Birthday blackout…cupcake version

Yesterday was one of my coworker’s birthdays, and as the office manager of sorts, I’m usually in charge of getting treats for in-office birthday celebrations. But you see, because my birthday was the next day, today, I thought, “Hmmm what do I want? Should we go with donuts? Maybe ice cream cake again? Cheesecake perhaps?”

In the end, I decided to keep it traditional and go with cupcakes, the sure-fire crowd pleaser. Oh, but not just any ol’ cupcakes. Nope, not on my watch. And not on the company dime, either. (Ha!)  Oh no no. If I was interrupting my regularly scheduled weekday healthy eating aaaand celebrating another year of life, it couldn’t just be a basic cupcake.

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I mean, how gorgeous is this cupcake? And friggin’ delicious, too.

Cue the lights! In my head, this is where the stage lights suddenly cut out and a bright white beam of light shines down, dramatically illuminating the perfect Brooklyn Blackout cupcake from Ovenly that I chose for myself. I mean, the office. The cupcake I chose for the office.

Ovenly’s Brooklyn blackout cake is perfection in baked good form. The cake is rich and moist without being heavy or fudgy. And the icing? I mean, it might be black magic. It’s perfectly smooth and mousse-like and tastes like a Barry White song for the tastebuds—sweet and sexy and fun, like you can’t help but close your eyes for a beat and shimmy your shoulders over its beautiful petal-like swirls of the richest, loveliest shade of black a New York girl like myself could ever want. (Note about the color, because a friend asked: it doesn’t come from dye but rather from black cocoa powder, which is basically cocoa powder that has been neutralized of most of its acidity, and in the process turned a dark, almost black color. It’s the same stuff they use in Oreos!)

As I suspected, the cupcakes were a hit, and I was extra happy when the birthday-celebrating coworker emailed me from his desk to tell me how awesome he thought they were. I was happiest today, however, when I walked in and there was one lone, delicious Brooklyn blackout cupcake still sitting on the kitchen counter, leftover from the day before. I swooped in and happily ate it for breakfast. It’s my birthday, after all.

Out with the old and in with the calories

Ok, hear me out. This time I have a good excuse for my latest disappearing act. My dear, sweet computer, my ol’ Italian girl with the keyboard that used to trip everybody up except me, finally gave up the fight and went peacefully in her sleep one night.

We had a good long run together, about 8 years, so I think I need some time alone, no? Blogging on my phone, however, is a nightmare and doing it at work isn’t really an option either at the moment, so there you have it: radio silence.

But don’t you worry, it’s been gluttonous business as usual here. Below, a look at the things I’ve been eating and drinking and just not writing about:

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The phenomenal leek bread pudding from Cassette‘s brunch menu wasn’t what I was expecting (since I didn’t really know what to expect) but it was damn good. Oh and the restaurant, in Greenpoint, is adorable. You should go.

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I hated it the first time I tried it but over the years, the Negroni has become one of my favorites. At Extra Fancy in Williamsburg, they have a frozen one. Clearly, I was in love.

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In all the years I’ve lived in New York so far, I had never been to Carnegie Deli so when I heard that the local institution was closing at the end of the year, I had to go. Not wanting to wait an hour and a half on the sidewalk for a table inside, Stas and I got our order to-go and ate it in the park. The Woody Allen (“lots corned beef and lotsa pastrami”), the most delicious knish I’ve had yet, a fat slice of banana cream pie and a thick wedge of the richest, most dense cheesecake I’ve ever eaten, and the two of us were done for.

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And lastly, a special shout out to the pretzel dog at my favorite bar in my old hood, the Rusty Knot. It’s nothing fancy, just a hot dog in the loving embrace of warm, salty dough, but dammit it fills my heart with all the feels every time. Or maybe that was the drinks. Who knows. It’s all delicious.

Ice cream to cure indecision

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Nothing makes my maddening indecision flare up like standing in front of the supermarket’s freezer section of ice cream, trying to choose just one flavor to take with me. If I’m by myself, I can easily clock up to fifteen minutes standing there, my eyes darting between cookie dough and dulce de leche, coconut and mint chocolate chip, rum raisin and plain ol’ vanilla. (If I’m with someone else, I’ll make a quick choice and then spend the duration of my check out time second guessing my selection.)

I was in exactly this state of mental turmoil Sunday night when I saw a pint of Van Leeuwen ice cream that stopped me right in my indecisive tracks: the limited edition Selamat Pagi curried nuts and salted caramel swirl in vanilla ice cream. Boom. Decision made.

A sticky, sweet, creamy, crunchy, salty, curried heap of deliciousness

A sticky, sweet, creamy, crunchy, salty, curried heap of deliciousness

No sooner had I run home, than I threw everything on the kitchen table and without unpacking anything other than my pint of ice cream, dug a spoon right into the soft, gooey, caramely heart of it. It was simultaneously smooth and creamy, sweet from the vanilla and savory from the curried nuts, just a hint of salty from the thick ribbons and swirls of salted caramel and both spicy and crunchy from the  nuts.

It took everything in me not to eat the whole pint in one ravenous sitting. So instead I polished off half right then and there (in front of my unpacked groceries) and the other half the next night. It was some of my finer decision making, if I do say so myself.

Bodega Finds

Ah, Half Baked. One of my favorite movies of all time.

Ah, Half Baked. One of my favorite movies of all time.

Living in New York can be a pain in the ass and every one of us that lives here has a million things to bitch about, but if there’s one distinctly New York thing I’m actually thankful for it’s bodegas.

That’s right, bodegas. Convenience or corner stores for those of you that don’t live in this zoo.  You can find them on almost every block in every neighborhood in this city and if you’re ever in a pinch— be it for ice cream, dishwashing soap, condoms, or any other random thing— you can almost always just run down the street and they’ll have what you need.

Sometimes, they even surprise you with things you didn’t realize you needed but then wonder how you lived without them. That’s what’s happened to me anyway the last few times I’ve popped into one of the million bodegas in my neighborhood.

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I already love Ritters, and then they went and made a coconut macaroon type. Ah-mazing.

Take this Ritter Sport, coconut macaroon holiday edition, for example. I originally stopped in for coffee but walked out with a delicious chocolate bar that I hadn’t seen anywhere else and made my crappy, cold morning precisely a thousand times better.

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I gotta tell you, this cookie on cookie action works for me.

Then there was the time last week when I ran into a bodega to use the ATM and spotted these insane Oreos with chocolate chip cookie dough flavored creme. What?! How do you pass those? You don’t. You buy them and you take them home and you devour them with your roommate. Happiness ensues.

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I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for gimmicky M&M’s.

And then there was the recent time when said roommate and I ran to the nearest bodega for bottles of water to squash our awful hangovers, when we spotted these at the register: birthday cake M&M’s. I mean, really, it’s like each one is filled with a core of chocolaty deliciousness, happiness and sunshine.

So thank you bodegas of New York. Sometimes you’re weird, sometimes your clerks are creepy, and sometimes I’m convinced you’re just fronts for God knows what kind of illegal activity. But most of the time you just have exactly what I need exactly when I don’t even know I need it. And for that, I thank you.

No bacon, eggs or cheese here but it’s OK

With the exception of New Year’s Day, when I woke up with an outrageous, crippling hangover and wanted nothing more than to eat all of the bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches in New York City, being a vegan hasn’t been that bad.

I’m on day twelve of my month long challenge  and not once in those twelve days have I cheated, fantasized about dairy (that much), or directed malicious thoughts toward people eating non-vegan things. (Although, confession time: having to order vegetarian meatloaf at a chicken-and-waffles joint sucked… especially when my friend’s fried chicken smelled like God himself.)
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Just as great tasting as it is looking, I swear

One of the good things about living in New York though, and more specifically Brooklyn, is that being vegan doesn’t have to suck. I mean, it’s not ideal (life without bacon cheeseburgers just can’t be ideal), but it’s not the worst thing ever, either. A couple mornings ago, for example, I found myself at Brooklyn Standard, my favorite Greenpoint deli, looking for a big breakfast to hunker down in bed with while binge watching Downton Abbey. (It was my day off and the weather was rating pretty high on the shitty winter weather scale, so yea, those were my plans.)
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What a beaut.

And that’s when I saw it: the Cali Bagel with the magic v word in parenthesis: tofu cream cheese, tempeh sausage, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, jalapeños, and basil. Slap all that on an everything bagel and you’re looking at a pretty happy fake vegan.

First of all, let me say this: I was ready to hate tofu cream cheese. As a serious lover of real cream cheese, I didn’t think I had it in me to love an imposter, but I did. I loved how creamy and smooth it was, and how it just melted and oozed all over my toasted bagel. The tempeh sausage, while not as delicious as the real deal, was good and had a nice, sausagey consistency and flavor. The cherry tomatoes were juicy and bright and the jalapeños added a perfect hint of tangy spiciness.

Being a vegan for another 20 or so days shouldn’t be too hard if I have this bad boy just down the block.

How I beat the heat

Every year I keep my fingers crossed and make all sorts of failed plea bargains with God to make it a cool summer, one where the temperature never goes above, oh I don’t know, say 75 degrees. And every year my prayers fall on deaf ears and the sticky, opressive heat of summer comes down hard and heavy on me. With temperatures in the 90s today, it looks like this summer is shaping up to be more of the same.

So if nature, Earth and the universe itself all insist on another steamy summer, I insist on lobster rolls. That’s just all there is to it and I’m not budging on the matter.

Summer comfort food: New England lobster roll at Greenpoint's Lobster Joint

Summer comfort food: New England lobster roll at Greenpoint’s Lobster Joint

So with the morning off from work and the sun beating down on the city, I decided to walk over to Greenpoint’s Lobster Joint, a cute, casual place serving all things lobster and if you ask me, all things summer. The oyster roll, lobster club and crab cake sandwich were all tempting but the only question for me was how I wanted my lobster roll, New England style with mayo or Connecticut style with butter. With sweat trickling uncomfortably down several parts of my body, ordering anything warm with butter seemed completely out of the question, so I went with the cold-prepped Connecticut style lobster roll, with mayo, herbs and celery.

Nothing pulls me out of the sweaty trenches of a bad mood quite like a lobster roll, especially when it comes with a heap of golden, crunchy-on-the-outside, just soft-enough-on-the-inside fries, a fat, juicy pickle and a little serving of creamy, cool cole slaw. Add a frosty cold Maine Root root beer and you’re looking at an ideal way to spend a sweaty afternoon. I usually prefer butter over mayo when it comes to lobster rolls, but Lobster Joint’s was perfect, with just the right amount of mayo, nothing too slimy or goopy and for under $20 I was shocked at the fat chunks of soft, pink lobster meat bulging out of my roll.

It might end up being an overindulgent, decadent summer if I use lobster rolls to combat the heat, but that’s an issue I’m ready to take on if it means any relief in the months to come.

Lobster Joint on Urbanspoon

Muffin gamechanger

While it might appear to be a regular ol' muffin, this is anything but...

While it might appear to be a regular ol’ muffin, this is anything but…

When it comes to baked goods, muffins aren’t usually something I rave about. I mean, I’ve obviously had good muffins before (lemon poppyseed at Blue Hill Cafe, I’m looking at you) but I never really crave a muffin when I could have a cookie or a brownie or a buttery croissant. Muffins are always just… ok. They never go above and beyond for me.

That is, until now. Until Saturday morning to be exact, when my lips met the oh-so-sweet, ridiculously good peanut butter and jelly muffin at Ovenly in Greenpoint. There were all manner of cookies, brownies, scones and goodies but at the suggestion of the girl working behind the counter, I went with this particular muffin and boy, did it pay off.

Behold, peanut butter and jelly deliciousness... now in muffin form!

Behold, peanut butter and jelly deliciousness… now in muffin form!

Soft and moist like no other muffin I’ve ever bit into, this one had an almost sparkly dusting of what tasted like cinnamon and brown sugar on top, with thin slices of almond for a subtle nutty note. Inside though, is where the magic happened: a gooey core of sweet peanut butter and jammy, ruby colored jelly. De-freakin’-licious. But unlike certain jelly doughnuts where you beeline straight for the filling and the rest is just an afterthought, this muffin was delicious throughout, perfectly sweet and cinnamony.

I’ll be back to try some other sweets and snacks at Ovenly, and until then I’ll be doing something I never have before, daydreaming about a muffin, their perfect peanut butter and jelly muffin.