The Saucy Scholar

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Ess-A-Bagel: Sometimes, A Bagel Is Just A Bagel

As a native New Yorker, I’ve oft been ridiculed for never going to the “real” bagel joints in the city. For me, bagels are simply a neighborhood thing, a weekend breakfast food that you pick up on a short walk, along with a cup of coffee and the day’s paper. While I have had the privilege of living near some excellent bagel shops (especially in Queens), I’ve never lived near any of the more famous ones, and so I never had reason to make the trip. Then, on one of my Fridays off, B brought me to Ess-A-Bagel in Midtown East after an early afternoon workout. While it was not the epiphanic moment I had been almost hoping for, it was a solid bagel and certainly better than what many of the delis and other breakfast places in the area have to offer. Also, all of their bagels (and most everything on their menu) is certified kosher.

Eager to go on a carb binge after a long cardio workout, I opted for the Nova Lox sandwich on a Cinnamon-Raisin Bagel. (I know, I’m crazy, and I don’t blame you if this causes you to lose faith in my review. It’s a taste I acquired at some point, what can I say?) In any case, I highly recommend this particular sandwich on the bagel of your choice. The cream cheese was generously applied but not overwhelming, the lettuce was fresh, and the lox was particularly outstanding. My only disappointment, actually, was the bagel itself–it wasn’t stale, but it was noticeably hard. Still, the Nova Lox made it thoroughly enjoyable, and now I’m curious to try the Belly Lox next time.

B and I ate our bagels there, which worked out fairly well since it wasn’t a particularly busy time of day. The line was long but moved quickly, and though seating is a little cramped at this location we found a table just fine. Service was short and surly–but at a New York bagel shop, that’s sometimes how it should be, especially when it helps move the line along. And finally, I don’t always comment on bathrooms, but theirs was impeccably clean. So clean in fact, that I was kind of embarrassed thinking about the condition of my own.

Domestic woes aside, Ess-A-Bagel is well worth a visit, and I would consider anyone who is able to make it their neighborhood bagel stop very lucky indeed. While the one particular bagel I had was not especially life-changing, they have an impressive selection of cream cheeses, fish, and salads, and all of these looked fresh and delicious.

Report Card

  • Food: B+
  • Coffee:B+
  • Service: B
  • Atmosphere: A-

GPA: 3.425 (B+)

The Saucy Scholar, Cincy Edition: The BonBonerie

It almost seems unfair to write a review of a bakery like The BonBonerie after one visit, and in most circumstances, I normally wouldn’t. But the fact that I have eaten their scones, cookies, cake, and even tried their coffee on this trip, and I still haven’t explored all of what they have to offer should give you some idea of the kind of magical place The BonBonerie is.

Once you step inside, it’s like walking into something out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, except brighter and a lot more whimsical. You’re instantly surrounded by well-stocked displays of cakes, cut-out cookies, pastries, and other treats, and there’s a little nook where you can serve yourself a cup of coffee or tea. Which brings me to one thing that TheBonBonerie is famous for that I didn’t get to experience this time around–the Afternoon Tea. With a reservation, you can take tea in either the tearoom or the Café, which is a few blocks away from the bakery itself, and includes an assortment of scones, savories, and pastries.

In addition to their award-winning cakes (especially wedding cakes), The BonBonerie is also known for their handmade sweets and cookies. They make their own marzipan in a variety of shapes, and have a constantly rotating array of meticulously iced cut-out cookies. And they aren’t just fun to look at–the marzipan is sweet and just the right amount of nutty, and the cookies are light and soft. The icing does make them a little sweeter than your average cookie, but the icings actually have a variety of distinct flavors, so it doesn’t feel like you’re just eating a mouthful of sugar–even the little non pareils on top are flavored too. They’re almost too pretty to eat, but not quite.

To celebrate our birthdays, The Boyfriend’s parents treated us to a delicious lemon cake–the cake itself was light and fluffy, and the inside was filled with a rich lemon cremes. Our names were iced onto a piece of white chocolate, and the top was decorated with marzipan flowers and lemons, with white chocolate shavings on the side. If they had left me alone with it, it was very possible that I could’ve eaten the whole thing. While I didn’t catch the price of this particular cake, their prices are generally reasonable for the quality of the food–I’ve seen bakeries in New York and elsewhere charge slightly more for things that just flat out aren’t as good.

It was obvious in every bite of everything that I had this week that these were all lovingly made desserts with high quality ingredients. If you ever find yourself in the Cincinnati area, this place is an absolute must-visit, whether for a special occasion or an afternoon tea with friends.

April 2012 Easter Egg Cutout from The BonBonerie

Report Card:

  • Cake: A
  • Cookies/Pastry: A
  • Coffee: A-
  • Atmosphere: A
 GPA: 3.925 (A)

The Saucy Scholar, Cincy Edition: Skyline Chili

The Boyfriend and I spent Spring Break visiting his hometown of Cincinnati, and every time we go, I insist on getting Skyline at least once. This trip, we were lucky enough to get it twice–once at the Cincinnati Zoo, and once for a late lunch after getting some work done at a coffee shop. For  those unfamiliar, Skyline Chili is one of the more famous varieties of “Cincinnati-style Chili,” which can be served over a bed of spaghetti, sometimes with beans and/or onions (“Ways”) or used as a sauce for hot dogs (“Coneys”). Both are topped with heaping amounts of shredded cheese, and served with a small plate of oyster crackers and hot sauce. As if this doesn’t sound amazing enough, it even comes with an endorsement from Mr. Redlegs himself:

That just about says it all.

To Cincinnati With Love,

The Saucy Scholar

Recipe: Chili, Lemon, and Basil Shrimp with Couscous

Well, that was an unexpected hiatus. I certainly underestimated how busy I would be this semester. My coursework has been lighter than usual, but I’ve been much more involved in my teaching than I was last semester, and I’m neck-deep in reading for my first field exam. Fortunately, summer is fast approaching, and it is now officially baseball season, so that in addition to the sunnier weather should hopefully get me down the home stretch.

This recipe is from The Kitchn, which is one of my favorite food blogs and what I would love The Saucy Scholar to be when it grows up. This dish is perfect for busy days like the ones I’ve been having, and is both filling and light enough to be an excellent summer supper for two. This has been in my personal rotation for some time now, and it’s been a success every time I’ve made it. The Kitchn’s version is here, but since my local supermarket doesn’t carry  Israeli Pearl Couscous, I’ve made it with Near East instant variety instead and had to make some slight changes, which you can find in my version below.

What You’ll Need:

The Couscous

  • 1 Box of Instant Couscous (I used Near East Original Plain Pearled Couscous)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Juice and Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Water
  • 1 Cup of Chicken Broth
The Shrimp
  • 1 Pound Cooked Shrimp, De-veined and tails Removed
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
  • About 1 cup of Fresh Basil
  • Salt and Pepper
What To Do:
  1. Prepare the couscous by combining it with 1 tablespoon Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Water, Chicken Broth, in a medium saucepan. (Don’t forget to set aside the zest for the shrimp!)
  2. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Once liquid is mostly absorbed, heat a drizzle of Olive Oil in a medium/large skillet. Sauté the Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes.
  4. Keep an eye on the  Couscous–once the liquid is absorbed, take off heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
  5. Once Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes are ready, pat the Shrimp dry and add them to the skillet, on high heat. Cook until heated through (about 3 minutes), turning often and coating the Shrimp with the Oil, Garlic, and Red Pepper Flakes.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in Basil and Lemon Zest.
  7. Serve immediately over Couscous, and season with Salt and Pepper to taste.

Happy Spring,
The Saucy Scholar

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