Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Popping open the champagne truffles

Is there a better excuse to indulge in Teuscher champagne truffles then the holidays? Um… nope.
Get ready for an especially delicious 2009!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pretty, sweet pastries

My friend Cheryl lives in the wild west of 48th Street. She has often told me about Domus, and I finally went and fell in love. So I knew I had to carry on westward to scope out the patisserie she told me about: Dousoeur de Paris.

This wee salon, run by two sisters, serves breakfast and lunch, coffee and tea. But of course I went for the sweets and suggest you do, too. Mini tarts, macaroons, marshmallows, chocolate éclairs, chocolate mousse, petit cakes and more are just begging for your attention.

Enjoy a private moment or tete-a-tete in the salon. Or bring them chez-vous and the soeurs will wrap your pastries as only the French can do.

652 Tenth Ave at 46th

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sweets for a song

This is the time of year when we can be unabashedly piggish. Hooray.

If you haven't had your fill of sweets from the glut of office gift exchanges or holiday parties, indulge yourself with these good deals.

Sweet Freak favorite, Billy's Bakery, is five years old. Celebrate with a banana cupcake, going today for just a buck.

And you can scoop up divine Chocolat Moderne bonbons, biscuits and cocoa today (until 6 pm) and tomorrow (until 3) at 15% off. The award-winning chocolatier (available otherwise at Murray's and Dean & Deluca) is opening their kitchen so you can score salted caramels, chocolate-covered cherries, Valrhona drinking chocolates, and gorgeous collections

184 Ninth Ave at 21st

Chocolat Moderne
27 West 20th Street b/w 5th and 6th Aves

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Manhattan's best 5 cups of cocoa

Because it's snowing in New York. Because it's the holiday season. And because it's one of the silver linings of winter: these are the hot chocolates you don't want to miss.

Jacques Torres
When you walk into Chocolate Haven Soho, the heavenly scent of chocolate is all around you. Belly up to bar and order my personal favorite: the peanut butter hot cocoa.

That their cocoa is called "drinking chocolate" and served in elegant glassware is telling. I like to change it up at Vosges and get the Bianca Cocoa: white chocolate with vanilla, lemon myrtle and lavender.

Dessert Truck

Insanely thick. Made with Valrhona and Guittard chocolates. Don't expect to drink the whole thing. Even I can't.

City Bakery
If hot chocolate could be landmarked, City Bakery's would be the first to receive the designation. Start training for February's Hot Cocoa Festival by sipping their small portions now. It's habit-forming.

I was going to give the fifth spot to La Maison du Chocolat. But since this blog is all (or mostly) about NYC, MarieBelle—with a proper cacoa salon, six varieties, and the option for European (made with water) or American (milk) style—gets the nod.

Friday, December 19, 2008

5 gifts you can stuff my stocking with

Not literally. Well, only if you want. But here are brilliant stocking stuffers for any sweet freak on your list. Yes, you can shop online!

Peruvian dark chocolate bar with wild cherries from Soma:
This is from my new love, the Toronto "chocolate bar, boutique & laboratory." Their truffles are divine, but delicate—the dark chocolate bar with cherries is safer for the stocking.

Papabubble suckers:
The bright and cheery lollies and hard candies sure are festive. And the packaging is so cool.

Bittersweet tiles from Poco Dolce:
My friend Connie turned me onto these amazing little squares of bittersweet chocolate topped with grey sea salt. An assorted box contains burnt caramel, almond, ginger and Aztec chile flavors. Amazing.

Joseph Schmidt truffles:
Mr. Z sent me a box of these from San Francisco last year, and I still dream about them. Each truffle, in flavors like double latte and peanut butter, takes about six bites to conquer. These bad boys are a true guilty pleasure.

Dried pineapple from Manhattan Fruit Exchange:
Just because I'm a freak and can't get enough of this stuff.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kee'p 'em coming, part 2

It appears Kee Ling Tong is on a tear. About a year and a half after expanding her Thompson Street digs, she's opened inside an HSBC branch in midtown. Heavenly news for us corporate schlubs near Grand Central.

Check out Blondie and Brownie's gorgeous photos to work up your chocolate appetite.

452 Fifth Ave between 39th and 40th

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The untouchable chocolate chip cookie

Considering how often I wax poetic about Levain, I figured it was time to do a proper posting for the bakery. And since I had another rendez-vous with the boys, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to spread the gluttony between three bellies.

Let's be honest: I am a terrible photographer. And these cookies especially didn't photograph well. But that doesn't matter. What matters is the taste, and the verdict is in.

Levain's walnut chocolate chip cookie is the best. And I don't even like nuts in my baked goods.

I love Momofuku's over-the-top ingredients and butter content. I love the chocolate quotient from Jacques Torres and Petrossian. But the size, weight, cakiness, chewiness, and ratio of batter to chips is sheer perfection. These were still warm when I picked them up. It just doesn't get much better. Three bellies can't be wrong.

The dark chocolate chocolate chip and dark chocolate peanut butter chip are also kickass.

167 West 74th Street at Amsterdam

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Le tour du chocolat

I told you. I like Paris. Almost as much as I like chocolate. Or is it the other way around? I don’t know. But it was a dream writing this article. And doing the research.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another swoon-worthy cupcake

Some people say “Jump” and you say “How high?” Some bakeries announce new cupcakes and you think, “How soon can I be there?” (Or is that just me?)

After hearing about Batch’s new pumpkin rum raisin, cranberry coconut, bacon caramel and drunken peppered pear flavors, I had to stop by. Well, I was in the Willage after all.

I did refrain from getting multiple cupcakes, and went straight for the peppered pear.

It mixes sweet pear flavor, a spicy aftertaste and there’s an Amaretto kick baked inside. It’s delicious.

I never want to see the carrot salted caramel go away, but this is a nice alternative.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Butter me up

The East Village is where it’s at. (Lucky me.)

Right on the heels of Momofuku’s debut, Butter Lane opened two weeks ago. It does cupcakes, just cupcakes, and they’re the best cupcakes I’ve had in an awful long time.

This place is small and simple and yet manages to have style (see wallpaper below – love it).

The staff is superfriendly and happy. And nice little touches abound. Go ahead, do a taste test! American and French buttercream samples are there for the licking so you can taste how French buttercream, with pure cane sugar and egg whites, is impossibly light and airy, while its American counterpart, made with confectioner’s sugar, is a little thicker, heavier and creamier. They’re both delicious.

There are four special flavors in addition to the standard chocolate and vanilla. Bennie and I sampled almost all of them, including chocolate on chocolate, blueberry, pumpkin, and banana with cream cheese frosting. Oh. My. Goodness. They’re amazing.

The basement kitchen is where the bakers spin the pure ingredients—like farm fresh eggs, organic butter and vanilla bean—into the incredibly fresh treats. The cupcakes are modestly sized, soft and springy, sweet and delicious. They melt on your tongue. Did I mention how delicious they are??

123 Seventh Street between First and A

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Magnolia’s magnetism

This place is amazing. Not only do swarms of tittering girls and midwestern families line up inside for cupcakes and banana pudding, but they’re pressed to the window in joyful awe and anticipation.

Magnolia Bakery has become a tourist destination, just like Bloomingdales’ fragrance department or Canal Street.

It’s like its own Christmas Spectacular.

1240 Sixth Ave at 49th Street

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

5 best vegan treats

I could never be a vegan. I love cheese too much. And then there are baked goods, which I obviously all but live on.

But that doesn't mean you can't find some killer vegan treats around town. Done right, you never know what you're missing.

Hot fudge sundae at Lulu's Sweet Apothecary:
Splurge on a dairy-free sundae and—why not?—throw on some gluten-free marshmallow and gummies.

Warm miso chocolate cake at Kyotofu:
The stellar dessert bar's chocolate cake is, simply put, to die for.

Cupcake from This Chick Bakes:
Jennifer Houston rocks all of her baked goods, but I liked the vegan cupcake even better than the egg- and butter-loaded cookies.

Brownie from BabyCakes:
Not only are these little fudgy bites adorable, but they're a perfect fix when you need a spot of chocolate. Or cake. Or just when you want a brownie. A gluten-, soy- and dairy-free brownie.

Hot soy steamer at Soy Luck Club:
I love the savories at this Willage café and could drink the day away there. A white chocolate hot soy steamer? Yes, please.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A sweet little box of bonbons

Upon the good word of MUG, I made my way to L’atelier du chocolat, a miniscule chocolate shop in Chelsea.

The charming little bonbons in flavors like saffron, tiramisu and yuza come from the hands of chocolatier Eric Girerd, who's based in Jersey (though he's French, had stints in Korea and Japan, and was in Brooklyn until last year).

There are enough camps of flavor to satisfy chocophiles of many stripes: spicy (thyme, basil), floral (jasmine) and fruity (orange, raspberry). And then there are the traditional favorites like caramel, fleur de sel and coffee.

I sampled a range.

The orange bonbon was the weak link. The flavor was so subtle it was nearly invisible and the chocolate, a little crumbly.

The potent vanilla orchid more than made up for it. Wildly fragrant, the sweet notes oozed from the creamy ganache.

The cinnamon bonbon was also super rich and flavorful, reminding me of being in a good baker's kitchen.

And the praline, always a favorite, didn’t disappoint. Its firm texture and nutty, chocolaty flavor and cocoa-dusted almond on top would make the perfect after-dinner dessert.

You could say I was a fan.

59 West 22nd near Sixth

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The cookie that crumbles

It was the name that got me: "Barely Baked Cookie." I flipped the Vosges cookie over and, indeed, saw that dark circle in the middle, telltale sign of under-baked batter.

Since I had gone in to have a Bianca Cocoa—hot cocoa made with white chocolate, Australian lemon myrtle, lavender and vanilla—I disregarded my impulse for the classic chocolate chunk (made with single origin Costa Rican chocolate) and got the Bianca cookie.

It was a beast. On a positive note, it had a sweet, gritty texture; lemony, floral notes; and was chockablock with ingredients like coconut shavings.

But these six-ounce cookies (beasts, I tell you) are shipped from Chicago and kept frozen until on display. Maybe it was still a little affected, for it was hard. A tough cookie, you might say, that sent crumbs all over. Good, but not great.

Verdict: Stick to the bonbons (Alex swears by the organic peanut butter bonbons); it's what Vosges does best.

132 Spring Street

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Get the goods, make the goods

Now that you're in a Thanksgiving dinner food coma, shall we contemplate dessert?

These favorite NYC bakers and pastry chefs have new cookbooks out. Drop one in your shopping cart this season.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

He saved room for dessert

NYC Food Guy is no slouch. He covers more ground, eats more meals, and shares more mouth watering reviews and photos than any gastro-New Yorker you know. In other words, he knows his stuff.

So how does he like to top off a great meal?

1) Tuck Shop's Lamingtons & Vanilla Slice - Tuck Shop is the best and only Australian bake shop I know. Lamingtons are two pieces of sponge cake with jam in between, rolled in chocolate and rolled in coconut. Think a gourmet Hostess snowball minus the marshmallow and overwhelming sweetness. When these are fresh, they're awesome.

Vanilla Slice may look like slop but it also may be the best dessert I've ever had. Dense and creamy vanilla custard is sandwiched between two pastry puffs and topped with vanilla icing. It lives in the fridge so the icing ends up resembling that of a black and white cookie. If you like Vanilla, this is your heaven.
Read NYCFoodGuy's full review, packed with photos.

2) Houston's Warm 5-Nut Brownie Sundae - I know, it's a chain restaurant. But this brownie sundae has never disappointed me. Not once. A decadent and fudgey warm brownie is studded with peanuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, walnuts and pecans and laid over a pool of champagne custard. A hearty scoop of Sedutto vanilla ice cream on top is then drizzled with caramel espresso sauce. Drag each bite of the sundae through the custard and "marvel at the knee-buckling harmony of flavors making your palate sing."

3) Levain Bakery's Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie - There are a lot of great chocolate chip cookies in this city, but I always come back to Levain. Undercooked just the right amount, these hulking $3.75 cookies embody all that is good in the world of cookies. They're buttery and fresh. They're firm on the outside and chewy on the inside. They're studded with copious amounts of melty semi-sweet chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, and they taste like they were made by Mom. When warm, I don't see how anyone can physically prevent eating this cookie in its entirety.

Get more deliciousness.

4) Sugar Sweet Sunshine's Banana Pudding - Wow, just wow. If I'm ever on the Lower East Side, not eating at Sugar Sweet Sunshine is just not a possibility. Huge bowls of rich, creamy vanilla pudding are crammed with crushed shards of Nilla wafer and hearty slices of ripe banana. It's really the perfect dessert, sweet but not overly so, with a natural, home cooked flavor. The first five times I ate this, my knees got weak. I've since built up a tolerance. (If only it was the same way with Tequila.) Not only is the tiny bakery filled with cozy couches, but the help—particularly the co-owner, Deb—may be sweeter than the desserts.

Check out the NYCFoodGuy review, featuring a great place for a $20 Rib Platter beforehand.

5) Veniero's Italian Bakery Pignoli Nut Cookies - If you like almond paste (also known as marzipan) and also known as the ingredient that makes those little chocolate-rainbow-jelly brownie type things delicious, then you'll love these cookies. The sweet, chewy marzipan inside these light, airy cookies provides most of the flavor but the crisp, buttery pignoli nuts on top balance things out. I could probably sit down and eat about 10 of them. Take them home and pair them with some vanilla ice cream. You'll thank me later.

Here's the NYCFoodGuy review.

Thanks, Lawrence!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sweet Jesus!

L’Atelier du Chocolat, Bespoke Chocolates, Mast Brothers, Sweetiepie, Lulu's Sweet Apothecary, Momofuku Bakery, East Village Pie Lounge, Maison du Chocolat, plus two new Crumbs, another Magnolia…

Feel the sugar rush yet?

These are all sweet shops about town, newly opened or on the verge. Keep coming back to sample the goods. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Back for sevenths… and eighths

I was kept away from my new favorite cookie... a weeklong business trip (but, while in Toronto, I discovered one of the best chocolatiers ever).

I wasted no time returning to Momofuku this morning. After all, I hadn't sampled the banana cookie yet. (Nor the corn, but I'm saving that for another week.)

Who needs yogurt when you can have warm banana cookies for breakfast?

True to form, the cookie was monstrous, full of flavor, slightly undercooked, and it was oozing butter, leaving a slick residue on my fingertips.

I do love to gush about sweets, but I also have some gripes about the new bakery.

I hate to be one of those bloggers but since they seem to have been taking constructive criticism to heart (they've rearranged the interior layout and, instead of using multiple napkins and paper bags, they're using sanitary gloves and enviro-friendly whopper containers), I've gotta say: their process needs serious attention.

When there are 5 people behind the counter, and 3 people in line, at 9 o'clock in the morning, it shouldn't take 5 minutes to get 2 cookies. It just shouldn't.

But was it worth it? You betcha.

13th and 2nd

Thursday, November 20, 2008

So pretty, so kind

Now through the weekend, scoop up three of these lovelies.

At this wonderful truck.

And help keep more of these trucks cruising New York, picking up food donations for the hungry.

These are the last few days to score Dessert Truck's pomegranate macaroons.

The deal? It's the high season for pomegranates, and always the season for macaroons.

So Dessert Truck and PAMA Pomegranate Liquor teamed up to offer these limited-edition treats, with a portion of the proceeds ($3 for three) going to City Harvest.

They're a little bit sweet, a little bit tart, a little bit boozy, and such a good feeling.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Richie rich on Wall Street

For every chocoholic who worships at the altar of Robert Linxe, take note: you can get your fix of French bonbons at the beautiful new Wall Street boutique.

The two-week-old La Maison du Chocolat is light and airy and has all the exquisite flavors and thrills: dark and milk chocolates, pralines and ganaches, cocoa and espresso. They're all divine. But don't miss the Milk Rigoletto (milk chocolate, caramel and ganache), Salvador (classic raspberry ganache) and Anastasia (buttery smooth almond and hazelnut praline gianduja).

Sad about no Wall Street bonuses? Awww… don't be. Send some world-class chocolate down the hatch.

63 Wall Street

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Best. Cookie. Ever.

This is some serious competition.

I had a Levain cookie Saturday night. And six Momofuku cookies last night—with a little help from my friends (thanks, boys).

Serious competition. Momofuku is making a run for Levain’s title of best cookie in the city.

The blueberry cream is like a buttery blueberry muffin. In cookie form.

The double chocolate—the name says it all.

The cornflake marshmallow chocolate chip is sticky, chewy and crunchy.

The peanut butter is a gut-busting nutty, savory treat.

The compost cookie, chock full of pretzels and chips and butterscotch and coffee, was my least favorite. But still. These cookies are it.

13th and 2nd