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!

Giving thanks for the Thanksgiving croissant

In all its glory: the Thanksgiving croissant

To say that I’m completely giddy, bouncing-around-in-anticipation, so-excited-I-could-squeal over Thanksgiving would be a tiny bit of an understatement. I’m beyond that. Way beyond it.

And I’m especially beyond it since FINALLY having the Thanksgiving croissant at Momofuku Milk Bar. I’ve been trying to get my grubby little fingers on one of those buttery, flaky, fat croissants of deliciousness since last year, and every single time I’ve ever gone, both last year and this, they’ve been sold out. Last week, on one of my days off, I went first thing in the morning and snagged a couple (because yes, I bought one to take home after the one I ate immediately on the spot).

So much Thanksgiving goodness in one croissant…

All joking aside, if you live in New York and haven’t had a Thanksgiving croissant from Milk Bar, well, you’re insane. You need to stop dilly-dallying and go get yourself one. Stuffed full of juicy chunks of turkey meat, stuffing, gravy and a tart bit of cranberry sauce, this croissant just needs pumpkin pie to be the perfect pastry embodiement of all that is wonderful about Thanksgiving.

They’re pretty much the best thing ever, and your life will be better for having one, so go on, go get one. It’s the most delicious thing to happen to November since the pilgrims and the indians got together for dinner.

Pigging out in Chitown

While I might appear slothlike, I’m really not, and especially when I travel, I like to hit the ground running. Even after a taxi-flight-taxi combo, the extra added annoyances of flight delays, last-minute carry-on bags having to be checked, and spending almost 3 hours wedged into the dreaded middle seat, as soon as Flaneur and I got to our hotel in Chicago I wanted to go OUT. There was a restaurant I was itching to go to and the next day just wasn’t soon enough. What if I died in my sleep and never made it?

So instead of kicking back and relaxing,  off we went in search of The Purple Pig, a restaurant one of my friends in San Francisco raved about and insisted I go to. Next time I see this friend, I owe her a drink at the very least because The Purple Pig was ridiculous–in the best way. Fireworks and a parade wouldn’t have made for a better welcome to the city.

Below, some food porn from our first night in Chi-town:

First out, from the antipasti section of the menu, were the fresh spring peas and bacon with spearmint. Fattest, most delicious peas I’ve ever eaten. I could eat this all day, every day.

Peas unlike any I’ve ever had.

From the salad portion of the menu,  rabbit panzanella with mixed herbs and lettuce, crispy capers, pickled fiddlehead ferns (that’s one of the curliecues in the left corner) and black truffle vinaigrette. Panzanella, a type of italian bread salad, is one of my favorite easy dishes but this took it to a whole new level. So many colors, flavors, textures. So. Much. Deliciousness.

A crazy heap of panzanella. Crazy good, that is.

Then from the fried items: sardines with shaved fennel salad and lemon vinaigrette. This is one of those dishes that makes you wish you were on vacation at the beach somewhere, maybe in Italy. But then when you realize you’re not, you’re still ok because you have these damn tasty sardines in front of you, and that’s more than enough.

Fried sardines: salty, tangy and just perfect.

Next, from the a la plancha part: pork jowl and grilled asparagus with oyster mushrooms and fried duck egg on top. This was probably, no definitely, my favorite. The pork jowl was tender and meaty, and when that perfect, orange duck yolk spilled over it? I could have cried if I wasn’t busy stuffing forkfuls in my mouth.

Pork jowl and fried duck egg. The people sitting next to us were blatantly staring at us while we ate this, food envy written all over their faces.

Last in our succession of savory eats, the pork neck bone gravy with ricotta from the smears section of the menu. A hearty, saucy, rich dish served with crunchy toast for smearing and dipping, this was a great example of what i consider comfort food.

Pork neck gravy and ricotta smear. As in, I want to smear this all over my mouth.

And then finally, dessert.  It wasn’t easy choosing but at the server’s recommendation, we went with the Sicilian Iris, a ricotta and chocolate chip filled fried brioche. Sounds magnificent doesn’t it? Oh, and it WAS. Something like a cross between a canolo and a bombolone, this thing was unreal. When it came it out, it looked like a round, fat, sugar-dusted donut but inside, it oozed, warm creamy ricotta with dark chocolate chips. Totally decadent, and so, so, so very good.

Sicilian iris: the sweet lovechild between the canolo and the bombolone

Not only was this one of my favorite meals in Chicago, but one of my favorite ever. I’d go back to Chicago just to eat at The Purple Pig again.

The Purple Pig on Urbanspoon

Airports and biscuits and gravy, oh my!

No matter what part of the world you’re in, airport dining options are usually grim. Whether it’s stale, sad panini in Rome or TGI Fridays in Tampa, I don’t ever expect to get any great eating done while I’m spending time in airports.

That is, unless I happen to be laid over in Charlotte, North Carolina, which since I occasionally travel up and down the eastern coast between New York and Miami, happens every now and then. Charlotte Douglas International Airport, you see, is home to one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures and just about the only thing I like about not having a direct flight: Bojangles’ Chicken ‘n Biscuits.

Airport food to be excited about

I discovered Bojangles on a multi-connection flight from Italy once. I had been away for months and the yellow sign promising “chicken ‘n biscuits” was like being met at the baggage claim with flowers and a “welcome home” sign… except way more delicious.

Bojangles has lots of Southern comfort food items on the menu including mac ‘n cheese, sweet potato pie and of course fried chicken, but my stomach really only has eyes for one thing: biscuits and gravy. I don’t get sides or a drink or anything else that might get in the way of me and my gravy covered biscuits.

That’s me on the right. That’s Bojangles’ aaaaaall the way on the left.

On my most recent trip to Florida, I had the great fortune of having a layover in Charlotte, and you better believe I beelined for Bojangles as soon as I was off the plane. But it was perhaps one of the shortest layovers I’ve ever had, so that when my flight landed in terminal A, my next flight was leaving about 15 minutes later just a couple of gates down in the same terminal.  Bojangles, though, was in terminal B. So even though I was lugging my usual, ridiculously overweight carry-on piece, I booked it through the two long terminals like I had a flight to catch. Really, I had biscuits to catch, dammit.

They might not be the most visually appealing food, but God bless ’em, those biscuits are delicious. Soft and doughy, buttery and just slightly crumbly under their thick blanket of creamy, white, pepper speckled gravy, it was all the “welcome home” I needed, even if I was still a plane ride away.