Sunday, March 29, 2009

Leave No Scone Unturned

Or uneaten!

I can't believe I've yet to mention The Corner Scone. It's my very favorite coffee shop and, as luck would have it, it's literally just around the corner from my apartment. It's the only place of business where I'm actually on a first name basis with one of the owners. They're such a nice bunch of people there that, after expressing my love of morning glory muffins, I walked into the cafe a few days later to discover a freshly baked batch on the countertop.

As you might guess, their scones are exceptional (as is everything else I've had there, especially their egg dishes). I bought a blueberry one today, along with a large, hot cup of my favorite decaf coffee, courtesy of Irving Farm, a micro-roaster based in the Hudson Valley region that makes a smooth French Roast. A CS scone is light and buttery but not greasy. Its exterior is firm and its interior, soft and dense. The flavor is subtly sweet with just a hint of lemon zest. The Irish know how to make a good scone, and my neighborhood is full of small bakeries that offer their own tasty takes on this classic baked good. But those that are made by the friendly folks at CS taste just a little sweeter.

I can't wait to check out the cafe's monthly open mic night! Maybe I'll compose a poem on scones in preparation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Theze Chocolates Be Poppin'!

I took it upon myself to pose a sugar challenge to...myself. In the mood for something sweet 'n new to my tastebuds, I stopped at a local gas station on the way home from work yesterday to peruse its selection of candy. The only treat I had never tried? The "poppin' tinglin' chocolate" of Wonka Tinglerz.

Now, my friend Holly and I long ago decided that the letter "z" makes any word instantly cooler, so this is what ultimately convinced me to buy this new, mysterious chocolate. I say mysterious because there was no indication as to what makes the chocolate tingle or pop. Until, that is, I looked at the fine print. Turns out that Mr. Wonka's magic ingredient is carbon dioxide!

I generally prefer my chocolate in bigger, more chewable and satisfying chunks, but I really enjoyed my Tinglerz once I adjusted to the sounds of, well, snapping, crackling, and popping emanating from inside my head--what I imagine it would sound like if my teeth had completely rotted and were slowly cracking apart and dissolving in my mouth (which would most likely be due to overconsumption of sugar, in my case). This sound was quite unsettling at first, as you can imagine.

The most accurate description of Tinglerz I can offer: they resemble Wonka Nerds, taste like Nestle Buncha Crunch, and have the same effect as Pop Rocks. The poppin' (not so much tinglin') effect is limited to the auditory. Actually chewing a Tingler doesn't feel any differently than eating traditional chocolate, really--still an exzhilirating experience in and of itself, though.

Speaking of z's, my next mission is to find the elusive Wazoo candy bar. A bodega near where I work used to sell them apparently (I spotted an empty box on their shelf this morning). Wazoo is one of my absolute favorite words, and the description of the bar makes it seem like a dream come true: a chewy, fruity candy sprinkled with crunches!! Rumor has it that I can find it at Economy Candy on Rivington Street. Cross your fingerz I can track it down!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Feel the Powder!

My friend Cris and I enjoyed a lazy (though not that lazy) and definitely decadent Sunday afternoon. We began by meeting at Fred's for brunch. The walls of this Upper West Side locale, which is named after the owner's black labrador retriever, are covered with canine collages; in fact, the doggie decor was the primary reason I chose this spot. The other? The $15 prix fixe brunch menu. Cris got the spinach, goat cheese, and mushroom omelette, while I chose Fred's French Toast (made with "New York's Best Cinnamon Raisin Bread from Orwasher's Bakery").
It had been awhile since I'd had french toast, so I was extremely excited. I indulged in scarfing down two hearty slices of scrumptious toast: thick and moist (but not soggy) in the center, and crispy crunchy on the outside. They didn't even need the syrup or dusting of powdered sugar, they were so sweet and lovely.

After leaving Fred's, we window-shopped (sans windows) at a flea market and farmer's market on Columbus Avenue. Cris had bought some unique, hand-crafted truffles from a shop near his hometown of Mahopac, NY, so we took a seat on a bench near the American Museum of Natural History to eat a few of 'em. The best of the bunch? The red wine infused truffle, with its rich, soft, and slightly bitter ganache center and cocoa powder coating. The hazelnut and caramel varieties were quite tasty too.
The most memorable, however, was the earl gray truffle. Cris and I both agreed that it was our least favorite. Its flavor was overpowering, and its aftertaste lingered long after the chocolate was consumed. There was certainly no mistaking it for any other type of truffle; it tasted as if I had shoved a fistful of Twinings tea bags in my mouth.

After meandering through Central Park, we walked 70 blocks (!) due south, to the 3rd Annual Manhattan Cask Ale Festival at the Chelsea Brewing Company at Chelsea Piers. We each had three small glasses of:
"unfiltered, unpasteurized beer brewed only from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide. Cask Ale is also known as 'Cask-Conditioned Beer', and 'Real Ale.'"

Tired and slightly buzzed, we agreed it was time for a satisfying dinner. We ended our long day of delicious drinks and eats with steak (for Cris) and a burger (for me) at The Viceroy Cafe on 8th Avenue while brainstorming on what to title this latest blog-stallment.

How did we do?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Rose By Any Other...

...Would Taste Sweeter.

God knows I love cupcakes. In fact, I'd say they rank in my Top 5 Favorite Desserts. That is, provided, they're baked to perfection and frosted. Heavily. I've had the pleasure of trying a number of varieties at bakeries throughout NYC, including the popular Magnolia (the only bakery with a bouncer at the door), Billy's (a Magnolia rip-off), Buttercup, Amy's Bread, Sweet Revenge, and Sugar Sweet Sunshine (my personal favorite), and--last night--Cupcake Cafe.

I was en route to meet my cousin and aunt for dinner at the Film Center Cafe in Hell's Kitchen and, having some time to kill, took it as a sign when I spotted CC. It's a warmly lit, eclectically decorated, and all-around inviting space that more closely resembles a small-town antiques shop than your typical bakery. I ordered a "cuppa" joe (a hand-written note on the easel outside advertised it as the "best" in town)--decaf, of course--and headed back to the cupcake display case.

Let me start by saying that CC bakes some of the most aesthetically pleasing cupcakes I've ever seen--almost too beautiful to eat, in fact (almost). (Turns out they offer cake decorating classes!) The cakes come in mutliple appetizing flavor combinations (maple walnut paired with mocha, for example) and are adorned with delicately crafted, colorful flowers made of frosting. I unimaginatively chose the vanilla cake frosted with chocolate buttercream. Considering its bite-size (at a miniscule 2.25") and price ($2.50), I was expecting a taste explosion in my mouth. I was sorely disappointed. The cake was fairly bland and a bit dry, while the cream was spread thin and nearly flavorless. (It also had an odd whipped-like consistency.) Give me a $1.50 pistachio cupcake from Sugar Sweet Sunshine over CC's selection any day.

Their coffee was good, though.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Kind of Town

This past weekend was one of spontaneity, nostalgia, relaxation, and over-indulgence during my whirlwind trip to the Windy City to see my best friend of 16 years, Nita. Despite the incessant rain, we made the best of our two days together.

Saturday we took a trip down to Hyde Park, a southern suburb of Chicago, with Nita's friend, Ben, to peruse the stacks at the Seminary Coop Bookstore. Afterward we stopped at Salonica, a Greek diner in the neighborhood, for a late lunch and--of course--dessert. We all shared a piece of baklava, a sweet pastry made of phyllo dough, stuffed with chopped nuts and honey. (As with many of my favorites, I have a sentimental attachment to this treat; an expert baker always brought a tray of it to our house when my mom hosted her bridge club.) Salonica's baklava was rich and flaky, though a bit on the oily side. Still lovely, though.

On Sunday, Nita and I made the obligatory stop at a Fannie May outlet, and I selected about a dozen assorted chocolates for my half-pound box, including: Classic and White Russian truffles, a Peanut Butter Button, Pink Lady, Raspberry and Strawberry Creams (the latter of which was given as a free sample when we walked through the door!), and a Chocolate Covered Raisin Cluster:

Fannie did not disappoint. Thick, velvety, and creamy semi-sweet chocolate contrasted against sweet, smooth fillings. Nita is not as candy-crazed as myself, but she loved her Milk Mint Meltaway and Chocolate Covered Cherry:

Last--but certainly not least--I grabbed a Morning Glory Muffin (glorious indeed--my friend Holly introduced me to this variety a few years ago) from O'Hare airport. I was excited to see it had been "freshly baked" by a local bakery, Sweet Miss Giving's (great name), a lovely store that donates over 50% of its profits to formerly homeless and disabled Chicago residents. This particular muffin included different ingredients than those of a typical MG muffin, yet its combination of cranberries, cherries, dates, figs, raisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and flaxseed was absolutely incredible. Its consistency and texture was fantastic: the inside was moist and the top, crumbly but soft. Its flavor was more similar to a bran muffin than the traditional MG, but I loved it and appreciated the fact that it was also less greasy than other ones I've eaten. I wonder if Sweet Miss ships their baked goods to NYC...

Sweet treats with a sweet friend in a sweet kind of town.