The Pastry Crawl Vol. 5

One thing that I like about pastry crawls is that they allow me to extend visiting time with friends… time that would otherwise be rudely cut short after a barista starts to glare at us, perturbed that we’ve been taking up valuable table space for so long.  Unlike bar crawls, pastry crawls allow for those less-sloppy conversations that are just as important as tipsy “real talks.”  And hey, I would choose a sugar high over a hangover any day.  Here’s a peek at my latest SoHo pastry crawl.

We picked out a bouquet of orange blossom and rose flavored macarons at Ladurée SoHo. Clearly we had spring on our minds when we made our order.  I’ve always been drawn to floral flavors, and Ladurée nailed them with their poignant yet not overpowering delicacy.  The shop’s mint green storefront was perfect backdrop for staging high-contrast photos with the colorful treats.  I started the pastry crawl here because was the perfect warm-up stop; it’s hard to fill up on a few innocent and airy macarons.

Is it weird that I’ve been living in New York for about four months and I hadn’t visited Dominique Ansel until last week?  By the time we moseyed into the shop in the early afternoon, lines that rivaled your worse DMV nightmare had formed.  Alas, the coveted Cronuts were gone.  Definitely have a few back-up pastries in mind when you visit this bakery.  We were forced to settle for some Nutella milk bread and some cookie and milk shots.  Of course, you can’t really call this “settling.”  The insides of the cookie shot glasses were coated with a chocolate shell to prevent the cookie from soaking up the milk and falling apart.  The Nutella milk bread was not as overwhelmingly sweet as other Nutella products.  This can be viewed as a good or a bad thing… as a huge Nutella fan, I found myself wondering why I could only taste chocolate and not hazelnut, as if the nuttiness had been baked out.  Still, this bread was extremely fun to pull apart.

By the time we arrived here, we were already on the fuller side of stuffed.  The shop does offer some samples.  In retrospect, we should have held off on one of the two milk breads at Dominique Ansel so that we would have more stamina to enjoy some luxury chocolates.  With self-interest in mind, sharing is caring!  The red wine truffle sample at Vosges, however, was perfect in small quantities; a little bit of wine goes a long way for me.  Their toffee wasn’t half bad either.  When I visit again I definitely want to try some of their more unusual offerings like their truffle called “Funk & Disco” (banana pudding, vanilla powder, and 45% cacao deep milk chocolate) and their “Naga” truffle (sweet Indian curry, coconut, and 45% cacao deep milk chocolate).

I somehow always end up here, and this is the second time I’ve given them a plug on my blog.  Something about sitting in the tranquil cafe with healthy-ish greek yogurt and an espresso shot makes me feel like everything in life is working out.  These days, moments like that are worth far more than the price of an espresso drink.

P.s. If you want to try this pastry crawl, start at Dominique Ansel and you’ll cover roughly .6 miles!  The question is, is .6 miles enough walking distance to burn off your pastry crawl calories?  Good luck, and tell me how it goes!

 

The Pastry Crawl Vol. 4

As I’ve learned over the years, absurdity is oftentimes at the core of creativity.  I am reminded of this every time I take a trip home to visit my family.  My father is the premiere example of someone who finds happiness in the wacky.  One of the things that excites him the most is the mold-a-rama machine that dutifully churns out colorful plastic toys at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo.  But I’ll get back to that.  After visiting home, I’m filled with a creative rush of energy because my parents’ personalities are full of inventive and playful momentum.  I want to channel and share that energy with you and pinpoint how to recreate it again and again.  Along with a few highlights from my sugary outings, I’ll try to touch on a few tricks that I’ve gleaned.

  • I recently failed a self-imposed challenge at the restaurant Black Tap.  In other words, I tried to drink one of their mammoth shakes and failed miserably.  I was only able to plow through the cotton candy and the ice cream before accepting defeat.  I should have brought a little bag to haul home all of the shake’s other trappings, which included a lollipop the size of my face and crystal rock candy.  I’m not sure if I’ll want to accept the challenge again anytime soon… even glancing at my picture makes me feel too-much-of-a-good-thing queasy.

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  • Cha Cha Matcha was described to me by a friend as being on the garish side of kitschy and a bit too trendy to tolerate.  I visited and was hammered by a pink and green color scheme that the cafe sticks to down to the last paper cup.  Sitting at Cha Cha Matcha was a surreal, festive experience.  It felt like I was sipping my drink on the set of a Wes Anderson movie.  The tea shop was inspired by the green tea of Uji, Japan.  Uji is located right outside of Kyoto; it is  famous for its tea and all of its corresponding tea-flavored products.  At Cha Cha, order the matcha latte sweetened with agave, and you won’t go wrong.

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  • Shifting to my recent visit to Chicago, I was able to resume my obsession with Chicago’s eye-popping street art.  Nothing jolts you out of the gloom of a November day like fluorescent yellow-on-red paint.  This bold study in zigzaginess is located on a garage door in Logan Square, almost directly under the train tracks.  It’s very close to the postcard-themed Chicago mural that borders a parking lot strewn with broken glass.  Check out Jennifer Lake’s blog for a full listing of Chicago wall paintings and where to find them.  I’m inspired to hunt for a new one each time I visit.

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  • Most of you have seen the ’60s era mold-a-rama machines next to the penny-presses at museums, zoos, and other tourist destinations that are swarming with kids.  My father is delighted by the process of these jukebox-sized contraptions.  Colorful hot wax is poured into a mold to make fun souvenir toys right before your very eyes, all in a matter of minutes.  My dad loves their crayon-smell and in the blustery cold zoo, he raved about their fresh-from-the-press warmth.  He encouraged each family member to get one to serve the dual purpose of a hand warmer and memento.  I’m drawn to the bold colors of these toys and my father’s infectious enthusiasm for them.

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Wrapping up, here are some takeaways for fostering and maintaining more creative spark in every aspect of your life:

  • Identify the things that make you happiest and pursue them with vigor.  Whether it’s paying two dollars for twenty cents worth of colorful plastic at the zoo or finding fresh bursts of passerby-color in your city, embrace your fancies, old and new, as you would a mewling kitten.
  • Immerse yourself in as many situations as possible where you can see, taste, and experience new things.  Obviously, I’m most drawn to the tasting!