I’ve never subscribed to the idea of “new year, new me.” After all, time is a construct! You can start over whenever you’d like, whether it’s Jan. 1, June 22 or Nov. 13. This is an especially hard time of year to be a professional eater. Suddenly your friends who were only too happy to tag along for a meal are trying to cook more and indulge less. And dessert, well, that’s simply out of the question.
If you’re me, however, dessert is never, ever out of the question. Recently, The Times’s Priya Krishna wrote about professional chefs’ longstanding appreciation for instant pudding mix, inspired by the excellent glazed pistachio Bundt cake at the restaurant Claud in the East Village, and I knew it was high time for another all-dessert edition of this newsletter.
After all, is it even a meal — or a good day for that matter — if it doesn’t have a sweet ending?
A Worthwhile Reservation for Pastries
I’d been meaning to get over to Lysée in the Flatiron district for months, and I finally made it to this “pastry boutique” from Eunji Lee, a pastry chef born in South Korea. Most weekends, there’s a line down the block to buy some combination of the nearly two dozen dessert options, but I highly recommend making a reservation for the full experience in the first-floor cafe.
Start with a coffee or tea, and then go hog-wild. The most popular item by a long shot is the corn mousse cake that looks like a corn emoji (🌽). But my favorites are the lysée, a Korean brown rice cake with pecan sable and praline that tastes like a gussied-up version of a Necco wafer; the petit jardin tart with pineapple-basil marmalade and calamansi pastry cream; and what I’m prepared to call the city’s absolute best kouign-amann, a double-decker puff of laminated dough. And do order another kouign-amann to go. I promise that you’ll wake up craving it the next morning — if it lasts until then.
Cookie Boxes and Dreamy Petit Fours
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently gave myself a Lunar New Year cookie box from the Little One, an aptly named dessert shop in Chinatown. It contained scrumptious black sesame chocolate chip cookies, jammy pineapple pinwheels and airy little strawberry meringues. The first day of the Year of the Rabbit came and went this weekend, but the Little One offers charming cookie collections from time to time, particularly around the holidays. The rest of the year it has seasonal kakigori, monaka sandwiches and eye-catching six-inch cakes for any celebrations you might have on the horizon. In this case, the celebration was to thank me for being me.
And what of the dyed-in-the-wool restaurant dessert, the kind that comes after the drinks, the appetizers and the entrees? Well, there was the delightfully savory bay leaf gelato with huckleberry jam that I enjoyed at Foul Witch, a new restaurant in the East Village from the folks behind Roberta’s Pizza. Also the way-above-average tiramisù at Macosa Trattoria in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, which I split with some “new year, new me”-hating friends. But what I think about when I close my eyes at night is the towering, three-tier mignardise platter at Le Rock in Rockefeller Center, with its selection of nine different petit fours, each of them a tiny adventure. And if you’re not being adventurous, what’s the point?
In Other News …
Openings: Foul Witch, a new fine-dining spot from the Roberta’s team, is open in the East Village; Alphabet City is now home to the Office of Mr. Moto, a 21-course omakase with a speakeasy theme; and Caleta is also now open in the East Village for ice cream by day and small plates at night.
Kim Severson reported on how the corporate cafeteria is changing in the wake of the pandemic, with some companies adding oyster-shucking classes and services that aggregate lunch orders from local restaurants.
And in the wake of the news that Noma will close in 2024, Tejal Rao reflects on the pressure to keep pushing the envelope in the fine-dining world and the human cost of that pressure.