Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mon dieu, les croissants

Nothing like breakfast with the girls to fire up the sweet tooth. After an incredible Friday night dinner at Little Giant, Amee, Jules and I were in no position to show restraint. So we decided to skip our go-to City Bakery and get some croissants in the Willage.

Amee and Jules had never been to Patisserie Claude before so I was a little nervous for their verdict. Predictably, there were no complaints. These croissants kick ass.

The plain croissants are buttery, flakey, light and chewy. Beautiful.

The pain au chocolat is also a beautiful creation of flakey pastry layers. Except it's also pumped through with chocolate. And when you get there in the morning, it's still warm and melty from the oven. Just look at that photo. Delicious.

187 West 4th Street near Sixth Ave

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sullivan sweet bakery

With the threat of sticking to New Year's resolutions safely behind me, I can once again indulge in pastries for breakfast. This thought was inspired by a trip to Sullivan St Bakery.

This place used to be a favorite standby for lunch (hel-lo, potato slice). So how is it that I don't remember their amazing selection of sweets? They caused me a good seven minutes of private but fierce deliberation: Should I get an apple turnover? Persimmon cake? A naughty bombolini?? Should I change it up with a rice pudding tartlet? Or how about - sigh - a long slice of banana bread pudding cake? (I still don't know how I passed that up.)

I finally settled on the sweet brioche.

In the center of this square pastry is a crater that's chockablock with cherries, raisins, walnuts and, just to make sure it's especially delicious, one of my all-time favorites: mascarpone.

It's a beautiful melding of flavors and textures: mostly doughy and chewy, but a little crunchy from the walnuts. And sweet, sweet, sweet, but a titch hearty, too, from the syrupy medley of fruit and nuts. Just the way I like it.

533 West 47th Street between Tenth & Eleventh

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sweet Freak scoop: Hot Chocolate Festival comes a day early

Just as I was reminding Alex that we're six days out to City Bakery's month-long Hot Chocolate Festival, I got a message from Maury: the festival not only starts a day early, but is staying open late to celebrate.

The 17th annual festival kicks off this Saturday, the 31st, at the normal opening hour of 7:30 a.m. But just in case you're too busy shopping sales, catching the Oscar nominations, taking in Marlene Dumas at Moma, or sleeping off Friday night's soirées, City Bakery will remain open until midnight in celebration of the festival. That’s 16 ½ hours of decadent hot cocoa, followed by a month of experimental flavors like banana peel, beer, ginger, caramel and, Maury's favorites, bourbon and vanilla bean.

What's more, they're introducing "Lights Out Hot Chocolate" this year. Every day at 3 o'clock, the mezzanine lights go off and the candles get lit creating not only a moody way to sip your cocoa, but also a sweet way to save energy. How do you like that, Mr. President?

3 West 18th Street between Fifth and Sixth Aves

V-Day countdown: Payard Patisserie

Monsieur Francois has a few Valentine's tricks up his sleeve. In addition to special cakes (like the Joie Valentine: raspberry mousse, vanilla pound cake and champagne ganache) and macaroons (half red, half white, with champagne ganache and raspberry gelée), he's playing with truffles.

You could funk it up with the dark chocolate champagne truffles coated in Pop Rocks (yes, Pop Rocks). Or these perfectly pretty (and spicy) chocolate ganache truffles are infused with ginger liqueur and dusted with cocoa powder.

1032 Lexington between 73rd and 74th

Saturday, January 24, 2009

V-Day Countdown: Kumquat Cupcakery

Not that I'm one to ever decline chocolate, but Valentine's Day doesn't have to be so predictable. I would love me a sweet box of Kumquat mini cupcakes filled with flavors like chocolate peanut butter, chocolate mousse, banana cream, red velvet and coffee caramel bourbon. Yum.

Even sweeter: Keavy's giving 10% of proceeds to Just Food NYC.

Place your order.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

V-Day countdown: Chocolat Moderne

Let me tell you, this Mysteries of Love collection is insanely delicious. (Your own eyes can attest to the beauty.)

There's a passion fruit and cardamom caramel, a sea salted espresso and dark chocolate caramel, a pear caramel, a 90% Ecuadorian Rainforest ganache, a single malt scotch and raspberry ganache. Insanely delicious.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nunu now open

Nunu has new digs from which to peddle its oh-so-lovely chocolates. Two years after starting the company, they have appropriately cute space on Atlantic Avenue, not so far away from Sweet Freak favorites Atlantic Diner and Betty Bakery.

The hot cocoa and tea are still coming, but all the caramels and ganaches are ready to be snapped up. Like the best selling hand dipped salt caramels: chewy two-bite treats that taste tobacco-y, salty and sweet altogether.

Nunu gets their chocolate from a family farm in Columbia and relies on local, organic ingredients for the rest. "Totally natural. Handmade to order in Brooklyn." Better leave room for seconds.

529 Atlantic Avenue between 3rd and 4th Aves

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The stealth attack of Bond Street Chocolates

While we've all been waiting for Bespoke Chocolates to debut, Lynda Stern—bam!—opened Bond Street Chocolates on 4th Street. God, I'm loving the East Village these days.

Bonbons come in flavors as demure as Earl Grey, wild as tequila, and classic as Valrhona. But Lynda's personality really comes through with some of her other treats: chocolate-covered wasabi peas (spicy!), corn nuts (salty!) and toffee (smokin!)

I wish my nearby apartment were decorated halfway as nice as this super cool chocolate spot. It's small but chic, with rich chocolate brown walls and fuchsia (my favorite) accents. Aside from the gorgeous bonbons, I think one of the best touches is the thermos of free cocoa near the door. Nice!

63 East 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Ave

Friday, January 16, 2009

The power of a good macaroon

When it's impossibly cold and bitter outside, I like to pretend that it's April. In Paris.

If I have a couple macaroons, it usually helps. Especially if they're springtime flavors like rosewater lychee or passion fruit from Kee's.

The rosewater lychee is so powdery sweet and evocative, it will make you feel like a French princess. Maybe even Carla Bruni.

The passion fruit is actually so bright and fruity, it will take you to a balmy tropical place. Say, Martinique. C'est vrai!

80 Thompson St at Spring

452 Fifth Ave at 40th

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

V-Day countdown: La Maison du Chocolat

Ah, Valentine. You're so funny. And sweet. And the perfect excuse to indulge. At least that's what I think. Only me and all the chocolatiers in the world.

This year, La Maison du Chocolat is offering a special box filled with heavenly flavors: Milk chocolate with caramel fleur de sel. Passionfruit ganache enrobed in milk chocolate. The "Dark praline puffed rice"—wow. And the heart of the box: sweet raspberry and spicy basil blended in dark chocolate ganache.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Un, deux, trois pommes délicieux

Another place I can cross off my must-go list: Trois Pommes. It only took me a year and a half to get there, but I finally made it since I was doing chocolate recon in Brooklyn. Plus, mom gave me the nudge after she saw the patisserie in the new Food Network Magazine.

With the French name and sophisticated perch in Park Slope, you wouldn’t expect to find such cheeky treats as whoopie pies, Oreo cookies and the “Mostess” cupcake, a dense chocolate cupcake shot through the center with espresso cream filling. But they’re there, and they’re delicious.

So are the classics. Like a good old blueberry muffin, studded with bits of crumbly buttered sugar on top and juicy blueberries inside.

The black and white cookies are gorgeous cakey pieces with sweet frosting on top, and everything else looked divine. But there was only so much I could sample in a sitting. Oink, oink.

260 Fifth Avenue

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It’s the frosting, dummy

It’s not something I’m proud of, but I know you did it too: growing up, peeling back the plastic lid of the Duncan Hines frosting container your mom bought from the grocery store, and just spooning mouthfuls of the ooey, gooey, rich and creamy milk chocolate or “fluffy white” frosting, without regard for the cake that it was supposed to be dressing.

You can chalk up my love for Out of the Kitchen’s fresh and frosting-laden cupcakes to the so bad, it’s good category. These yummy gut-bombs are yet another reason to beeline it to the Willage.

420 Hudson Street @ Leroy

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Yes Pecan!

I love Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.

I love Barak Obama.

I love that there's a Ben & Jerry's flavor named in honor of our president-elect: Yes Pecan!

"Amber Waves of Buttery Ice Cream With Roasted Non-Partisan Pecans." Lol. I couldn't write better copy myself. Git some now!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Yum muffin

It’s been way too long since I paid a visit to Amai. Especially considering Kelli is always adding killer thing to her menu. Like chocolate peppermint cupcakes, and, less decadent but still delicious, this banana almond muffin.

Made with egg whites, whole grain flour, honey, bananas and almonds, you could even say it’s healthy.

Moist, nutty and just a little bit sweet, you can definitely call it divine.

171 Third Ave between 16th and 17th

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Macaroon madness

Without even a local Ladurée or Pierre Hermé to give rise to their popularity, these little French treats are erupting like pretty, pastel chicken pox all over the city. Fluffier than sandwich cookies, more discreet than cake, and pretty enough for Marie Antoinette, macaroons are the perfect New Year sweets. Here are the ones to try:

Shiso, kiwi with pear, kaffir lime, sesame

Macaron Café
Tarte tatine, tiramisu, rose, matcha

Caramel apple, coconut with passionfruit, cotton candy

Bouchon Bakery

Chocolate, caramel, pistachio

Madeleine Patisserie
Cassis, praline, ginger, fleur de sel caramel