The day we decided to #followtherabbit for a free Dominque Ansel Cronut and Cookie Shot

19 Apr

For the first time in a long time, Mike and I had a day off together.  We had no plans for Good Friday besides going to dinner with my cousins, and we figured we may wander the city and possibly take in a museum.

But then luck took a turn.  Now first, to preface, we are HUGE Dominique Ansel fans  (inventor of the Cronut) and have been since we had his jaw dropping desserts when he was the pastry chef for Daniel. I absolutely love his DKA, macarons, and the frozen s’more at his pastry shop in SoHo.

 

Torching the Frozen S’More

 

Dominique Ansel Frozen S’More on the bakery patio

Any time I have a visitor, I try to bring them to the shop for amazing pastries… even my (now 100 year old, as of yesterday)  awesome Aunt Dinah.

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(Aunt Dinah after enjoying her first DKA)

So where did luck come in to play on this Good Friday?  I was sitting on the couch lazily scrolling through Instagram when I happened upon this post from @dominiqueansel:

http://instagram.com/p/m7qW9ElOKO/

It was about 10:40am and the first video posted indicated that they would be handing out a free Cronut and Cookie Shot to a few people near the Flatiron at 11am… and then would continue to post clues on Instagram and Twitter throughout the day under the hashtag #followtherabbit.  They would be doing this until 5:30 with 7 locations throughout the city in celebration of the upcoming first cookbook from Dominique Ansel.

By 10:55, we were out the door and on our way… but where to?

We figured that by the time we got down to Flatiron (about a 25 minute walk), they would be gone.  But I provided the driving school philosophy that if there is something in the road, you don’t know which way it’s going to move, so your best bet is to steer right towards it, figuring it will go SOME way to get out of the way (and you don’t want to guess wrong).

So we begin wandering in that direction, however, by about 11:20 we noticed in the comments that they were all out (and the internet trolls were very upset that the video was the clue to the exact location and the location mentioned was slightly off… people are so damn rude online!) We decided to pass by Flatiron and head down to Union Square, since it’s central and has lots of subways.  As we strolled, we noticed that the next video was posted, saying they were now in China Town.  So we decided “why not!” and jumped on the subway down to China Town and booked it to Confucius Plaza (a place we had never been), arriving about 20 minutes after the video posted.  We couldn’t quite find them, and then we saw the mystical Dominque Ansel yellow pastry box and approached the people with the prize to ask how it went.  They informed us we missed them by mere moments.

Dammit! But we were getting closer.

It seemed that they were posting every hour on the hour now, so we had some time to kill before the next post. We decided to take advantage of our day off and do something touristy we had always wanted to do, so we jumped on the 6 train and headed south below the Brooklyn Bridge Stop to get a gander at the abandoned subway station (the train turns around and heads back uptown at the end of the line).

Heading towards the abandoned subway station on the 6 train

 

Abandoned Subway Station below the last stop on the 6 train

We swung around the turn-around in the abandoned subway station (it was cool but I sure wish we could see a bit more!) and headed back uptown. I was thinking we should go to Union Square again for the same reason as last time (lots of subways there and centrally located) but Mike suggested we get off at Astor Place, so we went for it.

Cell phone service kicked back on right on the top of the hour, and that’s when we realized… They were in Union Square!

I am not embarrassed to say we bolted the 5 blocks there.

And we got there just in time… to watch the very last one be given away.

But now we knew what to look for!  White bags and a bunny with an orange balloon.

It was sure a rascally rabbit!  But we were having a blast running all over the city on a big treasure hunt.

So now we had another 50 minutes or so to kill. So we went around the Union Square Market, stopped in my favorite bathroom break hotel (the W at the north east corner of Union Square… just go right up the white spiraly staircase and you’re set).  It was now 1:30 and we had a choice to make… where to now?

We started doing some total guess work, that we called “hunches.” They were hopping around mostly in squares. It was only a matter of time before they hit Washington Square Park, right? Or maybe they would go to Gramercy Park? Could they totally switch it up and head up to Central Park?  We went with our first gut instinct and went to Washington Square Park.

And then as we rounded the corner toward the arch, we saw a magic thing. Before it was even posted, there were two lovely women with big white bags and a small furry bunny tied to an orange balloon.  SCORE!

We were second on line and I Instagrammed a not-so-secret picture a full 25 minutes before the clue was posted.

 

I was so damn excited that we found them!

The video was posted at 2pm on the dot and then the prize was in hand.

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They gave us our prized box and a couple special towels, and then were kind enough to take a picture of us with the bunny.

They even took a picture of us that they put on their site.

We hung out and watched the mayhem happen, as some people spotted the line and ran over with wonder in their eyes… and some tourists happened upon it and smartly jumped on the line just to see what it was (I hope they appreciated it!)

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They were gone in less than 15 minutes.

So what was in the beautiful yellow box of fun?

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Top left is a Passion Fruit Caramelia Chocolate (with cocoa nib sugar) cronut.  Top right is a bottle of the Tahitian vanilla flavored milk. And on the bottom is a chocolate chip cookie shot, which is like a firm (but somehow still soft) cookie lined with a delicious chocolate icing that you then pour the milk into.

As I sampled and sipped, I couldn’t help but feel like the luckiest person on earth (or at least in NYC). We had an adventure all over the city, on a beautiful day, saw some great things, and now ended our tour by magically happening upon the exact right spot to get a special treat.

I thought it hysterical that we wouldn’t wait on the line for 2 hours for the pastry, however, we had no problem spending all day on a scavenger hunt around the city to get ourselves the famous cronut. Would it be worth a 2 hour wait at 6am in the morning? Come on… is anything? But it was quite delicious.  I am not a huge donut fan, but to have one that had flaky layers filled with a passion fruit (but not too sweet) sauce and topped with a damn good icing was pretty awesome.

photo 3

And the cookie shot?  Really loved that!  Novel and fun. By the end of the shot, the icing had come off a bit and had made the milk into chocolate milk.  Delicious.  (Though I would still probably go back  for my original favorites)

What a day!

I can’t help but be grateful for the fun, unexpected day we got from Dominque Ansel.  A lot of people think the Cronut is overhyped (it is) and that Dominque Ansel uses it for marketing (he does, but what’s so wrong with that?) and there were a lot of people who didn’t think this scavenger hunt was very fair (it wasn’t)… but people need to relax.  This was great fun.  And let the haters hate. I’m just going to lick my lips and remember the day we magically got Cronuts.

#followtherabbit

Can’t wait for that cook book!

 

 

 

A Post about Tipping

16 Apr

To all those who come here for the food porn, today we’re taking a deviation to talk about tipping. (Come back soon for more food porn, however! There are still at least 100 posts in backlog!)

Why?

Because tipping is the one thing that we all do, pretty much every day, and very few of us have any idea what exactly we’re supposed to do.  I worked in the food industry for a hot second, but it was enough for me to truly appreciate why tipping is important. Why this country allows this practice to happen the way it does, with most waiters making far below minimum wage and “making up for” that wage in tips (which are at the discretion of unreliable people) I will never know.  But I read an article this week that was a nice discussion about how important it is to not be a low tipper and what customary tips are for many industries: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/04/everything-dont-know-tipping.html

It’s a thorough article, and not only is it helpful because so many times I’ve asked myself “Am I supposed to tip in this situation?” but also because it discusses that to go from being a low tipper to an average tipper (or average to high) doesn’t take that much out of your pocket in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly does make a big impact on the people you encounter every day who rely on those tips.

I’m also in a place in my life where I WANT to be a great tipper. Great tippers in my past helped me when I needed it most, and when I was reading about the people who were randomly leaving $1,000 tips on random checks in restaurants last year, I was touched. I immediately thought that I would love to do that some day… Have enough money to spare to make a big difference in someone’s paycheck for that night.  I’m certainly not there yet, but I can bump up from average to high at the very least.  I’ve always prided myself on being a good tipper, trying to always give 20% on a bill after tax, but I can do more.

Tipping outside of the food industry has always been a bit of a mystery to me. (And it seems like it is to this writer as well… why DON’T we tip an acupuncturist but we do tip a masseuse?)  After having a wedding, I was left me scratching my head with whom to tip even after reading many articles on the subject.  One thing I learned from that experience, however, is that if someone is providing a service where they set the price and they are the business owner, you don’t tip, because they are setting the price to include gratuities, for the most part (though I’m still not sure about photographers, since the best advice was split on this). On the other hand, if the person helping you works for a business and someone else is setting those prices, then you tip.  Okay… I can live with that. But this article still helped me know that I have to put down a few extra bucks at the nail salon and for bartenders who mix a complicated drink. (I always had in my head that it’s $1 per drink, maybe $2 for a really hard one or really great service, but with cocktails costing $13-$15 in most NYC restaurants, which the bartenders have no hand in setting prices for, $3 per drink is probably a better idea).

One thing I learned by working in a restaurant for a summer is that 15% (before tax) is the absolute minimum you leave, even if you get shitty service. Why? Because that waiter also pays out the kitchen and everyone else that keeps that restaurant humming, so even if the waiter forgot you half the night, there are still a lot of people working to get that food into your face (and at hours when everyone else is out and doing fun things). Working nights and weekends is the only option in that industry if you want to make money to survive, and when I wound up going home with $20 in my pocket after 6 hour on my feet as a hostess because the waiters sucked that night, that really just wasn’t cool.

If you have bad service, the only way you should deal with that is to talk to the manager, just like you would in any other industry. Taking it out on a waiter takes it out on the entire establishment.  If that manager hears that the waiter isn’t doing great, or the kitchen is really screwing up, they have the ability to remedy that situation. Stiffing the waiter doesn’t help anyone figure out what went wrong and never “punishes” the offending person without taking it out on the rest of the staff.

What’s your opinion on tipping? Do you consider yourself a good tipper? Do you want to make it a point to tip better in the future?

 

 

Recipe: Nutella + Caramel Stuffed and Salted Chocolate Cookies

14 Apr

As soon as I heard “Nutella Caramel Salted Chocolate Cookies” from an old coworker, I knew I needed the recipe.  She kindly pointed me to this blog: http://www.topwithcinnamon.com/2013/09/twc-feat-sorted-video-salted-caramel-nutella-stuffed-double-chocolate-chip-cookies.html

Now all I needed was a good excuse to bake them.  Superbowl seemed like as good an excuse as any! So these guys I shaped into footballs and used a simple icing to draw on the laces (simple icing = powdered sugar and water!)

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I couldn’t find the right candy, so I went with Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel (not my first choice, and I would probably look for Rolos or regular ol’ caramels if I did it again).

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They baked up oh so ooey gooey inside

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Another ooey gooey picture just for fun.

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GREAT recipe!  Though next time I’d go with a regular caramel rather than a piece of chocolate covered caramel. There were just too many competing chocolates in here.

The dough itself was fantastic, and can probably be used simply on its own to make a delicious salted chocolate cookie. Check out the original post to see a video on how to make them (great video!)

Nutella + Caramel Stuffed and Salted Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (110g) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (350g) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (55g) cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
  • 3.5 oz (100g) milk or dark chocolate chips
  • Flaky salt/ fleur de sel/ maldon salt, for sprinkling
  • Approx. 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) Nutella
  • 15-16 caramel-filled chocolates (or regular salted caramels)

Instructions

  1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C)
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Take off the heat and stir in the brown sugar and eggs
  4. Add the cocoa, salt and baking powder and stir until well combined
  5. Add the flour and stir until no floury patches are left
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips
  7. Take 1 heaped tbsp of dough, use your finger make a large indentation the centre of the dough
  8. Fill the indentation with a small blob of nutella (~ 1/2 tsp)
  9. Top it with a caramel-filled chocolate or caramel
  10. Top with a flattened tablespoon of dough, and seal the edges
  11. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and bake for 8-10 minutes
  12. For the video and original recipe, check this link: http://www.topwithcinnamon.com/2013/09/twc-feat-sorted-video-salted-caramel-nutella-stuffed-double-chocolate-chip-cookies.html
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