Category Archives: Sugar Surge

Do you have a sweet tooth or a salt tooth? I like everything, but I am a diehard fan of baked goods and sugary treats – not a day goes by without one!

Kitchen adventures: festive rice krispies treats

Up until last week, I was pretty much a rice krispies treat hater. I’ve always sworn by the fact that stirring cereal into melted butter and marshmallows is a poor excuse for “baking,” and considering they’re chocolate-free, a bite of one of these can be completely forgettable. Then, my friend Natalie gave me the genius idea of switching up the original recipe for Smitten Kitchen’s salted brown butter rendition, using Cocoa Krispies instead of Rice Krispies, and adding orange candy to make something festive for Halloween. When my friend Katie turned to me to say “these are different, and they’re really f*ing good” at the Halloween potluck where I unleashed the finished product, I knew that this American-born baked good and I had turned a new leaf. The opportunities to elevate this simple, three-ingredient classic into a creative and delicious dessert are surprisingly endless. I was blind, but now I see.

Halloween treats!

Halloween treats!

After the epiphany, I couldn’t wait to try a different variation of the recipe for my friend Leah’s birthday this weekend. And I have to admit I got the inspiration from the adorable ones I saw at SusieCakes, which had specks of fall leaf sprinkles. I altered the Smitten Kitchen recipe only slightly, adding 6 tablespoons as opposed to an entire stick of butter (the original recipe on the cereal box calls for 3), and throwing in festive birthday sprinkles with the cereal. Within minutes I had whipped up a treat that was adorable and absolutely addictive.

mixing in the krispies and sprinkles

mixing in the krispies and sprinkles

perfect birthday treats

perfect birthday treats

The recipe can be found here, is very easy to follow, and upgrades the original in a MAJOR way. Any mix-ins should be added with the Rice Krispies so they don’t melt. I suggest cutting with a thin sharp knife, and if you’re really obsessive like me, cutting a millimeter of the outer edge to outfit each square with four perfectly straight edges. I’m so glad I discovered a new go-to, simple recipe for potluck events – I hope you’ll try this!

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Filed under Erin's Favorites, Kitchen Adventures, Sugar Surge

SusieCakes: another SF bakery to the rescue

l

Thanks to SusieCakes, I now have a place where I can find the perfect slice of cake – chocolate, red velvet, coconut, or carrot cake-mood alike. The thing that gets me about most cupcake shops is that 1) they limit themselves to cupcakes when they could easily make cakes and 2) the cupcakes are laden with excess, sugary frosting, and 3) they are just too fancy for my taste. SusieCakes stocks their display case with a variety of beautifully frosted treats that are straight forward, homey, and scrumptious. It’s my west coast Amy’s Bread. My favorite? The red velvet mini cupcake, but for any homestyle flavor you’re craving, you really can’t go wrong here. They even sell SF Giants cupcakes.

tiny shop

tiny shop

red velvet

Halloween treats!

Halloween treats!

Definitely worth a special trip if you’re not in the neighborhood, or check out one of the 8 locations throughout California!

Grade: A+
Location: 2109 Chestnut btwn Steiner and Pierce Streets
Website

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Filed under Featured U.S. City Posts, San Francisco, Sugar Surge

Pain Quotidien: the king-size chocolate chip cookie

le pain

Ever since I wrote my Zagat article, I’ve been discovering new cookies that would have surely made my top 10 list had I known about them months before. I was kicking myself after the chewy triple chocolate chip find at Breads Bakery, and now I’m frustrated that I didn’t add the massive round found at Pain Quotidien to the list. I love Pain Quotidien. It’s a place that despite being a chain, has really remained true to its core values of good bread, clean communal eating and heathy food. I rarely tap into the pastries or sweets here, but on Easter Sunday, my memories of chocolate Easter Baskets and Cadbury cream eggs drove my eyes straight to the 10-inch diameter, toasty-brown, crisp chocolate chip cookies that lay like a tall stack of pancakes behind the display case. When I brought a broken one to the waitstaff’s attention, instead of throwing it out, he graciously handed it to me. The cookie may have tasted better because of the generosity that he surrounded it with, but when I sunk my teeth into this flat, brittle, Frisbee-sized disk, I was in chocolate chip cookie heaven. This is the ideal cookie for those who want something consistently crumbly, brown-sugary and crisp. And each bite is sure enough to give you at least 6 chocolate morsels, which  are smaller than the average chip. At around $4 a pop, considering this cookie could likely feed three or four people, it’s definitely a deal. And because I’m sandwiched between two Pain Quotidiens only blocks away, I think I know where my go-to cookie will be found the next couple of months.

Chef Aki with cookie (after saying he didn't want any)

Chef Aki with cookie (after saying he didn’t want any)

Grade: A+ (especially since it was free)
Location: Multiple
Website

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Filed under Cheap Eat, Sugar Surge

Sugar Surge: Breads Bakery – the most buttery and delicious chocolatey treats

I am a bakery fiend, you should all know that by now. So when I heard about the Breads Bakery opening near Union Square, I put a reminder on my calendar to head there as soon as time allowed. What excited me most about visiting this Israeli-run bakery is the rugelach, crescent-shaped Jewish cookies traditionally made with cream cheese and filled with chocolate or fruit. They’re awesome, and I’ve been eating them since I was sitting in my mom’s grocery cart at Grand Central in SF.

When I went to Breads the $1.50 tiny rugelach was the first thing I purchased. To my surprise, it was hands-down the best, flakiest, chocolatiest rugelach I’ve ever tasted. Most have a very dense, chalky texture, but this one is as light and fluffy as a croissant. The inside is soft, and the outside is golden brown and crispy. Absolutely addicting.

tray of rugelach

tray of rugelach

rugelach

buttery rugelach

The second time around, they were giving samples of their ridiculous triple chocolate chip cookie, which did its job in leaving me no choice but to buy one. I thought I knew the city’s best cookies, but I evidently failed to acknowledge that one of my favorite versions can be found here. The golden crust surrounds a chewy, soft dough layered with milk and dark chocolate rounds. It’s magic.

cookie

cookie

Then, just over the weekend I stopped by for a quick snack while shopping – how could I resist when the sign caught my eye while walking down fifth avenue? I almost went for a savory treat – the cheese sticks are delicious – but I again opted for the sweet chocolate bread. Amy’s Bread makes a wonderful sourdough twist with chunks of dark chocolate. This, however, takes the cake, and while it’s not as rich as a chocolate croissant, it packs the same dark chocolatey punch.

I’m three for three at Breads Bakery – every single chocolate treat I’ve tried has been a score. And with tons of samples for tasting, they’re my favorite type of place! Next time I’m committing to one of the cheese & egg tartlets.

Grade: A+
Location: 18 East 16th Street between 5th Ave and Union Square West
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Filed under Bread Basket Breakdown, Cheap Eat, Sugar Surge, Union Square

Chelsea Market Adventures: Carla Hall Petite Cookies

timthumbGiven that one of my favorite pastimes is perusing Chelsea Market for a treat on my way home from work, I’ve decided to launch a recurring “Chelsea Market Adventures” post to feature a new tasty food item from one of the market’s many amazing purveyors. In honor of my Zagat Cookie post this week, today we’re talking about Carla Hall Petite Cookies, smaller-than-bite-size cookies in a dainty cylindrical container. I found these amidst the boat-loads of cookie varietals in my beloved Chelsea Market Baskets, a store that has every specialty food item you could ever imagine. The cookies come in unique sweet and savory flavors – oatmeal with white chocolate and cherries, cheddar pecan, Hawaiian wedding to name a few – and they’re the genius solution to my usual craving for “just a taste” of something sweet throughout the day. After popping more than a few of these almond-ginger nuggets in my mouth, I have no doubt this new venture will be successful. They’re dense, buttery, crunchy, subtly sweet and a perfect topping on ice cream – just the kind of cookie I like.

photo (2)

tiny little buggers!

Website
Where to Buy

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Sugar Surge: The Chocolate Nation’s Fudge Truffle Slab

choclateI’ve been to the Salon du Chocolat in Paris and in New York. I scour every country I visit for the local chocolate. I stop by Jacques Torres in Chelsea Market weekly for a $3 work day pick me up. I may be unsure of my destiny, but I don’t hesitate for a second when I profess that I’m the most die-hard chocolate fan I know. As a result, finding a life-changing batch is like scoring gold, and I often like to make sure my loved ones can partake in my addiction.

That brings me here tonight, as I sit with a block of what I think is not only the best chocolate I’ve had in recent history, but some of the most soul-striking chocolate I’ve tasted in my life: The Chocolate Nation’s 1.5 pound dark chocolate and caramel truffle fudge slab. At $50 a pop, I’m lucky enough that the company’s inspiring owner Grace Lissauer, whom I befriended during the holiday gift fair I had planned at Google, was kind enough to give me an entire box as a holiday gift. When I opened the glossy white carton to find the smooth, dense chocolatey brick, I had an immediate flashback of overdosing on samples the day of the event. I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase – the last thing I needed during holiday season’s party-eating-boozing frenzy was a fat block of chocolate in my kitchen. Slippery slope.

But now, I couldn’t be happier that it’s mine. And while you only need a cubic centimeter to satisfy any chocolate craving, I’m hoarding it as if cocoa beans are going extinct tomorrow. Rich truffle fudge stabilizing a thin layer of caramel, all covered in a dense shell of dark chocolate and crunchy pink Hawaiian sea salt becomes a precious, awe-inspiring chocolate that is so uniquely delicious. And the common reaction when I happen to slice a sliver of the slab to share it? People take a bite, their eyes roll around in pleasure, their brows burrow in angst because they want to eat more but their subconscious thinks otherwise, and then they sigh in disbelief of the chocolate’s mesmerizing effect. The way it so beautifully disintegrates in your mouth like a spoonful of rich chocolate frosting makes it as moving as a piece of art.

chocolae

photo from website

photo (1)

my current batch

So before I freak everyone out with my intense descriptions of this tasty chocolate, my advice is to order this online immediately so you can relate. Stick with this despite the fact that The Chocolate Nation’s website offers chocolate from a variety of hand-selected purveyors.  No need to buy the entire $50 block; you can purchase a smaller box of “bites” for just $15. It’s the perfect gift, but I again urge you to buy some for yourself first. It’s like putting the mask on the child before yourself when the plane is going down. It’s essential.

Grade: A++
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Sugar Surge: Mille Feuille cake at Lady M and Cafe Des Amis

Ever since Sushi of Gari ran out of the Lady M Green Tea Mille Feuille cake I had SO looked forward to eating, I was on a mission to try the luscious 27-layered dessert as soon as I could get my hands on it. Fortunately a trip to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center placed me near Todd English’s Food Hall, so I didn’t hesitate one second to splurge when I spotted the cake at the hall’s very own Lady M stand. For $8, the piece is small, but each layer of whipped cream makes every bite taste like a thousand cakes in one. The sweetness is subtle, the creaminess is undeniable, and for such a densely layered cake, it achieves the quality of lightness that most cakes do not. But despite it’s beauty and deliciousness, I can’t ignore the fact that it lacks in some diversity of flavor. Maybe I should’ve opted for the green tea, or maybe I’m just used to ingredient-packed Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but the cake needs something to brighten its mildness.

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the display @ Todd English Food Hall

photo 4

Lady M Mille Feuille

photo 3

count the layers!

Fast forward a few weeks and I find myself sitting in front of San Francisco’s Cafe Des Amis version, which they call the “24-layer crepe cake,” served with orange chamomile syrup. At first I was shocked at the adulteration of such a wonderful classic, but when I took a bite, I instantly knew the problem had been solved. The citrus added a necessary brightness to the otherwise dull taste of the traditional version, and I was happy as a clam.

Cafe Des Amis version

Cafe Des Amis version

I’m sad to admit that a somewhat random restaurant’s version of mille feuille cake beat out that of the critically acclaimed Lady M. My recommendation to Lady M, if it ever were to make a difference? Add a little lemon zest in the whipped cream to really bring out the flavors of the crepe.

Lady M Location: Multiple locations; 41 East 78th Street @ Madison
Grade: 
B+

Cafe Des Amis Location: 2000 Union Street @ Buchanan
Grade: 
A

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Sugar Surge: L’Arte del Gelato

larte del gelato

After a long day’s work and a dinner in the office, I’m often found looking for a sweet treat to reward myself for being both diligent and economical. Tonight, I left on a mission for ice cream and b-lined it to L’Arte del Gelato in Chelsea Market knowing I could get a small, (sort of) guilt-free cup of smooth creamy sweetness. As the only customer in sight at the counter, I took my time to sample a laundry list of flavors including biscotti, chocolate chip, Christmas cake, panna cotta, olive oil, and chocolate. The lady behind the counter surely wanted to hit me with her metal spatula by that time, so I quickly decided on the stracciatella and the biscotti and walked away.

ice cream

colorful flavors

straciatella

stracciatella

The gelato is adorable in its little white cup, but bite after bite, I remained unimpressed. Why does everyone love this place? While the product is sugary, cold, and creamy, it melts in no time and is no more remarkable than what I find at the grocery store. I’m a diehard Grom fan, and after forming an addiction to their round tins of thick, dense pistachio gelato in Florence, I’ve yet to find another gelato that’s just as impressive (though Mario Batali does quite the job at his restaurants). Contrary to what I think, though, people absolutely love this place – it’s constantly touted in the press and on Yelp it has a close-to five star rating. Not to mention that Tom Colichio recently called it out in his SeriousEats Neighborhood Guide.

I may just be more accustomed to a richer, more intensely flavored gelato, but I’ve confirmed that next time I want to drop $5 on a 3oz cup of frozen dessert, I’ll likely buy a carton of chunk-filled Ben & Jerry’s.

Grade: B-
LocationMultiple

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Mary’s Fish Camp: unadulterated seafood and a barely-legal ice cream sundae

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived in the West Village for four years and have never been to Mary’s Fish Camp. What is wrong with me? I love seafood, love my hood, love casual restaurants, love bar seating – I can’t believe I never considered it. Fortunately, it’s my man’s ultimate destination for fried clams and wine in water glasses, so we decided to swing by last night for an impromptu seafood fest.

Our hour-long wait for a seat brought to life the many reports of unbearable wait times for one of the restaurant’s few seats. Still, given our prime waiting spot that allowed us to witness each disappointed, shock and awed, or frustrated facial expression of those who entered hoping for immediate seating, the time flew by. Tables moved quickly and we finally got 2 great seats at the bar with the tiny kitchen and our waitress front and center. As a fish lover, I found it heart wrenching to narrow my options. There are a ton of whole fish options (fried or grilled), a lobster roll, fried fish sandwich, tacos, bouillabaisse, scallops – all my favorites, but we decided on exactly what we were in the mood for: fried oysters and clams, steamed clams, raw brussel sprout salad, raw oysters, and the special entree of pan sauteed tile fish with farrotto, raisins, and pine nuts. Everything was delicious. The fried clams and oysters came out hot and crispy with an incredible pink-colored, pickle-heavy tartare sauce. The oysters were briney, plump, and creamy. Even the tile fish was a standout in its simplicity. I was happy as a clam (ha!) sitting at the bar with my glass of prosecco and the most ideal seafood feast I could ask for. I looked left, I looked right – every patron couldn’t have been more excited with the food before them. It’s the type of place that reminds you of the beauty and value of simple, fuss-free food.

kitchen view

fried clams and oysters

Who knew I could be even more happiness-inflated after I was pressured into ordering the hot fudge sundae off the chalkboard menu. As I watched a chef scoop not one, not two, but three scoops of vanilla Laboratorio Del Gelato ice cream, add two-ladles full of hot fudge off the stove and a huge spoon full of fresh whipped cream, I knew doomsday approached. All feelings of fullness were forgotten and I immediately dug my long spoon right at the core of the beautiful creation. Now THAT’s what a hot fudge sundae should taste like. After so many disappointments by ice cream sundae claims on New York menus, downing this puppy felt like a breath of fresh air, until I had to limp home due to over indulgence.

this could be my life partner if all else fails

Mary’s Fish Camp, as cliche as it sounds, you are my new favorite place. If anyone asks me where to go in NYC, you are top of the list. People, it’s worth the hour wait and they’ll call you get a drink nearby.

Grade: A+
Location: 64 Charles Street off of West 4th
Website

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Filed under American, Fun Group Dinner, Seafood, Sugar Surge, West Village

Sugar Surge: Shake Shack Frozen Custard

I was in denial for weeks, but I now can sadly admit that my only friend from college in New York City is moving back to San Francisco. The only silver lining of this depressing news is that said friend Ashley is hugely food obsessed and has invited me to take the New York restaurant scene by the horns to aggressively tackle her must-eats list before leaving. This weekend, we had a chance to check a few off with a Market Table dinner, a Jane brunch, a Calexico Taco, and most importantly, a Shake Shack Frozen Custard. The flavor of the day was Pumpkin Pie, but we also couldn’t resist our own creation of chocolate cookie dough and peanut butter. Sadly, they forgot the cookie dough and mistakingly added a swirl of fudge making it overly mono-consistent. Same story with the Pumpkin Pie. I was hoping for chunks of pie crust, but instead got a smooth mix of Thanksgiving flavor. The treat was not bad by any means, it just wasn’t what the long line implied it to be. In fact, I think I’d prefer 16 handles…

Conclusion: go to Shake Shack for the burgers, despite the namesake. Ice cream aside, the walk through Madison Square Park with my long time friend Ash made it worth it. Our next stop? Hearth this Friday. Stay tuned…

Grade: B+
Location: Multiple
Website

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