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Archive for June, 2007

A friend of mine is married to a woman who always cooks really unbelievable meals. The meals often have 6 or more courses or involve advanced cooking procedures like “reductions” whatever those are. Over the years, stories about her meals have attained near mythic status: “Remember the time in 2000 when she made 12 different plated desserts after serving a 5-course meal?”  The point is, her food “street cred” is as good as Warren Buffet’s financial advice.

So I had to take notice when she told me about Blue Ribbon Brasserie’s Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. She said it was a category killer.

If you like to eat good food and you live in New York and have never been to any of the Blue Ribbon restaurants – you must be either unemployed, or a shut-in, or both. You could easily live off the contents of their menus for the rest of your life. The ingredients of chocolate chip bread pudding lend themselves to success.  You might ask  “how could eggs, bread, butter, sugar and chocolate really be bad?” Well, for one thing one can easily make it too sweet or add too much butter – making the pudding look like some 10,000 calorie, Cinnabon airport special. The quality of ingredients is also a factor and here is where Blue Ribbon shines. Dark chocolate surrounds Blue Ribbon’s homemade bread which is crispy and delicious. Multiple textures of hot chocolate, crispy toasted bread and ice cream combine to make this an outstanding creation. Is it worth making a special trip for? Yes. Have one at the bar.

. . Unfortunately, the other dessert we ordered, the Bruno, was a disappointment on the night we visited. My guests said that it was an off night for the Bruno as it used to be part of their regular order prior to discovering the pudding. I tend to believe them as many people have referred to it on the web. It looked great when it came to the table but the cold served chocolate cake lacked a deep chocolate flavor.

Savory note: The food at Blue Ribbon was all outstanding from the bread to the appetizers to the main courses.

Recommended: Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Map to Blue Ribbon Brasserie in Brooklyn

Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookie

Posted by Niko on June 2nd, 2007

If you happen to be walking home late at night on the Upper West Side and if you also happen to have a bag of Levain Cookies with you and if you also happen to get mugged, you could easily knock someone unconscious with the bag. Is this a good thing? Yes.

Is this the best chocolate chip cookie in New York? Many think so. In terms of sheer butter-per-square-inch and pure heft the Levain cookie has no equal. But this is New York city, not a convenience store (yet).  We don’t meaure things by size alone. What about flavor, texture, chocolate quality?

While I am sure there are many small bakeries that have great chocolate chip cookies, there are really only three destination shops for the hard-core chocolate chip cookie lover: City Bakery, Jacques Torres and Levain Bakery. I am going to leave out Max Headroom for now.

The Levain cookie experience:

Compared to City Bakery or Jacques, the Levain cookies most resemble fresh, homemade Toll House cookies. On steroids. With twice the butter. When you visit, the staff will always ask you if you plan to eat the cookie right away and then offer you one hot out of the oven or from the cooling racks. This is the only way to sample one of their cookies and understand what the fuss is about.

The outside of the cookie is brown and slightly crisp, while the inside is (somehow) undercooked but not doughy. Bites from the outside of the cookie are distincly different from the interior. There is so much butter and chocolate flavor packed into this cookie that it appears to break the laws of physics. If you eat an entire cookie in one sitting, don’t plan on eating anything for a few hours. Or days.

The Levain cookies are superbly fresh and right out of the oven they will satisfy any chocolate chip cookie lover, but cold they are really no different than a Nestle Toll House from home. The Torres cookie for example uses sumptuous oversized discs of his famous dark chcolate, and they bake their cookies in a range, from very brown to undercooked, to satisfy a variety of customers’ tastes.

Visit Levain Bakery here.