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Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

I may have mentioned this before, but possibly my favorite movie of all time is Ghostbusters. John and I used to quote this movie to each other quite frequently. We still do from time to time. I recently watched it and was comforted to know that this 80’s movie stands the test of time. It’s still funny (Art Deco, very nice), and Bill Murray is….well, he’s just a genius.

And speaking of things that stand the test of time, how about a Twinkie? According to the Hostess website, Twinkies have been been hanging around on bodega shelves since 1930 (some of them quite literally). President Clinton even put one in a time capsule. I wonder what that one looks like now…

Dan Akyroyd and Harold Ramis (stars and writers of the film) were not immune to the immense power and omnipotence of the Twinkie. They worked it in to one of the best scenes in the film as seen below:

And now I’m going to tell you about a Twinkie. One that I found at Lulu Cafe in Chelsea. I had gone to Lulu in search of Intelligentsia coffee which they brew in their 8th Avenue shop. I found a whole lot more including some homemade Twinkies in different flavors.

At first I was intrigued by the sign (who wouldn’t be?):

And then the flavors! They offered:

Red Velvet Lulus
red velvet snack cakes filled with cream cheese frosting dipped in white chocolate

Lemon Lulus
lemon snack cakes filled with lemon curd, dipped in white chocolate

Brooklyn Blackout Lulus
chocolate snack cakes filled with dark chocolate pudding dipped in chocolate

Passionfruit Lulus
yellow snack cakes filled with passion fruit cream, dipped in white chocolate

I decided on the passionfruit variety and was not disappointed. The cake was moist and dense. In my opinion, real Twinkie cake is a bit insubstantial. I want CAKE. And by that I mean a mixture that is a touch hearty. This one was. And the passionfruit filling was a nice contrast: light, airy with a hint of that fruity flavor piped expertly through the center of the vanilla cake.

A few shavings of coconut graced the top along with a glaze of white chocolate to give the whole thing a graceful “petite-four” flair. I loved it.

So when your spirit storage facility is at capacity and your collection of spores, molds and fungus is getting a little out of hand, don’t panic (and DON’T cross the streams!). Just:

And then call Ghostbusters.

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It was a bright, sunny day: partially warm, birds were chirping, clouds had parted and the smell of coffee was in the air. On this almost-Spring day, my morning caffeine travels brought me to Stumptown Coffee Roasters at the Ace Hotel.

The Scene:
The Ace Hotel (at least the lobby and coffee shop) combines a well-designed and eclectic interior (see Exhibit A) with a dash of playful humor (see Exhibit B) and amusement park style attractions (a photo booth!! – evidence of which can be found in the above image).

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

As I queued up with the rest of the Flatiron District for my morning brew, I couldn’t help but notice some other stand-out accents like the beautiful Spring time flora:

And the turn of the century, Victorian Era inspired packaging:

The Coffee:
I ordered my usual latte and was presented with a perfectly frothed, whole milk infused beverage decorated with a teeny-tiny heart. There really is something about steamed whole milk that is exponentially better than steamed skim: FAT. Milk fat just tastes good, especially with coffee. It’s rich and velvety without being too sweet – a perfect balance to deep, bitter coffee. Which is exactly what happened here, and why I had to commemorate the image below with a little Victorian Era decoration of my own.

So impressed I was by my latte drinking experience, that I returned TWICE in one week to the scene of Stumptown at the Ace. This time I mixed it up and ordered a macchiato. Macchiato is an espresso with just a touch of steamed milk. In fact, the word “macchiato” means “stained” or “marked”. So this is an espresso drink with just a little stain of steamed milk.

As you can see, my mark arrived in the shape of a heart, which very much brightened up my morning. More than just pretty decoration, the steamed milk was just enough to balance the deep, dark espresso. No sugar required (cuz I’m sweet enough….oh, I’m just kidding, people). The thin film of foam draped over the surface of the robust espresso is also a nice textural and taste contrast.

Emboldened by my macchiato, it was then that I decided to try out the photo booth. They put it there for people to use, right? Maybe not just one person with coffee in hand, but who cares? Certainly not I. So I snapped a few pictures as evidence of my macchiato enjoyment (see the first photo).

In addition to coffee, I ordered this fancy little brioche roll. Those white crystals gracing the surface are actually sugar crystals (one might confuse them with salt). Brioche is one of my favorite breads because of the ever-so-slightly-sweet, mushy center and its glossy, amber, super-thin crust. This one did not disappoint, the sugar crystals adding a bit of extra CRUNCH.

The Experience:
All in all, I would have to say that Stumptown Coffee Roasters at the Ace Hotel is:


But since I should really attach a movie experience, I give it: The Godfather – The Perfect Game.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters at the Ace Hotel
18 W 29th St.
New York, NY 10001
6am – 8pm daily

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To kick off Coffee Week in earnest, today we have a special treat: Latte Art, courtesy of Tim who mans the Van Leeuwen Panda Truck. Both John and I are big fans of Van Leeuwen. You can read our first review of their Greenpoint store here. Luckily, you don’t have to travel to the store every time you need a well-brewed cup of Intelligentsia coffee, as they have a team of caffeine-dispensing, well-designed light yellow trucks roaming the city. And there is one right by my office.

I had asked Tim if I could post some photos of his steamed milk art on the blog, and he kindly agreed. So one day, I escaped from my office under the pretense of needing food (completely believable pretense coming from me), and ran on over to the truck parked on 23rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

Tim brewed three lattes with three different milk designs and you can see them below (with a little design fun added by me). Of course, Tim is a finalist for our “Best Latte Art Award”. Thank you so much, Tim and Van Leeuwen!

* No lattes were wasted during this photography session. I drank one, we managed to give one away to a family of tourists, and I brought one back for my boss.

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John and I are as choosy with our Italian desserts as we are with our entreés (like pizza). I happen to be a tiramisú snob, and have turned up my nose at quite a few slices, while John will down well-made panna cotta like an Electrolux that’s just had its filter cleaned.

But the cannoli….Ahh…the cannoli. A perfect cannoli is a study in contradictions, a perfect blend of opposites in flavor and texture. As the holding device, the shell represents a challenge: It must be crispy and ever-so-slightly sweet. NEVER chewy or dense. With lots of airy holes for extra crunch.

The cream presents another challenge. First, it has to be ricotta cream. I know….I know, you may be thinking, “Who would fill cannoli with anything else?” If you asked that question, you’re hired!

You might be surprised to learn how many whipped cream filled cannoli I have encountered. And put down after the first bite, because that’s just wrong, people. WRONG.

Assuming that the filling is ricotta based, it should also be rich, thick in consistency and have a definite sweetness that is not overpowering. Light and airy are not characteristics of the filling – those belong to the shell.

Now a final word of caution: NO PRE-FILLING the cannoli shells. If you walk into a bakery and there are a stack of filled cannoli in the glass display case, don’t order them. They could have been sitting there since the Dharma Project’s last food drop.

The shells should be lined up, empty awaiting your order. Then, and only then, do they get their ricotta cream piped into them. This is because cannoli filling will make the super crispy and light shell a soggy, dense mess. True story.

As for toppings or additions to the cream filling, these are traditional and definitely allowed. I’m not a huge fan of succade, or chopped, candied citrus peel, I find that they don’t add much in terms of flavor and are just interruptions in the cream filling. Like speed bumps. I do, however approve of mini chocolate chips, either integrated into the cream or sprinkled on top. These do add flavor, and because they are firm, but not crunchy, an extra layer of texture. Pistachios often make an appearance, as does a nice dark chocolate dip. However, prepping the chocolate dipped varieties usually means pre-filling, so I’m not the biggest fan of this option.

OK, I think I’m done with my pastry-related tirade. Are you still here? I hope so, because Rocco’s cannoli are definitely worth the trip. To the West Village. In the pouring rain. And John doesn’t walk very quickly. So, if you’re going with him, you should know that.

Rocco’s has a lot of other treats that we didn’t sample. We went straight for the cannoli. But you might like to try some of these:

They sure looked tasty.

After navigating the somewhat confusing line (it seems that people just queue up in no particular order, and there’s no number system), we noticed the empty cannoli shells lined up in the back awaiting their creamy centers – a very good sign. We ordered 2, and got them to go.

Probably we should have enjoyed them at on of Rocco’s cafe tables. Instead, we ventured out into the pouring rain (did I mention that John walks slowly?) and to the PATH train to head back to Hoboken.

Both John and I are very impatient when it comes to food. We want to eat it NOW. Whatever it is. Now works. The train unfortunately arrived immediately, even as I was unwinding the intricately-laced bakers twine on the box.

John: “I have never wanted the train to NOT arrive before….” This said as I reluctantly returned the white box to its plastic bag.

Once on the train, all bets were off. Especially the ones saying “No Eating or Drinking on Path Trains”. John dove into his cannoli as I attempted to take photos of them on the moving train. Please keep in mind that we are professionals. You shouldn’t try this at home. Or anywhere.

I held off on eating mine as I wanted to take a nice glamor shot of it once back at my apartment (see the first photo for evidence of self-restraint). But I was curious, so I asked John some questions.

Me: “How is it?”

John: “Great.” (You might not think it, but this is actually very high praise from John).

Me: “Ummm…Could you give me more details? How’s the filling?”

John: “Awesome, man.”

I see.

Once I could sample mine in the comfort and stability of my non-moving apartment, I could tell that John was correct. It was a great cannoli. The shell was fried to perfection, and I detected a hint of cinnamon in the mix that added a subtle flavor. The cream was indeed awesome: a ricotta cream with very tiny and sparingly applied succade and topped with mini chocolate chips. I may have wanted the cream a bit thicker, but the flavor was true to form. The shell even maintained its crispiness throughout our soggy walk home, shattering as I bit into it (this is supposed to happen).

Rocco’s: a great place for awesome cannoli. Man.

Pasticerria Rocco
243 Bleecker Street
New York
New York, 10014

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I was able to scamper uptown today for Dorie Greenspan’s Pop-Up Cookie Bar and Food Blogger meet ‘n’ greet. I am extremely glad I did. The little box of cookies I have (“I’ll have one of each please!”) is now hiding behind one of my monitors so no one in the office spots it…

The Cookie Bar Pop up has popped down for now (the cookies all sold out), but you can check here for future engagements.

So far, I’ve enjoyed a Jammer, which is a combo of sablés, Sarabeth jam and streusel. It’s like a cake in cookie form. I especially loved the streusel topping and the thickly cut bed of cookie on which it was perched. In the cab ride back to the office I started in on a Chocolate Chunker, which is the winner for me. SO moist. Ridiculously so (probably because of the Valrhona Chocolate – cocoa, pure unsweetened, Jivara Milk Chocolate and Extra-Bitter) with whole salted cashews and giant dried cherries. It knocked my socks off. Well, it was either the cookie or the cab driver’s inventive traffic maneuvers.

Definitely head over to the Cookie Bar NYC website to stay updated on the next pop-up!

And thanks to Dorie Greenspan for the rad cookies. Yeah, I said the cookies were rad. So?

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Hello, everyone! We have a special feature today over at Brooklyn Exposed. John and I run rampant through Brooklyn sampling chocolate from Mast Brothers and Nunu Chocolates. You can read about it here. Also included is a recipe for Spicy Hot Chocolate featuring a Mast Brothers chocolate bar.

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GENTS! Do not let the swirly- girly pictures of chocolate and lace fool you – this post is for you. Ladies, this post is also for you, but we’ll get to that later.

As you are probably aware, a certain “holiday” is approaching. Valentine’s Day. I know…you are not a huge fan of the day. But instead of warming yourself by a bonfire of Hallmark cards or suggesting to Cupid where that pudgy bambino can stick his arrow, we must face reality: Valentine’s Day exists and  your significant other/partner in crime will most likely be disappointed if you overlook it.

What’s an upstanding gentleman like yourself to do? I’m going to tell you.

Even while working within the confines of traditional Valentine’s Day gifts (chocolate and flowers) you can be original. I have done the research for you (you can thank me later) and will be offering you suggestions during the weeks approaching the Grand Lovers’ Fest.

Suggestion the First: Chocolates from Cocoa V!

If I see a box of Russell Stover I’m going to have a fit. Cocoa V’s chocolates are legit. They are also vegan, if you care about stuff like that, and you might. Consequently, they are all dark chocolate. Dark, rich, intense, with an infusion of flavor…well, I’ll get right to it because I taste tested some of them, and have picked a few favorites.

First Up: The Creamy Peanut Butter:

This ain’t no Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. A dark chocolate outer shell encompasses a dense truffle center of chocolate and peanut butter whipped together into a frenzy of flavor. Proof of harmonious cohabitation!

The Salted Caramel:

Salted caramel is one of my new favorite flavor combinations. It falls into the “chocolate-covered-pretzel” food group. Sweet aaand salty. The only bittersweet thing about this bon-bon is realizing you ate them all. And it’s a work of art too! Look at that fabulous painted purple swirl wrapping around the diamond shape of the truffle.

Pecan Praline:

This rose-dusted, oblong beauty encases a smooth whipped center interspersed with chopped pecans. A hint of salt gives the usual praline flavor a tartness that adds a dimension of taste beyond the expected.

And now a word about flowers. The word is YES. But roses? No. This is just my opinion, but I find roses on Valentine’s Day a little….played out. Yeah, I said it. Try something like this instead:

Behold the Gladiolus (or Gladiola, whichever you prefer, Wikipedia seems to like both)! Dramatic, beautiful, colorful….just like your lady friend, yes?

Or perhaps your lady would prefer some Ocimum basilicum also known as Basil.

To me, no flower smells better than a bunch of fresh basil. Any man who brought me a bouquet would know what to expect that night. Pesto, that’s what. Yup.

So, my merry band of gentlemen readers (I’m assuming there are a few of you), heed my advice! You can feel free to hate on Valentine’s Day, but make the best of it. And Ladies, if you like what you read here, pass it on to your fellow. Maybe he will get the hint (if you drop it like a bowling ball on a concrete floor).

For more information on Cocoa V, check out their website here.

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