Sweet Treats: Utter Disappointment and Pleasant Surprises

I've eaten it all. Well maybe not “all” but I've been around the block and I've got the expanding waistline to prove it. Every once and a while I come across something that I've never heard of before, something that sounds so special I just have to run out and try it.

This past week, I was reading some old posts on one of my regular blog haunts and there it was, something new, something simple, something French (I'm a sucker for all things French; fries, chocolates... well, maybe not toast). There it was right beneath my nose, classic French shortbread cookies for just the price of a trip to Dean & Deluca. I haven't been down to Dean & Deluca in quite a while so I figured I would look over their website to see if they had any other new treats while I was down there. Among the usual suspects of Lady M cakes, One Girl Cookies, and Bridgewater Turtles, there she was — Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream from Columbus, Ohio. It's another one of the rare gems I had wanted to sample for oh so long, but with prohibitively large shipping costs and minimums, I hadn't had a chance.

Now let's first start with a warning:

1) I don't travel well outside of Manhattan so I am naturally suspect of all things Ohioan.

2) The hubby is a native Ohioan, Dayton by birth. If I was forced to choose sides in the best ice cream in Ohio title, I would give it straight away to Graeters for their black raspberry chip, a special treat worth the trip west. But I digress. One pint of Jeni's Salty Caramel and three boxes of Michel et Augustin cookies went home with me with only the greatest of anticipation. And, wait for it… utter disappointment.

Let's start with the ice cream, for which I had hopes of finding caramel nirvana. Well, it was salty. Not salted like a proper caramel but salty, glass of water salty and burnt. My dreams were shattered in a single scoop. In my mind, I had already built up how great it would be, how I would rush back to get a second pint in another flavor, and then a third and so on. Oh well, back to Baskin-Robbins (oh wait, another disappointment there as they discontinued my one favorite, since childhood, flavor just recently). Oh well, on to the cookies. So first out of the gate were the petits carres aux noisettes et chocolat noir, or simply put, a shortbread cookie bar filled with hazelnuts and dark chocolate. Unfortunately, it was stale. I fed some to the hubby, unprepped and his first comment was, “stale.” My heart was pretty heavy at this point, so I took some time off and then persevered.

Next on the list was the petits carres au caramel, pointe se sel et chocolat au lait or a shortbread bar with a caramel and milk chocolate ganache with salt. I can't say I would have gone all the way to SoHo just to buy it, but if it wound up in my kitchen, I wouldn't turn it down. My last box of goodies was the petits sables, ronds et bons, tout chocolat et cacao, or a lightly salted, chocolate shortbread. Now, this was pretty good, in fact, it reminded me a lot of one of my favorite recipes, the World Peace Cookie. Unfortunately, I happened to notice the expiration date and it was quite dated. So now I'm thinking that those first cookies were quite simply past their prime. Dean & Deluca, let's do a bit better overseeing merchandise. And Michel et Augustin, perhaps you are worth a second, fresh chance.

After much disappointment, it was a pleasant surprise to find NuNu Chocolates as one of the vendors in the Madison Square Park food market that opened last week. I jumped in a bag of the hand-dipped salt caramels and didn't share one. These are delicious, tender, salted caramel dipped in dark chocolate and topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel. They are classic, simple and elegant, without trying too hard. In fact they recently had a pop-up booth in Paris where they featured these pretty babies. A few sunny days later, I went back and sampled their Iced Mocha. It is a mix of their 24-hour cold-brewed Crop to Cup coffee, mixed into chocolate ganache and milk. It is yummy, with little blobs of ganache getting stuck in the straw every so often. It kicks a frappucino's butt in a second. Go down, grap a mocha and a four pack of caramels and then brave the lines for some lunch.

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