New beer from old favorites

While I fancy myself a pretty adventurous eater, (hello, have you had bull testicles?) I tend to play it relatively safe when it comes to beer drinking. I’m a wheat beer girl, IPAs remind me of the time I accidentally sprayed perfume in my mouth, and anything too red or dark is a chore to drink. At most, I’ll go for citrus notes. I like beers that are light and crisp and go down easy. Boring, even.

:: Shoulder shrug ::

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A few casual afternoon beers

But even though it goes against everything I look for and prefer in a beer, the second I read about Grimm Artisinal Ales’ Sumi Babka— an imperial milk stout inspired by ding ding ding! You guessed it: babka— my mouth practically started watering.

Babka, you see, is one of my favorite things ever, especially the chocolate variety. That soft, doughy swirl of a loaf gets me every time. It’s good with coffee or with tea, topped with ice cream or just eaten one torn-off hunk at a time, and now it turns out, it’s also good in stout form.

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Dark and delicious

Made with cacao, salt and vanilla, the Sumi Babka has a smooth, velvety feel, noticeably chocolatey but not overwhelmingly so, never cloying or syrupy either. At 12% alcohol by volume, it definitely packs a punch but doesn’t taste super heavy or strong. I only didn’t have a second one because Grimm has such an interesting and fun assortment of brews,  I felt I had to make the most of my time and try different ones.

Next time I go, (which I’m hoping is soon because I was a big fan of Grimm’s brewery and taproom) I’ll skip the weiss selections I would normally go for (of which Grimm has several that look good) and beeline straight for that babka stout instead. I’ll just have to bring some chocolate babka with me to complete the experience.

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Beers and brownies… that’s a thing, right?

Side note: In lieu of babka, Grimm does have a pretty delicious chocolate-tahini brownie from nearby Mediterranean spot, Samesa. Speckled with sea salt flakes and made of a creamy, moist chocolate, it’s definitely a bit more on the dessert side than babka, but you know who’s not complaining about that? This girl right here.

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.

Alive and well…fed

I’m back! Here I mean. Back to blogging!

I did that thing where I kind of disappear from the ol’ bloggity blog and keep thinking about how I need to get back to it, and then I just keep procrastinating, and stockpiling food pics, and  feeling bad about not writing and then BAM! I get my act together and I come back.

So yea, here I am.

So where’ve I been? Oh, around. Getting properly settled into my new apartment, working, hosting out of town friends, spending a weekend in Atlanta with my sister, and most recently, traveling to the Dominican Republic for a good friend’s destination wedding. All of that with the usual gallivanting in between.

Peach cobbler? Good. Peach cobbler in bed? Great!

Peach cobbler? Good. Peach cobbler in bed? Great!

I’ll get into more detail about ATL and the DR over the next few days, cause I did some really good grubbing in both, but for now I’ll leave you with a snap of the freakin’ delicious peach cobbler a la mode I had in Atlanta. Not only was it perfectly warm and gooey on the inside with a delicious crumbly streusel top and a fat scoop of vanilla ice cream, but it was a thousand times more decadently delicious cause I ate it in bed, in my PJs, with my feet propped up while watching Wedding Crashers in my hotel room.

Absolutely freakin’ delicious, like so many nights I’ve had in the time I’ve been away. Wait till I tell you all about ’em.

Go me, it’s my birthday!

Today marks the official beginning of the end… of my 20s that is. That’s right folks, I’m turning the big 2-9. (Shocking, I know, since it feels like I’ve been coasting at 22 for ages now.)

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I’ve decided to make like Feivel and head west, to California, where I’ll be visiting old friends, new places and hopefully forgetting about the closeness of 30.

Nothing puts the happy in happy birthday quite like chicken and waffles ON TOP of a cupcake.

Nothing puts the happy in happy birthday quite like chicken and waffles ON TOP of a cupcake.

But really, the celebrating started a few days ago when my ah-ma-zing roomate and dear good friend bought me chicken and waffles cupcakes from Yaya’s Cakes in Crown Heights.

Yup, go ahead and let that settle in your head: chicken and waffles cupcakes. Vanilla buttermilk cupcakes topped with vanilla maple buttercream, a wedge of waffle, a hunk of fried chicken and a spicy maple drizzle. Every bit as over the top and delicious as they sound.

Now, THAT’S how you properly kick off a birthday! Next stop, sunny California!

It’s skyr madness!

So much skyr!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love yogurt. I think most people feel pretty lukewarm about it, but I actually love it and eat it most days. I especially love plain flavored Greek yogurt for its thick, creamy consistency and rich, tangy flavor.

Before going to Iceland, the one thing I knew about local eating habits there was that people were serious about skyr, an Icelandic yogurt of sorts, similar to the Greek kind in its consistency, flavor and high protein content. And really, that was almost enough for me to fork over plane fare. Sure, all of the other awesome things about Iceland sealed the deal, but really, I was sold at skyr.

Skyr: non fat and high in protein, yet tastes like a complete dessert.

Once my sister and I were there, skyr really was everywhere and I, for one, thought it was great! At supermarkets, there were dozens of brands and flavors, including plain, fruity like blueberry and raspberry, or sweeter varieties like vanilla and caramel. In my six days there, I tried a bit of them all. Because I’m a big vanilla fan I really liked that one which was almost custardy, but the caramel one was really good too, in a very flan-like, almost dessert way.

Oh that all mornings could start with this much deliciousness!

At Kex, the hipstery hostel where we stayed, skyr was always a part of the morning breakfast line-up. The tart, plain flavored kind was served in small glass jars and left up to the eater to jazz up with an assortment of oats, granola, jams and dried fruits. My favorite combo was the dark, rich blueberry jam they put out (which by the way, was delicious and I would have eaten with just about anything) and the crunchy, nutty granola. I had it that way the first day we had breakfast there, and every morning we went back.

Lucky for me, places like Murray’s and Whole Foods actually sell skyr, so an Icelandic morning dairy fix is never too far. And as a devoted yogurt lover, that makes me very happy.

Hey there, sweet stuff

Say what you will about Valentine’s Day, but I for one, am a fan. I mean, how could I not be when there are so many sweet things to be had? Yes, kisses, cuddles and hanky panky are fun but I’m talking the real sweet stuff: SUGAR.

Valentine's Day can't be anything BUT happy when it involves this.

Last year, my darling boyfriend got me doughnuts (from my favorite place to get them in the whole wide universe, Doughnut Plant) so this year I decided to take his idea and put an Italian spin on it. I schlepped it uptown to Bomboloni, an Upper West Side bakery specializing in— you guessed it— bomboloni, which for those of you who might not know, are the Italian cousin of the traditional filled doughnut, and came home with a box of six. Bomboloni are more round than American doughnuts, almost perfectly spherical, and back on the Boot, they’re covered in a sparkly dusting of sugar, with usually either cream or chocolate filling.

At Bombolini in the UWS (there’s also one in Rome), the bombolini come in a whole assortment of flavors and only one, which was actually called a bomba and was much bigger than the rest, had the traditional sugar coating. The others varied between caramelized sugar, chocolate glaze, confectioners sugar, crushed nuts and other toppings. In the picture above, the middle one is crème brulee, then starting with the red one and going clockwise: raspberry, banana, chocolate cherry, vanilla cream, and toasted marshmallow cream. We both agreed that our favorite bombolone, with its  bright, thick jammy filling, was the raspberry (even though in Italy I’m a cream girl through and through).

My Italian beau likes to complain that while he can get almost any food in the world here in New York, the Italian pastries, like bomboloni, are not as easy to come by. My box from Bomboloni was a nice way to prove him wrong and get a sugary treat all in one present. Made Valentine’s Day all the sweeter.

Where the wild drinks are

Fraise Sauvage at Employees Only

I’d heard lots of good things about Employees Only, the Art Deco-ish, non-descript-from-the-outside bar in the West Village but it wasn’t until out-of-town guests came to stay with us that I decided we should check it out. (I like to impress visitors with cool stuff so they don’t dwell on the fact that I live in a glorified matchbox.)

The ambiance was cozy and intimate, with that cooler-than-thou hint of exclusivity that pervades so many places in this neighborhood, but it was the Fraise Sauvage, French or something for “delicious and best smelling cocktail in the world,” that really sold me on the place.

Like almost everything else in New York, the drink was about three times the price I’d pay in a normal city, but then again, no one moves to New York looking for normalcy, now do they? Plymouth Gin shaken with wild strawberries and Tahitian Vanilla, topped off with Zardetto prosecco di Conegliano Brut. Fizzy, sweet, tart and with a bold taste and bright aroma of  juicy, fresh wild strawberries.

On top of everything, EO is literally two blocks from my apartment. Looks like this one’s getting added to the out-of-town-guests itinerary. (And to my personal delicious drinks itinerary.)

No animals were hurt in the eating of this meal

Of the million-and-one places to eat in San Francisco the one I’ve frequented the most in the month and a half that I’ve been here is—wait for it… waaait for it—a vegan restaurant. Yup, that’s right. Me. Vegan. No cheese. No bacon. Absolutely no trace of pork belly. None of it.

I should probably clarify, though, that the main reason I’ve been there more than any other restaurant is because it’s just around the corner and a 15-second walk from where I live, and they take credit cards (which always wins major brownie points from me.)

Loving Hut is a national chain of vegan restaurants, and while they all have a decidedly asian slant, each one has a different menu to reflect the culture and ingredients of the city it’s in. The one I go to is in Chinatown so most of the  menu, with the exception of the somewhat awkwardly named “western” page (featuring the likes of spaghetti and vegan hot dogs), is Chinese, with other asian countries represented as well (shout out to Vietnamese pho).

This particular Loving Hut has a lunch special I always see advertised, but since I’m never around during lunch time, I never get it. (I’m usually there on weeknights when I don’t have anything to eat at home and am feeling lazy.) On Thursday, though, I had the day off so I decided to take advantage.

Eggplant and tofu, mushrooms and green beans, and white rice

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“Mmmm doughnuts…”

The other day, while randomly thinking about food (which happens with the same frequency as teenage boys thinking about sex), I was struck by a thought.

I could really go for a doughnut right now. Hey wait a minute! When was the last time I even had a doughnut? I don’t think I’ve had one in months! How did I let this happen?

The simple and classic vanilla glazed doughnut

After a thorough Google search, several dozen online reviews and many happy customer comments, I decided on the place to satisfy my doughnut yearning: the Lower East Side’s Doughnut Plant.

Flaneur and I headed out early Friday night, braving the blustery streets and taking two different subways to get our (my) doughnut fix. With my hands burrowed as deep as they would go into my coat pockets and hair whipping around my face, I was ecstatic when having resurfaced in the LES, I looked across the otherwise dark, somewhat uninviting Grand Street and saw the lit windows of Doughnut Plant.

We pulled the door open and stepped into the warm, humid shop as the sugary smell of glaze and cake circled around us.

“Sorry guys,” said the guy mopping the floor as we walked in. “We’re closed.”

“Whaaaat?!” I blurted it out in terror. “But… but no… I mean, what time is it?”

I yanked my coat sleeve up and twisted my watch around so I could see the face. 7:30

“Sorry, we close at 7,” said the guy, mop still in hand.

Expletives roared in my head as my heart sank and I looked up at Flaneur with the defeated look of “well, shit, now what?”

Carrot cake alla doughnut style

Either the despair in my face was obvious (which I’m sure it was, because it was genuine) or the guy with the mop read my mind (in which case he must think I curse like a sailor) because as we turning to go, ready to venture back into the cold, windy night with no warm, sweet doughnuts in our bellies, he started to say something.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said as I snapped back to attention, “I’ll sell you what I have. I got sunflower, chocolate, carrot cake, vanilla or orange.”

Feeling like a death row inmate given a second shot at life, I spun back around to Flaneur for a speedy powwow on what we should get. I felt the need to move fast before this guy changed his mind or shooed us out so he could keep cleaning.

“We’ll take a carrot cake doughnut and a sunflower!” I squeaked as the guy nodded and slipped back into the kitchen to collect our doughnuts. A few seconds later he was out with a large white paper bag.

“Here you go,” he said. “The vanilla one’s on the house.”

Awesome! The only thing better than doughnuts when you think you’ve missed them is free doughnuts when you think you’ve missed them!

Not wanting to further inconvenience this kind and generous soul, we stepped out of his way and out of the warm shop to enjoy our treats on the small wooden bench outside.

The quirky yet tasty sunflower seed doughnut

The first one to get pulled out was the large vanilla glazed doughnut. One huge bite into it and I was no longer fazed by the chilly gusts of wind hitting my face. This thing was good, soooo good. It was warm and chewy with just enough glaze that it was deliciously sweet but not so much that it had that white sheen of dried glue. The only thing that could have made this particular doughnut any better would’ve been a piping hot cup of joe to dunk it in.

Between the two of us, that doughnut didn’t stand a chance. It was gone in under a minute and I was already digging through the paper bag for the one I had picked out, the carrot cake doughnut.  Unlike the vanilla glazed, this carrot cake version was rounder, like an inner tube blown up to the point its about to burst. The first bite revealed a moist, cakey cinnamon brown inside, with a streak of creamy white frosting running through the middle. The outside was glazed with a generous coating of crushed nuts and carrot bits. Also gone in a just a few exaggerated mouthfuls.

As I polished off that one, Flaneur was getting to work on his sunflower seed selection. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little disappointed when he went for the oddball sunflower choice over the traditional, hard-to-go-wrong-with chocolate, but when we swapped doughnuts to get a taste of each other’s picks, I knew he’d made the right choice. With less of the plump roundness of the carrot cake and more of the flattened out, circular thickness of the vanilla glazed, this doughnut was just as scrumptious as the other two. The inside was warm and soft and the outside had a thick gooey sweet glaze sprinkled with slightly salty, fat, shelled sunflower seeds. Flaneur, who eats more sunflower seeds than a caged parakeet, chomped his way through it happily.

As I licked the last sticky remnants of glaze from my fingers I thought about running back inside and hugging that nice man who gave us a second chance at these delicious treats. “Thank you,” I would have said while squeezing, “thank you for saving my weekend from being off to a doughnut-less bad start. Because of you and the ridiculously good doughnuts you sold (and gave) us I can go back out into the cold night and go merrily on with my weekend.”