La Flor de Izucar

Instagram Post 11/26/2019

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I did a post a couple of weeks ago in time for the Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos, and picked up a pan de muerto at La Flor de Izucar, 4021 5th Avenue, in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. I didn’t mention the other goodies I was incapable of resisting at the time though; since they were delicious, I am compelled to share.

On the left is their corn bread. It’s somewhere along the corn bread <-> corn pudding continuum: sweet, moist, dense and heavy. There’s nothing subtle about it – and that suits me just fine. I’m sure light, fluffy cornbread has its place, but this manifestation of corn masquerading as a baked good totally won me over.

On the right is their bread pudding – even sweeter and denser than the perfect cornbread, laden with raisins, the two inspire a return visit to see what other goodies await.
 
 

The Chinese Taffy Man

Instagram Post 11/24/2019

Ah, the serendipity of meandering through any Chinatown, spotting a modest peddler hovering over his wares, and purchasing a taste knowing you may never see him again because timing, after all, is everything. The dragon’s beard candy vendor in Manhattan’s Chinatown is like that. In this case it was the Chinese Taffy Man on Main Street (well, that’s where I saw him) in Flushing.

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This piece was about seven inches long before I stretched it to the point of rupture so you could both take note of the slightly salty peanuts encased within and perhaps get an inkling as to the chewy texture of their sweet sheath.


It reminded me a little of White Rabbit, one of the first Chinese candies I ever tasted decades ago.

[PSA: Taffy is made from sugar, toffee adds dairy like butter or milk, nougat blends in egg whites and/or nuts or other good stuff. Oversimplification, but that’s it. In a nutshell.]
 
 

Kringle vs Kringle

Instagram Post 11/23/2019

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After my 11/16 post about Holtermann’s kringle on Staten Island, a number of folks spoke up about their experience with the same Danish pastry from Trader Joe’s. So of course I had no choice but to purchase TJ’s version for one of my typically OCD A/B tests.

Trader Joe’s product comes to us from the O&H Danish Bakery in Racine, Wisconsin, a family business that’s been making kringler and sharing hygge since 1949, so their Danish culinary bona fides are well established; their website, ohdanishbakery.com, touts some 23 tempting flavors but I suspect TJ’s offers only almond.

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TJ’s is filled with a rich, dense almond paste and adorned with a lemony glaze. It was slightly smaller and featured a filling, glaze and dough that were a bit sweeter, perhaps, than…


Holtermann’s, shown here from the previous post, that boasted a nut filled nut paste filling, a sweet sugar glaze and a slightly more sophisticated, handmade tasting dough that seemed to have more of a from-scratch, small-batch taste.


TJ’s in its entirety, complete with a quarter for size comparison, as I did for…


Holtermann’s – photo from my last post for the sake of completeness. I told you I was OCD.

The verdict. They were different, and both were certainly good in their own fashion as described above. Then again, Holtermann’s cost $22 and involved a subway ride, a ferry crossing, and no small amount of time getting there and back again, but at $7.99 for a similar confection, I can walk to TJ’s in about half an hour and probably burn off some of those kringle kalories while I’m at it! 😉
 
 

Milkcow

Instagram Post 11/20/2019

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If you’re a habitué of soft serve emporiums, you’ve probably heard about Milkcow, the burgeoning Asian ice cream chain that launched in South Korea a few years ago. Its target is the youth market – which you’ll immediately appreciate from watching the “making-of-the-ad” video on their website, milkcowcafe.ca, or checking out their menu firsthand at 69a Bayard St in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

They have two flavors, ube and, um, the white one. No, not vanilla. It’s milk flavor. Organic milk to be precise. But Milkcow is all about their over-the-top toppings in 16 combinations: macarons, Oreo crumbles, jelly beans, caramel popcorn, chocolate rocks, assorted syrups including brown sugar boba, or the Instaworthy signature cloud of cotton candy or hunk of honey cube.

In my opinion, you should opt for one of two strategies for your visit to Milkcow: taste appeal or eye appeal. My advice for the former goes like this: Savor a sample of milk flavor. Notice that it’s very dairy with nary a hint of ’nilla and rather subtle. Then repeat with ube. My sample today had bits of, well, something, in it – actual ube perhaps? – that didn’t bother me, just surprised me. Both flavors were quite good. Then enjoy the unadorned version (they call it the Milky Way) of your choice.

The surrender-to-excess approach is as follows: Make sure your camera lens is clean. Check out the menu. Choose whichever option you think will fetch you the most Instagram likes. Take the perfect picture from the perfect angle with the perfect background. (Unlike this one.)

Notice I didn’t say anything about consuming it. Here’s the rub: the delicate nature of the milk flavor is immediately overwhelmed by the addition of anything, including even the drizzle of chocolate sauce you see in this photo – the mistake I made and am here to caution you about.

Therefore, my counsel: Choose your path, cleave to it, and you will succeed in your mission. Don’t be cowed by compromise.
 
 

Holtermann’s Bakery

Instagram Post 11/16/2019

My first encounter with kringler, the filled Danish pastry, was decades ago via an annual snail-mail catalog specializing in Christmas goodies posted from Wisconsin. (Racine is renown as the kringle capital of Wisconsin and kringler are the official state pastry.) Closer to home, the stalwart Leske’s Bakery in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is famous for their rendition. But I was unfamiliar with Holtermann’s Bakery, 405 Arthur Kill Road in Staten Island; a ferry trip and a bus ride at my dining buddy’s behest would enlighten me.

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Holtermann’s is a somewhat isolated tiny bakery with an enormous parking lot to accommodate the dozens of cars that bring scores of folks who queue up patiently for their delicious baked goods. (Apropos of enormous, that’s a quarter in there.) Some kringler are pretzel shaped; these are vaguely reminiscent of a kid’s slot car race track, flat and oval, but that’s where the similarity ends. This sweet confection, along with a cup of hot coffee, amply provided breakfast on several frosty mornings.


Revealing the filling of sweet nut paste plus nut pieces and the generous application of sweet icing. Did I mention sweet yet?


Perhaps more decadent (and yes, perhaps more sweet) was this chocolate almond ring with…
…gobs of almond paste supporting chocolate glaze and slivered almonds – and there was some cake in there as well.

The family owned and operated business has been around since 1878 so obviously they know how to put a smile on people’s faces. They did on mine. 😋
 
 

Mandato Fruit & Grocery Corp. – Part 2

Instagram Post 11/10/2019

I’ve written about Mandato, the three-in-one Mexican destination at 7220 3rd Ave, Brooklyn before: it’s a take-out restaurant featuring tortas, cemitas, tamales, picaditas, tlacoyos, sopes, quesadillas, huaraches and more; a market where, in addition to packaged goods, you’ll find authentic Mexican ingredients including quesillo, nopales, and store-made barbacoa, carnitas, and tamales; and an authentic panadería where they bake their own Mexican panes dulces (sweet breads) available in store and sent out to close to 30 local groceries and bodegas as well – and that’s the subject of today’s post.

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Shown here are three from among dozens of varieties of baked goods prepared daily, all delicious, all made without preservatives or lard. Sleeping at the bottom is a yoyo; moving clockwise a taco de crema; and holding down the 2 o’clock position is a cherimoya, so called because it’s crafted to look like the eponymous fruit.


A peek inside sheds more light on the names. Like its real-life counterpart, the yoyo actually comprises two halves, bonded in this case by a fruity layer. The taco de crema, airy and flaky, guards creamy custard within. The cherimoya encloses a surprise as well: a generous amount of sweet cinnamon filling.

It’s a unique stop along my Bay Ridge Little Levant ethnojunket, or if you’re in the neighborhood, check it out for yourself!

(Note that this venue is officially Mandato Fruit & Grocery Corp, not the restaurant of the same name next door – there’s no connection.)
 
 

New Fully Bakery

Instagram Post 11/6/2019

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I often stop by New Fully Bakery, 82-24 45th Ave in Elmhurst, on my way to HK Food Court for these Guangdong/Hong Kong treats: wife cake, husband cake and sun cake (nope, neither a typo nor a pun). The three share a common flaky exterior since they’re all based on a rice flour dough enriched with lard and painted with egg-wash for sheen and flakiness. They’re sweet but not too sweet, which I know will be welcome news to many of you.


Clues as to their inner nature. Wife Cake (aka Sweetheart Cake 老婆饼, lao po bing), top, is filled with a paste made from candied winter melon. Diverse recipes are legion (these are slender compared to others I’ve enjoyed) as are tales of how they got their name, but they invariably conclude with a love-conquers-all happy ending. Recently they’ve taken on a fresh identity as an emblem of resistance in Hong Kong.

Less common around these parts is the Husband Cake (老公饼, lao gong bing), bottom. At New Fully Bakery, they’re similar to the wife cake except for a swap-in of pineapple for winter melon plus a few almonds on top; elsewhere they possess a considerably burlier flavor profile due to ingredients like garlic, red bean paste, and star anise.

Sun Cake (太陽餅, tai yang bing) has its roots in Taiwan. Its chewy center, crafted from malt sugar and butter (perhaps honey and milk), arguably makes it the most satisfying of the three.


Close-up revealing sun cake’s delightful filling.


And speaking of Taiwan, I’m told that the owner of New Fully Bakery hails from there which didn’t surprise me because of these thick, sweet Pineapple Pies on display. (Taiwan was once the third largest exporter of pineapples worldwide and they’re still a significant contributor to their economy.) I might like these even more than their family of family cakes.
 
 

Dia de los Muertos

Instagram Post 10/31/2019

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I headed out to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to get myself into the Día de los Muertos spirit. The Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead, is celebrated from October 31 through November 2 – and “celebrated” is the proper word: families congregate to memorialize loved ones who have passed away, but it is seen as a time when the departed temporarily revivify and join in the revelry rather than as a sorrowful occasion. Additionally, these days Día de Muertos, as it is also known, serves as a paean to the indigenous people with whom it originated in pre-Hispanic times.

Sequin-eyed, neon icing-coiffed calaveras (sugar skulls) are relatively easy to find in the neighborhood; this one came from Panadería La Espiga Real, 5717 5th Avenue. Although spirits don’t eat, this one seemed particularly interested in the pan de muerto I picked up at La Flor de Izucar, 4021 5th Avenue.

This bread of the dead is customarily embossed with bone shapes, sometimes crossbones, sometimes in a circle, and other traditional embellishments such as skulls and a single teardrop. It’s a barely sweet, simple bun (like so many Mexican panes dulces), light and airy with a tight crumb, and topped with sesame seeds or sugar (like this one) with hints of cinnamon, anise, and orange flower water.


Trespass into the inner sanctum.
 
 

Happy Diwali! (2019)

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The 2019 Collection

Dear Friends,

I can no longer keep this to myself. I am an addict, hooked on mithai. What’s that? You don’t know about mithai? Mithai are Indian sweets and since Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is upon us, I can think of no better time than now to tell you my tale. So gather round your diyas and check out my post “Indian Sweets 101: Meeting Mithai” right here on ethnojunkie.com!
 
 
दिवाली मुबारक
Happy Diwali!
 
 

Khao Nom – Sticky Rice with Taro

Instagram Post 10/26/2019

Quick post about the seemingly simple but deceptively delicious sweet snack, Sticky Rice with Taro (and coconut milk) wrapped in a banana leaf from Khao Nom, 42-06 77th St, just around the corner from their remarkable sister restaurant, Khao Kang; it’s one of the snacks we enjoy on my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst ethnojunket.

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Before

After

(The *real* After picture, taken scant moments later, was an empty banana leaf! 😉)