Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.

Last March, I discovered what was then the amazing Soft Serve Fruit Co. Since then, the delicious store has “added a name to its name,” becoming Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co. Soft Serve Fruit is exactly what the name implies: fruit, ice and cane sugar. No dairy at all! In fact, according to their website, Soft Serve Fruit is free of the eight major allergens. Think sorbet but in soft-serve form!

Located in my favorite neighborhood, Union Square, Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co. is always a treat, even when it’s starting to get chilly outside. It’s the perfect snack to refresh you from brunch in Chelsea or shopping in Union Square! Chloe’s is tucked away on 17th Street between Broadway and 5th Avenue, and it’s a short walk from the 14th Street-Union Square stop on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, F, M, N, Q, or R lines, or the 18th Street stop on the 1 line.

The set-up is like a frozen yogurt bar, similar to that of Pinkberry, with different options and toppings. The featured fruit choices change seasonally so the winter flavors include cranberry and pumpkin. Toppings range from sweet to salty, with things like fresh fruit, cookies, cereal and pretzels. Other options include things like chocolate sauce, and waffle cones and pretzel cones instead of cups.

chloe's soft serve fruit co. (store)

My personal favorite topping is the gingersnap cookies, which go with any fruit flavor, such as the cranberry pictured here. Other favorite flavors have been the pear, strawberry, and mango, all of which go great with the cookies as well as other toppings dark chocolate chips. The dark chocolate flavor is great with pretzels!

chloe's soft serve fruit co. (food)

Chloe’s also has a loyalty card, much like Starbucks, where you can add up points to earn discounts on Soft Serve Fruit. Plus, you get a free treat for your birthday! (Food always tastes better when it’s free.)

chloe's soft serve fruit co. (bear)

Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co. first caught my eye by chance with a “dairy-free sign,” and it has since become one of my favorite snack places in the city. The staff is friendly and conscientious and the choices are liberating. If you are in the area, I highly encourage you to take a break from the busy neighborhood and enjoy some delicious fruit!

Bear Makes Brunch: Brownies

I recognize that brownies are not traditional brunch fare, but finals week calls for some serious study breaks in the form of baking! (Maybe we should call them study bakes?) This particular batch was courtesy of the wonderful Trader Joe’s and was incredibly easy to make! All you need is this box of Trader Joe’s Brownie Truffle Baking mix, a stick of your preferred non-dairy butter substitute, and a couple eggs!

brownies (ingredients)

Begin by melting the “butter” in a saucepan. This process goes fastest when you cut the stick into smaller chunks, and make sure you keep it on a low heat so that it doesn’t burn. As the box says, it should look “creamy.”

brownies (melting butter)

Add in the two eggs and then the brownie mix, a little at a time. Make sure to get it all off the sides of the mixing bowl! It should have a fairly even consistency to it by the time it’s all mixed. Grease a 8×8 pan (I used a glass one, not pictured here) and spread out the batter evenly.

brownies (batter)

Bake for about half an hour and voila! Ready to eat! This particular batch went really quickly, so if you’re baking for hungry roommates or friends, I would suggest making two.

brownies (final)

Friedman’s Lunch

I don’t go to Chelsea that often, but I recently stopped by Chelsea Market to scope out Friedman’s Lunch, a cozy kitchen that boasts seasonal dishes and a large variety. Chelsea Market is a large part of New York’s history, starting out as the National Biscuit Company at the turn of the 20th century, baking “everything from Saltines to Oreos.” Today, Chelsea Market is still filled with multiple bakeries, as well as several gourmet food stores, boutiques and restaurants, such as Friedman’s Lunch. Chelsea Market is located on 9th Avenue, between 15th and 16th Streets. It’s a short walk from the 14th Street stop on the 1, 2, 3, A, C, or E lines or the 18th Street stop on the 1 line.

When we arrived at Friedman’s Lunch around noon last Saturday, there was already a crowd and a list going. The wait was about fifteen minutes, and the hostess was incredibly systematic and efficient about managing both the seating and the take-out lines. We finally snagged a table amidst the chaotic atmosphere.

Friedman’s Lunch has carefully arranged décor, much like the stylings of the Anthropologie at the other end of the market. A few weathered books pepper a shelf opposite the open kitchen, and the chalkboard at the front details specials and announcements. The glasses are short but slender, and each table begins with an elegant glass bottle full of water. Like many places in Chelsea, clientele ranged from trendy young professionals to families with young children.

friedman's lunch (restaurant)

The menu is simple and offers several gluten-free options, and so I was hoping that they would be able to accommodate a dairy and peanut allergy as well. Our server was incredibly knowledgeable about the ingredients of the menu, but there were very few options because many things were either made in butter or made in a fryer shared with their buttermilk chicken. After asking about several choices, I finally just went with his suggestion to order the Eggs with Style, with substituting the potatoes (made in butter) for a salad.

friedman's lunch (restaurant 2)

The Eggs with Style was indeed served with style. The portions were oversized, and the scrambled eggs and salad complemented the chicken sausage and toast well. Everything was delicious and eating was without incident. Once again, I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture of my food before I ate it, all, but imagine the toast and the scrambled eggs on the plate below.

friedman's lunch (food)

 As their website details, Friedman’s Lunch was inspired by Milton Friedman’s famous quote, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” As a result, the restaurant strives to offer “healthy and delicious foods, yet reasonably priced.” In addition to affordable, the food was safe and delicious and I would recommend it if you are planning on meeting a friend at Chelsea Market or something similar. It’s not necessarily worth the trek down to Chelsea when I’m not already planning to be in the area but the rest of the market offers a lot of novelty and sensory input. Perhaps just going to look at everything may be worth an afternoon after all!

Bear Makes Brunch: French Toast and Finals

Do you ever feel like eating dessert for breakfast should be totally okay? But then you feel really guilty when you eat cake for breakfast? French toast solves that problem, because it tastes like dessert but it pretends to be breakfast. That’s right, all those people that judge you for eating bread made out of milk, eggs and sugar—so, like cake—for breakfast will no longer give you weird looks if you just eat bread dipped in milk, eggs and sugar. Or for you, rice milk, eggs and sugar. You can have your cake and eat it too!

As finals approach and temperatures drop, French toast warms my heart in a way that problem sets can’t. My favorite meal to cook is breakfast, and my favorite breakfast is French toast (see Blossom). NOTE: My recipe for French toast is one of those “measure by feeling” recipes, so if you’re into exact measurements and strict ratios, then this blog post may drive you crazy. If you don’t like strict recipes, feel free to play around with this one!

I try to make French toast more French by using French bread, but you can use whatever bread you want (except moldy bread). Sometimes I have bread that’s a few days old and I don’t want to use it for sandwiches anymore. That kind of bread makes great French toast! According to Wikipedia, French toast is sometimes known as “lost bread” because you can recover stale or about-to-be-stale bread by softening it in the batter. I like that idea, but you can use fresh bread if you prefer. Just make sure that your slices will fit comfortably into your pan!

plain french toast (bread)

The next step is to make the dipping batter. French toast is mostly just fried bread, but dipped in a gooey egg-based coating. Because there are no real measurements in this recipe, I have to judge the number of eggs by the amount of bread that I have. For the amount of bread I had (see above), I used five eggs and whipped them up with some rice milk. The brand that I have is Trader Joe’s rice milk, but any kind will work just as well. In fact, soy milk, almond milk, or any other kind of milk works, and if you have fewer eggs, the milk can increase the volume of your batter to cover all of your bread slices. I like to add a couple spoonfuls of sugar to my batter, which makes it a little thicker and sweeter. (The sugar is not pictured below.) I prefer plain white granulated sugar, but brown sugar and confectioner’s sugar also work. My rule of thumb is one small teaspoon or lump of sugar for every couple of servings, but you can play around with your ingredients. I have seen other people add cinnamon before, which is something that I’ve never tried, but wholeheartedly encourage exploring.

plain french toast (batter ingredients)

After you’ve mixed up the batter, dip a few slices in and let them soak on both sides while you heat your pan. If you are using particularly firm (or stale) bread, you may want to soak it for longer. If you’re wondering what kind of dish to mix your batter in, something relatively shallow is better than a large mixing bowl, so the bread doesn’t sink. However, it should be deep enough to comfortably soak a piece of bread in, so use your best judgement. Here I used a plain cereal bowl, because my bread slices were pretty small.

plain french toast (batter)

Cooking spray or a little cooking oil is all you need for French toast, but make sure that it is hot so that the egg will cook properly. Once the pan is hot, arrange the slices on the pan however you wish to do so. The arrangement of the toast is a matter of efficiency; the more toast you can put on one pan, the faster it will all cook. You should hear a nice sizzle sound when you place the bread down, which means that the oil is hot. I use chopsticks to cook a lot of my food, as you can see here, but a fork for the dipping and a spatula for flipping seems to be the norm. Just make sure you separate utensils that have touched raw egg!

plain french toast (cooking)

Each side is cooked when it’s golden brown (or just brown, if you like your toast to be burnt). Thinner slices cook better than thick slices. You will have to lift up corners and flip multiple times to get a feel for the timing, as every stove is different. I like to keep a plate right next to the stove so I can pile up the finished pieces. Because this is a poorly measured recipe, sometimes I have some egg batter leftover. Because of this, sometimes I double-dip some slices, mostly just to use up the batter, but also to make a fluffier piece of toast!

plain french toast (final)

I love to eat my French toast with maple syrup, powdered sugar or both! Some people like to eat it on its own, and some people like to add berries or other fresh fruit on top. Bear likes his with honey, of course. No matter how you choose to eat it, French toast is the perfect breakfast! It’s pretty easy to make, and once you get the hang of it, you will be able to impress other people with this seemingly fancy dish. Sharing French toast is the best way to convince people that, yes, you can eat dessert for breakfast!

Grom

It’s officially wintertime in the city, but despite the chill in the air, we took a little time this weekend to scope out a frozen treat! If you can never get enough of the cold, then Grom is the place to go. The Italian gelateria went stateside about five years ago, according to their website, and they have several locations in New York City. The one we visited today was their shop at Columbus Circle, just south of Central Park and across the way from Whole Foods Market. For those of you coming on the subway, Grom is just off the 59th street stop on the 1, 2, A, B, C, or D lines.

grom

The interior of the shop is small but colorful, with bright lighting and sparse furniture. The gelato is kept in shiny metal tubs and posters about gelato, fruit, and Italy adorn the walls. One of the special things about Grom is that they have a green initiative, called Grom Loves World. Trash cans differentiate between paper products—like cups and napkins—and organic products—like cones and spoons. According to their website, all the fruit is grown organically on Grom’s own farm and their inedible products (i.e. spoons, cups, etc.) are biodegradable and made from recycled material!

grom (counter)

The best part is that Grom lists the ingredients right on the wall and every flavor has its own serving spoon. Talk about transparency! Ingredients include fresh Italian fruits, cocoa and coffee from Central America, and best of all, no coloring or additives. All the sorbets, which change seasonally with the other flavors, are dairy- and nut-free by default! (NOTE: Some flavors do contain egg. I myself am not allergic to eggs, but if you are, please be aware!)

grom (december 2012 menu) grom (ingredients) grom (cash register)

After perusing the flavors for a few minutes (and sampling a couple choices), I chose a small cup—two flavors—with mandarino and pera, both of which were delicious. The tangy mandarin orange reminded me of the tangerine tree in my backyard at home in California and the sweet, gritty pear tasted like the fruit serving I wanted it to be (i.e. if fruit servings were always deliciously refreshing). Grom offered the perfect pick-me-up for Bear, who spent the afternoon trekking up and down Fifth Avenue!

grom (bear)

(NOTE: Although the picture describes the gelato as having milk, the sorbet is completely dairy-free!)

The store was not very crowded, perhaps due to the fact that it was dinnertime, but it seemed like a fun place to grab a snack for adults and children alike! The crowd on the street seemed to be a mix of tourist-y and trendy and everyone seemed to be in a rush to get somewhere. If you are feeling stressed from finals, friends, or the frenzy of the holidays, a trip to Grom may be just what you need!