Out with the old and in with the calories

Ok, hear me out. This time I have a good excuse for my latest disappearing act. My dear, sweet computer, my ol’ Italian girl with the keyboard that used to trip everybody up except me, finally gave up the fight and went peacefully in her sleep one night.

We had a good long run together, about 8 years, so I think I need some time alone, no? Blogging on my phone, however, is a nightmare and doing it at work isn’t really an option either at the moment, so there you have it: radio silence.

But don’t you worry, it’s been gluttonous business as usual here. Below, a look at the things I’ve been eating and drinking and just not writing about:

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The phenomenal leek bread pudding from Cassette‘s brunch menu wasn’t what I was expecting (since I didn’t really know what to expect) but it was damn good. Oh and the restaurant, in Greenpoint, is adorable. You should go.

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I hated it the first time I tried it but over the years, the Negroni has become one of my favorites. At Extra Fancy in Williamsburg, they have a frozen one. Clearly, I was in love.

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In all the years I’ve lived in New York so far, I had never been to Carnegie Deli so when I heard that the local institution was closing at the end of the year, I had to go. Not wanting to wait an hour and a half on the sidewalk for a table inside, Stas and I got our order to-go and ate it in the park. The Woody Allen (“lots corned beef and lotsa pastrami”), the most delicious knish I’ve had yet, a fat slice of banana cream pie and a thick wedge of the richest, most dense cheesecake I’ve ever eaten, and the two of us were done for.

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And lastly, a special shout out to the pretzel dog at my favorite bar in my old hood, the Rusty Knot. It’s nothing fancy, just a hot dog in the loving embrace of warm, salty dough, but dammit it fills my heart with all the feels every time. Or maybe that was the drinks. Who knows. It’s all delicious.

Best bread pudding at the market… and possibly the universe

At the very top of my list of things I wanted to do in London was check out Borough Market, which everyone told me I would love and from everything I read and all the pictures I saw, I knew would be a wonderland for me. With a save-the-best-for-last mentality I left it for the morning before my evening flight back to New York, thinking that I would board my plane with a belly full of delicious market eats and I’d have that wonderful deep sleep you have after big satisfying meals.

But no. That didn’t quite work out the way I wanted it to. The market, it turns out, isn’t open on Monday. (Insert super sad face and wobbly chin here.)  I strolled around the mostly empty market, kicking myself for not having realized it sooner when I came across a small corner of open vendor tables. Naturally, the one piled high with sweets and baked treats from Comptoir Gourmand, was the one I darted to.

And that’s where I laid eyes on the most unassuming, yet hands down best, best, best bread pudding I’ve ever had. I’m not sure where my love of bread pudding came from, since I was never crazy about it growing up (thanks again, Mom), but today, especially now after this particular one, it’s steadfast and true. The top was like a lot of other bread puddings I’ve had, with doughy hunks of bread jutting out, glazed and shining with caramelized sugar and studded with raisins, but it was once I dug into the core that I really got to the good stuff. Inside, this little bread pudding was like a thick custard, all creamy and rich, sweet but with a hint of cinnamony spice. And it wasn’t even warm! Had it been warm, I really think I would’ve lost my composure and melted into a puddle of goo.

Don’t let its humble good looks fool you, this bread pudding will blow your socks off

My only regret after totally flubbing the market’s hours was not buying up every single bread pudding Comptoir Gourmand had to sell. I could’ve eaten myself into a very happy bread pudding induced food coma with those bad boys and been totally fine with having missed the rest of the market.

A bread pudding victory

I see foods in blogs, magazines, books and TV shows all the time that I want to eat, but rarely do I feel like actually making them. I usually just rather go the restaurant or store where they’re sold and cut straight to the chase. But every once in a while when the spirit moves me, I think, “You know what, I can make that.”

Earlier this week, while reading old entries of a blog I’m newly obsessed with (Cupcakes and Cashmere) I came across a recipe which the blogger had actually found in another blog I really like (Smitten Kitchen) where that blogger had adapted it from Gourmet magazine (ahh, the power of the interwebs): pumpkin freakin’ bread pudding. Mind. Blown.

So I immediately ran out and bought all the ingredients. I followed Smitten Kitchen’s variation of the recipe which you can find here, but instead of bourbon, which I didn’t have any of, I used a little bit of brandy. (Not pictured though.)

The ingredients

I put the butter and the bread aside and threw everything else (in their appropriate quantities, duh) into a bowl. But because I’m ever the rookie in the kitchen, I used a bowl that wasn’t big enough for me to whisk it all together without making a huge goopy mess, and ended up having to pour it into a big pot. Unnecessary steps are always part of the experience for me.

Mixing everything up

After melting the butter and coating the bread in it (a very hands-on step, by the way), I filled a square baking pan with the now slightly soggy, buttery bread. I will fully admit several pieces of bread never made it into the final version because I ate them along the way.

Warm, buttery bread cubes are hard to resist.

Next, I took the pumpkin-milk-eggs-spices mixture, which had been whisked together into a velvety, gold, sweet smelling cream, and I poured it over the bread cubes, using a spoon to make sure it seeped into all the corners and edges.

Nothing like a little creamy pumpkin bath.

The good thing about having a small apartment is that when you make something like this, the whole place smells like it. So while I waited for the bread pudding to set, I enjoyed the warm, spicy sweet smell that quickly filled the air. Once out of the oven, it didn’t immediately look very different than when it went in, but after poking it a bit I could tell the bread had soaked up the pumpkin mix and all of it congealed together to make bread pudding. (At which point, I may or may not have done a little celebratory dance.)

I wish the technology existed for you to be able to smell this.

While a scoop of vanilla or butter pecan ice cream would have been great, I took Smitten Kitchen’s recommendation and topped my chunk of pumpkin bread pudding with a generous dollop of vanilla greek yogurt. With its subtle sweetness and sour tang, the cool yogurt was a nice contrast to the warm, soft creaminess of the bread pudding. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m going to: this was a damn good bread pudding! Maybe there’s hope for me yet!

And voila! Pumpkin bread pudding!

Bread pudding, except actually good

I know I’m always hating on my mom’s food, but I just can’t help it. Every time I eat something delicious that I distinctly remember being bland, slimey, lumpy, or just plain unpleasant, I think, “God she really just sucks at cooking.” (If you think I’m being mean, don’t worry, Wilma Flinstone doesn’t know what a blog is, much less this one, and therefore won’t be offended by my opinions.)

I was at Cafe Minerva in the West Village earlier this week when I had one of those moments. We were originally there for coffee but then decided to get a couple of desserts too. In one of my usual chocolate-craving moments (which go a little like this), I ordered the chocolate mousse. Flaneur, on the other hand, went with the bread pudding.

Bread pudding at Cafe Minerva

Immediately, mental images flashed in my head as the memories came back. Stale loaves of Cuban bread, goopiness turned gelatinous, glass Pyrex dish in the fridge,  stray raisins, cold and gummy texture. This was the bread pudding of my childhood. Continue reading