New York is not Vienna, but the past few years have seen a pastry transformation in the city. First came the cakes with deep frosting [think Magnolia Bakery]. Then the cupcakes and the macaroon [or macarons depending on your spell checker]. There are stores aplenty and trucks floating about the city offering a myriad of colors and tastes.
Every week it seems a new bakery opens in a trendy location. Some are good, some are less good. A bakery ought to smell right, have a friendly staff, and have the ambiance that invites you to stay for a second bite.
And then, there is the occasional great new bakery. Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo, at 189 Spring Street near Thompson is as great as anything you can find. Now, you can skip that flight to Paris or Vienna.
Dominique Ansel began his culinary career at 16. He rose to become the pastry chef at Daniel, one of the world’s premier restaurants.
And now, God bless him, he’s opened this bakery one mile from where I live. Unless the chill factor is below 0⁰ this winter, I really have no reason to skip a weekly date at this wonderful spot.
The triumph dish is the DKA, Dominique’s Kouign Amann. This doughy treat is four inches across, flakey, tender, and composed of caramelized layers that fold upon each other in magnificent ways. Pair that roll with a cup of hot chocolate, and you have fuel until you return in the afternoon for coffee and a more gooey treat: I do recommend the salt-topped caramel éclair.
The space is beautiful, with an outdoor area that, come spring, will surely be filled from dawn to dusk. The staff is smiling and happy. They’ll guide you down the line of available pastries and charmingly educate you about what to expect.
This store is what every high-end bakery should aspire to be. If you are in the business, you ought to drop by and spy. Your eyes will open at the quality achieved here. If you are not in the business, but simply have a sweet tooth, then go, open your eyes, open your mouth, and taste the epitome of pastry.
We’re in Austin, Texas for the weekend to visit family and enjoy that great Texas tradition of barbeque. If you stop a couple on an Austin street and ask where to go for the “best barbeque” you’ll probably get two answers, maybe three, and – on rare occasion – trigger a divorce.
I said it was Texas and they do take it seriously. With literally hundreds of choices here in Austin, it’s hard to pick your next barbeque spot. The online reviews, available on countless sites, are rarely decisive. Right after a “best I ever ate” plug you are just as likely to read a “disappointing” assessment.
Near downtown, just below the lake, one spot, Green Mesquite, caught our eye. It’s seems almost everyone loves it. As you drive up, you get quite a site. An old wooden building with slopping sides – not a shack but not new – sits on a lot embraced by tall trees with branches extending over very grey shingles. Exit your car, and you smell meat and wood smoke with the first breath.
Walking through the door, there is an exceptional Texas-style boast: “Best Coffee in Texas.” Suzen ordered a quick cup, took one sip, and nodded yes with a smile. We sat back with confidence, took our time ordering, and had full confidence. The owner came by to chat and explained how he loves coffee and waged war with his staff until he got just the flavor he craved[he’s onto Seattle’s Best!]
Green Mesquite comes through on every level. Great meat, great side dishes. The ribs were dark red from long smoking, full of flavor, and yet incredibly juicy and moist. The secret? Fat. These pork ribs were not “lean” or mostly meat. They were very fatty and that fat engendered flavor and kept them moist.
It’s a lesson to apply in your home cooking. You are not just buying meat, you are really buying flavor. It’s the combination of fat, cooking technique [time, heat, …], and meat that generate the final flavor. Just shopping for red meat alone is liable to leave you wanting.
If you do get to Austin, then try Green Mesquite. There are multiple outlets, a passion for the best in food, and the skills to give you a great meal on an old picnic bench under a shady tree. The buttermilk onion rings are just as God designed them. The cole slaw has tang, the potato salad offers smooth comfort.
Just remember to grab some napkins. It may be good, but that moistness does dribble.