The day before my pudding and cupcake fest at Sugar Sweet Sunshine I realized that the hotel I was staying at was just mere streets away from Buttercup Bake Shop. I spend most of my NYC time in the Village and Chinatown area and just never headed uptown for fooding as much as I should. As you’ve probably figured by now, puddings are my weakness. I AM WEAK! More specifically, banana puddings. I’ve had the banana pudding at Magnolia, Billy’s Bakery and Sugar Sweet Sunshine, and they are all quite good, though SSS’s version just has this wonderful ooomph I just can’t place my finger on, aside from the fact that it s a delicious “ooomph!”

The bakery was filled with parents totting around their little kiddies when I arrived at 3pm – perhaps school just got out. I allocated a good ten minutes of my stay eyeing the numerous diabetes inducing desserts but I had my mind set from the start. Banana pudding please. An order is $3.50 which is somewhere between $.50 – $1 more than comparable bakeries…and the cup is smaller!
Just a little. But it makes a difference. Do they think we don’t notice? hehe.

This was the fourth time I had banana pudding in three days and I think the pudding parts of my taste buds were starting to wear out. It was everything I anticipated, cool mellow vanilla pudding, soft nilla wafers weaved in with slices of ripe bananas. But it was anticlimactic. It tasted the same as Magnolia. Same as Billy’s Bakery. Almost as good as SSS. In the end, is banana pudding just banana pudding? I bet they all use the same recipe (as all the owners stem from Magnolia Bakery). But SSS puts some magical dust in theirs that makes it extra tasty. Maybe I just need to lay off the pudding.

But stay away from the cupcakes. They are DISGUSTING. I don’t know what on earth compelled me to buy one, but I will never ever do it again. I don’t even like cupcakes that much. The one you’re looking at here is the Spice Cupcake, but it should be called the Oh-Crap-This-Is-The-Worst-Thing-Ever cupcake. It was so bad I didn’t finish it. And I finish everything. Think dry and crusty frosting that tastes of nothing but sugar. A flavorless, crumbly, probably week old cake defrosted from the long forgotten freezer. It was seriously awful. And I think this is why I don’t like cupcakes very much – it so hard to come across a good, or even semi-delicious one. Banana puddings are more reliable :)

Buttercup Bake Shop
141 West 72nd Street
New York, NY 10022
(212) 787-3800

I can’t help it, I have no self-control! Everyone once in a while I’ll have so many sweets and pastries in a day that by the end of my sugar fest, I’m like, no way, never again. And I’ll be fine. For a day or so. Come the second or third day I’ll have this unexplainable craving for PASTRY! It’s really a lose-lose situation. But a very tasty one. I tend to lean towards sweets that are not too sweet, but when I get one of those mad American sugar cravings, I head to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Of all the Magnolia-esque bakeries in Manhattan, SSS is by far my favorite – the cupcakes are just moist and the rhubarb pies are insane, but most importantly they always have a good assortment of PUUUUDDDINGS!

I have severe weakness for pudding. I love the soft comforting texture, the feel of spoonfuls after spoonfuls of cold sweet chocolate creams…mmm. It’s so glorious. Take for example the Piggy Pudding. Don’t worry, you don’t feel nearly as heavy after eating it as the name might imply. Layers of chocolate pudding and a soft cream cheese whipped cream form a good two-inch tower atop a bed of shortbread cookie crust. The cream cheese layer is airy light beyond words and holds well to tame the rich chocolate and buttery base.

Or you may want to try one of their cupcakes. I’m not a big fan of buying cupcakes because I’m more often than not letdown by the cloying sweetness and overly dry ones found at many “gourmet” bakeries. And it’s REALLY hard to justify paying upwards of $2/cupcake when you know Betty Crocker could do much better at $.99/box! However I have to contradict myself when it comes to cupcakes at SSS – on the rare occasion that carrot cupcakes are in stock, I forego the puddings and pounce on the cupcake (or get both, which is what usually happens). The Carrot One. The only one I’ll eat, is awesome! It has a definite crumb yet at the same time is so soft that it becomes somewhat reminiscent of pudding in a cake form. There are tons of shredded carrots, raisins, bits of nuts, making for a wonderfully moist concoction. Just a tad sweet, making the whipped cream cheese frosting a welcome addition, as opposed to an overbearing crown of cakey sugar.

If the notion of a pudding like cupcake inspires, then you must have the pumpkin pudding! This started off as a seasonal treat, but I was told it got so popular that they’ve got it year round now :) The trifle is composed of chunks of spiced pumpkin cake in alternating layers of eggnog pudding and whipped cream. It’s simple, only three very base components. And it’s hard to go wrong. Though you’d be surprised at how so many bakeries can screw up such simple treats. But they do it right here. It’s worth your $3.25. Just forgo the Starbucks Peppermint Mocha.

And if you really really like your puddings, then please don’t pass on the banana pudding at SSS. This picture is from a previous post, but it’s the one dessert I can always count on to make a bad day good, a good day better and the best of days insanely delicious!

I only ate the first three in one sitting, not all four! And I shared…well, kind of…it’s not easy to share puddings…hehe

I know all these are rather crude desserts. Nothing in the realm of WD-50 or Lady M Confections, but they are so comforting and while I can simultaneously say Sam Mason’s creations are “decadent” and SSS’s puddings are just as “decadent,” I’m using different comparison markers. Cause they are both quite decadent. In their own special way.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine
126 Rivington St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 995-1960

OMG…Al Bap!

Holy cow, I had SUCH a good dinner last night. My LA fooding buddy, Cindy and I went out with another friend to O-Dae San in Koreatown. I’ve had the name of this restaurant written down after reading Jonathan Gold’s article on “Koreatown’s Top 40.” He covered a wide range of restaurants, but the description of one dish caught my eye, “we can never tear ourselves away from the ever-fascinating al bap, a big bowl of sushi rice frosted — frosted! — with a half-dozen different kinds of fish eggs, laid out in contrasting streaks radiating from the center of the bowl like rays from the sun.”

And here it is. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve eaten. Priced at $16, it’s not exactly a steal, but it’s a good deal for the quality and quantity of food. I didn’t know where to start the dish for fear of ruining the carefully laid out streaks of eggs. However, once I got my chopsticks going, I tasted each variety individually and then mixed it with the furikake spotted rice for a most colorful and sumptuous experience. Every bite popped and snapped, each eggs flavoring grains of rice with it’s own unique flavor. Sorry, I don’t know the names of any of them, but I can assure you the were all delicious. :) The back half of the bowl however was a bit of letdown: the unagi was a fine cut, though the overall appeal of the bowl diminished with strands of imitation crab and the slice tired, old perhaps, sweet egg omelet. But man, isn’t it a sight to see? I think I could live forever happy with a bowls of rice and an endless variety of fish eggs for dinner every night…although I may need a bowl of bread pudding and a croissant every now and then…

Cindy had the Chirashi which came full with no less than eight types of fish over a warm bed of rice. They just really know how to plate things here. I found that this dish looked better than it tasted, some pieces of sashimi were a bit “tough” and lackluster in flavor. But it was just so beautifully presented, I had to applaud it anyways!

Will had an order of spicy tuna roll, which he deemed “better than anything in Claremont.” That’s not saying much in the realm of sushi, however it did look darn good.

The standard Korean panchan, beansprouts, lotus root, kimchee and broccoli. If anyone can figure out what the top middle dish is, I’d be very grateful – crunchy like bamboo shoots and marinated in a spicy-sweet broth…any ideas? All were well prepared, my favorite being the slightly sweet cuts of lotus. Most Korean restaurants offer a greater variety – maybe it was because we were in a Japanese-Korean restaurant that the panchan was limited and very basic.

Along with the panchan, we were each presented a bowl of pumpkin porridge. Hooray! I’ve always seen this in Korean supermarkets, but never had a chance to try it. Now I gladly report back that it subtly sweet creation laced with tiny bits of pumpkin and carrots with a slightly nutty essence. Think refined, Korean-ized jook. Hehe, that probably didn’t help much!

Halfway through the meal, we were brought Will’s other order of tuna rolls and new dish of panchan: marinated squid with root veggies…gah, I wish I knew the name to all these dishes! It’s a shame to not know what you’re eating! O-Dea San is worth going out of your way to pay a visit, but only for the Al Bop. I found the other dishes to be just standard quality food, nicely presented. But the Al Bop? Totally worth the drive in LA traffic!

Ohhhh, just realized I did this meal completely backwards! Hehe, well, there’s nothing wrong with ending with panchan :)

O-Dae San
2889 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 383-9800

I got so caught up in deciding if I should work or cook that I didn’t realize until today that my last two posts have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with food! I apologize! But now…let me present Clinton St. Baking – the most delicious brunch I’ve ever had in the city.

I came here with Ingrid the morning, or rather, afternoon, after my KPMG interview. I was so exhausted that I didn’t wake up until 2pm Sunday morning! Crazy. I never wake up that late. Well, we trucked on down Broadway, onto Houston then made a right onto Clinton Street. I first learned about this place from Robyn’s post – it was the phrase “maple butter” followed by, “And I think I could ingest a bucket of it…one of the most memorable things I’ve ever tasted in my life,” which drew me in. How could it not draw you in? The restaurant is a tiny, bustling home with lines of people outside the door at the not breakfast, not lunch, not yet dinner hour.

I put my name down with the hostess who said the wait would be 60 minutes. Gaaah. That would not do. We were hungry. But we were also desperate. So we decided to wait. As we walked back out, Ingrid pointed out a super tiny empty counter table that would fit two if you squished. Super squished. So we went back in and asked the hostess. “You want to sit there?” she asked in slight disbelief. I guess not too many people sit there. It wasn’t a bad table. Prime location, good for people watching. It was just very very small. She gladly obliged, gesturing us towards the counter. It took Ingrid and I a minute or two to squeeze in, bags on laps, coats beneath the bag, legs jammed under the counter, shoulder to shoulder. Tight. But we were so excited for maple butter, nothing seemed to matter.

Service was quite efficient and friendly given how crowded the place was. We got to some people watching and food staring and gossiping and more food drooling as we pondered out menu options. However we were quick to decide and ordered both menu items which came with their famed maple butter.

Now look at these, if you couldn’t tell already, you’re staring at a trio of Wild Maine Blueberry Pancakes with a little tub of waaaarm maple buttah. Holy crap. I’ve never had pancakes this good in my life. It was so good I thought I was going to die. I really really thought I would just pass out from bliss. I took my knife and eagerly cut out a perfect triangle and watched the steam rise up. A deep dip into the melted butter and into my mouth. Have you ever burned your tongue on pancakes? Well this was a first. And it was so worth it. The pancakes were so hot that I BURNED myself. They were hot, tall, fluffy and stuffed with enough fresh plump berries to feed a hungry Kathy. The butter, which was essentially melty maple bliss soaked into every open pore of the pancake, infusing the light cake like creation with a pure maplely rich and soooo buttery taste. I looked around the room. It appeared as if I was the only one captivated by this plate of pancakes. Was there something wrong with me? Did no one else realize the magic of warm maple butter and perfect round of blueberry pancakes? I don’t know. Maybe you should come and taste it and tell my if I’m the only one who finds this insanely good.

Gah, if the pancakes weren’t good enough, the Vanilla Waffle will surely be decadent enough to steal your heart. A large crisp round, lightly scented with vanilla and topped with a fruity, just sweet enough quince compote and a fluff of whipped maple butter with walnuts. Now get this, you get maple butter in TWO forms here, the little warm melted tub and a cold version whipped into a creamy light mountain. Everything melded together in great perfection, the warm crunch of the waffle sweetened with a chunky compote and tied together with your choice of maple butter – hot, cold. Or for me, both at once! Man, I’ve never paid $15 for a waffle before, but after this one, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again :)

And cause we had a lot of sweet and starch and butter going round, Ingrid suggested a side and we settled on an order of fried green tomatoes. I love tomatoes. And I love anything friend. So. We can’t go wrong here! Back home in Hawaii I would go to the KCC farmers market on the weekends for the sole purpose of bread from Bale and an order or two of fried green tomatoes. Man, they were addicting! Clinton St’s came four to an order – two big slices and two tinier ones, I guess that evens it out. The very thin and crisp batter left no traces of oil and only the flavor of sweet and ripe tomatoes. A dash of sour cream flavored with spices brought the little disks over the top.

I told you they were good.

And that was the bestest breakfast I’ve had. Ever. Perhaps I should go brunching in the city more often. I may become quite a bit poorer, but at least I’ll be experienced. You know, cause you can justify spending unreasonable amounts of breakfast food if you claim you learned something from it (like now I know how fantastic pancakes can taste when done not only well, but exceptional!)…you know what I mean!

Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant
4 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002
(646) 602-6263

OK! I’m going to do it! First of all, thanks for all your advice, what I really appreciate was how decisive everyone was…no, “well pursue your dreams if that’s what feels right”,…none of the, “it’s really your decision to make” (even though it is :)). I’m really grateful you all took the time to give your input – and now I’m going to act on it!

I will be an employed auditor as of fall 2007!!! Woohoo. Now doesn’t that sound exciting. Even more exciting…expense account lunches!!! But one more problem needs to be solved. I got a call from the KPMG recruiter yesterday congratulating me on an offer. Exciitttttting! So…PwC or KPMG? I’d didn’t receive the offer package yet so I don’t know how much the salary is…but…their office has an awesome pizza truck parked outside for lunch everyday. And the recruiter is mighty good looking…like reeeeaaaaly good looking…not that that should have any influence on my decision!

Well at least I feel happier now, knowing that I’m heading in some sort of direction! I like options, but sheesh, they can get confusing! :)