If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.
15. AMBROSIA COOKIE at RUBYZAAR
I don’t know about you but I’m not a huge fan of savory cookies. Aren’t cookies by definition supposed to be sweet? Well, what if I could told you that you could have all the usual vanilla, buttery sweetness with hints of savory fruits and spices? All for the price of one cookie?
Rubyzaar is a pop-up stand at the Union Square Holiday Market that specializes in fair-trade clothing and crafts from around the world. Strangely enough they also sell their own cookies (baked in Brooklyn) that were inspired by the flavors of the regions that their goods come from. They have a wide range of interesting flavors from Kashmir (earl grey tea, smoked almonds, chocolate) to Hoi An (Vietnamese coffee, cream, dark chocolate) to Savannah (sun-dried peach, pecans, chocolate).
The first one I tried was the one that made me fall in love with this concept. It’s called the Ambrosia and it features fig, dried pear, sage, roasted walnut, and creamed honey. It was an unusual mix of sweet and savory with an herbal note, lots of creamy and crunchy textures, and a delicious surprise.
The cookies are only available until Christmas Eve, so I would hurry up and get as many as you can. Otherwise, you may have to wait until next year. Price: $2
|Union Square Holiday Market, Booth #33
Union Square East (across from 15th Street)
14. WARM CHOCOLATE TART WITH PINK PEPPERCORN ICE CREAM at CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT BAR
My first encounter with pink peppercorns was at a restaurant I used to work at called Cafe Joul. The chef would often make a citrusy butter sauce containing the little pink guys. I recognized all the other flavors in the sauce, but the crunchy floral berries (not actual peppers) were a taste I had never experienced before. And I loved it.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered that my favorite spot in all the city, Chikalicious Dessert Bar, makes pink peppercorn ice cream. I learned about it years ago, but I’m constantly coming back to discover pastry chef Chika’s inventive three-course desserts. Fortunately for me, one of her two never changing menu items is the chocolate tart with the pink peppercorn ice cream
And the tart itself, like everything else here, is delectable. It’s refined and full of balanced flavors and textures. The pastry containing the chocolate is crisp, light and buttery. The chocolate inside is decadent but not too rich. The red wine sauce adds some nice complex acidity and the pink peppercorn ice cream puts the whole thing over the edge.
I’d come in just for a cone of the ice cream (they don’t offer cones). And I love it so much I even tried to re-create it at home. Which worked, but not nearly as well as when Chika creates it. Price: Part of the $14 Prix-Fixe
|CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT BAR|
|203 East 10th Street (between First and Second Avenue)
Photo Courtesy of: commons.wikimedia.org
13. CHOCOLATE STOUT SYLLABUB at THE BRESLIN
“What the hell is a syllabub?” we asked our bartender. Strangely enough, he didn’t know and had to ask the other bartender. Either this guy was new or The Breslin has created a dessert so unique that it baffles even the staff.
Upon looking it up on my trust Iphone, I learned that a syllabub is an old traditional English dessert (The Breslin focuses on British pub food) that is made up of whipped milk or cream, sugar, and a touch of wine to curdle the liquid. I was still confused so I took the second bartender’s word when he said it was like a mousse.
I’m so glad we took the leap of faith because this was an amazing dessert. It was sort of reminiscent of a chocolate mousse and had a sweet, bitter flavor (probably from the beer) which worked perfectly together. The best part was the garnish on top. They looked like chocolate caviar but the menu called them bubbled caramel. They were these crunchy beads of sweetness. There was also a layer of white foam on top (creme fraiche?) that was caramelized or curdled or something. But it was also crunchy, reminiscent of creme brulee, and tasting vaguely of marshamallows.
Now I have an answer to my initial question. I’ll tell you what a syllabub is (besides an awkward thing to say): it’s pure deliciousness. Price: $9
|16 West 29th Street (between Broadway and Fifth Avenue)
Inside the Ace Hotel
12. COOKIES from DOWNTOWN COOKIE COMPANY
Downtown Cookie Company is an internet based company that makes cookies to order via their website or over the phone. They’ll ship anywhere in the U.S., but it’s also possible to pick up the cookies outside their commercial kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen.
I called the day before and the cookies were ready in less than 24 hours. You can order a dozen of any of their cookies or a variety box of three different types. It was a no-brainer for me, the guy who wants to try as much as possible.
It was incredibly exciting when the girl came down with my box of cookies. I handed her the $24 (I chose to go the exact cash route rather than give my credit card number over the phone) and she handed me box of cookies.
I literally couldn’t wait until I got home to try the cookies, so we cut open the box and undid the neatly presented bags that held the three different cookie varieties. The chocolate chip with walnuts was the first I tried. They were soft and chewy with the right amount of both chocolate chips and walnuts. Amazingly fresh. I’m not a big fan of raspberry jam cookies (they make me think of those lackluster butter cookie tins), but these were the real deal. The jam was clearly made from real preserved fruit and the almond cookie was buttery and had crispy pieces of almonds crushed around the edge. And the peanut butter cookie continued the deliciousness. They were rich and chewy, but not too much peanut butter (which tends to dry the cookies out for me). These were anything but dry.
The cookies all tasted homemade (I guess that’s obvious) and they were all so soft and fresh that I felt like they were made just for me. Wait a minute…
But the other amazing thing is that these cookies retained that fresh delicious sweet taste and softness when I continued eating them for days afterwards. They have four more cookie varieties (Ginger, Oatmeal Raisin, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip) and I’m afraid I’m going to have to find some special occasion to order another round. Price: $24 for a dozen
|DOWNTOWN COOKIE COMPANY|
11. HAZELNUT DACQUOISE at THE MODERN
When I worked at The Modern, I would sometimes have to close the restaurant, which meant I’d be the last waiter there. And often, as any restaurant worker knows, there’s leftover food. So it would get thrown away or some lucky employee would get to it.
The hazelnut dacquoise was one that would be offered up for charity (meaning to me) and I would eventually have to resist because these little desserts were so darn addicting.
I would describe it as a little sandwich. It was a hazelnut wafer topped with milk chocolate chantilly (mousse) and layered between two chocolate slivers. It tasted like the most decadent, refined, delicious Kit Kat Bar you’d ever taste. I’m sure Pastry Chef Marc Aumont would love that I described it that way. But I mean it as the most sincerest compliment possible. Price: $11
|9 West 53rd Street (between Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue)
Inside the Museum of Modern Art