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.

Autumn’s ice cream sandwiches

I’ve never been one to let a little cold weather get in the way of me stuffing my face full of ice cream. (I mean, what, am I supposed to subsist off soup and tea during fall and winter? You know how long that is in New York??) So even with a crisp autumn chill in the air this weekend, I dragged Flaneur with me to find the Coolhaus NY truck, a Los Angeles food truck dishing out gourmet, artisanal ice cream sandwiches.

The ultimate fall ice cream sandwich: sweet potato ice cream and pumpkin spice cookies. Mmmm mmm mmh!

With combinations like blood orange and cranberry ice cream and snickerdoodle cookies, and brown butter ice cream with candied bacon and red velvet cookies, I had to put some serious thought into what ice cream and cookie combo I wanted. In celebration of the beautiful fall weather I went with sweet potato and marshmallow swirl ice cream between pumpkin walnut spice cookies with cream cheese frosting drizzled on top. My chocolate chip cookie-loving-beau, on the other hand, opted for the  Maker’s Mark bourbon pecan pie ice cream between chocolate chip cookies.

Both were ridiculously good, perfect for either a sweltering day in July or a January blizzard. The pumpkin walnut spice cookies were pillowy soft and sweet, without being too much (I promise!) and the ice cream was rich, creamy, and with a more subtle sweetness than its flavor inspiration might make you think. It had just enough of the spicy sweetness of sweet potato and just the right hint of sugary marshmallow to make it the ultimate fall ice cream sandwich. If I could buy these packaged and by the dozen, I would bring them to every holiday party from here to New Year’s.

Chocolate chip cookies and Maker's Mark bourbon pecan pie. BAM!

Flaneur’s was good too, with the same autumn themed flavor but different individual tastes. His ice cream for example, had more of a smoky smoothness from the Maker’s Mark but still had the spicy, syrupy holiday sweetness of pecan pie that makes you want to sit in front of a Christmas tree and eat until you fall into a happy food coma. His cookies, unlike mine, were a little firmer and had a more traditional cookie crunch.

Lucky for my waistline, the Coolhaus NY truck changes location every day, because if I always knew where to find them every day, especially if it was as easy as it was this weekend when it was parked in Union Square…oh boy, that might be trouble. I might look like Santa Claus come next fall.

Best in the universe

To say that Levain Bakery‘s signature cookie, the chocolate chip-walnut, is just another cookie is like saying that a unicorn is just a horse with a horn. It’s SO much more than that. It’s magic, it’s wonder, it’s a source of pure, concentrated joy.

Levain’s signature cookie might just be the single most delicious chocolate chip cookie in the universe. If a greater one exists, I almost rather not know about it, I’m not sure my little heart could handle all that. It already came so close to bursting with happiness when I bit into Levain’s chocolate chip-walnut cookie during a recent day spent in the Upper West Side.

Chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery

At a hefty $4 it might seem like a lot for a cookie, but like I said, this is no ordinary cookie. About four inches in diameter and with a mind-boggling height of about two inches, this cookie is big. Jutting out from its craggy surface are golden  chunks of walnut next to soft, fat smudges of chocolate, half melted chips just begging to be eaten. The outside has a nice, firm crust but the real magic—oh man, my heart speeds up just thinking about it— that is waiting inside. The moment you bite into this cookie masterpiece you realize that it’s just the exact amount of cooked (or wonderfully uncooked, I should say) so that the core is soft and chewy, still a bit cookie dough and not completely turned cookie. The chocolate chips melt pretty much on impact and the walnuts lend a buttery, nutty crunch to everything. It’s madness, I tell you. Madness.

I’m a huge fan of Roasting Plant’s chocolate chip cookies, which I previously wrote might be some of the best I’d ever had, but Levain’s, I’m pretty positive, are the best this whole universe of ours has to offer. How I’ve lived in this city for this long without having one makes me think I have a lot of catching up to do. And let me tell you, I’m excited.

Levain Bakery on Urbanspoon

Another reason to love New York

The Major Rager (yes, it really is called that)

Sometimes, I really love this ridiculous city. Where else could you decide, while riding a cab at the end of the night, that the cure to your late night munchies is to order, yes, to actually have delivered to your home, a box of cookies and brownies? Like it was a pizza! Like it was completely normal to have baked goods delivered to your apartment well past 2 in the morning! New York, that’s where!

The first time a friend told me about Insomnia Cookies in Greenwich Village, which delivers assortments of baked sweet treats well into the night, I thought, “Damn those NYU students. They don’t know how good they have it.” Sigh.

Saturday night, with Flaneur and a good friend along for the late night grubbing, we ordered the Major Rager, a cardboard pizza box full of fat chocolate brownies, chocolate chip, M&M and chocolate chunk, white chocolate and macadamia, chocolate with chocolate chunk, cinnamon sugar, and peanut butter cookies. We had milk, but if we  hadn’t, we could have ordered some from Insomnia, too.

Does it get better than that? Not late night when you’re hungry in the city that never sleeps.

Springtime and cookies

Today was the third official day of spring, and to mark the occasion, New York had snow.  Again. And when it wasn’t snowing, there was icy rain instead. Then on my walk home at the end of the day, when I hoped the weather would have cleared up a bit, there was hail, which pelted me all the way home like an annoying bully.

I needed something to bring a little sunshine into my day. (You know, since spring obviously didn’t get the memo. ) Just a few blocks from my apartment I  saw the Roasting Plant Coffee Company and since I’d recently read that they had the alleged “best chocolate chip cookie in the city,” I figured it was about as good a time as any to test that claim. I bought two cookies, asked for them to go, and tucked the crinkly paper sleeve into my purse, where they would be safe from the obnoxious rain and sleet outside.

Behold, chocolate chip cookie perfection

When I got home, after announcing to Flaneur that I came bearing treats, we each bit into our palm-sized cookies, and let me tell you, it suddenly became spring. The clouds parted. The slush disappeared. Rays of sunlight burst everywhere and birds chirped as flowers bloomed. Ok, so none of that actually happened but still. Those cookies were phenomenal.

Striking just the perfect balance of slightly crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside, with a doughy sweet flavor and fat chunks of chocolate, the Roasting Plant’s cookies might not have done anything for the dreary weather, but they definitely did wonders for my my mood. Without trying more of the other cookies on the list, it’s unfair to say this is definitely the best, but I can say this much: this delicious cookie has been the best thing to happen this spring.

Deck the halls with cookies and doughnuts

Mmmmm, dooooughnuts.

I love the holiday season and almost everything about it  (with the exception of maybe fruit cake which I will quite possibly never come around to) but it’s not often that I’m so moved by the holiday spirit that I have the urge to burst out into song and belt out a Christmas carol or two. But seriously, these ornaments I saw at Urban Outfitters this weekend kind of made me want to  do just that.

O Christmas tree! O Christmas tree! How delicious are your ornaments!

Well, no, maybe I didn’t go quite that far. The only Christmas songs I ever feel compelled to sing along with are Wham’s “Last Christmas” and of course, Mariah’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” (I mean really, how ridiculously catchy is that song?) Even then, I tend to have these moments home alone (or in the shower) and not out in public.

Forget tinsel, I want cookies on my tree

But all singing and joking aside, I really do enjoy these foodie ornaments. Look at that cookie! How nicely would that match my cookie shaped camera pouch? (Hint hint. I’m lookin’ at you,  Santa.)

As the song goes…

“O Christmas tree! O Christmas tree! Much pleasure thou can’st give me!”

(Yes, those are real lyrics.)

 

 

Goodness gracious…

I’ve never been a big meatball fan. I never had a grandma with a secret recipe for them, never been one to order a meatball sub, and after a couple of years spent in Italy, the thought of spaghetti and meatballs together is almost sacrilegious. Yet last fall when I read about the opening of The Meatball Shop, a small Lower East Side restaurant centered solely around meatballs, I was intrigued. It’s been on my “list” ever since but it wasn’t until this weekend that I got around to finally going.

And let me tell you, I should have made going (again and again and again) a top priority.

There are a few ways you can have your meatballs, but the best and easiest, what Flaneur and I went with for our Saturday night dinner there, was the a la carte option. You pick what kind of meatball you want, what sauce you want on chosen meatballs, and finally what side you want either with or under them.

Spicy pork meatballs with spicy meat sauce on polenta

Meatball choices were classic beef, spicy pork, veggie, chicken and the week’s special: buffalo chicken wing. As curious as I was about a ball of chicken wing, I went with spicy pork instead. Then from my choices of classic tomato, mushroom gravy, spicy meat sauce and parmesan cream, I went again with the spicy one. Sides were divided into two categories: “stick to your bones” and “greenmarket.” Stick to your bones sides were risotto, spaghetti, rigatoni, polenta, mashed potatoes and white beans, while greenmarket, as the name might suggest, were different salad options and steamed, sauteed and roasted veggies. The logical choice for me, the one that jumped out at me when I first picked up the menu, was polenta, which I asked for underneath my meatballs.

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