Key lime jonesing

It’s not often that I wish I was in Florida. Usually I’m perfectly happy being far from it. But yesterday, on my lunch break at work, as soon as I walked out into the blaring sunshine and high temperatures of what felt like a preview of another New York summer, I found myself wishing I was in Florida. In Key West to be exact. In a hammock in the shade, somewhere near the water, with a fat wedge of key lime pie to be even more exact.

mermaid

Big Gay Ice Cream’s Mermaid Sundae. Hellooooo, summer.

I love Key West and its laid back, mellow vibe, hippy residents, and kitschy charm,  but more than anything else about it, I love the city’s most famous desert, my favorite Florida treat, key lime pie. Since boarding a plane to the Sunshine State wasn’t an option, I got my fix at Big Gay Ice Cream in the West Village instead, where I ordered the Mermaid Sundae.

A heaping cup of creamy vanilla soft serve, thick swirls of bright yellow key lime curd, crushed graham crackers, and velvety swirls of  fluffy whipped cream were exactly what I needed to take the edge off a hot afternoon. Sure, there was no hammock, no ocean, and certainly no laid back vacation mode, but that perfect combination of sweet, tangy, and tart flavors, and the creamy, smooth and crumbly crust  textures of Big Gay Ice Cream’s salute to the key lime pie was all I really needed. Everything else I just closed my eyes and imagined was there.

I’m a Puddin’ person

I don’t know what it is about pudding— maybe it’s the smooth creaminess, the variety of flavors, the way it takes me back to childhood and packed lunches—I don’t know, I just love it. Always have and always will. At the ripe old age of 27, I still buy Snack Packs and Jell-O pudding cups. (There’s Jello-O creme brulee rice pudding in my fridge, as we speak.)

Chocolate pudding, whipped cream, and butterscotch pudding. A classic is a classic for a reason.

A few months ago when I heard about Puddin’, an East Village shop specializing in— yup, you guessed it—  pudding, my inner child and inner fat kid high-fived each other, and then we all made plans to go.

The way it works at Puddin’ is you can get  simple cups of pudding in all the classic flavors, including chocolate, vanilla and  butterscotch among others, or you can add toppings into the mix (sweet add-ins like salted caramel sauce, candied nuts, or red velvet cake to name a few), OR if you’re like me and you get semi-overwhelmed in the face of so many tasty choices, you can opt for one of Clio’s signature parfaits. (Clio, in case you were wondering,  is the brains behind this whole Puddin’ operation. I kind of want to be her friend.)

The Banana Cream Dream: the stuff dreams are made of. (Or is that just mine?)

My boyfriend, like a lot of adults, I suspect, only feels lukewarm about pudding. Sure, he’ll eat it if it’s there, but he won’t go out of his way for it. So I dragged him anyway.  Playing it safe, he ordered the classic parfait with layers of thick, cool chocolate and creamy butterscotch pudding alternating between fluffy layers of whipped cream. I, with my ever raging sweet tooth, ordered the banana cream dream, which with its layers of real banana pudding, soft chunks of banana bread, crunchy graham cracker crust crumbles, and airy whipped cream, was absolutely every bit as dreamily delicious as its name implies.

So I guess, really, I do know why I love pudding so much.  Cause plain and simple, it’s awesome. And if you need a reminder of that, a visit to Clio’s Puddin’ is the perfect place to start.

Puddin' by Clio on Urbanspoon

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

Comfort me with corn bread

Part of the deal I worked out with the devil in exchange for my boyfriend living in New York with me is that every year, for at least a couple of months, I have to release him back into the wild, back to that intoxicatingly ass-backwards boot-shaped country he calls home. (Kidding about the devil part, by the way.) He goes back to see friends and family and usually to go on some incredible vacation with the rest of Italy when they all go on their usually-month-long holiday in August. (Bastards.) In short, it sucks and I hate it, and part of it, truth be told, is because I’m always just a little scared that he won’t come back. (Yikes, this suddenly feels so much more “Dear Diary-ish” than I meant it to. Food’s coming though, promise.)

As we wind up our last couple of days together before another obnoxiously long (two and a half months to be exact) time apart, I’m squeezing in as many reminders that America, New York, and I (duh) are all awesome and very much worth coming back to.  As part of my plan, I wanted to eat something really great, something I knew he couldn’t get back in the Old World, something to remind him that home was here too: comfort food.

Who needs Tuscany when you have this delicious corn bread? Not this girl (or at least that's what I'm telling myself.)

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Sundae on a sunny Sunday

Sam's sundae from Bi-Rite Creamery

This weekend it was actually warm in San Francisco. Like leave-the-scarf-at-home, get-down-to-just-one-layer and wear-your-sandals-without-fear-of-your-toes-going-numb type warm.

This of course, means nothing to most of you. The whole handful of you who read this blog have probably been dealing with hot weather all summer (or if you’re in Florida… practically year round) and are now welcoming fall with open arms, but in San Francisco, at least since I got here during the first week of August (August!!), it’s been downright chilly. Not in the 70’s like I had thought it would be, but in the low 60’s and then 50’s at night. Now, I’m not complaining. If you know me well, you know I hate the heat. I could just as easily do away with summer and never miss it, but it’s been strange being cold during summer.

This weekend though, for maybe only the second time in the last almost two months, it was hot. Which made me think one thing: ice cream. Continue reading