This week I had the privilege of returning to NYC for my NYU graduation ceremony. It’s kind of bittersweet to return to the city after an extended period of time; entire streets and buildings have transformed in a matter of months, offering exciting new opportunities for exploration, but also serving as slightly cruel reminders of how quickly the city moves on after you’re gone. That said, there are some things that you can always count on to stay the same–like the surplus of absurdly delicious, budget-friendly sweet treats. Here are some of my absolute favorites, which, incidentally all involve peanut butter:
1) Everything Ovenly, with an emphasis on the Salted Peanut Butter Cookies:
I stumbled upon the Ovenly peanut butter cookie in a Joe the Art of Coffee about a year and a half ago, and it changed my life. It may seem odd, but this cookie might literally be my everything. I am a peanut butter fiend, and this is undoubtedly the best peanut butter cookie I’ve ever had. Strangest part is that it’s gluten-free, yet it has the perfect texture (a bit hard and slightly crumbly on the edges, but chewy and almost creamy in the middle), richness and salty-peanutty flavor. The Salted Chocolate Chip cookie is also a wonder–and is also shockingly vegan! I don’t know how they do it, but they are geniuses. Cookies are $2.25 each, and are highly addictive. Alternately, the Chocolate, Black Caraway & Smoked Salt shortbread is also a great way to develop an addiction/become religious, and shortbreads are also $2.25. The “Best New Bakery” title from the Time Out New York 2013 Food and Drink Awards was well-deserved. Ovenly, I salute you.
2) Fresco Gelateria:
I walked into Fresco Gelateria in the East Village last fall when I decided I was tired of pretending that fro-yo was anywhere near as satisfying as real ice cream. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this is the best gelato I’ve ever had–even better than the Gelateria di San Crispino in Rome (bold statement!!!). The peanut butter gelato is particularly mind-blowing; it boasts a perfectly sweet ‘n’ salty flavor that is dramatically enhanced by the addition of caramelized peanut butter bits (!). If peanut butter ain’t yo thang, the salted caramel, fig, and rose water flavors are also out of this world. All of the gelato is fresh, handmade and amazing, with a lot of interesting flavors rotating in and out. Expect tons of free samples and great service. It’s $3.50 for a small, but this cup will always runneth over. And they are happy to let you mix and match flavors, no matter what size you get.
3) Levain’s Legendary Cookie:
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. Levain’s monstrous cookies are about as “under the radar” as Beyoncé. Okay, maybe they are a little less famous than Beyoncé, but they are pretty well-known to most New Yorkers. However, I will be the first to admit that I never felt compelled to schlep to the Upper West Side to try them (judge me) until last year. Ever since, I’ve been hooked. These things defy expectations. Not just because of their laughable size, but because they are so perfect, it’s just kind of magical. Like unicorns. In spite of their overwhelming size, these cookies have an ideal texture. The crispy outside gives way to a soft, chewy core that is complemented by a generous portion of evenly-dispersed chocolate- or peanut butter-chips (depending on which cookie you get). My personal favorite is the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip cookie. Imagine
another unicorn a huge, endearingly misshapen blob of sweet, dark fudgy perfection, dotted with salty peanut butter chips. Heaven. On. Earth. Theoretically, these are not cheap–one cookie is $4, but if you aren’t splitting this with another person, then you’re kind of foul (or you just had a real bad day, it happens). If you haven’t been, run!!!!!!