I Scream, You Scream…

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Sunday is National Ice Cream Day! (As far as I’m concerned, every day is Ice Cream Day, but, hey, that’s just me.) I’ve already told you about the Big Gay Ice Cream truck and shop. So here are a few of my other favorite joints in the city:

Il Laboratorio del Gelato on Ludlow St. carries almost 200 varieties of ice cream. The “lab” part of the name stems from the fact that they consider themselves a laboratory for ice cream flavors, and chefs and other customers are encouraged to work with them to develop new ones. Scarf down a scoop or two of buttermilk and you may very well swoon.

Oddfellows has two locations: one in Williamsburg and one on East 4th St. All of the ice creams–even the waffle cones–are made from scratch. And while you’re enjoying your Chorizo Caramel Swirl or Peanut Butter and Jelly scoop, you can feel good about yourself, as with every serving Oddfellows sells, they donate 5 cents to the Food Bank of New York City.

The ice cream sandwiches at Melt Bakery will send you reeling right back to your childhood. The shop also has two homes: one on Orchard St. and one on the High Line in the Chelsea Market passage. Current flavors include Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies with Vanilla ice cream, Peanut Butter cookies with Banana ice cream (the Elvis, of course), and Snickerdoodles with Cinnamon ice cream.

Sundaes and Cones in the East Village specializes in Asian flavors, like Wasabi, Ginger and Black Sesame. Diet-conscious folks will appreciate the fact that they serve non-fat and no-sugar-added scoops as well.

Ronnybrook Milk Bar in the Chelsea Market sells fully organic ice cream, milk, yogurt and milkshakes. There is an actual Ronnybrook Farm upstate, with a slew of well-fed, pampered cows, and we lucky folks here in the city reap the benefits from their labor. The basil scoop is amazing; the cookies and cream milkshake to die for.

Have a great, lactose-filled weekend, everyone!

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Chocoholism

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So this Sunday is Mother’s Day. Of course you’re going to bring yours to North Square so she can stuff her face with yummy food that she didn’t have to lift a finger to cook, right? I thought so.

But what else can you do to make momma feel like #1?

I have three words for you: chocolate, chocolate and chocolate.

Here are some of the best chocolatiers in New York. Be prepared to salivate:

Jacques Torres Chocolate has six locations around the city. (The closest outlet to the hotel is on Hudson Street in Soho.) Champagne truffles, chocolate marshmallows, hot chocolate, cookies and of course those bite-into-them-to-find-out-what-they-are boxes of chocolates are just a few of the offerings. If you really love your mom, and you have the bucks to splurge, you can spring for the 12 Months of Chocolate package, in which mama receives chocolates personally selected by Jacques every month for a year.

Kee’s Chocolates also has several locations, and their chocolates are all hand-made. They’ve got dark chocolate bars, milk chocolate bars and over a dozen varieties of macaroons. (The blood orange with green tea one sounds insane.)

L.A. Burdick, in the Flatiron district, hails from New Hampshire. Bon bons, bars, dipped caramels, truffles…plus tiny chocolate mice and penguins which are even cuter than you’d think they would be.

MarieBelle is right a short walk away from us in Soho. Crunchy bark chocolates with almonds, pistachios or hazelnuts. Small chocolate bars wrapped in 1940′s Vargas pin-up girl packages. Plus their Brown Box, an assortment of fleur de sel, coffee, dark chocolate and milk flavors. Even Joan Crawford would be satisfied.

Enjoy your time with Mom! And if you’re the one being celebrated, have a wonderful day!

 

It's Time For Autumn Desserts

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I love the yummy berry and peach dishes that are the cornerstone of summer desserts. But come fall, I rush through dinner because I just can’t wait to get to the sweet and comforting taste of apples and pears and pumpkin…flavors that announce the cold times ahead.

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Alana Ford, Consulting Pastry Chef for North Square, walked me through the newly revamped dessert menu, and it all sounds scrumptious.

Ford has created a chocolate pecan pie with bourbon and chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream (of course).

Pears are the star of a galette with almonds and a caramel semifreddo, almond butter crunch and pomegranate sauce.

How about a spiced bread pudding with cranberry compote, pumpkin ice cream and almond brittle?

Or a butterscotch pudding with caramelized bananas, ginger snap crumble and whipped cream?

Vegans and diners with gluten issues are not left out with an canadian healthcare levitra apple and cranberry crisp with vanilla (almond milk) ice cream and apple crisps that fit their dietary needs.

Add a chocolate mousse cake, pistacho creme brulee, cheese platter, cookies and sorbets and you’ve got a fantastic bevy of choices to wind up your dinner.

I asked Chef Ford what kinds of desserts she personally prefers at the end of a meal.

“I like simple things, like an apple tart, apple crumble. I love bread pudding.”

Clearly she’s brought that sensibility to the fall menu. Come by and taste the goodies and see for yourself!

 

Leave The Gun, Take The Cannoli

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Today is Columbus Day, a holiday in which our Italian friends celebrate their history and culture. And we’re celebrating our Italian friends! What other group of people can boast that they gave our country Chianti, Verdi, Sophia Loren and the two best members of the Rat Pack. (Sorry, Sammy and Joey.) And we can’t forget one of the finest gifts that they’ve ever given us….cannoli!

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Cannoli are Sicilian pastry deserts…tube shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta filling.

Here in New York City, folks can find probably the best cannoli north of Palermo.

Ferrara Bakery & Cafe, on Grand St. in LIttle Italy ship their goodies all over the US! Try the cannoli hand-dipped in delicious dark chocolate.

Also located in Little Italy, Caffe Palermo, on Mulberry St. serves up some delicious specimens. They buying viagra actually sponsor a Cannoli Eating Contest during the Feast of San Gennaro, so clearly they take those little cream-filled rolls seriously.

Right here on Bleecker St. in the West Village, you can find Pasticerria Rocco. Grab a regular cannolo, one dipped in chocolate or a Black & White (dipped in white and milk chocolate).

The East Village contributes to our cannoli cravings with Veniero’s Pasticerria on East 11th St. actually sells a do-it-yourself kit that they’ll ship anywhere in the continental US. They provide the cream and the shells, but separately, so when you assemble them the pastry tube doesn’t get mushy (a cannoli Cardinal Sin).

Happy Columbus Day!

Dessert For Dummies

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I’m having a dinner party and want to impress my guests with my killer dessert skills (and not have to hide the Entenmann’s boxes). So I called up John Cheng and begged him to give me the easiest recipe he could think of.

Panna Cotta:

1 quart heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean (split in half)
4 sheets of gelatin (bloomed in cold water)

Halve the vanilla bean lengthwise; scrape buy cheap viagra online out the seeds with a knife, then add the seeds and pod to a saucepan with the heavy cream. Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Discard the vanilla pod.

Bloom gelatin sheets by placing them in cold water (doesn’t matter how much–just make sure they’re completely immersed). According to John, you’ll know when they’ve bloomed, i.e. go soft. Squeeze out the excess water.

Add sheets to hot cream to dissolve, pour it into 6 or 8 ramekins and refrigerate until they’re set. It’s seriously that easy.

A few extra hints from John:

You can also use champagne glasses to hold the panna cotta. (Sounds pretty.) And feel free to be creative–add whatever you want to the recipe…berries, chocolate, alcohol, passion puree…whatever floats your boat!

Time to get cooking. Thanks John!

 

Take A Stroll Down Bleecker Street

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One of the most popular streets in the village, it was named after the Bleecker family, because the road ran straight through their family farm in the late 18th century. Today the chickens and horses have been replaced by perfume shops and shoe stores and pastry shops.

Amy’s Bread (#250) A fantastic bakery with a small cafe serving sandwiches and noshes. The black olive twists are to die for.

Diptyque (#377) is the first U.S. online viagra foray for this French parfumer. Check out the variety of eaux de toilette, candles, colognes and body-care products.

John’s of Bleecker Street (#278) has been dishing out yummy, brick oven pizza since 1929. On the website it’s recommended by none other than Jack Black (Tenacious D!).  Black says that the pizza is so good, “I get it plain.” High praise, indeed.

Rocco’s Pastry Shop and Espresso Cafe (#243)  Cannoli’s, my friends. Cannolis. That is all.

(Word to the wise: You can skip Magnolia Bakery at #401, made famous by the ladies of Sex & the City. There’s a reason those ladies were so skinny–the cupcakes aren’t very good.)

Bleecker Street Records (#239): Yes, you can still buy vinyl, CDs and posters on Bleecker just like back in the day.

Murray’s Cheese (# 254): The best, best, best cheese shop in the city.

(Le) Poisson Rouge (#158) The new incarnation of the famed Village Gate features reasonably priced music of all genres. Classical, gospel, hip-hop, R&B, funk…everything from electronic to Americana to a string quartet.

Plus some fancy clothes:

Jimmy Choo (#407): Shoes!

Jack Spade (#409): Men’s store by Kate’s hubby.

Ralph Lauren has several outposts on Bleecker. RRL (#381) for jeans, boots and vests. Across the street, Rugby (#390) sells more traditional, preppy Lauren gear.

And that’s a little taste of Bleecker…

 

 

Ask John Cheng

I, along with many, many people I know, loathe baking…simply for the fact that I suck at it. It’s not that I don’t like sweets–I do–it’s just that I like not feeling pathetic even more. I asked John Cheng, pastry consultant for North Square about common misconceptions novice bakers have…and any advice he could give us.

First of all–and this made me very, very happy–John thinks that internet and magazine recipe photos are false advertising. That mouth-watering chocolate drug viagra raspberry layer cake that you try to duplicate from the pages of Food & Wine? Accept the fact that nothing even remotely that beautiful is ever going to make it onto your plate. It may taste okay, but it will inevitably look like the cover girl cake’s homely, lop-sided sister.

Back in the day, John worked for Good Housekeeping and had copied some of their test recipes and not once did they come out looking like the photo.

“Even I could not make mine look like theirs (and I am a professional). Not once.”

Lesson #2: Oven temperatures vary from oven to oven. Fledgling pastry chefs need to get to know their oven and adjust baking times accordingly. It may take a couple of burnt pies or flattened souffles, but once you get the hang of your appliance, making the perfect tart shell should be a snap.

Lesson #3: Use your noggin. Cheng believes that common sense is one of a chef’s most important tools. If you think something is not quite right, don’t do it that way. If your batter looks too thick, well, it probably is!

If anyone has any questions for the pastry king, pass them along. Thanks for the advice, John!

 

Meet John Cheng

If you’re as crazy about North Square’s chocolate mousse cake or butterscotch creme brulee as I am, you’ll agree that John Cheng deserves a round of online viagra uk applause. John has been the consulting pastry chef for the restaurant for over four years and is the brains behind all those sugary delights. I caught up with him when he was in his car and while we were able to speak only briefly–his phone battery was on it’s last gasp–I was able to toss a few getting-to-know-you questions at the man behind the key lime pie.

I always wonder why people choose their professions and asked John how he came to bake. “It’s a long story,” he said. The short version is that when he was growing up, it was the only job he could find in a restaurant. “The passion came later. You could say that it chose me.”

But in the end: “I actually love what I do. I know it sounds corny, but I love what I do. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to make things better.” Doesn’t sound corny to me. Not at all.

When I queried him on what his favorite dessert is, he said, “I can’t believe you just asked me that question. Everybody asks me that question!”

I know John, but hey–if you met Keith Richards, wouldn’t you ask what his favorite album was? Turns out that pastry chefs are always the hit of the party and are constantly prodded to talk shop. We agreed that someone who is a mechanic is not usually egged on to talk about oil changes over cocktails, but a pastry chef, yeah–people inevitably want the goods. “Even more than that, women–only women–ask me to make me a cake for them.”

Uh-oh. Time to skip my next question and move on.

I confessed that I have a fear of baking, pretty much because I suck at it, and tend to stick to Nestle’s toll house in the tube. How can I loosen up and bake pretty, yummy things from scratch to impress family and friends?

“Have a glass of wine before you start.” (Sound advice, for sure.) “And no matter how bad, you can always eat your product.” True that–I figure that chocolate mess is better than no chocolate at all.

The phone was about to go kaput, so we wrapped it up with promises from John that he would happily provide recipes and answer any questions we would have in the future.

So readers, please feel free to ask anything you like. John is there for all your (and my) dessert-related needs!

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

Apples and Pumpkins and Kale…Oh My!

Chef Yoel has created North Square‘s new fall menu, featuring the produce of the season…hearty fare to keep us warm and cozy during the cooler months. Here are a few highlights:

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For an appetizer, kale salad with hubbard squash, gala apples, manchego cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds and cider vinagrette.

FYI, kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamins K and C, lutein (don’t know what it is but it’s healthy) and calcium.  Your mom didn’t completely lie to you…sometimes delicious things can be good for you.

Chef Cruz’s entrees now include grilled pork rib-chop with sauteed kale (there it is again!), potato gratin and a ginger/port wine reduction.  Feast your eyes on this beauty:

(Good God I love pork chops. Truth be

told, I worship the whole pig.)

And dessert?  Try pumpkin cheesecake with dried fruit compote and a spicy caramel sauce.

For the scoop on the full menu, click here.

 

 

 

It's Fall Dessert Time!

The latest dessert menu has debuted this week at North Square, so here’s what you need to do.  Leave your apartment.  (Ben & Jerry will both be waiting when you return.  I promise you.  They’re patient.)  Hop on the subway, walk down the street, hail a cab, whatever…just hightail it to North Square to sample Consulting Pastry Chef John Cheng‘s newest desserts:

Butterscotch creme brulee with poached pear and a fleur de sel cookie:

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Warm mocha bread pudding with Kahlua sabayon, candied orange and fior de latte ice cream:

 Peanut butter and banana semi freddo with hazelnut crunch and caramelized bananas:

Plus pumpkin cheesecake with a walnut crust, dried fruit compote and spicy caramel sauce. Warm vegan, gluten-free Granny Smith apple and cranberry crumble with walnuts and dairy free ice cream.

And yes, yes…the chocolate mousse cake is still here.

And guess what?  None of our desserts is more than 100 calories! Not one!

Okay, I lied.  But they’re really, really good.  Worth the extra time at the gym good.  Come on in and check

them out!