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Entries in Donut (4)

Thursday
Nov102011

It's the Coffee!

I have a hilarious story for you. It involves coffee. Will you indulge me? Oh goodie!

When I was living in Los Angeles, a friend of mine from high school came to visit me with her husband in tow. I agreed to give them a driving tour (nobody walks in LA) of Los Angeles in Bubbles, my 2003 silver Beetle (that was incidentally just leveled by a tree at Iaciofano HQ during the most recent snow storm.

Can you spot the Beetle amongst the tree?Before venturing out, I made them brunch, complete with coffee. My friend's husband apparently overindulged in the caffeinated beverage and became...um...uncomfortable during the driving tour. My friend kept shouting at him from the backseat, "DAN, it's the coffee!!" in response to his repeated, feeble assertions of not feeling well.

I am here to say, that yes. It was indeed the coffee. And also probably the Excedrin he took along with it. But that's neither here nor there.

Readers, in San Francisco, it's the coffee! Specifically, in this post we are going to talk about Blue Bottle Coffee and Four Barrel Coffee, both of which I consumed in such copious amounts that it's actually surprising I'm getting any sleep at all — even days later.

Immediately upon disembarking my transcontinental flight, I made haste to my hotel which was within walking distance of the SFMOMA. Yeah, art's great and all...but they have a Blue Bottle Coffee Shop on the fifth floor next to the sculpture garden! Priorities. I need caffeine to look at extra-modern art. And then I can groove with the interpretive dancers cruising across the makeshift bridge on the third floor. But not before.

So I sauntered up to the Blue Bottle stand and ordered a cappuccino. And a ham and cheese sandwich.

I have to hand it to the barista at the Blue Bottle counter. Quality control is difficult. And when you start spreading your product around various locations (including museum stands in sculpture gardens), you really never know what you're going to get. 

I would like to report that the Blue Bottle baristas run a tight (caffeinated) ship. This cappuccino was superbly prepared: deep, strong coffee was topped with expertly frothed foam in one of the prettiest designs I have seen.

I really love it when the darker swirls of the coffee mix with the creamy white patterns of the milk and you get something like a chocolate colored rainbow. Don't you? I thought so.

No sooner was I done dancing across the mezzanine than my friend Kaz reported that her airborne transport had descended onto the earth and she was making her way toward me via horseless carriage.

Caffeine is a wonderful thing, people! Just go with the wacky language - it won't hurt you!

Upon collecting Kaz at the hotel, she reported that she was in immediate and dire need of a caffeinated beverage. Who was I to disagree with her reasonable demand? Thus, we immediately made our way to the Mission district to visit Four Barrel Roasters.

I was immediately impressed by the wacky, eclectic and even thoughtful atmosphere of this coffee shop. There were tall bar tables gracing the sidewalk outside accompanied by the most impressive bike rack parking that seemed one part Elfa Storage System and one part jungle gym.

Indoors, the spacious shop sported wood panelled ceilings, ship-rope lighting fixtures, and....wait for it...TAXIDERMED WILD BOAR HEADS! Multiple ones at that. I wonder if they are from this guy's collection?

This time I ordered a macchiato. I was rationalizing drinking more coffee by choosing a beverage that comes in a smaller cup. I'm not sure that logic was sound. To make up for potential faulty logic, I also ordered a chocolate donut flavored with cardamom and topped with a sprinkling of brown sugar.

I assumed that the donut would, of course, erase the error of all my ways as donuts often do.

I would say that both macchiato and donut accomplished this and then some. No sooner had I downed that miniature carafe of rich and slightly smoky espresso than I was swinging from the bike rack monkey bars, cautioning passers-by not to "tell me what I can't do!"

This coffee and donut snack was was obviously destiny.

The kiss of cream was a touch more generous than I am used to receiving in my macchiati, however it was not too much to push it over the edge into the cappuccino category. I must note that the milk art was not quite as lovely as my Blue Bottle cappuccino's.

And let me take a moment for the donut. Kaz and I shared this chocolate spice cake creation, dividing our respective halves with the precision of T-Square wielding architect. No crumb left behind! The dense chocolate cake was bittersweet (and not just because I wanted to eat Kaz's half as well). The spicy punch from the cardamom was sweetened and smoothed over with a delicate crunch of brown sugar.

Perhaps this is how the wild boar on the walls were entrapped...with cardamom donuts and coffee. John Locke could leave his suitcase of hunting knives behind.

And so, in conclusion, you attract more wild boar with coffee and donuts than with vinegar; cappuccino, interpretive dance and ham go fantastically well together, and there is always a decorative use for taxidermy.

Four Barrel Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee

* To read my previous review on Blue Bottle Coffee, click here.

Friday
Oct072011

Butter Makes Everything Better – An Interview with Amy, Pastry Chef at Northern Spy Food

"Butter makes everything better," Amy said about one of the main ingredients in Northern Spy Food's phenomenal biscuits.

i had to agree. Those biscuits were, after all, the reason I begged my way into an interview with their creator, Amy, also known as the Pastry Chef at Northern Spy Food.

Let me take you back in time just a few weeks prior to this interview....it was a sunny fall day in mid-September. I had never before eaten at Northern Spy Food and was attending a birthday brunch.

Brunch is a tricky meal for me. I usually wake up early in the morning ravenously hungry. The idea of waiting until 9am for food is horrific...let alone 11 or EGADS, PEOPLE DO YOU THINK I AM MADE OF STONE 1pm...but, what are you going to do? People have different schedules that do not correspond to mine.

During my anxious anticipation of the meal, I was intrigued by the above chalkboard sign advertising their Maple Bacon Donut.

Donuts are tricky. You may recall that I am a huge fan of Dough's Dulche de Leche donut. The reason I enjoyed it so much was because of the actual dough which was squishy and moist. I could sink my teeth into it. Oh how I love to sink my teeth into things...to eat. Northern Spy Food's Maple Bacon Donut had a similar cake-like dough. And with a thin icing drizzle (not goopy!) of maple flavor and crispy bacon pieces, there MAY have been a fight at the table for them. I may have won...

The donut was just an appetizer carbohydrate. For our entree and to accompany these happy little guys:

we had some biscuits.

I had eaten my share of biscuits that weekend. I had gone to Peels and Jeffrey's Grocery to sample their varieties, so my taste buds were biscuit-tuned and ready to go.

I was wary. Skeptical. Even a touch aloof. And for this I offer my sincerest apologies.

Northern Spy Food's biscuits won me over. The flaky layers! The golden-brown crust! The  lightly salted dough...and oh...the BUTTER. It really does make everything better.

So impressed was I at these biscuits that I emailed Northern Spy and asked if I could feature them on the blog. Would they be ok with that? Could I come down there and harass their pastry chef? Take photos of their baked goods?

Yes, yes and yes, they told me. I love people that agree to my wacky schemes and ideas. Good people. And so is Amy, the Pastry Chef.

Amy started her official food education at the Culinary School of the Rockies in Denver in their savory program. She preferred pastry as she found it more difficult, and also more exact. When she relocated to New York City, she spent time in Nuela's kitchen.

Now at Northern Spy Food, she gets to call the shots and come up with the dessert ideas.

Because NSF focuses on seasonal, local and available food the menu changes frequently. Talking to farmers about what's available, what's coming up and how long it will last is imperative.

Right now, Amy's favorite dessert on the menu is a Poached Pear in white wine paired with goat cheese and thyme ice cream and accompanied by pecan brittle and caramel.

But getting back to the biscuits...the dough is everything. And working the butter into the dough, and not overworking it is so important. Amy folds her dough – which creates that wonderful layers of buttery flakiness that I mentioned. And the butter must remain cold, so working quickly and developing a smooth-running biscuit-making system is a priority. Like so (wait for the buttermilk entry):

Northern Spy Food Biscuits from John Iaciofano on Vimeo.

When not cranking out 1980's hit movie-caliber biscuits, Amy also enjoys undertaking cooking experiments in her own kitchen. She also eats out—some of her favorite NYC restaurants are The Spotted Pig and Kinshop.

Thank you Amy and Northern Spy Food for the interview and letting me and my camera into your kitchen.

And for serving me this Sake Blood Mary along with my biscuits that sunny brunch day:

Northern Spy Food
511 East 12th Street New York, NY 212-228-5100

If you'd like to take a look at some of NSF's local suppliers, click here.

Or check it out through Real Time Farms, here.

And if you'd like a peek into the bathrooms....you know you're on the right blog:

 

Thursday
Jul142011

Will Travel For Food - Rockaway Park Edition

As long as these warm, sunny days of summer persist, I will be taking my food adventures out-of-doors as much as possible. I will travel to the far reaches of the universe – like Queens! – in order to bring you outdoor eats reviews.

Last week during my "staycation" I travelled to Rockaway Park in Queens with a friend to test the waters, not of the ocean but of the food vendor scene on the boardwalk. There are a host of eating opportunities right on the boardwalk, around 96th Street.

My first stop was a cluster that included Babycakes, Motorboat & The Big Banana, and a smoothie stand (name unknown, but it was right next to Ode to the Elephants).

First, I sampled a mini Cookie Crumble donut from Babycakes. Babycakes makes gluten-free Vegan treats in many forms, but I am always attracted to donuts. Particularly mini ones. The dough on this one was very satisfying, as it was more like cake in consistency. Dense and squishy, with a "yellow" vanilla flavor, it was perfectly balanced by the crumble topping, juuuust enough frosting and a delicate accent of chips.

You can check out Babycakes full menu here.

My companion procured the above fantastic fried fish sandwich from Motorboat and the Big Banana. The ridiculousness of the name of this institution has not escaped me, but neither did a few bites of this sandwich. Packed with flavor and nestled between a lightly toasted potato bun, various cabbages and decorated with a tangy tartar, this "sangwich" was exceptionally light and fresh. The fish fry was noteworthy: light, slightly salty and crispy.

For Motorboat's location, see Yelp's listing here.

At the unnamed smoothie stand, I ordered up a Tropical Smoothie. Blended with papaya, banana and soy milk, this concoction was ever-so-slightly sweet and amazingly light. No heavy post-smoothie regret here. Am i the only one that experiences that?

Brought to you by the guys behind Roberta's and the Meat Hook, Rippers offers hamburgers and fries, but also freshly squeezed juices. I opted for a cucumber and mint that I downed with surprising speed. Easy, breezy. And I'd go back for another.

Rippers at Rockaway Park

We then veered off the board-walked path to an adjacent Rockaway Taco location (Rockaway Taco does have a boardwalk stall, but the word on the street was that the tacos were better at this location).

Upon arriving, I was immediately transported to Venice. California, that is. Beach combers ambled up to a cobbled-together, white-washed shanty with surf boards and chalk board menus to order their tacos. The place seemed to have sprouted from the ground, nurtured by the salty sea breezes and a sprinkling of cilantro.

I ordered a Delux Fish Taco (delux = guac) and a side of Fried Plantains.

There was nothing complicated about this taco. The fish was simply battered and fried, yielding a light and crispy white filet. The fresh cabbage was accented by radish slivers for a bitter crunch. And the guacamole was smooth, buttery and flavored with just the right amount of cilantro. I added a touch of salsa verde from the condiment bar, and I was in fried fish taco heaven.

And now for the Fried Plantains. I happen to love plantains. Put them on a menu and I will be compelled to order them. Like bananas, but better, when plantains are fried they accomplish the ultimate in texture contrasts: a gushy center of sweet mushiness with a crispy and even chewy caramel crust. Rockaway Taco's plantains were just that, with a little cheese crumble on top for a bit of savory balance.

Rockaway Taco

After all this food, we were getting sleepy. Obviously caffeine was needed, and Blue Bottle Coffee happens to have a Rockaway Park Boardwalk location. I have to admit, I was looking forward to visiting their stall all day. Since my recent trip to their Williamsburg shop, I haven't been able to stop thinking about their Iced New Orleans Coffee.

This was exactly what I ordered and it was as good the second time around as it was the first. Thank goodness for you, Blue Bottle.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Finally, as a graphic designer, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the excellent signage we found while scouring the place for edible treats.

I passed this first one over to my triathlon team, just to remind them of potential hazards:

The hand-drawn sign played a prominent role at Rippers:

And while your mind is being blown, be careful not to choke:

As we biked out to Rockaway Park from Brooklyn – a leisurely 1 3/4 hour ride, we opted for the A train on the way home. For those lacking a bike, have no fear, the A train is a capable and amiable steed. With lots of room for bikes, should you decide you can't even imagine riding yours home after all those tacos, coffee, smoothies and mini donuts. And there might have been a burger in there too. Just sayin'.

 

Thursday
Jul072011

Brooklyn Day – Part the Second – The Forbidden Donut

After Williamsburg, I jumped on the G Train and disembarked in Clinton Hill for the sole purpose of visiting Dough.

Dough is an exceptional donut shop. I first learned about Dough from Food Curated's video which highlights this shop and their mouth watering donut-making techniques.

All the donuts are hand-made on the premises with special care. And as it says in the video, "If you're happy, the donuts are happy." I found this argument to be a bit cyclical (in the best possible way), as these happy donuts, in turn, made me even happier than I already was, which seemed to please the Dough employees as well. I love circular logic.

I also loved this donut: the Dulche de Leche.

Have you read e.e. cummings' poem, "In Just"? Because the best way to describe this donut is "mudluscious." That is, if the "mud" were a cooked-for-6-hours, perfectly sweet and delectible dulche de leche sauce that has seeped into the softest of fried dough rounds, making it oh-so-slightly gooier, and adding in a few almonds for crunch. Now that's mudluscious.

And that dough....let me tell you this place is aptly named because I could eat the dough without any topping, dulche or otherwise. It's that good. Soft. Softer than soft. It has a slight gumminess that makes you want to take another bite....and another...you get the idea.

Homer Simpson once said, "Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?"

I would say these donuts accomplish much in the arena of motivation alone. They convinced me to travel to Clinton Hill. And ride the G Train. And they have already convinced me to return.

Dough
305 Franklin Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11205