This morning I considered waking up at 6:45 AM to pick up some desserts for my mum at Financier since I'm going home tonight...and also to get myself a little brekkie. After my alarm went off, one look at my clock while staring at the surrounding dim walls (not helped by the Financial District's cubicle-filled towers and rain clouds of condensed H20 doom) told me that waking up was unfavorable. Also, I was tired. After half-consciously setting my alarm to go off in 30 minutes, I went back to sleep.
At 7:15, my desire for a Financier jaunt outweighed the one for "recovery of brain function" (although that's more of a necessity than desire). I woke up, made sure my appendages were in working order (they are, somewhat) and my inbox was cleared of anything of upmost importance (it still isn't) and at 7:40 rolled out onto the damp, cold, and windy Water Street. The last time I went to Financier, the weather was picture-perfect with a Happy Sun-san-esque orb of gas hovering above, making all the shiny monolithic buildings gleam like metallic toasters. Really big toasters.
Financier had a few customers sitting at the tables but most people were on the go. There are two entrances, the main one being on Stone Street and the other on Pearl Street. The Pearl Street entrance seemed to be more for those who just wanted a quick cup of hot, steaming, burning liquid and an accompanying pastry. I was on a mission to get macarons and financiers for my mum, so I went around to Stone Street.
Macarons, macarons...alas, no macarons. I saw one box in the cold case shoved on the side like an abandoned orphan (a tasty, almond based orphan), so I decided not to go for that. While they do have large macarons (well priced at $1.50, figuring they taste good), I wanted a box of small ones for my mum. The clerk said they should have some in the afternoon so I'm going to check it out again after work.
Macarons are one of the few desserts that really left an impression on me, even before my whole food obssession "thing" you see before you. The first time I had one was from Wegmans and even though I haven't tried many in my lifetime, I'm sure Wegmans make excellent ones. For some reason, French-style macarons haven't taken off in America, a real shame because THEY'RE SO GOOD. YES. I'd describe it but Discover Paris would beat my description to a pulp:
A good macaron should have a light, thin crust that gives way to a soft, chewy cookie that is also light and airy. The cream filling should have the same flavor as the cookie, should be thick but not pasty, and should offer an obvious contrast to the texture of the cookie. If these criteria are met, then the differentiating factor among good macarons is the quality of the flavorings used.
The only non-French style bakery I've seen in NYC with macarons is Something Sweet on 1st Ave and 11st Street, but they were too dry in my opinion. Wegmans' may be considered too moist, although it would only be by a smidgen and I still love them to death. French chocolatier La Maison du Chocolat also makes good, ginormous ones (no miniature ones here), as does French bakery/gourmet food shop Fauchon (they have an interesting selection of flavors; I never tried it but I got one for my mum) and Bouley Market (I tried a free sample; good stuff). There are probably other places in NYC you can get them but they're not omnipresent. Besides living in France, it seems that your next best bet would be to live in French pastry-obsessed (hey, it's a good obsession) Japan.
For some crazy reason, I didn't think it was appropriate to eat a macaron on a virginal stomach (well, for that morning; god knows how much I ate yesterday) so I tried a scone instead. (There's no logic to this decision besides that scones are an accepted breakfast food. Hell, I'd eat a miniature cake for breakfast without any guilt; they had some verrrry tempting pistachio creme brulee tarts.) They just have two scones--plain (or something like that) and no sugar--so I went for the plain while getting a bag of madeleines and miniature financiers for my mum.
The woman behind the counter (who upon seeing my bag of miniature madeleines said, "I ate ten of those this morning"...damn, her job is wonderful) brought over my small, plain scone over on a porcelain plate. The scone wasn't completely unadorned--there were bits of dried fruit here and there plus some chopped nuts--but scones are inherently unremarkable looking. They pretty much look like more browned biscuits. Of course, biscuits taste awesome even if they're plain, just like scones.
First bite. After about a millisecond I decided that this was the best scone I've ever had, or at least one that I can remember. How, HOW did the scone do that? How did it...how?! Was something different going on with my tastebuds since I don't normally eat breakfast? Do I taste things differently if I eat when I'm not particularly hungry (and not because I already ate too much)? It wasn't like a burst of a certain flavor (since it was...plain) but it had this buttery tasty, except it wasn't just butter. There was also a feeling of salt, but not a taste of salt, if that makes any sense, and there was just a little bit of sweetness. The texture was soft and dense, not too moist or dry. It's easier for me to say that there wasn't anything objectional about the scone than to figure out why I liked it so much, but there wasn't anything objectionable about the scones at Alice's Tea Cup either. I happened to like Financier's more.
The memory of the scone left me feeling very happy, even while walking in the crappy weather. Maybe that was the trick: nature gave me craptastic weather and the scone made up for it. I went back to my dorm to drop off the other pastries, popping a miniature financier in my mouth (they're really small!) before heading out again to go to school. It was good, but I'm not a big fan of financiers (I tried one before) so I can't describe how I was captivated by it's almond essence as it bathed the inside of my mouth...or whatnot. People don't really talk like that, hopefully.
During my beverages class we had a guest speaker, Allen Katz, from the drink marketing company "Blend". If I hadn't felt out of place before, then today I surely did as I was seemingly the only person in class who had never had a cocktail before (maybe other people were as scared as I was to admit such a blasphemous flaw of human taste). Neverrrrr. And why would I, aside from being a college student in NYC? ...oh. Is that it? Does my lack of attendance at social gatherings (not like I get invited...not like that would make a difference) and great distate for alcohol have anything to do with it? Hmmm. Yeah, maybe.
By now I've forgotten how many kinds of wines and spirits I've tasted, but it's more than 20, perhaps around 30. If it tastes like it has any bit of alcohol, I probably won't like it. Boohoo, no one in the alcohol industry is going to care. I'm a lost cause; if you added alcohol to something I like (chocolate), you'll just make me hate the thing I like. And I'll hate you too, you, the RUINER!
So what was I talking about? Uh. I have no idea why I have such a low tolerance for the taste of alcohol. However, I think many people my age have the same problem, which is why they drink cocktails that may be overly sweetened. When I hear friends telling me about drinks and spirits that taste like candy, I think, "WHY DON'T YOU JUST EAT CANDY?" I have no desire to feel out of it (more than I already do on a regular basis, for God's sake) or get a handover or, you know, increase my blood alcohol level. You know why people used to drink so much alcohol, besides that they liked it? THEY HAD NO POTABLE WATER. Guess what's in front of me right now? POTABLE WATER. YUM YUM, TASTES LIKE NOTHING, AND IT GOES DOWN SMOOTHLY!
Oh, I don't mind if other people drink. Admittedly, my palate is very unrefined ("This tastes like...um, good!"), but I don't like the notion that being unable to enjoy cocktails and wines makes me some kind of immature, unrefined human being not fit for a slice of the modern, cosmopolitan world. Or. Something. You know what I mean. Of course, I'm over-exaggerating but really, how nice would it be if we could all have a night on the town by hanging out at the local bakery. And getting really fat.
Damn, this entry is taking forever to write. I'm home from work, and not just dorm-home but New Jersey-home. I went to Financier after getting back from work, stocked up on three miniature cakes, a sandwich/salad for dinner, and a pack of macarons.
But before that, let's go back in time...to lunch. I decided to check out DeMarco's since it won the Battle of the Boroughs pizza contest and it was conveniently a few blocks from my workplace. I've never had a NYC pizza in my life. Most of my pizza consumption has been in the form of the limp, cheesy, fluorescent orange oil-slicked staples of "pizza day" across elementary schools nationwide. Or at least New Jersey. The other pizza I've eaten way too many of are Pizz Hut pan pizzas. Yeah, I like my chewy wheat products, which you've probably figured out already (if you've been reading this blog since the beginning of the year, you may remember my habit of eating entire loaves of bread).
So why haven't I tried any pizza? The ratio of pizza places to people is something like 10:1 (I made that up) and it seems like the chances of going to a random pizza place and getting something good are slim. Then again, how do all these places survive if they suck? I'm one of those people who'll go to random bakeries but pizza is completely out of my domain. I crave it about as much as I crave any Italian food, which means I don't. My purpose in going to DeMarco's wasn't to quell hunger (because I wasn't; damn breakfast scone) but to finally try pizza and see what was up with NYC's pizza obsession.
I went in around 12:15. The "pizza express" location looked closed (most of the lights were still off) but there was a guy inside eating pizza. I got one plain slice (a sidenote: for most of my elementary school life, I would get two slices of pizza on pizza day, probably something guys were more akin to do than girls...also, I was kinda fat), sat on a stool near the door (after the pizza dude--not his official name I'm sure--took down the stools) and ...ate.
I guess it would've been better if it had been more fresh (I don't know how long it had been sitting out there...I figure not that long) but it was okay. I have absolutely no idea what a "good" pizza is, so I'll just say that it was tasty (which means nothing, but I'll describe the pizza in a bit). I don't understand the pizza mystique, if there is one, so I guess you either have a taste for it or you don't. Don't get me wrong; I could easily wolf down a few slices, but for the same amount of money I'd rather eat something else, which I can say about a lot of other things.
I'm not sure how to describe the pizza besides comparing it to other pizza I've had. The obvious differences were that instead of a limp, foldable crust, the crust was crunchy on the bottom, soft on top. You could pick up the slice and not have it plop all over you, which is preferable to having pizza plop all over you. I'm not sure I've ever had a crust like that before; it was nice. Also, there was much less cheese on the pizza than any regular pizza I've ever had, which is also nice because chewing a mouthful of melted mozzerella isn't that pleasant, unless you want to die by asphyxiation. The sauce had basil in it, which I wasn't accustomed to (I like basil) and there weren't excessive pools of drippy oil on top. It was a nice slice of pizza, just not something I'd feel the need to eat again.
After realizing that I'm not meant to be a pizza lover, I thought about what pizza I've had in my life that I really liked. There's just one: pizza spread with pesto, topped with slices of fresh mozzerella and tomatoes. I don't know if that's some kind of hidious combination (or if it has a real name), but I've only had it twice, the last time being four or five years ago. I kind of want one now. On a semi-related note, my favorite pizza when I was little was with mushroom topping. That was all I ever asked for: pizza with mushrooms. I never understood why people would order extra cheese; wasn't there already enough?
I'm too lazy to go into all the desserts I ate tonight, but let's just say I ate way too much food after I got home. Apparently, we still have leftover Halloween candy. I'll leave you to ponder what I did with it.