Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

On Bulding a Bombe

At culinary school, we spent one whole class period making bombes, and it was a wonderful experience, although I've noticed it's not polite to talk about that sort of thing in public.

People can't hear the silent "e" at the end of bombe, so one risks being labeled a terrorist. Thus, it becomes necessary to modify the word on each utterance... "pastry bombe" or "ice cream bombe" or "bombe cake" or something of the sort.

The bombe glacée is a traditional French confection made with a cake dome that encloses a mousse or ice cream center.

You don't see them that often, and that's a shame, because it's fairly easy to construct a bombe.

I find that the mousse variety holds up a bit longer at room temperature, but the ice cream bombe seems to make people (particularly small people) squeal with delight.

To get started, you'll need a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with a raised edge and a large, deep metal or glass mixing bowl. (Mine is from K-Mart's affordable Martha Stewart line)

The construction of a basic bombe works like this:
1. Bake a flat, flexible cake layer. (I used the chocolate genoise recipe for this.)
2. Cool the cake and and cut into pieces/strips.
3. Line the metal mixing bowl with plastic wrap and then line with the cake pieces, cutting smaller shapes (as necessary) to fit in all the spaces and make a single, uniform layer. This process is like making a cake puzzle across the inside of the bowl.
4. Pack mousse or softened (but not melted) ice cream into the empty space atop the cake, cover the entire bowl with plastic wrap or parchment and freeze 5 hours (or overnight).
5. Optional: Cover exposed ice cream top (cake bottom) with a quick chocolate ganache and let harden for 30 minutes in the freezer. This is just to seal up the bottom, but it doesn't show, and it's not necessary.
6. Using the plastic wrap lining for leverage, invert the bombe on a platter and quickly frost or ice it and/or decorate it. Return the bombe the freezer until it's time to cut and serve.

To illustrate, here's a bombe, still in the chilled bowl with the hardened ganache spread across the top.

Bombe in the Bowl

Observe the inverted, undecorated bombe here (you'll note the white ice cream crevices where the cake pieces fit together).

Bombe Cake (unfrosted)

And the frosted bombe here...

Bombe Cake (frosted)

The lovely Suzy Hotrod kindly documented the before and after bombe photos, so toques off to her for making this funny little cake look professional.

I do recommend avoiding the lowfat ice creams for this project. They're often very airy and whipped, making them melt too quickly for use here. But that aside, you can really use whatever ice cream you like. I went with plain old vanilla but most anything you enjoy will work fine.

Cheers!

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3.14.2009

Five Steps to Homemade Birthday Cake

Since the late 1940s, Pillsbury, Duncan Hines and General Mills (aka Betty Crocker) have been putting out cake mixes for the masses. Billions of boxes of cake mix for billions of birthdays and graduations and anniversaries and whatnot.

Knowing that I have personally eaten more of these cakes than I can count, I'm led to wonder what minuscule portion of the population has ever made a cake from scratch.

Though it's true that pouring a little vegetable oil and cracking a couple of eggs into a box mix is about as easy as it gets, the very basic yellow cake isn't much more fuss, and the maker gets a lot more control over the end product.

Flight of the Conchords Cake
Easy to make, easy to customize. Bret & Jemaine would approve

I make a fair number of cakes for coworkers' birthdays, and on certain busy occasions, I've felt a gravitational pull to the box mix aisle.

It generally goes like this: I pick up the pretty packages, read the ingredient lists, sigh, put the boxes back on the shelf and move along to the flour and sugar bags so I can get the supplies I need for a scratch-made cake.

Why? Well... read for yourself. This is an ingredient list for a standard box mix:
Sugar, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Propylene Glycol Mono- And Diesters Of Fats, Mono- And Diglycerides), Leavening (Soduim Bicarbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Wheat Starch. Contains 2% Or Less Of:Salt, Dextrose, Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids, Artificial Flavor, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Dextrin, Cellulose Gum, Xantham Gum, Colored With (Yellow 5 Lake, Red 40 Lake), Nonfat Dry Milk.

None of that stuff is inedible, of course... I'm just wild about partially hydrogenated oils.

On the other hand, my very basic yellow birthday cake recipe has eight ingredients and five steps. It takes about 15 minutes to mix and 30 to bake. No shortening required, no soy involved and if someone has a milk allergy, it's easy to make dairy-free substitutions. Plus, it's got the real yum.
A Very Basic Yellow Birthday Cake (Makes a 13" x 9" sheet cake)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour or pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder

1. Heat the oven to 350°F and either grease a 13" x 9" rectangular pan, or put a layer of parchment paper across the bottom.
2. Cream together the butter, salt and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the milk and vanilla until blended.
3. Sift together the flour and baking powder.
4. Blend the dry ingredients into the egg/butter mixture until smooth (but don't overwork it).
5. Bake 35 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean), then remove from the oven and cool on a rack 30 minutes before removing from the pan.

You actually don't have to remove it from the pan. I almost never do. Just dust the top in powdered sugar or slather it with your favorite frosting, then slice and serve casually.

Maybe throw in a home-sung rendition of "Happy Birthday" to go along with your home-made cake.

Happy Eating,
Miss Ginsu

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2.08.2009

FoodLink Roundup: 09.29.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was located among the pumpkins in Red Hook Farm, Brooklyn. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Kick off Rosh Hashanah with Sephardic savories
Sephardic treats for the New Year holiday.

Ancient Yeast Reborn in Modern Beer
Best thing to come out of amber since the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

An Urban Farmer Is Rewarded for His Dream
How refreshing it is to read some good news this week...

What the 21st Century Will Taste Like
Chef David Chang has an epiphany about a diet for a smaller planet. Once again, old ideas become new realizations.

Mediterranean Diet Declines, and Weights Rise
An increasingly "American-style" diet produces a generation of tubby Greek kids. So sad!

T. rex's closest living relative found on the farm
Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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9.29.2008

Mad for Peaches

Millions of peaches, peaches for me...

With July now ripe and full, I believe the whole world's tipping at the brink of peach madness.

Over at the White On Rice Couple blog, one finds adorable dogs licking peaches.

I myself just received 15 juicy little darlings in last night's CSA box. They're about to become peach compote or peach pie or maybe just peaches with yogurt if only I can keep myself from devouring them all in a dripping, fleshy mess over the sink.



Then, of course, I stumbled over this entertaining peach reverie (from The Chronicles of Clovis by Saki [H. H. Munro]) at Project Gutenberg while eating a particularly fine specimen myself:

"How nice of you to remember my aunt when you can no longer recall the names of the things you ate.

Now my memory works quite differently. I can remember a menu long after I've forgotten the hostess that accompanied it. When I was seven years old I recollect being given a peach at a garden-party by some Duchess or other; I can't remember a thing about her, except that I imagine our acquaintance must have been of the slightest, as she called me a 'nice little boy,' but I have unfading memories of that peach.

It was one of those exuberant peaches that meet you halfway, so to speak, and are all over you in a moment. It was a beautiful unspoiled product of a hothouse, and yet it managed quite successfully to give itself the airs of a compote. You had to bite it and imbibe it at the same time.

To me there has always been something charming and mystic in the thought of that delicate velvet globe of fruit, slowly ripening and warming to perfection through the long summer days and perfumed nights, and then coming suddenly athwart my life in the supreme moment of its existence. I can never forget it, even if I wished to.

And when I had devoured all that was edible of it, there still remained the stone, which a heedless, thoughtless child would doubtless have thrown away; I put it down the neck of a young friend who was wearing a very décolleté sailor suit.

I told him it was a scorpion, and from the way he wriggled and screamed he evidently believed it, though where the silly kid imagined I could procure a live scorpion at a garden-party I don't know. Altogether, that peach is for me an unfading and happy memory--"


Now, I wasn't going to offer up a recipe at all, because, after all, a summer peach is a glorious thing. Why mess with success, right?

But then I realized that I've been needlessly cruel. In checking through my online recipe file, it's clear that I've never posted my glorious Ginger Peach Pie. For shame! It's a delight that never fails to please a crowd.

And, after all, one who is blessed with peaches should at least consider sharing them. Especially with ice cream. Or crème fraîche.
Spiced Ginger Peach Pie (with or without crumble topping, below)

2 Tbsp dry tapioca pearls
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2-3/4 tsp garam masala blend (or substitute 1/4 tsp ground allspice, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ground dry ginger or cinnamon)
1/4 tsp salt
3 large peaches, sliced in 1/2" wedges
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger (about 1" piece)
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp lime zest

1 pie crust
Crumble topping (use a double crust if you're not doing the crumble topping)

1. Heat oven to 375°F and blind bake* the pie shell for 10-15 minutes.
2. Pulverize the tapioca pearls with a clean coffee grinder, a mortar/pestle or a food processor. Blend the powdered tapioca with the brown sugar and garam masala (or ground spices) and salt.
3. In a mixing bowl, gently combine the peach slices with the freshly grated ginger, brown sugar/tapioca blend, lime juice and zest.
4. Pour the peach mixture into the baked pie shell, packing the slices into place.
5. Sprinkle evenly with the crumble topping (if using) or lay on the top pie crust. If using a pie crust top, be sure to open up several holes to allow steam to escape.
6. Bake the pie on a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes (or until the filling bubbles), checking the pie after 20 minutes to make sure the edges aren't overbrowning. (If the edges do start looking a bit brown, cover them with strips of aluminum foil.)
7. Cool the pie on a rack for approximately 1 hour before serving.

*Blind baking is a process that involves pre-cooking the pie shell a bit (usually with pie weights or dry beans in the shell to keep it from bubbling and rising). This keeps the crust more crisp, which is especially nice for juicy fruit pies.

Crumble Topping
3 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, optional
1 dash salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup pecans, walnuts or pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut in 1/2" pieces

1. In a mixing bowl, blend together flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, oats and nuts.
2. Cut the butter into the mixture with a fork until the blend resembles a uniform gravel. Sprinkle atop the pie filling and bake as directed above.


Cheers!

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7.24.2008

Apricots, Apriums, Plumcots, Pluots & Plums



Am I the only one that's confused by exactly what the difference is between a pluot and a plumcot?

Heck... It was only very recently that I discovered the existence of the aprium.

As it turns out, pluots and apriums aren't just recently popularized fruits. They're the result of hard work by the Zaiger family of Modesto, California, who for the last 30 years or so, have been quietly marrying apricots and plums — among other stone fruits — in an effort to create crazy new fruits (with Zaiger-registered trademarks, of course) for the marketplace.

As it turns out, apricots, like plums are actually members of the same species, Prunus. Who knew? Well, apparently the Zaigers knew.

In general, I find any in-season stonefruit to be so delightful, a recipe is hardly necessary. Just a napkin, please.

That said, you can dress up any stonefruit just a bit by making a quickie summer pastry with it. For little tartlet, don't even fuss with making up a pastry base. Just thaw some puff pastry, mount it with macerated fruit (use whichever ones you happen to run across) and bake. Voila! Stonefruit perfection.
Plum/Apricot Tartlets (Servings Vary)

Frozen puff pastry (thawed)
1 Apricot, Aprium, Plumcot, Pluot or Plum per serving (cut in 1/2" slices)
1/2 tsp sugar per fruit
1-2 shakes ground cinnamon (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 400°F.
2. Cut 1 4"x 4" puff pastry square for each serving. Rewrap and freeze any remaining puff pastry.
3. Place pastry squares on a baking sheet.
4. Stir sliced stonefruit, sugar and cinnamon (if using) in a mixing bowl.
5. Pile sugared fruit in the center of each pastry square, leaving a 1" pastry border.
6. Fold up the edges to create casual pastry cups around the fruit, and bake for 30 minutes, or until pastry is golden.

As you can imagine, these are really nice served warm with plain yogurt, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

Cheers!

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7.08.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 06.30.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was located out in San Francisco's über-tasty Ferry Market. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post a guess in the comments.


Best North American food festivals
Can't make it to Buñol, Spain for La Tomatina? Check for a food fest closer to home.

10 Tips for Homemade Ice Cream Success
Some solid advice for making sure you have success with your homemade ice cream.

Choux City
Oh, tasty little pastry, choux have stolen my heart.

Frybread
"A powwow won't function without frybread."

Pollinator Partnership
Awareness of and research for colony collapse disorder. Save the bees!

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6.30.2008

The Real Ricotta Makes the Real Cannoli

[to Rocco who has killed Paulie in the car]
Miss Ginsu: Leave the cannoli. Take the gun.

Oh yes... let me add my voice to the massive city-wide swoon over the brilliant new Brooklyn Flea. Part craft fair, part food festival, part reliquary of the bizarre, the Flea is my new favorite Brooklyn tradition.

grrr

Cool bric a brac

Enormous Clock

From pulp fiction to papusas, the Flea offers something for just about everyone. The roomie and I spotted a black leather analyst's couch, the jawbone of some large mammal (a horse?), 30's-era vintage fans and an enormous two-piece interlocking yin-yang couch (doesn't every rec room need an interlocking yin-yang couch?), among the host of treasures.

Salvatore Bklyn cannoli

Despite a huge lot filled with crazy wonders, my biggest find was undoubtedly the cannoli from Salvatore Bklyn. Ohhh, heavenly. Freshly piped into the crisp cookie shell, the smooth, creamy ricotta carries a hint of marsala and flakes of dark chocolate. Really nice stuff.

I was so impressed, I made a short video of the filling process:



I'd first encountered Salvatore's divine ricotta at Ms. Anne's Essex Street cheese outpost. While I've never been a big ricotta fan, this was the stuff of revelation: buttery-smooth, rich and creamy. In other words, nothing like the grainy grocery-variety ricotta I'd always known. J tells me the Salvatore ricotta is very much like the ricotta he's eaten in Italy. What a lovely addition to the Brooklyn landscape!

Sadly, the roomie and I had just dined on a lovely little brunch at iCi before we stopped by the Flea, but on my next visit, I'll arrive hungry and try out the tasty-looking wares at Wafels & Dinges and Choice Market.

If you're in the neighborhood, find your way to the Flea and get thee to a cannoli. If you're friendly, you can score yourself an iced coffee sample from the sweet kids at Crop to Cup in the booth next door. And yes, quality cannoli and quality coffee really do create one of those "So Happy Together" moments.

The Brownstoner's Brooklyn Flea
Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School
Lafayette Ave. (btwn Clermont & Vanderbilt Ave.)
Fort Greene, Brooklyn

BTW: I took about a dozen Brooklyn Flea shots, so if you're interested, you can see the full set at flickr.

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6.03.2008

Hedonista Hundred, Part VI: 26-30

In which Miss Ginsu gushes about a run of wonderful, inexpensive pleasure places.

Yes, this is a project that's taking me forever to complete, but I press on... The Hedonista 100 is an ongoing list of 100 favorite food finds: cookbooks, snacks, tools, places, recipes, ideas & more.

Now, I could give you a thousand words each on these delicious entries, but I believe a pretty photo alongside an ounce of linguistic restraint might be a bit more in order. Thus, herein you'll find a five-pack of tasty photos and their corresponding source sites.

Brekkie at Le Pain Quotidien
26. The Grand Street (off Broadway) Le Pain Quotidien. A soft-boiled egg and bread with a cafe latte whilst sitting at the communal table, perusing the Sunday Times.

Shakshuka and Hummus Brunch
27. Shakshuka and hummus brunch at Hummus Place, 109 St Marks Place just off Tomkins Square Park. Don't miss their zippy, spicy green sauce. It ignites the tongue (in a good way).

Gingered Duck Soup at the Slanted Door
28. Gingered Duck Soup at the Slanted Door in the Ferry Market, San Francisco. Clean, sleek decor alongside fresh, flavorful food. Whenever I feel I'm teetering at the edge of a cold, I want this gingered soup in a bad way.

Pastries at Bonaparte Bread in Baltimore
29. Pastries at Bonaparte Bread (903 South Ann Street, Fells Point in Baltimore, MD) are everything a pastry should be: flaky, tender, buttery, lightly salted... among of the best you'll find this side of Paris.


30. Banana batidas and tasty arepas at Caracas Arepa Bar, 91 East 7th St in the East Village. Always crowded... and with good reason. They just keep putting out awesome food at reasonable prices.

Miss out on the previous 25 wondrous food finds? You'll find them at the archive page.

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1.16.2008

Taking on the issues, one lemon bar at a time

chocolate chip cookies
One Cookie to rule them all, One Cookie to find them, One Cookie to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them

For the most part, I think most people feel helpless when faced with the big, vague Issues. Take Injustice. Or Suffering. Or Torture. Or Poverty. (No, really. Take them.)

These are concepts too large for a human brain to really conceive. Twelve million children in America have too little food? I can't even hold a detailed picture of more than 150 hungry people in my little brain. They begin to smear together and lose their distinctions as individual people. Beyond 150 or so, they're an anonymous crowd.

Twelve million people is so far beyond my mental abilities as to seem unreal. Imaginary. Like all those billions of stars they tell me are out there. I live in New York where I see Orion. Occasionally. And maybe a dipper if I'm very lucky. The other billions of stars are a kind of fiction to me. Like those 12 million starving children.

When faced with capital-"i" Issues, I think many people have similar feelings. What can I do? I can't do anything. I'm just me. I'm small and not very capable. My superpowers are extremely limited.

But small actions committed en mass actually do make a difference.

For example, I found out last week from the people at Earth Pledge that the temperature in a city like NYC can be up to 10°F hotter than the surrounding countryside. It's known as the Urban Heat Island effect, and it's caused by heat reflected off urban surfaces (read: apartments, offices, bodegas, schools, etc.) and heat created by all the little people running around on, around and in those surfaces doing the things that people do.

Ten degrees. That's a significant change made by the ordinary activities of a few million individuals like me.

Similarly, I'd encourage you to consider the impact you can make in your kitchen. The Share Our Strength Great American Bake Sale begins this weekend. It's their summer-long campaign intended to inspire people to bake, eat, donate and take thousands of small actions toward alleviating the childhood hunger in America. (Those with dietary concerns and carbon qualms can, of course, simply donate to the cause without munching or baking.)

SOS hosts a number of great programs, but this one seems particularly joyous: Battling issues with muffin power! Taking on poverty with pie pans! Fleets of cookies flying into action!

For my part, I'm organizing my office team and bringing treats with which to woo my co-workers on Friday mornings throughout the campaign, which runs from May 19 through August 31.

Do my tangy lemon bars (see recipe below) or rhubarb-apple crisp make a big difference? No. They make a small difference. Alongside a nation's brigade of brownies and sky-darkening clouds of oatmeal-raisin cookies, my lemon bars contribute to a ten-degree kind of difference. My lemon bars are a tiny force for good.

Want to start your own bake sale? SOS kicks off this Saturday. Sign up today at the Share Our Strength site.

A Terribly Sincere Batch of Lemon Bars (Makes 24 bars)

For the shortbread crust:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose or pastry flour
A pinch of salt

For the lemon filling:
Grated zest from 3 lemons
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly butter a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Combine the flour and salt and blend into the butter mixture.

3. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and sides of the pan with lightly floured fingertips, raising about a 1/2-inch ledge around the pan sides.

4. Bake for 20 minutes, and cool on a wire rack before you make the filling.

5. To make the filling, whisk together the sugar, eggs, zest, juice and flour.

6. Pour lemon mixture over the cooled crust, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the filling looks set (not liquid). Cool to room temperature in the pan.

Keep, covered and chilled, for up to three days. Before serving, cut into squares and dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

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5.15.2007

Happy Pi Day!


Yes, even kidneys taste better in a pie... Steak & Kidney Pie from the peerless NY Public Library Digital Image Gallery

Somehow, the presence of a pie shell makes just about anything more special.

Consider, if you will: the humble vanilla pudding. It becomes more than formless goo when placed in a pie shell over a carefully ringed base of sliced bananas. Suddenly, it's Banana Cream Pie. Magic. Delight. The audience oohs and ahhs.

The assortment of random savory tidbits in my refrigerator becomes a tempting brunch quiche, thanks to a quick-whisked custard and a pie shell.

A thickened chicken stew, poured in a pie shell and topped with puff pastry? Poof! Chicken Pot Pie. Hearty, homey decadence.

In essence, I'm in favor of pie. And, for that matter pi. So in honor of Pi Day (3.14... get it?), I urge you to make and stockpile a few pie shells. It's like a gift to your future self. That future self will love you for this. It's an investment in yum.

This recipe makes two supremely easy pie crusts that don't use shortening. Yay! No artificial trans fats! The secret for success? Make pie crusts on a cool day, keep the ingredients chilly and don't overwork the dough. (I know, I know... that's like three secrets, not one.)
Supremely Easy Pie Crust (Makes 2 Crusts)

2 1/2 cups pastry flour (substitute up to 1 cup of whole-wheat flour to give more texture)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2" pieces
4 Tbsp ice water

1. Blend 2 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar in a medium-size bowl. With a pastry blender or a long-tined fork, cut in the butter pieces until mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.
2. Add ice water and mix until dough forms a ball. If dough is still dry and crumbly, add more a tablespoon of water at a time (up to 4 more tablespoons) until it comes together. Don't overwork the dough. Seriously. That's what makes it tough.
3. Divide the dough, flattening each half into a disk. Individually wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Roll each chilled disk on a lightly floured surface into 12-inch rounds. To shift a crust into a pie tin, gently drape the dough circle around a rolling pin and unroll it over the pie tin.
5. Lightly press the dough into the plate, and use a pairing knife to trim the round, leaving a little extra dough at the edges.
6. Fold in extra dough and seal it, crimping the edges with your fingers or a fork. Wrap each shell in plastic and freeze for future pie pleasures.

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3.14.2007

Podunk: a nook for tea and decorum

Tea at Podunk
Cream Tea (scones, fresh whipped cream, berries, strawberry jam, apple butter, cream and sugar) at Podunk

When we walked into Podunk, a tiny tea shop on a strangely quiet block of 5th Street, J and I were desperate for cardamom cake.

The proprietress seemed tickled that such a craving might force people to canvass the city. She asked if we'd found her shop via Google. Indeed, we had, but more precisely, we found her shop through Halldór Laxness, an Icelandic writer (and Nobel Laureate) with a talent for food description that drove us drooling mad with cardamom-infused daydreams.

The Citysearch reviews for Podunk were puzzling. A flood of gushing praise (cute decor! lovely owner! amazing cakes!) peppered with venomous tales of a witchy woman who flies into rages and throws customers out into the street.

Our experience had been so thoroughly positive (and the cardamom cake so unequivocally delicious), that we left puzzled. That sweet lady in the apron and disheveled bun was obnoxious? A mad woman? It seemed improbable.

On another occasion, strolling past 5th Street, we were taken by a sudden whim for tea cakes. We stopped by and found Espeth (the afore-mentioned tea mistress) brandishing the last piece of her apple chai tea cake — a surprisingly spicy confection layered with chunks of fresh apples. We talked about that day's sudden autumnal yen for apples and spice. Though the piece was much too large to offer as a single slice, and slightly too small to divide, she gave us the whole grand thing for the price of a single. Rude service, indeed!

On our third visit, we arrived for the tea. Nestling into chairs, we reviewed the menu, ordered the cream tea, and looked through a few of her vast array of children's books. The tea service arrived lush and beautiful. Her strawberry jam packed a peppery whollop in the back of the throat. The scones were airy, crisp and tender. The whipped cream was freshly whipped and begging for juicy berries.

As we sipped, a woman burst through the front door, fresh off her cellphone with that unmistakable air of patented New York impatience. We looked up from our steaming cups.

"Can I get a coffee to go?" she asked.

"No," said our tea mistress, "We don't have to-go cups. There's a Starbucks around the corner."

And that's when I resolved the Jekyll and Hyde mystery. Podunk is a reflection of what one brings to it. You don't walk in with self-importance, irritability and an enormous ego yearning to break free.

Tea is a civil occasion. It's a quiet nook in the day for sipping, nibbling and practicing good behavior. Present yourself as well-mannered, warm and friendly. You'll be greeted in kind... and discover some really fantastic tea and cakes in the process.

But honestly, whether there's cakes in the bargain or not, isn't that simply a nicer way to approach your fellow man?



Podunk
Podunk on Urbanspoon
231 East 5th St (Btwn 2nd & Bowery)
New York, NY 10003
212.677.7722

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12.28.2006

Food Quote Friday: R. W. Apple

"American Danish can be doughy, heavy, sticky, tasting of prunes and is usually wrapped in cellophane. Danish Danish is light, crisp, buttery and often tastes of marzipan or raisins; it is seldom wrapped in anything but loving care."

R. W. Apple, Jr. (1934-2006)

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10.06.2006