Long delay - reviews from my Feb/March 2012 trip. Lots of pictures and even more words.
Full Review with pictures in blog, text as below: Dividing lines and Headings included.
Like most of my vacations, and particularly those to New York, the three meals a day plan simply was not going to cut it – not with a list of twenty eight places to explore – and as such some serious mapping and scheduling as well as great friends would prove indispensable in visiting not only the original list, but eventually twenty nine restaurants, pizzerias, cafes, bakeries, patisseries, tea parlors and coffee shops over the course of six days. Having already detailed a six site pizza crawl elsewhere and fully admitting a substantial sweet tooth matched only by a love of caffeine in its roasted and brewed form it is here that I will discuss nearly a dozen of my other stops ranging from Brooklyn to Manhattan, $3 single cups of coffee to $70 worth of French pastry, and 6:00am breakfasts to 2:00am provisions prior to falling asleep on a bench at LaGuardia.
Kicking off my visit both literally and figuratively the first stop after dropping off my bags in Brooklyn would be at Buvette; With an early morning run, flight, cab, and subway ride behind me plus a day full of pizza yet to come I figured a nice breakfast of eggs plus good coffee would be ideal and while one could certainly order exactly such a meal at Jody Williams’ tiny West Village bistro it became quite obvious less than a minute after entering the restaurant that despite my best intentions there was no way I was leaving without some carbohydrates as well.
Greeted by a pleasant hostess (who would also serve as my waitress) as well as Chef Williams who was busy at work behind the bar I was offered a table or bar seating and noting the sunlight and padded stools I elected for the bar largely so I could watch Williams cook – a choice I’d recommend to anyone as each dish was prepared by her and her alone in a space no bigger than an office cubicle – and after seating and taking a quick look at the menu my order was placed, water was filled, and although the restaurant was 75% full my La Colombe Lyon Americano arrived no more than 5 minutes later, hot, smooth, and served in signature porcelain service wear that I’ve not even seen at the La Colombe Torrefaction flagship in Philadelphia.
Watching various dishes arrive to the diners around me as I sipped my coffee and ordered a refill an older gentleman who was apparently a regular struck up a conversation with me as he ate his oatmeal commending my order and claiming it was “a lot of food” but assuring him I would be alright and retelling my morning and plans for the rest of the day we agreed that yes, I’d probably be okay, but also that I was perhaps a bit ‘nuts’…a title I was willing to accept when the food arrived just so long as it tasted as good as it looked (and it did.)
Beginning first with a savory, the Steamed Eggs with Toast and Prosciutto seemed simple enough on the menu but with the pork freshly shaved as I watched, the eggs cooked with an espresso steamer before being topped with cracked black pepper and parmesan, and the toast derived from bread baked in the back subsequently slathered with olive oil and seared to a crisp on the griddle the only thing simple about this dish was enjoying it – the eggs fluffy clouds, the pork briny and bold, and the toast a great textural foil – it was ham and eggs in their ideal form.
Not to be outdone and opting against the lovely appearing apple tarte, croissant, and pain au chocolate my sweet selection of a Walnut Cranberry Tartine with Honey Butter and Bee Pollen would present three inch and a half thick slices of house made cranberry walnut bread lightly spread with butter before meeting the olive oil drenched skillet to form a crunchy golden crust with a moist muffin-like interior. Set on the plate before a subsequent lacquer of honey butter, drizzled honey, and finally a pinch of bee pollen the flavors were all bright and bold with the cranberries and honey most prevalent but savory notes of spice coming through on palate as well – another fantastic dish and when combined with the setting, service, and coffee not only my favorite breakfast in Manhattan but a place I have every intention to return to for dinner on subsequent visits.
Bosie Tea Parlor
Moving next to another meal that could best be described as ‘breakfast’ given its timing, an early wakeup call followed by a 9 mile run along Knickerbocker and a subway from Bushwick would take me back to the West Village’s Bosie Tea Parlor – a spot I’d been told was putting out some stellar pastry by more than one trusted source and a space I’d actually walked past on the day prior immediately identifying as a perfect spot for a morning bite prior to (what would turn out to be a nearly 6 hour) lunch at Per Se.
With the weather dreary and eventually deciding on rain over shine I walked into Bosie just after eight to find a solo employee, a pleasant young woman named Rachel, working the front while another woman was busy baking in the back; occasionally brining fresh items forward to the case before returning to the back. With windows floor to ceiling and reclaimed wood decorating the majority of the space I inquired about wi-fi (free) before ordering a coffee – another excellent Americano by La Colombe and perusing the selections. Told by Rachel that the restaurant was “full service” and suggesting I take a seat once my order was placed I thanked her and did as I was asked with my full order, some for now and some (theoretically) for later, arriving within minutes.
With the coffee hot and strong I opted to begin my meal with a pair of warm selections that had emerged from the kitchen only moments before I placed my order – a Sugar Scone and a Blueberry Scone plated with Clotted Cream and fresh raspberry preserves. Flaky and dense, loaded with heterogeneous pockets of alternating sugar and butter, and one with a core of fresh blueberries while the other added the crunch of pearl sugar it was hard to pick a favorite – a chore made no less difficult with the addition of the dense cream or intensely sweet preserves, both serving only to gild the proverbial lily.
With the rest of my items boxed up but the weather outside now at full downpour and still more than two hours to lunch I decided to forgo moderation and delved into the rest of my order as a few other patrons arrived and with a fresh cup of coffee (no charge, though I’m pretty sure refills are not included) I started with a pair of Macarons – one Maple and Bacon and the other PB&J – both with a good crunch to the shell but just a touch too much ‘gum’ to the interior for my tastes. With flavors spot on to their namesake constituents and a cost of $2.50 I appreciated the diversity, but would not go out of my way for the macarons when everything else was so much better.
What was better? Not only the scones, but also a pair of choux based pastries – a traditional Paris Brest with an airy crackle to the shell giving way to intense hazelnut cream that could have rivaled all but the best of France and a Matcha Éclair that was anything but traditional in its flavor profile but no less delicious as the same crackling choux gave way to a smooth cream that was at the same time savory but also sweet enough to counter the bitters of the green tea. A bit grassy at first but then mellowed by the butter and sugar I’d recommend this as a “signature” taste of the creativity at Bosie Tea Parlor and would not hesitate to come back and try some more of their tea themed items like the Darjeeling tart.
For my third breakfast of the trip I’d originally planned to go to Dominque Ansel solo but after discussing the small eponymous space owned by Daniel’s ex-pastry chef during out lunch at Per Se one of my co-diners volunteered his heavily Parisian influence palate (and stomach capacity) to help me with some taste testing – a welcomed gesture for any number of reasons but most of all so we could try even more of Ansel’s wares; and try we did – a total of nine items while at the store and a quintet of macarons plus two items for later.
With the morning sunny and uncharacteristically warm I met my friend just after nine in the morning and despite a substantial eating the day prior a long morning run and a delayed subway due to weekend construction had my stomach rumbling. Exchanging pleasantries as we watched Ansel work with his team in the large open kitchen my friend largely deferred to my selections while naming a few “must haves” and with our pastries and beverages of choice readied by a rather unenthusiastic but efficient young woman we took our plates to the sun room in back, away from the noise of the café and filled with sunlight.
Having missed the accoutrements for my coffee (inconspicuously placed up front at a small bar) I added some sweetener to the house blended coffee, a rather thin and slightly floral brew, before heading back to the table where my partner had already taken the liberties of dividing some of the pastries and after jokingly admonishing him for ruining my photo ops we delved into our selections (along with an admittedly impressive sticky bun from Balthazar that he brought along claiming it to be his favorite pastry in the United States.) With my coffee hot and his intensely rich and surprisingly well balanced Hot Chocolate – perhaps the best in New York and at least on par with Jacques Torres – setting the tone the majority of what followed would prove to be quite impressive.
Beginning first as I always do when it is available, the Almond Croissant was beautiful – a layered masterpiece with a crisp shell and wispy interior laced with butter that stood up not only to the blade but also to the tooth without deforming at all…textbook. Topped with sliced almonds and a touch of frangipane the interior was subsequently also filled with the almond custard lending left without weighting it down and with flavors savory and sweet both melding nicely with the butter I immediately found my new favorite croissant in New York and possibly the United States (though if someone could arrange a side-by-side with Knead in San Francisco I’d be glad to compare.)
Moving next to another “standard” that I’d order anywhere it is available, the Cannele de Bordeaux was so fresh that it was still warm and with the well tanned shell again standing up admirably to blade and bite the spongy custard interior was still jiggy – a nearly soufflé like texture with pronounced notes of vanilla and cinnamon rising above the eggy base. Less successful, the Sable Breton (two to an order) was perhaps a bit harshly judged as I consumed it soon after the Cannele but all things being equal it was a dense butter cookie – no more and no less.
Moving next to two of Ansel’s more celebrated “unique” items, the Paris-New York with traditional pate a choux filled with chocolate, caramel, and peanut as opposed to the standard hazelnut cream proved to be delicious and well conceived but a bit heavy so early in the morning while the DKA (humorous for its title, particularly to the endocrinologist, given the ingredients) would stand up to the best Kouign Amanns that either myself or my dining companion had tasted stateside or elsewhere with the crisp pastry layers shattering to knife and tooth with plenty of buttery notes and intense sweetness throughout but neither overwhelming the other.
Moving next to a Lemon Yuzu Tart and later the Liquid Caramel Chocolate Tart it seems that the same butter cookie used to produce the sables here formed the basis of the crust to two well constructed tarts and while I cannot say the former would have been my choice, the concentrated sour from the lemon was nicely balanced by the light notes of yuzu and the creamy meringue while the later, much more my style, was rich and dense with the caramel providing just a touch of saline sweetness to the otherwise bitter dark chocolate. Like the Paris-New York this would probably be more appropriately ordered later in the day, and thankfully it was one of the items I took “to go” for later in the afternoon.
A pair of Éclairs – one for breakfast and the other for later – would round out the pastry selections and with the choux buttery crisp but easily giving way to the tooth I enjoyed the non-traditional flavors much more than the standard chocolate or vanilla. Beginning first with a Salted Caramel option and later the Coconut Milk Chocolate version both éclairs were heavily filled but not overwhelming, the choux and fleur de sel taming the sweetness of the caramel cream and the coconut milk proving a surprisingly dominant flavor even in the setting of sweet milk chocolate.
Moving finally to a quintet of macarons - Chocolate, Caramel Coffee, Pistachio, Raspberry Balsamic, Earl Grey – I will simply say that while I’m sure Laduree New York’s versions are quite nice if they are anything like those in Paris – I’d be hard pressed to wait in their line when Ansel is making what may be the best Macarons I’ve ever had in terms of texture. With unique flavors and a great crackle to the shell giving way to a crumb as light as meringue these are the sort of macarons that literally melt in your mouth with minimal chewing, the flavors washing over the tongue and then lingering on the palate. While the jams and creams may not be as intense as some (Pierre Herme comes to mind) I actually preferred this in the chocolate and caramel coffee versions as it allowed the cookie itself to shine while the raspberry balsamic and Earl Grey instead opted to focus the flavor on what was inside relegating the cookie to a delivery mechanism – neither a bad thing, just two different styles, and another display of the diversity in Ansel’s collection…one that I’d say rivals the best out there and certainly trumps any I’ve experienced in New York.
Moving on to another stop – undoubtedly the most disappointing of the trip – I’ll not spend a lot of time discussing “Mille-Feuille,” aside from noting that not only were none of their pastries up to par, but also that the staff was literally making fun of patrons once they had left the store…in one case perhaps deserved as the young man was acting quite foolish throwing around a fake French accent but in the other poking fun at a middle-aged woman’s weight after she had bought a large number of pastries and macarons.
Moving on to what I tasted, all ordered just after nine in the morning and thereby presumably fresh (particularly as I could see the baker working in the open back preparation area while I stood at the wall-counter,) my tasting began with an Almond Croissant – a sliced and double baked version with a nicely crisped golden shell but an interior so stuffed with oddly textured and nearly gummy almond cream that the pastry not only weighed 1.5x more than I would have expected, but also tasted wet. Having had more than my fair share of almond croissants all I can say is that the last time I had a ‘wet’ almond croissant was also in New York at Patisserie Claude and I did not like that one either.
Moving next to a pair of macarons, one Chocolate Praline and the other Salted Caramel, these fared slightly better than the almond croissant but neither were anything to write home about as the shell was too dense leading to a cookie whose texture was largely indistinguishable from the filling. Admitting that the flavors were spot on, albeit lacking nuance and mostly just sweet, these were acceptable macarons in a city where great ones can be found elsewhere.
Last (and absolutely least) the restaurant’s namesake Mille-Feuille is best described in pictures, but for those only interested in reading text think of the “napoleon” you can get at any ol mom n’ pop bakery, then make it more dense, more expensive, and less flavorful. Beginning first with the thousand layers for which it is named, this one had three and they were all moist from the vanilla custard filling. Instead of shattering to the fork it merely smooshed together making a mess of flakes as the custard sat as a lump. It seemed as though it had been made days before and left in the refrigerator as opposed to being made fresh – it was a travesty and throwing away more than half before walking out I can only assume they poked fun at me, as well.
Switching things up and moving from French pastries to more “American” selections, subsequent breakfast stops would see the focus switch to donuts – something that many claim New York does well but after an unimpressive visit to Donut Plant a claim I questioned, particularly when compared to the best of what we are doing in the Midwest. For the first of these stops I decided to grab a quartet from Brooklyn’s Dough after a long morning run to enjoy as I walked to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge.
With early opening hours and a large glass window giving a glimpse of the bakers at work I arrived at Dough just prior to 8am and with items in the case just replenished with fresh donuts from the back I was admittedly excited with my only regret being that I did not have anyone to share the donuts with so I could try them all. Reading about the all natural ingredients and the restaurant’s mission statement while I waited for a few patrons in front of me before making my way to the counter I was soon greeted by a friendly young fellow who took my order, boxed up my donuts, poured me a coffee and handed me a large pile of napkins stating “they can get pretty messy when they are still warm.”
With coffee – a thick earthy brew from Brooklyn Roasting Company – sweetened to my liking I took a few photos at the counter prior to leaving Dough and making my way back into the sunshine en route for Manhattan I started my tasting with the “Plain Glazed,” a dense and yeasty donut filled with buttery tones and hints of vanilla below the sweet crackling glaze that gave me a good idea of what to expect from Dough even though it was the only one in the group that was not still warm and therefore likely the least fresh.
Moving next to the more esoteric options, “Berry” would prove to be everything I’d hoped when I saw it on transfer from the wire rack to the case – warm, pillowy soft, dense without being oily, and topped with flavors somewhat akin to my favorite childhood donut, the Strawberry at Dunkin, but substantially less artificial tasting and not as cloyingly sweet. At this point putting the Plain Glazed back in the box to focus on the Berry I made quick work of it and then opted to move on to something that would again go better with the coffee, in this case Dulce de Leche with Almonds, by far the most messy of the group with the warm donut literally dripping the caramelized milk and almonds all over the box with each bite.
At this point realizing that juggling the box, coffee, and gooey donuts was soon to spell disaster for my clothing I opted to stop at a Starbucks to rinse my hands, finish my coffee, and ditch the box (along with a little less than half of the plain glazed) before again setting off to the city and with only the “Cheesecake with Graham Cracker” option remaining I was pleasantly surprised that this donut too had maintained its warmth and biting into the soft exterior to find the same yeasty insides as the others I was met with the creamy tang of sweetened cream cheese and notes of nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon – like Juniors without the heft and a whole lot better than the bagel with cream cheese I saw so many other New Yorkers walking around with as their breakfast of choice.
Pies n Thighs:
Another lovely morning in Brooklyn, another early run around Bushwick, and plans to enter Manhattan on foot via the Williamsburg Bridge would lead me to breakfast at Pies-n-Thighs, a hipster hangout that had been on my agenda during two previous trips to New York but a spot I’d not yet made it to largely due to its location. This time without any excuses and bolstered by good word of mouth from some mouths that I trust I arrived at the small shop before they had even raised the metal awnings but with people hustling in and out the backdoor you could certainly tell that there was action inside even before the doors opened at 9:00am.
With the metal raised and the doors unlocked as I wandered the surrounding environs I made my way into Pies n’ Thighs as the first customer of the day and with the new Sleigh Bells playing on the overhead satellite radio I was asked if I was dining in or getting something to go and stating “Probably a little of both” I was given my choice of any seat in the house – all 18 of them – and using my placemat as a menu after checking out the fresh daily selections at the counter my order was placed within minutes and both my water glass and coffee mug were filled – the later with a locally roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe whose flavor and quality far outweighed the $1.50 asking price considering I had no less than three refills.
Having heard good things about both the proteins and the carbs at Pies n’ Thighs it would not be long before more order began to arrive, the first a Pecan Crunch Donut that ranks amongst my top five all time combining a nearly cake-like crumb with a surprisingly yeast-like raise into something that I could best describe as a buttercake like texture beneath a slick molasses glaze and bits of crumbled pecans. Like pecan pie in a donut form this was divine and never one to skimp on the sweets it led to the order of a second donut, presumably for *later*, to see if it was equally as good – it was a filled Sour Cherry Donut and considering the fact that it arrived to my table still warm on a plate I ate it immediately feeling a slight tinge of disappointment that there was not a lot of filling but impressed by the crisp glaze and golden shell overlying the buttery cakelike interior.
Moving on to my savory of the morning, I simply could not pass up their much praised “Chicken Biscuit” and when the hot cutlet doused in slightly salted butter and hot sauce arrived I instantly understood the hype – a lovely balance of fluffy sweet biscuit and crispy spicy chicken topped with a simple yet satisfying buffalo sauce…sure it doesn’t go with coffee and I may have been better off with the chicken and waffles, but honestly at $6 this might be one of the most delicious values in all of New York and I’d have been a fool to pass it up.
At this point decently satiated with lunch and dinner plans ahead but not wanting to miss out on their other namesake item, I ordered a slice of Apple Pie with Grafton Cheddar and Whipped Cream to go and with the modest bill paid I sat listening to At The Drive-In while finishing one last cup of coffee and asked if I’d like a cup to go (which I gladly accepted) I thanked the team and made my way to the street stopping a few hours later to enjoy the pie which although quite delicious with a flaky butter crust and plenty of apples and cinnamon was unfortunately now cooled preventing the sharp cheddar (separately packed) from melting and leading to a somewhat uneven experience – one I’ll have to remedy on a future trip because I’m pretty sure it would have been as excellent as everything else had I eaten it fresh at the restaurant.
Another day and another donut would take me to a venerable 1964 institution that had for one reason or another always fallen outside my dining agendas, Buzzy Geduld’s 24/7 Donut Pub on 14th. With a somewhat obscure gameplan for the day including a midnight dinner at Minetta Tavern prior to making my way to LaGuardia for a 6:05am flight home the next morning it wasn’t so much that I’d planned to visit Donut Pub, but more that it was there, I was on my way to a movie, and while looking in the window I saw the staff loading the shelves with hot and fresh donuts.
Obviously not expecting the artisan pastries of Dough or Donut Plant considering the oldschool environs and low prices I made my way into the shop just after ten pm to find the space approximately half full and greeted by a server who simply asked “what can I getcha” I quickly assessed the situation and asking him what he recommended he stated “well, you gotta try the Red Velvet and the Fritters just came out of the fryer” – the same two options I would have ordered, though I have to say the Vanilla Kreme and oft raved Black and White cookie had also caught my eye.
Taking my order – inclusive of a rather unmemorable coffee that never seemed to dip below 2/3 full thanks to the helpful servers – I sat at the bar to enjoy my selections and beginning first with the warm fritter I was admittedly a bit underwhelmed because although the exterior was crunchy and nicely glazed with a dense interior full of cinnamon and pie filling the sweetness was just too cloying – something I rarely complain of given my substantial sweet tooth, but something that I tend to notice when confronted with high fructose corn syrup in large quantity. Faring better than the fitter, the red velvet selection was an old fashioned cake donut with hefty notes of cocoa and a dense crumb beneath a light compliment of glaze that added just a touch of sweetness – basically just a good chocolate old fashioned with red dye from an old fashioned sort of place, the sort of place you can find all over America…but not always churning out fresh product 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for nearly 50 years.
Rounding out a few snacks and random bites in New York, a stop at La Colombe would provide an afternoon pick me up and true to my experiences with their product in Philadelphia and at home the Corsica blend was bold, smooth, and complex – a rarity for such an affordable blend and served up for a mere $2. Equally impressive was the café layout, the largest of La Colombe locations I’ve visited with floor to ceiling windows, pillars, widely spaced tables all contributing to a comfortable experience that could have only been better if they had free Wi-Fi.
Moving beyond the coffee, much like the La Colombe locations in both Philadelphia and Chicago the New York store does not pretend to be a bakery – they instead outsource that to someone local and in this case someone great, Francois Payard, a man whose work I’ve experienced twice prior and one of my favorite almond croissants in the United States; a double baked version with a golden shell that shatters on mastication giving way to a soft and buttery interior tinged with frangipane – perfect on its own but even better with the coffee and served warm on La Colombe’s custom plates. Factor in a Pure Black 16 ounce slip top to go and I really can’t think of a better way to spend less than $10 for an all day caffeine fix and great pastry in Manhattan.
Continuing on the subject of coffee, another stimulant stop would see me visit Think Coffee mostly to check e-mail on the free Wi-Fi but also because they had a sign out front indicating a new selection Single Origin locally roasted beans made pour-over style to order. While not particularly my style with their preachy approach to “Free Trade” and “Organic” displayed ubiquitously throughout the room and I-Mac toting hipsters occupying four-tops with wanton disregard I will simply note that while checking my e-mail while standing was not particularly convenient the staff was quite friendly and the Single Origin El Salvador Finca Himalaya, Ahuachapan roasted by DALLIS Brooklyn was a complex brew with deep cocoa and a fruity top note plus minimal acidity well worth the $4.50 and fifteen minute wait.
Bouchon Rockefeller Center:
Nearly rounding out this visit’s exploration of coffee and pastry, Bouchon Rockefeller Center was requisite as I’d not only had another lovely visit to Per Se days earlier but also because I’ve made it a point to visit each TKRG property to date and have only once come away disappointed (Bar Bouchon, Beverly Hills.) With each iteration of Bouchon Bakery featuring some of the classics as well as something unique my arrival at the Rockefeller Center location was planned to follow the dinner rush but unfortunately I underestimated just how long said “rush” was and entering the space I was met with a full line of mostly tourists and with the selection largely picked over I opted to order lightly – a coffee, a Chocolate Peanut Butter Parfait, and the only “fresh baked” item in the case according to a server named Lily – the Oatmeal Cookie. The total bill was nearly $13 after taxes and with nowhere to sit I opted to dress my coffee and take the rest outdoors to enjoy.
With the weather now cooled down to the mid-50s and Rockefeller bustling as ever I took my goods over to the skating rink to indulge and beginning first with the gooey cookie I was immediately glad I’d asked what was fresh because with most of the goods at Rockefeller delivered from the Columbus Circle location this one was still warm, lightly caramelized on the outside, and filled with notes of cinnamon, sugar, and two types of raisins – a textbook Oatmeal Raisin cookie that didn’t reinvent the wheel but instead simply perfected the form.
Sipping the coffee, the expected Bouchon Blend from Equator that I’ve experienced so many times in the past, I next moved on to the parfait – a three layer concoction with a dark chocolate crisp on top, a light peanut butter cream beneath, and milk chocolate pudding at the base – a flavor profile similar to the Bouchon Peanut Butter cup but much lighter and the sort of dish whose ingredients and complexity would not be out of place on the menu at Per Se, though likely in a more gussied up form as part of a larger composition. Sure it was expensive, but like most things in the Keller universe you get what you pay for and although I prefer the Columbus Circle location overall due to the increased selection and on premises baking I’d definitely not hesitate to return given the convenient location.
Finally – and certainly a case of ‘last but not least’ – there was a stop at Puddin’, the St. Mark’s Place outpost of Ohio reared Clio Goodman and given the recent praise garnered by her creamy concoctions I guess it should have been no surprise when I arrived to find myself intruding on a television shoot for the Food Network (an experience in itself as I never realized just how contrived that channel is – I mean, really, the actors eating the pudding need a written script and prompting to describe its flavor/texture?) At first uncertain as to whether the place was open or temporarily closed for the shoot as a small group of people stood around watching I approached and noting a sign stating that by entering I agreed that my likeness could be used…yadda yadda yadda…I made my way in to the small space where Clio greeted me with a smile.
With the room loud as the actors talked and the sound guy wandered back and forth I took a few moments to browse the options and with the action in the back clearly bustling for the cameras and new products being brought to the case I decided to ask Ms. Goodman what she recommended and after first telling me which were the best sellers she divulged her favorites, two of which I ordered and a third that I selected based on my own tastes. Opting for minis of each ($3-$4) I paid the tab and given a spoon and several napkins I made my way to the street.
Beginning first with the simplest of the choices, my pick of “Rice Puddin’ with Vietnamese Cinnamon” my first impression was a good one, the rice Carnaroli and clearly cooked down in milk and butter to a near risotto consistency before sugar and spice was added. Toothsome without being heavy, spicy without being overwhelming, and sweet without being cloying it was far better than any ol’ diner rice pudding without being quite as over the top as places like L’Ami Jean or The Dutch.
Moving on to Clio’s picks, two of the signatures, I went with the “Classic” with Chocolate, Butterscotch, and layers of whipped cream and the “Caramel Macchiato” with Coffee, Chocolate, Brownie Pieces, Salted Caramel Chunks – the former a pure and creamy concoction with truly classic flavors that were each delicious on their own but all the moreso when combined – a bit of bitter, a touch of salty sweetness, and the light milk tones of the whipped cream all melding nicely. Moving on the the Macchiato – this one was where the money was at – much like the parfait at Bouchon it moved beyond the level of a simple “pudding” and added elements of a parfait with the dense brownie chunks and bits of sticky caramel providing a textural foil to the creamy pudding while the flavors were all intense but well balanced. It was better than the plated desserts I had at Brushstoke or Eleven Madison Park on the same trip and while I don’t know how long the concept of a pudding restaurant will hold the attention of New York’s fickle culinary scene I do hope to return so I can try some of her other puddings, cakes, and combinations thereof.