February 16 – Almond Day

I’m so happy that there is an entire food day dedicated just to this fantastic, versatile little nut. The almond has been around for centuries, stemming from the Mediterranean and now found all over the world, including Europe and California, and according to Wikipedia may be the first tree to be domesticated by seed, and not needing to be grafted. It’s been recorded to have been used as a food as early as the Bronze Age, and almonds were found in King Tut’s tomb in Egypt. It’s used to highlight both sweet and savory dishes–who doesn’t love vanilla almond ice cream and a good almond crust on a pork loin?–and the sweet paste made from almonds, marzipan, is a pastry staple. And, more recently with the popularity surge for non-dairy milks, has been used as a dairy supplement (and is delicious with cereal!) I’m not ashamed to say I’m in love with the almond. 🙂

With such a large, old pedigree, you’d expect almonds to play a prominent role in so many world cuisines. From China to the Middle East to tons of European and American dishes, almonds play important roles in foods found all over the globe–and, in turn, all over New York City. I could highlight an almond dish in every cuisine to be found in New York but then we’d be here forever! Instead I chose two foods–one savory, one sweet–from two different restaurants, two different cultures, to try out on this very delicious day.

For something savory and decadent, try out Carroll Gardens’ Buttermilk Channel. They have an appetizer there that sounds like heaven and sex all rolled into one amuse bouche: maple and bacon-roasted almonds. Named one of the “best bar snacks” by New York Magazine, it’s a simple enough premise: maple syrup, hickory-smoked bacon, and almonds are all baked to achieve a smoky flavor, something with the complex layers of salty bacon, sweet syrup, and the mild flavor of the almonds themselves. They’re a hefty snack that goes far beyond the reach of mere beer nuts at a bar, and for only $4 per portion, it’s more than worth it just to pick out the home-cured bacon pieces in the bowl.

Buttermilk Channel
524 Court St (between Nelson St & Huntington St), Brooklyn

Some reviews from Yelp.com:

“We nibbled on some ‘bacon-maple almonds’ while we waited for our food. They were slightly sweet with big cubes of house-cured bacon. Mmmm. I wish all bars were equipped with bar-nuts of this caliber.”–Maddie O.

“The menu is fantastic, tons of options, but not overwhelming. We got the maple & bacon roasted almonds and the sweet potato and goat cheese croquettes to start. The almonds are flavorful and soft and they are the type of starter that you let sit there through the meal and you keep having a few more, then a couple more, then they are gone.”–Jonathan G.

 

For something that runs a little sweeter, try one of the famous Sarabeth restaurants, on both sides of uptown as well as smack dab on top of Central Park West. All three traditional brunch restaurants serve a mean almond-crusted French toast, complemented by a cranberry-cherry sauce. The Challah bread used for the French toast is perfectly moist–never simply day old bread repurposed–and you’ll find tons of almonds in this dish to satisfy your daily food holiday craving. The sauce makes the whole meal so sweet and moist, you don’t even need maple syrup to enjoy it–just try a dollop of whipped cream and let it melt all over the delicious bread.

SaraBeth’s
1295 Madison Ave (between 92nd St & 93rd St)
423 Amsterdam Ave (between 80th St & 81st St)
40 Central Park S

http://www.sarabeth.com

Some reviews from Yelp.com:

“My friend got the almond french toast with cranberry jam/preserves (don’t think it’s on the online menu), I had a bite and found that it was a perfect mixture of soft and crunchy if you could believe, there was a huge layer of sliced almonds baked on top of the french toast. Needless to say, we left with full and happy stomachs.”–Sophia Y.

“But, Sarabeth’s is all about the non-egg things. Take the Almond Crusted French Toast. Fat hunks of artisan bread dipped in eggy goodness, generously coated in crunchy sliced almonds, pan-fried to a delicious golden hue, and drizzled with raspberry sauce. It’s served with maple syrup that seems like it’s not sweet enough until you realize the purposely subtle flavor enhances the dish’s textures and lets you enjoy the carby wonder for what it is.”–Deborah H.

Have you found a dish that highlights the almond to truly celebrate National Almond Day? Let us know about it in the comments!

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