After reveling in great vegan food in Washington, DC, California, and throughout Vida Vegan Con 2013 in Portland, I must admit that my first New York dinner date last month was at a decidedly non-vegan venue. Clinton St. Baking Company is a much-lauded brunch spot in East Village, and it formed the backdrop not only for a lovely brunch-inspired dinner, but for an exhilarating reunion with two of my favourite Sydney-based Australian blogfriends, Helen of Grab Your Fork and Suze of Chocolate Suze.
When Helen emailed me, back in May, her US itinerary for June, I quickly upended my own half-formed plans in order to arrive in New York in time to meet up with her and Suze. And, as we three are wont to do whenever we get together, we squeezed in not only dinner but multiple desserts.
As soon as Helen, Suze, and I slipped into one of Clinton St. Baking Company’s comfortable booths, a plate piled high with the restaurant’s famous buttermilk biscuits was placed before us. Warm, soft, pillowy and flaky yet substantial, these biscuits were clearly quality biscuits… but can I tell you a secret? I prefer Australian scones slathered with jam and cream to American biscuits eaten with butter or gravy. But shh…
I’d spent the day on a bus from DC to New York eating nothing but shelf-stable candy, Clif bars, and more candy, so my heart was craving greens by dinnertime. The Union Market Chopped Salad special sang to me. Comprised of “red onion, celery, baby carrots, cucumber, radish, garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, chopped lettuce, house vinaigrette and crumbled feta cheese”, the salad tasted like each ingredient had been picked that morning. Crisp, flavourful, sweet-savoury, nourishing.
Of course, I had to try what Clinton St. Baking Company is best known for: its Wild Maine Blueberry Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter and a side of Sugar Cured Bacon. Definitely tasty, but can I tell you a secret? I prefer the intensity of pure maple syrup to maple syrup mixed with melted butter. Regardless, this dish was great.
Helen opted for the Chicken and Waffles, which combined Clinton St Baking Company’s “award-winning” buttermilk fried chicken with a Belgian vanilla buttermilk waffle, honey-Tabasco sauce and the warm maple butter. The waffle was more pillowy than crispy, but played well against the salty and herb-spiced fried chicken.
Let’s be real, though. My heart was yearning for dessert before dinner even arrived at the table. And not just any dessert; I was dead-set on ordering the Key Lime Meringue Pie, made with real key limes, a graham cracker crust, and the most ethereally light and fluffy meringue topping I’ve yet experienced in my life.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I near single-handedly polished off this entire slice, with Helen and Suze barely getting a look in. The key lime curd was so tart that, like last post’s chocolate, it was borderline bitter, but I found this to be perfect against the sweetness of the crust and meringue.
I would eat that lime curd every morning for breakfast if I could.
With dinner and first dessert (literally) under our belts, Helen, Suze and I walked to the nearby Il Laboratorio del Gelato for second dessert. Carob, basil, blackberry, green tea, and acai gelato and sorbets all beckoned, but my heart fell hard for the cucumber sorbet (so cucumber-y! so refreshing!) and the honey lavender gelato (lavender my love!).
All too soon, it was time to farewell Helen and Suze. While I’d have loved to crash all of their eating adventures, I’m grateful that our plans coalesced for one night in New York.
One night, and several desserts.