Here’s a shocker: I watch a lot of Food Network. Another shocker: I watch ALOT of Cooking Channel. Like, an embarrassing kind of a lot. Like, an “Erin, how do you have time to work” kind of a lot. Because of the amount of food-themed TV I’ve watched, I’ve seen Duff, Bobby, Rachael, Alton, and friends, all talk about their favorite U.S foodie finds, on a number of shows: The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Unique Sweets, etc. Normally, these chefs spend about five to ten minutes drooling over the eatery’s signature food, describing it in incredible detail. By the end, you’re ready to book your next flight to Timbuktu, to try what they’re eating as well. Well, lately, instead of throwing my money at airfare, I’ve been informally making a list of places I needed to visit, for some day in the hypothetical future.
This week, I had the perfect opportunity to make some dreams come true. After running my half marathon on Saturday, I decided that the perfect way to celebrate, would be to “refuel” by eating. A lot. And where does one go to find as many of the foods on her list, all in one place? New York City.
Now, going into this adventure, there was a lot of planning to be done. With a city as large and diverse as New York, one has to narrow her search just a bit. So, I decided to go with a mix of savory and sweet foods, that had been featured on at least two of the shows I had watched. Websites were visited, menus were poured over, maps were made. Yes, folks, maps. Hey, it pays to be efficient! After many hours of daydreaming, the official agenda was made. The following is simply an overview. If I were to write, in depth, about each one of these places, I would have to write an entire book. And, to be completely honest, I’d rather spend the time that would take, planning another one of these trips. Without further ado, here is a snapshot of the debauchery that took place on Sunday.
The Dutch: It all started here. We decided that since it was conveniently a Sunday, we would need to start the adventure off right, with the most important meal there is: brunch. Really, it’s a shame that Connecticut isn’t more of a brunch state. Because, if I were to be serious for a second, it should be a legal requirement to eat this meal at least once a month. Anyway, the main attraction of brunch, and the sole reason for visiting The Dutch, was to try the donut tree. Yes, that’s right. A tree of donuts. Pecan Sticky Bun, Orange Cheesecake, and Mint Cookies & Cream donuts to be exact. Heaven. It just so happened that the maple yogurt, pecan granola, berries, and cheese omelet were to die for as well.
Dominique Ansel Bakery: We all know this as The Cronut place. You know, that genius mix between the croissant and donut? That treat that people are only allowed to order two of in a day? Which they will happily stand in line for at 6AM on a weekend morning? Well, after paying a visit, I can safely say that Dominique Ansel’s reputation is well deserved. After staring at the case for a few minutes in awe, I decided on the Caramelized Banana Dulce de Leche Cronut, and the Frozen S’more. The cronut was SO light, fluffy and flaky! And, the banana filling in between the layers, was the perfect compliment. Also, that s’more? Yes, please. Tahitian vanilla ice cream with chocolate wafer crisps, wrapped in a honey marshmallow, torched to order on a freaking willow branch, never tasted so good.
Jacques Torres Chocolates: Being one of my French inspirations, it only made sense that I pay my boy Jacques/his minimum-wage earning employees, a visit. From here, I sampled the Chocolate Peanut Brittle, the Heart of Passion (yasss passion fruit in chocolate), the Fresh Coconut, and the Fresh Squeezed Lemon. Does it come as any surprise that the lemon chocolate combo was my favorite? Probably not.
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop: Okay, this one is worth bragging about. Hands down, the coolest atmosphere to be found in the entire trip. Maybe that’s because the whole restaurant was decorated in honor of The Golden Girls. Blanche, Rose, Sophia and Dorothy were ALL up in there. In addition to the awe-inspiring decor, the ice cream specialties were just as special as the people they were based after. For example, I got the American Globs: vanilla ice cream, rolled in dark chocolate pretzels, sprinkled with sea salt, dipped in chocolate, all in a cone. The cone is put in a basket because you clearly can’t be expected to eat it normally with grace.
Doughnut Plant: At this point in the day, I had tried quite a few donuts. Now, I have a hard time admitting this, but, giving up crossed my mind once or twice as we walked over the threshold of Doughnut Plant. Clearly, the donut gods were watching, and swooped in just when the moral was low. Their solution? The Doughseed. A mini donut, which was small in size, but not in flavor. For those of you who don’t know, Doughnut Plant was the first ever bakery to create the creme brûlée donut. This made my choice obvious…go for one classic and one seasonal: the creme brûlée and the pumpkin filled. Both were outrageous, but the burned, crack-ily sugar coat on the cream filled creme brûlée was the obvious winner.
On the way to our next big stop, we passed through Baked By Melissa, and Schmackary’s. Admittedly, these were the less exciting stops on the way, but I feel like they still deserve a shout out. After all, my mini Mint Cookies and Cream, Cornbread, and Salted Chocolate Pretzel cupcakes from Melissa’s were adorable, and my Monster Cookie from Schmackary’s was filled with all that’s right in the world.
Levain Bakery: Okay guys, this is where crap gets real. Imagine this. It’s 6:30, and the sun is setting. You just power-walked forty-something blocks, uphill at some points, to get to one of your final destinations. You round the corner to find a line, at least a hundred people long. With a half hour before the bakery closes, your soul dies a bit, but you join the end of the line anyway, because you just hauled ass for this! As the minutes pass, and the line creeps closer, you wonder, “Will I be able to get my hands on the warm, gooey, six-ounce chocolate chip cookie that everyone in New York City and beyond, knows Levain for?” Well, one hour later, I got my answer: yes. Due to the fact that there were so many people waiting, the bakery just kept on baking, well past their planned closing time. By the time I stepped up to the counter, they had just pulled another batch of cookies from the oven. They were so warm and gooey, in fact, that they needed to be packed in a special way to preserve their shape out the door, and through the rest of the cooling process. And, yes, after all that, I plan on HAPPILY standing for many more hours in line at Levain Bakery during future NYC visits.
The Meatball Shop: After a day of eating more sugar than you should eat in a year, we needed some savory goodness to finish the night off. We found that at none other than The Meatball Shop, where they proudly claim, “we serve balls here”. For those of you asking if an entire restaurant based on balls is worth visiting, I would tell you that there IS such thing as a silly question. Here, you can use their dry erase menu to pick any kind of ball your heart desires. Between the multiple kinds of balls, sauces and serving options, your possibilities are endless. I went with the chicken meatballs and tomato sauce, over roasted squash.
As for my final thoughts on the day? I’ll let my second-trimester-looking bloat picture do the talking for me. It looks like I’ll need to run another half marathon soon, because this is a trip worth repeating. Over and over again.
And, while I can’t follow my own advice on this one today…. until next time…
Stay tuned and stay (somewhat) hungry,