A cold treat for a lazy day

If you ask me, it was hot as blazes today. Hot in an I’m-feeling-so-lazy-that-even-though-I-have-the-day-off-I-can’t-really-fathom-doing-anything-that-doesn’t-involve-my-ass-and-the-couch-being-in-contact kind of way. I purposely went to the gym first thing in the morning so the rest of the day would be open for lots of day-off activities and yet… well, nothing. All I managed to do, early in the afternoon, was walk over to Chelsea Market (a whole 10 minutes away) with a friend.

A damn fine way to beat the heat: an Affogato all'arancia

While I was there, though, I had the perfect half dessert-half drink pictured here, an affogato all’arancia from L’Arte del Gelato. It kind of just looks like a glass of OJ, and my crap-camera didn’t do much for the cause, but really it was a delicious pick-me-up, perfect for the day’s muggy weather. While a traditional affogato features vanilla ice cream drowned (cause that’s what affogato means) in espresso,  this citrusy take on it involved lemon sorbet, fresh squeezed orange juice and a touch of Campari, with a lemon slice and a bit of mint leaves for a refreshing garnish.

It was bright, crisp and flavorfu, and probably the highlight of my day. So what if there wasn’t much else going on? A good frosty treat on a hot day is enough for me.

“So I was watching the Food Network…”

Because I don’t have cable, my TV only gets about a dozen channels and that’s including several low budget public-access stations. But as luck would have it, there is one cable channel I do get: the Food Network, and although I’m sure it goes without saying, I watch it constantly. One of my friends always jokes that all my stories start with, “So I was watching the Food Network last night…” and really it’s kind of true.

One of my favorite shows is “Best Thing I Ever Ate,”  a program where Food Network personalities and foodie celebs talk about their favorite eats all over the country. I love watching because I can always count on someone to mention something in New York, and if it sounds good, which it usually does (these people, after all, are basically professional eaters) I can go find it myself.

Smith & Wollensky's coconut layer cake

That’s what happened a few weeks ago when Chef Anne Burrell gushed about how even though she lives in the village, she will happily make the trek to midtown (a no-man’s land of office buildings and chain restaurants) for the coconut layer cake at famed steakhouse Smith & Wollensky. So last week, during Flaneur’s last week in the city before a summer in Italy, we too went to midtown in search of the cake that Chef Anne had gone on and on about.

The massive slice, big enough for both of us to eat until we were physically uncomfortable, was made of four thin layers of incredibly moist, coconutty sweet cake alternating with layers of thick, creamy, almost mousse-like vanilla frosting and a top coat of shaved coconut. And because cake is always made better with ice cream, this one had a fat scoop of creamy, rich vanilla ice cream and a delicate, crisp cookie to go with it.

I have no idea how someone might be able to squeeze this into their body after eating a steak but I definitely get why someone would travel across town and out of their way to have this delicious dessert, even if (and especially if) there wasn’t a steak before it. I’m with Chef Anne. I hate midtown but I’ll go back that way for this cake.

Thanks Food Network. You’re all the cable I need.

Today in non-edible food finds

Toast It Coasters

This city has a million and one stores and shops to choose from but one of my consistent favorites is the MoMA Store, which never fails to have a fantastic selection of gadgets, gizmos and random tchotchkes to entertain me with. Case in point: these funny and kind-of-cute coasters shaped like toast. Toast! Who doesn’t love toast? I certainly love it!

Made out of cork and packaged like a regular ol’ loaf of sandwich bread (whole wheat perhaps?), I think these are the coolest thing since… sliced bread? Well, no, not that cool, but I still think they’re fun. If I were a coaster kind of person, I think I’d go with these.

Comfort me with corn bread

Part of the deal I worked out with the devil in exchange for my boyfriend living in New York with me is that every year, for at least a couple of months, I have to release him back into the wild, back to that intoxicatingly ass-backwards boot-shaped country he calls home. (Kidding about the devil part, by the way.) He goes back to see friends and family and usually to go on some incredible vacation with the rest of Italy when they all go on their usually-month-long holiday in August. (Bastards.) In short, it sucks and I hate it, and part of it, truth be told, is because I’m always just a little scared that he won’t come back. (Yikes, this suddenly feels so much more “Dear Diary-ish” than I meant it to. Food’s coming though, promise.)

As we wind up our last couple of days together before another obnoxiously long (two and a half months to be exact) time apart, I’m squeezing in as many reminders that America, New York, and I (duh) are all awesome and very much worth coming back to.  As part of my plan, I wanted to eat something really great, something I knew he couldn’t get back in the Old World, something to remind him that home was here too: comfort food.

Who needs Tuscany when you have this delicious corn bread? Not this girl (or at least that's what I'm telling myself.)

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Forget the dessert menu, I’ll order from the bucket list

Most people who’ve only lived in New York for a short time and aren’t originally from the city or the tri-state area have New York bucket lists. They’re full of those touristy things that we want to do at least once just to say we’ve done them, and then never have to do again. (Or only do again the next time you have guests in from out of town who insist you do them again with them.) Examples: riding the boring-as-all-hell Staten Island Ferry, paying an arm and a leg to visit the Empire State Building, and meandering around Times Square like you’ve never seen electricity in action before.

The insanity sundae

Along with all of these, one thing that’s been on my NY bucket list was getting dessert at Serendipity 3 in the Upper East Side. “It’s so overrated,” said the people who’d lived here before me. “There’s better ice cream elsewhere. Oh and it’s so expensive. Ugh. Total tourist trap.” I didn’t care. I wanted to do it. So I did. Just a bit after two years of living in this zoo.

Yes, it was expensive. Yes, it was a bit overrated. And yes, there certainly is better dessert and ice cream to be had in the city, but like buying hot dogs and pretzels from street vendors, going to the Top of the Rock, and seeing (and being disappointed by) Little Italy, getting one of the ridiculous sundaes at Serendipity was just something I had to do.

Flaneur and I split a monstrosity of ice cream called the Insanity Sundae, a towering mountain of tooth-achingly sweet, sticky pecan pie, creamy butter pecan ice cream, rich hot fudge, candied walnuts, sliced almonds, and at least a whole can worth of fluffy whip cream. It was probably the most appropriately titled thing I’ve ever eaten, and a small miracle that my teeth didn’t immediately rot and fall out of my mouth.

Do I want to eat another one again? No, believe it or not, I don’t really. But like walking around the Financial District, eating enormous pastrami sandwiches at Katz Deli, and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, I’m ready to do it again if I have to.

Serendipity 3 on Urbanspoon

“Whiz, with” please

I’m a when-in-Rome-eat-as-the-Romans kind of traveler which is why during a daytrip to Philadelphia this past weekend, the clear choice for lunch was Philly cheese steaks, even though truth be told, I’m not even a cheese steak fan. I’m no Philly expert but of the little I do know of the city, I know the two big names in town are Geno’s and Pat’s, conveniently located diagonally across the street from each other.

Geno's Steaks' famous Philly cheese steak, "Whiz, with"

A little research showed that both had devoted followings, tacky websites and pretty similar cheese steaks, so really just picking at random, my daytripping buddies and I went with Geno’s Steaks. Continue reading

Trying to beat the heat

People, I kid you not, the past two days in New York have been miserable, disgusting and infernally hot. Hair-matted-to-the-back-of-my-neck, sweat-trickling-down-uncomfortable-parts-of-my-body, clothes-clinging-in-unflattering-ways, face-shining-like-I-dipped-it-in-olive-oil kind of weather. Not kidding. I wanted to die.

And it’s not even summer yet! The official change of seasons is still more than a week away, and I’m already itching for it to be over (literally, this heat makes me itchy…and bitchy). To cope with the nasty weather I turned to a reliable cooling treat: ice cream sandwiches.

Coconut macaron with coconut and mango sorbet sandwich

Because I was in SoHo, where I now work, I hopped on over to nearby Francois Payard. I’d never been to the cute little patisserie before but when I read in a recent NYmag.com feature that they had some tasty little ice cream sandwiches, I was sold sold SOLD.

Brownie and vanilla bean ice cream sandwich

Instead of regular cookies, Payard, known for their fancy french pastries, uses rectangular cut macarons. Flaneur, who I asked to meet me (since an ice cream sandwich would never have survived the walk home), went the classic route and got the vanilla bean ice cream and chewy brownie combo, while I went with the slightly more tropical themed coconut and mango sorbet between coconut macarons. Flaneur’s was good, the creamy cold vanilla ice cream perfectly complementing the chewy chocolate brownie, but mine was exactly what I needed to pause my heat-related bitching. The macarons were subtle in flavor and had the classic, crispy airiness they’re known for while the fruity, frosty sorbet was refreshing and sweet.

Summer might not technically be here yet, but when it shows up, I’ll be ready— with ice cream sandwich in hand.

François Payard Bakery on Urbanspoon