Culture Espresso: best chocolate chip cookie in NYC?

Culture Espresso: best chocolate chip cookie in NYC?

Who doesn't love chocolate chip cookies? I discovered them in France, when I was a kid: my brother made some at school, but it was really something we saw on TV, not that mainstream, that appeared few years later at the supermarket. Then, coming here, I had a revelation at Levain Bakery, on the Upper West Side: they serve the kind of cookies that make you want to lay down. They are big, heavy, chewy, with tons of chocolate. Sweet but not overly. My next cookie adventure was at City Bakery where I got the chance to try freshly made cookies that were so delightfully buttery that you refuse to share them.

Neapolitan pizza at Love and Dough in Brooklyn

Neapolitan pizza at Love and Dough in Brooklyn

As we were planning to go see artists in Dumbo for open studios (check out one of my favorites, Peter Drake that we never miss to visit), I was happily tasked to find a place for lunch. As Jodi loves pizza even more than I do, I looked up for a pizzeria and found Love and Dough on Pearl street, just few blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge. This place has a nice feel with lots of old black and white photos of Italian actors and actresses and the smell of their brick oven that sits in the back of the dining room. They offer Neapolitan pizza, made with flour imported from Napoli and apparently make their own pasta that I will have to try in our next visit.

The Kati Roll Company in NYC, NY

The Kati Roll Company in NYC, NY

It’s been a while we have been to The Kati Roll Company, a restaurant that serves these delicious street food wraps that originated in Kolkata, India. There are many variants, but, at The Kati Roll Company, they are made by wrapping warm paratha, a type of Indian flat bread, around a variety of meats, vegetables and cheese. But I would not compare them with wraps that you can find anywhere else: these are so flavorful that one is not enough, even if some are spicy…We went on a Saturday, at 7pm, and the place was already full. I should even say packed and we got lucky because our friend Caleb got a table and was able to resist the various attempts by hungry customers to storm it

Chicago: Cone Gourmet Ice Cream

Chicago: Cone Gourmet Ice Cream

We were looking for the best ice cream in Chicago and a quick Google search brought us, on a rainy day, to Cone Gourmet Ice Cream, a family run ice cream parlor with an Irish theme (between the “Lick me I’m Irish and ice cream flavored in Jameson whisky - that I did not like - or Baileys, you cannot miss that). That place has its charm and is cozy, with a neighborhood feel. However, I found the flavors to be a bit too much out there and wished they offered classic flavors like hazelnut.

Chicago: Mindy's Hot Chocolate

Chicago: Mindy's Hot Chocolate

We were looking for a breakfast place when we stumbled upon Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in the Revival food hall: this small place serves a bunch of mouth watering goodies besides bagels and we liked it so much that we went twice, our experience at Le Pain Quotidien being quite disappointing over the week end (yes, this place is closed Saturday and Sunday, so we had to find a backup…).

Chicago: Firecakes donuts

Chicago: Firecakes donuts

On our first day in Chicago, we looked up donuts places and stumbled upon Firecakes Donuts, a shop with a few locations in the Windy City. It is with excitement that we went to their Hubbard street location in the River North neighborhood and I was surprised to see a very small place with no seating area. This is the kind of joint where you truly get overwhelmed by the many tempting choices in front of you, knowing that you will probably go only once as a visitor. So we decided to try three donuts and not just two: there were a sprinkles donut, a buttermilk old fashioned and a honey glazed donut.

Chicago: Goddess and The Baker

Chicago: Goddess and The Baker

With a name like Goddess and The Baker, you can expect incredible food and so we decided to try this place for breakfast and then went back later on for a treat in the afternoon. The place is not that big and seems to be quite popular to the point that it can be challenging to get a table, especially if the tables outside are not an option because of the rain (and it rained a lot as we were visiting the Windy City).

Chicago: Sepia, a Michelin star restaurant

Chicago: Sepia, a Michelin star restaurant

With its one Michelin Star earned since 2011, Sepia has been feeding Chicago diners a seasonal menu working with producers who use sustainable practices. This West loop restaurant is a true gem for sure and we were glad we could get a table on a crowded Saturday. With a near perfect service, although overwhelmed as the evening went and the dining room filled out, we had a great time and ate delicious food as you will see below.

Chicago: Fat Rice

Chicago: Fat Rice

You may find that Fat Rice is too off the beaten path to go there but not going would be a serious mistake. Surely, when you think about Chicago, especially when you are a tourist, you are more inclined to try the deep dish pizza that the city has to offer and I admit that if we would have not seen the season finale of Top Chef in Macau (the finale was in Macau, not us unfortunately, although I visited this place many years ago) last March, we would not have gone there.

Chicago: The Dearborn

Chicago: The Dearborn

We were supposed to meet our friend Alison for a brunch on Sunday in Chicago and Jodi booked a table at The Dearborn, a restaurant serving an interesting brunch: it is not everyday that you see a place serving bone marrow and soft scrambled eggs! It did not take me long to want to try this dish, intrigued by this unusual pairing and its description: Parmesan gratin, crusty bread, cheese eggs, fresh herb salad and chipotle sauce.

Chicago: Giordano's, deep dish pizza

Chicago: Giordano's, deep dish pizza

For our last evening in Chicago, we decided to go for an early dinner as we wanted to watch the finale of Game of Thrones at 8pm, worries that otherwise we would have this last episode spoiled by social media and news outlets, rightfully so. Our choice was Giordano’s, near Millenium Park that boasts lots of pictures of people lifting slices of their deep dish pizza with long, very long strings of cheese attached to it. When we arrived, we thought that we would have to wait a long time, people waiting outside, but, they just announced 15 to 20 minutes of wait time that was quite surprising and reasonable.

Chicago: Gino's East, best deep dish pizza!

Chicago: Gino's East, best deep dish pizza!

After our disappointing lunch at Pizzeria Uno, I admit that we were a bit anxious to find a good deep dish pizza in Chicago. Not that we thought it was impossible, but, being there few days, we really wanted to go to a good place that would erase our past experience. And we did. After a walk to the Navy Pier, we looked up pizza places and ended up at Gino’s East, a homegrown chain that serves an amazing pizza. I know that the term chain gives a negative image of the place, but, in this case, it should not. They have places in quite few cities, except unfortunately New York, but who knows, maybe one day!

Chicago: Pizzeria Uno, creator of the deep dish pizza

Chicago: Pizzeria Uno, creator of the deep dish pizza

When searching for the best deep dish pizza in Chicago, I saw some recommendations for Pizzeria Uno and, at first, ditched it, because I thought it was a chain. But then, i read that this is this place that created the deep dish pizza back in 1943. At that time, the owner of the restaurant, Ike Sewell, decided to create a hearty meal by combining, on a pizza, large quantities of ingredients, like vegetables, meats and cheese. That is what you get when you order the Numero Uno, …

German brunch at Heidelberg on the Upper East Side

German brunch at Heidelberg on the Upper East Side

Located on the Upper East Side, Heidelberg is one of the last German restaurants in Yorkville, reminiscent of the German neighborhood this area used to be. Next to Schaller and Weber, the old school German market, it has kept, some opening in 1936, its rustic and comforting atmosphere, serving a fairly large menu where pork is the star. But no worries: if you are vegetarian, they offer several options like the popular giant pretzel, that I wished was served with a cheese sauce rather than just mustard or the potato pancakes, these crispy thick patties made of grated potato, onion and garlic that are fried, traditionally served with apple sauce. Perfect to share.

Chinese food and steaks at Brooklyn Chop House

Chinese food and steaks at Brooklyn Chop House

There are places like that that mark your memory because of their originality. Brooklyn Chop House is one of them. The name surely indicates a meaty meal made of steaks and burgers, but it also surprisingly offers Chinese dishes. Not so surprising when you know that the person who runs the place, Stratis Morfogen, was one of the people behind Jade Sixty, a restaurant on the upper East Side with the same concept that had to close due to a water main break (too bad because I did not get a chance to visit it!). I tried the ribeye at Brooklyn Chop House and was blown away: their meat, aged 50 to 60 days is tasty, tender and juicy. And they surely know how to cook it!

The Mill in LIC

The Mill in LIC

I often tell people that I love so much coffee that it is probably this dark juice that is flowing through my veins. I have been drinking coffee since I was a teenager: I love the smell of the freshly ground beans and the strong taste an espresso has, but not the bitterness that is sometimes in the bottom of a cup. So it was with excitement that we went to The Mill few times as we were in Long Island City. This quaint joint with its rustic feel serves artisanal coffee, sweets and sandwiches in a relaxed atmosphere. They have good espresso and macchiato, but if you are not into coffee, you can opt for a tea. In term of sweets, …

Spot dessert Bar in the East Village

Spot dessert Bar in the East Village

When I think about creative desserts, I immediately think about Spot Dessert Bar in the East Village. This place is amazing and proposes truly original desserts crafted by Iron Chef of Thailand, Chef Ian Kittichai, like the matcha lava, a warm dark chocolate cake filled with matcha ganache and served with matcha green tea ice cream, or the Golden toast, a warm crispy honey buttered toast served with strawberries, and condensed milk ice cream (this is so buttery!). We recently went back after Jodi saw their coconut monkey bread on Instagram. This dessert is a monkey bread covered in fall spices, thai tea drizzle served with coconut milk ice cream. It comes sizzling hot and they will pour the Thai tea on top of the coconut milk ice cream. This was quite good, but not as good as…

Dessert at Two Little Red Hens on the Upper East Side

Dessert at Two Little Red Hens on the Upper East Side

Its been a while since we went to Two Little Red Hens on the Upper East Side, but, as we were having lunch with our friends Jen and Gary at Heidelberg, next door to it, we decided to stop by for dessert. And what a treat! This tiny place has so many delicious desserts that it was hard to choose and I went from thinking about ordering the banana cream pie, then the pecan pie and finally settled for their NY cheesecake that was very good, not as good as Junior’s (less dense also), but worth trying, with…

Jacques Torres in Dumbo

Jacques Torres in Dumbo

Each time I pass in in front of Jacques Torres, I cannot resist it! For me, it has the best hot chocolate, better than Max Brenner or even City Bakery that is considered by many the best in town (their chocolate chip cookie is though). It is literally like melted chocolate, not bitter but quite rich. So, recently, we were walking around in Dumbo when we saw Jacques Torres has a location there and ended up having their hot cocoa and a delicious chocolate chip cookie that had lots of chocolate and was buttery.

Brunch at Maison Kayser

Brunch at Maison Kayser

There will soon be as many Maison Kayser than there are Starbucks in the City! It is as if they were opening one in each corner of New York. Not that I am complaining, this place being delicious, serving fantastic bread (they won the title of Best Baguette in NYC recently), succulent pastries and viennoiseries (croissants, chocolate croissants, etc), as well as some pretty decent food. So we decided to go on a Sunday for lunch, before celebrated my birthday for dinner. So yes, we limited a bit what we ate as we knew we would have a feast (well, mainly me considering we were going to a steakhouse), but, as you will see, we had quite a few items…Here is what we had: