Rolled Ice Cream at Juicy Spot

Last week (yes, last week!) after work, my home-friends-in-the-city and I braved the 50 mph wind gusts and ventured into the Lower East Side for some rolled ice cream. Some time ago, you may have come across the latest fad in frozen desserts on Facebook or Instagram. Last summer, a new spot opened up in Chinatown where New Yorkers could try the traditional Thai street food and eat the heat away. It’s been on my list ever since, and I somehow convinced my friends to go on a mid-January night. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Saturday night: that famous rolled ice cream joint

Xiao: I know a better place, this place has a 2 hour line

Danni: Take us

Me: Where when

Xiao: Let’s do Sunday, it’s called Juicy Spot in the LES

Needless to say, we did not go that weekend but synched up later in the week to explore the hype in a lesser-known rolled ice cream spot.

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Xiao got raspberry!

There are four steps to having your rolled ice cream.

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First, choose a base. This is the flavor of cream that they’ll place on their cold plate for rolling, along with step two: additional fixings that will be mixed in with your base, like fruit and red bean. Step three is picking your topping, so in addition to all the ice cream itself and the innards, you get more fruit, nuts, Pocky, and more on top of your swirls. If all that weren’t enough, you get a top off with your choice of “drizzle”.

Think Coldstone Creamery, but rolly.

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My choices: original cream base (like vanilla, minus vanilla), Oreo cookies, mochi topping, and caramel drizzle. Was it a lot? Surprisingly yes. It doesn’t look like it when they start spreading it out on the cold plate.

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Was it overly sweet? Yes. Did I finish it? No. Was it enjoyable? Yes, though I imagine it would be better with the sun and a heat advisory. But it was a fun textural experience, and it sure was pretty to look at.

Do you love or hate rolled ice cream? Divulge in the comments below!

Dominique Ansel’s Digs, and the Elusive Cronut

There’s a note in my phone called “NYC Sweets”, where I add all the good/famous bakeries, ice cream shops, and doughnut cafés that I need to check out and experience as a new New Yorker. At the top of that list were the two Manhattan digs of Dominique Ansel, Cronut® extraordinaire. In all seriousness, Ansel actually registered the word and concept of the Cronut; even his hashtags have the ® symbol. It did take a couple of months, but I got myself to Dominique Ansel Kitchen, and Dominique Ansel Bakery. Why would one of the best known French pastry chefs need two establishments within a 15 minute walk of each other (I checked)? See below and you’ll know…or not.

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Taken from the staircase seating

My first stop was DAK: the Kitchen. I flip-flopped on the order of my visits, as DAK opened in the spring, a few years after the Bakery. At DAK, the big draw is not a pastry but a concept: “Time is an ingredient”. For many of the menu items, a key process of the recipe is left until the item is ordered. For example, if you order the made-to-order chocolate mousse, you’ll be waiting on your chef to fold the chocolate ganache with the meringue and whipped cream before it gets to your staircase-seat, soft and creamy. Or if you get the 1:1 lemon yuzu butter tart, the baker will be behind the counter in the kitchen, assembling together the crust, cream and lemon zest into an equally soft beauty. The indoor seating is all along a large set of steps, with cute round cushions designating buttox-placement. If it’s well-populated, DAK may be tricky to stay in, especially if eating with a friend. In the summer, outdoor seating and an ice cream window with flavors like “gianduja with orange blossom spritz, sea salt, and hazelnut brittle” are open and bustling.

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I got the mini matcha beignets. I see these being really great for people who don’t like their desserts being too sweet. I wish I were one of those people. On the other hand, I liked the nice kick of strong green tea flavor over the beignets, and the six that I got were a good serving size. Just don’t breathe too hard when you’re eating, unless you’re wearing an apron.

All in all, a generally cool idea being experimented with at Dominique Ansel Kitchen.

 

Next up: the OG, Dominique Ansel Bakery.

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I remember when I googled “cronut” five years ago, and landed on a New York Times article explaining the phenomenon of waiting in line for hours to purchase a $5 pastry in the dead of winter. I was like “nah”. Minus the pastry, all of those things sounded wrong to me. No way would I spend my day in the city standing in the cold for an overpriced dessert. But things change, people change. When I learned from friends at work that you could preorder Cronuts from the comfort of your home, I knew that having this rare creature could be done, and must be done!

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Path to the patio of DAB

Off I went, setting my phone alarm to 10:50 a Monday morning of August to remind me to log onto cronutpreorder.com to claim my prize. After much website traffic difficulty, all the available Cronuts for the first week of September were sold out, and I was without. But of course, I tried again the following week, and to my surprise, had no trouble reserving two Cronuts for a Sunday afternoon. Pro tip alert: this was because the Cronut flavor changes every month, and the first time I tried, the Cronut regulars(?) were ready to pounce to be the first to try the latest flavor. I now know that if you preorder a Cronut, wait to reserve one for the middle of the month, and you won’t run into trouble.

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I could have skipped the line, but I actually waited in it to get a peek of what everyone else was waiting for (not Cronuts, ha ha).

When I finally got to skip the line and turn heads with my box of Cronuts at 2pm on Sunday, it was September, and the flavor was bergamot and Earl Grey.

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This box, home of the cronut. Like a munchkins box but WAY COOLER

After all those years of seeing Cronuts on my Instagram feed and trying copycats (pretty good ones, in France no less), my time had come. I was embarrassingly giddy to open the box.

The bright yellow icing on top tasted strongly of the eponymous tea, and the cream filling had a subtle citrus and slightly bitter taste from the bergamot fruit. The pastry itself was crispy on the edges from the sugar coating (oh yes), and soft and chewy on the inside. So, like a croissant, but better. And this pastry is actually quite large. It barely fit in the palm of my hand.

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Turns out, the Cronut is worth the hype, and probably those $5, too, when you think about how it’s made. First off, the whole process takes three days. Once the laminated dough is made, it has to proof, then it gets fried. Then it gets filled, and then it gets topped with icing/ganache and garnish. Would I ever in a million years stand in a line wrapping around the block for it? No. But why would I, if I can buy one in advance with technology? Here’s how:

  1. On any Monday at 11am EST, go to cronutpreorder.com (note: it’s entirely possible that if you check later in the day, or even the next day, there will be some Cronuts left to order. Just make sure you’re flexible on the pickup day. AND do not order a cronut for the first week of a month, because you will likely fail).
  2. You’ll see dates two weeks from when you’re on the site for reserving up to 6 Cronuts. Select the day you want to pick them up.
  3. Choose a time you’d like to pick up your Cronuts.
  4. Purchase your Cronuts with Paypal, to which the site will redirect you.
  5. Set a reminder for yourself to pick up your Cronuts. You won’t get a reminder from Dom, and then you’ll forget 😦
  6. Swag on up to the bakery counter at your selected time to claim your prize and enjoy.

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The Levain Bakery Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you A. live in New York City or B. do a lot of cookie research, odds are you’ve heard of or been to Levain bakery in the upper west side of Manhattan. They are most famous for their hugeangous (walnut) chocolate chip cookies. There are countless copycat recipes online, of people trying to recreate the masterful baked good of NYC. Hearty banter about corn starch, refrigeration time, chocolate size, and flour type fill the blogosphere, and I don’t know if anyone has arrived to the real deal, $4 cookie-scone wonder.

It’s a cookie I promise

Luckily for me and some colleagues, one of our editors lives a few blocks from the 21-year old, tiny establishment and planned on making a trip for a friend’s mom in San Francisco who requested some from her east coast contacts. I asked if she would get me one too so I could try these allegedly amazing cookies for myself.

 

Large lady-hand for reference

After waiting in a 30 minute line at the time of opening, she gets into the office and hands me the bag of what looks like scones, and feels like rocks.There’s a solid thud when I put the paper bag by my laptop. I was warned that some are intimidated by the nearly half-pound cookie, but I was ready.

 

The Empire State Building of cookies

When I finally took a bite, the edges of the cookie crunched, but I could tell that a soft gooey chocolatey center was waiting. There are a couple key characteristics to these cookies. First off, the mere dimensions of the thing. Not only is it several inches wide, but it stands very tall, showing off the second important factor: its just-barely-done inside texture. Because of the size of the cookie, there’s a window in the baking where the outside gets golden brown before the inside has solidified completely. And hours later that consistency keeps, melted chocolate and all.

 

Texture game: strongest

Even though I haven’t made it very far in my cookie journey of the city, this chocolate chip cookie will easily rank in my top 5. I wouldn’t exactly aim for a Levain interpretation in my own chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I take due note in their techniques and values, and plan on standing in that 30-minute line myself some time warmer.

Take pride in your approach? Tell me what makes your chocolate chip cookies special below!

 

 

Veganing like Champs

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Are you vegan? Do you live in Brooklyn? Do you enjoy pancakes or seitan? If you answered yes to any of these, read on!

When summer was still in full swing, my friend Karly took us to this vegan diner in East Williamsburg called Champs. Part of me was mildly skeptical that I would find something that I liked, as my favorite food groups include meat and dairy. The other part of me was excited and somewhat confident that this well known spot in Brooklyn would deliver. It’s famous in the vegan community, and Karly heard all about it from friends around the country on an animal rights tour. Okay, why not? “Let’s do it.”

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The interior was quite retro-diner, with space for around 10 pairs to sit at a time, plus the bar. A modestly sized spot, with a 30 minute wait on a Sunday afternoon. Wall decor hailed the almighty “seitan”, a gluten-based meat substitute, which, when properly seasoned, can taste kinda meaty.

After looking over the menu for 15 minutes, deciding between pancakes and breakfast enchiladas, I went with pancakes and committing to a second trip. A cop out of having real vegan food? Maybe, but I would imagine it’s difficult to make pancakes really good without classic buttermilk.

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Final settlement: Karly got a chili burger with beans and a vegan seitan patty, and I got Strawberry Shortcake pancakes, without whipped cream because they ran out :/ That would have been interesting to try, and could have made or broke the whole dish. But without the whipped cream, the pancakes were great. I couldn’t tell they were vegan at all, and I didn’t miss the butter. Karly’s burger was also good – not dry, and full of flavor.

carmen-ladipo-champs-diner-rubber-scraper-movementA perfectly content Karly.

Vegan or not – I would actually recommend Champs for a fun breakfast, lunch, or dinner – unless you’re feeling like our neighbors were, and are really just jonesing for a classic pulled pork sandwich.

Hanging Round the (Wrong) City

I spent around 24 hours this weekend in Philadelphia with friends, so naturally we set our priorities to finding the good food. Being new to the city, I was looking forward to discovering the Reading Terminal Market – and discover we did!

reading-terminal-market-carmen-ladipoCompared to Chelsea Market, this indoor food plaza of beauty is a little harder to maneuver, but much more sensory-stimulating. Bright neon signs, the scents of famous cookies, cold ice cream, Thai, Mediterranean, Chinese, Italian foods and more pack the building with sights and smells that will easily overwhelm you if you suffer from indecision. It probably took us 20-30 minutes to peruse and figure out what we wanted to eat. It was well worth the long stroll, and I now know what will be on my list the next time I’m in Philly (Famous 4th St Cookies? Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties? Profi’s Creperie??).

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There is all sorts of stuff at the Reading Terminal market. You got your hot meals, your sweet treats, your groceries, and your books, flower essences, and juices. You could get a lot done here during the week (emphasis on “during” and “week”); like a street of Manhattan or Brooklyn, but reasonably priced. Turn your head one way and there are new and old cookbooks; turn your head the other way and there are turkey parts, all waiting to be purchased.

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What do you have for lunch in a place with more than thirty options? You go local: what’s the city specialty? In this case, I concluded a classic Philly Cheesecake was as good choice. This was split along with chicken enchiladas and a tamale for maximum tasting efficiency. As you can see, the cheesesteak was much meat and min…anything else. There was definitely provolone in there. I’m sure it was fine for a cheesesteak, and I know next time to get some roasted peppers in there too. The enchiladas and tamale were quite satisfying. And of course after such a well-balanced meal, we went in search of dessert!

If you know me, you know I love….wait for it…doughnuts! So very much.When I heard that the market had a doughnut situation, I had to check it out via Google. Apparently the Beiler’s Doughnuts are pretty well known, especially in Philly. This was my initial first plan of attack when we got to the market, but then we saw the line of 30+ people waiting and said “next time”. However, when it came to picking out dessert, I just had to know for sure that it would take too long. Conveniently standing near me was a gentleman with a box of these doughnuts…

“Excuse me good sir, how long were you waiting in line for those?”
“Oh, not long at all. The line moves quickly”
“Great, thanks so much–” – and I make a beeline for Beiler’s. Luckily the wait does go quickly, particularly when you get to see this in front of you…check it out!

Very large vats of doughnut filling waiting to be poured/scooped into funnels of fun
Very large vats of doughnut filling waiting to be poured/scooped into funnels of fun

Exhibit A: filling being scooped from vat into funnel.
Exhibit A: filling being scooped from vat into funnel.

Check out that equipment! Doughnut cutting efficiency at its coolest.
Check out that equipment! Doughnut cutting efficiency at its coolest.

Some on deck to the fryer, others to be served. The bottom rack on the right side is full of apple fritters to-be-fried. They were flying out of the display case!
Some on deck to the fryer, others to be served. The bottom rack on the right side is full of apple fritters to-be-fried. They were flying out of the display case!

Rapid-fire powdering.
Rapid-fire powdering.

Check out (part of) that production line.
Check out (part of) that production line.
So those apple fritters; they were indeed flying off the trays they were sitting on behind the window, and people were waiting even longer for fresh ones to come out! They probably had two new batches sell out while we waited in line. We thought we’d try our luck and see if we could snag one by the time we made it to the front. As we paid, the newest batch was getting glazed, and our server went to grab one for us !!! What an experience.

It got emotional...
It got emotional…
The steam was still coming off and it was almost too hot to eat. But, you know, we managed.

The trifecta
The trifecta
Of course, we needed to sample some true/varied doughnuts to get a well-rounded feel for their game. Always get a glazed – that’s where all the magic should happen. You know someone can make a doughnut when their glazed is great. That was the most surprising thing about Beiler’s: this glazed doughnut was the best doughnut I’ve had, ever! Far exceeding anything Krispy Kreme could do for you, even right off the belt. This melted instantly in my mouth, was so fluffy, crispy on the outside, and light on the inside. I was shocked and highly pleased. The other one was maple walnut, and it was pretty good. A lot of frosting going on that was unnecessary, especially with the same on the inside. Good flavors, though. And the last kicker is the price of all of these: 95 cents!!! Suddenly feel like moving out of my own city…sigh to the #3dollardoughnuts.

All in all, great time at the market, and great time in Philly. To round out the trip, we of course got brunch, from the Gold Standard Cafe in West Philly.

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Cinnamon cream cheese French toast? Had to.

Counting down the days till my next trip!