March 1 – Peanut Butter Lover’s Day
I feel sorry for kids with peanut allergies. Not only do they have to avoid the food and anything that has come into contact with it in varying degrees, but they can’t enjoy the delicious, creamy goodness that makes up the wonder of peanut butter. Back when I was a kid, it was almost a food group in itself, right along with fruit roll-ups, chicken fingers, chocolate milk, and Lucky Charms. Now that I’ve grown older I’ve grown out of the ol’ PB&J sandwiches with white bread (crusts cut off, of course) but that creamy, nutty flavor of peanut butter still arouses my senses, as well as more than a few of you, I’m sure. High-end peanut butter dishes bring back the memories of childhood, hearkening a nostalgia few foods can replicate. In short: for peanut butter lovers, this food holiday–and these dishes–will make you feel like a kid again.
Of course, picking a place with a plain peanut butter and jelly sandwich, even if it were gourmet, would have almost felt like cheating. Instead I’ve found some great places utilizing peanut butter and bringing back those old childhood memories in some really inventive ways. The Doughnut Plant, for instance, has taken the great flavors of a PB&J and deep fried them–making the famed peanut butter and jelly doughnut. (No really, it’s like 9-year-old me’s dreams have literally come true.) Made with crunchy peanut butter and blackberry or strawberry preserves, these doughnuts buck the conventions of a sweet treat–they’re even the strange square shape to give you that extra feeling of biting into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but so, so different. These doughnuts are so popular they’ve even caught the eye of the Food Network–twice! It’s been highlighted both on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” and Bobby Flay’s “Throwdown.”
220 W 23rd St (between 7th Ave & 8th Ave)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I got the peanut butter glazed with blackberry jelly. It was one of the best things i have ever ate. When i first ordered it I thought i was ordering a peanut butter doughnut and didn’t see that it was filled with blackberry jelly. What a great surprise it was when i bit in and peanut butter and jelly oozed out. The glaze with pieces of peanuts was awesome. It’s pricey, but great for a treat once in a while.”–John P.
“The Peanut Butter Jelly Filled square donut changed my life. It was very light and airy (yeast donut), just the way I prefer them. It was filled with homemade strawberry jelly, which contrasted perfectly with the salty peanut atop the peanut butter glaze. The strawberry jelly was not overly processed so you get wonderful little bits with each bite. A delightful balance of salty and sweet, not too heavy, and nice little strawberry surprises.”–Meredith X.
For another comfy confection that’s reminiscent of elementary school bag lunches and the carefree days without carb counting, Butter Lane is the place to go. Their cupcake flavor combinations of cake and frosting are made to order, so the possibilities are endless (and delicious any way you mix them). But some pre-determined cupcake combos are particularly popular, like the Elvis Cupcake. Remembered infamously for his love of peanut butter and banana sandwiches, Elvis lends his name to this aptly-flavored cupcake, which is a banana-flavored cake batter with peanut butter frosting, and a mini-marshmallow topping to boot. You can’t go wrong with such a classic flavor combination, which is why this cupcake may be the “King” of Butter Lane’s crop.
123 E 7th St (between 1st Ave & Avenue A)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I perused the menu and decided on one of the specials – The Elvis. A banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting, The Elvis was dense, soft and flavorful (I’m talking about the cupcake here, though I guess the same might have been said about THE Elvis). The peanut butter frosting had heft but didn’t overpower the light banana flavor of the cake. This morsel of deliciousness was gone pronto.”–Serena T.
“The smell of freshly made cupcakes was intoxicating. I got to eat their “Elvis” cupcake ($3), which is a banana cupcake with peanut butter icing. The cupcake was the moistest I have ever had from a store bought cupcake. Also the icing was slightly sweet unlike the overbearing sweetness I encountered at Magnolia.”–Randy T.
It’s become a thing with me on this blog that, whenever there’s an item that is usually used for sweet dishes and confections, I like to stretch the boundaries of that food holiday and look for savory alternatives, too. We can’t just eat dessert all day! And while here in the West, peanut butter’s usually found on a kid’s sandwich or mixed into ice cream or a number of other sweets, in many Asian traditions peanuts find their way into savory, even spicy, sauces. One of my favorites as a kid was cold noodles in peanut sauce from the Chinese restaurant down the street. Filipino cuisine has a similar peanut sauce, rich and thick with a bit of a spicy kick to it. It’s added to braised oxtail (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!) to make a dish called kare kare, a stew beloved by many.
It may not be from an old Filipino grandmother, but it is one of the best kare kare dishes in the city! Head to Sunnyside, Queens for Tito Rad’s kare kare, one of the highlights of their hearty menu. The oxtail is slowly cooked until the meat falls off the bone and into the peanut sauce–and then promptly right in your mouth. A lot of the restaurant’s patrons have roots in the Phillipines and always start out their reviews saying, they thought they’d never like a Filipino dish better than their grandmother’s cooking…but they all love Tito Rad’s!
Tito Rad’s Grill and Restaurant
49-12 Queens Blvd, Sunnyside
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Kare Kare – Oxtail cooked in a peanut butter sauce served with Asian vegetables and shrimp paste – YUMMY. The shrimp paste was served separately instead of being mixed in it, which is awesome. It tasted exactly as described on the menu. I personally ate the Kare Kare without any of the shrimp paste (I’m not a big fan of salt). My bf ate it with the shrimp paste to add some saltiness and loved it.”–Jocy C.
“Kare Kare – oxtails in peanut sauce was fabulous, when eaten with the accompanying shrimp paste. Without the shrimp paste, it is missing that extra oomph of flavor.”–Mireille R.