Archive for the 'NYC desserts' Category

03
May
13

3 products that baffle and delight

Mast Brothers teamed up with Shake Shack for no apprent reason except that they're both based in NYC.

This Mast Brothers-Shake Shack bar (available at the cash registers at the Dupont Circle Shake Shack) perplexed me. Was there burger or bacon in the bar? No, it’s just dark chocolate. Apparently the only connection is that they’re both based in NYC.

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The copy on the back of this ginger & chilli biscuit tin (really spicy gingersnaps from Fortnum & Mason) is as good as the cookies themselves. In fact, these were so tasty, they made Mr. X-sXe admit that maybe not all British sweets suck. (“Biscuits” courtesy of Ms. & Mr. Pie, who schlepped them across the pond.)

Red velvet fudge from Reading Terminal Market

Beware your bowels, screams the label on the back of this chunk of red velvet fudge. Ms. Pie brought this gem back from Reading Terminal Market. Noteworthy because (1) it’s telling diabetics to talk to their doctor about incorporating it into their diet–like, reach for red velvet fudge when your blood sugar’s low? Dubious marketing. (2) I’ve never seen a diarrhea warning on candy that didn’t have artificial sweeteners. But I appreciate the heads up.

11
Dec
12

Sweet Streets of NY, Day 4: Tricked-out cookies & panettones to cap things off

On the last day of our NYC trip, we had a half day to hit a few more food places before heading back to DC. Here’s what we picked up for the bus ride home:

The chocolate chip-walnut behemoth from Levain.

Levain Bakery, Upper West Side

After JDang mentioned that Levain’s cookies were so good that her friend in LA asked her to schlep $100 worth back (that works out to 25 cookies), we realized we needed to try them on the last day of our visit.

For those of you who balk at a $4 cookies, know this: these are as heavy as rocks, so pound for-pound, I doubt they’re that much more expensive than Mrs. Fields’ cookies from your mall food court.

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We decided to walk from our hotel on East 29th all the way up to West 74th. We took Fifth Avenue most of the way, which gave us to the opportunity to check out some of the stunning holiday windows. After a quick detour through Central Park, 40-odd blocks later, we came upon a tiny basement shop. The compact space (with no table to sit at, be warned) was inversely proportional to the heft and hype behind these supersized cookies.

So, were they worth the long-distance trek? I like a good cookies, but these weren’t spectacular enough to merit the hype. Here’s why: (1) Levain doesn’t offer a plain chocolate chip—you can only get chocolate-chip walnut. Walnuts in cookies, blech. (2) The soft texture of the cookies makes them eat more like brownies than cookies. (3) The double chocolate chocolate chip may send you into sugar shock.

If you do try them, get them to share.  Much like the Cheesecake Factory cheesecake slices, you’ll be hard-pressed to finish one on your own in a single sitting.

Welcome to Eataly, panettone heaven.Eataly, Chelsea

I don’t meet many people under the age of 50 who are as into panettones as me and Mr. X-sXe. I think it may have to do with the stigma of fruitbread, even those these are nothing of the sort.

Panettones are oversized, buttery brioches (don’t tell the Italians I said that) studded with dried fruits like orange peels and raisins. Don’t worry, they don’t usually include nuts or any of that day-glow dried fruit weighing down your typical doorstop fruitcake. If you want to test drive a panettone, you can get a small one at Whole Foods (or large one at Trader Joe’s) for around $5. And if you don’t like it, you can always turn it into bread pudding or French toast.

At Eataly, we came upon a huge display of panettones ranging from $15-$50+. We took home two kinds, a peach one and a chocolate-hazelnut one. The peach one was the moistest panettone we’ve tried to date, but a bit stingy with the dried peaches. The chocolate-hazelnut one has yet to be broken into—I’ll update this post after we try it.

Related Posts:

Day 1 Spoils

Day 2: The Sugar Binge Continues

Day 3: More Donut Gluttony, and a Gourmet Take on Hostess

04
Dec
12

Sweet streets of NY, Day 3: More Donut Gluttony, and a Gourmet Take on Hostess

These may be some of the best donuts ever to cross your lips. Starting at 9 o’clock: the coconut cream, pistachio, creme brulee, and tres leches.

Doughnut Plant, Chelsea store

Smitten with the Doughnut Plant cake donuts we tried at the Stumptown Coffee pastry case, we decided to head to the mothership herself to see what other flavors we could stuff down our gullets. We ended up at the Chelsea location (there’s another one in the Lower East Side). The funny thing is that there’s a Dunkin’ not far from the store where you can get a donut for less than $1. But why would you do that when you can pay $3 for the best donut you’ve had in your life?

Glowing Sign at Doughnut Plant

The décor makes you feel like you’re entering a Willy Wonka donut factory. Donut pillows on the walls, donut tiles on the booths, and a giant, glowing donut menu. The only part that falls a bit short is the donut display itself, where a sample of each of the flavors of the day were crammed into a small glass case. You kind of want to see them in their full glory on platters, or at least in a bigger display case, lined up like soldiers.

On this visit we had the pistachio, coconut cream, crème brulee “doughseed” (mini-donut), and a reprise of the Tres Leches (at Mr. X-sXe’s insistence). Unlike the other cake donuts we’d tried, the pistachio didn’t have any filling, which meant it was somewhat dry and uninspiring. The crème brulee, the flavor that piqued my interest in the Doughnut Plant in the first place, was good but not as sublime as I’d built it up to be in my head. The coconut cream was generously filled and fluffy on the outside. Delicious as it was, it still couldn’t touch the blackout cake donut, which remains my favorite.

There are many, many options to maintain your sugar rush at Empire Cake.

Empire Cake, Chelsea

That night we met up with a friend, JDang, who suggested checking out Empire Cake, which she’d passed on her walk to meet us. It’s a charming shop (but what shop filled with cakes and pastries isn’t?) on 8th Avenue. Their specialty, apart from custom cakes, are their gourmet versions of greatest hits from the possibly-soon-extinct Hostess, like the Ho-Ho (Swiss roll), Snowball, and Twinkie.

Imitation is flattery: a homemade version of the Hostess Snowball surpasses the original.

We tried a pink Snowball. It tasted like a homemade, less artificial version of Hostess’ own, one that doesn’t make you wonder about the chemicals involved in making it shelf-stable. But to be honest, we went to Empire Cake post-dinner, post-donuts with food fatigue, so our taste buds were maxed out for the day. You just might have to go there to judge for yourself.

Related posts:

Sweet Streets of NY, Day 1 Spoils

Sweet streets of NY, Day 2: The Sugar Binge Continues

01
Dec
12

Sweet streets of NY, Day 2: The Sugar Binge Continues

DoughtnutPlant-Stumptown
A rundown of the sweets we tried during our second day in NYC:
One of the things that made our stay at the Ace Hotel memorable (helping to make up for our jail cell-sized room) was the Stumptown Coffee in the lobby. For a habitual tea drinker, their brew’s perfect because it’s pretty mild, at least to my untrained coffee palate. Anyway, this Stumptown location offers an impressive case of sweet accompaniments: French macarons, fruit tarts, cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar, and these Doughnut Plant cake donuts.
Stumptown carries 4 flavors: the tres leches and blackout became our breakfast staples for the duration of our stay. The first time Mr. X-sXe bit into one, he actually paused to contemplate what had just happened to his taste buds. They’re that good. Each donut has a thread of filling running through it: condensed milk in the tres leches; bittersweet chocolate cream in the blackout. Sounds like overload, but it’s not because these aren’t nearly as sweet as your typical glazed Krispy Kreme—by comparison they taste healthy.
MomofukuMilkBar_CerealSoftServe
Though this place is tinier than a Manhattan studio apartment, there’s a constant stream of customers demanding their cereal milk soft serve—even on a windy 40-degree day. If I were Christina Tosi, I’d be applying for some kind of trademark protection. The soft serve tastes like what’s left in your cereal bowl after you’ve fished out the last soggy Frosted Flake. It’s served up with cereal crumbles, what tasted like corn flakes to me. The soft serve flavor was too reminiscent of milk from the jug for my liking, but I guess that’s the point.
Left to right: the compost, chocolate marshmallow, and blueberries & cream cookies

Left to right: the compost, chocolate chip marshmallow, and blueberries & cream cookies

Cookies
The lady behind the counter at the Milk Bar explained that the compost, chocolate chip marshmallow, and blueberries & cream are their top-selling flavors. All are buttery, chewy cookies, but we enjoyed the chocolate marshmallow the most. The cookies held up nicely after a bus ride home and a couple days sitting on our kitchen counter. You can attempt the recipe for the compost cookies here or order all of the cookies flavors online here.
MomofukuMilkBar_CrackPieCrack pie
I’ve tried Momofuku’s towering cakes before, but this was my first time trying their pie. The funny thing about their pie slices is that they package them individually in cardboard sleeves. The crack pie reminds me of a cross between shoofly pie and crème brulee, with a strong molasses taste from the brown sugar.  Due to the ooey-gooey richness, it’s hard to enjoy more than a few bites of in one go, even for those of us with a fiendish sweet tooth. You’ll want a very bitter mug of coffee to go with this.
Related posts:
Day 3 preview: We make the holy pilgrimage to the actual Doughnut Plant store in Chelsea, then cap the night off at Empire Cake, where you can get homemade versions of those Hostess cakes that are on the brink of extinction.
28
Nov
12

Sweet streets of NY, Day 1 Spoils

Some regard San Francisco as the gastronomy capital of America. But a recent trip to NYC affirmed for me that it takes the culinary crown—at least, when it comes to sweets (and yeah, that’s despite its lack of a Tartine). The thing is, whatever your obsession, NYC probably has a store dedicated to it. Take this place that sells only rice pudding. Or giant French macarons. That’s not even factoring in the dessert trucks.

Given the plethora of food oases, it’s easy to overdo it. Luckily we walked a lot during our visit, which helped alleviate the post-binge bloat. We managed to consume a plantation’s worth of sugar during our mere 4 days there. Here’s a rundown of our Day 1 intake.

Fat Witch brownies, Chelsea Market

These brownies didn’t strike me as anything special in the store—more like a gift-giving idea than anything. But I had a change of heart after we tried them back at our hotel. They’re rich yet not dense, so you don’t feel like you’re eating a chocolate brick. They’re probably my second-favorite brownies after the ones at Pret a Manger, which seem to have a tad more chocolate. The caramel was better than the red (dried cherry) flavor. BTW, I noticed on Fat Witch’s website that they’re one of Oprah’s Favorite Things, official seal of things the hoi polloi should aspire to blow their monetary and caloric budgets on.

Ronnybrook Farm apple pie milkshake, Chelsea Market

We stopped by for an apple pie shake, which even between my and Mr. x-sXe’s hearty appetites, we couldn’t finish. This thick apple-caramel concoction needed something to offset the treacly sweetness (and a wider, bubble-tea-sized straw to suck it up with). A side of salty pie crust to scoop it up would’ve been welcome. It felt like a sin to toss about a third of it away, but we wanted to reserve some pancreatic juices for post-dinner goodies.

Stand Burger toasted marshmallow milkshake, East 12th Street

Undeterred by our Ronnybrook fail, we headed to Stand Burger a few hours later. Mr. X-sXe has a thing for toasted marshmallow shakes, after being spoiled by the one at Good Stuff in DC. We got the small and polished off the whole thing quickly. Unlike Ronnybrook, Stand gets that you need a supersized straw for a thick shake. (Minor gripe: the actual marshmallow on top was stale.)

Related posts:

NYC, Day 2: a cornucopia of goodies at Doughnut Plant and Momofuku Milk Bar

NYC, Day 3: donut gluttony and a Hostess-inspired treat

29
Jan
12

Afternoon tea, served 2 ways

That's a baby scone mounting a cupcake. "High Tea" cupcake from Red Velvet.

When I’m in Gallery Place, I feel compelled to cruise past Red Velvet Cupcakery to see what the special flavor is. They’re always coming up with incredibly creative concoctions, some of which deliver on flavor (like their Dark & Stormy, inspired by the drink) and some of which fall flat on execution (see their cheddar apple cupcake).

The current special flavor is called “High Tea.” It’s a cake with a ton of black tea baked in, orange cream-cheese frosting, and a tiny scone on top. Yes, that’s a tiny scone—not a piece of a scone, but a scone baked to be Smurf-size. While adorable to behold, the cake part tasted odd. Mr. X-sXe thought it was because they chose too smoky a black tea. I couldn’t put my finger on what I didn’t like about the cake part. All I knew is that it’s the sort of thing you consider interesting but aren’t dying to eat again.

While visiting my parents over the holidays, my mom and I went for afternoon tea at Washington Duke Inn in Durham, NC.  If I were a stay-at-home trophy wife, I’d make a point of going to afternoon tea every few months. It’s relaxing, fun, and something about the assortment of tiny goodies makes you feel like Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette. In reality, I go maybe once every couple of years. Point is, it’s kind of like the Melting Pot: a meal for a special occasion. You’ve gotta go with someone you can stand to stare at for a few hours, and definitely not on a first date. After all, it takes time for your body to acclimate to all that sugar. Plus, hot water refills for your teapot are free.

Washington Duke offers a fairly traditional tea service—cucumber sandwiches, tiny pastries, fancy chocolates. The best part is the freshly baked pecan scones with lemon curd, strawberry jam, and crème fraiche. So save a little room, if possible, because those come out last.

There were only a few other tables of afternoon tea diners. Most of them looked like tourists, not the genteel southern types in oversized hats that you’d expect. It didn’t make for good people-watching, but at least there’s plenty of food to keep you preoccupied.

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