Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Sunday was a day full of family, fun and most of all food! Since a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s still quite early in the week, I’ll save us all some reading and let the photographs speak for themselves!

My cousin Danie’s jaw-dropping home-made cake for her sister-in-law’s baby shower. Yellow and chocolate cake, buttercream, fondant.

The appetizers – tomato, roasted red pepper, fresh mozzarella, thyme, balsamic

Panko-breaded creamy cheesy risotto cakes

French Toast: challah bread, egg custard, blue berries, brown sugar, cinnamon

Quiche Lorraine

Tortellini, ricotta, pesto, sundried tomato, pine nuts

Marachino Cherry Parfait

Braising: Lamb shank, rosemary, thyme, merlot, veal stock, rondeau

Monkfish (the ugliest of all fish) searing in hot olive oil

Balsamic braised chicken thighs with a porcini-portobello-oyster-cremini-shitake mushroom cream sauce

After the oven: Fully braised lamb shanks emerge in a red wine reduction

Braised lamb shanks plated with red wine sauce and braised mirepoix

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May is only a few days away, and I for one can’t wait for all the May flowers these April showers will bring (and hopefully, too, the end of April showers). Spring is finally here, and last weekend was a celebration of all that mild weather, a whimsical season, and of course, Easter!

I celebrated the holiday up in Connecticut at my boyfriend’s parent’s house with him and some friends, and as every trip to their home always is, the weekend was filled with deliciousness and decadence, lots of sweet treats and home cooked meals and wine, oh the wine.

For Easter, Adam’s mom made an oustanding Coconut Cake with Toasted Coconut frosting, and was nice enough to offer that I help frost and decorate it. For those who don’t know, baking runs neck in neck with cooking as one of my favorite things to do; I only steer clear from it as much as I do for the sake of my own and my friends’ waistlines! But in this case, it completely made my day to spend a leisurely half an hour spreading thick, creamy frosting over two layers of moist walnut-studded cake, gently toasting shredded coconut until it was warm and golden and fragrant, and sprinkling it from a distance onto the soft white peaks of icing.

My friend Graham is an amazing photographer, and happened to capture some of the cake decorating process…

Photograph by Graham Garvie

Photograph by Graham Garvie

Once the cake was frosted and decorated, we chilled it so the icing and coconut would set, and when we broke it out later, it was center stage of the dessert spread. The cake itself was soft, moist, lightly perfumed with coconut flavor, having the slightest touch of texture and crunch from the walnuts. Raw coconut in the filling between two layers of cake added even more chew, and the toasted coconut on top added layers of buttery richness and a different note of coconut flavor that contrasted but still complemented the flavors of the cake itself.

Sort of like a Piña Colada in cake form… And you had just been thinking about a beach vacation, hadn’t you?  
Totally refreshing and the perfect spring or summertime cake – let this recipe guide you through any special occasions you celebrate during these warmer months! 

Courtesy of myrecipes.com

Toasted Coconut Cake

From AllRecipes.com

You’ll need:

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese


Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.

Blend the cake mix, pudding mix, water, eggs and oil in a large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed for 4 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the coconut and the chopped walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for 15 minutes then remove and finish cooling on rack.

While the cake is cooling, make the frosting. Start by toasting the remaining 2 cups of flaked coconut in a toaster oven or saute pan over low heat until golden brown. Transfer the coconut into a new bowl to cool.

Cream the remaining 2 tablespoons butter or margarine with the cream cheese. Add the milk and confectioners’ sugar alternately, beating well. Add the vanilla and stir in 1 3/4 cups of the toasted coconut.

To assemble the cake, start with the first layer. Using a serrated bread knife, you may choose to cut the top of the bottom cake layer off to make it flat, if it has puffed up slightly. Using a flat knife or spatula, spread the top of both cake layers with an even coating of frosting, about 1/4 of an inch thick. Stack them and then frost the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the cake on top with the toasted coconut, and gentle sprinkle the sides or use the palm of your hand to gentle press the toasted coconut into the sides. Chill to set frosting before serving!

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I know it’s a little late in the game for a Valentine’s Day recipe, but I just couldn’t resist posting this one. I must have been good this year, because I was lucky enough to recieve a sweet Valentine’s surprise in the form of this delicious indulgence this February 14th. Did I mention that Chocolate Soufflé is hands-down my absolute favorite dessert in the entire world? It’s enough to convert any non-chocolate fan into a full fledged chocoholic, and once you’ve had a good one, it’s bound to make into your top five dessert list (Tiramisu is totally losing that number 1 spot). For me, that happy moment was about a year ago in a little cafe in Astoria, Queens, called Mundo. Yes, that was good…

But this was better:

If for some strange reason, you still can’t imagine why Chocolate Soufflé is my favorite dessert, let me offer you Exhibit B:

Yes, there’s something about Chocolate Souffle that just seems inherently romantic, and sure, that made it particularly appropriate for the holiday that just passed. But guess what the best part is about telling (or better yet, showing) someone that you love them? It’s totally appropriate and 100% appreciated all year round, not just mid-February. So if you were having trouble thinking about what particular excuse you’d need to whip one of these babies up, search no further – because the truth is, you really don’t need an excuse!

In fact, all you need are some eggs, a nice rich bag of chocolate chip morsels, and a hand-blender (or one hell-of-a strong arm) and you’re pretty much set. Don’t believe me? The five-ingredient long list is below. So spend 10 bucks, take 30 minutes, and show someone just how important they are to you. Trust me, it’s totally worth scrubbing the chocolate off your kitchen floor the next morning.

Mini Chocolate Soufflés with Chocolate Sauce - Makes 4 6-oz Soufflés

For the Soufflé:

  • 2 tsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate, fine chopped (chips work too)
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup of a flavored liquour (we used Pomegrate Liquour)

To start, preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease each of the 4 individual ramekins extremely well, and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Then, set up your double boiler, or if you don’t have one, a pot filled with about 1 inch of simmering water, topped with a glass or metal bowl. Add the chocolate to the bowl, and slowly melt, whisking consistently and adjusting the heat as needed to prevent scalding. Once the chocolate is smooth and melted, turn off the flame.

Next, in a mixing bowl which the egg whites with 1/4 cup of sugar until they are stiff and glossy. If you’ve ever made a merengue before, the expression is “stiff peaks” – essentially, you want the egg whites to be foamy, and hold their form in little peaks when you pull the beaters out of them. They should look like snow-capped mountains :) Once your egg whites have peaked, set them aside.

Back to the chocolate – add your egg yolks to the melted chocolate one at a time, whisking to combine. Then add your liquour, and whisk in the remaining sugar.

Now, the part that requires a little skill and patience. You want to very gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate. The important part is to do this slowly, and carefully, using a wide spatula to lift the chocolate sauce from the bottom of the bowl, over the egg whites, to maintain as much air as possible. After each fold, rotate the bowl 90 degrees. Under no circumstance should you whisk or stir this mixture – that is, unless you want it to be ruined. A soufflé will only rise if the air bubbles from the stiff egg whites is preserved, so fold gently, and carefully, until you have an evenly brown, airy, jiggly mixture.

After that, you’re pretty much golden! Pour the chocolate mixture into the ramekins, place the ramekins on a baking sheet, and bake them until they are puffed and somewhat firm, beginning to crack on top – about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and serve immediately with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. And enjoy the thanks you will surely receive.


and after…

It really doesn’t get better than that…

For the Chocolate Sauce:

  • Leftover semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Half and Half
  • Butter

To be honest, we were big-time winging it here, but I will say this – start by melting about 4 ounces of semi sweet chips. Once they are melted add a tsp of butter and a dash of half and half, whisking to combine, and taste it. Depending on your own preference, continue to add half and half until the sauce has reached your desired consistency – and this can range from Hershey’s-syrup-thin, to extremely thick and luscious. You get to eat it, so you get to decide. Just whatever you do, don’t forget the sauce.

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This weekend, a sacred act took place in my apartment. That’s right: in my tiny, low-ceilinged kitchen, a sauté pan was lit aflame by blue flames that erupted from its brandy-coated contents. Bananas and sugar caramelized under nine inches of dancing fire as everyone in the room looked on in wonderment. Once the smoke from this challenging new culinary victory cleared, a decadent, sumptuous dessert emerged, victorious, reminiscent of Paris, standing alone as our reward for the long, hard week passed.

Sadly, I was not the Master of Flambé at this ceremony. Still, I’m glad that I got to witness the technique firsthand in my own apartment; let’s just say my reaction was not Culinary School-appropriate, and my hardcore reputation would have been forevermore tarnished as I backed into a corner, shouting, “It’s getting bigger!” and shielding my face from the flames.

But enough about that. What follows are the recipes for sweet, light, fluffy, perfect crêpes; ones that will make you feel like you’re standing on a frosty Parisian street corner, staring up at Notre Dame in wonder as you clasp your hands around a soft, powdered-sugar dusted pastry wrapped in paper and stuffed full of joy. The recipe for joy, in the form of an intuitive bananas foster filling, is also included.

Perfect Crêpes

For these crêpes, you’ll need:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Additional butter for coating the pan
  • A large, flat-bottomed saute pan

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until extremely smooth; this can also be done quickly in a blender. Ideally, it’s good to refrigerate the batter for about an hour before using, so the bubbles can settle, but we used it right away and had no issues with the crêpes tearing. Note that this batter will keep in the fridge for 48 hours!

Heat your sauté pan over medium heat, and use a stick of butter to grease the pan. Pour in about 1 ounce of batter, or enough to coat the bottom of the pan in a thin layer, and gently shake the pan to ensure even distribution of the batter. Cook for about 30 seconds to a minute, until the edges of the crêpe look firm and are beginning to pull away from the pan. Then, gently flip the crêpe. Most of us aren’t skilled enough to do this with a flick of the wrist, so a good trick is to slide the crêpe onto a flat plate, cooked side down, and then use the plate to flip the crêpe back onto the pan.

Finish cooking the crêpe for about another 30 seconds to a minute, or until lightly golden and cooked through. Lay the crêpe flat so it can cool, and then spread a thin layer of Nutella across it, and add your Bananas Foster filling…

Bananas Foster Filling

Bananas Foster seemed the most obvious filling once the idea for crêpes was finalized. Few things go better with sweet crêpes than Nutella, and Nutella, for those who didn’t know, is soul mates with bananas. Since bananas foster is basically bananas all dressed up for a night out on the town, making these crêpes with a Bananas-Foster and Nutella filling was not only a slightly impressive dessert show to put on for friends, but utterly fitting. Here’s how the Bananas Foster filling was whipped up, on-the-fly.

Gather your ingredients – 3 bananas, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1 stick of butter, and 1/4 cup of brandy (note that traditional bananas foster uses cinnamon, which we opted against since the Nutella added additional layers to the dessert). Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat, and add the butter. As the butter begins to melt, slice the bananas into quarter-inch slices, and add those to the pan as well. As the bananas begin to soften, add in the brown sugar and stir, continuously, until the brown sugar has dissolved completely in the butter and the sauce begins to thicken.

Then add the brandy. Depending on your level of flambé expertise, you can attempt to catch the brandy alight with the stove top flame, or the safer, preferable method – use a grill lighter or a very long match. Hold the pan off the heat and away from your body and face as you do this, as the contents of the pan will ignite very quickly, and large flames will rise up. Gently swirl the contents of the pan and allow the flames to slowly subside. Once the flambé has diminished, you can finish the Bananas Foster on the stove, until the sauce and bananas have reached the desired consistency; for us, this was a thick, syrupy sauce and very soft bananas.

Add the bananas to the crepe atop the Nutella, and gently fold the crepe over so you have a half-moon shape. Top with a bit more of the banana sauce, and dust with powdered sugar. One crepe is perfect to be shared as a light dessert for two, but one is also more than enough to make any evening fantastic if enjoyed all to one’s self.

So next time you’re looking for a very quick, easy, and sophisticated meal or dessert – look no further than crepes. They take practically no time at all to make, can be filled with virtually anything, and will have you reminiscing about European street food in no time. That is, if you’re into that sort of thing ;)

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This time of year, everyone seems to be just a little bit more cheerful than usual. Ask around, and most people will be more than happy to tell you what it is about this month that puts that spring in their step, that unsuspecting grin on their face, and makes the stresses of everyday life seem a little less overwhelming. Some will say it’s the twinkle of lights on an evergreen tree that do it; others will think of faraway friends and family members flying home for the holidays; for some, it’s simply the seemingly magical reprieve from work and school that comes between Christmas and New Years.

Ask me, though, and it should come as no surprise what provides that extra special holiday cheer come December.

That’s right. Christmas Cookies.

But not just eating them, no. It’s more or less everything about them. Baking them alone, baking them with friends, or family – especially my mom, with whom I’ve shared this holiday tradition since childhood. Smelling them as they toast up in the oven, licking batter off a spoon (salmonella is just a myth, if you ask me), rolling out ball after ball of sugar cookie dough and helping my 4-year-old cousin press a gingerbread man-shaped cutter into the soft buttery sheet. Taking a few of each variety and piling them into holiday tins, which would soon be wrapped in colored cellophane and ribbon, and handed out to family members so the magic of Christmas could continue on, even if just a little, past December 25th.

Yes, Christmas Cookies are infallible in my eyes. Which is why, on approximately November 29th, with Thanksgiving firmly behind me and nothing but four-packs of butter and ten-pound bags of flour standing between me and the big day, I sent the following email to my family:

“Dear family,

In the spirit of the holiday season, and the spirit of writing about holiday cookies, I’ve decided to call roll (re: rolling-pin pun intended!) on our cookie list for this Christmas already. So, without further adieu, I give you this year’s line-up:

The Fruity (for all us FRUITS in the family)

The Christmas Classics

  • Gingerbread Men
  • Frosted Holiday Sugar Cookies (using Deedle’s pre-mix adaptation)
  • Struffoli with Sprinkles
  • Chocolate Chips for the Kids!

The Wintery Flavors Parade

  • Cinnamon Roll-Up Cookies
  • Maple-Nut Cookie Cups

So that’s what I’ve got. Nothing two crazy, just a nice even variety of Ten Classic Cookies. Take a deep breath and accept your fate. An aggressive season of cookie baking is upon us.”

Unfortunately, I was quickly reminded by the matriarchal head-baker of my family that many of these recipes are family trade-secrets, and sharing them might put a slight ding in my future bakery-opening plans (hey, a girl can dream!). At first, the idea of not sharing these recipes on my blog seemed very sad, as I know the merriness they bring my family and could possibly bring others. But then, I realized that this was really an opportunity – a chance to branch out from the stand-by recipes my family and I turn to every year, and give some other cookies a chance, while experimenting with adding my own holiday flare.

This past friday, my favorite co-chef and I took a time-out to experiment with a Toffee Bar cookie recipe from Epicurious, one of the “25 Days of Christmas Cookies” featured on the site. Add a couple of candy canes, and this recipe provided the perfect early morning sweet-snack to fuel a pack of hungry New Yorkers for this year’s annual SantaCon(vention):

Okay, so I didn’t try and feed all of them. Even I know better than to give sugar to that many Manhattanites. But those who did try these cookies seemed pretty satisfied. These toffee bars remind me of a cross between a Yorkshire, a sweet sugar cookie, and an old-fashioned toffee candy. They’re rich, but small, which means you can eat a couple without feeling guilty; at the same time, if you only want to try one (and leave room for other types), you’ll still get that satisfying sweetness. Not to mention, they take only about 15 minutes of prep, and then 5 minutes to finalize on the back-end, making them one of the speediest holiday cookies around! Feeling excited? How ’bout Holly-Jolly? Then without further delay, here’s how you make ‘em:

Gather your freshest ingredients (adapted from Epicurious):

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 7 to 8 ounces milk chocolate, broken into pieces, or 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 6 large candy canes, crushed

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment, or if you don’t have parchment, coat very well with non-stick cooking spray.

Next, prepare the crust by beating together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes, with an electric mixer (or super-strong co-chef armed only with pastry cutter. This method works surprisingly well). Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla, and salt. On low-speed (re: slower hand-mixing), gradually beat in the flour just until mixed.

The dough will be stiff. Your arm will be sore. Gather your remaining strength and pat the dough evenly over the bottom of the baking pan. Then, simply pop the pan into the center of the oven and bake until pale gold on top, about 20 minutes.

Once the crust is firm and golden, remove the pan from the oven and scatter the chocolate pieces evenly over the crust.

Return the pan to the oven for 1 to 3 minutes, checking often to see how well the chocolate is melting. Once it has softened sufficiently, remove the pan again and, using a knife, spread the chocolate evenly over the crust. Sprinkle evenly with the almonds and candy canes, and press gently into the melted chocolate with the back of a spatula.

It’s very important that once you add the topping, you let the pan and its contents cool completely before cutting. The recommended method is to just set the pan on a wire rack and leave it alone until cool.

Once cool, use a sharp knife to cut into small squares, then carefully remove from the pan with a small offset spatula or an icing spatula. Then proceed to enjoy with family and friends, and might I recommend – a cup of coffee with Bailey’s or some spiced apple cider?

Oh, and keep the serving tray on a firm, stable surface. Trust me, these cookies don’t have quite the same appeal when they’re face down on the floor covered in orange juice. Not that this happened to me or anything. I’m definitely not that clutzy.

Just sayin’…. Happy Holidays!

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There’s a reason you always hear people saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Whether it be your parents who have recited these words to you nearly every morning since childhood, engraining in your mind to eat your cereal or scrambled eggs before school, or some cheery-faced TV star smiling at you from a Kelloggs Corn Flakes commercial, it’s undeniable. Breakfast is perhaps the most innately human of all meals, kickstarting our bodies and brains and easing us into our action-packed days in a culturally comforting way. One NYU Food Studies professor has even found that when immigrants arrive in America, breakfast is the first meal in which they assimilate to our culture – immigrants from Bangali abandon their traditional Indian breakfasts in exchange for Corn Pops and orange juice, subconsciously revealing that breakfast readies us for the outside world in more ways than just provide energy – eating an American style breakfast actually served to socialize these immigrants to our particular culture. So, it rather goes without saying that if any meal holds the utmost significance, it is this one.

And if any city’s residents hold this to be true, it’s New Yorkers. In fact, most Manhattanites choose to spend their day of rest worshipping at the alter of Sunday Brunch, rather than some more traditional houses of worship. Sunday provides an opportunity for indulgence, and whether you brunch at a five-star restaurant, on the sidewalk aside a quaint cafe, or in the comfortable confines of your own breakfast nook, one thing is for certain – Sunday is one day to set the whole oats and skim milk aside, and give in to your sweetest, most satisfying food fantasies.

In keeping with this week’s theme of improvisation, the following post recounts a journey into how a Sunday morning of proposed pancakes evolved into a quite serious crepe situation, which was possibly the best surprise of all. As with the Acorn Dumpling improv, epic quantities of butter were involved, and glorious results were achieved. It is perhaps symbolic, if not ironic, that when double-zero-flour is used, I can be certain that some cooking curve balls will be headed my way.

“Pan-Crepes” with Banana Maple Filling

For bliss, you’ll need:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups of finely milled “double-zero” flour (note – this can also be made with all purpose flour, but I would use about half the quantity and then add more until the desired consistency is achieved. It should be much thinner than pancake batter).
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 bananas, peeled and sliced in 1/4-inch circles

To start, combine all the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl, whisking the milk, eggs, and vanilla together so they are well combined.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and sugar. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and stir with a spoon to get rid of the lumps. Then stir in most of the melted butter and whisk until batter is smooth.

Heat a large, flat round skillet over medium low heat and swirl around a little melted butter to keep the crepes from sticking. Using a ladle pour the batter into the pan, cover the entire bottom of the pan with a thin layer of batter – just enough to coat the entire surface, like so:

As depicted above, the batter will start to puff up and bubble – once it looks nearly cooked through, this is the time to flip, just to get a nice golden crust on the other side. While I’m sure experienced crepe-makers have the skills to do this with a flick of the wrist, my fellow chef and myself found that sliding the crepe onto a round plate and then inverting it back onto the pan works well to get an easy flip.

When the crepe is done, it will look like this:

Slide the crepe gently onto a plate, and top with your sliced bananas and maple syrup (please pleaasssee use the real stuff, no Mrs. Butterworth here. This really makes a difference).

Now, for the good stuff…

Candied Pecan Topping

Candying pecans (or any type of nuts, for that matter) is a culinary technique that will instantly make your meal look, feel, and taste more gourmet, but is actually incredibly simple to do. Want to wow some dinner guests, but don’t want to break the bank? Serve some rich vanilla ice cream and then whip up a candied pecan topping on the stove a few minutes before your serve dessert – your guests will undoubtedly be impressed as you whisk a steaming saucepan of sugary goodness off the stove and drizzle the delicious topping over each sundae.

These nuts make just about anything taste good, but atop the maple-banana crepes, they were sort of addicting. It was a real blessing that we only whipped up about a half cup of these, or full-fledged diabetic shock would have most likely ensued. Just keep that in mind when making these – a little bit goes a long way ;) Also, it pays to have some help in the kitchen so one cook can make the crepes while the other makes the pecans – that way, when they get drizzled over your breakfast, they’re still steaming hot.

First, add about half a cup of pecans to a small sauce pan. Then, top with equal parts water and granulated sugar – about two tablespoons of each should do.

Stir the pot to dissolve the sugar and then bring to a simmer over medium heat, and simmer for about five to seven minutes, or until the sugar starts to carmelize and form a syrup that coats the pecans, turning them golden brown.

Once the pecans are done, they should look slightly dry and sugary – like candy!

Once these are done, wrap up your crepe blintz-style, top it with these pralines and some more maple syrup (if you dare!) and proceed to lapse into a sugar coma. And really, what better way is there to spend a Sunday, anyhow?

What’s your favorite Sunday Brunch?

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The elusive Van Leeuwen’s Ice Cream truck has been evading me for months (nearly all of summer 2010, actually), like a temptress, always appearing after I’ve already enjoyed a long lunch or on one of the frequent occasions when I have no cash on hand. When I first spotted it, some months ago, parked on a SoHo corner on a hot summer day, the list of flavors and artful sketches of the organic ingredients naturally sparked my interest, but I kept on walking. I’m not a huge ice cream lover; that is to say, I always enjoy it, but I don’t “have to have it” when I see it. When it comes to ice cream, I am usually able to resist temptation, a rare triumph in the world of desserts.

But then, a few weeks ago, Van Leeuwen’s appeared to me again, more glamorous than ever in a Cooking Channel special on the sweet treats of New York. Officially hailing as “Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream,” this migrating ice cream stand offers a variety of hand-crafted flavors, from specialties like pistachio and espresso to classics like vanilla bean, chocolate, and mint chip. Every ingredient for each flavor is selected with great detail, using only the finest and highest quality products to create their ice cream masterpieces.

The ice cream king has recently opened a permanent outpost in Greenpoint, Brooklyn – a nod to its growing popularity and even cult-like following. With the ice cream company’s employees and patrons alike offering praise and devotional words to the sweet scoops VL serves up, at first only through word-of-mouth and bloggings, but now on broadcast television, I realized that I had to see what this food truck had to offer.

But of course, like most things in life, the more you want something, the less likely it is to appear before you. It’s the old “a watched pot never boils” conundrum. And as I hoped to spot Van Leewen’s every time I took a stroll on an empty stomach, the famous ice cream truck stayed far away from me.

Then, finally, late last week as I was rounding a corner near work, there it was – the VL truck! But wait – it was in motion. The driver was slowly backing up and pulling away from the curb on Sullivan Street. I quickly snapped a photo of it as a reminder to more actively scout out its location, watching sadly as the sign for Pumpkin Pie ice cream disappeared into the distance.

But then, this past weekend, as if by fate, I was strolling through the West Village when suddenly – there it was! The pale yellow truck was set up across the street, fully open for business

I made an immediate beeline for the truck, with my heart set on some pumpkin ice cream. While pumpkin just about anything will spur my appetite this time of year, I was particularly intent on trying VL’s pumpkin ice cream because of what I’ve heard about the process the company uses to make its delicious scoops. Van Leeuwen’s uses only the finest ingredients, starting with local, hormone free milk and cream from New York farmers, to which they add fresh egg yolks and pure cane sugar – no preservatives, no stabilizers, no nonsense. In my ice cream fantasy, this particular flavor was made with lots of cinnamon and fresh pumpkin puree from yet another New York farm, and I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

Unfortunately, being late in the afternoon as it was, the truck was already sold out of this popular autumn flavor. The Cooking Channel special had warned about this – each VL truck is loaded up with only so much of each decadent flavor, and once that flavor is gone, that’s it for the day. Favorites like classic Strawberry and Chocolate, made with Michel Cluizel artisan french chocolates, often sell out first, forcing die-hard ice cream fans to make use of Van Leeuwen’s Twitter feed to follow the truck and find it early on in the day, before all the good stuff is gone.

Lucky for me, there was another seasonal flavor on the menu – Egg Nog Ice Cream. The woman inside the truck was kind enough to let me sample the flavor, and I was sold. I ordered a small (yeah, right) cone – pictured below – and proceeded to devour it. Even for someone who’s not much of an ice cream fanatic, this cone did NOT disappoint. The ice cream itself was thick, sweet, and almost buttery, coating your palate but not making your mouth feel weighed down like some ice creams can do. The egg nog flavor, while not necessarily completely reminiscent of the holiday drink, was definitely a flavor of fall, with undercurrents of nutmeg and vanilla running through every lick. One of my fellow diners opted for the Ginger ice cream, which was extremely refreshing and, I was happy to taste, not at all overwhelming in ginger flavor, which can be very potent. All in all, Van Leeuwen’s definitely rounds out the top of my list of favorite ice creams, and I definitely recommend surrendering self-control and ordering a heavenly cone if you ever cross paths with this yellow truck.

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