five times a week."—Bloomingdale’s.com
"The shop, now found on the 7th floor of the flagship Bloomingdale’s, offers gigantic portions of their denser, creamier version of FroYo. For a tangier taste, go for plain, but if ice cream flavors pique your interested, try the butter pecan. A wide variety of toppings are available to crown your leaning towers of yogurt. Forty Carrots has grown over the years – it started as a counter with just 12 seats. In its new location they can accommodate 100, plenty of room for you and your friends to chill out after spending some time shopping."—CBS New York
"Their tangy frogurt is slightly more calorific than Pinkberry’s (100 calories compared to Pinkberry’s 70 calories per 4-ounce serving), but immeasurably creamier and more luscious. Flavors rotate daily, and toppings range from the timeless (crushed Oreos, Gummi Bears) to the trendy (chocolate-covered goji berries, wheat germ), with, curiously, no fruit in between. But the only thing to get is a small plain ($4.50) topped with wildflower honey (an additional $1), which is everything you like about Greek yogurt and honey, times a thousand. Bonus: the cold yogurt freezes the honey into delicious, taffy-like strands."—Serious Eats
"But there’s nothing I like more when it comes to frozen, creamy, milk-based dessert than 40 Carrots. I will organize walks to end here, and on my way home on Friday I’m almost guaranteed to take the N train just to make sure I get a chance to go by here on my way home. The plain is alright, the mango not bad and the coffee I’ve been told by trusted sources is pretty good. Vanilla is tasty, though they rarely have it and the chocolate is good. But really if you’re not getting the peanut butter with Oreos you’re missing out. It’s the best combination out there, and considering a small (nominally 4 oz, but probably closer to 10) is more than enough, it’s a cheapish tasty treat that fills you up and makes you the envy of everyone riding the subway."—Danny P.
"My mom introduced me to their frozen yogurt when I was little kid over 25 years ago. It is still the absolute best frozen yogurt you can find in the city, and probably anywhere. Every friend I have brought agrees and becomes addicted as well. And the portions are huge. Thanks 40 Carrots for never changing your quality!"—Alexandra C.
And if the “O.G. of Frozen Yogurt” isn’t your style, then skip the long lines at Bloomie’s and head along the N Train in the other direction, towards the border of Park Slope and Prospect Heights, for the FroYo Young Gun. Culture: An American Yogurt Company takes their yogurt seriously: whether fresh or frozen, it’s all made in-house with Hudson Valley Fresh milk and seasonal toppings. Their process and attention to quality makes their plain flavor super tart, but refreshing, and the state of their toppings—wet pecans and real maple syrup instead of crumbled Oreos and canned pineapple chunks—makes my mouth water. If you’re not into the tartness of FroYo but still want the sweet treat (with all the probiotic benefits of active yogurt cultures), try their Key Lime Pie flavor: a key lime custard mixed with crumbled graham crackers tastes just like the genuine article, but for a lot fewer calories and a lot less guilt. If you indulge in frozen yogurt today, make it a cup made with high-quality, fresh ingredients, by a local chef who wants to offer you the very best. Pinkberry can’t even come close.
"The secret to this house-made soft-serve is a proprietary recipe that gives the yogurt the tangy, thick quality that we love at breakfast, but that always seems to be replaced with watery sugar when dessert rolls around. Dressed up with tart key-lime custard and crumbled graham crackers, it’s good enough to compete with any ice-cream sundae in town."—Time Out New York
"Good frozen yogurt is one of my very favorite foods, the kind that’s tart and rich in the way of good yogurt, not the over-sugared Pinkberry sort. And Culture’s is pretty remarkable, with the sweetness of fresh dairy and the tang of good yogurt and a soft, silky texture that others can’t match."—Serious Eats
"Its yogurt, made from antibiotic- and hormone-free milk from an upstate dairy and strained in the store, is bracingly tart and incredibly fresh. The day we went, we consumed a towering cup of apricot yogurt with blueberries, maple syrup, and wet pecans, and still haven’t quite gotten over its simple, straightforward goodness."—Village Voice
"I’m giving Culture four stars almost entirely because of their awesome Key Lime Pie "Sundae." I got the original yogurt flavor topped with the Key Lime Pie sauce and ground graham crackers. And it was out of this world fantastic. I was literally scraping the empty cup with my spoon it was so good."—Victoria L.
"I always try the original flavor first at a new place, and Culture’s doesn’t disappoint. They have amazing organic flavors that rotate daily - I’ve had mango, apricot, nutella, and blackberry. Delicious, and so refreshing. The best part of Culture, though, is that when they’re putting your order together, they put some toppings at the bottom of the container so you don’t do the usual eat-all-the-toppings-right-away-and-then-not-have- any-left-at-the-end routine. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, I wish all frozen yogurt places would adopt Culture’s model."—Claire M.
National Egg Day encompasses a lot, as can be imagined. We humans have been eating other creatures’ eggs since prehistory, particularly those of birds like quails, ducks, and of course, chickens. The chicken egg has become the most popular egg to be consumed by people, and celebrated for its punch of protein in a little package, and its versatility as a binder, flavor enhancer, and culinary staple. Nearly every country in the world—nevermind every civilization throughout history—has used eggs in cooking in some shape or form. You can’t even begin to think about how many foods have eggs in them! Breads, mayonnaise, meringues…and that’s not even including all of the dishes you can make where eggs play a prominent role. They’re not just for omelets in the morning anymore!
Since the egg is used in almost every culinary culture around the world, it was difficult to narrow this blog post down to just a few highlighted dishes to recommend in New York City. I eventually cut it down to five—my biggest post ever so far, for the egg of all things!—but there are hundreds more worthy egg meals to taste and savor on this National Egg Day. Go get your favorite today!
Being a fan of celebrity chefs and the food competency porn show Top Chef, I already knew about chef Wylie Dufresne’s love of the egg. When he was a guest judge, one competitor on the show even served their own take on the egg in order to hit his “weak spot,” which he admitted on air that he had. The darling of molecular gastronomy definitely has a weak spot for eggs, and for making sure that the rest of the world knows how awesome they are—and can be. At his restaurant WD-40 in the Lower East Side, he’s elevated the simple poached egg into something far beyond runny diner fare, using an immersion circulator to slow-poach an egg to perfection. He serves it as his restaurant inside an edible “shell” of his own creation, and homemade pumpernickel bread to sop up all that lovely egg runoff. A tasting menu at WD-50 will certainly set you back, and you may have trouble getting reservations on this coveted National Egg Day, but it’s definitely a new and interesting way to see the egg served. I wish I had been able to get to Dufresne’s Cooking With Comics panel at last year’s New York Comic Con; whether or not he showed us how to cook the best egg, it would definitely have been something to see!
"Chef/owner Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 in Manhattan has elevated the egg. Some liken Dufresne to a mad scientist for his off-the-charts creativity, but I prefer to think of him as a culinary magician who has blazed a trail for other chefs to follow. One of Dufresne’s latest creations is a poached egg and shell with pumpernickel, Caesar dressing and a lily bulb (used in traditional Chinese cuisine) that has been pickled and charred. All of it is edible, including the shell, which is made from sugar and other ingredients."—The Los Angeles Times
"When Dufresne opened wd-50 four years ago, he began experimenting with circulators, which have aided him in his quest for the perfect poached-egg texture. For him, that’s the elusive point at which the white is “like junket” and the yellow approximates "egg-yolk fudge.""—New York Magazine
"This was my favorite dish of the whole dinner. The egg was indeed perfectly poached and the pumpernickel bread and it’s saltiness complimented the egg very well."—Vy N.
"I was so glad it was an actual poached egg and not some kind of candied egg foam that EXPLODED when you pricked it with your fork. Really looking forward to a nice egg and it definitely delivered. It was surrounded by an edible egg shell made out of edible clay! Little pumpernickel toasts, cesar dressing, and lily bulb. The acidity and tang of the dressing worked wonders with the egg. It was really just… lovely."—Yelena K.
Another restaurant making their own spin on traditional egg dishes is an oldie but a newbie at the same time. SD26 opened only two years ago along Madison Square Park, but their pedigree goes much deeper than 2009: the new SD26 is the relocated and re-tooled San Domenico, run by the father-daughter team Tony and Marisa May. The elegant yet hip SD26 has modernized some of its features, like a state-of-the-art wine bar, but has kept many of the little touches and dishes that made San Domenico so great. One of these dishes is the truffled raviolo: one huge raviolo on the plate, served with truffled butter, hides a delicious surprise inside its pasta folds. A soft egg yolk sits inside, waiting for the diner to cut open the raviolo and let the yolk run into the dish, making its own rich, fatty sauce. It’s a cute trick that delights the diner, making the meal an active, participatory event, rather than just getting food served to you. And it also shows the cooking expertise of Chef Odette Fada—who moved along with the Mays to their new digs—to perfectly cook the raviolo without overcooking the egg yolk inside. Think you can only have eggs for breakfast? This delicate and rich dish will definitely change your mind.
"They greet customers with handshakes, hugs, smiles. They pull out chairs in this vast theatrical space across the street from Madison Square Park and say: Of course the giant raviolo with soft-cooked egg and truffled butter is on the menu. Odette Fada, who started cooking for the Mays in 1996, is back there running the show. (And of course it’s still delicious.) Welcome back!"—The New York Times
"It’s nearly impossible to imagine a more decadent pasta dish. You could sprinkle gold leaf on top and still hardly up the indulgence factor. Each enormous raviolo, the size of a tennis ball, houses a whole, soft egg yolk along with a ricotta-spinach filling; cut it open, just like sliding your fork into a perfectly poached egg, and the yolk oozes out—joining the pool of browned truffle butter, Parmigiano, and shaved truffles in a single marbled sea of deliciousness."—Serious Eats
"Next we had the Uovo. THE UOVO. So good. So ricotta, egg yolky, fresh pasta, truffle buttery good! I mean, how can you really go wrong in this dish. All those ingredients, so sinfully rich. One single raviolo (who knew that was the singular of ravioli?!?) was perfection. (moment of silence to reminisce on the raviolo…swoon)"—Cynthia M.
""Uovo" soft egg yolk filled ravioli with truffle butter. OMG OMG OMG. I don’t care what menu you order off of make sure you get this!! The raviolo was filled with spinach and ricotta along with a warm egg yolk. The truffle butter was the most perfect accent. I couldn’t get over how good this dish was. It was a very good size raviolo too, I could have easily had three more!!"—Lauren L.
That isn’t to say that eggs for breakfast have suddenly become passé! I still love to have my scrambled or over-easy eggs in the morning, especially with a big pile of buttered toast to sop up all that yolky goodness. The Egg Toast at Ino Cafe & Wine Bar does all that, but with a high-end truffled twist. They modernize the old breakfast favorite Egg In A Hole—putting a soft egg yolk in the middle of a piece of toast to run all over the plate—by adding cheese and truffle oil to the mix, melding with the richness of the egg when you finally break the yolk. It’s a super-rich breakfast treat that is loved by many who visit Ino Cafe for brunch, including Scott Conant of Scarpetta, who has proclaimed the truffled egg toast to be the best egg dish he ever ate on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” It’s leaps and bounds above the typical egg breakfast special plate at diners, and, unlike all those endless eggs dishes, is one to remember.
"Truffled Egg Toast? Yes yes yes yes please. This dish is, without a doubt, once of the best brunch items I’ve ever tried. It was so good that my friend and I both sort of sat in silence while marveling at how glorious our food was. If you’ve never tasted food drizzled with truffle oil before, Ino’s Truffled Egg Toast may make you an addict. From what the manager told me, Ino and its sister restaurant Inoteca, use the only organic truffle oil on the market, Da Rosario Organic White Truffle Oil."—Saara H.
"I ordered their signature dish - truffled egg toast with asparagus, which as other reviewers have commented, is a must-try. The aroma of the truffle oil fills every bite. The toast is crunchy at the bottom while the melted cheese and runny egg yolks glue everything together. If you like all these ingredients, you must order one for yourself. (Yes, don’t even think of sharing!)"—Cecilia L.
I feel like I can’t mention eggs as a breakfast food without mentioning one of the most popular eggy breakfasts—aside from the myriad ways you can cook an egg (and I’ll be damned if I go searching for the best sunny-side up egg in New York City). Huevos Rancheros is the fancy name given to a classic Mexican breakfast meal that includes fried eggs on top of corn tortillas and topped with pico de gallo, beans, and avocado. Mexican-American additions like cheese, sour cream, and bacon have become popular as the dish has moved north of the border. Surprisingly, one of the best places in New York City to get your rancheroson is a Cuban restaurant! Although Cafe Habana serves their famed authentic Cuban sandwiches daily, they’re a Cuban-Mexican hybrid restaurant, inspired by the old Cafe La Habana in Mexico City in the 1940s. Unlike the other modernized, “twisted” versions of classic egg dishes in this post, their huevos rancheros aren’t deconstructed, fussed with, or changed to “fit in” with the 21st century. These eggs are face-value delicious, from the black beans to the salsa and home fries they’re served with. And the staff at Cafe Habana aren’t dumb; they know why you’re ordering filling brunch food on a Sunday morning. Flip over their brunch menu to see a list of drinks labeled “For The Hangover,” offering everything from a strawberry mimosa to Daiquiri Cubanos and the powerful “Mexican Firing Squad” to make the morning more tolerable for party animals everywhere.
"Mr. Ampudia says he and his co-owners aspired to create an environment that appeals to a spectrum of tastes, so that ”both the U.P.S. worker and the young professional” can feel at home. A day at Cafe Habana could begin with huevos rancheros ($5.35) or a salsa and sweet plantain omelet ($5.50) and conclude with a dinner of roast pork with yellow rice and red beans ($9.50) or shrimp with garlic sauce and red beans ($12.50)."—The New York Times
"There’s something really homey and nice about this spot, and when I sit at the bar, I always feel uplifted when I see all the interesting people in this place. It’s definitely an interesting scene. Everyone who works here is incredibly rushed due to the sheer number of people who wait to get in, but the service is great regardless. And the huevos rancheros I ordered were excellent, even though their method of preparing them is of a different kind than my preference (I prefer the kind with more of a chunky chopped up tomato and jalapeno salsa, whereas their’s is made from more of a pureed, possibly cooked, salsa). The eggs were cooked to just the right combination of firmness in the egg whites and semi-liquidness in the yolks that I expect in this dish. I was looking at what all the other people ordered, and it all looked really good."—Shoaib R.
"So I finally had huevos rancheros and boy was it delightful! The eggs were topped with red salsa and placed on top of a soft tortilla wrap, served with beans and rice. The sauce was a nice mix to eggs, beans and rice, it really adds flavor to it. I really like dining here at night, the atmosphere is lovely. Great lighting, chattering but not too loud, I just love the sound of people around me rather than a dead quiet restaurant with awkward moments throughout the meal."—Virginia Y.
And now for something completely different :P You know you can have delicious eggs for breakfast, and you can even have them for dinner (and not feel like you’re just being too lazy to get real food for dinner), but did you think you could ever drinkeggs? This ain’t no Rocky training montage: in Malaysian cuisine, quail eggs are semi-cooked in their shells, cut open from the top, seasoned with sambal spices, and taken like a shooter, right down the hatch. It’s an explosion of flavor you have to taste to believe. And you can taste it at Manhattan’s premier Malaysian restaurant, Fatty Crab. They offer four quail shooters per order, perfect for a small group to communally start off their dinner. Each shooter has a different sambal spice, each one hotter than the next. If you have some members of your party who are hesitant to drink a quail egg whole, get a few Chupacabras or Fatty Manhattans into their system, and soon enough, they’ll try anything! If you’ve gotten bored with even the most unique preparations of chicken eggs in the city, this shooter is definitely up your alley.
"Throwing back shots doesn’t have to leave you on the floor at Zakary Pelaccio’s Malaysian-style roadhouse, where you can order this flight of gorgeously speckled quail eggs as a bar snack or offbeat amuse-bouche. The tiny specimens are slow-poached in a water bath, cut open at the top, then topped with one of four house-made sambals: a funky sriracha; a spicy version garnished with salty fried anchovy; a sweet and chewy mix of dried shrimp, lemongrass and candied pork; and a five-alarm hot sauce that’s best saved for last."—Time Out New York
"In typical small-plate fashion, diners are encouraged to share, and plates emerge from the open kitchen as they’re ready. Quail-egg shooters make a ridiculously dainty, if bold, starter: four to an order, lined up on a bamboo tray, their gently cooked innards topped with various spice mixtures, or sambals."—New York Magazine
"Quail Egg Shooters: Much more delicious than I had anticipated. They come 4 to an order, and with the first egg being the sweetest, and the last egg being the spiciest."—Jennifer H.
"Quail egg shooters, while decidedly not authentic, were tasty little mouthfuls of a creamy raw egg, topped with a hint of fishiness from the dried anchovies (myulchi for my Koreans). It was a dish with a sense of whimsy, and fun as hell to eat."—Chris H.
There are so many things that I learned while researching for National Rocky Road Ice Cream Day! First off, Rocky Road ice cream was created in 1929 in California by William Dreyer, the ice cream magnate behind the Dreyer’s brand (known around these parts as Edy’s). He added walnuts and marshmallows to his chocolate ice cream, and named it “Rocky Road” after the stock market crash of 1929 to give people something to smile about in bad times. Nowadays, Rocky Road can include either walnuts or almonds, may be a mix of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, and can also have ribbons of chocolate fudge swirled in between the marshmallows, but it’s all considered Rocky Road. Perhaps in this current economic climate, it’s starkly appropriate to head to the nearest creamery and pick yourself up some Rocky Road to lighten your own spirits about the economy.
Surprisingly, one of the best Rocky Roads out in the city comes from a vegan creamery! But then again, with the track record of Lula’s Sweet Apothecary pumping out high quality, delicious vegan treats, I would never put it past them to make any exceptional ice cream flavor. Vegans can be assured that at a reputable place like Lula’s, absolutely no animal products are used in their treats—which means vegan marshmallows, cashew-based ice cream, and non-dairy chocolate chips. But you don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy the surprising creaminess of the non-dairy ice cream, or the sweet contrast between the slivers of crunchy almonds and the ribbons of marshmallows woven into the chocolate ice cream. If you’re showing up on this warm weekend, make sure to get to Lula’s early—homemade vegan ice cream that’s actually delicious (and sought after by vegans and us meat eaters alike!) sells out quickly, and you don’t want to be caught without your scoop by the end of the day!
"From the various flavors that I sampled, I would say many flavors are really good. If I didn’t know beforehand, I would not have assumed that everything was vegan friendly for the most part. The selections that I decided to get, rocky road and the mint chocolate chip, were fantastic. They taste almost exactly like their dairy version counterpart with a slight but pleasant difference that I can’t quite describe."—Wing L.
"I’m allergic to milk, and I ate a freakin’ sundae with whipped topping, hot fudge, and a cherry. It was served in a glass with actual metal utensils. I would do it again in a heartbeat. There’s not a huge array of flavors — there were approximately ten, and three soft-serve flavors — but the two I tried were delicious. I had coconut fudge (which was made with a coconut base) and rocky road (which had a cashew base)."—A. I.
The other thing I learned while researching Rocky Road Ice Cream Day is that Rocky Road didn’t start as an ice cream flavor! Sure, William Dreyer added nuts and marshmallows to chocolate ice cream in 1929, but he was riffing off of his partner Joseph Edy’s chocolate candy bar, also made with nuts and marshmallow pieces. In many other countries, “Rocky Road” is still the name of the chocolate bar, which may also have pieces of dried fruit, shredded coconut, or raisins in them, depending on the country. (Outside of the U.S., ice cream with nuts and marshmallows is called Heavenly Hash, which also has its own national food holiday on February 2!) Here in New York you can still get a “Rocky Road” outside of its natural ice cream habitat, if you drop by the Little Cupcake Bakeshop in Brooklyn. Nearly in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge, this little bakery may specialize in cupcakes, but they also offer cakes, pastries, brownies, and Rocky Road Bars, a mix between a dense, baked brownie and a candy bar. It has marshmallows and white and milk chocolate swirled into the batter, and is topped with walnuts. It’s the classic version of an almost-forgotten treat, that shouldn’t be overshadowed on National Rocky Road Day just because its younger counterpart is a yummy, cool ice cream and this is just a candy bar ;-)
"Rocky Road Bar was such a good value. Two of these for $5 definitely weighs more than 1 slice of $4.75 cake. It was a nice chewy base (I think just graham cracker and butter), with gooey. marshmallow, white and milk chocolate and walnuts. Rocky road ice cream has almonds, yea? I guess walnuts are just easier to bake with. Anyway, this was not overly sweet and the texture contrast between all the components went well together."—Matthew L.
"My first trip resulted in my acquiring a Rocky Road brownie. It was so sweet, but so good…marshmallows are low in calories, I kept telling myself."—Lawrence R.
The hazelnut is such an underrepresented nut. Most often seen in American cuisine as a flavor additive to coffee or as part of the heavenly combination of nuts and chocolate known as Nutella, hazelnutshave been cultivated in Europe and Asia for thousands of years. They’ve been heralded as a gift from the gods by the ancient Chinese and used in marriage ceremonies in ancient Rome. They definitely need to be celebrated more often in modern days than just a dollop of Nutella on your morning toast!
There are many different variations of what a hazelnut cake can contain: hazelnuts, much like almonds, can be ground up into a powder and used as a meringue-like flour to make light, fluffy, gluten-free cakes. They can also adorn the exterior (and interior) of a cake as candied, crushed nuts, or as a part of a Nutella-based cream filling. (mmm, now I want Nutella cream filling…) Whichever way you eat it, hazelnuts are a nutritious and delicious addition to a rich dessert that can give a cake both light airiness and a dense, earthy, nutty flavor.
I’ve already highlighted Mario Batali’s powerhouse Italian ristorante Babbo twice on this blog, and I know I’ve said I want to diversify the places to visit on National Food Holidays, but when a dessert comes as celebrated as Babbo’s chocolate hazelnut cake, you have to stand up and pay attention. Hazelnuts have become very popular in northern Italy, and this hazelnut cake exemplifies that, celebrating the different flavors and textures of the hazelnut by using the nuts both as an addition to a flour cake and as the flavoring ingredient to the accompanying gelato. The result is an amazing mix of hazelnut and chocolate all throughout the dessert, combined with an orange sauce to bring some bright tartness into the dish. It’s insanely chocolatey and rich, but the cake also never lets you forget that it’s a hazelnutcake at its heart. With a dessert so delicious and true to its nature as this, I couldn’t just let Babbo slip through for the sake of diversity this time.
"I love the pure, direct flavor of hazelnuts in my Hazelnut Cake from The Babbo Cookbook. A simple dusting of cocoa powder or confectioner’s sugar is all that is needed to adorn this gem; all the better to let the rich, heady aroma of hazelnuts shine through."—Babbo
"Every dessert, however, will make you stupid with happiness. A bright lemon-ricotta cake with glistening garnetlike blackberries. A super pairing of pistachio and chocolate in a semifreddo. If you want to eat chocolate-hazelnut cake by yourself, you’ll have to have it delivered to the bathroom and lock the door."—New York Magazine
"For dessert, we had the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Orange Sauce and Hazelnut Gelato. The cake was soft and filled with yummy chocolate. The gelato is smooth and hits the spot. "—Kimberly K.
"The dessert was also good and we had the gelati assortment, cranberry crostata, saffron panna cotta with quince, and the chocolate hazelnut cake. I liked the gelati the best and the flavors were all pretty interesting. There is something about eating gelati in an Italian restaurant that feels right."—Tony T.