Born again sticky bun lover


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.



The magic of hype

Dominique Ansel's Magic Souffle

Dominique Ansel’s Magic Souffle

The moment I read that Dominique Ansel, the evil genius behind the now infamous Cronut, had come up with something new called the Magic Soufflé, I immediately got to plotting when and how I’d get my hands on one.

When Cronuts first came out, I didn’t want to believe all the hype, but as soon as I had one I fell under their spell just as fast and hard as all the other Cronut zombies out there. (And let me tell you, New York is crawling with these pastry loving fiends. They will shank you if they think you have a Cronut, so watch yourself.) Suspecting we might have another pastry craze on our hands with the Magic Soufflé I wanted to cast my vote early, before things got crazy.

Earlier this week, I moseyed over to Dominique Ansel Bakery, making sure to get there before noon (because they’re apparently already gone by then), and ordered a Magic Soufflé. Inside a cute little red and white striped open box, reminiscent of an old school popcorn box, was the rectangular Magic Soufflé, golden brown with a white star of powdered sugar on top. But even better than the pretty packaging was the fresh-out-of-the-oven smell of warm pastry dough, sugar and chocolate wafting out.


Mmmmmm warm chocolate souffle.

The Magic Soufflé’s outer layer is a buttery, golden, orange blossom brioche, brushed with Grand Marnier caramel, but the real magic, the chocolate soufflé part, is inside, warm and soft and almost melty at its core.

So what do I think? It was pretty good, but not magical good, and certainly not $7 good. Even the Cronut doesn’t cost that much and it’s waaay better.  I guess I’ve just never been one for magic.

Ice cream oddities

ice cream

Nothing odd about my love of ice cream

I will never, not ever, ever, tire of eating ice cream. It just won’t happen.

Not that I was in any way remotely close to forgetting this fact, but I was recently reminded, when I went to check out Williamsburg’s new ice cream shop, Oddfellows Ice Cream Co. speacilizing in small batch, made-in-house ice cream in what drew my attention, unusual flavors.

Sure, they weren’t all odd. The usual suspects, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, were all there afterall, but there was also cornbread for example, and even more daring, there was chorizo caramel.

Naturally, I went straight for those, one fat scoop of each piled into a little cup.

chorizo ice cream

Rich, buttery chorizo caramel ice cream

Chorizo caramel, for those of you who are making faces reading this, thinking it’s disgusting, was far from it. The ice cream was decadently rich, with sticky ribbons of caramel swirled throughout and the chorizo only made itself known in a subtle savory hint of flavor, perfect against the sweetness of the caramel. The cornbread was also subtle and sweet, with a more even flavor throughout and a thick creaminess that was a reminder of all that is great about ice cream. It wasn’t overtly corny but did have a slightly different sweetness than a vanilla or other creamy ice cream.

With a whole summer of hot, nasty days ahead of me, I might just make it my goal to try all of Oddfellows flavors, odd or otherwise.

A good day

You remember that old Ice Cube song, “It Was a Good Day?” (If you don’t, or worse, just don’t know it, take this opportunity to educate yourself on 90s West Coast hip hop, and thank me later.) Reason I bring it up is because aside from all the average-day-in-the-hood references, that song totally made me think of today, because today, you see, really was a good day! Today was Girl Scout Cookies day, most joyous day of celebration!


Doesn’t get much better than a fresh box of Samoas.

About a month ago, I placed an order through a colleague whose neighbor’s daughter was selling them (cause that’s how it works in the city) and BAM! today they arrived, my all-time favorites, the purple boxed, chocolate drizzled, coconut and caramel covered, ring-shaped Samoas aka Caramel deLites (depending on which of the two bakers used made them), officially making today a very good day indeed!


Oh Samoas, how I love you so.

Had it not been raining when I walked/skipped home from work, I would have torn into the box right then and there, but instead I waited till I was home on the couch to completely go to town on them. As usual, they were delicious and addictive, the perfect trifecta of my three favorite C’s: chocolate, caramel and coconut. I told myself I would only have a couple and six cookies later I finally forced myself to put them away, only so I would have some left for later.

The only bad part in my otherwise good day was that I didn’t think to order more Samoas and that I didn’t order any Thin Mints or Tagalongs. I might just have to make tomorrow a better day and order more cookies.

Drinking hot chocolate is a perfectly good alternative to wearing a scarf

Not quite sure how, but sometime between the time I got to work this morning and the time I left in the afternoon, I lost my scarf. It was a very warm, deliciously soft cashmere scarf that I really enjoyed. For those of you not in New York, let me tell you, today was the wrong day to lose a scarf. There’s really no good time to lose a loved accessory, but today was a particularly crappy day to have done it, since it was (and will continue to be for the next few days) absolutely freakin’ FRIGID outside.

Throughout my shift, before I realized I’d seen the last of my scarf, I had debated getting hot chocolate when I got out. I went back and forth in my head asking myself whether I should spend more money, whether I needed the extra calories before going to the gym, whether I really wanted to sit somewhere and drink hot chocolate alone. The second I realized my darling scarf was gone and I had a cold walk with an exposed neck before me, the decision was made: screw this, I’m getting hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate and a warm cookie really do wonders for a cold afternoon

Hot chocolate and a warm cookie really do wonders for a cold afternoon

And so I came to find myself sitting in front of a large, warm chocolate chip cookie and a steaming cup of caramel hot chocolate at Jacques Torres, not giving a frozen NYC rat’s ass about the missing scarf. (Side note, I like to think it was the universe’s doing, since the scarf was a present from an ex’s mom and so is perhaps best off on someone else’s neck now.)

I usually go with JT’s wicked hot chocolate, a spicy, dark chocolate affair, but this time I went with the caramel hot chocolate instead, which was buttery and velvety smooth, comfort in sweet liquid form.  The cookie, a good four inches in diameter, oozed with large melted chunks of chocolate, and added all the more chocolatey goodness to my afternoon sugar binge. Even though the day only got colder and greyer, I was warm and tingly inside, so chock full of chocolate I didn’t even miss that ol’ scarf anyway.

It’s skyr madness!

So much skyr!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love yogurt. I think most people feel pretty lukewarm about it, but I actually love it and eat it most days. I especially love plain flavored Greek yogurt for its thick, creamy consistency and rich, tangy flavor.

Before going to Iceland, the one thing I knew about local eating habits there was that people were serious about skyr, an Icelandic yogurt of sorts, similar to the Greek kind in its consistency, flavor and high protein content. And really, that was almost enough for me to fork over plane fare. Sure, all of the other awesome things about Iceland sealed the deal, but really, I was sold at skyr.

Skyr: non fat and high in protein, yet tastes like a complete dessert.

Once my sister and I were there, skyr really was everywhere and I, for one, thought it was great! At supermarkets, there were dozens of brands and flavors, including plain, fruity like blueberry and raspberry, or sweeter varieties like vanilla and caramel. In my six days there, I tried a bit of them all. Because I’m a big vanilla fan I really liked that one which was almost custardy, but the caramel one was really good too, in a very flan-like, almost dessert way.

Oh that all mornings could start with this much deliciousness!

At Kex, the hipstery hostel where we stayed, skyr was always a part of the morning breakfast line-up. The tart, plain flavored kind was served in small glass jars and left up to the eater to jazz up with an assortment of oats, granola, jams and dried fruits. My favorite combo was the dark, rich blueberry jam they put out (which by the way, was delicious and I would have eaten with just about anything) and the crunchy, nutty granola. I had it that way the first day we had breakfast there, and every morning we went back.

Lucky for me, places like Murray’s and Whole Foods actually sell skyr, so an Icelandic morning dairy fix is never too far. And as a devoted yogurt lover, that makes me very happy.

Lessons in fancy self-indulgence

Who better to turn to for some fancy indulgence than zee French??

I’m a firm believer that every now and then a girl’s gotta treat herself to something nice. Don’t wait for someone else to spoil you, is how I see it. Go on and do it yourself. Indulge! Pamper! Splurge!

When I was reminded about Tuesday’s grand opening of the New York location of famous, fancy French macaron shop (ooh la la, alliteration!) Ladurée, I knew the time for a little something nice was now. Yes, for what I ended up spending on these Parisian confections I could have had my hair professionally blow-dried, added something new to my wardrobe, or treated a friend to a nice lunch, but spoiling yourself isn’t about being practical or rational. So I was neither.

A little bit of gay ol' Paree in New York

Because I tend to falter in the face of decision-making I went with one of every flavor they had available, which in the late afternoon when I was there was 15, after having sold out of a few others. The shop itself was to me a cross between a dainty doll house and a jewelry box, elegant and pastel hued, one of those places where I have to be hyper-conscious of my every move to avoid knocking anything over and breaking it (like a display of elaborate gift boxes or a Berkin-clad housewife in Chanel ballet slippers).

In a rainbow of soft, pretty colors, the meringue-like treats were a sweet sight in their small box. Each one, varying in flavor from raspberry to salted caramel and butter to almond, and pistachio among others, was delicate and light, a slight sugary crispness to the outside, and a burst of flavor from the sometimes jammy, sometimes creamy filling inside.

They were pricey little things but for the next couple of days when I open my otherwise barren fridge, I’ll only think about how tasty they are and just how fun it is to occasionally be treated to something nice .

Sweet magic

I was roaming around Whole Foods looking for a snack when something caught my eye. Sitting among individually wrapped brownies, cookies and other baked sweets was something labeled “Magic Bar.”

Memories of a college visit to Amsterdam immediately resurfaced in my head. But no, it wasn’t like that. San Francisco may be stoner friendly, but they’re not exactly selling pot brownies in the Whole Foods bakery section yet.

Abracadabra! Magic Bar!

It looked like a blondie and I was amused enough by the name to want to try it. After buying it, peeling off the plastic wrap and biting into it, I quickly realized what the “magic” was here—an intense sugar rush. In between bites, I turned the chunky square over in my hand, counting at all the different ingredients. Cookie crust, graham cracker, coconut, chocolate chips, walnuts, caramel and possibly even sweetened condensed milk.

I think a lot of people would find this Magic Bar sickeningly sweet and somewhat excessive. The sugar content wasn’t listed (Thank God. In this case, ignorance is absolutely bliss) but I’m willing to bet it was astronomical. But with a sweet tooth like mine, this candyish baked treat was nothing but pure magic.

An impulse buy

Whoever had the bright idea to pack the check-out lane and space right near a cash register with candy and sweet things definitely had people like me in mind. I’m rarely able to resist making a last minute purchase of something I don’t need like candy bars, packs of gum, and all sorts of other high-in-sugar goodies. Last week, while getting coffee one morning on my way to work, I was intrigued by something I saw in a big glass jar right as I handed my credit card to the guy behind the counter.

“Oh and add one of these to that!” I quickly threw in, waving the caramel-covered marshmallow I had pulled out of the jar.

It had seemed like a good idea. I like caramel and I like marshmallows so combining the two was brilliant. But like so many things that are a better idea in theory than in practice, this sticky sweet little blob of sugar just wasn’t the great idea I had hoped it would be. The caramel was super sticky and immediately stuck to the crevices in my teeth, probably immediately causing several new cavities. The marshmallow wasn’t even fluffy and soft either, trapped in it’s tar-like suit of caramel. Sure, I ate it, but believe it or not, I actually didn’t enjoy it.

You win this time, impulse buy.

Sometime’s you gotta indulge

This place is not for the indecisive.

I walked in with every intention in the world of only buying one cupcake. It was Friday night and I had just left the office after what felt like one of the longest weeks of my life. Work had been super busy, issues with moving out of my apartment had been annoying, and to top it all off I was dealing with the self-inflicted hell of a particularly nasty all-day hangover. I needed a treat for surviving.

Magnolia Bakery, which had been high on my to-do list pretty much ever since I moved to NY last summer, is only nine blocks away from my office.  I had skipped the gym twice this week so I thought an extra 18 blocks added to my walk home was only fair.

I am only getting ONE cupcake. Nothing more. Just one. I’ll bring it home and split it with Flaneur and that will be enough. One cupcake. One. One. One.

And then I opened the door. The warmth from the ovens as they churned out trays of cookies, cakes and brownies and the sugary, buttery aroma wafting in the air all wrapped themselves around me like the warm, comforting hug I had needed all day.

Magnolia was packed with people milling about like ants at a picnic. I couldn’t see the cupcakes or where they were listed but I squeezed into the line figuring I’d just wait till I was closer. Then something happened. I looked to my left at the refrigerated glass case next to me: cheesecakes, all sorts of wonderful cheesecakes. Big ones, little ones, chocolate swirled and whipped cream topped ones. The guy behind the counter saw me ogling them and craned toward me.

Who knew so much happiness could fit in the palm of your hand?

“Hi,” he chirped. “Can I get you anything?”

“Uhm, yea,” I blurted without thinking. “Can I have one of these, please?” I pointed down at the mini pumpkin pecan cheesecake with ginger snap crust.

Next thing I knew I was back to waiting in line, except now I had a small white Magnolia box in hand, one unnecessary mini cheesecake stored safely inside.

Dammit. So much for my plan.

The line inched up and I was now next to a case full of brownies and cookies. My eye caught one particularly chunky looking brownie topped with white chocolate. I quickly turned my back to the case and decided that the cheesecake had won, but in the battle against the brownie, I would prevail.

Luckily the people in front of me shuffled along and I found myself in front of the cupcake case and another young guy waiting to take my order. I scanned the several rows of cupcakes, some of them neatly placed on a shelf on the case, others still sitting on waxy baking sheets. I decided I had already broken my “one cupcake only” rule so I might as well just throw out the whole idea and get two cupcakes. Choosing one would be too hard right now anyway, and I wasn’t in the mood for tough decision-making.

Red velvet goodness

Another minute later and I was at the cash register, paying for my mini-cheesecake and two cupcakes: one red velvet with whipped vanilla icing and one caramel with caramel meringue buttercream and caramel drizzle.

When I walked into my apartment I waved the white plastic bag at Flaneur.

“Looky what I got!”

We decided that all three things would be too much (even by my standards) to eat before dinner, so we went to work on just the cupcakes. The red velvet was unbelievably delicious and soft, with icing so creamy and sweet that you can’t help but close your eyes and say, “Mmmmmm.” The icing, in particular, tasted simple and home made, not chemical or artificial in its sweetness.

Caramel on caramel action.

Caramel on caramel action.

The caramel cupcake was great too, definitely sweeter and stickier than the red velvet though. The meringue added a slightly crispy texture in between the moist, soft cupcake and the smooth buttercream icing.

Flaneur summarized the experience best when he let out a satisfied sigh and said, “Oh my God, I think I have diabetes now.”

Saturday morning as I stretched in bed and thought about what to eat for breakfast I was struck with a delicious reminder: the mini-cheesecake. With Flaneur still curled under the covers enjoying his last minutes of sleep, I crawled out of bed and went to the fridge. I came back with the small white box and two forks in hand and nudged Flaneur to wake up. It was breakfast time.

Let me say this: If everyone started their mornings with such a delicious treat, the world, especially New York, would be a much happier place. Maybe fatter, but definitely happier. The mini cheesecake had a firmer consistency than pumpkin pie but had the same spicy sweet smoothness as that Thanksgiving favorite of mine. Crushed pecans and a dollop of whipped cream added varying textures and made for wonderful mouthfuls of delicious cheesecake.

Magnolia had lured me into buying three treats, not one, and spending about four times what I had planned on spending, but every bit of it was worth it. Sometimes the best way to welcome the weekend after five exhausting work days, is to treat yourself to something (or in my case three somethings) sweet.