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

Finding The One

Since moving to the West Village last December, I’ve felt a little like Goldilocks in The Story of the Three Bears. Instead of a bed though, I’ve been looking for a place to make my neighborhood go-to, my spot if you will.

I’ve tried coffee shops, wine bars, and all sorts of eateries, from greasy Chinese take-out to homey Italian to sushi directly below our apartment and yet nothing’s felt exactly right.

That is, until Buvette, which might just be the one, the one that’s cute and charming, has good food, wine and coffee, and feels right whether I’m alone at the bar with a book or at a small corner table with the beau.

Snuggled in to a small space on Grove Street, Buvette is a casual eatery that feels like something you might find in a picturesque Parisian neighborhood. The food has a decidedly French slant with Italian notes here and there, like the Campari spiked lemonade or the selection of Italian wines. From the times I’ve been there, here are my favorites:

Pomodorini tartine

On my first visit I had this tartine, which I’ll admit I didn’t think would be more than a snack, but ended up being  pretty filling and a great lunch. On top of the crunchy toasted bread were creamy blobs of mozzarella, juicy, tart sun-dried tomatoes, soft, purplish-colored olives and a crisp, almost bitter green mixed in.

Spoon bread

For dessert on that first time, I followed up with the spoon bread, if for no other reason than because I had no idea what spoon bread was. It turned out to be a delicious carrot cake-like dessert, served with in a rammekin and topped with a small mountain of a thick, rich, cream cheese frosting.

Croque Madame

On my most recent visit, I had the ridiculously good Croque Madame, a neat little stack of  crunchy toast topped with a fried egg, buttery ribbons of prosciutto and a sprinkling of parmesan. When I poked the fat, orange center of the egg peeking out from underneath the ham, it erupted with runny yolk oozing over everything. My mouth is watering as I type this. Torture, I tell you, torture.

Croque Forestier

Flaneur, who I couldn’t wait to take to Buvette, had the Croque Forestiere, a mini tower of pieces of toast smothered in gruyere and mushrooms, browned to a warm, golden crust. This would be amazing for breakfast, lunch or dinner… or even all of them all in one day.

Chocolate mousse

Finally, because my sweet tooth always has to have the last word, we split the chocolate mousse, a seemingly shapeless, fat scoop of chocolate mousse with an equally haphazard but generous dollop of whipped cream. It might not have looked like much, but man, was it good. The chocolate was not as airy as other mousse desserts I’ve had but instead was thicker, richer, the perfect dessert to share. The whipped cream, which tasted home made, was only subtle in its sweetness, perfect for the chocolate to shine through in all its delicious glory.

I’ve been there a couple of times now and every time I go, I start thinking about when I can go back again. I want to spend whole afternoons there in my new spot, washing down croques with fresh lemonade, letting the day slip into night while I sit snug as Goldilocks taking a nap in a bear’s bed.

Buvette on Urbanspoon

The best in the world?

Behold, the so-called best of its kind

Naming something the “best in the world” is a sure fire way to guarantee that it’s not, in fact, the best in the world. I mean, really. The world? That’s just kind of a heavy title to be throwing out there.

But… it’s also a pretty smart business move for luring curious suckers like me in to prove it for themselves.

Such was the case with The Best Chocolate Cake in the World, the small Nolita shop with the big claim where I found myself on Christmas Eve (you know, treating myself to an early Christmas present). Originally, the cake was from Portugal, where it started as a dessert item on the menu of a restaurant in  Lisbon, but then it spread to Brazil and Madrid before coming stateside to New York. Continue reading