He's bald. He makes chocolate. He's...MAX BRENNER, HOLY SHIZZ!
...Wait, wuh? I didn't know much about the Israeli chocolatier (besides that he's bald and makes chocolates) until he opened one of his combination store-and-cafe chocolate-filled wonderlands in NYC. Yesterday Jason and I checked it out. For dinner. It's okay to eat chocolate-based goods as a meal if you're on vacation. And perhaps if you fast for the following few days.
Max Brenner is mainly a large restaurant space with a small shop in the front by the entrance. "Chocolate" pipes run overheard (much more appealing than, say, sewagey pipes...although labeling them as chocolate would be a good disguise, eh?) and behind my seat were stacks of ginormous regular and white chocolate blocks. You know, stuff you could build chocolate pyramids out of, although I don't think that's what they're for.
You're given two menus: one with the sweets, one without. Gee, which one will you order from? I guess if people want something non-sweet like a sandwich to go with their chocolate cake, it's nice to have the option. Perhaps balance out that blood sugar level. But surely none of YOU would be so foolish. The dessert menu is gigantic-er and filled with food porn as opposed to the one-sheet words-only "regular stuff" menu for a reason; you're supposed to order dessert. (Jason simply states that ordering the savory food at a chocolate bar would be blasphemous.) Max Brenner must be one of the few places where the dessert menu overshadows the regular menu by a few gazillion calories.
After mulling over the huge menu for way too long, we took the easy way out by ordering the variety dish for two (aka "the thing you order when you're indesicive"). We were first presented with the "chocolate fondue with marshmallows and fresh fruit" portion. Instead of a regular fondue pot, the set came with a miniature three-tier bain marie-eque thing, Max Brenner style. The fondue bowls were presented on what resembled a wooden sushi board.
The other part of our tasting was less straightforward. Fondue: impale things with thin metal skewers, bathe impaled thing in chocolate goo, maneuver chocolate coated foodstuff into mouth without getting liquified chocolate all over your face. Tasting plate: huh, what is this? If I had memorized the menu, I would've known to expect "crunchy chocolate cream snack, popping candies chocolate lick, warm banana split waffles, chocolate-covered ice cream." Or not. Here's my rundown of stuff:
Chocolate cream snack (rectangular thing on the left side behind the whipped cream): two-layer praline hazelnut ganache thing. Maybe. Smooth, sweet, yummy.
Popping candies (left-most shot glass): Pop rocks piled on top of chocolate sauce; why didn't I think of that? It's a yummy combination, although not something that I'd be dying to eat again. For one thing, it's troublesome to eat without spoons. WE GOT NO SPOONS. Could we have gotten them if we asked? Probably. But...whatever. We attacked it with our forks, which initially worked since there was more poppin' rock action than liquidy chocolate and forks are made to handle non-liquidy things. Later when there was more liquid than solid, we ended up with...forks dipped in chocolate. Oops. Maybe we were supposed to gulp it back in one go like a real shot, although this chocolate version is porentially more dangerous.
Warm banana slip waffles: Jason and I agreed that this was the best thing on the plate, which was kind of ironic since it wasn't chocolate-based. A soft, fluffy waffle topped with toffee glazed banana slices, drizzled with the beaker of chocolate sauce. Once of the nicest waffles I've had.
Chocolate covered ice-cream: Another awkward thing to eat. The hard chocolate shell was too thick to easily crack though, leading me to stab it with my fork. Repeatedly. I thought the ice cream was disappointing texture-wise; not creamy enough. Also. the scoop was just so tiny! It wasn't even a baby scoop, more like a preemie scoop.
We found eating off one big plate to be rather awkward. This was probably another instance where we could've gotten something (extra plates) if we asked for them, but shouldn't these things be automatic? Because there are two people? Especially if they don't want chocolate goo dripped on the table? Which is what I did? Oops?
The fondue was fine, but I don't know how to rate fondue as I'm not enthralled with the idea of dipping things into chocolate. If I had to choose between eating a plain strawberry or a chocolate covered strawberry, I'd rather have plain. To me, the combination of fresh fruit and chocolate (I treat dried fruit differently) ends up with a clash of flavors in which the chocolate is watered down and the fruit tastes slightly chocolatey in a weird way. But that's just me! Lala!
Overall, the desserts were good, but unimpressive for what I was expecting. Shock! Horror! I'm usually so easily pleased! If not for the cool environment and serving ware (chocolate beaker, cute S&P shakers, etc), it would be more disappointing. Chocolate lovers should obviously check it out, but if you want the sharing platter for two, demand spoons. And plates. If you're not a giant chocolate lover and just happen to have $12 to blow on a dessert, go to Blue Ribbon Bakery and bury your head into one of these babies.
Our server was very friendly and gave us adequate attention. It was all good...until he gave us the check and kinda hovered right next to our table as we talked about how we were splitting the check and pulled bills our of our wallets. Um. Awkward.
And now for your photo splodge! (Click on the photos for moooore action.)
chocolate...everywhere...oh my god get it off me!
If anyone knows what rare element the $6.50 cookies are laced with, let me know.
After checking out Max Brenner's store, we...er, ate some more. Just a little more! It's not my fault that Tisserie was nearby and I still hadn't sampled any of their goods.
Keeping with the chocolate theme, our eyes focused on the large walnut brownie. Oooooh. But alas, like Max Brenner we would be presented with seemingly overpriced, not quite good enough food in a nice enviroment. Doesn't the brownie look dense, chewy, and fudgy? How could be know that it was actually a facade for the lack of density, chewiness, and fudginess? It was strangely light and had a tender crumb, although not in a cake-like way. It kinda just...melted in your mouth. If the dessert were nameless and I had eaten it blindfolded, I would've thought it was fine. However, the unfulfilled expectation of brownie sensations is what made Jason and I cry foul.
Ah well, we still ate the whole thing.
This entry is oddly negative so far. If you think that I ate the "wrong" things, give me suggestions! :) Maybe I should've gotten what Julie ate. Doh.
After parting with Jason so he could return to the dephs of New Jersey, I watched I Like Killing Flies with Janet and Youngna (after they ate at Pio Maya, review at Gothamist). The documentary follows the Shopsins (primarily Kenny, the eccentric foul-mouthed head of the restaurant/family/chef/the world) in their original, tiny Greenwich Village location before moving to...another larger Greewich Village location. (What's up with them now? Selling their space? Noooo! Ooo! Eee! Ahhh! Horrors! There were so many things left on their menu that I had to eat!) I have no idea how Kenny pumped out a seemingly impossible of array of items from his tiny kitchen; it must be what he was born to do. For a great profile about Shopsin's, read Calvin Trillin's essay in the New Yorker.
Overall, I liked the documentary except for the camera shake that accompanies low budget productions such as this one. Shakey camera = nausea = shakey Robyn. One of my favorite parts of the film was Kenny's closing bit of wisdom: all people are shit. Or something to that effect. Hey, that's my philosophy!...with slightly more colorful language. He equated the belief in thinking one is totally awesome and good (not his exact words, but something like that) to having a new, pristine car. With age the car will inevitably get scratched and messed up. Just like you! The future is lookin' bright.
I'm quite happy about my impending doom.
your mouth shouldn't water
On a totally random note, I think I've eaten homemade basil and mozzerella sandwiches (plus a splosh of olive oil and balsami vinegar) once a day for four days in a row. Why? I like basil and mozzerella sandwiches. This is as close to "home cooked" I've gotten all week. The above photo was taken outside NYU's Kimmel Center (general student center with many couches that are most useful for napping) on the second floor terrace that looks towards Washington Square Park. A bunch of people must've been pissed when their view of the park became blocked by the student center, which was built just a few years ago. OH WELL.
cheap greenwich village eats
Mamoun's Falafel is a well known cheap eat among NYU students and other people who may or may not be broke. The hole in the wall is most well known for its falafel, but more so because it's cheap, not because it screams awesomness.
Not that there's anything wrong with the falafels. I tried the falafel sandwich ($2) once during my first semester and thought it was okay, just not good enough for me to buy again. John ordered the falafel platter ($5), which came with six falafels surrounding a salady stuff (...do I really need to describe what's in the photo?) doused a thin, tangy, yogurt sauce and two pitas.
I went with a shwarma sandwich ($4), consisting of half chopped up roasted lamb and half all-purpose salady stuff. And it was half good, half okay. Or maybe 65% good and 35% okay. When the lamb bits were done right (not that I know what "right" is; I'm just assuming it's the opposite of "wrong", which I'll get to in a sec), they were damn tasty. Slightly crispy, tender, flavorful bits of lamb meat whose protein has been denatured by the means of slow roasting on a ginormous skewer for optimum tastiness. The "wrong" bits were small slabs of fat that would bring the formerly enjoyable lamb munching experience to a halt. Slab-o-not-so-flavorful-fat = road block to higher level of palatability. I did enjoy it overall though and it consituted a satisfying lunch.
I slunk in the background of Gray's Papaya while taking photos as but John procured liquid refreshment (not so surprisingly, they have a papaya drink).
best hot dog everrrr?
hot dog army
Would the "p�lser"-loving Norwegians enjoy Gray's Papaya? :) I mean to try it someday (after having passed it innuerable times), but I'm never in the mood for hot dogs. Oh well.
On a related note, one of my blog readers Hong-Ming contributed these photos of hot dog-centric baked goods from Taiwan. Oh, crazy Chinese bakeries...I love you. So damn tasty.
Galanda gave me noods
Thai restaurant Galanga is one of those places (one of many places) that I've passed a gazillion times yet have never tried. On Tuesday I finally tried it for lunch with co-workers Tony and Hoan.
soup or salad?
Each item on the lunch menu includes a soup or salad. And...there they are. Onto the real food.
I went for the spiciest item on the menu, "drunken noodle". I'm not sure what makes it drunken, but the menu description, "Thai street style hot & spicy wide rice noodle with chili pepper, bell pepper, Chinese broccoli & fresh basil," informs us that it is "street style". Maybe the style of the street is to make noodles while drunk. Or maybe it means nothing at all and they just wanted a title catchier than "spiciest-thing-on-the-menu noodles". Thick, chewy, wide rice noodles (chow fun) are one of my most favorite foods in the universe. The drunken noodle version came with generous amounts of vegetables (since I chose the vegetable version; otherwise I guess it would have meat cunks), a lot of basil goodness, and enough spiciness to get the mucus (and some tears) a-flowing. It may not look like a lot in the photo, but the portion was very filling to the point that I couldn't eat it all even though I wanted to. I hate those dilemmas.
pad thai with vegetarian duck
Hoan's tender grilled pork came atop sweetened Jasmine rice. Mmmmm, tasty combo. I wasn't a big fan of the vegetarian duck in Tony's pad thai (my proposed name that no one would ever use: "brown-chunks-o-soy-protein-based-somethin'"), but the rest was good.
If you've ever near Galanga, it's a satisfying and quick "under $10" lunch option. Rob prefers Klong, which I have yet to visit.
(On a random note, Hoan and Tony said that the waitresses were looking at me funnily while I was taking photos. I wouldn't be surprised if this usually happens and I just don't notice. As long as no one stops me, then I don't really care! Woohoo!)
Once again, thank you to the gazillionth power for contributing to my website fund. It's hard for me to believe that people could be so generous, especially when I acknowledge that I don't desperately need the money (but maybe I will soon since I won't have a job in Paris). It's heartwarming to see that so many people are willing to sustain the well-being of my websites. :) To give some more information (because you deserve it), I don't intend to get my new hosting plan until next year when my current one runs out; I only set up this fund now since it's my birthday month. My history with webhosts has been sketchy (four hosts in five years with some blog data lost on the way...which might not be such a bad thing), so I'm set on finding my webhost knight in shining armor that I won't hate after a year even when things seemed so peachy and dreamy at first. Media Temple and Dreamhost are my top picks as found through reputable websites that I like. Still haven't decided what to go with.
Check out Nick's blog, 365 Days of Beer, for a explosion of JAPANESE CRAZINESS. If the title didn't already give it away, his blog is mainly about beer. BUT! He also talks about other things.
I really want to go to Japan, but a part of me fears that in a land that paradoxically teems with the most delicious foods in the world eaten by some of the slimmest people in the world, I will become that whale-esque American that everyone will point and laugh at as a horror from the gluttonous West...not to my face, of course, because that's rude.
Selection of vegan ice cream at the 2006 Pitchfork Music Festival (by Temptation) almost looks unreal. I have a feeling the chocolate isn't "local", but maybe the peaches and starwberries are grown in...someone's backyard. Organically. This makes me feel bad because I am a big fan of things with creamy, fat filled moo juice and am far, faaar away from being a vegan despite learning about all the horrors of meat and watching that nice video of a meat factory worker slicing down the belly of a cow and pulling out its entrails.
I GUESS I HATE ANIMALS WITH A BURNIN' PASSION. But I do love ice cream.