My 10 Best Fat Pants Fridays
I have spent the last 18 months or so eating untold amounts of fat and sugar, often but not always in the name of Fat Pants Friday. This column has given me a great excuse to coddle my sweet tooth, and more importantly, to visit and revisit some of the city's best bakeries and pastry pushers. It has, as one would expect, been a lot of fun, and a lot of calories. Today is my last Fat Pants Friday, and I've been asked to mark the occasion by revisiting my 10 all-time favorite excursions, the ones that have continued to haunt my daydreams long after my blood sugar has descended to a safe level and my teeth have stopped hurting. They're in no particular order, for the simple reason that I love them all.
1. Quality Cakes's Chocolate-Covered Grasshopper Cake. Behold, chocolate fudge cake layered with mint Oreo chunk ice cream, and then topped with little squidges of chocolate mousse, chocolate curls, and a dainty scoop of ice cream. Like the other Quality Cakes, it is an exquisite monument to excess. But it's not so much the excess that makes these cakes so memorable. It's how effectively they carry one back to a time when all that was needed for a good birthday party was a piece of cake whose only requirement was to act as a sponge for melting ice cream -- the more garishly colored, the better. 57 West 58th Street; 212-371-7777
2. Cannelle Patisserie's Pear Tart. Cannelle makes many beautiful and drool-worthy pastries, but my favorite, hands-down, is its pear tart. Its crust is tender, crumbly, and so buttery it borders on savory, and cradles half a pear that has been poached to almost melting consistency. It's simple, effective, and utterly blissful, and swiftly demolishes any measure of restraint I pretend to possess. 75-59 31st Avenue, Jackson Heights; 718-565-6200
3. Shandaken Bakes' Parsnip Bread. Although parsnips don't typically appear in loaf form, Shandaken Bake has convinced me that it deserves a pride of place in the quick-bread pantheon. The root vegetable''s inherent sweetness makes it as natural a fit for baking as carrots, pumpkin, or sweet potatoes; here, combined with maple syrup, it creates a bread that's unbelievably moist and tender, with a measured sweetness that has both depth and body. Overall, the flavor is as big and generous as the portion it's served in, and would work well with a morning dose of coffee or dunked in a cup of tea. Or, as I can attest, just scarfed down on its lonesome. shandakenbake.com
4. Peels' St. Louis Sticky Gooey Cake. A cake so sticky it had to be emphasized twice, the St. Louis Sticky Gooey Cake at Peels pays loving tribute to the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, a concoction invented -- depending on who's telling the story -- in the early 1940s at either the Koppe Bakery or the St. Louis Pastries Bakery. At Peels, Shuna Fish Lydon has put her own impressive spin on the St. Louis signature, obscuring its pleasantly dense, subtly sweet brioche foundation beneath a thick layer of sweet, buttery custard that's barely protected by a crackly, fissured crust. In a way, it's like the best breakfast Danish ever created. In another, it's original sin, served in a paper wrapper. 325 Bowery; 646-602-7015
5. The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck's Mermaid. Comprised of vanilla soft-serve, whipped cream, graham-cracker crumbs, and lime curd, the Mermaid is a little like a Key lime pie that melts. The curd is abundant, zigzagged both on top of the ice cream and up and down the cone's interior. Every bite yields a tart response to the vanilla's placid sweetness, sassing up what could otherwise be a bit of a one-note wonder. The graham-cracker crumbs are scattered like fairy dust over all available surface area. Crammed into a waffle cone and wearing its whipped cream like an Elizabethan collar, it's fairly fantastic. 125 East 7th Street; biggayicecream.com