This Sh*t's Delicious

Exploring the world through cocktails, shit hole restaurants, and UrbanAg

Tag Archives: dessert

NYC ExTRAVELganza! Part 3: Sweet Dreams

Ouch!  This article has been sitting in my “to finish” pile for months, but I’ve finally just gotten around to putting the pictures in – hopefully all of these places are still around!  This last article in the series covers the dessert/sweets places that I visited last September, as well as the restaurants that I remember most fondly.

Petit Abeille Petite Abeille on Urbanspoon – The “little bee” is a nice little shop with a surprisingly big behind, equipped with charming checkered tablecloths and floors and old-world sensibilities. If you want a little taste of Belgium, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start – Tin-Tin comics, Belgian waffles, and an extensive Belgian beer menu make it abundantly clear which country inspires this place. Turns out that there are four of them in NYC, though I went to the one close to Union Square for breakfast – the waffles were crisp and delicious (even if the strawberries were a little tart for my taste) and the coffee nice and robust. Recommend!

Quite the charming interiorNothing says Belgium like waffles!

 

Max Brenner Max Brenner on Urbanspoon – For those with a full set of sweet teeth – Chocolate by the Bald Man! It’s a pretty stylish place that’s still reasonably casual, and might be a good date place if it wasn’t chock-full of noisy tourists 😉 This place is surely diabetes in disguise – diabolically delicious! I ordered a frappe, which oddly came with a metal straw – I’m not sure if it was just a mental thing but it seemed to impart a metallic taste to the drink. The frappe was also on the edge of being too sweet, though given that it was the dulce-de-leche flavour that only makes sense.  They offer a number of sickeningly sweet indulgences, including a giant chocolate-filled syringe!

[Ohnoes, no pics!]

ChikaLicious ChikaLicious Dessert Bar on Urbanspoon – My first thought when I heard that this was a place that served a 3-course prix fixe menu for dessert only – too rich for my blood. But in reality, it’s a sweet little place where the diminutive but charmingly stoic owner/chef Chika makes you your dessert as you watch while seated at the bar. It was pretty cool to see the fresh figs get chopped up and the crème brulee torched in front of me. The “sous” chef (or whatever you might call them for a dessert bar) was an intense guy who beat the whipped cream as if it had committed crimes against humanity. The lemongrass panacotta and cantaloupe sorbet were both very nice, though I don’t remember much about the petit-fours that we had at the end.

Chika and her sidekick prepare the desserts while you watchEver seen a creme brulee like this?Why are these called petit-fours when there are only three? ;)

 

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck Big Gay Ice Cream Truck on Urbanspoon – One of my friends was adamant that I check out the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, so luckily we happened to see it parked around Union Square one afternoon (Union Square seems to be a pretty popular hangout for the food trucks).  I was REALLY hoping to get an ice cream cone covered in Trix cereal, but unfortunately they only had flavours like the Salty Pimp (soft serve impregnated with dulce de leche and coated with sea salt and chocolate dipping) and Bea Arthur (crushed wafers and dulce de leche).  I ended up going with a wasabi peas cone, as it sounded pretty interesting, but unfortunately the wasabi peas were tres bland.  Far from fabulous, I’m afraid.  Soft serve is what it is, though, so if you’re looking for your fix of ice cream with a twist it’s worth checking out.

Their flavours are loud and proud

 

Dirt Candy Dirt Candy on Urbanspoon – Kiran had been wanting to try a place that dealt in “molecular gastronomy” so we went to one of the more affordable places that offered something resembling that – a cute-as-buttons vegetarian gig in the lower east side called Dirt Candy. It’s a tiny, tiny, place with 7 tables that seat 20 people max (I think 18 more typically). The menu seemed simple enough, so we ordered one of everything – literally! – to split between the three of us. That worked out to four-and-a-half appies, four mains and four desserts – which turned out to be just about right for three strapping young lads such as ourselves. The appetizers came out super fast, which is always nice. I don’t normally care too much for cornbread-like substances, but the hush puppies that we had were MINDBLOWING – not too dense, nicely crispy and accompanied with a lightly-sweet maple butter that complemented it perfectly. The mushroom “pate” was decent, if a little subtle for my tastes – but the mushroom “calamari” on top of the celery salad that we also got was downright terrific. It still didn’t make me like celery, but the baby celery bits that were spread around the plate made me smile. The deep fried cheese curds on the salad prompted Matt to swear to find a recipe for them. A couple of the appetizers were less impressive – there was a red-pepper soup which seemed rather watery (though I only tried a couple spoonfuls) and a “BBQ pork carrot” bun which confirmed to me that sometimes meat just can’t be replaced with vegetables.

What is dirt candy, exactly? Vegetables, of course!The lighting was VERY red and VERY dark - perfect for mushrooms?NEED MORE MAPLE BUTTER FOR THESE PUPPIES

A lot of the dishes seemed to be designed in a manner where meat/seafood would normally be found, in fact – besides the “pate,” “calamari” and BBQ buns, there was a tofu dish that could easily have been fish instead, and a smoked cauliflower & waffles dish that was a clear homage to chicken & waffles. It takes some real chops to fashion up dishes that contain only vegetables and have them stand up to their meat-bearing counterparts. For the most part, I’d say they succeeded – of the mains, my only disappointment was the gnocchi with chard, garlic granola and fig jam. It smelled like garlic heaven, but unfortunately I didn’t think the taste lived up to the smell – while there were some killer flavour/texture pairings (chard + garlic, granola + jam, garlic + cheese + gnocchi) I didn’t enjoy it so much when mixed all together. Oh well, taste is a subjective thing! Desserts ran the gamut from weird to wonderful – my least favourite being a very clever but unfortunate tasting watermelon-radish sorbet, with my personal favourite being the seriously solid pea and mint “Nanaimo bar” ice cream sandwich. There was also a straightforward but well executed pudding topped with popcorn, as well as a rather interesting beet chocolate cake.

I had to use flash because it was so dark, but this was "calamari" and saladTofu, with copious amounts of shizo and cucumberCorn dish not mentioned in text - grits, deep fried egg

Whew!  Well you can tell based on the space I’ve given this piece relative to the others that I really enjoyed this restaurant!  Another thing that I enjoy immensely is the absolutely hilarious blog that Amanda Cohen, the chef/creator of Dirt Candy, maintains at http://www.dirtcandynyc.com/ (if you ever want to start a restaurant of your own, make sure you are familiar with the oil rig scam!).

Amanda Cohen is from Canada <3, so here's tributeYessir, we finished everything to the last bite!

 

Les Halles Les Halles Downtown on Urbanspoon – This turn-and-burn French restaurant was once run by Anthony Bourdain, so it seemed like a good place to check out as a traveller.  The venue was bustling when we arrived, with wait staff that seemed to be made up of people from every corner of the Earth.  Service was stellar, with a server seemingly ready to swoop in and refold your napkin anytime you stood up from your table (though I’m used to sub-par service in Calgary, so maybe this is just the norm at any restaurant of note in NYC).  Without Kiran there to induce meat-guilt with his vegetarian visage, Matt and I were free to order dishes to satisfy our inner carnivores – starting with country-style pate, and ordering – what else – NY sirloins for mains.  The pate came out immediately and was absolutely delicious – well spiced and well salted – though country-style chunkiness surprised me, as the pates that I have had in the past had all been blended to be mousse-like.  The mustard that came on the side wasn’t even necessary.  The fries that came out with the steaks were some of the best fries that I’ve ever eaten – just the right mix of fat and potato, fresh, and perfectly crispy.  And mayo with the fries?  My arteries screamed no but my tastebuds quickly overruled them.  As for the steak – incredibly smooth, juicy, and flavourful – I couldn’t ask for more in a steak.  The salad was alright, but honestly I couldn’t care less about that given the quality of the rest of the meal.  To finish it off, we ordered a crepe Suzette – because honestly, who doesn’t love flambee’d shit?  It was quite citrusy and left my mouth with a little tingly sensation, but we ordered it mainly for the show anyway.  A fitting last meal for an incredible trip!

Pate tastes better than it looks - way betterFlambee away!Nothing quite satisfies like a great steak

 

A ten day trip, with 21 places to write about – I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the smorgasborg that is New York City.  If you’re ever in NYC, hopefully you’ll have the chance to check out these places and enjoy them like I have.  I am sure I will be back again sometime in the future – so if you have any further recommendations on places to check out, be sure to let me know!  If you missed them, you can find part 1 (American food) and part 2 (Asian food) through the links!

These fake postcards are all pictures I took!

Cheers,

-Richard

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An In-Depth Look at Jelly Modern

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A couple weekends ago was pretty exciting in This Sh*t’s Delicious’ brief but action-packed history. Rita, who is one of the founding partners of JM, wanted us to come over and have a chat with her. She was so pleased with our detailed and thorough review of JM that she wanted to meet us in person and talk about some of the issues that we had brought up in our previous blog post.

Yeah, shit just got real, cckskrs.

Richard and I couldn’t say no to such an offer (to say the least), so we headed on down there bright and early on Saturday morning at 11 am. It was a busy morning as usual for Rita who immediately spotted us and introduced us to her husband, Murray, who is the other business partner.

Rita and Murray are a very interesting couple. Both are former teachers turned lawyers turned entrepreneurs (Murray is still a lawyer by day).  In my previous entry, I had mentioned that they have no formal culinary training, but I realized that it is a moot point considering the impressive resume they boast. For instance, they founded the Opa! chain of Greek fast food before selling it off in 1999 (?) to focus on other endeavours. They also apparently wholly own Original Joe’s and St. Germain and partly own the Calgary institution known as Peter’s Drive-in (WTF!). To say that this power couple knows a little bit about the food industry is an understatement.

We had some interesting discussions surrounding the ordering system. The current system involves ordering to the left of the doughnut counter and paying for it later to the right of the doughnut counter. The orders are synced between the two different sides via iPads, which is pretty novel. We thought this system is pretty efficient as it prevents customers already in line from waiting for the eponymous douchebag to enter his debit card pin five times before finally giving up (you know you have been there). The only suggestion for improvement I had was to perhaps give the patrons numbers. The JM staff would then announce the numbers so the patrons wouldn’t have to hang around the counters waiting for their orders to be filled and called out (though to be fair they already take your name, which adds a personal touch -Richard). This would reduce the chaos and clutter somewhat.

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Another thing that Richard had noticed was the use of wax cardboard boxes to serve doughnuts regardless whether one was staying in or not. Turns out that the boxes were for take-away and that the bamboo serving trays that had been originally ordered had been delayed. Now that they were here, all stay-in doughnut lovers get their orders served on these bamboo trays.

But…we weren’t there to just chit chat. We actually managed to try out the Chef’s Creation for that day which was inspired by Eton Mess (a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue, and cream). Murray was also kind enough to make us both a cup of what he called a high-test – a shot of espresso topped up with drip coffee.

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The doughnut itself was extremely light and melted in your mouth with every bite. The cream, which reminded be of the cream in a Boston Cream, was light, fluffy, and fresh. All in all, the different elements of the doughnut combined perfectly to give you an explosion of taste in your mouth.

I took my time savouring each bite of the doughnut and downing it with the coffee/espresso combination. The latter was bold, but balanced, without too much acidity. Murray takes pride in his coffee creations, and although he wouldn’t outright admit it, we could tell he was a slightly affronted when I reported the espresso as being “unmemorable” in our first review of JM.

Richard’s Recollections

It was pretty cool to sit down and get a glimpse of the minds behind Jelly Modern. Both Rita and Murray seemed pretty easygoing, but you could also tell that they were passionate about the business and were always looking for ways to make it even better.  They’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that they make a quality doughnut, from soliciting the expertise of doughnut experts from the USA to poaching the chef of St. Germain to head their kitchen (who apparently took the opportunity to be more creative and get back to his pastry-chef roots).  They’ve done a lot to make the business progressive on the environmental and societal fronts – from selecting their fruit for filling from environmentally-friendly sources to donating their unsold product at the end of the day to local establishments feeding the needy.  They really put the Modern into Jelly Modern (as well as the Jelly, of course!).

On to the doughnuts – we were able to sample the mini doughnuts (Stampede-style, but even more delicious) as well as the Saturday special (the Eton Mess), which was absolutely divine.  The chef also let us know about the various creations that he has in store for the future – doughnut sandwiches, shortcakes, fan creations, and future chef specials (I hope I didn’t miss Pineapple upside-down cake week!).

Summary

It was an awesome start to an awesome weekend for Richard and myself. JM has been hot since day one and the buzz shows no signs of abating. Apparently, Breakfast Television (BT) has already broadcast an airing from the JM store. They have already been covered by the big media outlets, so it was humbling to to be invited by JM owners personally to their store. It’s good to see that they care about the little guys too and pay attention to the local blogosphere.

-Kiran

Jelly Modern Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

Review – Franca’s Perfect Gift & Cafe Italia

Franca’s Perfect Gift & Cafe Italia is a new cafe in the NE serving some really good coffee, paninis, and fresh Italian pastries. Interested? Read on.
Photos coming soon mofos…

I’ll get this out of the way first, signage is quite poor. If you were to look up Franca’s Perfect Gift & Cafe Italia on Google Maps, it would probably direct you to its original location, which now doesn’t exist. It is still on Edmonton Trail, but has been moved north closer to the Kal Tire on 37 Ave NE (actually a block away from my office, no stalkers, k thx). Franca’s Perfect Gift & Cafe Italia has been in it’s new location for just over a month now and not enough people know it exists. Hipster talk: Its too underground for you to know that its there. Driving along Edmonton Trail, you wouldn’t think that a restaurant is in that building. Most of the clientele are friends of the owner or regulars from the previous location, and I’m pretty sure even surrounding businesses (including my coworkers, a 10 second walk away) yet have had the chance to try it out. More people should try it out.

Franca’s presents itself as a gift store slash cafe. Inside is a very modern looking restaurant with everything literally brand spankin new. It doesn’t get any newer or cleaner than this. As soon as you walk in, you are presented with their gift store section, a bunch of French press’s, mugs, and gift baskets. I don’t think they have ironed out their ordering system yet for food, its all very improvised. The few times I have visited, they were busy and understaffed, so no one was really greeting me and taking me to a table. No one really indicates how to order take out, where to pay, etc. Once they get consistent and more customers, I suggest they get organized a bit, it will help in the long run and make things efficient.

On the menu are mostly panini’s and soup for hot food. For dessert are a wide variety of pastries made fresh in house. (Their online menu is outdated, and they currently have more variety for paninis and dessert) The owner said that all of the meat is imported directly from Italy. And despite my criticisms of the service and its location/signage, the food is really delicious. The Mario’s panini consists of a bunch of Italian cold cuts, provolone cheese and roasted red peppers. The bread is a bit on the oily side, but when served hot comes out crispy. It is savory but not that salty. The tiramisu is fresh and might be one of the best I have tried in the city. Prices aren’t necessarily cheap, paninis go for $8-9 and pastries are in the $3-5 range. Its a slight premium worth paying for some fresh and authentic food. I don’t have a refined palate for coffee, but I do know its better than any franchise or chain.

I worry a bit about how well Franca’s can survive in the location its in. Some good marketing can go a long way. And if they take advantage of the buttload of businesses in the Greenview industrial area and everything along Edmonton trail, they will be able to get a really good client base for morning coffee and lunch hours. The area is pretty old and most of the food establishments there are although good, they are aging. So it is nice to see a new food place in this area that doesn’t have decor from 1988. Not the cheapest lunch you can get on Edmonton Trail, but well worth it for food that had effort and quality put into it. I’ll be coming here often. If not for their paninis, but for their pastries so I can get my dose of sugar to stave off sleeping at the desk every afternoon. (If I work with you, I’m totally kidding, I don’t sleep at work)

Ranking

Kent
Ambiance 5/6
Service 3/6
Plating 5/6
Taste 5.5/6
Authenticity 5/6
Value 4/6
Overall 27.5/36 = 76%

Franca's Perfect Gifts & Cafe Italia on Urbanspoon

Random finds – Ramen Inspired Recipes

So you’re looking back to your undergrad years and reminiscing on the times when instant noodles were the daily staple, and seeing a piece of vegatable not from a vacuum sealed pack was quite possibly the best thing in the world. You’re probably gainfully employed now and can afford real food, but really craving the Mr Noodles. No? Anyone?

Well I found a list of recipes that all involve ramen as the main ingredient. Enough recipes to cover a whole day worth of meals, from breakfast to dinner and dessert. I haven’t tried any of these, but some actually look pretty decent. The dessert even looks alright.

And don’t try all of these in a single day. No one will be impressed.

Click the link! [Seattle Weekly]

Review of Jelly Modern Doughnuts

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Tucked away at the corner of 8th St and 14th Ave, Jelly Modern is the latest entry into Calgary’s ever expanding food scene. Started by a pair of sisters, Jelly Modern attempts to bring to Calgary what one of the sisters saw in her travels around the world. The sisters don’t have any culinary background themselves, but opted instead, to rely on consultants and other pastry chefs to expand on their vision and crystallize their ideas.

The thing that strikes you about Jelly Modern as you walk in is how meticulously everything has been thought out. From the overall color scheme and decor to the wooden (and biodegradable) knives and spoons, the sisters have clearly put in a lot of thought and effort into this establishment. The interior of the place is bright and airy, even on a cloudy day, and enhances the appearance of the doughnuts behind the giant glass wall. There are two entrance doors to facilitate the movement of foot traffic through the place. Unlike other dessert houses, Jelly Modern invites you to stay and enjoy their delectable offerings with ample seating room. Clearly, everything about JM has been designed to enhance the experience of doughnuts. Brilliant.

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Everything about this establishment is different from what you have seen in Calgary. Indeed, even their ordering process is different. Instead of ordering and paying upfront, you order first and then pay the next counter over where your order is fulfilled. There was some heated discussion in our group if this system actually increased efficiency and turnover, but like most arguments, ended with two of us ganging up on the third engineer and berating him for being a bitch. Yes, engineers can be assholes too (this should come as no surprise to anyone who has met Kiran -Richard).

Richard throws his  Asian "gang sign"

The above picture makes more sense if you watch this video:  POSER! – The history and evolution of the "Peace Sign"

Richard and I ordered the marshmallow doughnut, whereas Matt went for the mini-doughnuts. I also decided to get an espresso to complement the sugar rush I was about to receive. The doughnuts come in this paper box that is clearly designed to leave the option of taking a portion of your doughnut home. Biting into the doughnut is like biting into a cloud – your teeth simply cut through the doughnut without any resistance whatsoever. The marshmallow glazing wasn’t too sweet and complemented the doughnut. I wasn’t that impressed with the espresso though – it came in a paper sippy cup and was simply too weak. In fact, it was so unmemorable that I don’t even remember what it tasted like.

Richard’s Notes

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Upon hearing about Jelly Modern, I immediately thought that doughnuts are the new cupcake – no doubt the place is drawn along the same lines as boutique bakeries such as Bliss, Crave, and Buttercream, though with a doughy, deep-fried twist. Their menu features some rather unique options such as marshmallow, carrot cake and maple-bacon (!), as well as having a special creation every Saturday.

With both Jelly Modern and the Big Cheese opening in the past little while, sales of wax-lined cardboard boxes in Calgary must have surely exploded.  In my opinion, a plate would have served better given that we were staying to eat, and might have cut down on the time it took from the order to receipt of fatty deliciousness. Despite the awkwardness of eating a doughnut out of a box, the marshmallow doughnut proved quite tasty.

I also ordered an organic pomegranate-limeade (can you get a more pretentious juice?), which cost nearly twice as much as my doughnut – not quite worth it, in my opinion.  In general, I felt that the regular doughnuts were of reasonable value (at $2.25) given how large they were, while the mini doughnuts were relatively steeply priced at $1.95 each despite being less than half the size of a regular doughnut.

Summary

JM is apparently Canada’s first and only gourmet doughnut bakery-cafe that makes hand-crafted doughnuts (I didn’t realize not all doughnuts aren’t hand-crafted). This is gourmet doughnuts at its finest. In fact, this place is so gourmet and boutique, it deserves an ‘e’ at the end of ‘modern’. The doughnuts are so gourmet that they are, in fact, healthier than regular doughnuts (to be honest, that doesn’t seem like much of an achievement 😛 -Richard). Amazing.

JM is definitely garnering its share of attention. The place is amazing and definitely caters to the young, hip, socially-conscious clientele. Only time will tell if Jelly Modern survives the initial hype and excitement, but considering the success of other gourmet dessert houses like Crave, I don’t think it is going to go away anytime soon.

Ranking

  Kiran Richard
Ambiance 5/6 5/6
Service 4/6 3.5/6
Plating N/A 4/6
Taste 5/6 5/6
Originality 5/6 6/6
Value 5/6 Depends (3.5/6)
Overall 24/30= 80% 27/36 = 75%

Jelly Modern Doughnuts on Urbanspoon