All I want for Christmas is…

If you didn’t read that headline in a sing-songy Mariah Carey voice, you did it wrong. Go back and try it again.  

All of my favorite blogs and magazines have been posting holiday gift guides and I can’t get enough of them. I read ’em all, even the ones that don’t apply to me: gifts over $250, gifts for your unruly toddler, gifts for your totally sane parents. I love going through them and seeing all the cool stuff that’s out there, and I’ve even snagged a couple of ideas for presents I’d like to buy for a few people on my list. 

With that in mind, I put together a little holiday gift guide of my own. Now, this isn’t necessarily MY specific wish list, more just like a few fun, food-related presents (that I also would totally not be mad at finding underneath my Christmas tree). Cough cough. 

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Please, Santa?

*Cheese of the Month Club from Murray’s Cheese: I’ve seen this one on a few lists and well, it’s because it’s amazing. Murray’s (i.e. my happy place) sends you three different cheeses to have at home, and it can be a one-time thing or a subscription to last however many months you want. 

*Whole wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano: Ok, now hear me out. I know this one’s a big-ticket item but seriously, this is the stuff dreams are made of. 

*Christmas doughnuts from Doughnut Plant: You’d have to either be a diabetic or just the Grinch himself to not love one of these adorable, festive doughnuts. Choose from the coconut snowman, the mint chocolate Christmas tree, or the gingerdough man. Or better yet, get all of them. Oh and throw in a creme brulee doughnut too, cause those are the best. 

*Marseille Amaro from Forthave Spirits: Not only is this distilled in Brooklyn, which gives it extra cool points, but amari are everywhere these days and a great addition to any bar. I’m putting this one on my to-buy-for-myself list. 

*The Best American Food Writing 2018: It’s not all about what you can consume with your mouth, you know? Sometimes you gotta feed your brain too, and find a little inspiration from really great food writing. 

*Fig and chocolate panettone: regular ol’ panettone is already one of the best parts of the holiday season, in my humble opinion, but one made with figs and chocolate? C’mon! Think of the french toast you could make with that! And you don’t even have to wrap it since panettone already comes in its own showy wrapping.

*Good olive oil in a cool tin container: After watching the first episode of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on Netflix recently, I was reminded of the awesome olive oil they have in Italy and how I want to be the kind of person who only keeps the good kind around, the really bright green, peppery, fresh stuff that you’d keep in a cool, rustic-chic tin container like this one. 

*Food of the Italian South, by Katie Parla: Part cookbook, part coffee table book, part travel inspiration, this book isn’t actually available until March but you can pre-order it now. When better to get a present than when you’re least expecting it, like no-holidays March?

Everything

My boyfriend does this maddening thing whenever we go out for weekend bagels: he orders a PLAIN one with PLAIN cream cheese. Yes, that’s right. DOUBLE plain action.

I mean, really. The horrors!

I, on the other hand, always go for an everything bagel. The cream cheese changes (tofu if I’m trying to cut back on dairy, chives if I’m going all out, low fat if I’m feeling guilty about going all out too much) but the bagel is always the same: everything.

I want the salt flakes, the sesame seeds, the pepper, the poppy seeds, the onion, the garlic. I want everything! Which is why when I came across The Doughnut Project’s Everything Doughnut, a hybrid of sweet and savory breakfast favorites, well… I had to have it immediately.

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The Everything Doughnut

My boyfriend, who by the way, unlike me also hates sweet-savory combos, was horrified, so I went alone.

While reflecting on the ol’ theory that opposites attract, I tore into the Everything Doughnut, a big, plump, doughy affair that would’ve been great to share. Underneath its thick cream cheese glaze and photo ready coating of everything seasoningSea salt, pepper, garlic, sesame, even pumpkin seeds! was a pretty classic soft yeast doughnut, not too cakey, not too sweet. The cream cheese glaze was good, sweet and just a little tangy, like the frosting on a carrot cake, while the savory blend of seasoning made for a surprising mix of textures and flavors, the kind of thing that slows your chewing and makes you go, “Hmmm ok. This is…interesting.”

And really, I think that’s the best way to put it: The Everything Doughnut was interesting. Not bad, kind of fun and quirky, but maybe just a little too savory for something I have always associated with being sweet. I’d say it’s something to try once for the novelty but when it comes to “everything” breakfasts, I’ll reserve that for bagels.

A great, gooey gimmick

No one does over the top, gimmicky food quite like New York. There’s the giant soup dumpling you slurp with a straw, the technicolor rainbow bagel, the cookie dough scooped into cones and eaten like ice cream. The more outlandish and calorie laden the better.

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Grilled cheese fantasies come to life

And while I occasionally roll my eyes at the line of people snaking down the block at any of the places turning out these food fetish creations, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had my share, and I too, have waited in some pretty stupid lines to get a taste of the moment’s food craze. (Cronut, I’m looking at you.)

When I heard about this next thing I immediately thought, “Oh Jesus Christ, that’s absurd” followed immediately by “I must have it.” And so my roommate and I compared schedules, nailed a date, and off we went in search of Clinton Hall‘s Flamin’ Hot Doughnut Grilled Cheese.

Made of gooey, melted mozzarella pressed between two Doughnut Project habanero bacon glazed doughnuts in place of bread, the glorious and oh-so-gluttonous flamin’ hot grilled cheese sandwich is served looped through a hook and dangled over a bowl of thick, hot tomato soup for dipping.

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Worth every last calorie.

Even though doughnuts are involved, the sweet element is minimal here, with just the tiniest, subtle sweetness coming through the layers of cheese and butter and doughy, bacony goodness. The tomato soup, which I  often find to be too runny or acidic, was neither. It was thick and creamy, just the right amount of tomatoey sweet with a peppery kick, perfect to complement the grilled cheese.

Even though Clinton Hall only offers 20 of these per day Friday through Sunday, we showed up  just after noon on a Sunday and didn’t have to fight any crowds or freeze our grilled cheese loving asses off standing outside in any lines. A couple of tables had them and obviously there was lots of gawking and picture snapping, but that’s how it goes with these food fads. But if they’re as good as this sandwich was, I don’t really care who’s watching or taking pictures or rolling their eyes. I’ll be the one licking my fingers and doing the little happy dance.

Thanksgiving in donut form

It’s a big surprise to absolutely no one that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. More than Christmas, more than my birthday, certainly more than Valentine’s Day (really, whose favorite holiday is that? No one.) Thanksgiving though, is seriously my jam.

And as such, I’ve been all sorts of excited in the weeks, now days, leading up to it. When I recently read about Zucker Bakery in the East Village and their seasonal Thanksgiving donuts, my head practically exploded. Thanksgiving AND donuts? Combined into one thing? YES.

They come in four flavors: cranberry turkey, turkey gravy, cranberry, and sweet potato. Due to a mix up with the order I placed (because duh, I placed an order) cranberry wasn’t available, but I made sure to get my grubby little fingers on the other three.

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My lovely selection of Zucker Thanksgiving donuts

For savory pastry lovers, the turkey gravy donut is the way to go. This spiced pumpkin donut stuffed with gravy and turkey is a definite departure from its glazed and frosted cousins of the donut world. It would make a great lunch paired with soup, in my opinion.

A donut stuffed with turkey and gravy? God, I love the holidays.

A donut stuffed with turkey and gravy? God, I love the holidays.

Slightly sweeter, thanks to a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and some cranberry filling, is the cranberry turkey donut. If you’re like me, and enjoy the mixing of sweet and savory flavors, this could be for you. The cranberry sauce is tangy and just subtly sweet, and goes great with the turkey and gravy. (In case you somehow had never had a Thanksgiving meal and didn’t already know that.)

Turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce... all inside a pumpkin donut.  Uh huh, that's right.

Turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce… all inside a pumpkin donut. Uh huh, that’s right.

But because I’m a complete sugar junkie, my favorite was the sweetest of the bunch, the sweet potato pie donut with marshmallow filling. Like the pie itself, the sweet potato part of this isn’t super sweet, but the delicious glob of fluffy marshmallow cream inside? Well that’s pure, sugary perfection… especially warm and just out of the oven the way I had it.

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My fave, the sweet potato donut. (And how bout my nails? Pretty spiffy, no?)

Thanksgiving donuts, a new thing for me to give thanks for this Thursday!

The Cronut

Behold, the Cronut

Behold, the Cronut

Let’s cut right to the chase: the Cronut is awesome.

I didn’t wanna say it. I didn’t wanna like it.  I wanted to think New Yorkers were silly and obsessive, constantly looking for an excuse to spend hours in line waiting for something. I wanted all the hype to be just a bunch of hot air.

But it wasn’t, New Yorkers are actually on to something this time, the hype is deserved, and the Cronut is, in fact, awesome.

I showed up at 7:30am on a Sunday morning when Dominique Ansel Bakery doesn’t even open till 9, and there were already about 50 to 75 people ahead of me in line, some sprawled out on picnic blankets, others sitting in camping chairs like they were at a tailgate. I stood on the sidewalk, checked Facebook and Instagram a few hundred times, finished my book, had a lenghty phone conversation with my sister, and finally, after two hours, walked away with a shiny gold take out box, two Cronuts (the max you can buy) waiting inside.

I felt like Charlie with the golden ticket to the Wonka Chocolate Factory.

I felt like Charlie with the golden ticket to the Wonka Chocolate Factory.

On first inspection, they were pretty, definitely winning full points for presentation. Plump and round, like the part doughnut that they are, they were also sparkly with a dusting of sugar and topped with a creamy layer of purply-pink frosting on top for the flavor of the month, blackberry lime.

The Cronut, what a beaut!

The Cronut, what a beaut!

But it was the moment that I actually bit into it that I was completely won over by the Cronut. With sugar immediately clinging to my lips, chin and fingers, I chomped into the still slightly-warm-from-the-oven Cronut and was met not only with layers of soft, buttery pastry but an amazing burst of rich blackberry jam and a thick, custardy cream filling. It wasn’t just a wimpy little bit way in the back either. No, no, this delicious jammy-creamy combo oozed out of every bite, making each bite an amazing one.

A sticky, creamy, jammy wonderfully delicious mess I made

A sticky, creamy, jammy wonderfully delicious mess I made

If you’re wondering whether I ate both Cronuts I bought, the answer is yes, you bet your ass I did. I’m single and my roommate is out of town. No one else but me was getting their grubby fingers on my Cronuts. And after wolfing them both down, I am totally and completely on board the Cronut fan bandwagon. Those bad boys are awesome.

Doughnut day of celebration

I recently found myself in the delicious scnenario of talking to a handsome fellow about doughnuts. (Sigh. File that under situations I wish happened more often.)

The doughnut talk (which I didn’t even initiate, in case you were thinking I only talk about food), started because Mr. Easy-On-The-Eyes recommended the kids’ cereal themed doughnuts from The General, a new restaurant on the Bowery. I wouldn’t have expected it from an Asian fusion restaurant but I made a mental note and told myself I’d check them out later.

Then earlier this week, via a giant ad in the window of a Dunkin Donuts, I found out that Friday is National Doughnut Day, which immediately brought me back to The General’s doughnuts.

Happy (early) National Doughnut Day!

Happy (early) National Doughnut Day!

I don’t know what they have to do with The General’s asian fusion menu but frankly, who cares! They’re awesome! Goofy but fun, a bit over the top but totally delicious, and absolutely a great way to celebrate National Doughnut Day!

There’s a whole assortment of tasty doughnuts, but I went for the cereal themed, one mini each of the Cocoa Puff, Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch kind. Plump and pillowy soft, each is filled with a cool, creamy filling and topped with a little bit of each kind of cereal for a cute decorative touch and crunchy contrast. My favorite? The Fruity Pebbles, which reminded me of Momofuku’s cereal milk soft serve, and the Cinnammon Toast Crunch, which had a velvety vanilla custard, speckled with cinnamon. The Cocoa Puff was too much of the same, I thought.

So, even though Dunkin is apparently giving out doughnuts with all drink purchases on Friday (thank you, informative poster in the window), I think I rather celebrate at The General… with a glass of cold milk to go with my cereal themed celebration.

Someone send help… and doughnuts

It’s not like I didn’t know moving would be an epic nightmare. Cause I did, I knew. Having moved already a few times in the just four years I’ve lived in this city, I knew good and well what was in store for me. Yet somehow, it’s still managed to be more of an overwhelming headache than I was expecting.

So now, just a few days before the big move, on my day off when I should be out doing fun stuff, here I am instead, sitting in a chaotic mess of boxes, suitcases, and piles and piles of crap. Clearly, I’m not packing and organizing though, because if I was I wouldn’t be writing this.

Dammit packing and moving, why can't you be as fun as eating doughnuts?

Dammit packing and moving, why can’t you be as fun as eating doughnuts?

No, instead I’m daydreaming about doughnuts, which I woke up craving and now that I need to be productive, am being completely distracted by. And because I’m stressed out and prone to stress-induced binge eating, I really wish I had a plate stacked high with the ones from Vegan Divas. I had them about a month ago when I  brought a few to a vegan friend’s brunch, and now, well now I wish I could teleport to the Upper East Side to buy some more.

Sure, they lacked the over-the-top, full fat, gluttonous quality of say, Krispy Kreme, but they were actually really good. Soft and moist, they would’ve been great dunked in coffee or the way I had them, stuffed into my mouth, quickly and often. The chocolate frosted and cinnamon sugar varieties were both tasty but my favorite were the toasted coconut.

And now that I’m sitting here, I wish every one of these boxes, these piles of things to maybe keep maybe throw away, these magazines to recycle, these knick knacks to wrap and package, would all just turn into delicious, guilt free doughnuts.