Friday, August 31, 2007

Hot in the City

Mister Softee's soft ice cream, still a hit.

Picture this (not too difficult this time of the year): it's hot, hazy and humid. You can see heat waves rippling from the asphalt, feel sweat trickling down your back. You're parched. Dying for something to revive you. And then you see him: Mister Softee.

Though the ubiquitous ice cream trucks can no longer play that nostalgic jingle (a citywide noise ordinance went into effect earlier this summer), the trucks, parked on corners in every neighborhood, and ice cream are much the same. For most New Yorkers, they are beacons of happiness and relief on sweltering summer days.

With not much more than chocolate or vanilla soft serve, you can choose from an impressive menu of cones, sundaes and shakes. "Everybody gets a chocolate dip," claims one Mister parked in Union Square, though other toppings include sprinkles, crunchies and peanuts.

While traditionalists are satisfied with strawberry shakes and butterscotch sundaes, many of the trucks show a little flair with their offerings. Try the Red Merlin, for example—a cone that's partly covered with rainbow sprinkles, partly with cherry dip. Or the Chocolate X-Mas with chocolate dip and whipped cream. It's no LA fro-yo or Italian gelato. But, yeah, that's sort of the point.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Grand Finale

This East Village dessertery sets the bar high.

The joint that kicked off the dessert bar trend in 2003, ChikaLicious is as good as watching a friend whip up magic in her kitchen while you get to prop yourself up at the counter with a glass of sherry or a cup of chamomile. As you sit back and relax, Chika prepares your meticulous treats in the open kitchen while her husband-partner-sommelier, Don, offers the perfect accompanying wine. Rounding out the chez-amis vibe are homey details like mismatched china, jazz music, and lots of small talk and genuine smiles.

For better or worse, however, the desserts are creations your friends probably wouldn't attempt at home. ChikaLicious' prix fixe menu starts with an amuse (watermelon sorbet) and ends with a sampling of petit fours (a sliver of chocolate cheesecake, a coconut-dusted marshmallow, and a mini butter pecan sandwich cookie). In between, you get your choosing of one of a half dozen dainty desserts. The menu changes daily but think: poached cherries with white corn ice cream and toasted-warm cornmeal poundcake, or fromage blanc island cheese cake served atop a mound of shaved ice. Precious perfection.

203 East 10th Street

Monday, August 06, 2007

Summer Snack

Another irresistible treat from Mr. Chocolate.

When you’ve been a New Yorker for some time, chances are you’ve warmed up more than one cold winter moment with a cup of Jacques Torres’s wicked hot chocolate. So what to do in a summer of soaring temperatures? Dig into the polar opposite: an ice cream sandwich.

Made with homemade ice cream and chocolate chip cookies, these frozen sandwiches give credence to the expression of two great tastes tasting great together. The cookies: loaded with bricks of thick dark chocolate. The ice cream flavors, they vary according to what Torres is creating in his factory. Rotating options include everything from espresso and hazelnut, to raspberry and banana, to standard chocolate and vanilla. There’s even a Wicked sandwich, made with the same spicy chocolate as his cocoa, to remind you that the chilly days of winter won’t be too far behind.

Chocolate Haven
350 Hudson at King Street