Thursday, September 22, 2011

PB&J Doughnuts (Doughnut Plant)

Jelly filling

I'm a big proponent of people who take normal foods and make them unhealthier. That dude who decided to fry Oreos the first time round? Awesome. The first Chinese guy who decided to pan fry noodles instead of just boiling those bitches? Pioneer. Those bros on Epic Meal Time? Renaissance men. Whoever the fuck decided to sell fried sticks of butter at the Ohio state fair? My goddamn hero. Now, I think almost everyone has a soft spot in their heart for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - the old standby for when your parents didn't know what to make you for lunch. And possibly every meal... if they hated you. For some stupid reason or another... when I was a kid, I absolutely hated pb&j sandwiches, not because they tasted bad to me, but because... um, I thought they were too healthy. Yes that logic is idiotic. Sue me. Good thing Doughnut Plant (which my friends affectionately call 'DP') has taken care of that problem. While they're not really quite in the same league as those peeps I mentioned earlier, they're not doing so bad themselves.

By making a peanut butter glazed jelly doughnut, Doughnut Plant basically stripped away all the healthy shit from a pb&j sandwich. No more wheat bread and no more wack-ass crust. Instead of hearty wheat-filled nonsense, you get a surprisingly moist, yet fluffy, fried dough exterior... with the center pocket occupied by blackberry jelly. I paid $3+ for this. Me. Super frugal clench-my-buttcheeks-in-pain-when-spending-money me. I was smiling like an idiot from the first bite to the last. Take that how you will, but this shit is dope beyond recognition.

Banana pecan cake doughnut

There was also some banana on pecan action going on in the form of their banana pecan cake doughnut. It's like banana bread... but dipped in sugar. Not that banana bread was ever really healthy, but I'm pretty sure anything dipped in a sugar glaze is worse for you. By my retarded logic, that = awesome. I'm not in love with their cake doughnuts - mostly because they look smaller than the yeast ones (i.e. a lesser value) - but that has nothing to do with taste. Honestly, this was pretty sick in terms of flavor and texture. Tastewise, it's basically as I described... a slice of banana bread with a heightened level of sweetness. From a texture standpoint, it has the consistency of a muffin with the moistness locked in by a saran wrap layer of liquid sugar... dotted with chopped up pecans. If that doesn't ridiculous to you... I'm sorry you're dead inside.

tl;dr - Foods that are bad for your health generally taste better. You can take something really average and make it incredible by doing little more than frying it and covering it with sugar. Doughnut Plant gets this. They make these two awesome flavors that are eerily reminiscent of normal foodstuffs simply by glazing them over. Good job... DP, twice the calories (probably), twice the pleasure.

Doughnut Plant‎
220 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mooncakes, I eat them (Kwong Wah Cake Co)


Know what those bitches are? Of course you do. Those are fucking mooncakes. Look at that shit... there's two of them gettin' all intimate on that plate. Goddamn. You might be wondering (if you're not Asian) - "what the fuck are mooncakes?" Let me lay down some truth on you. They're only the greatest thing to happen to Asia since fireworks, paper, and possibly even Mulan too. So check it, Chinese people like putting things inside of things: pork inside of dough, carbs inside of carbs, meat inside of egg , rice inside of squid... holy shit those bitches will put anything inside anything ಠ_ಠ . Some bro-dude in the olden times decided that it'd be a dope idea to put some egg yolk inside of some sweet-ass paste inside of some golden brown crust for some legitimately sensual three-way action. Apparently then they made up some wack-ass reasons to eat them to beat up on the Mongols. Not that I care. It just gives me an excuse to buy boxes of this stuff without being judged.

They're filled!

Pure sex. All yellow and loaded with cholesterol and other good shit. Fuck.

Look at that. Starting with the outside, you have a hella flaky layer of what's basically pure lard and flour. Mix that shit together and bake till golden. Brush it with egg... or something. Aww yeah. Then you have a thick layer of lotus paste (or whatever your heart desires really). That's basically nothing more than ground up beans mixed with sugar. Also more lard. Can't have enough lard. What would a mooncake be without a core of solid yellow egg yolk. Shitty. That's what. Combine all parts of the equation and you get a puck of culinary brilliance. A celebratory cake that actually tastes good (unlike those nasty fruitcakes white people send around at Christmas).

The only problem is... these bitches are expensive as hell. Chinese people are shrewd business people - possibly as cunning as Jewish people. They know that every year, without fail, there will be a steady stream of old ladies rampaging their doors asking for mooncakes like Godzilla raping Tokyo with morning wood. Demand dictates price, and with essentially infinite demand, they can charge whatever the hell they want. Sometimes you see boxes of four cakes going for $50. Who do they think they are? Ladurée? Bitch please, I'm not made of money. I can't pay $12.50 per mooncake no matter how delicious it is. Solution? Go to Kwong Wah Cake Co. They sell them individually there, and even the "super deluxe lotus seed with egg" option - yes that's really the name - is only $4.50. To be honest, they're not that far off from the super classy stuff I had in Taiwan when I was a kid. Not too bad for under $5.

What's the point of this post? I'm not really sure. I ate some mooncakes on Monday to celebrate this bootleg holiday that I know nothing about, and I just thought that I'd share how delicious these things were with the world. Actually, you know what you should do now that the mid-Autumn festival is over? Go buy yourself some cheap-ass mooncakes. They're delicious regardless occasion. Do it.

Kwong Wah Cake Co
210 Grand St, New York, NY 10013


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Marketing and dumplings (Plump Dumpling)

Plump Dumpling sign

"Oh shit, not another dumpling post." I know, I know. I need to stop eating dumplings, but bear with me. I've actually been thinking about else aside from how awesome pockets of meat are... like the effects of proper marketing. When I was still in middle school - just as the first gen iPod was released - I remember I received an unbranded mp3 player as a gift. It was wicked cool to me... it had a gig of memory, could hold what felt like a bajillion songs, and it let me make playlists and all that shit. It was a massive upgrade to the Sony Discman that I only ever bought two CD's for. Pre-teen me probably creamed his pants. Then there was an incident where a more affluent classmate made fun of me on the bus for having a "fake iPod." Why? Is it because he was an asshole? Yes. That part is undoubtedly true, but not my that point. It wasn't as if the iPod was 10x better than my generic player in any sense (as the price would indicate), Apple was just flat out better at marketing their product than my mp3 player's random company did. Apple refined a concept that's totally applicable to food as well. Awesome marketing can bolster a mediocre product.

Plump Dumpling is kind of like that. Prosperity Dumpling is pretty much the tits when it comes to fried pockets-o-pork in Manhattan. Pliant skins, juicy pork, and ridiculously cheap... they have that dumpling shit down to a bro-science. It really is everything you could ever want from fried dumplings. It just doesn't make sense that I'd go anywhere else in the immediate vicinity to get the same thing right? Maybe if you're not an idiot like me. Every single time I walk up through East Village I see that stupid yellow smiling heart hanging over Plump Dumpling. Just look at it - seductive eyelashes, fair complexion, and what appears to be the duck face pose - it's basically saying "come inside of me... eat my dumplings... you know you want to." Epic dumpling slut. Solid marketing. To clarify things, yes... I was indeed seduced by a sign.

More fried dumplings

Trying food from more places is generally a good idea. Old people cooking stuff the same way for the past 20 years is great and all, but there's always something better out in the world. Children are our future... or some nonsense like that. Who knows when Jesus reincarnate will decide to try his hand at making potstickers like the world has never know? The only thing painful about this experiment was that six dumplings cost like $3. I realize that me complaining about a $3 meal makes it sound like I'm a stingy asshole/king of first world problems, but the fact of the matter is... $3 just a mile away would've netted me 15 dumplings from Prosperity, or at the very least 12 from any of a number of other places. From a pure monetary standpoint, these had to taste 200% better than everyone else to make them worth the cost. A tall task indeed.

Pork core

It's not that their dumplings are bad by any stretch of the imagination, it's just that there's really no way for them to match such lofty expectations. In fact, their dumplings have a certain... homemade characteristic which almost makes them feel more nostalgic. They reminded me of the Northern Chinese style dumplings my grandfather would make from scratch way back when - thick chewy skins and a pork core consisting primarily of scallions and garlic (instead of chives). Honestly, if they were priced more competitively, I feel like I would go back. They churn out a decent product that would probably be on par with most of the generic $1 dumpling joints in Chinatown, but are succeeding entirely on the basis of image/location. Just like Apple. Fuckin' Macbooks.

tl;dr - Plump Dumpling has a really cool (to me) logo that features a smiling heart-shaped face that seduces you into eating their dumplings. While their dumplings are actually decent, they're not really worth 3x the amount that Prosperity's are. Moral of the story - don't be deceived by good marketing. Also... I hate Macbooks, and I'm bad at analogies.

Plump Dumpling
174 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Authenticity and shaved ice (The Shaved Ice Shop)

The Shaved Ice Shop sign

People always want to be innovative and on the cutting edge of things. Food blogging is kind of like that. There's food trends and other nonsense that suggest that you have to be writing about the latest thing in order to be relevant. Well shit... what if things don't need to changed? What if the original product already kicks so much ass that Batman gets more aroused thinking about it than Robin in spandex? That's how I feel about Taiwanese shaved ice. The traditional bowl of shaved ice is not a very hard concept to implement... you shave ice into microscopic crystals, drizzle with syrups and condensed milk, and then top it with junk (usually a singular fruit or some sort of sweet bean concoction). When executed properly, it is downright beautiful. It's fine the way it is, don't innovate, don't be "inspired" by it, don't ever change it. For me, shaved ice should only be recreated if it's authentic... bastardizing my childhood dessert of choice is basically the same as spitting in the face.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about The Shaved Ice Shop. They charge an insane amount of money for what really just amounts to water, syrup, milk, and a few toppings... which feels kind of wrong, but I get that supply and demand dictates price, and if it actually tastes great... then there's no problem. Past that - they say they're "inspired by" Taiwanese shaved ice, so I can't really blame them for producing a product that's not an authentic rendition of the original, but like I said, it feels wrong.

Plain shaved ice

To be completely honest, their shaved ice has potential. They do a decent job of shaving the ice down to a moderate consistency, and let's be honest... nothing covered in condensed milk will actually taste bad, but the final product just isn't impressive. You're probably wondering how something so brilliantly stupid in design can actually vary in quality. Easy. It's all in the details. Past the actual process of hulk-smashing the ice into small pieces, The Shaved Ice Shop totes struck out when it came to toppings. Red beans, mochi, grass jelly... all are tried-and-true toppings and for the most part should result in a somewhat formulaic taste. The bowl we got had red beans harder than frozen fishsticks and mochi that was powdery and inconsistent from piece to piece. Mochi shouldn't look like that shit from Pinkberry! Mochi should be smooth, fluid, gelatinous, and appear glass-like! Disappointment doesn't really begin to describe it. If you're gonna tell people in NYC that this is what Taiwanese shaved ice is, at least do it right. Embarrassing.

Red bean snow ice

I know this is anecdotal evidence at best, but here's a counter example: this random fruit drink stand in the basement of the New World Mall in Flushing. Absolutely no false pretenses about what they do - when you walk up to their counter, their Taiwanese accents are thicker than condensed milk, and their product is unchanged from the old fashioned kinds from the motherland. End result? A bowl of shaved ice topped with authentic toppings - with red beans that aren't heard as nipples on ice - that tastes fantastic and downright nostalgic. Instead of trying to impress people with their never-ending lists of random ass toppings, they just have the few flavors that existed originally and they do them well.

tl;dr - I'm glad shaved ice is getting more popular in NYC. I'm not glad that everyone's doing a mediocre job of it. The Shaved Ice Shop needs to work on their ice shaving game, become more authentic and shit. Plus the dude's not even Taiwanese! Why you frontin' bro? As for now, peeps should go to Flushing, they know what's up.

The Shaved Ice Shop
Hester St Fair, New York, NY 10002