A mix of European-style mayo, peanut satay sauce, and chopped raw onion. Sounds simple, tastes so strangely earthy and satisfying that you’ll find yourself, hours later, still trying to figure out what exactly what it tasted like. Not that it matters – the second you finish it, you’re going to want more.
Endnotes: The sauces pictured here are the War Sauce (right, top); the good ol’fashioned regular Frites sauce (right, bottom), Frites sauce being a fancy way of saying mayo; the teriyaki pomegranate sauce (left, bottom); and the sweet chili sauce (left, top). Of these, the War Sauce is by far the best. Pommes Frites is also one of the few places in the city that sells poutine, that beloved-or-reviled Canadian mix of cheese curds, fries, and gravy that has a similar reputation here as that of Vegemite – some people are very proud of it, but the rest of us can’t understand why. And in case I didn’t mention already, the fries at this classic Belgian fryshop are properly awesome.
POMMES FRITES: East Village/ 123 2nd Avenue/ 212-674-1234. http://www.pommesfrites.ws. Fries $4.50 – 7.75, all sauces $1 each or three for $2.50.
Fried Tofu Bun: tasty. Fried Chicken Bun: really tasty. Berkshire Pork Belly Bun: super tasty. Haus Sauce and Haus Relish: must be ordered on anything you get here.The kind of sauces that would make an old shoe edible. No bao bun is complete without them.
Endnotes: The black sesame sweet bao fries won Time Out NY’s 2010 Best Fry and and are the most weirdly satisfying thing you’ll eat all year. The music pumping in the background is hilarious, as are the cutesy bao cartoons that command the wall.
BAOHAUS: East Village/238 E 14th Street/646.669.8889. http://www.baohausnyc.com. Bao Buns $2.50-4
I don’t quite know why I love this house so much. Maybe it’s because it contrasts so clearly with the other buildings on the block (its neighbor is a froyo place that dominates the entire corner). Maybe it’s because it sort of reminds me of the house from Stuart Little. But every time I walk by it, I wish I could go inside, take off my coat and stay awhile. Its cozy, I guess, and endearing. And a house that can pull off endearing without veering straight into obnoxious is a commendable one. So if you’re ever on Allen Street and need a visual pick-me-up, this is the place to go.
Commendation for Excellence in High-Tech Gelato: THE TURKISH FIG GELATO from IL LABORATORIO DEL GELATO
I don’t have the time, I don’t have the money, and I certainly don’t have the metabolism, but I can’t help it: I am officially addicted to Il Laboratorio del Gelato.This particular flavor (pictured) is so dreamy that I could eat it outside on any winter’s day, wearing nothing but a nightshirt, and still feel warm and toasty on the inside. Probably because I feel like I’m being transported to a warm summer’s day in some exotic country with every bite.
Endnotes: This high-tech gelato emporium (you can see the lab equipment from the cash machine) specializes in unique and exotic flavors. If the Turkish fig isn’t available the day you stop by, never fear – they list four other varieties of fig gelato alone on their website, and other options range anywhere from bourbon pecan to rosemary to cheddar cheese. They also stock an impressive variety of extremely fresh and colorful sorbets. And don’t expect anything less than what the placard advertises. A taste of pumpkin gelato doesn’t taste like some sugary Starbucks confection — it tastes like an actual harvest patch pumpkin, concentrated and cremified onto your little plastic gelato tasting spoon. Thai chili chocolate tastes pleasantly normal for the first couple of seconds its on your tongue, before it slaps you upside the head with spice. And the basil. The basil simply tastes like summer.
IL LABORATORIO DEL GELATO: Lower East Side/188 Ludlow Street/212-343-9922. http://www.laboratoriodelgelato.com. Gelato $4.25 – 7.
Nothing brightens up a cold day like some unexpected grace.
Commendation for Excellence in Seasonal Sugar Overload: THE NOG PUDDING from SUGAR SWEET SUNSHINE BAKERY
This LES bakery best known for its cupcakes also makes puddings so awesome I call them whipped cream with superpowers. This seasonal version, with pumpkin cake, egg nog pudding and gobs upon gobs of whip, may not be around for long, so snag some while you can. WARNING: May induce a days-long sugar high.
Endnotes: NYC Food Guy is partial to the banana pudding, Ooey Gooey Cupcake, and seasonal chocolate chip trifle from this sweet little shop, which is often packed with local kids noshing on cupcakes on schoolday afternoons. The decor makes me feel like I’m in some really awesome old lady’s kitchen – paint-splattered tables, creaky wooden floor and pistachio-colored walls.
SUGAR SWEET SUNSHINE: Lower East Side/126 Rivington Street/212.995.1960. http://www.sugarsweetsunshine.com. Pudding $4-6.50.
Taking the week off in honor of Thanksgiving – get pumped for all sorts of new fun beginning 11/28, and in the meantime, hit up the Facebook page and click Welcome! (it’s in the left-hand sidebar) to check out the amazing landing page Christina Buquid made! Tell all the cool people you know to check it out and like the page. And a merry Thanksgiving to all! Or, as my favorite streetlight on East Hudson would probably say, rock on.