Well Done, Bien Cuit!

PC: Yelp

PC: Yelp

After visiting Bien Cuit, you’ll never look at pastries the same way again. Is it possible to love something without even trying it yet? That’s how I felt about this little bakery.

To preface this review, I have a short story…
As most of my family/friends know, I hardly ever watch TV. But when I do it’s usually a show about food of some sorts. This brings me to my next point: “Unique Sweets” featured Bien Cuit on one of their episodes and whenever I watch these shows, I make sure to make a mental note to visit ESPECIALLY when it’s close by. Just from the images and descriptions, I knew I had to visit. Their featured item was the elusive Chocolate Almond Croissant… double baked in brandy. I’m such a visual person and was immediately enticed when watching the show. More or less, I was sold.

Bien Cuit, meaning “well done” is certainly appropriate. All of the desserts here are carefully crafted down to the very last bite. Upon arrival, the storefront is simple/minimalist and reflects the rustic nature of the inside. Although its spacious, there isn’t much seating to go around. I was there on a mission. My friend was cooking me dinner that night and I can never go empty-handed. So I asked the girl at the counter for suggestions (she was very helpful) and I ended up deciding on three pastries:

-Huckleberry Danish with Yuzu Curd, Huckleberry Jam: Flaky, tart and very flavorful. Those berries certainly packed a punch. This was my wildcard if you will. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t had this fruit before, so take a chance on it. It’s good.

-Apple Cardamom Danish with Pureed Apple and Cardamom Strudel: Second favorite of the night. I’m a HUGE fan of apple desserts so this was a win-win. The unique pairing of flavors certainly works.

-(The true star of Bien Cuit) Chocolate Almond Croissant/Twice-baked with Brandy: If you have to pick an item, CHOOSE THIS. You can thank me later. It’s everything a croissant should be — flaky, soft, buttery, nutty (from the almond paste)… you get the idea. And the fact that its baked in brandy? Say no more. It’s a true showstopper.

Bien Cuit-Assortment

Yes, Bien Cuit may be a tad bit on the pricier side. But I can guarantee the quality is there within every single bite. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

120 Smith St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 852-0200

biencuit.com

Govinda’s

Govindas-meal

 

 

I feel like I’ve just hit the jackpot.

And by jackpot, I mean I’ve discovered delicious, cheap, fresh food in the most unexpected place imaginable. Yes, I’m talking about in the basement of a hare krishna temple. Don’t you just love that?

You can wander past this place without doing a double take. There’s no large neon sign. No flyers. No people advertising outside. It’s good ol’ fashioned word-of-mouth marketing and of course many thanks to all of you. When you walk in, look past the man that sits by the door and past the temple services and to your right you will find Govinda’s. Picture this: Walk down a flight of stairs into what looks like a much-needed-rennovation space that reminds me of an older catering hall/cafeteria. The walls are a interesting shade of green and it’s a veryyyy casual atmosphere. And….. I love all of it.

The staff here is incredibly friendly and always have a smile on their faces. If you look at the sign on the wall (see picture) it’ll tell you the price breakdown. Everything is made that day (buffet style) and fresh out of the kitchen. Their desserts for the most part are vegan so if you have dietary restrictions, always ask! They’re very accommodating.

As for the food. Holy cow (irony, I know) this stuff is GOOD. No GREAT. They offer vegetarian/vegan options without sacrificing any flavor. I’ve been able to each lunch here (Mon-Fri 12:00-3:30pm) a few times and their star dish IMO has to be the eggplant parm. It’s not your traditional eggplant parm by any means in that there’s a underlying hint of curry with every bite. Super “meaty” and cheesy. I’ve also had their: pumpkin soup, quinoa salad, curry chickpeas, roasted curry potatoes/veggies, vegan cookies and cupcakes. Their meals come with their own homemade multigrain bread which is pretty stellar like everything else.

Not only are the portions pretty hefty (I have yet to finish my full lunch), but they’re very reasonably priced. Everything I’ve had here has been nothing short of amazing. I’m looking forward to becoming one of their “regulars”.

305 Schermerhorn St
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 855-6714
https://www.facebook.com/govindaslunch

 

Off To Molly’s We Go!

PC: Yelp

PC: Yelp

Disclaimer: I take my cupcakes very seriously. I’m by all means no expert, but then again my taste buds don’t lie. And with that being said, YOU SHOULD GO TO MOLLYS.

Despite the fact that this place is freakin’ adorable, they produce some really sweet treats. With the combination of those swing seats and the childhood decorations, Molly’s truly transports people of all ages back to the good ol’ times.

I came here with a food tour group and out of all the places listed on the tour description, this was one of the spots I was looking most forward to. I was told that what makes this establishment unique is that they were one of the few places to come up with the “interactive/customized” approach. Here you can pick a cake base, a frosting, a cake filling and even some toppings if that tickles your fancy. Their daily selections vary so make sure to ask at the counter. I truly wanted to sample everything in the bakery, it was tempting.* As for my cupcake: moist, buttery, held the frosting magnificently, dense enough and with the perfect note of sweetness. They also even have a sprinkle station if the cuteness factor hasn’t reached its limit yet.

They also have ice cream, cookies, pies and more but they’re best known for their cupcakes. I also saw that with every purchase donations are made to help schools in the community. Fun fact, am I right?

Overall, I’d have to give that coveted gold star we always wanted as a kid to Molly’s. They offer a fun, engaging, bright environment…. the workers are friendly and let’s be honest… who doesn’t love cupcakes?**

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*I didn’t wanna be THAT person on tour.
**If that person is you, I’d like to meet you. I’ll change your mind, I promise!

 

228 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014

 

(212) 414-2253

mollyscupcakes.com

Sweet, Sweet Levian

PC: Yelp

PC: Yelp

Oh, my childhood.

I have very vivid memories of coming home from school to the sweet, sweet smell of freshly baked cookies coming right out of the oven. I remember running up the stairs, so excited that I almost didn’t want to wait for them to cool. There’s something about your olfactory nerves — it can trigger the most vivid moments. Levain did just that.

This place has been on my “to-try” list for practically forever. I don’t make it to the UWS often, but since I was seeing a show at Beacon Theatre, naturally I had to go! From what I heard, there’s always a line… the inside is tiny… and it’s 100% worth it. At $4 a cookie, it’s not cheap but you’re paying for the king of all that is cookies.* From looking at the small selection, the obvious choice was the Chocolate Chip Walnut. Decent size, very pillow-y looking and that smell was heavenly. I just hoped it would taste as good.

One word: PERFECTION.
The best moment is when you take that first bite. Cookies have a serious power over people** and immediately transport them to their happy place. It’s a beautiful thing, really. Slightly crunchy on the outside but OOEY-GOOEY almost half-baked goodness on the inside. There is some serious magic going on in that kitchen.*** We were lucky enough to get a uber-fresh batch out of the oven. I was so surprised my cookie was strong enough to hold together. My experience there was everything that I thought it would be.

PC: Yelp

PC: Yelp

I don’t know if you’re the type to travel for food. But if you had to pick a place, THIS IS IT. You bet I’ll be back. No doubt about it.
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*Levain=Heisenberg of cookies.
**Instant smiles/positive mood. Cookies should be the solution to all our problems.
***I bet you there’s Keebler elves working in the wayy, wayy back of that tiny store. Wouldn’t be surprised.

167 W 74th St
New York, NY 10023

b/t Columbus Ave & Amsterdam Ave inUpper West Side

(212) 874-6080

levainbakery.com

Bengal Tiger Indian

To be honest, sometimes I’m skeptical about price-fix menus. Yes, the food comes at a slight smaller portion. But that’s to be expected. In past experiences, sometimes even the quality/flavor lacks that luster that you would find in their regular dishes. Not here. No way, no how. Bengal Tiger Indian Food packs quite a punch when it comes to their cuisine.

Located on the 2nd floor, Bengal Tiger is a cozy, bright little space. There’s not much seating to go around so if you plan on coming for a bite… arrive before that dinner rush. They have beautiful artwork/phrases from wall to wall with those classic warm as well as jewel tones… very inviting. I was meeting my friend after work and we got there JUST in time. We managed to snag the last spot since a portion of the restaurant was conquered by a meetup group. Although a tight space, we sat comfortably.

Vegetarians, have no fear. You have options here! (Rhyme not intended.) My friend had plenty of meatless options which was great. For the price of $16.95, you get an appetizer, entree and dessert. Not bad IMO.

bengaltiger-samosa

App/Veggie Samosa: Phenomenal. The outside is crispy and the inside was generously seasoned filled with potato and peas. And it was on top of a green & red sauce that had quite the kick. Let’s just say I asked for a personal pitcher of water.

bengaltiger-chickentikka

Entree/Chicken TIkka Masala: Had to go with the classic choice, of course Indian spicy. (Go big or go home!) The chicken was extremely tender and there was just the right amount of sauce to meat ratio. The layers and depth of earthiness and savory flavors were on par.

bengaltiger-kheer

Dessert/Kheer: I’m a rice pudding lover. Add cashews? Spices? Home run.

All in all, I highly recommend Bengal Tiger. There’s unlimited basmati rice and their Naan is superb. The prices won’t burn a hole in your wallet and they don’t sacrifice on the spice. Staff was incredibly friendly and my water glass was never empty. This is a fantastic little spot to satisfy all your Indian Food cravings.

58 W 56th St
2nd Fl
New York, NY 10019

(212) 265-2703

bengaltigerindianfood.com

Who? The Ginger Man!

gingerman-front

I feel like I’ve just discovered a treasure map that has led me to the elusive “x” marks the spot –that being, The Ginger Man.

PC: Yelp

PC: Yelp

If you told me a few years ago that I’d be a beer-lover, I’d probably laugh it off. But ever since post-college*, I’m allll about the craft beer. I’m diving into new territory consisting of ales, IPAs, porters, ambers, lagers….you name it. And my favorite, stouts. So when I found a place like this that has over 150 beers on bottle plus 70 on tap, I’m basically in heaven. Dim lighting, comfy couches and large picnic tables make for a very social setting. It can get pretty crowded past 9pm, so plan accordingly and arrive early if you want to nab a spot.

Even if you’re not the biggest fan of beer, you need to check out the Ginger Man. It’s not overwhelmingly loud and the atmosphere is perfect for after-work drinks or catching up with friends. Casual, comfortable and very inviting. (And away from more of the tourist-y places. Yes.)

They print their menus daily, so grab that beer while you can… because once they’ve kicked the keg, you may be outta luck! During my first visit I tried the Vanilla Porter which was excellent. With a $6 price tag and a extremely knowledgeable staff, this place is so so worth it. ($6-10 range) The Ginger Man has been on my “to-try” list for a very long time. I’m in love with it already and can’t wait to go back.** 5 well-deserved stars.
__________________
*In all fairness, I drank the worst beers in college. The many days of Miller Lite and Coors Light, ugh. I’ll never go back.
**Is it too ambitious to say I want to come back enough so that I can try as many of those 70 beers on tap or 100 in bottle as possible? Could be the best/worst idea.

 

11 E 36th St
New York, NY 10016

(212) 532-3740

gingerman-ny.com

Soup Dumplings

I have a confession to make. I’m new to all that is soup dumplings. Yes, you heard it right. And yes, I know exactly what you’re thinking: How on earth has she gone this far without having these foods in her life? Well thank goodness I went to Nan Xiang because let’s be real people… I was hanging on by a thread.

After a fun night filled with booze and more booze (YEE style), we headed here in search for late night bites.* Being that there was a group of us, we ordered plenty to go around.

Pork Xiao Long Bao: I see that it has certainly lived up to its expectations. This is the kind of food you want to write a song about. It’s that good, no GREAT. I’ve come to learn that there’s a true artistry to the soup dumpling. Everyone apparently had their own “technique” from the transfer to the spoon, to the actual action of eating the dumpling. It’s brilliant actually. I went the traditional route and pierced the skin and let the soup settle in the spoon before I slurped it up. The skin is delicate, the broth is savory and steaming, and the pork was scrumptious.

soup dumplingsPan Fried Dumplings: Crispy. Juicy. Flavorful. It’s all that you would want and expect.

Scallion Pancake with Sliced Beef: My second favorite item of the night. It was doughy yet crispy and not overly greasy (which a lot of scallion pancakes are).It came with hoisin sauce which was a great compliment to the dish. Thank you Ben L. for ordering this!

beef scallion pancake

This place really set the standard for all my future soup dumpling experiences. I’m officially hooked. After visiting Nan Xiang that night, I’ve been itching to come back. Anyone up for a trip?
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*If only during my college days we had Xiao Long Bao. It’s seriously a great drunken food. (Aside from the usual pizza.)