Don’t think maple syrup is just the stuff of the Vermont wilderness and jokes about Canadians. New York State also makes its fair share of the sticky stuff! New York is actually the 2nd largest producer of maple syrup in the country, and maple farms and festivals celebrate the sweet syrup all year long. This year, I went to the New York State Fair up in Syracuse with my boyfriend, and they had a whole section dedicated to maple syrup and the syrup farmers in the state. I picked up a bottle for my morning pancakes, as well as a maple syrup-sweetened soda–it was so delicious! A world apart from high fructose corn syrup, that’s for sure.
Maple syrup is a product that’s made from the sweet sap of maple trees. Syrup farmers “tap” maple trees by boring holes into their trunks and collecting the sap that comes out. It’s then heated to become a concentrated, sticky-sweet syrup that’s beloved by so many fans of pancakes, waffles, and French toast Maple syrup’s got a rich history to its production: indigenous peoples to North America have been tapping maples for their syrup for hundreds of years, and the tradition was picked up by European fur traders once the area was colonized. The use of maple syrup as a primary sweetener declined once sugar production skyrocketed in the West Indies and the South, and it became more of a luxury item like we see it today. You’re more likely to see a wall of “pancake syrups” or other fancy-sounding names in the grocery aisle; these bottles contain mostly sugar and artificial sweeteners instead of the real thing. If you’re going for superior quality, taste, and a natural, organic, and vegan product to boot, maple syrup is the only one to choose.
You can get bottles of authentic, New York State maple syrup in stores all over, and particularly at the greenmarkets scattered around the city as well. Many restaurants, for sake of product quality over bottom line, will stock real maple syrup for your breakfast order–though it may be at a premium cost to the cheaper-made pancake syrup. So I wanted to highlight some products and dishes in the city that include maple syrup or maple sugar into their composition, to get a feel for the full spectrum of what maple syrup can really do. It isn’t just for breakfast anymore!
Everyone knows that the Clinton Street Baking Company on the Lower East Side makes some of the best damn pancakes this city has ever seen. People line up all morning to get a taste of their world-famous blueberry pancakes (though, since they serve breakfast all day, it makes sense just to get them for a late lunch instead of waiting that long!) But when those fluffy, perfect, round discs of blueberry deliciousness are put in front of you, what should you reach for to complement their fantastic taste? Certainly not crappy HFCS-sweetened pancake syrup! Don’t worry, Clinton Street Baking Co.’s got you covered. They offer a homemade maple butter to enjoy with all of their breakfast goodies. The best of what breakfast diners provide to their nostalgic stacks of flapjacks–pads of melting butter AND authentic maple syrup–all in one mind-meltingly good package. It’s an additional $2.00 for the maple butter, which comes in a little porcelain cup for your pouring or dipping pleasure, but it’s certainly worth it for an additional product crafted in-house and specially made to complement their signature dish. You know a component to a meal is amazing when people rave about the butter that came with the pancakes as much as the pancakes themselves!
Clinton Street Baking Co.
4 Clinton St (between Avenue B & Houston St)
“Sure, you could come and get a normal three-egg brunch or burger, but why not try their crack-laced pancakes and a cool Brooklyn Lager? Seriously, these pancakes may be the most addicting items this side of the Columbian jungle. Then again, it could just be the homemade maple butter combined with the fully stocked bar.”–Shecky’s Night Life
“The pancakes themselves were warm, fluffy, and beautifully golden brown. The bananas and walnuts were just a topping, but that’s okay. I still enjoyed them as accessories to the scrumptious flapjacks. The warm maple butter that came served on the side lit up the plate and consumed every bite of griddle-fried dough with its essence of sweet delight. I’d gladly hit up the Clinton St. Baking Company again whenever I’m in the neighborhood. It is a great little restaurants that the locals clearly embrace. I’m always down with that!”–Bite And Booze
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Nothing is so extraordinary that would ever make me wait 2 hours for again. I had french toast and it was just that – french toast. There wasn’t anything that made it stand out. I will give them this though…the pancakes with warm maple butter was to die for!. But in all honesty, I think it was just the maple butter that did that. It was as if they created their own secret drug and disguised it in the form of this warm maple butter.”–I. G.
“Talk about what the hell just hit my taste buds?! I’ve had both their “oh so famous” blueberry and banana walnut pancakes. The pancakes are good, don’t get me wrong. However, it is the maple butter that makes these pancakes truly amazing. Without it, the pancakes are just good. They are moist, yes. They are fluffy, yes. They are big, yes. But with maple butter poured on top, they immediately blow you out of this world.”–Thuy B.
Do you think that maple products can only be used in sweet dishes like pancakes? You’d be wrong! The sweetness of maple syrup and sugar helps offset the bitter or sour qualities of other ingredients to make a great savory dish. And since it’s a minimally-processed, all-tree related sweetener, maple syrup is a great addition to a vegan diet! And one of the great purveyors of vegan treats around the city is the Cinnamon Snail food truck, which serves lunch bites and baked goods to vegans all over New York. They take full advantage of the goodness of maple syrup in two different plates: one, the more predictable maple donut, which is dense, cakey, sweet, and delicious. But the maple dish on their menu that’s got vegans racing to the Cinnamon Snail like kids to an ice cream truck is their Maple Mustard Tempeh Sandwich. Tempeh, another form of soy like tofu, soaks up all the flavors you marinate it in, so getting it down n dirty with a mustard and maple syrup marinade gives it a sweet and spicy mix to it–a vegan version of honey mustard sauce. Pair it up with a roasted garlic aioli, kale, tomato and onion, and place it all on grilled spelt bread, and you’ve got a sandwich that packs a ton of flavor. It’s so good, that even non-vegans, who typically shy away from any meat substitutes on their sandwiches, will devour it happily.
“Based in New Jersey, this amazing vegan food truck business is named for their signature cinnamon rolls-which I have yet to try. What I did order was their Maple Mustard Tempeh Sandwich- served on grilled spelt bread, with roasted garlic aioli, kale, tomato and onion…..which I brought back to the teacher’s office at work, and devoured in less than five minutes.”–This Vegan Life
“One of the lighter sandwiches they serve is this Maple mustard tempeh sandwich on grilled spelt bread with roasted garlic aioli, kale, tomato, and onion. You know I love kale, but I never thought of putting it on a sandwich. Here it works big time.”–No Meat No Problem
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The maple mustard tempeh sandwich is possibly one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten, vegan or not. It’s the perfect balance of savory and sweet, with a good smear of garlic aioli (but not too much!), kale that is still toothsome, and tomato and onion to balance it out. Don’t miss out… seek out the truck!”–Evelyn E.
“The sandwich was, to put it bluntly, delicious. I usually hate vegan food or eat it as a novelty, but I definitely wouldn’t mind eating this as a meal once a day. Which means the sandwich (which was a bit pricey at 9 dollars) was enough to fill me up, which is also impressive. The sauce was really flavorful, the tempeh was nommy, and the kale was a surprisingly nice touch instead of lettuce. They also put some onions in there, which I really liked and complimented the other flavors perfectly (although it got a little strong towards the end. Maybe a little less onion).”–John L.
If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth on National Maple Syrup Day–and who wouldn’t?–one only needs to go to the Left Bank in the East Village. Here, owner Micheline Gaulin supplied her French Canadian family’s recipe for maple syrup pie for the restaurant’s menu…and everyone in New York is glad she did! It looks just like a pecan pie, but without the pecans: a lovely, thick layer of maple syrup and heavy cream is enticing enough, but the buttery crumble crust brings this dessert up to the level of irresistible. A dollop of lemon-flavored creme fraiche complements the pie, which helps cut the sweetness with its cool, citrus flavor. Honestly, this whole day sounds fantastic, and I may decide to try all of these maple syrup treats: Clinton Street’s blueberry pancakes with maple butter for breakfast, a maple mustard tempeh sandwich from Cinnamon Snail for lunch, and a stop to Left Bank for a great dinner–topped off with a slice of maple syrup pie!
117 Perry St (between Hudson St & Greenwich St)
“The maple pie is sugary, decadent goodness. It’s stupid simple and completely real; you know exactly what you are eating.”–First We Feast
“Cheers to Edelman’s partner, Micheline Gaulin, whose family’s Quebecois dessert is alone worth a trip to Left Bank. The crumbly pâte brisée crust is saturated with butter, and the eggless filling courses with heavy cream and the caramel twang of good maple syrup.”–Tasting Table
“The pièce de resistance, however, was the Maple Syrup Pie served with crème fraîche. They must know it’s good, since it’s a featured image on their homepage I was even more excited about this dessert when Left Bank owner Micheline Gaulin dropped by and explained it’s a Canadian staple (maple syrup, durr) and her mother’s recipe. So good I looked up a recipe online and may try to make it myself. Perfect for the fall.”–The Foodies At Work
“And you must leave room for dessert, in particular, the affogato and the maple syrup pie. Both sweet endings to an excellent meal. The vibe exudes just as much warmth as the food, all on a quiet, charming street in the West Village.”–New York Social Diary
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“For dessert, I HIGHLY recommend the maple syrup pie. It’s one of the owner’s family recipes and it is fantastic! The staff and owner are all super friendly and will lots of times come up to your table to ask how things are going. Bottom line, the food is amazing and the atmosphere rocks too.”–Katie B.
“Went here last night– new to the neighborhood and read about this place online so we decided to check it out. Left Bank did not disappoint! Shared the pasta with mussels and shrimp and the grilled squid. First, the pasta was amazing. The tomato sauce was so fresh and light– perfect for summer. The mussels and shrimp were cooked perfectly and went well with the round noodles. The grilled squid was also delicious– it was perfectly cooked and not too chewy. The beans and sauce with the squid were great compliments and also really good. For desert, the maple syrup pie was a hit– not too sweet but a great way to end the meal.”–Lizzie C.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!