The Ice Cream Shop Formerly Known As Lula’s Sweet Apothecary

Ah, summer, the perfect confection of lemonade stands, sunsets over the ocean, and new superhero movies. Nothing says summer like sitting on the porch and eating an entire carton of ice cream—unless you can’t eat ice cream, that is. Those of you in the dairy-phobic cohort will recognize the scene well: sitting around in a friend’s living room, someone suggests that you all go on an adventure, and suddenly you’re at the ice cream shop, protesting to everyone that, really, you’re okay, and you ate before, and don’t apologize, and please, just stop talking and eat the ice cream. (Never mind that it’s blisteringly hot and you’re wondering if it would be weird to ask for just a cup of ice. Or maybe just a cone filled with gummy bears.) Well, pals, welcome to the future, where ice cream sans cream is now locally (relatively) available!

Following the Barnard Dining Hall and Afterwards St. Luke’s Hospital Incident in freshman year, a friend from an old summer program came to visit the city and surprised me with my very first ice cream cone at age eighteen, dragging me to Alphabet City with smug secrecy. Then known as Lula’s Sweet Apothecary, the ice cream shop was totally vegan and dairy-allergy friendly. Made with non-dairy milk, like soy or cashew, it is also peanut-free (provided you don’t get the peanut butter flavor). And so I sat in the middle of a new city, clutching a sugar cone and staring in awe of the vanilla and raspberry double-scoop melting in my hand. Fast forward a year later, and that outing, combined with a trip to Babycakes NYC, inspired a food allergy blog and more ice cream outings.

lula's (storefront)

Today, Lula’s Sweet Apothecary has apparently undergone a series of management changes leaving it a nameless establishment on 6th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B, but remains a little oasis of ice cream. The ice cream shop formerly known as Lula’s Sweet Apothecary is a leisurely walk from the 1st Avenue stop on the L train, or the 2nd Avenue stop on the F train. If you’re making an evening out of it, it’s also close to the Westville‘s Westville East location. Because Lula’s has no sign or awning, it is a little difficult to identify for you but trust that you will know it when you get there. Here we include a picture of its nondescript, but welcoming storefront. (It’s also still listed as “Lula’s Sweet Apothecary” on Google Maps.)

lula's (counter)

Just a few weeks ago, the Brunch with Bear team hopped over from a sweaty and dehydrated day in Williamsburg for another delicious ice cream Sunday. The counter is small, but the tasting spoons are real metal spoons instead of that plastic nonsense, allowing for a better tasting experience that is also eco-friendly!

lula's (cone)

Though every flavor we sampled was delicious, I settled on raspberry and cookies and cream, both of which I’ve had before, and the combination was an inspired choice. The raspberry scoop was delightful both in its rich color and tart flavor, while the cookies and cream scoop had Oreo-like chunks that were like dessert to the dessert itself! Packed up in a sugar cone, the ice cream was a decadent way to polish off a Sunday afternoon! Another nice thing is that the shop has cups and a large cooler for water, which was perfect for the muggy and sluggish weather.

lula's (pints)

Although gourmet ice cream is often more expensive than Trader Joe’s, let us remember that ice cream in general is outrageously expensive in NYC, where a pint can easily be over $15. In addition, an extra dollar for safe ice cream is a small price to pay, compared to the thousands that I might spend at the hospital later, if a regular dairy ice cream store didn’t properly wash their scoops or carefully separate their flavors. In addition, the staff at this store is friendly and informative, and I noticed they were very nice about giving new cones to the two customers after us, who catastrophically dropped their ice cream on the ground in a bout of clumsy and unfortunate circumstances!

lula's (bear)

The shop seems to attract the Young and Hipster scene that has populated Alphabet City for decades, due to its vegan offerings, but also the local parents and children looking for a cold treat on a hot day. The ice cream shop formerly known as Lula’s Sweet Apothecary welcomes everyone, even bears!

As the summer days start drifting away, it’s important to remember what summer is really about: good friends, warm air, and ice cream. Take some time to enjoy a last few ice cream Sundays before summer is over!

Bear Goes to Brooklyn: Crème de la Crème

One of the best things about summer vacation is the lack of homework, a lack which allows for longer forays into the city for food! Another great thing about summer is that it’s very hot, and gives you an excuse to eat lots of ice cream. Behold, the Brooklyn Flea Market Crème de la Crème Annual Ice Cream Bonanza, also known as the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and clearly named for Edgar’s concoctions in the inspiring 1970 feature film The Aristocats.

creme de la creme (sign)

According to the Brooklyn Flea Market’s website, this annual ice cream festival is a the result of Ronald Reagan’s declaration that July be National Ice Cream Month. A smart man, this Reagan. In its fourth year (the festival began in 2011), the Crème de la Crème features a dozen vendors with a multitude of flavors at both the Fort Greene and the Williamsburg locations.

creme de la creme (info sign)

One of the first things people say to me when they discover that I have a food allergy is, “Wait. So you can’t have ice cream?” They proceed to make assumptions, and then ask several more times just in case the answer is different after the seventh time, and then conclude that I live the worst existence in the universe. Welcome to the twenty-first century, pals, where non-dairy ice cream is finally a reality! Thanks to Alchemy Creamery, People’s Pops, Steve’s Ice Cream and other establishments, a non-crème de la crème day was afoot!

creme de la creme (crowd)

The Williamsburg location for the Brooklyn Flea Market is at 50 Kent Street, between 11th and 12th street and just a short walk from the Bedford Avenue station on the L train. They are open every sunday from 10 AM-5PM, and make sure to give yourself plenty of time to sample all the delicious vendors!

creme de la creme (takumi taco sign)

The Williamsburg market has a number of food vendors, but it was too hot to eat a lot of “real” (read: warm) food, so I only sampled the shrimp tacos from the Asian-fusion-inspired Takumi Taco.

creme de la creme (takumi taco menu)

The man running the booth made a personal phone call to the manager and discovered that the guacamole had sour cream, so a taco sans the guac was a perfect light meal for a hot day. It was spicy, with corn salsa and chips that gave it a succulent and refreshing texture. Tacos are awesome finger food, so it kept me busy while my friends wanted to shop around.

creme de la creme (takumi taco tacos)

Other establishments include beef brisket sandwiches (though the bread has dairy), Mexican tacos, rice bowls, etc. The next time I’m in Brooklyn for lunch, the Williamsburg market might be my first stop!

Onto the good stuff, though, right? Alchemy Creamery, an all-non-dairy establishment, had a number of flavors available with a number of toppings.

creme de la creme (alchemy creamery flavors)

In addition, they had their signature ice cream “push-pops, which is basically a scoop of ice cream with toppings already inside a plastic box with a handle. Very convenient for wandering through the various vendors and not dripping all over a $350 vintage leather attaché or a set of artfully mismatched antique spoons.

creme de la creme (alchemy creamery push pop bear)

Though the chocolate chips and the cookie crumbs in my strawberry push-pop were sweet and crumbly, the ice cream itself was not so potent. I could tell by the faint pink color and a hint of flavor that I had indeed gotten the strawberry, but as a strawberry lover, the flavor profile didn’t match up as much as I would have liked.

creme de la creme (alchemy creamery push pop)

In the case of Alchemy Creamery, it was as if making ice cream without the cream meant just making ice. The consistency was fine, but the diluted flavors were not great for more than staying somewhat hydrated. If I was looking for flavored ice, however, I would have preferred to stick with People’s Pops.

creme de la creme (people's pops sign)

People’s Pops is a regular establishment at the Williamsburg location, and they specialize in exotic flavors of popsicles and shave ice.

creme de la creme (people's pops menu) I tried a small cup of the plum orange blossom shave ice, and I can only say two words: spoon straws. That is what People’s Pops are missing. Nothing is better for a hot day than eating a cup of ice, but I would have loved a spoon straw to distribute the flavored syrup in a time-tested, 7-11 fashion.

creme de la creme (people's pops bear)

Holding the cup was also a great way to cool down, although it was a little drippy after a while. The plum orange blossom flavor was very sweet and maybe not as subtle as it should be, but I think cold temperatures have a way of dulling flavors a bit. It was also a beautiful color, which is not necessarily the point of eating something, but makes it all the more delicious. I definitely recommend the People’s Pops as the perfect dessert-first option to a lunch at the market.

creme de la creme (steve's flavors)

And finally, for the true crème de la crème. I come from a family particularly fond of food, most especially dessert. We are known to sit and reminisce about a particular cookie or cake for years, and I think I have found one to add to the list. Imagine the tingly feeling of delight that a scoop of cinnamon coffee ice cream and blueberry preserves sandwiched in a cinnamon sugar doughnut, all allergy-friendly and all amazing, can bring you in the midst of a hot, sweaty, cranky afternoon. Steve’s Ice Cream partnered with Babycakes NYC to create the most perfect ice cream sandwich I have ever encountered in my entire life, and I think my greatest regret is not getting another one.

creme de la creme (steve's bear)

It is rare that I fall quite so in love with a food, but I can’t wait to recreate it at home with some freshly baked cinnamon sugar doughnuts and a pint of Steve’s from the nearest Whole Foods.

creme de la creme (steve's ice cream sandwich)

I have often said that it is a dream of mine to walk into a bakery and order anything that I want, and while I still love that image, I would like to add an allergy-friendly ice cream shop next door. After all, the crème de la crème of dessert wouldn’t be complete without a perfect scoop on a hot day.

creme de la creme (steve's ice cream sandwich bear)

Lazy summer Sundays are excellent for wandering around, eating ice cream, and watching hipsters and the Williamsburg flea market is the ideal location for all three. Though, as most things are in the foodie game, everything at the market is irksomely overpriced and though it was a little warm for a fluffball like Bear, the novelty of enjoying ice cream on a hot day is still one too rare for me to pass up. Until the next Crème de La Crème National Ice Cream Day Bonanza, I will be dreaming of desserts gone by.

Ivan Ramen

After an early infatuation with Italian restaurants, it would seem that Brunch with Bear is becoming increasingly obsessed with ramen. Ramen, besides being excellent comfort food, is a great food for the summer. Warm, spicy, and satisfying, ramen has all the qualities of a successful summer evening. Last week was my friend’s birthday and he had originally wanted to go to Totto Ramen. After attempting to wait out the crazy line for about ten minutes, we found our way towards the Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, a hip and happening establishment amidst the other hip and happening establishments of Gotham West Market.

Gotham West Market is located on 11th Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets, just a short walk from the 42nd Street Station on the A, C, and E trains. You can take pretty much any of the trains into Times Square, but the market is far on the west side, so I suggest crossing over to the exits by the A, C, and E trains in order to be closer, or catching a crosstown bus. On a breezy summer night, it was a perfect walk away from the nauseating bustle of Times Square.

ivan ramen (entrance)

Gotham West Market is similar to Chelsea Market, where the Brunch with Bear team visited Friedman’s Lunch, in that hipster food hall way. Picture an upscale NYC food court, and that’s the general idea. They have multiple vendors within a single communal dining hall, with individual bars and counters for each purveyor. Ivan Ramen is very close to the entrance, and we were lucky to find a much shorter line than Totto, but with equally crowded tables. The employee on the phone had encouraged us with her friendly demeanor and enthusiasm.

ivan ramen (bar)

Ivan Ramen has all the standard shoyu and shio ramen choices, but I opted for the more unique roasted garlic mazemen, considering how I order shoyu at almost every ramen place. Add-ons are an additional cost, but ramen isn’t really ramen until you add an egg, so I was willing to fork over the extra dollar or whatever. Our server was really nice—potentially the same employee from our phone call—and was able to make suggestions and give information about the different dishes without being pushy or rushed, even when there was a long line forming. She checked and double-checked about the allergies, and it seemed like all the servers knew that the ramen was dairy-free and peanut-free.

ivan ramen (counter)

Ivan Ramen wraps the spoon and chopsticks in a darling wrapper, which are served with your perfect bowl of ramen on a silver platter. Like Starbucks, you pick up the tray when you hear your name, and attempt to find an empty couple of chairs at the communal benches. Water is available at a water station, but beware, the bottles that you can fill for your table are slightly top-heavy. Not saying that someone knocked over an entire, mostly-full bottle of water, but hypothetically, if he did, it was a really messy and soggy accident and it’s really hard to pour water when you have paws without opposable thumbs and the bottle is taller than you.

ivan ramen (tray)

Imagine a fragrant and hearty hug, one that envelopes you in a comforting cloud and makes you feel secure and warm. That is what I imagine garlic to be in the food world, and this garlic mazemen was like eating one of those hugs. The scallions on top were sprinkled with the roasted garlic, and the soup, though less than the shoyu, was intensely flavorful and complementary to the main garlic vibes. Roast pork in ramen is usually sliced thinly, but this pork was thick and juicy, and the soft-boiled egg added a silky texture that really brought the whole meal together.

ivan ramen (ramen)

As with all cuisines, there are restaurants that do well with traditional dishes, and others that do well by “reinventing” foods, or basically adding weird things to them to make them good in a weird way. Ivan Ramen did a nice shoyu and I’d be interested to sample some other classic dishes, but I think they get major flair points for this particular creation.

ivan ramen (bear)

Gotham West Market is a great place for a casual meal, and I can see it being a welcoming and friendly atmosphere at any time of the day. The majority of the other customers were definitely young professionals, out for a leisurely bite on a Friday night. Ivan Ramen itself was immensely popular, and we were able to enjoy our New York moment. The one complaint is that the prices are a little expensive comparative to the portion size, considering they charge extra for things like eggs and chili oil, and they could have easily put twice as many noodles in the bowl. However, for a special occasion and a real treat, the garlic mazemen was worth the extra dollars, as it made for a memorable and enjoyable evening.

Though I’m still partial to the enormous portions of Totto Ramen and the breathing space of Jin Ramen, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop was a pleasant surprise. I’d be excited to check out their flagship location in the East Village, but the Slurp Shop in Hell’s Kitchen is the perfect place to grab a bite before seeing a show, catching a movie, or people-watching in Bryant Park!

Dim Sum Go Go

A few weeks ago, my friend invited me out to dim sum with a group of her friends, most of whom are visiting New York from other schools across the country, and had never been to dim sum before. For those of you who have never been before, dim sum is a Chinese style brunch—as much a time of day as it is a type of food. Filled with dumplings, noodles, and tea, dim sum, also known as yum cha, is a relatively safe meal for me. Dairy is rarely used in Chinese cooking, and peanuts, particularly due to the prevalence of peanut allergies in American culture, are generally easy to avoid.

Our plan was to go to the famed Golden Unicorn, but a late start and a long line deterred us from Golden Unicorn and toward a newer place down the street, called Dim Sum Go Go. Golden Unicorn is so famous that the lines are like Disneyland, and oftentimes, small parties will be squished together at the same large table, in a Hong-Kong-style mishmash of strangers. Chinese families tend to stick to their dedicated favorites, and my family in particular would probably stand in line all day at their favorite place before trying any place new. However, I was not with my Chinese family, so we ventured away from the lines toward the welcoming doors of Dim Sum Go Go. I was personally skeptical about Dim Sum Go Go, but the interior was clean and the staff was very friendly.

dim sum go go (sauce)

For those familiar with dim sum, you will know that the whole concept is like a giant moving buffet. Servers have metal pushcarts stacked high with steamer baskets and boxes filled with dumplings, various baos, noodles, veggies, and other random morsels. As such, most dim sum newcomers resort to asking their resident Chinese friend what everything is, from a piece of shrimp to an unfamiliar vegetable. (“What is this?” “It’s broccoli, just try it.” “It doesn’t look like broccoli…” “It’s Chinese broccoli. It’s good! Just eat it!”)

dim sum go go (food)

Dim Sum Go Go has eliminated the pushcarts in favor of a paper menu, much like a sushi ordering menu at a Japanese restaurant. The English names are printed next to the Chinese names, and customers need only to fill in the quantity of their favorite items. In addition, like any other restaurant, if you don’t know what is inside your food, many waiters in Manhattan Chinatown speak English and you may ask them to describe your food. There was also a menu for noodles and larger rice dishes. As a result, we got filled up on beef chow fun and a large selection of items that would usually be found on pushcarts.

dim sum go go (plate)

As someone who eats dim sum relatively often, I have to admit that Dim Sum Go Go was not my favorite. The baos were smaller than usual, the dumpling wrappers were a little thicker and stickier than usual, and the fried items were not as crisp—read: fresh—as usual. While everything tasted fine, the quality was not necessarily as high as I would have expected from a restaurant with similar Yelp ratings to Golden Unicorn. (Of course, most people on Yelp are not old Chinese ladies with a penchant for this kind of critique.) In addition, the prices were roughly similar to that of more established restaurants, so the overall value was not as satisfying as I feel it could have been. My family would have more likely waited for Golden Unicorn, or trekked over to Ping’s Seafood or Oriental Garden.

dim sum go go (bear)

That being said, the restaurant itself was very clean and had nice presentation, which is great for a group in which most members have never experienced the hustle and bustle of Chinatown and dim sum. The main clientele seemed to be young families as well as other college students and young adults checking out the dim sum scene. The service was very slow, and I had to run our checklists to the waiters a couple times, but they were generally accurate at bringing us the food we ordered. They also were very gracious about splitting the check amongst eleven or so of us.

I will probably not return to Dim Sum Go Go, but it is a great place for groups and dim sum newbies. It offers an introduction to the traditional cuisine of Chinese teatime without any of the pandemonium that seems to really scare people off from the whole concept. If you’re looking for a quiet and leisurely gateway into the noisy and manic world of dim sum, Dim Sum Go Go may be the place for you!

Bear Makes Brunch: Daddy-Daughter Doughnut Day

Like the macarons I made with my mom, I’ve been saving this post in the storage box of Bear Makes Brunches for a very special occasion: Father’s Day. Dads are great. They let you eat ice cream for breakfast, French fries for lunch and McDonald’s apple pies for dinner. (Mom, if you are reading this, none of these things have ever happened.)

My dad helps me write papers, overcome illnesses and reduce anxiety even though we are usually thousands of miles apart from each other. When I was younger, my Girl Scout troop would have a Daddy-Daughter dance party around Valentine’s Day. My dad and I killed it in limbo every year. Since then, we’ve moved on to taking road trips up to Oregon, watching Veronica Mars and various anime series, and, of course, making doughnuts.

My dad and I first made doughnuts several years ago, and have since attempted several different recipes and acquired all sorts of doughnut equipment. The first doughnuts we ever made were a yeasty sort of doughnuts, for which we enlisted our deep fryer and a new doughnut cookie cutter. Then we upgraded to a doughnut press, which was even trickier, but still really fun. A couple years ago we decided to try cake doughnuts and bought a nice mini-doughnut pan at Sur La Table. We usually go with classic vanilla glaze, but we’ve done powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar doughnuts too. My dad’s favorite kind of donut is a jelly donut, and one day, we hope to accomplish those as well!

This last attempt at doughnuts consumed most of our day, and so beware, if you are going to do this: dads like to take naps and breaks and more naps. And you might want to watch an episode of Veronica Mars while you do this. And eat lunch, which means going to your favorite takeout place. And my dad and I eat slowly. So make sure you have a whole Sunday for this project, at the very least.

doughnut day (saveur magazine)

This recipe for vanilla-glazed yeast doughnuts came from a glamorous copy of Saveur magazine that my sister gave me a few years ago. The feature article was dozens of doughnuts, including its history, its legend, and many many recipes for yeast doughnuts, cake doughnuts, baked doughnuts, etc., etc. This is the first time we’ve tried anything from this list, but I hope we can try many more!

doughnut day (saveur magazine pages)

Although the recipe is available online, I’ve copied it here, with several modifications. Please note that we have omitted the recipe for the glaze that Saveur suggests, because we used an allergy-friendly glaze of just sugar and water. In addition, while the recipe states that it makes about eighteen doughnuts, we had at least thirty by the end of the night, not including doughnut holes and the doughnuts that were integral for taste-testing.

The ingredients are as follows:

2 ¼-oz. packages active dry yeast
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups milk, scalded and cooled (we used soy milk, for obvious reasons)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs
6 tbsp vegetable shortening, plus more for greasing
5 cups (1 lb, 6 ½ oz.) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting
Canola oil, for frying

doughnut day (ingredients)

The first step is to combine the yeast, 1 tbsp. of sugar, and 6 tbsp. of warm water. Saveur states that the water should be heated to 115º F, and that the bowl should be in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. We warmed some water and took it off the stove before it boiled, and used a simple mixing bowl and a spoon. Then, let the mixture sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add remaining sugar, plus milk, salt, eggs, and shortening; mix until combined. This step is where the stand mixer might have come in handy, as you add flour and beat until dough is smooth. We used a simple hand mixer, which worked equally well. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap set in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour and a half.

doughnut day (equipment)

After the dough rises, spread it out on a floured surface. Our dough was still rather gooey, so we actually ended up adding more flour eventually, and kneading it into the dough. Saveur recommends cutting the dough with 3 ½” and 1 ½” diameter ring cookie cutters, floured or greased, but we have a special doughnut cutter that we used to make the shapes. Reuse the scraps, or save the insides for doughnut holes. Place the rings on greased parchment paper, and then cover them again until they double in size, about 45 minutes.

doughnut day (doughnuts before frying)

Saveur recommends heating the oil in a 6-quart saucepan, but we used a large wok, which is more common in our household for deep-frying. If you have a deep-fry thermometer, the oil should be about 325º F; if you don’t, you can use a piece of bread to test the oil. If it turns golden brown within a minute, it is definitely hot enough. You will have to play with the heat of the stove and the oil—as you may notice, our first batch is much darker than the rest of the doughnuts, a result of the oil being too hot.

IMG_2019

Saveur suggests cutting the doughnuts out of the parchment paper and slipping them into the oil, paper side-up, and peeling the paper off with tongs. We simply lifted the rings, which were firmer because we added more flour, and slid them into the oil so we could reuse the paper. Because we’ve made yeast doughnuts before, we were comfortable handling the dough and the oil, but for the uninitiated, you may prefer to stick to the script. Cook each doughnut for a few minutes, or until they are “puffed and golden,” and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

doughnut day (glazing)

Saveur’s guidelines state that you should let the doughnuts cool completely before glazing them, but in our experience, it is best to glaze the doughnuts when they are still warm. The glaze that we use is very simple: confectioner’s sugar and a small amount of water, with some vanilla extract if you like. The key to the glaze is to use only a few teaspoons of water, making a thick, sugary glaze that sticks to the doughnuts. Alternatively, you can also roll the doughnuts in a bowl of cinnamon sugar.

doughnut day (final doughnuts yield)

As I said before, we only make doughnuts occasionally, mostly because it’s time-consuming, labor-intensive, and very, very messy. However, this particular batch of doughnuts had a surprisingly large yield, so high-risk, high-reward on this recipe.

doughnut day (final doughnuts close-up)

Regardless of how much work they are, doughnuts are a delicious project that’s perfect for sharing. Not only are they a food that I can rarely eat in a commercial setting, but they are also a treat to make and eat (also rarely) with my dad. Our fluffy, sugary doughnuts far surpass any desserts at my old Girl Scout tea parties, and we don’t have to do the limbo for it either.

In honor of Father’s Day, Bear would like to thank all the fathers in the world, especially the ones that carry him on their heads, let him ride in the front seat, and faithfully, consistently, always read this blog. Jelly doughnuts for everyone!