[Updated] For Easter: The Story of Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross bun at Amy's Bread
Howard F. asks: What is the religious significance of hot cross buns, and where can I get them?

Dear Howard: Hot cross buns are an English pastry associated with Good Friday. Actually, some are like bread rolls, while others are more like muffins or even cupcakes in texture and taste. What they have in common is candied fruit inside, and a plus sign (+) of white powdered-sugar frosting on top. Additionally, many are flavored with cinnamon, making them a cousin of Cinnabon.

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Where Should I Go for Restaurant Week? Here Are 10 Suggestions

Don't miss the lobster Bolognese at Telepan

New York Restaurant Week has been underway for two days. It will extend this year all the way to February 8, so you have plenty of time to dig for the choicest reservations. The guaranteed price on the core deal -- not including tax, tip, or beverages -- is $25 for lunch and $38 for dinner. We've found lunch is usually the best deal, and it's often served in a more relaxed atmosphere.

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What Can You Do With a Truffle?

This black truffle was purchased recently at Chelsea Market. The loamy smell is intense, and it comes wrapped in a paper towel. But it looks like a lump of coal.

This is the season when area specialty food stores carry fresh black truffles, and sometimes white ones, too. You can get them at Chelsea Market's Buon Italia, and at Eataly, too. At about $75 per ounce, the costs seems prohibitive till you realize that a single truffle will set you back around $40. For a splurge or special occasion, you might spend that on a bottle of wine, why not on a truffle, which is considered one of the world's great delicacies.

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Where to Take a Middle-School Spanish Class for a Field Trip Lunch?

The pozole at Tacos Cachanilla could easily feed two hungry students.

Whitney D. asks: I am a middle school Spanish teacher taking my class on a field trip. I was hoping we could stop afterward to taste the cuisine of a Spanish-speaking country. The restaurant must be open during the weekday and large enough to accommodate a class of 30 or so. It should be inexpensive and located in either Brooklyn or Queens.

Dear Whitney D.: For Ecuadorian, you might try Sol de Quito in Bushwick. The premises seats 45 or so, so it could accommodate your class, and there are many interesting dishes that could provoke a discussion among your students.

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Help! What's the Best Gift for a Wine Lover?

Categories: Ask the Critics

Tasting glass from the "Dictionnaire encyclop├ędique de l'├ępicerie et des industries annexes"

What's a really awesome gift to get for a person who knows way more about wine than me? I don't want to spend a ton of money on some fancy bottle, especially if I'm not sure it's to their taste ... Help!

It can be a bit intimidating to pick out a gift for a wine nerd, but it shouldn't be.

Definitely skip all the dumb, finicky wine accessories -- I don't know a single person who actually wants one of those enormous bottle openers that's shaped like a complicated sex toy.

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Best Sea Salt Caramels in NYC?

Cathy C. asks: I'm afraid I've become addicted to chocolate-covered sea-salt caramels, and look for them wherever I go. Who makes the best ones in the city (willing to go to Jersey or Connecticut, too)?

Dear Cathy C.: Those are a passion of mine, too. I used to visit The Meadow - a sea-salt emporium in the West Village - to scan the aisles for those caramels, which include Xocolatl de David, Sahagun, and Lillie Belle. Since the store originates in Portland, Oregon, where many of the best caramels are made, they often have a good selection.

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Where Should I Take My Office for a Group Dinner?

Categories: Ask the Critics

Go team
Could you suggest a restaurant to take my team at work for dinner? We're a group of semi-adventurous eaters (10 people; two of us are vegetarians). We're looking for a place where we can get a couple of drinks and food for $75/person.

Oh, boy, it can be stressful to organize dinner for a big group. Here are a couple of ideas:

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Where Should I Break the Fast Tomorrow?

Categories: Ask the Critics

I wasn't with my family for the holidays, and I wasn't planning to fast for Yom Kippur, but I kinda changed my mind at the last minute! Where could I go with friends for a good break-the-fast meal?

Hi Anonymous,

Restaurants can become extensions of our homes in New York, especially for those of us far away from our families, figuring out how to celebrate holidays without them. A few places are offering special menus to break the fast tomorrow, and it's definitely not too late for you to join!

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Is Caviar Vegetarian?

It all started with a tweet. In touting a pleasing omnibus collection of bread dips at Balkanika, I described it as: "My favorite vegetarian (and nearly vegan) meal of the last few months," having forgotten that the small bowl of taramosalata in the center contained fish eggs.

Luckily, Michael Hoffman (@Hoffm) called me on it, firing back: "Vegetarian carp roe? What is this place, WD-50? ;) (Looks delicious, btw.)"

I thanked him for pointing that out, but then caught myself and tweeted: "On the other hand, if hen eggs are considered vegetarian, why not fish eggs?" Reasoning that both chicken eggs and fish eggs are animal products, not the animal itself, and hence acceptable, vegetarian-wise.

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Should I Squeeze in a Restaurant Week Deal This Weekend?

Categories: Ask the Critics


So I heard some of the Restaurant Week deals were extended through Labor Day weekend. Which places should I go to this weekend while I'm stuck in town? - My Voice colleagues

Dear colleagues,

At the risk of sounding a bit cranky, I suggest you ignore the extension and skip participating restaurants over Labor Day weekend.

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