Now that I’ve eaten my way through somebody else’s list (Time Out New York), I’m ready to compile my own 100 spectacular things I’ve tasted in 2012. Look for another five dishes every few days.
NUMBER 85: BANANA PUDDING at MAGNOLIA BAKERY
I have a seriously dangerous sweet tooth, but I think even my sweet tooth is mature enough to tell the difference between sugary messes and desserts that are masterfully decadent.
I don’t think any of Magnolia Bakery’s world famous (thanks to Sex and the City) cupcakes would make my list because they fall into that cavity inducing first category. But those in the know have discovered there’s something even better and worthwhile to wait in line for.
On the food cart tour I lead, we always talk about the building that houses the Midtown location of Magnolia because it has historical significance. Inevitably, at the end of that stop the tour turns into a discussion about the city’s best cupcakes. And on several occasions, tour attendees told me that Magnolia’s banana pudding is the way to go. So I tried it. And it’s good! The cold and creamy cup of fresh bananas, vanilla pudding, and softened Nilla wafers reminded me of the revolutionary ones I’ve tried at road side BBQ shops in North Carolina. Far enough away from Sex and the City country. Price: $4.75/$5.75
|401 Bleecker Street (at West 11th Street),
|1240 Avenue of the Americas (at West 49th Street),
|200 Columbus Avenue (at West 69th Street),
Upper West Side
NUMBER 84: PASSION FRUIT TART at EMPELLÓN TAQUERIA
Empellón is a funny place. It’s run by Chef Alex Stupak and his wife Lauren Resler. Stupak was a well-regarded pastry chef at Wd-50. But at his mid-level taqueria, he focuses on the savory stuff while his wife handles the desserts.
Not one to settle for flan or churros, her inventions are quite innovative and refined. Amazingly I fell head over heals for the passion fruit tart, even though I don’t love the flavor of passion fruit. The crisp buttery crust holds together a sweet/tart passionfruit pudding. A salad of the fresh fruit and seeds are tossed with boozy mezcal and fresh mint to keep things light. And dots of bruléed meringue make it warm and sweet. This might be a funny place, but it’s also mighty delicious Price: $9
|230 West 4th Street (between Seventh Avenue South and 4th Street),
NUMBER 83: BLACK SESAME SEAWEED ICE CREAM at SKYICE SWEET & SAVORY
I’ve had Asian-influenced ice cream many times before at places like Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and Sundaes & Cones. And I’ve always enjoyed it, but I’ve never been as impressed by a simple combination of Asian ingredients in one ice cream flavor as I was with this modest little scoop.
Beyond customers eating savory Thai noodle dishes, there’s a little counter at the back of SkyIce that lets you sample and order a number of exotic ice cream options. I stuck with black sesame, which I always think of as the Asian answer to cookies and cream. But this roasty sweet ice cream goes a step further by taking on an unexpected smoky briny quality with the addition of salted seaweed. It may sound strange, but it’s unusually addicting. Price: $3
|SKYICE SWEET & SAVORY|
|63 5th Avenue (between Prospect Place and St. Marks Place),
Park Slope, Brooklyn
NUMBER 82: CANNOLI at ROCCO’S PASTRY SHOP
Veniero’s has always been my go to place for cannolis. But I think I may have found some place even better. I’ll let you know for sure when I do my official search for the best cannoli in the city. It’s not as far off as you think.
Piped to order in a large or bite-size shell, these little cigars of goodness house a fresh, not too-sweet ricotta filling. Chocolate chips, roasted pistachios and a golden crust give this Italian favorite the perfect crunch and push it to the top of my NYC cannoli list – when I finally get around to officially keeping one. Price: $2/$3.25
|ROCCO’S PASTRY SHOP|
|243 Bleecker Street (between Carmine and Cornelia Street),
NUMBER 81: DESSERT COURSE at DANIEL
My birthday dinner at Daniel was incredible. It’s rare that I get to dine with the super elite at an old time New York mainstay. And while I really loved the suckling pig and the rabbit terrine, it was the epic dessert course that made me feel like a real baller.
I’ve been to some mighty fancy places with petite fours and whatnot, but this was the biggest parade of sweets I’d ever seen.
The two main desserts – a Strawberry Granité with Szechuan Pepper Sorbet and the Warm Guanaja Chocolate Coulant with Milk Sorbet and a Liquid Caramel Center – were balanced, beautifully composed, and completely satisfying.
Like a clown car, the desserts kept coming and they were all pretty spectacular. I got a personalized extra birthday dessert (a delicate Chocolate Dacquoise),
followed by a variety of eclectic petite fours (from jellies to macarons),
our choice (I may have chosen a few) of bite-sized flavor-filled chocolates (like raspberry, hazelnut, or cinnamon),
and just when we were ready to throw in the towel, out came a towel full of warm and springy madeleines. Funny that years from now I won’t be able to tell you what I ordered for dinner, but I’ll have specific memories of this dessert cavalcade. Price: Part of a Variety of Tasting Menus
|60 East 65th Street (between Madison and Park Avenue),
Upper East Side