Archive for May, 2011

31
May
11

Sweetbites, a magical truck that dispenses cupcakes and more

How could you not be drawn to a truck that looks like this? (Yes, that’s a cupcake display in the window.)

It was a thousand degrees outside when I caught up with the truck in Farragut Square last week. I kept my haul modest so it wouldn’t be destroyed in the heat: a salted caramel cupcake and chocolate banana bread.

Salted caramel frosting can be overwhelming, but this one nicely balanced the creamy, salty, and sweet. However, the cake could’ve used a bit more moisture. Same went for the banana bread. A layer of chocolate icing helped drive home the flavor, but the bread needed more bananas, more oil, more something to make it less crumbly.

Follow the Sweetbites Truck here or here.

26
May
11

Chocolate infographics & other tasty ideas

There’s a gourmet food store in my hometown called A Southern Season. As you walk in, there’s an entire wall of exotic/gourmet/overpriced chocolate bars to the right called the Chocolate Bar. I usually peruse the selection, then walk away empty-handed. Problem is, I don’t really want to eat an entire bar of chocolate studded with pork rinds, Himalayan pink salt, or curry powder–I just want to break off a piece to taste, then call it a day.

That’s why these choco-creations from Chocolate Editions seem like a great gift for the chocolate fan*–they get back to the basics. Take this pie chart, which I believe is proportioned according to their  customers’ preference for dark, milk, and white chocolate.

This Neopolitan Bar reminds me of the tubs of Breyer’s ice cream we used to fight over as kids. The hierarchy was chocolate, vanilla, then strawberry. Woe to the strawberry.

And this Milk to White bar brings to mind a paint chip, Missoni print, or misguided Dove ad, depending on where your head’s at.

*I beseech you to excise the word chocoholic from your vocabulary, and to run from anyone who happily slaps that label on themselves.

23
May
11

Pie > cake?

Here’s one point of view on the matter from Hyperbole and a Half.

(Thanks to http://justlastweekend.tumblr.com/ for the alert.)

Click to see Hyperbole and a Half's "scientific approach" to determining whether pie is better than cake.

20
May
11

Pork belly donuts. Do you dare?

Dear U Street Music Hall: Your pork belly donuts take the pig-product-as-dessert trend too far.

Yes, I’m a fan of chocolate-covered bacon, bacon Rice Krispy treats, and even bacon-fat cookies. So why must I draw the line? Because pork belly is 90%+ chewy (ok, delicious) fat. But putting pig products like bacon, for example, in desserts works best when the fat has been rendered off so you’re only left with the crispy meat. That’s why I don’t enjoy Vosges’ bacon bar—it’s like eating chocolate-bacon gum. Why would anyone want to wrap their lips around a donut sandwich with a sizeable chunk of fat in it, unless they were training for the 2012 Olympics?

Mind you, I haven’t actually tried these so I’m just railing against the concept. It could be that:

Mushy donut + chewy pork belly fat = mouthful of greasy yeastiness.

OR

Fluffy donut + luscious pork belly slice = salty-sweet heaven.

But I’m probably not brave enough to find out.

16
May
11

Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate: For Brunch

This episode was particularly awesome because (1) only the most curmudgeonly of curmudgeons doesn’t love brunch, and (2) Alex Guarnaschelli namechecked Norma’s, the Grand Poobah of indulgent brunch food in NYC. Specifically, she mentioned the chocolate decadence French toast (below), made of slices of cake. Which is just crazy genius or suicide, depending how you look at it.

Face it, brunch menus tend to be underwhelming. There’s the standard egg-based fare (hollandaise, omelets, huevos rancheros). Then there’s the starchy stuff—if you’re lucky, tricked out with a variation on the theme (stout waffles, challah French toast, or ricotta pancakes, let’s say). Lastly, there’s a couple nods to the health-conscious: yogurt & fruit, Irish oatmeal, tofu scramble. Yawn.

The Waz-Za is what happens when a fairy throws up on your waffle. Cheers to http://gracenotesnyc.com/ for the photo.

A couple years ago a friend and I hit Norma’s on a whim, and I’ve been meaning to go back ever since. Even the most jaded bruncher can find something to like on their menu.

Me, I went straight for the Waz-Za waffle, which was as close as you’ll get to dessert for brunch (apart from cake for toast). Waz-Za! perfectly sums up how you feel when you set eyes on this dish. A pile of blueberries sits on a layer of brulee. As you stick your fork in, the brulee gives way to a pool of lighter-than-it-looks berry cream atop sliced bananas, lounging on one perfectly formed waffle. I’m getting a bit wistful at the memory, as this was one of the most luscious breakfast dishes to have ever graced my taste buds.

My friend had a savory cheesy toast that she didn’t end up finishing; she had a slight case of food envy. Moral is, the sweet options are a safer bet. Just plan on a lazy weekend, because crashing after the sugar high is inevitable.

Where to get it:

Norma’s at Le Parker Meridien

119 W. 56th St.

New York, NY 10019

(212) 708-7460
13
May
11

Pastry haul from Paul

Paul Bakery opened its U.S. flagship in DC a couple weeks ago (how’s that for yer “second-tier city,” Chef Spike?) to a bit of fanfare, so the lines have been long. As I queued in a seemingly endless line, my accomplice was patiently waiting for me in an illegal spot by the courthouse, flanked by a bunch of police cars. Eventually she found a parking spot, but you can imagine the additional stress this added to our situation.

A macaron sized for American appetites.

As I waited in line, we exchanged panicked phone calls. “Has the line gone anywhere?” “Should you cut bait?” “How many people are ahead of you?”  Never has a pastry run been so angst-ridden and adrenaline-filled.

Finally, about 35 minutes later, I’m face-to-face with a glass case full of pastries on the left, salads and baguette sandwiches on the right. Given my misguided mentality that time spent in line = directly proportional to volume of food that must be bought to justify time standing in line, I ended up bringing back half the dessert case. 5 pastries at about $6 each, after tax. That makes cupcakes look like a steal.

At $6, the giant macaron is the price of 4 normal macarons–but it’s not large enough that you feel like you’re getting the Costco volume discount. The size seems distinctly un-French. And honestly, I’m not sure I want my macarons the size of a junior cheeseburger. Part of the charm of these cookies is savoring each nibble. The tininess makes them all that more special. (Or perhaps I’ve been brainwashed by the French. Entirely possible.) While the cookie part was enjoyably dense with a strong pistachio flavor, it was soggy instead of crispy on the outside. That could’ve been a result of its time sitting in the humid sandwich case, or in the getaway car of gluttony. Either way, it was a bummer.

Clockwise from bottom right: strawberry Napoleon, pistachio macaron, chocolate macaron, chocolate mousse cake, regular Napoleon. Photo thanks to http://justlastweekend.tumblr.com/

The Napoleons were simply a top and bottom layer of pastry sandwiching a custard filling. That made it hard to eat, since the filling would spill out when you went in for a bite. Personally, I prefer the Napoleons of my youth: concoctions with alternating layers of cream and pastry, topped with a thick black and white icing.

The chocolate mousse cake was pretty flimsy by the time we got around to it–the layers of mousse had come to room temperature by then. So it was pretty much like spooning chocolate-mocha fluff into your mouth. My accomplice enjoyed it this way; I liked the leftovers better straight from the fridge a couple days later, giving my teeth more to sink into.

Overall, we’d wanted to be more thrilled with Paul’s offerings than we actually were. They’re kind of like all the free museums in this town–it’s nice to know you can exercise the option if and when you want to, but you wouldn’t necessarily go out of your way.

07
May
11

Dessert truck NYC needs to come to DC

There’s something cool about getting really great food from a truck. Like, how do they cram so much tastiness into such a teeny space? How high-tech is the setup back there? And will I be able to track it down today? It’s all part of the mystique of the food truck.

Well, the Bobby Flay bread pudding throwdown has had me foaming at the mouth to try the Dessert Truck’s winning chocolate bread pudding. It was one of the food stops on my ever-growing list of places to try in NY. So on a recent business trip to NYC, I swung by to pick up something to bring home.

The bread pudding, which is less bread than pudding, comes with a bacon custard that’s just smoky enough. It wasn’t a gratuitous use of bacon in desserts, which was a relief. The pudding reminds me of the filling in dark chocolate lava cakes–pure liquid richness. This isn’t a dessert for people who don’t like dark chocolate.

Most bread puddings are too bread-y for me, but this one has barely enough bread chunks to give the dessert some texture. It’s really the perfect balance of bitter and sweet, bready and creamy.

These survived a 4+ hour trip from NYC to DC. Presentation suffered, but taste didn't.

Given how much I spent on a cab to/from the truck, I decided to try the creme brulee as well. This was creme brulee properly done, with tons of vanilla bean flecks bringing the flavor. Not as unique a taste combination as the bread pudding, but delicious nonetheless.

Was it worth the cab rides (that cost more than my desserts totaled), and the stress of wondering I’d make it back to Penn Station in time to catch the train? Definitely, yes.

Get the recipe for Dessert Truck’s bread pudding.