Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bouchon's Holding Steady in My Book

Melty Chocolate
Last week I had one mission, to find the best birthday present I could for my loverly food partner. One store I had in mind for a probable gift was Williams-Sonoma, I will always be a sucker for W-S, which took me to Time Warner Center. I didn't find her a good gift, but I couldn't resist the magnet pulling me upstairs, Bouchon Bakery.

Bouchon's Chocolate Chip Cookie
My recent disappointments with Bouchon are well-documented here and here; had this visit resulted in another letdown, I decided I wasn't going to return for a while. When I arrived in the late evening, many popular pastries were still available, including the Sticky Buns, TKOs, and Nutter Butters, leaving me with an agonizing decision. I was in the midst of a rough emotional week, I sought comfort, an edible hug-I bought a chocolate chip cookie. Bouchon's chocolate chip cookie has routinely been talked up, both Dessert Buzz and Food in Mouth found it to be notable, if not among the bests in New York. I got my cookie, placed it in my bag, and headed home with a plan to eat it warmed.

Chewy Insides
This is a good sized cookie, easily-and probably should be-split between two people. It was strong enough to survive the commute home, yet soft and chewy even before warming. The outer cookie ring was just crunchy enough to give the cookie shape and support the weight of the chewy, almost under baked inside. Yes, this cookie is almost pure dough, and is made with a good amount of butter and brown sugar. The chips are well-dispersed throughout the cookie, big enough to savor, but small enough that they don't ooze everywhere when melted. I wouldn't say this is the perfect cookie, I'd prefer one with a little less butter, and a tad firmer, but this is definitely-DEFINITELY-on the list of top cookies. It's amazingly delicious. And I will be back.

Bouchon Bakery
Time Warner Center
10 Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor
(212) 823-9366
There are also locations in Yountville, CA and Las Vegas.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No Soup For 48th Street, I Guess

Mendy's 48th Street
After my working hours yesterday, I made my way on over to Brownie's place of employment to A) get a cheesecake cupcake and B) give her a belated birthday present. On the way, I noticed the Soup Man place on 48th Street was gone! Not that I ever went there because I don't eat soup.

I don't even know when it closed. I want to say it was fairly recently, but don't quote me on that. It appears the space won't go unoccupied for long, the windows are already advertising a new Mendy's Kosher Deli coming soon, no word on when. There is currently a Mendy's in the Rockefeller Dining Concourse.

The new Mendy's will be at 37 West 48th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues.

It's 31 cent Scoop Night at Baskin Robbins

The ice cream franchises of the world are conspiring to spread ice cream deals around. This year Baskin Robbins' 31 cent scoop night is standing on its own. No double dipping with Free Cone Day this year (sorry, I couldn't help myself). That's right, from 5:00pm until 10:00pm tonight you can get a scoop for 31 cents from participating Baskin Robbins' around the city...

In honor of 31 cent scoop night Baskin Robbins will be making a donation of $100,000 to the NVFC National Junior Firefighter Program. The folks at Baskin Robbins are tweeting up a storm about Free Scoop night. Apparently you can get up to three (3) 2.5 oz scoops for each time you wait in line tomorrow. Don't like scoops? This is the first year that you can get soft serve instead--BR is considering a 3oz serving of soft serve a scoop. And if you are looking for a lighter treat, Baskin Robbins BRight Choices will also be available.

I've actually never been to a Baskin Robbins, but 31 cent scoops is enough for me to give it a shot.

For the midtown crowd here are some post work spots:

240 W. 40th St
New York , NY 10018

140 E. 34th St
New York , NY 10016

51 East 34th St
New York , NY 10016

360 W. 31st St
21 Penn Plaza
New York , NY 10001

250 E. 40th St
New York , NY 10016

For everyone else, click here for locations.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pushing Daisies Returns (Sort Of)

I wish this was a post where I told you that Pushing Daisies, the beloved, quirky pie-centric ABC show, was coming back to TV permanently. Sadly unless some Nedlike exec at ABC decides to revive the series, it looks like the show as we know it is finished. But take heart fellow PD fans, the final three episodes are slated to air Saturday nights at 10 p.m. starting May 30...

Also, Warner Home Video recently announced that they will release the complete second season of Pushing Daisies on DVD on July 21. The four-disc set will reportedly feature all 13 of the Season 2 episodes, as well as featurettes on creator Bryan Fuller's vision, composer Jim Dooley's music and the magic created by the visual effects team. The set is going for $39--$34.99 on Amazon. Guess what I'm pre-ordering?

In the meantime, I might have to brush up my pear gruyere pie...

Apple Gruyere Pie, just like Pushing Daisies! :)


Monday, April 27, 2009

April Daring Bakers Challenge: It's Cheesecake Time!

Daring Bakers Ginger Lemon Cheesecake Cupcake!
Shhhh. It's confession time. Are you ready? Um, I don't really like cheesecake. I just don't. It's generally too rich. The fruit toppings tend to be cloying and artificial. When I saw that this month's DB challenge was going to be cheesecake I wasn't exactly over the moon excited. But then I started seeing photos of what fellow DB's had concocted and their combinations were so inventive, so creative that I knew that I wanted in on this recipe. So I headed to the pantry and decided to whip up some lemon ginger cheesecake cupcakes with a chocolate ganache...

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. You can find the original recipe on her blog. Here's what I did...

Lemon Ginger Cheesecake Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1/4 cup crystalized ginger, finely chopped

4 oz of dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with 24 paper liners

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and divide evenly between the cupcake cups. Press the crust into the bottom. Set aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and crystallized ginger and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared cups and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface.

5. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top.

6. Cool cupcakes for one hour then remove from pan to cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and put in the fridge and chill for at least 6 hours.

7. Place chopped dark chocolate in a bowl. Bring heavy cream to a boil. Pour hot cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Spoon chocolate ganache over fully chilled cupcakes. Return cupcakes to the refrigerator and chill for another 1-2 hours. Sprinkle with chopped crystalized ginger then serve.

Lawman loved it. He really like the toothsomeness of the ginger and I have to admit as a non cheesecake lover this was pretty darn good. For those who feel that cheese cake is a bit rich the cupcake form was the perfect serving size. So good you might want to have two...

Thanks, Jenny for a great challenge!

A Brief Reprieve for Roquefort

Roquefort on Toast

Roquefort lovers rejoice. The dreaded European gourmet food tariff that was scheduled to go in effect last Thursday has been pushed off for at least a couple more weeks until May 9th...

In the meantime, with the specter of 300 percent tariff on Roquefort looming there's been a surge in sales. If you want to stock your own pantry here are some of the Roqueforts I've spotted around town in the past couple of weeks...

East Village Cheese had 3.5 oz packages of Cantorel Roquefort for the bargain basement price of $1.29, or approximately $5.90 per pound.

Roquefort from East Village Cheese

Trader Joe's in Brooklyn was well stocked with Societe Roquefort this weekend at $13.99 per pound.

Trader Joe's Roquefort

And the always reliable Murray's Cheese has a Roquefort Papillon in stock that sells for $28.99 per pound. Last week I chatted with one of the cheese mongers at Murray's about the ban and he told me that even pre-outlandish tariff scare he's been suggesting Persille (per-see-yay) de Malzieu ($24.99), it's made with Lacaune sheep's milk, same as Roquefort. In terms of taste the Persille is creamy with an intense spicy finish. It's definitely a cheese I'll be enjoying again.

Persillé du Malzieu

All of this tariff business stems from the EU's ban on US hormone laden beef, and supposedly there has been progress in the beef export talks so perhaps in the end the tariff will be pushed off again or avoided all together. At least we can hope.

East Village Cheese
40 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10003

Trader Joe's
142 East 14th Street
New York, NY 10003
130 Court St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Murray's Cheese
254 Bleecker Street (downtown end of Cornelia Street)
(888) MY-CHEEZ or (212) 243-3289
Grand Central Market
44th Street and Lexington Avenue

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Prospect Park Uncle Louie G's Returns

Strawberry Wafflewich

There's nothing better than spending a sunny day in the park and this warm weather we've been having marks the return of the seasonal Uncle Louie G's on Prospect Park Southwest...

Loading up the ice cream freezers at Uncle Louie G's

Last weekend Lawman and I swung by for our first cone of the season and we saw the ice cream delivery magic in progress. Boxes and boxes of ice cream and Italian ice being delivered.


I'm looking forward to having my first ice crem wafflewich of the season soon. Make mine grapenut, please.

Grape Nuts and Waffles!

Uncle Louie G's
157 Prospect Park Southwest
Brooklyn, New York 11218
(718) 438-9282

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Cookie Monster Accepts All Cookies

Oh, Prairie Dawn! My favorite type A Muppet just can't seem to get Cookie Monster to understand that cookies on the computer are not for eating. This clip is clearly before the dawn of the food blog. So many delicious cookies online. I fear for the computers of Sesame Street...

And as a special bonus. Cookie Monster rocks this song...

Props to him for bringing the cookies to bed. Goodnight delicious food.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Last Day for 50% off your lunch at Norma's


Speaking of breakfast for lunch. Today is the last day to enjoy the Zagat's House Specials program at Norma's in Le Parker Meridien. And I'm pleased to report that it worked for me--I got 50% off my lunch...

I've gone to Norma's on a number of occasions. Usually for business. Their breakfasts which are served through lunchtime--they aren't open for dinner--are epically decadent.

Arepa from Norma's

We ordered the Arepa with Eggs and Chorizo and the Waz-Za?--a waffle with fruit inside, fruit outside, and a crackely Brulée top--normally these would be $22 each.

If you haven't been to Norma's yet, now is the time to treat yourself without breaking the bank.

Bag of orange chips

Norma's at Le Parker Meridien
118 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 765-4579

Saving Dough and Eating Breakfast for Lunch and Dinner


I wish every meal I ate out could be revolutionary and incredible. But like everyone else I'm busy. Sometimes I don't have the time to seek out the most awesome food available and I find myself falling into patterns of eating foods that are convenient. When I'm eating on the run, I want my meal to be quick, tasty, and filling. A lot of times a good breakfast sandwich makes for and excellent lunch or dinner and it's a bit easier on my wallet, too...

The benefit of a breakfast sandwich is that it tends to pack a decent protein punch without breaking the bank. And if you find the right one it doesn't have to destroy any shall we say, "healthier eating intentions."

Take the Starbucks Spinach Feta Wrap...

Starbucks Spinach Feta Wrap

At 240 calories it's one of the better for you items on the menu by far. It packs 13 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber for $3.52 including tax. The wrap itself is pretty tasty. The actual wrap has a pleasant texture and flavorwise the spinachy feta goodness dominates. I'm not going to lie, the "egg insert" kind of creeps me out. The texturewise it's akin to some kind of egg flavored spongy packing material. But if just eat the wrap and don't obsess about the texture, it's actually pretty darn good and strangely compelling. The breakfast sandwiches are available all day at the 'Bux. I'm always on the hunt for a good cheap lunch in midtown and at around $3.50, the spinach feta wrap satisfies without making me feel too guilty about the money I'm spending or what I'm consuming.

Last week I tried the fried egg, bacon, gorgonzola & frisée sandwich on ciabatta roll from 'wichcraft. As a breakfast sandwich it's pretty intensely satisfying. The fried eggs were a bit overdone for me. I was hoping that the egg would have a softer yolk like their marinated white anchovy sandwich. Since wichcraft has less than 15 locations throughout the US (by my count they have 13 locations), they aren't mandated to post calorie counts so I have no idea where this weighs in though I'm willing to be it is higher in calories and fat and lower in fiber. Still, if one of the complaints about 'wichcraft is the price to serving size ratio, most sandwiches at 'wichcraft run from $5.95 for a grilled cheese to $9.75 for a chicken breast sandwich, at $6.95 this sandwich is t the lower end of the 'wichcraft price spectrum and like Starbucks breakfast is available all day long.


Do you ever eat breakfast for lunch or dinner to save cash? Where do you like to go?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tickets Now Available to the Tofu Takedown

Grilled Tofu from Woorijip

First there was the Chili Takedown. Then came the Cookie Takedown followed by the Bacon Takedown. Next logical step Tofu Takedown?!

Whatever your take on tofu, Matt Timms does know how to throw a most excellent event. In case you need to get your tofu on here are the details...

What: The Tofu Takedown
Where: Highline Ballroom (the Takedown is coming to Manhattan, people!)
When: May 10th, doors open at 4:30
Why: Um, tofu?

Previous Takedowns have been mobbed. If you didn't time it right you might not get a ticket. To keep things manageable this go round they are selling tix in advance.

I've attended a couple Takedowns now. The crowd is always crazy and the food always inventive. I wonder what kind of inventive combinations tofu will inspire...

Happy Birthday, Brownie

Another year, another birthday for my lovely food partner-in-crime. I hope you have a wonderful day, wish I could be there, but you know what I want to do to celebrate....

Cheesy Goodness

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blondie's Libations: Snuggie Pub Crawl

Lady Liberty'll Cut You!
The pub crawl I didn't even attend, and yet witnessed firsthand. During Saturday afternoon, while Brownie, Lawman, and I were sitting outside Amai, eating green tea cupcakes, soaking in the beauty of the spring day, we were surrounded by the Snuggie™ Pub Crawl. The ridiculousness of this brand of ridiculous is surely one of the signs of the apocalypse; another sign is Oprah being on Twitter.

Are those monkeys?
Apparently this also comes straight out of Chicago. two Chicagoians (?) got this wacky idea after watching a Snuggie™ commercial-personally, I think this should have died a happy death here, but maybe they weren't aware of that website. With a pub crawl firmly implanted in their consciousness, they placed the whole idea on the Internet. It went viral, and I decided the time had come to make friends with Jesus.

Snuggie Pub Crawl
For the New York version, what better neighborhood to have a pub crawl than Murray Hill, an awesome neighborhood currently being defaced by douchebaggery. The crawl went from up 3rd Avenue from 11th to 27th Street. How respectable businesses-yay, Motorino!-can't get liquor licenses, but this stretch of hell still exists is one of the many mysteries I ponder every day. I can't talk about this anymore. Here's the NY Daily News article. There are more photos here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Free Cone Day and 50 cent Iced Coffee Day!


Cheapos rejoice! Today you can get your free cone from Ben & Jerry's and if you can spare 2 quarters, Dunkin Donuts will hook you up with a 16 oz iced coffee...

Last year Dunkin Donuts did a similar promo in May with Free Iced Coffee and the line was around the corner. I wonder if the lines will be as crazy for 50 cent iced coffee.


The good news is for each small Iced Coffee purchased today, Dunkin' Donuts will donate five cents to benefit Homes for Our Troops, a national, non-profit organization that builds specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans. Good cause.

Now here's the drill for Free Cone Day. Stop by your nearby Ben & Jerry's between noon and 8:00 p.m. for a free scoop.

I've been hitting up the NYC Free Cone Day scene for close to a decade now (wow, I feel old). And here are my tips...

Ben & Jerry's Rock Center will be mobbed and overwhelming, but in my experience the line actually moves pretty quickly. Best to go with a friend so one of you can do flavor recon as they rarely have the list of available flavors posted. I've always had good luck towards the end of the day--post 5:00pm. Most people take off after work so you probably should be safe anytime after 6, though you could run the risk of missing out on your fav flavor--depends on if your priority is flavor selection or crowd avoidance.

Ben & Jerry's at Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Plaza, Concourse Level
New York NY 10020

Ben & Jerry's on Third Avenue aka the NYU Ben & Jerry's will be packed with Violets jonesing for a mid study session cone. True story...on my way to Free Cone Day during my NYU years we ran into one of my roommates cone in hand on her way back from Ben & Jerry's. She promptly turned around and joined us on our walk. By the time we got to Ben & Jerry's she was done with her first(?) cone and ready to get in line for her second. If you think midtown workers are likely to be repeat Free Cone offenders just think about incomeless college students paying 50k per year. Yeah, um, avoid.

Ben & Jerry's on Third Avenue
41 Third Avenue
New York NY 10003

Other locations
Ben & Jerry's UWS
2722 Broadway
New York NY 10025

Ben & Jerry's at Macys, Herald Square
151 West 34th Street, Fourth Floor
New York NY 10001

Taking on the Treats Truck, One Treat at a Time: Animal Cookies

Alligator and Hippo Cookies

Like we told you earlier this month, the Treats Truck's charity of the month is the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Kim and co. are selling special animal shaped cookies to highlight it. Well, Brownie and I finally got a chance to try them and they are so much fun!

When I stopped by to pick up a couple, the hippo and alligator, Kim asked for a color choice. I could have gotten them in pink, but I decided to be a realist and get purple and green. The sugar cookies themselves are crunchy and delicious, the fun comes in the animal shapes. I'm a kid at heart, I have fond memories of animal crackers-so much so that I make them on my own-animal shapes just get me where I live. Of course, there's the added fact that these are helping the Bronx Zoo, among other things. Added up, they warm my cold heart and I love Kim for it.

Hippo Cookie

PSA-WCS's first ever Run for the Wild 5K Run/Walk is this Saturday beginning at 9am at the Bronx Zoo, and though it's been dreary and cold all week, this weekend looks like it's going to be PERFECT for such events. For more information or to donate, click here. Save the gorillas!

Keep informed of the truck's location by calling (212) 691-5226, checking their Twitter, or visiting

Previous Treats Truck Reviews:
Spring Flowers and Passover Goodies
Crispy Squares
Valentine's Day Treats
Oatmeal Chocolate Chipper
2008 Treats Truck Wrap Up
Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcake
Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Double Chocolate Trucker
Election Day Cupcakes
Halloween Specials, Part 2
Halloween Specials, Part 1
Pecan Butterscotch Bar
Chocolate Trucker
Chocolate Chip and Mint Chocolate Chip Conecakes
Mexican Chocolate Brownie
The Nutty Co-Worker and PB&J Jamwich
Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes
Orange Chiffon Cake
Peanut Butter Brownie
Raspberry Oatmeal Jammy
Raspberry Lemon & Mint Chocolate Swirlie Dots
Chocolate Truck Cookie
Sugar Dot
Chocolate Chipper
Carmel Creme Trucker
Peanut Butter Chocolate Sandwich Cookie
Chocolate Chipper with Nuts
Mint Chocolate Trucker
Passover treats
Cinnamon Cookie

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pizza + Fro-yo + Gelato=B&B's Perfect Lunch Spot

Regular and Potato Slice
Pizza by the inch has always intrigued me. How many inches is regular? How many inches is too many inches? Can't I just get a regular slice? There are definitely too many decisions that need to go into getting some pizza. Regardless, I was determined to try Golosi, the latest pizza place in Midtown.

During last summer's fro-yo wars, I realized that the my second runner-up, behind the unbeatable 40 Carrots, was Yolato. Mainly due to their creaminess, and rotating flavors, but also because it's the best fro-yo close to my office. I refuse to travel far for frozen yogurt. Yet, the wars are over, there were winners, there were losers, and the losers are going home. Yolato seems to be one of them. I quickly realized Golosi was opening at my former go-to's spot, and began hoping against hope that they would be doing a combined spot. Lucky for me, they are! Yes, pizza, fro-yo, and gelato in one storefront. Throw in some beer and I'm sold! (note: they don't have beer.)

Regular Slice
First the pizza, I got 3 potato inches and 3 regular inches. Somehow this came to less than $6, even though they're supposed to be at least 99¢ per inch, more with toppings (the same happened to Zach?) The regular was alright, nothing I'd go out of my way for. It has a thinner crust than most pizza places around, and it isn't covered in cheese, which can be good for diets, bad for queso-therapy.

Potato Slice
This was only my third or fourth time experiencing potato as a pizza topping, and this one was pretty good. The potatoes give a certain creaminess that combines well with cheese; it always reminds me of really good scalloped potatoes. Since this has no sauce, it tasted similar to a white slice and was very filling. All in all, I'd rather get 4 or 5 inches of this than the regular.

Blackberry Fro-yo
Now for dessert, they still have a large selection of gelato, and frozen yogurts available. I spotted everything from regular chocolate and Nutella to mango and blueberry. Yet, the best is they've kept the soft-serve frozen yogurt machine. The day I visited the options were plain and blackberry! I chose the blackberry, which was creamy and sweet without being cloying. My only caveat was that they could have filled up my cup a little bit more.

125 Park Avenue (between 41st and 42nd Streets, on the East side)
(212) 922-1169

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Farewell Amai, We Hardly Knew Ye!

Green Tea Cupcakes from Amai

Blondie and I discovered Amai Tea & Bake House last fall thanks to our friend Gary. I immediately fell in love with their green tea cupcake, a subtly sweet yet smoky treat unlike any other cupcake I've had before. All the times I've been to Amai it's been bustling so I was crushed to learn that Amai is closing their doors today...

Amai's owner Kelli Bernard wrote a heartfelt post about the closing on her blog. It's really tragic the toll these rough economic times are having on places like Amai. Very sad indeed. The good news is that Kelli is looking forward to moving back to California and will be getting married to her partner Andrew in the fall. There's even talk of her exploring writing a cook book! I'll be one of the first in line for a copy, especially if their green tea cupcake recipe is in there!

Cupcakes from Amai

If you're in the Union Square area today be sure to stop by Amai for a cupcake and a cuppa.

Amai Tea & Bake House
171 Third Ave
Between 16th and 17th St.
New York, NY 10003
Tel: 212.863.9630

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Spring is Here! Ladybugs!

April means two things to us: 1) the baseball season starts and 2) spring is here and summer will be here soon! Those of us in New York have been having quite a week in that first regard with the opening of Shea #2 and that other team's new digs. And today promises to be gorgeous and sunny, a tiny taste of warmth and picnics.

Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson! Awesome.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake! 138 Year Old Wedding Cake, That Is...

Once upon a time in the late 90s on a little show called Seinfeld, in a moment of sugar low desperation Elaine Benes ate a $29,000 piece of cake from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's wedding and much hilarity ensued. And in the case of life imitating art, apparently you can bid for your own taste of a royal wedding...

Yes, those crazy Brits are auctioning a piece of cake from the wedding of Queen Victoria's fourth daughter, Princess Louise, to the Marquis of Lorne, a wedding that took place in 1871 and caused quite a scandal at the time because the Princess was marrying a (shudder) commoner. I'm not really sure how this one-inch sliver of cake survived more than a century--it's been through the Blitz!--though, if it's true that the original cake "took three months to create" I suppose it wasn't all that fresh to begin with...

Braving Rock Center's Just Salad

Salad from Just Salad
You can say a lot about the lunching options in Midtown, but as sure as there are carts selling chicken and lamb pitas, there are salad places. Expensive salad places. Rock Center just got its very own branch of Just Salad (just a few doors down from Tossed)...

I have to admit, I sometimes like going these salad places (shhhh). Ok, they aren't the most exciting or inspiring lunch and often times when all is said and done your light salad lunch isn't all that light, though I maintain that bacon, blue cheese, buffalo chicken and avocado are health foods. But in the end the price is generally what keeps me from indulging in a personally mixed salad more than once in a great while. In the six years that I've worked at Rock Center I can count the number of times I've eaten at Tossed on one hand. I just can't justify dropping $7, $8, $9 sometimes even upwards of $10 on some lettuce and toppings. But I was drawn by the promise of two free toppings when you bring back your reusable bowl. What can I say, I'm a bit of a sucker for good marketing.

Just Salad Rock Center

Overall, I found the Just Salad experience a little overwhelming. The line to get in was crazy at the peak lunch hour, but it moved quickly. The basic salad which includes 4 non meat/non dairy toppings is $6.95. Meat, cheese and seafood toppings are 55 cents to $3.99 extra. Chef Designed Salads range from $6.95 for the Chicken Caesar to $9.75 for the Immunity Bowl which involves Mesclun, Salmon, Squash, Dried Cranberries, Wheatberries, Cucumbers. One perk of the Just Salad site is their nutrition calculator that allows you to sneak a peak at the nutritional makeup (calories, fat, sugars, cholesterol, protein, fiber etc) of your salad. For cheapos like me that means you can figure out how to maximize the nutrition in your 4 free toppings--yes, I'm that big a dork. After consulting the calculator I decided to go with egg whites, lentils, avocado, and roasted eggplant with lemon juice. Pretty tasty. I decided to spring for the extra buck for the reusable bowl. When I bought the bowl I also got the membership rewards card which entitles you to 5% off on all purchases during peak hours and 10% off after 2pm, couple that with the two free toppings and it's still expensive but a little more manageable.

Just Salad

30 Rockefeller Plaza (concourse level)
Mon-Fri: 10:00am until 11:00pm
Sat-Sun: 11:00am until 5:00pm
(212) 244-1111

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I'm Kilroy! I'm Kilroy!

Robot Monkey War
The weekend's almost here! The weekend's almost here! Need something to do? Because I have something you can do. It involves robots.

Greenpoint and Williamsburg are going to battle to the robot simian death this Saturday night at t.b.d. The Robot Monkey World Chimpionships are having their Brooklyn Rumble. What the hell is this, you ask? Well, the artist, Dan Walker, has created this interactive art installation for the masses, and all are encouraged to participate ($1 per team.) Raffles, drink specials, and robot monkeys, sounds like my kind of evening. And don't forget, t.b.d. has some damn good mac n' cheese! The winner claims "holier than thou" neighborhood status, and preferred 'hood for blonde derelicts from Queens.

For more on Dan Walker and his art besides monkeys, visit


224 Franklin Street, at Greene Street
(718) 349-6727

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Down the Hatch Into Spicy-land

Picture 024
Of course, I was NOT going to visit Essex Street Market and NOT stop by Roni-Sue's! Just the thought of doing that makes my head spin, especially when the lovely Rhonda Kave said "Blondie, you need to try my new spicy chocolate, Down the Hatch!" Rhonda's been playing around with dehydrated Hatch green chiles and chocolate. People, this is serious!

Hatch chiles come from Hatch, New Mexico, which is located in the fertile Rio Grande Valley. These chiles are only ripe for a few weeks every year, are only available from this area, and are considered some of the best tasting chiles. From what I understand, there isn't just one type, instead there are several, each with its own spice quotient.

Picture 026
Now Rhonda has already experimented with spicy chocolate; she has the Diablo, and the Zydeco truffles available at the shoppe. Down the Hatch is different with the dehydrated chiles being housed in its crunchy toffee center, which is then dipped in dark chocolate and topped off with ground cocoa nibs and smoked vanilla sea salt. The spice doesn't hit you at first bite, it happens gradually over the course of maybe 10 seconds. It gently warms the back of your throat until, for me, it hits 'en fuego' territory. By then it's too late, you've already eaten the chocolate; it's time to sit back and enjoy the warmth. They did let Stacie and I try this against the Diablo. The Diablo's spice centers more in the front of your mouth, getting all around your tongue and cheeks. The Diablo also tastes a bit fruitier; not sweet since the spice overwhelms any sweetness, just a fruity quality did come out for both of us. One advantage spicy chocolate has for me is that I often stop at just one piece because I can't handle any more; a dieter's friend! I highly recommend getting one of each kind, and doing your own head-to-head.

120 Essex Street
(212) 260-0421

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oh, Shopsin's Does Dangerous Things to Pancakes

Mac & Cheese Pancakes
I hardly ever get to visit world-famous Shopsin's in Essex Street Market due to their chosen business hours, Tuesday to Friday 9am-3pm and Saturday 9:30am to 2pm. With a regular 9-to-5, this just doesn't work, so with visions of mac and cheese pancakes in my mind, I took a mental health day and made my way to Essex Street.

Mac & Cheese Pancakes
Lucky for me, I did have an errand to run in the area, giving Stacie of Cupcakes Take The Cake a cupcake courier. Stacie, being the doll she is, met me in the Market for our lunch date. (Read about Stacie's 100 cupcakes challenge here.) While she was completely overwhelmed by their crazy menu, I didn't even need it. I had been hearing about these pancakes for a while, what could it all mean "Mac and cheese pancakes?" Well, it means a pancake base, with mac and cheese thrown over it, and then more cheese melted on top. Oh, and then the correct and proper way of eating them involves maple syrup and hot sauce. The salty, sweet, and spicy in one bite strikes just the right balance, and reminded me of all that is good and holy in the world. In essence, Kenny Shopsin has created the perfect breakfast/lunch mash-up suitable for curing hangovers, broken hearts, bad moods, and carbohydrate deficiencies. It's now one of my most favorite things.

The Piaf
Stacie needed something to eat as well, so I pointed her in the direction of one of Brownie's favorites, the Piaf: eggs, gruyere sauce, and fried onions smothering pieces of toast. Everything a healthy breakfast should have, and then some creamy and fried goodness added in. Mmmm, all three of us agree it's another exhibit of delicious.

For those of you interested in attempting to visit Shopsin's, I am a proponent of studying the menu first, click here.

Essex Street Market
120 Essex Street

Churros at the Doughnut Plant?!

Basket of Churros at the Doughnut Plant

Lawman and I recently had a Lower East Side grazing brunch. We started with a knish at Yonah Schimmel's, followed by a bagel and lox with an egg cream at Russ and Daughters and polished off our meal with a trip to the Doughnut Plant where we came face to face with this beguiling basket of churros. I had seen churros on the menu at Doughnut Plant but I've never actually seen them up close and personal. Initially I was dismissive. I mean come on, it's called the Doughnut Plant for a reason, but then I read the sign and discovered these weren't any old churros...

No, this was a basket of churros rellenos con cajeta--churros that are filled with a goat milk caramel. Um, you had me at goat milk caramel. Oh, who am I kidding? You had me at filled churro.

Churros Rellenos from Doughnut Plant

Many of the churros I've encountered in the city have been mediocre at best. The churros from the Doughnut Plant were exceptional. Fresh and cinnamony, chewy yet tender, the churros rellenos are worth saving little extra tummy space.

Inside the Churros Rellenos from Doughnut Plant

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street, between Suffolk and Clinton
(212) 505-3700
Tuesday through Sunday: 6:30am until 6:30pm

Monday, April 13, 2009

Orange You Glad Baseball Season's Here!

Stable Frosting
Tonight's the official opening night of CitiField, with the Mets vs. Padres game at 7:10pm. Seeing as making cupcakes is one of the few ways I know to celebrate a major life event, I made some for today! Blueberry cake with an orange-tinted lemon frosting to be exact.

Blueberry Cupcake Batter
Finding a blueberry recipe was a bit tricky, there aren't many available. After much searching, I decided to try this recipe from Cupcakes and Crinoline, which in turn comes from Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman. The batter seemed fine enough, a bit on the drier side than other batters, but with 3/4 of a cup of blueberries added in, some frozen, I suspected that would add enough moisture into the cake. My suspicions were only partly true. The cake is moist, but not enough as I'd like it to be. The finished product is more like a muffin than cake (yes, a cupcake is more than a muffin with frosting.) If I do this recipe again, I will consider adding in more fat and sugar.

Inside Blueberry Cupcakes
Then I had a frosting debacle. Blueberry and lemon wasn't my first choice, but I couldn't avoid that it's a tried and true flavor combination. I came across David Lebovitz's Almond Layer Cake with Lemon Frosting. David Lebovitz is a pastry deity, therefore I take any recipe he gives out as the word. I disregarded the cake and took the frosting. Now, I know some of the following problem may have come about due to my own impatience, and the cupcakes might not have been fully cooled. Regardless, I am not in love with this frosting. Personally, I don't like cloyingly sweet frosting, so I did David's recipe using only 3 cups of sugar instead of 3 1/2.

Runny Frosting!
This is what happened. Runny, drippy, cloying frosting. Not awesome. I knew I didn't want to put in any more sugar, instead I reached for the only thickener I have, cornstarch. This may get you yelled at by Martha when on Top Chef, but it's damn good at thickening and canceling out some of the sweetness. The resulting frosting is thicker, not as fluffy as I'd hoped, but passable and edible. I know the orange color with a citrus taste will throw many people off, that's an experiment similar to purple ketchup. As long as my boys win today, and David does really well, I'll be happy.

Don't tell me you thought I wasn't going to be including my gratuitous shot of Mr. Wright.