I found the perfect cupcakes

October 14, 2008 at 6:07 pm (dessert, fruit, ice cream, new york city, restaurants, review)

Remember how I said that all the cupcake bakeries that I’ve tried don’t make ’em the way I like ’em?  Well, I’ve found a bakery that makes cupcakes pretty darn close to what I think is ideal… Dessert Club ChikaLicious.  Ignore the too-long and slightly annoying name.  They’ve got the right amount of frosting, right level of tenderness, right level of lightness, right intensity of flavor, and the right frosting texture – fluffy, but still smooth and rich.  They are slightly too sweet, but that’s really my only complaint.  And that’s a tricky one because if you decrease the sugar in cakes or frosting, it can adversely affect other things like the texture.

We tried the banana, mocha, red velvet, and the s’mores cupcakes.  The banana cupcake was outrageously yummy.  My banana-hating sister would really hate this one because the banana flavor is so intense and perfect.  I’m not a huge fan of red velvet cake, but this one was the best that I’ve ever had.  The other two, mocha and s’mores, were pretty tasty, but because they had a chocolate ganache filling, there wasn’t enough cake for me.

I heard about this place from Serious Eats: New York.  Here’s a series of photos that they took of DCC’s cupcakes.  Yummy looking, yes?

This cupcake discovery is not included in the whole NYC vs SF competition because, even though there are plenty of cupcake places in SF, I haven’t really tried very many of those.  But if it’s a NYC vs DC bout, NYC wins this round.  But so far, DC holds the gelato title.  That may change after I try some gelato around here, but the DC gelato was mind-blowingly amazing.  It’s going to be tough to surpass Dolcezza‘s gelato and their use of local/fresh/in-season ingredients.

In other news, I ate the best apple that I’ve had in a long time.  I think it was a Jonagold apple, but I’m not sure.  I grabbed a bunch of different varieties and put them into the same bag.  I wish there were a way for me to reduce the bags that I use and allow me to keep track of what type of apple is what.  I guess I could try harder with my memory…

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New York City vs. San Francisco Rounds 3 and 4: Geography nomenclature and Crossing streets

October 14, 2008 at 5:50 pm (new york city, random, san francisco)

Round 3: Geography nomenclature

I grew up in New York and when I’d say that I’m from New York, people would assume New York City.  Then I’d have to explain that it’s the state of New York.  What really bugs me is when (not all, but many) people from the city of New York then say, “Oh, you didn’t grow up in New York.  That’s not New York.”  Using a very arrogant tone of voice.  Self-centered, obnoxious jerks!  Now, I say that I grew up near/outside of New York City, but that doesn’t stop the jerks from pointing out their views on what’s New York and what’s not and what’s better and what’s worse.  It’s not attractive you tell other people how you think you are superior!  Don’t even get me started on the issue of what’s “upstate” and what’s not.

It’s much easier in SF and the Bay Area.  There’s SF.  There’s Bay Area.  There’s no confusion about it, I think.  And no one uses these distinctions to put people down.

NYC: 1
SF: 2

Round 4: Crossing streets

In NYC, everyone jaywalks.  No one waits for the pedestrian light to change to the white walking man.  As soon as there’s a break in the traffic, they go.  You always have to be alert – it’s quite stressful.  I would prefer to just chill out and relax and let my mind wander at the intersections and just go when the light changes.  Along with everyone else.  I can’t do that here.  I’ll look stupid – in fact, I’ll get dirty looks for blocking their path.  So even though I would prefer the relaxed way, I’ve resigned myself to being constantly alert and stressed.  But I don’t like it!

Maybe eventually, I can learn to be alert and relaxed at the same time.  But given how everyone else looks so stressed, I don’t think that possibility is very likely.

NYC: 1
SF: 3

You might be thinking that I’m picking the rounds in a biased way.  Maybe.  I don’t really want to spend the effort to think about it.  I’ll just use (what I think are) interesting stories.

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New York vs. San Francisco Round 2: Farmers’ Markets

October 10, 2008 at 2:14 pm (food, fruit, new york city, review, san francisco)

I’m not really comparing the whole east coast to the whole west coast. So now it’s New York vs. San Francisco, Farmers’ Markets.

It’s not even close! I went to the Union Square Greenmarket today. It’s lovely. And much better than what I was imagining. But it’s still nothing like San Francisco’s. There are just not as many farmers here, I guess. It’s nice that the Union Square Greenmarket is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. And it’s nice that it’s really close to NYU, where I’ll be working. So I can stop by for produce during the week. But the selection and variety is just not even close!  And it’s not even winter yet!

NY: 1
SF: 1

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East Coast vs. West Coast Round 1 – Scallion pancakes

October 10, 2008 at 2:08 pm (food, new york city, restaurants, review)

I went to Evergreen Shanghai (menu), a restaurant in Murray Hill today.  It was just for a snack, so I got some xiao long bao and some scallion pancakes.  The xiao long bao were so so.  Skin was too thick, the filling had too much sesame oil, and the soup just wasn’t so great.  They were good.  But they were quite far from the best ones that I have had.

But the scallion pancakes!  I guess I’ve been on the West Coast for so long that I’ve forgotten how delicious the scallion pancakes of my childhood were.  The ones on the West Coast are more like crackers and they’re crispy.  And you don’t taste much scallion.  The ones that I had today were full of tasty (properly salted) scallions.  And so doughy!  Chewy and firm on the inside, but still tender.  And golden and crispy on the outside.  And when I bit into them, I had these flashes of the scallion pancakes of my childhood… like the critic in Ratatouille.  The scallion pancakes have said, welcome back!

EC: 1
WC: 0

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Smells and tastes of NYC

October 8, 2008 at 1:56 pm (food, new york city)

Wow, this is quite a stinky city!  There’s a new smell that hits my nose every few steps.  Some are good.  Some are bad.  Some are very bad.  Most are just odd.  It’s really weird that these smells are all very distinct rather than all mixing together.  I think that means that the smell-producing agents are going constantly.

I did my first Central Park run today.  It was quite lovely, but it’s really disorienting.  The paths are all wiggly and intertwined.  I lost my bearings in the middle of the run, so I had to exit the park to see where I was.  Now I’ve learned to orient myself with the buildings that I can see surrounding the park.  I think that once the buildings start looking more familiar, I’ll get better at finding my way around in the park.

Most of the other runners that I saw were running on the main paths that the horse-drawn carriages and cars take.  I don’t know how they do it!  Anytime you go anywhere near the carriages, there’s a huge horse stink!  I couldn’t run on the same path as those stinky creatures.  I’d rather deal with the slow strolling pedestrians and tourists.  Maybe these runners are in better shape than me and they don’t have to breathe while they run.  I hear some clop-clopping outside the window now!  They’re everywhere!

So are the dogs.  That’s maybe one reason why this city is so stinky.

I had a $1 slice of pizza yesterday.  Not the best pizza in the world, but pretty good for $1.  And, even in these tough $ times, there’s more to eat with $1 – I’m excited to try them all out!  Maybe that makes up for all the various stinks.

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All packed up for NYC!

October 5, 2008 at 7:04 pm (books, review, science)

My time in DC is over and now it’s time to move to the next place.  No more taxation without representation.  I want to be represented and taxed!  I’ll be in NYC by tomorrow night.

Miraculously, I accumulated a little bit more stuff, but I can still fit it in my suitcases.  I hope it’ll fit in the NYC nook that I’ll be living in this fall.

I just finished reading Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul.  (Amazon link)  By Ken Miller, a professor that I had at Brown.  One of the best professors that I had at Brown.  He’s been really involved in the evolution battle.  In this book, he lays out all the arguments for intelligent design, and then explains very clearly and thoroughly why each of those arguments can’t hold up to actual scientific evidence and reasoning.  He also explains the larger motivations behind the intelligent design movement and how this is the first step to break down the scientific process and bring us backwards.  And points out a lot of ulterior motivations that were uncovered as a result of the Dover, PA trial.  He also explains how what we are learning about evolution is even more awesome than the creation story.  I absolutely agree with that.  Evolution is a beautiful and inspiring thing – living organisms can tune themselves to each other and to their environments.  It’s so much more brilliant than the biblical account, which isn’t even taken literally by many (most?) religions.

I highly recommend it.  It’s beautifully written.  It’s clever and clear and humorous.  And thorough.  I also like how the title can be interpreted differently by different groups, so more people will wind up picking it up.  I hope people who think that ID has some merit or doubt evolution or think that accepting the evolution of humans means that we are the product of a random process read this.  I think that they would find this very respectful and enlightening and uplifting.

More good evolution resources:

Ken Miller visited Stephen Colbert.  Here’s the video.

The National Academies published a booklet – Science, Evolution, and Creationism – that explains the fundamental ideas and evidence behind evolution and also why intelligent design is not a scientific theory.  You can read it online, listen to it as a podcast, or spend a little money to get a hard copy version.  They also argue (as does Ken Miller), that religion and science address fundamentally different and non-overlapping things – natural world vs. supernatural world.  Putting them in opposition to each other is an artificial construct that causes unnecessary trouble.  They also have a whole section on common arguments against evolution and they lay out clear responses to each of those.  This is much shorter than Only a Theory, it just covers the basics, but it is nicely argued and organized.  And it’s short.

There’s a NOVA documentary about the Dover, PA trial.  I haven’t watched it yet, but I expect it to be good.

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DC Gelato Discovery – Dolcezza

October 5, 2008 at 6:00 am (dessert, food, ice cream, restaurants, review, washington dc)

This is the best gelato that I’ve had in my life.  Dolcezza.  We went to the one in Georgetown, but apparently they have some other locations and are available at some of the local farmers’ markets.

The gelato is so smooth – it must be nano-sized particles in it.  It tastes rich, but not because it’s high in fat.  In fact, it doesn’t taste that fatty.  It’s the high intensity flavors and the smoothness, I think.  They appear to try to use local and in-season ingredients.  The fruit flavors were all bright and intense, and just like the fresh fruit, but more intense.  It was glorious gelato.

It’s quite expensive (approx $4.50 for a small cup), but I thought it was really worth it because it’s so much better than other gelato places that I’ve tried.

Mark had pineapple honey lime and mocha.  Odd combination but they were both very good.  I had white peach prosecco and concord grape.  Pow!  So flavored!  And so smooth!

Menu appears to change according to what raw ingredients are available.  They have “This week’s menu” on their website, but not all the flavors listed were available.

Here’s an image from another the Ethicurean:

And the associated article.

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My new favorite building: Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC

October 3, 2008 at 5:40 am (architecture, review, san francisco, travel, washington dc)

The curves and textures and colors are so beautiful.  Yum.  And they’re going for a natural/organic look, but it doesn’t look overdone.  The interior is also breathtaking:

These photos aren’t mine.  Click on the photos to link to the original sources.  But pictures don’t do it justice.  This is the sort of thing you have to experience in person.  Fortunately, once you get yourself to DC, entrance into the museum is free!

As you can see, the interior is mostly a vast open space.  So there are very few exhibits and they’re quite small.  All the exhibits are displayed beautifully, but it’s not really done in a way for you to learn much.  I think the idea is for you to look at the forms and colors and textures and shapes and walk away with an appreciation of their beauty.  There was one exhibit on living native peoples that had more “educational” content, but that was done in the exact opposite way – too much information!  The gallery on the 1st floor has a lot of amazing pieces of pottery.  I was drooling.

Here are other previous favorite buildings (again, click on photos to get to original source):

San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, especially at night –

Interior of the SF MOMA

Getty Museum in LA –

I’ve only seen the outside of the new California Academy of Sciences building.  I left SF before it opened to the public.  But I’m sure I’ll love that too –

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