Born again sticky bun lover

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Sticky buns, where have you been all my life?

My first real job as a teen—first to pay me an actual check and not  involve tutoring church kids or reading mail to the legally blind old woman who lived next door—was as a cashier at a Panera rip-off in Miami.

As would become the pattern of my work life, I hated it. The ugly khakis I had to wear, upselling bread bowls, even the fact that my sister worked there, too. I hated all of it.

All of it except one thing. Even more so than my meager paychecks, the one redeeming perk of the gig was the pastries I rescued at the end of each shift. Muffins, cookies, croissants, cinnamon rolls, danishes—they were all up for grabs at the end of the night and I rarely left without a bag. (Shout out to the thousands of calories consumed without so much as thinking of working out. Ah, youth!)

There was one thing, however, that never appealed to me: sticky buns. All that shiny, sticky gunk reminded me of the rubber cement I’d used as a kid, each bun a tacky tar trap of molasses. And those nuts, stuck in the gluey goo? A warning to my teeth.

Maybe it was all those neglected sticky buns I left to be tossed, all those passed over pastries, that subconsciously drew me to the sticky bun at Little King’s coffee window a few weeks ago. Maybe it was divine intervention.

Normally a cocktail bar with a small menu, Little King recently opened a walk-up window, selling Intelligentsia coffee and Roberta’s pastries to L train-bound locals weekday mornings. Glad to have an option that wasn’t Dunkin or bodega brew, I stopped for a coffee one day, and on a complete whim, a sticky bun to go with it.

Palm sized and more popover shaped than the swirled rolls I was used to, these sticky buns from the hipster mecca Roberta’s, were airy and fluffy, all buttery brioche under their salt-flecked, caramel glaze.

I am addicted. I’ll drive myself into financial ruin buying these every morning. Sometimes, I wake up and count back to when I last had one, trying to justify if it’s been enough days to treat myself to another one. If I have a run planned later, I’ll grab one and chalk it up to carbo loading. I daydream of that soft dough and buttery, salted caramel.

I would say I’m sorry to all those sticky buns of my youth, the ones that got away and got chucked, but I’m pretty sure they were nothing like these doughy, sweet buns I now constantly crave. I can’t imagine there are any left over each day, but if by chance there are, I hope whoever’s in charge of clearing them away knows how very lucky they are.

 

Bitter and sweet, drinks and memories

The first time I tried a Negroni, I almost immediately spit it out like a geyser of blood orange colored booze.

It was worse than the mouthful of CK One I accidentally sprayed myself with in seventh grade. Worse than the bar of soap my grandma shoved in my mouth as a kid. (Because yes, old school grandmothers used to do that to foul-mouthed children.) Worse than the Tylenol I bit into, thinking it was a mint.

It was horrendous, an assault on my taste buds.

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Never thought I’d be excited about a frozen Negroni

Now every time I order one, something that happens way more than I might have ever thought based on that first sip, I think of that night, and how I almost lost all my cool points in front of the Italians I was drinking with, all of them casually, painlessly sipping away at their Negronis.

It took years— it’s been ten since that first stolen sip— but I finally came around. Maybe due to a changing palette or perhaps out of nostalgia for a special time and place in my life, or maybe even because the older I get, the more I appreciate a drink that almost forces me to drink it slowly instead of guzzling it down.

And a good Negroni, with its all-booze-no-mixer blend of Campari, vermouth and gin, all colorful and dolled up with a twist of orange peel, exciting and alluring, a little floral and herbal, bitter yet bright, pretty much demands to be drank slowly.

On a recent humid, sticky afternoon in Brooklyn, reminiscent of so many equally swampy summer afternoons spent in AC-aversed Italy, a frozen Negroni was the obvious choice for me. With frost on its little coupe cocktail glass, and more of a dusty red-orange than the candy colored original, the frozen counterpart was a cute, chilly play on the classic. In the blazing heat of our windowside corner at One Bedford in Williamsburg, it didn’t stay frozen for long, quickly melting into a clear, orangey red.

I knocked it down in a few gulps, remembering a time when a tiny sip had tasted so different.

Carbo-loading early

I’ve been toying with a crazy idea over the last year or so, and last Thursday I decided to make it official: I’m running the 2017 NYC marathon.

Cue mild panic attack.

On top of the physical commitment, I’m also running it for charity which means I have to raise $2,620 or else that’s what gets charged to my card. Double yikes, right? The pressure is ON.

In the spirit of finding the energy necessary to run a stretch of 26.2 miles, I decided to get a head start on the carbo-loading with dinner at Cheeseboat. (Ok, the truth is someone posted a video on my Facebook of a huge hunk of bread with a delicious pool of cheese in the middle and when I found out the restaurant was in Williamsburg, I immediately made plans with a friend. But it did actually coincide with me signing up for the marathon.)

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Take me away cheeseboat, take me away

Cheeseboat is a Georgian restaurant and dammit, I wanna go to freakin’ Georgia now because these folks know what to do with some bread and cheese. They have other stuff but good God almighty, CHEESE FREAKIN’ BOATS! I wanna jump in one and sail away into my fat kid dreams.

There’s lots of cheeseboat variations, some with bacon or truffle sauce, cream or veggies, and all manner of delicious combos, but basically they’re a big doughy mass, like a shallow bread bowl, filled with gooey, melted cheese in the middle, so that you gradually tear the whole thing apart and dip it in the middle, scooping out big globs of warm, delicious cheese as you go.

My friend and I  went with the original cheeseboat, filled with cheese, butter and topped with a fried egg, because as I’ve said before, I would almost eat rocks if they were underneath the rich, velvety blanket of golden, delicious fried egg yolks. For a serious carb and cheese lover like myself, this was everything. Yes, I felt stuffed to the gills and completely incapable of running to the door, much less 26.2 miles around all five boroughs, but I can tell you this much, I know what I want to eat AFTER that marathon.

Unicorn Lattes cause why not?

Ever stop and look at yourself or the life you live and wonder how you got there or what a younger you would think about it if you could travel back in time with a spoiler alert?

I do. All the time.

Like when I ride the train to work in midtown. Or when I listen to anti-slut shaming podcasts. Or when I sign up for marathons. Or when I watch Donald Dump being sworn in as president.

Just things a younger me wouldn’t have necessarily predicted, that’s all.

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::sigh:: Brooklyn…

Last weekend, as I handed over my credit card to be charged $9 for something called a Unicorn Latte at a small coffee shop in Brooklyn, I found myself thinking, “Hmm, bet I never would’ve seen this coming a few years ago.”

I read about The End a few days before, and even though it seemed like another shining example of Brooklyn trying to out-Brooklyn itself, I was intrigued.

A younger me would’ve rolled her eyes at the ridiculous price tag, or the thought of a hot beverage with blue green algae in it, or even just at the friendly surfer/elf/hipster dude that rang it up.

But today’s me shrugged and thought, “Yea, why not. I’m curious.”

So I went and had the whimsical drink and because it was snowing outside, I ordered my Unicorn Latte to stay, which meant it was served in a small glass with a metal handle. (When you pay almost 10 bucks for a drink, you shouldn’t fight the elements to enjoy it.)

I should point out that this is a coffee alternative we’re talking about, so no actual coffee here. Instead, this latte is made of coconut milk, water, lemon juice, honey, Maqui berry, and the magic ingredient which provides the murky blue color, E3 Live, a blue green algae. And on the foamy top, a smattering of pastel sprinkle-type bits.

It had a sort of subtly fruity, milky flavor, almost like heated milk from a bowl of Fruit Loops or Fruity Pebbles. Not bad, not great. I was into all of the benefits they said it would provide, however, including mental clarity and a boost in energy.

Will it become part of my daily routine and replace the usual coffee? No, not likely. Then again, maybe I’ll look back on this one day when I’m an algae guzzling ol’ weirdo (who still looks 29) and I’ll laugh. Silly younger self, what have you ever known?

Halloween for breakfast

I was on autopilot a couple of weeks ago when I walked into the bagel shop around the corner from my apartment and ordered my usual: an everything bagel with regular cream cheese. Man, I should’ve known better.

My go-to shop, conveniently and dangerously located on the same block I live on, is The Bagel Store, the creatively named home of the rainbow bagel and all sorts of other wacky variations and crazy cream cheese flavors (tequila lime, I’m lookin’ at you.) It was exactly the moment after I’d ordered that I saw what I should have gotten, what I went back this week and had: a candy corn bagel.

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One of my favorite Halloween sweets, now in bagel form.

Yes, I’m that person. I love candy corn. I don’t care if you think it’s waxy or gross or too sweet. You don’t like it? Great, I’ll take it.

Using what I assume is the same dyeing method as the rainbow bagel, the candy corn bagel is a freakishly colorful, orange, yellow and white take on the New York breakfast fave. I was told it had a subtle vanilla flavor so I decided to go full sugar-overload, Halloween themed, autumn glutton and had it loaded up with pumpkin cream cheese.

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Just in time for Halloween!

While I couldn’t see it ever taking the place of my trusted everything bagel, I did think the candy corn bagel was tasty and fun, with its super sweet globs of cream cheese  oozing everywhere.I like my bagels on the savory side but this one was good too.

Maybe from now on, in addition to eating a few bags of candy corn each October (as well as whatever other sweets I can get my hands on), I’ll add a candy corn bagel too. You know, just for good measure.

Rainy day beach feast

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You know, just a colorful day at the beach.

If I’m at the beach and the sun is out in all its glory and so am I, letting it all (or most of it) hang out in a bikini and sunglasses,  I try to watch what I eat. (Puppy belly’s not a sexy look for me.)

But if I’m at the beach and the sky fills with dark clouds and then bursts open with buckets of rain, the way it did last time I was at the beach with friends, the only thing to do is head for cover… and food.  Since we were near the cluster of food stalls on Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk at 97th St., that’s where we ran, huddled under umbrellas while the rain blew in sideways.

There were lobster rolls, arepas, grilled cheese sandwiches and tacos, each stall sounding more appealing than the last, but it was the farthest one, the one tucked away at the very end, that we beelined to: the Bolivian Llama Party. (I told you I love llamas, no?)

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Nachos, Bolivian style.

First out were our Bolivian nachos, a gorgeous, colorful mountain of quinoa tortilla chips and plantain chips under and over pools of black beans, creme fraiche, cheese sauce, scallions, Llajua (a fiery Bolivian hot sauce) and magenta hued pickled onions. And to make a good thing great my friend added pulled pork. While I’m a fan of good ol’ fashioned lowbrow nachos, these were a fun twist, full of zest, flavor and spice.

To take our rain induced gorging up a notch (or three), we ordered the enormous triple pork sandwich, a delicious behemoth of tender roasted pig, thick-cut home cured bacon, and my favorite indulgence, pork belly, this one with just the perfect crackling edges to complement the fatty meat. Topping it all was a spicy mayo like sauce, shredded pickled carrots and cilantro, making this one of the messiest yet most-worth-the-juices-running-down-your-arm sandwiches I’ve encountered.

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A hot mess… in the sloppiest, best ways

For good measure, we also had a few orders of BLP’s papitas, or fries, some of the cilantro kind, crunchy and piping hot, tossed in garlic, white wine and pecorino and drizzled with a bright green sauce made from quiquina, a Bolivian cilantro, and then the queso papitas, also crispy and crusty, coated in a thyme, salt and aji mix.

We needed something to wash down all those delicious carbs and calories, so we also tried both of BLP’s homemade sodas, the golden maracuya, a bright, bubbly passion fruit lemonade and the I-want-a-lip-color-like-this mora-hibiscus soda made from blackberries and hibiscus flowers.

Sure, no one’s tan was any better than at the start of the day, and our hair was more rained-on frizzy than wind-swept beach wavy, but our bellies were happy and full, and mercifully hidden under our rain-spattered shirts.

Nostalgia flavored dessert

Many moons ago, when I lived in Italy and had a boyfriend, (boy, those were different times!)  he and his friends used to regularly host dinner parties where everyone would pitch in and do their part: prepping, cooking, pouring wine, cleaning afterward.

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Coke float in soft serve form.

One summer night, when it was hotter than the innermost circles of Dante’s inferno, and we had decided to eat outside, I suggested we make Coke floats for dessert.

No sooner had I announced my idea than I was met with a mix of blank stares and looks of horror. “Un’ americanata!” said one of my then boyfriend’s more gluttonous friends, a guy who refused to drink water and subsisted off soda and fruit juice instead, suggesting that the concept of mixing Coke with vanilla ice cream was so outrageous that only a fat American could’ve come up with it.

What happened next should come as a surprise to no one: I made them, they loved them. Point for America.

Coke floats are something I’ve loved since I was a kid. My sister and I would find the tallest glasses in the cupboard, toss in a few scoops of vanilla ice cream and then pour fizzy, cold Coke (we were never Pepsi girls) over the ice cream, watching the creamy, cola colored foam rise up to the top, frothy and delicious.

So during my sister’s recent visit, even though we were full from brunch, we had to stop at Momofuku Milk Bar whose sign outside said four magic words: Coke float soft serve.

Anyone who’s ever had Milk Bar’s famous cereal milk soft serve knows that’s unmistakably what it tastes like. With this new coke float flavor, chef, founder and Milk Bar owner Christina Tosi, absolutely did it again. Closing my eyes, I could swear I was back in my childhood kitchen slurping a float with my sister or sitting on that sun-baked terrace outside of Florence, enjoying not just the frosty dessert drink but the pleasure of proving an Italian wrong.